Pirehill is a hundred in the county of Staffordshire, England. The Hundred is located toward the upper centre of Staffordshire, it is about 28 miles in length, north to south, around 8 to 20 miles in breadth. It is bounded on the north-east by Totmonslow Hundred, on the east by Offlow Hundred, on the south by Cuttleston Hundred and on the west and north-west by Shropshire and Cheshire; the River Trent rises at its northern extremity and flows through it in a south-easterly direction, passing the noble seats of Trentham, where it becomes somewhat navigable Ingestre and Wolseley. It contains the boroughs of Stafford, the county town, the town of Newcastle-under-Lyme and the city of Stoke-on-Trent, which latter includes the Potteries. Besides these, Pirehill has six market towns: Burslem, Lane-End, Stone and Abbots Bromley. A large number of Hundred names refer to mounds which were gathering sites; some of these at least are conspicuous hills, which afford a commanding view of the countryside for miles around.
It seems that such moot and mustering sites were chosen as being remote and bare, from which approaching forces would be spotted. In this case the Pirehill Hundred was named after a hill two miles south of Stone; the hill was a meeting place for the Hundred Moot and a mustering point in case of invasion. It is noteworthy that the meeting-places of the two northern hundreds are in the extreme south of the respective hundreds; this was to unify Staffordshire's forces with those of the neighbouring hundreds, thus to meet invaders in force, invaders who might either: i) be travelling as war-bands up the River Trent, navigable to Stone. The first element of the Pire Hill name may be connected with Middle English piren'to peer', in modern English peer, meaning'to look narrowly'; the meaning of the name would be'look-out hill'. Alternatively a possible corruption from an earlier Anglo-Saxon derivation of spyre would give a similar meaning, a spyre-mann meaning'one who tracks and sees'. Pire Hill is the highest point for some distance.
On topographical grounds there is nothing against such derivations. Old English pirige, pyrige'pear-tree' may be possible phonologically, but seems less for other reasons A authority, David Horovitz, suggests in his PhD thesis A survey and analysis of the place-names of Staffordshire that it "not inconceivable" that name might have come from the Latin pyra, meaning bonfire, "that the name could record the early use of the hill as a beacon". Pirehill is one of the largest of the five hundreds of Staffordshire, having an area of 201,493 acres; the origin of the hundred dates from the division of his kingdom by King Alfred the Great into counties and tithings. From the beginning, Staffordshire was divided into the hundreds of Pirehill, Offlow and Seisdon.. The importance of the hundreds declined from the 17th century. By the early 19th century the Hundred comprised 42 parishes, 14 chapelries and 5 extra-parochial places, which were subdivided into 126 townships and containing several hundred villages and hamlets.
It was separated under the control of two chief constables. The north and south divisions were of unequal extent and population; the large parishes of Adbaston and Seighford, had townships in both divisions, an inconvenience which divided many of their parochial affairs between the two chief constables. Most of the functions of the Hundreds were extinguished with the establishment of county courts in 1867, yet use of these division continued for much of the 19th Century, by which time Pirehill was the most populous Hundred in Staffordshire, with a population in 1861 of 149,734. By that time there had been centuries of improvements to the land, the hundred was deemed remarkable for the fertility of its soil, for the beauty and variety of its scenery and the number and magnificence of its stately halls, as for the extent and importance of its growing manufactures such as the distinctive pottery making district - the long chain of towns and villages called the Potteries, a renowned place of china and pottery manufacturing.
The number of the inhabitants nearly doubled during 1801-1831, as a vast population growth occurred in the Potteries and at Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stafford. The Hundred contains Stafford and Stone, which were renowned for shoe manufacturing, thought these industries attracted less workers from the countryside than did the bustling Potteries with its leisure-time attractions. Abandoned although never abolished by legal statute, in 1894 the Hundred was made functionally obsolete with the establishment of urban districts and rural districts in Staffordshire. Of the local government districts created in the 1974 re-organisation, Newcastle-Under-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent fall within Pirehill Hundred, as does the district of Stafford except for its southern-most parishes; the districts of Staffordshire Moorlands, East Staffordshire and Lichfield only have one or two parishes each in the old Hundred. The population of the Hundred, its two divisions and its various parochial units is shown below: The Northern Division (91,14
Standon is a village and civil parish in the Stafford district, in the county of Staffordshire, England. Standon has a church called Church of All Saints and one school called All Saints C of E First School. In 2001 the population of the civil parish of Standon was 823, in the 2011 census it had a population of 879. Standon in Old English has a particular meaning which, when broken down means'Stone Hill'; the elements in Old English are ` stān'. From 1086, the Church of All Saints has been listed as a Grade One building, it was rebuilt except the middle aisle and the tower. It has since been restored three times, with extensive work happening to the roof; the Church is a part of a benefice of churches, formed of four church parishes of Staffordshire villages. These four parishes are Cotes Heath, Swynnerton with Yarnfield and Tittensor, these create the united family of'The CoSST Churches'; the parishes are small Church of England parishes located 10 miles from the city of Stoke-on-Trent, in the Lichfield Diocese.
According to the Domesday Book from 1086, Standon had nine households, considered quite small, with 11 villagers, three smallholders, three slaves and one priest. The Lord of Standon in 1086 was Brian of Rauceby and the recorded Tenant-in-Chief was Robert of Stafford. In 1086 there were six ploughlands, of which one was owned by the Lord of Standon and five were for men's plough teams. Prior to the Domesday Book, the Lord of Standon was recorded to be Siward in 1066. John Marius Wilson described Standon in the Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales as " STANDON, a parish, with a village, in Stone district, Stafford, it has a r. station, called Standon-Bridge, a post-office under Eccleshall."Standon was affected by boundary changes in the expansion of the neighbouring town of Eccleshall. On 1 April 1932, Standon's area was reduced by 439 acres; the 1931 Census of England and Wales, County Report Part II described the boundary change as " Areas altered between 26th April, 1931 and 30th June, 1934, showing constitution as at the latter date, in terms of constitution as at the former date, together with particulars of acreage and population".
In 1885, The Standon Home was established as the only second boy's home in the Waifs and Strays' Society. Miss Maria Anderdon laid the foundation stone, it housed 50 boys but after building work in 1892, numbers increased to 90, having built a new kitchen, a scullery and a large dormitory. The home was a purpose built farm and was well equipped to train boys in agricultural skills, with much of their produce sold at local markets along with a regular stall kept at Stoke-on-Trent, they cultivated over 50 acres of land, leased from Thomas Salt MP. The Home closed in 1947. Standon Hall, built circa 1910, to the design of Liverpool architect J. Francis Doyle, is a manor house located in Standon; the Hall was formally owned and built for Sir Thomas Anderton Salt, a director of the North Staffordshire Railway company, but its use as a family home was short-lived, it being sold to Staffordshire County Council in 1925 for hospital use. In the 1930s pavilions for tuberculosis patients were built in the grounds whilst the principal activity at the site was orthopedic treatment.
Upon the opening of Stafford General Hospital in 1983, the NHS sold the property into the private sector and the manor house itself converted into a residential care home for up to 22 elderly ladies and gentlemen, with the outbuildings, by now known as "The Beeches", specialising in dementia care for an additional 21 elderly residents. The population of Standon saw little fluctuation between 1801 and 1931, with the lowest being 332 in 1801 and the highest being 464 in 1921. However, after 1931, there was a dramatic increase in population size with the boundary change in 1932, meaning that the area of Standon decreased by 439 acres; the population in Standon in 1931 was 428 but increased exponentially to 879 in 2011. Since the 1881 census report, Standon has seen a shift in occupational employment in the 2011 census report; the 2011 census report shows that the most common profession is Human Health and Social Work with 78 persons employed in this field. In comparison, the 1881 census states the most common profession was agriculture with 31 persons employed in this field.
In comparison, modern day Standon only has 35 persons employed in agriculture. It is shown that of the 451 residents in Standon between the ages of 16 and 74 who are in employment it can be seen that occupations in 2011 are more diverse than in 1881. In 1881 occupations were more labour-intensive in dress-making and conveyance of goods. In 2011, occupations such as Human Health And Social Work and Wholesale and Retail Trade are on the rise, however agriculture and construction are still some of the main occupations in Standon. All Saints C of E First School is the only school located in Standon, it provides education to girls from the ages of five to nine. The school's capacity is 60 children and its religious character is Church of England. For secondary schools, the nearest to Standon are in Stone; the nearest operating railway station to Standon is Stone, followed by Stafford. There is limited road access, with the nearest major road being the A519 which runs through the neighbouring village of Cotes Heath.
From the last census in 2011, it was recorded that there were 332 dwellings in Standon of which the most common are the detached properties, with 180 in the parish. The censuses from 1831 to 1961 show an overall increase in dwellings; however between the years of 1851 and 1921 there was a decreas
Seighford is a small village about 3 miles west of Stafford in Staffordshire, England. The population of this civil parish as taken at the 2011 census was 1,793; the ford across a small stream is the origin of the village's toponym. The village has a red brick Church of England parish church, St Chad's and a 16th-century Tudor mansion. William White's History and Directory of Staffordshire described the village: Seighford is a scattered village above a small brook which flows east from Latford pool to the River Sow, its parish contains the hamlets of Aston and Derrington, from one to one and a half miles east, Coton Clanford, one mile south, Great and Little Bridgeford, three and a half miles north-east of Stafford. It forms a cultivated district, containing 803 inhabitants, 3,830 acre of land. Francis Eld, Esq, is lord of the manor, owner of most of the soil, he resides at Seighford Hall, an ancient house with modern wings, on the west side of the village…the Parish Church, St Chad, was rebuilt of brick about 100 years ago, contains many neat mural monuments.
It has a brick tower, five bells and a clock... There is a small Wesleyan Chapel at Little Bridgeford, built in 1850." The village school is Cooper Perry Primary School. RAF Seighford was a Royal Air Force airfield, opened in 1943 and closed in 1947. Remains of the control tower and some outbuildings survive. Part of the site is still used by small aircraft gliders, along with a small runway close to the village of Seighford; the parish church of St Chad, was built around the time of the Norman Conquest. Some historians maintain there was a wooden Saxon church before that built around 650 AD; the earliest stone remains are Saxon and two four-column arcades are early Norman with typical billet and lozenge carving on the capitals. Shortly before 1600 the original Norman tower collapsed; the south side of the aisle and the main entrance were destroyed. The church was rebuilt in brick in about 1610 by a local builder called Clay; the parish register commences in 1561. The original registers for the period 1561-1879, 1561-1945 and 1561-1925, together with Banns for the period 1754-1812, are deposited at Staffordshire Record Office.
Bishop's Transcripts for the period 1661-1850 are deposited at Lichfield Record Office. A transcript of the registers for the period 1561-1812 was published by Staffordshire Parish Register Society in 1978, has been reprinted by the Birmingham and Midland SGH. Richard Cocks head of the British East India Company trading post in Hirado, Japan, 1613 to 1623. Perry was brought up in the village and became Vice-Chancellor of London University from 1917–19. Pevsner, Nikolaus. Staffordshire; the Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Pp. 232–233. ISBN 0-14-071046-9. Exploring RAF Seighford, WWII Airfield Pictures of St Chad's parish church Seighford at genuki.org
Trent and Mersey Canal
The Trent and Mersey Canal is a 93.5-mile canal in the East Midlands, West Midlands, north-west of England. It is a "narrow canal" for the vast majority of its length, but at the extremities to the east of Burton upon Trent and west of Middlewich, it is a wide canal; the narrow locks and bridges are big enough for a single narrowboat 7 ft wide × 72 ft long, while the wide locks can accommodate boats 14 ft wide, or two narrowboats next to each other. As its name implies, the Trent and Mersey canal was built to link the River Trent at Derwent Mouth to the River Mersey; the second connection is made via the Bridgewater Canal, which it joins at Preston Brook in Cheshire. Note that although mileposts measure the distance to Preston Brook and Shardlow, Derwent Mouth is a mile or so beyond Shardlow; the plan of a canal connection from the Mersey to the Trent came from canal engineer James Brindley. It was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1766 and the first sod was cut by Josiah Wedgwood in July that year at Brownhills, Burslem.
In 1777, the canal was completed, including more than 70 locks and five tunnels, with the company headquarters in Stone. The first known idea to build a canal between the River Mersey and the River Trent was put forward in 1755, though no action was taken at that time. In 1760, Lord Gower, a local businessman and brother-in-law of the Duke of Bridgewater, drew up a plan for the Trent and Mersey Canal. If his plan had gone ahead, this would have been the first modern canal constructed in England. James Brindley, the engineer behind many of the canals in England, did his first canal work on the Trent and Mersey, though his first job in charge of construction was on the Bridgewater Canal. In 1761, Josiah Wedgwood showed an interest in the construction of a canal through Stoke-on-Trent, the location of his Wedgwood pottery, as his business depended on the safe and smooth transport of his pots. Pots transported by road were liable to be damaged and broken, a canal near to his factory would provide fast and safe transport for his wares.
Wedgwood's plan was not to connect the two rivers by canal, but to connect the potteries to the River Mersey. "As a burgeoning industrialist, Wedgwood was a major backer of the Trent and Mersey Canal dug between the River Trent and River Mersey.". There was much debate about possible routes. Coal merchants in Liverpool felt threatened about a canal; the owners of the River Weaver Navigation were not happy about the proposals, because the route would parallel that of the river. Yet another route was published which, much to the shock of Wedgwood, did not at all include the potteries. Wedgwood, intent to have a waterway connection to his potteries, managed to send his proposal to Parliament, with the help of two of his friends, Thomas Bentley, Dr. Erasmus Darwin. John Gilbert's plan for the "Grand Trunk" canal met opposition at the eastern end where, in Burton on Trent, the locals objected to the canal passing parallel to the upper Trent navigation. In 1764, Wedgwood managed to convince Gilbert to include the Potteries in his route.
In 1766, Gilbert's plan was authorised by an Act of Parliament. That year, "n July 26th a massive celebration was held in the Potteries where Josiah Wedgwood cut the first sod of soil. James Brindley was employed as engineer and work got under way."Six years before the complete opening of the Trent and Mersey Canal in 1771, Wedgwood built the factory village of Etruria on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent, close to the canal. By this time, much of the canal had been built towards Preston Brook; the only obstacle that still had to be tackled by the canal company was the hill at Kidsgrove, through which a tunnel was being dug. Up until 1777, pots had to be carried on the short journey from Etruria, over the top of Kidsgrove Hill, to the other side, where the canal had been constructed to Preston Brook. On 15 January 1847 the Trent and Mersey Canal was acquired by the North Staffordshire Railway Company; this was done to stifle the opposition of the Canal Company to the creation of the Railway Company.
In particular, the NSR had plans for a railway from Stoke-on-Trent to Liverpool, this line was abandoned due to opposition from other rail interests. The Grand Trunk was a part of a larger scheme of Brindley's to link the four main rivers of England in a project known as the "Grand Cross"; the Trent and Mersey Canal provided the northern arm of the cross, the eastern arm. It provided the central hub of the cross, between Great Haywood, Fradley Junctions; the western arm, to the Severn, was built as the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, whilst the southern arm traversed the Coventry and Oxford Canals. On the Cheshire stretch of the canal, between Middlewich and the northern end of the canal in Preston Brook Tunnel, is the Victorian Anderton Boat Lift, which lowers boats fifty feet from the T & M to the River Weaver, it was restored to full operation in 2002 after twenty years of disuse, was the only operational boat-lift in the United Kingdom until the construction of the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland.
Another major feature is the Harecastle Tunnel, near Kidsgrove in the city of Stoke-on-Trent, north Staffordshire. There are two tunnels; this was a physically demanding and slow process and created major delays, so leading civil engineer Thomas Telford was commissioned to provide a seco
Newcastle-under-Lyme, is a market town in Staffordshire, England. It had a population of 128,264 in 2016, up from 123,800 in the 2011 Census; the "Newcastle" part of the name derives from being the location of a new castle in the 12th century. The "Lyme" section could refer to the Lyme Brook or the extensive Forest of Lyme that covered the area with lime trees in the Middle Ages. Newcastle is not mentioned in the Domesday Book, as it grew up around the 12th-century castle, but it must have become a place of importance, because a charter, known only through a reference in another charter to Preston, was given to the town by Henry II in 1173; the new castle was built to supersede an older fortress at Chesterton about 2 miles to the north, the ruins of which were visible up to the end of the 16th century. In 1235 Henry III constituted granting a guild merchant and other privileges. In 1251 he leased it under a fee farm grant to the burgesses. In 1265 Newcastle was granted by the Crown to Simon de Montfort, subsequently to Edmund Crouchback, through whom it passed to Henry IV.
In John Leland's time the castle had disappeared "save one great Toure". Newcastle did not feature much in the English Civil War, except for a Royalist plundering. However, it was the home town of Major General Thomas Harrison, a Cromwellian army officer and leader of the Fifth Monarchy Men; the governing charter in 1835, which created the Newcastle-under-Lyme Municipal Borough, absorbed the previous borough created through the charters of 1590 and 1664, under which the title of the corporation, was the "mayor and burgesses of Newcastle-under-Lyme". Newcastle sent two members to Parliament from 1355 to 1885; when Stoke-on-Trent was formed by the 1910 amalgamation of the "six towns", Newcastle remained separate. Despite its close proximity, it was not directly involved in the pottery industry, it opposed attempts to join the amalgamation in 1930, with a postcard poll showing residents opposing the Stoke-on-Trent Extension Bill by a majority of 97.4%. Although passed by the House of Commons, the Bill was rejected by the House of Lords.
Following the Local Government Act 1972, it became the principal settlement of the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme. Like neighbouring Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle's early economy was based around the hatting trade and cotton mills. Coal mining, brick manufacture, iron casting and engineering rose to prominence. Fine red earthenware and soft-paste porcelain tableware was produced in Newcastle at Samuel Bell's factory in Lower Street between 1724 and 1754, when production ceased. With the exception of a failed enterprise between 1790 and 1797, which switched to brewing, there was no further commercial production of pottery within the town of Newcastle. Production of earthenware tiles, continued at several locations within the borough. Manufacture of fine bone china was re-established in the borough in 1963 by Mayfair Pottery at Chesterton; the manufacture in the borough of clay tobacco-smoking pipes started about 1637 and grew until it was second only to hatting as an industry. Nationally, the town ranked with Chester and Hull as the four major pipe producers.
The industry continued until the mid-19th century, when decline set in so that by 1881 there was only one tobacco-pipe maker left. In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the town had a flourishing felt hat manufacturing industry, at its peak locally in the 1820s, when a third of the town's population were involved in over 20 factories, but by 1892 there was only one manufacturer still in production. In 1944, the Rolls-Royce Derwent engine for the Gloster Meteor fighter was made in the borough. Newcastle's 20th-century industries include: iron-working, construction materials, computers, electric motors and machinery. Near the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, the town received major redevelopment to incorporate a new street into the town centre, providing Newcastle with a new bus station and bringing in more companies. Various business centres in the town provide offices for companies that operate in the service sector. A number of pubs and bars provide Newcastle with a strong night life, with students' night being on Thursdays.
The town has been the birthplace of activists. Fanny Deakin was a campaigner for better nourishment for babies and young children and better maternity care for mothers; the former chairwoman of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Janet Bloomfield is a peace and disarmament campaigner. Vera Brittain writer, feminist was born in the town. There have been two notable Members of Parliament. Josiah Wedgwood IV was a Liberal and Labour Party MP, who served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the cabinet of Ramsay MacDonald, in the first Labour government, he was an MP from 1909 to 1942. John Golding was elected a Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme at a by-election in 1969, he served in the governments of Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan, as PPS to Eric Varley as Minister of Technology, a Labour whip in opposition, Minister for Employment, stepping down in 1986. The current MP is Paul Farrelly; the town was once served by the North Staffordshire Railway, its station being on a branch line from Stoke-on-Trent via Newcastle and Keele, to Mar
Stafford is the county town of Staffordshire, in the West Midlands of England. It lies 16 miles north of Wolverhampton, 18 miles south of Stoke-on-Trent and 24 miles north-west of Birmingham; the population in 2001 was 63,681 and that of the wider borough of Stafford 122,000, the fourth largest in the county after Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme. Stafford means'ford' by a'staithe'; the original settlement was on dry sand and gravel peninsula that provided a strategic crossing point in the marshy valley of the River Sow, a tributary of the River Trent. There is still a large area of marshland northwest of the town, which has always been subject to flooding, such as in 1947, 2000 and 2007, it is thought Stafford was founded about 700 AD by a Mercian prince called Bertelin who, according to the legend, established a hermitage on the peninsula named Betheney. Until it was thought that the remains of a wooden preaching cross from this time had been found under the remains of St Bertelin's chapel, next to the collegiate Church of St Mary in the centre of the town.
Recent re-examination of the evidence shows this was a misinterpretation – it was a tree-trunk coffin placed centrally in the first, chapel at around the time Æthelflæd founded the burh, in 913 AD. The tree-trunk coffin may have been placed there as an object of commemoration or veneration of St Bertelin. A centre for the delivery of grain tribute during the Early Middle Ages, Stafford was commandeered in July 913 AD by Æthelflæd, Lady of Mercia, in order to construct a burh there; this new burh was fortified and provided with an industrial area for the centralised production of Roman-style pottery, supplied to the chain of West Midlands burhs. Æthelflæd and her younger brother, King Edward the Elder of Wessex, were attempting to complete their father King Alfred the Great's programme of unifying England into a single kingdom. Æthelflæd was a formidable military leader and tactician, she sought to protect and extend the northern and western frontiers of her overlordship of Mercia against the Danish Vikings, by fortifying burhs, including Tamworth and Stafford in 913, Runcorn on the River Mersey in 915 among others, while King Edward the Elder concentrated on the east, wresting East Anglia and Essex from the Danes.
Anglo-Saxon women could play powerful roles in society. Edward the Elder of Wessex took over her fortress at Tamworth and accepted the submission of all who were living in Mercia, both Danish and English. In late 918 Aelfwynn, Æthelflæd's daughter, was deprived of her authority over Mercia and taken to Wessex; the project for the unification of England took another step forward. Stafford was one of Æthelflæd's military campaign bases and extensive archaeological investigations, recent re-examination and interpretation of that evidence now shows her new burh was producing, in addition to the Stafford Ware pottery, food for her army and weaponry, but no other crafts and there were few imports; the Lady of Mercia, Æthelflæd, ruled Mercia for five years after the death of her father and husband, dying in Tamworth in 918. At around this time the county of Staffordshire was formed. Stafford lay within the Pirehill hundred. In 1069, a rebellion by Eadric the Wild against the Norman conquest culminated in the Battle of Stafford.
Two years another rebellion, this time led by Edwin, Earl of Mercia, culminated in Edwin's assassination. This meant. Robert de Tonei was granted one third of the king's rents in Stafford; the Norman conquest in Stafford was therefore brutal, resulted not only in the imposition of a castle, but in the destruction and suppression of every other activity except the intermittent minting of coins for about a hundred years. Stafford Castle was built by the Normans on the nearby hilltop to the west about 1090, it was first made of wood, rebuilt of stone. It has been rebuilt twice since, the ruins of the 19th century gothic revival castle on the earthworks incorporate much of the original stonework. Redevelopment began in the late 12th century, while the church, the main north-to-south street and routes through the late Saxon industrial quarter to the east remained, in other ways the town plan changed. A motte was constructed on the western side of the peninsula, overlooking a ford, facing the site of the main castle of Stafford, on the hill at Castle Church, west of the town.
Tenements were laid out over the whole peninsula and trade and crafts flourished until the early 14th century, when there was another upset associated with the plague of Black Death, followed in the mid 16th century by another revival. In 1206 King John granted a Royal Charter. In the Middle Ages Stafford was a market town dealing in cloth and wool. In spite of being the shire town, Stafford required successive surges of external investment from the time of Æthelflæd to that of Queen Elizabeth I. King Richard II was paraded through the town's streets as a prisoner in 1399, by troops loyal to Henry Bolingbroke; when James I visited Stafford, he was said to be so impressed by the town's Shire Hall and other buildings that he called it'Little London'. Charles I visited Stafford shortly after the out-break of the English Civil War, he stayed for three days at the Ancient High House. The town was captured by the Parliamentarians, while a small-scale battle was fought at nearby Hopton. Stafford fell to the Parliamentarians, as did
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to c. 886 and King of the Anglo-Saxons from c. 886 to 899. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex, his father died when he was young and three of Alfred's brothers reigned in turn. Alfred took the throne after the death of his brother Æthelred and spent several years dealing with Viking invasions, he won a decisive victory in the Battle of Edington in 878 and made an agreement with the Vikings, creating what was known as Danelaw in the North of England. Alfred oversaw the conversion of Viking leader Guthrum to Christianity, he defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, he became the dominant ruler in England. He was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself King of the Anglo-Saxons. Details of his life are described in a work by 9th-century Welsh bishop Asser. Alfred had a reputation as a learned and merciful man of a gracious and level-headed nature who encouraged education, proposing that primary education be conducted in English rather than Latin, improving his kingdom's legal system, military structure, his people's quality of life.
He was given the epithet "the Great" after the Reformation in the sixteenth century. The only other king of England given this epithet is Cnut the Great. In 2002, Alfred was ranked number 14 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. Alfred was born in the royal estate of Wantage in Berkshire but now in Oxfordshire, between 847 and 849, he was the youngest of five sons of King Æthelwulf of Wessex by Osburh. In 853 Alfred is reported by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to have been sent to Rome where he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV, who "anointed him as king". Victorian writers interpreted this as an anticipatory coronation in preparation for his eventual succession to the throne of Wessex; this is unlikely. A letter of Leo IV shows that Alfred was made a "consul", it may be based upon the fact that Alfred accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to Rome where he spent some time at the court of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, around 854–855. On their return from Rome in 856 Æthelwulf was deposed by his son Æthelbald.
With civil war looming the magnates of the realm met in council to hammer out a compromise. Æthelbald would retain the western shires, Æthelwulf would rule in the east. When King Æthelwulf died in 858 Wessex was ruled by three of Alfred's brothers in succession: Æthelbald, Æthelberht and Æthelred. Bishop Asser tells the story of how, as a child, Alfred won a book of Saxon poems, offered as a prize by his mother to the first of her children able to memorize it. Legend has it that the young Alfred spent time in Ireland seeking healing. Alfred was troubled by health problems throughout his life, it is thought. Statues of Alfred in Winchester and Wantage portray him as a great warrior. Evidence suggests he was not physically strong and, though not lacking in courage, he was noted more for his intellect than as a warlike character. Alfred is not mentioned during the short reigns of his older brothers Æthelberht; the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle describes the Great Heathen Army of Danes landing in East Anglia with the intent of conquering the four kingdoms which constituted Anglo-Saxon England in 865.
Alfred's public life began in 865 at age 16 with the accession of his third brother, 18 year-old Æthelred. During this period, Bishop Asser gave Alfred the unique title of secundarius, which may indicate a position similar to the Celtic tanist, a recognised successor associated with the reigning monarch; this arrangement may have been sanctioned by Alfred's father or by the Witan to guard against the danger of a disputed succession should Æthelred fall in battle. It was a well known tradition among other Germanic peoples - such as the Swedes and Franks to whom the Anglo-Saxons were related - to crown a successor as royal prince and military commander. In 868, Alfred is recorded as fighting beside Æthelred in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the Great Heathen Army led by Ivar the Boneless out of the adjoining Kingdom of Mercia; the Danes arrived in his homeland at the end of 870, nine engagements were fought in the following year, with varying outcomes. A successful skirmish at the Battle of Englefield in Berkshire on 31 December 870 was followed by a severe defeat at the siege and Battle of Reading by Ivar's brother Halfdan Ragnarsson on 5 January 871.
Four days the Anglo-Saxons won a brilliant victory at the Battle of Ashdown on the Berkshire Downs near Compton or Aldworth. Alfred is credited with the success of this last battle; the Saxons were defeated at the Battle of Basing on 22 January. They were defeated again on 22 March at the Battle of Merton. Æthelred died shortly afterwards on 23 April. In April 871 King Æthelred died and Alfred succeeded to the throne of Wessex and the burden of its defence though Æthelred left two under-age sons, Æthelhelm and Æthelwold; this was in accordance with the agreement that Æthelred and Alfred had made earlier that year in an assembly at an unidentified place called Swinbeorg. The brothers had agreed that whichever of them outlived the other would inherit the personal property that King Æthelwulf had left jointly to his sons in his will; the deceased's sons would receive only w