Sutton Walls

Sutton Walls hillfort is an elongated ovoid Iron Age Hill fort located 4 miles north of Hereford.

The hillfort dates back to the Iron Age. By 100 BC defences began to be constructed in the form of a v-shaped ditch and an internal bank, to accommodate a larger community. The people in the settlement lived in wood and stone huts

Archaeological digs have revealed that in around 48 AD, Sutton Walls was attacked by the Romans under the leadership of Ostorius Scapula and 24 of its inhabitants were slain and their bodies were thrown into the ditch.

After the fort was conquered and its people either banished or put to the sword, the Romans themselves occupied it and did so until about 3c. In this time the Romans greatly strengthened the forts

The fort is also regarded by many as being the location of the palace of Offa of Mercia. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle it was at Sutton Walls where Offa arranged Æthelberht II (
St Ethelbert) of East Anglia to be murdered in 794. Mediaeval sources tell how he was taken captive whilst visiting his future Mercian bride Ælfthyth and was then murdered and buried. In Richard of Cirencester's account of the murder, which cannot be substantiated, Offa's evil queen Cynethryth poisoned her husband's mind until he agreed to have his guest killed. Æthelberht was then bound and beheaded by a certain Grimbert and his body was unceremoniously disposed of. The medieval historian John Brompton's Chronicon describes how the king's detached head fell off a cart into a ditch where it was found, before it restored a blind man's sight. Posthumously Æthelberht was canonised and became the focus of cults in East Anglia and at Hereford, where the shrine of the saintly king once existed.

St Ethelbert

Æthelberht, also called St Ethelbert the King, (died 20 May 794 at Sutton Walls, Herefordshire) was an 8c saint and a king of East Anglia, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Little is known of his reign, which may have begun in 779, according to later sources, and very few of the coins issued during his reign have been discovered. It is known from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that he was killed on the orders of Offa of Mercia in 794. He was subsequently canonised and became the focus of cults in East Anglia and at Hereford, where the shrine of the saintly king once existed. His feast day is May 20. Several Norfolk, Suffolk and West Country parish churches are dedicated to the saint.

Little is known of Æthelberht's life or reign, as very few East Anglian records have survived from this period. Mediaeval chroniclers have provided dubious accounts of his life, in the absence of any real details. According to Richard of Cirencester, writing in the fifteenth century, Æthelberht's parents were Æthelred I of East Anglia and Leofrana of Mercia.