1st June, 1070

01/06/2019 all-day

Hereward the Wake and his Viking allies sacked Peterborough Cathedral.

Renowned as the last English warrior to successfully oppose William the Conqueror and his formidable Norman soldiers, Hereward’s tale is seeped in legend.

Although it is hard to separate the man from the myth, it seems likely Hereward was a noble English thegn from Bourne in south Lincolnshire. He was in exile during the Norman invasion of 1066, but on his return to England he became leader of the rebels in the east defying King William.

By the summer of 1070 he was operating alongside a Danish fleet led by their King Sweyn. On June 1, as a new French abbot Torold was abut to take over the wealthy religious establishment at Peterborough, Hereward and the Vikings struck first. They stormed the monastery, brushing aside the monks, and made off with “treasures in money, cloth and gold”.

With that, the Danes made a separate truce with William and made off with their loot – which was probably their intention all along. As for Hereward, despite making enemies of the Peterborough monks, he fought a highly successful guerrilla campaign based in the fens around Ely. There he defied the Norman army, which struggled to make headway in the marshy ground, until (by some accounts) some more monks betrayed him.

With the fall of Ely, Hereward leaves the pages of history and enters those of legend. It seems that, despite later making peace with King William, Hereward was ambushed by some of the Norman knights he had earlier defeated – and died making a last stand.