For five years, the Maldon Archaeological Group has been trying to find the site of the Saxon burh or fort, built in 916 by King Alfred the Great's son Edward the Elder, as a defence against Danish invaders. In 1985, excavation in the back garden of No. 20 Spital Road showed that an earth bank is probably part of the burh defences, and may even be of prehistoric origin. With this discovery, other clues collected earlier are beginning to come together like the pieces of a jigsaw, some pieces fitting well and some not, whilst of course there are gaps in the picture which remain to be filled.

This booklet contains the jigsaw pieces available for reconstructing the plan of the burh. In so doing, it reports the progress of the Burh Research Committee and describes the excavations at 20 Spital Road. Included are some suggestions as to how and where we might look for more clues and a brief overview of Maldon's early development in the light of recent discoveries.



Cover Jigsaw Sketch
  1. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles
  2. The Battle of Maldon
  3. The Maldon Mint
  4. The Domesday Survey
  5. Nathaniel Salmon's Book
  6. Joseph Strutt's Book
  7. Tithe Maps
  8. Ordnance Survey Maps
  9. I. Chalkley Gould - 1906
  10. Youth Hostel Excavation
  11. 9 London Road Observation
  12. Crack in Bright's Garden Wall
  13. 5 Gate St. - Rear Garden wall
  14. 33 Beeleigh Road Excavation
  15. 20 Spital Road Excavation
  16. Negative Evidence
  17. Survey and Other Evidence
  18. The Prehistoric Evidence
  19. The Roman Evidence
  20. The Napoleonic Period





Jigsaw Piece 1


Documentary Evidence

912……………..After that in summer, between Rogation and midsummer, king Edward went with some of his supporters to Maldon in Essex, and camped there for the time the borough was worked on and built at Witham. To him submitted a good part of the folk who had been under Danish rule……….

916……………..Before midsummer, king Edward went to Maldon and built the borough and founded it. before he went from there………..

917……………..folk gathered in the autumn, from Kent, Surrey, Essex and from the nearest boroughs. they went to Colchester, besieged the town, and fought till they overcame it and killed all the people except those who fled away over the wall. Yet after this, the same autumn, a great force from East Anglia gathered, both the land force and vikings they had lured into their service. They thought they would avenge their injuries, and went to Maldon; they besieged the town, and fought there until more help came to the town-dwellers from outside. The force forsook the town and left; then the men of the town went out after them, and those outside came to help. They put the force to flight and killed many hundreds, both ship-men and others……..

(From a translation by Anne Savage)


The first jigsaw piece was provided by unknown writers of the tenth century. Appropriately it is also our earliest reference to Maldon and although the exact dating is disputed by scholars the Chronicles do indicate Maldon's importance and the part it played in early English history. The meaning of the word translated as 'borough' above has changed over the years and can be read here as 'burh', meaning Saxon fort.

Although the most obvious burh evidence is a record of its foundation by King Edward the Elder there are reasons for believing that in 916 Edward merely refortified a much earlier earthworks. In his campaigns against the Danes across the country it was a common thing to do and there is archaeological proof of this happening at Witham. The fact that Edward first came to Maldon in 912 implies that, even before the establishment of the burh, it was a more secure base than the ancient earthworks being refortified at Witham.

Success of the town's people to withstand a formidable assault by Danes and Vikings in 917 testifies to the strength of the fortress.

Jigsaw Piece 2


Documentary Evidence - Anglo-Saxon Battle Poem

……….Offa fulfilled his former boast to Byrhtnoth, the ring-giver, that they should either return unhurt, riding to the stronghold in victory together, or together surrender their lives, bleeding from wounds on the battlefield ………

(from a translation by Kevin Crossley-Holland)


The event is best known from the famous old English battle poem which describes in detail the heroic battle, the death of the ealdorman Byrhtnoth and the defeat of the English. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles also record the battle: -

Documentary Evidence

991 .......In this year came Anlaf (Olaf Tryggvason) with ninety-three ships to Folkestone and harried outside, and sailed thence to Sandwich, thence to Ipswich, overrunning all the countryside, and so on to Maldon. Ealdorman Byrhtnoth came to meet them with his levies and fought them, but they slew the ealdorman there (10 August) and had possession of the place of slaughter. Afterwards peace was made with them and the king stood sponsor for him (Anlaf) at confirmation: this was dons on the advice of Sigeric, archbishop of Canterbury. and Aelfheah, bishop of Winchester.... in the same year it was decided for the first time to pay tribute to the Danes on account of the atrocities they wrought along the sea coast. On this first occasion it amounted to ten thousand pounds. This course was adopted on the advice of archbishop Sigeric.

(from a translation by G.N. Garmonsway)


We have no reference to events in the town or burh immediately following Byrhtnoth's bloody defeat but there are hints which suggest Maldon may have escaped a disastrous sacking and that the burh's life as a defense against invaders continued for some time afterwards. The town appears to have retained its high status with its mint and Royal connections (1171 Charter).

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