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Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

Angles of Central England


MapMiddil Engle (Middle Angles)
Incorporating the Gifle, Herstingas, Hicce, North Engle, Spaldingas, Suth Engle, & Undalum

FeatureThe Middil Engle were formed by tribes of Angles forging their way west from the newly conquered territory of the East Engle and from landing points in the Wash in the early 500s. Their large territory was centred on modern Leicestershire and Peterborough (then called Medeshamstede) and reached as far as western Cambridgeshire and the East Engle border, north to the borders of the Lindisware, south to the surviving British pocket of resistance in the Chilterns (proposed as Cynwidion), and beyond them the Ciltern Saetan, and west to the most outlying of their peoples, the Iclingas, and beyond them the British kingdom of Pengwern. The proposed British territory of Caer Lerion (part of the former Corieltavi territory - see feature link, right for more details) fell by around AD 500, leaving virtually no trace of its existence behind, and this formed the heartland of the Middil Engle territory. This territory was shielded from the East Seaxe by heavily wooded country lying along their south-eastern border.

In the early stages of settlement, the Angles were not totally dominant in the area; there was also a sizable Saxon presence, although evidence supports the fact that many of them were settled in this area before the collapse of Roman rule. The settled Saxons and the newly arrived Angles mingled throughout Middle Anglia. Some Angle and Saxon groups moved southwards to encircle the British in the Chilterns, joining Saxons already settling the area from the Thames Valley.

Also forming part of the Middil Engle peoples were the tribes of the Herstingas (north-west of Cambridge) and the Undalum (between Kettering and Great Casterton, west of Peterborough). The Spaldingas took the area around the Wash, immediately south of the Lindisware. The North Engle settled in modern Nottinghamshire (Nottingham is a preservation of the North Engle name), and the Suth Engle were in modern Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The Gifle occupied the Ivel valley in southern Bedfordshire. The Hicce (or Hicca), whose settlement was roughly the same size as that of the Gifle, gave their name to Hitchin and the River Hitch (shown as 'hiz' in Domesday Book, with the 'z'; being shorthand for a 'tch' sound). There is also evidence of Frisian involvement in place names such as Rothwell and Rothley in modern Northamptonshire, roth being Frisian for a clearing.

This region has no recorded kings. That's not to say they didn't exist, but the region was largely conquered from the east by the East Angles in the early seventh century, and then taken over entirely by the Mercians later in the same century, so whatever royal house might have emerged was allowed no time to bed down and leave any lasting mark, especially in writing. It seems more likely, however, that no overall authority emerged at all, and that the various people of the Middle Angles ruled themselves on a regional basis, perhaps banding together to face external threats.

(Information by Peter kessler, with additional information from The Oxford History of England: The English Settlements, J N L Meyers, from The Oxford History of England: Anglo-Saxon England, Sir Frank Stenton, from A History of the English Church and People, The Venerable Bede (Leo Sherley-Price translation - revised by R E Latham), from Mercia: The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Central England, Sarah Zaluckyj & Marge Feryok, 2001, and from The Origins of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, S Bassett (Ed, Leicester University Press, 1989).)


FeatureEast Engle force their way westwards into the Midlands, bith along waterways and from the area of the Wash. The British territory of Caer Lerion falls by about AD 500 (see introduction link for more details), and on the territory's southern border, Cynwidion is quickly compressed to less than half its original size as Saxon groups force their way through the Vale of Aylesbury. However, they appear to advance no further for a generation following the British victory of Mons Badonicus.

Leicestershire countryside
Modern Leicestershire formed the heartland of the territory of the Middle Angles, which was populated by a mixture of Britons, Angles, and Saxons, the latter probably a relic of Roman settled mercenary groups

In the area around Leicestershire - the heartland of Middel Engle territory in the sixth century - it has been shown that at least one site containing Roman burials in the fifth century continues to be used as normal, but with Anglo-Saxon grave goods replacing Roman goods. One supposition reasonably suggests that the same people are burying their dead, but that they have quickly adapted to the new circumstances of their existence. Roman clothes and ways and language have been replaced by Anglian clothes and ways and the Old English language (although British/Welsh does not entirely die out in the Midlands until the eighth century). Roman or Romano-British masters are now Anglian masters. The ordinary folk, many of them probably native Britons, adopt the 'latest fashions', for reasons of survival if for none other, but one grave uncovered by archaeologists includes a single Roman bead which had been worn by a young woman, perhaps in memory of the Roman side of her family, given to her by her mother or grandmother.


MapThe change of name for the British kingdom of Cynwidion at this time suggests that territory to the north may already have been lost, probably to the Middil Engle, who are known to occupy territory there by this time. However, the Angles are prevented from spreading farther west by the expanse of the forest of Arden.


One group of local Angles takes advantage of the destruction of the British territory of The Peak by the Bernician Angles. They migrate northwards into the lower areas of the region and become the Pecset ('Peak settlers').

c.600 - 630

Upland Cambridgeshire is disputed by three kingdoms. The west belongs to the Middil Engle, the far south to the East Seaxe and the rest to the East Engle. This leads to warfare between the kingdoms, and initially the East Engle are the more powerful, forcing the Middil Engle back along the chalk belt.


Having already made large inroads by overrunning the North and Suth Engle by the start of the century, the Mercians conquer the remaining Middil Engle territories, taking them from the East Engle. The Mercian King Penda places his son on the Middil Engle throne. Does this confirm the previous establishment of a kingship of the Middil Angle, or is it simply a Mercian method of controlling a large client territory? Probably the latter, as the Middil Engle exhibit every sign of having been an alliance of related peoples who had separately made their way over from the Continent. No one clan has ever risen to permanent superiority.

c.630? - 655


Sub-king. King of Mercia (655-656).

655 - 656

Peada's accession to the Mercian throne as a Northumbrian vassal and then his murder shortly afterwards seems to end any autonomy on the part of the Middil Engle. A group of ealdormen lead a rebellion which re-establishes Mercia's independence under Peada's brother, Wulfhere, and the kingdom subsequently gains in strength, absorbing territory around it.


FeatureWith Northumbrian dominance now completely thrown off, Mercia regains dominance over Lindsey and retains it until 874. A border is agreed by Æthelred with the Northumbrians (their King Ecgfrith being Æthelred's brother-in-law), fixing the border at the River Humber in perpetuity. Lindsey is settled as a Mercian province some time afterwards. It must also be in this period in which the Tribal Hidage is compiled.

Tribal Hidage (left) and Grammar of Ælfric (right)
The Tribal Hidage is almost certainly Mercian (and covers the former Middle Anglian territories), although some still argue for a Northumbrian origin, but the British Library version shown here, Harley 3271, is an eleventh century miscellany which includes, amongst others, the Grammar of Ælfric, abbot of Eynsham


The diocese of Leicester is finally established for the Middle Angles, a belated recognition of their existence as a separate people. During their conversion to Christianity there had been a lack of priests in the region, making such an establishment impossible at the time. The subsequent history of the Middle Engle is tied up closely with that of Mercia.

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