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Wuffing Education

Tawdry Tales, A St Audry’s Day Special on Formidable Women of Old England

St Ęthelthryth – from the Benedictional of St Ęthelwold, compiled at Winchester, c.975 (British Library)

with Dr Sam Newton

at Tranmer House, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday 23rd June 2007

A reassessment of Old English female power from pre-Christian times.

The power of pre-Christian English women is revealed by references provided by Procopius and Bede, as well as by Old English poetry. We shall see how this power was realised in early Christian England by the impressive numbers of canonised royal abbesses.

Among the Wuffings we have the daughters of Rædwald’s nephew, King Anna. These include the famous St Æthelthryth (Audry), founding abbess of Ely, whose festival day this is, as well as her sisters, St Seaxburh, queen of Kent and founding abbess of Minster on Sheppey, and St Wihtburh, Abbess of Dereham.

St Seaxburh provides the genealogical link between the Wuffings and the Æscing dynasty of Kent and the formidable royal ladies there, such as St Mildred, founding abbess of Minster on Thanet. Also related to the Wuffings was the famous Northumbrian Abbess St Hilda and her sister St Hereswith, who was married to Rædwald’s nephew Æthelric.

We shall further consider the extraordinary story of St Balthild, a lady of apparently English, possibly even East Anglian, noble family, who was enslaved by the Franks, but who later became a princess, queen, abbess and saint. Finally we shall note examples of powerful women in later Anglo-Saxon England.

Provisional Programme
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 Female Power in Early England  
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.30 The Daughters of King Anna  
  12.30 Lunch break  
  14:00 Wuffings and Æscings  
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 Other Formidbale Women of Early England  
  16:15 Close  

About Dr Sam Newton

A fter early experiences in archaeology, Sam Newton graduated from the University of East Anglia with a first in English Literature in 1983. He was awarded his Ph.D. in 1991 and published his first book, The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia, in 1993. Since then he has worked as an independent scholar in Wuffing and Early Medieval Studies. His latest book, The Reckoning of King Rædwald, was published in 2003. He is also now a Director of Wuffing Education and Time Team historian.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

Ellis Davidson, H., Gods and Myths of Northern Europe (Penguin 1964)
Fairweather, J. [tr.] Liber Eliensis – A History of the Isle of Ely from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century (Boydell 2005)
Farmer, D.H., The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (Oxford 1978)
Gallyon, M., The Early Church in Eastern England (Lavenham 1973)
James, E.,The Franks (Oxford 1988)
Mayr-Harting, H., The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford 1977)
Newton, S., The Reckoning of King Rædwald (Redbird Press 2003)
Rollason, D., Northumbria 500-1100 (Cambridge 2003)
Scarfe, Norman, Suffolk in the Middle Ages (Boydell 1986)
Sherley-Price, L., Bede: A History of the English Church and People (Penguin Classics 1955, 1968)
Witney. K.P., The Kingdom of Kent (Phillimore 1982)


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Wuffing Education,
4 Hilly Fields,
Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4DX
(tel : 01394 386498)

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We have learnt of the fame of the Wuffing folk-lords of long ago, of how those wolf-kings held the ancestral land of East Anglia....
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