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Battle of Basing

Within a fortnight of this, King Ethered and Alfred his brother fought with the army at Basing; and there the Danes had the victory.1

Viking Age Relevance

In 871, a Viking force led by Bacsecg and Halfdan Ragnarsson arrives in Reading, Berkshire. Throughout January, they fight the Wessex Saxons, led by King Æthelred and his brother Alfred.

It starts with the battle of Reading on January 4. The Vikings win. Four days later they meet again at the battle of Ashdown (Assendun). The Saxons, led by Alfred of Wessex, win and Bacsecg dies.

The third showdown takes place at Old Basing, Hampshire on January 22. Halfdan is now dangerously close to the royal stronghold of Winchester. Moreover, after two tough battles in three weeks, the Vikings also win at Basing and again two months later at the battle of Marton (Meretun).2 Unsurprisingly, the Vikings decide to set up winter camp in Reading in 872 and thus remain a large threat to the Saxons.3

Battle Site 

One scholar’s search of the potential areas for the battle site around Basing revealed Lychpit. This is not in Old Basing, but nearby on the other side of the river Loddon. The Old English word lyc translates as ‘body’ or ‘corpse’4 and as such may refer to the battle in 871. It can, however, also refer to the casualties of the later Civil War if it wasn’t for charter from 945. In this charter, King Edward grants the area called Licepyt to a certain Æthelnoth who then grants the land to Hyde Abbey in Winchester.5 The name is clearly used shortly after the battle and long before the Civil war. So, this may point to Lychpit as the possible site of the battle of Basing.

Learn More

The British History Podcast – Episode 211 – The Battles of Basing and Meretun.


  1. Anonymous, “The Anglo–Saxon Chronicle | 871.” The Avalon Project | Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy. Accessed 17 January, 2019.  ↩
  2. Three battles in one months‘ time must have taken its toll on the armies. See also: A.H. Gray, ’871: The battle for Wessex, or how Alfred the Great came to the throne.’ A.H. Gray. Published 30 March 2014. Last Accessed 17 January 2019.  ↩
  3. Anonymous, “The Anglo–Saxon Chronicle | 871–2.” The Avalon Project | Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy. Accessed 17 January, 2019.  ↩
  4. As confirmed by the Old English Translator. Last Accessed 19 January 2019.  ↩
  5. Paul Kelly, ‘The Battle of Basing 871AD.’ The King Alfred Blog. Published 07 June 2018. Last Accessed 17 January 2019.  ↩

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