The Heroic Age, Issue 9 (Oct 2006)
Tradition identifies the site of Oswald’s last and fatal battle as the area around Oswestry in Shropshire. In this paper the traditional identification is examined and challenged. An alternative location for the battlefield is tentatively proposed.
The military campaigns undertaken by Oswald during his kingship are largely invisible in the historical record. However, the likelihood that he secured many significant victories is suggested by the wide imperium that accrued to his authority. His hegemony spread beyond his core domain of Bernicia to encompass not only neighbouring Deira but also territories far beyond the borders of Northumbria. Bede, however, shows interest in only two of Oswald’s major battles, both of which provided useful vehicles for his own literary objectives. The first of these conflicts was the victory at Denisesburna near Hexham, in 634, where Oswald secured his political position by defeating and slaying the British king Cadwallon. The other notable engagement occurred eight years later at Maserfelth, where Oswald himself was slain at the hands of the Mercian warlord Penda (HE 3.9).