Don Valley’s Ancient Military Glory

January 1916

Yorkshire Telegraph and Star, January 18, 1916

Don Valley’s Ancient Military Glory

If we say that the District has justified its military tradition, the pitfall and ample tribute to the effort that has just concluded. When Christianity was very young, South Yorkshire saw sterling military deeds..

It was not Mexborough then, it was Maisbelli, the “field of battle” – that bloody field which saw the power of the Saxon invader finally broken.

Few of the denizens of the Don Valley realise that here there were struck blows which still ring through history. Here Hengist was flung out of his Conisborough stronghold by the Britain Aurelius, whose father, decadent old Vortigern, and married Hengist’s clever and beautiful daughter Rowena.

Aurelius pre-face this feat by an extremely un filial one. He shot his old father up in a Welsh fastness, and burnt the lot – father, Castle, and all. Then he came up north and tackled his father’s father-in-law. He took the Saxons by surprise, but they made an extremely able fight of it, and hastily summoning reinforcement, were likely to have prevailed several times.

Again and again the British wedge was thrust into the Saxon lines, and again and again Hengist and his men flung it back over the river. But Aurelius’ 10,000 wild Welshman formed up in Bella Wood – Barnburgh and Hickleton people will know where that is – settled Hengist’s hash.

The conflict finish with a dual, for Eldol, the Duke of Gloucester, Hengist’s sworn foe at length came from to front the redoubtable Saxon, and fought him singly between the lines, both armies looking on what was surely the most stirring spectacle ever witnessed in this wonderful old Valley.

Eldol had youth on his side – Hengist must have been 70 then – and finally succeeded in taking Hengist by the helmet and carrying away captive into the British Lions. The Saxon’s dismay, broke and fled.

At the subsequent council of war, or Aurelius was for mild measures, BirchEldol’s brother Eldad, the Bishop of Gloucester, a stern old priest, was implacable.

“Though all should be unanimous for setting him at liberty ,” said he, “yet would I cut him in pieces,” and Eldad’s word prevailed. Hengist was solemnly executed and buried, it is believed, either at Conisborough Castle or Sprotborough.

That is one passage, perhaps the most stirring in the military issue of this portion of the Don Valley. Often have the hillsides echoed to the tramp of Armed Forces – the valley was overrun repeatedly in the War of the Roses and the two Parliamentary walls – but save for that one fierce battle of the Don, which are more than almost any other to drive the Saxon permanently from our coasts, there is nothing in Don Valley history to compare with the mighty uprising of the Don Valley fighting spirit which has been witnessed during the last 18 months.