'And all the folk of the Fenlands came to them, thinking they would win all the land'
Anglo Saxon Chronicle 1070
Welcome to the WakeHereward Project the official organisation and website for the legendary Anglo-Saxon warrior Hereward the Wake,
the folk-hero of the Fenlands of Eastern England.
Read about the project and its activities by clicking on the link below.
All things decline
Everything falters, dies and ends
Towers cave in, walls collapse
Roses wither, horses stumble
Cloth grows old, men expire
Iron rusts and timber rots away
Nothing made by hand will last
I understand the truth
That all must die, both clerk and lay
And the fame of men now dead
will quickly be forgotten
Unless the clerk takes up his pen
And brings their deeds to life again...'
Wace - 'Roman du Rou' ca: 1170
Exiled by his country at the age of 18 Hereward 'the Outlaw' returned some years later to become his country's last hope against the foreign foe that had taken the crown of England, William the Conqueror.
The 12th Century text known as the 'Gesta Herwardi' informs that Hereward became a famous knight and fought in the army of the Count of Flanders, to great acclaim.
The Gesta and the Crowland Chronicle say he married a beautiful woman, Torfrida of St. Omer, but during the course of the Fenland rebellion she retired to Crowland Abbey and took the
habit of a nun.
Domesday Book records that Hereward held parcels of land in south Lincolnshire from the abbeys of Peterborough and Crowland.
The Gesta states that Hereward was the son of Leofric, the Lord of Bourne, and the Crowland Chronicle claims he was buried at Crowland Abbey alongside his wife Torfrida.
The Anglo Saxon Chronicle records Hereward's raid on Peterborough Abbey with a Danish 'Viking' Army in 1070 where they took 'gold and silver of such great value that no one man could reckon it to the other'.
The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, Liber Eliensis and the Gesta Herwardi report on Hereward's defence of Ely in 1071 where his actions came to symbolise the spirit of English resistance to the Norman Conquest.
In his L'Estoire des Engleis Geffrei Gaimar reports on Hereward's exploits after the fall of Ely, at Huntingdon and Stamford and in the ancient tract of forest known as the Brunneswald.
1066 & all that...
In the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings a series of rebellions broke out across a defeated and demoralised Anglo Saxon state that lay prostrate under the oppressive grip of William 'the Conqueror' and his barbaric Norman knights.
Uprisings in Kent, Chester, Durham and York, led by various disaffected English nobles, were savagely and mercilessly beaten down and quashed, with thouands upon thousands slaughtered or left to perish in the devastation and ethnic cleansing that came to be known as the
'Harrying of the North'.
In the Fenlands to the East one of history's mysterious shadowy-figures by name of Hereward 'the Outlaw' rose to the fore and, armed with a multitude of dissidents, peasants and refugees, stopped the most formidable fighting force of the time dead in its tracks, inflicting humiliating damage to their number.
After a resistance of what appears to have been at least eighteen months, the fortified monastery on the Island of Ely in the southern Fenlands eventually capitulated, through treachery, and Hereward is reported to have fled, disappearing into the mists of the wild fen and on into legend...
This is his story...
Hero of Empire...
In 1866, 800 years after the Battle of Hastings, the novelist Charles Kingsley published the romantic epic 'Hereward the Wake - Last of the English!' The immediate popularity of the historical novel about a flawed Anglo-Saxon warrior-hero catapulted Hereward to fame, resonating throughout all classes of a British public imbibed on all of those Victorian virtues of patriotism, gallantry, selflessness and bravery.
The impact was such that Hereward rivalled King Arthur and Robin Hood as a figure of folklore and legend as trains and boats and even a squadron of planes were named after him, and his famous last stand at Ely became synonymous with great feats of Empire such as those at Rorke's Drift, Mafeking and Khartoum.
Not only was Kingsley the first Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, but also a broadchurch Priest and one of Victorian England's high profile Social Reformers whose ideology permeated some of his later novels, not least of all his novel about Hereward.
Read about it here...
The esteemed Domesday historian Professor David Roffe (left) talking with David Maile of
the WakeHereward Project and Medieval re-enactor Trevor the 'Lord of Bourne' who had taken over Hereward's father's estate.
The WakeHereward Project 'Hereward Returns' Living History Event, Baldocks Mill, Bourne.
Saxons awaiting the return of Hereward at Baldocks Mill, Bourne at the WakeHereward Project Hereward Returns event.
WakeHereward on Instagram
'We think it will encourage noble deeds and induce liberality to know Hereward, who he was and to hear of his achievements and deeds. Especially those of you desirous of living the life of a soldier, wherefore we advise, pay attention! And you who the more diligently strive to hear the deeds of brave men, apply your minds to hear diligently the account of so great a man...'
De Gestis Herwardi Saxonis ~ early 12th C text.