Behind the name

Kink Alfred the GreatThe Athelney Group

The Isle of Athelney

The Isle of Athelney is best known for once being the fortress hiding place of King Alfred the Great, from where he went on to defeat the Danes at the Battle of Eddington in May 878.

Alfred was a great moderniser. In brief he created the first unified laws of England, he brought most of the country under the rule of one king (though total control was achieved later by his son), he gave us the English language translating Roman Latin texts into Anglo Saxon and stipulating that this was to be the language of the kingdom, in addition he started the first schools that sought to establish classical learning among West Saxon nobles, and encouraged a number of scholars from other lands to teach there.

In the late 800s, Alfred the Great assembled the Doom book (not to be confused with the more-famous Domesday Book from 200 years later), which collected the existing laws of Kent, Wessex, and Mercia, and attempted to blend in the Mosaic code, Christian principles, and Germanic customs dating as far as the fifth century.

Alfred built up the defences of his kingdom to ensure that it was not threatened by the Danes again. He reorganised his army and built a series of well-defended settlements across southern England. He also established a navy for use against the Danish raiders who continued to harass the coast.

As an administrator Alfred advocated justice and order and established a code of laws and a reformed coinage. He had a strong belief in the importance of education and learnt Latin in his late thirties. He then arranged, and himself took part in, the translation of books from Latin to Anglo-Saxon.

By the 890s, Alfred's charters and coinage were referring to him as 'king of the English'. He died in October 899 AD and was buried at his capital city of Winchester.

The history of Athelney Island

Archaeological excavations and written evidence indicate that at the time of Alfred the island was linked by a causeway to East Lyng, with either end protected by a semi-circular stockade and ditch. The ditch on the island is now known to date from the Iron Age. It is therefore presumed that the Isle was known by Alfred to have been an ancient fort, and that its existing defences were strengthened by him. Evidence of metalworking on the site suggests that he also used the island to equip his army.

King Alfred’s Monument, Athelney Island, Somerset, England
“Alfred the Great: The Man Who Made England”

The Viking King Guthrum ruled the Danelaw (northern England) and parts of Mercia and Northumbria in the mid-ninth century. He then set his sights on the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex, ruled by Alfred the Great. Guthrum and his Vikings made a presumably surprise attack on Alfred’s castle at Chippenham on Christmas, January 6, 878. Alfred was forced to flee with his family (including his eldest daughter, Aethelflaed to safety in the woods and eventually made his way to the island of Athelney (Prince’s Island) in the marshes of Somerset. Originally this small island was covered with alders and infested by wild animals. According to the 12th C. chronicler William of Malmesbury, it was inaccessible except by boat.

Archaeological excavations and written chronicles indicate in Alfred’s time the island was linked by a causeway to East Lyng. Both ends of the island were protected by a semi-circular stockade and ditch. The ditch on the island has been dated from the Iron Age so Alfred may have known of this ancient fort when he chose to take refuge there. Alfred began strengthening these ancient defences. There is evidence of metalworking on the site suggesting he may have also used his time here to equip his army.

King Alfred’s Monument, Athelney Island, Somerset, England

Alfred spent four months there contemplating how to defeat the Vikings and waging guerrilla warfare against Guthrum. He decided he wanted to unify and bring together all the kingdoms of England and called his men together at Egbert’s Stone. Alfred and his army soundly defeated Guthrum’s Vikings at the Battle of Eddington in May of 878. The victory resulted in the Treaty of Wedmore which established boundaries for the Kingdoms of Guthrum and Alfred.

To give thanks for his victory, Alfred founded Athelney Abbey on the island in 888. The Abbey was in existence until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 under King Henry VIII. Alfred went on to implement the plans he formulated on Athelney Island to unite all the kingdoms and is the only English King to be called the Great.

When translated from the Anglo-Saxon, the name of the isle, Æthelinga íeg, is often thought to mean the Island of Princes; if correct this might suggest that the island had royal connections prior to Alfred.

The company is united with Alfred on the basis of his strength and forethought. He was a moderniser and constantly reviews the legal framework of the country. This what the Athelney Group engage in, modernising aspect of policing and security.

Alfred was born in Oxfordshire the birth place of the Athelney Group. Both partners in the company live in the county and were keen to bring new business to the county.