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In the 9th century England was afflicted, along with the rest of northwestern Europe, by the attacks of Scandinavian Vikings. The Surrey inland position shielded it from coastal raiding, so that it was not normally troubled except by the largest and most ambitious Scandinavian armies.
In 851 an exceptionally large invasion force of Danes arrived at the mouth of the Thames in a fleet of about 350 ships, which would have carried over 15,000 men. Having sacked Canterbury and London and defeated King Beorhtwulf of Mercia in battle, the Danes crossed the Thames into Surrey, but were slaughtered by a West Saxon army led by King Ethelwulf in the Battle of Aclea, bringing the invasion to an end.
Two years later the men of Surrey marched into Kent to help their Kentish neighbours fight a raiding force at Thanet, but suffered very heavy losses including their ealdorman, Huda. In 892 Surrey was the scene of another major battle when a large Danish army, variously reported at 200, 250 and 350 ship loads, moved west from its encampment in Kent and raided in Hampshire and Berkshire. Withdrawing with their spoils, the Danes were intercepted and defeated at Farnham by an army led by Alfred the Greats son Edward, the future King Edward the Elder, and fled across the Thames towards Essex.
Surrey then remained safe from attack for over a century, due to its location and to the growing power of the West Saxon, later English, kingdom. Kingston was the scene for the coronations of Ethelstan in 924 and of Ethelred the Unready in 978, and, according to later tradition, also of other 10th century Kings of England. The renewed Danish attacks during the disastrous reign of Ethelred led to the devastation of Surrey by the army of Thorkell the Tall, which ravaged all of southeastern England in 1009 to 1011. The end of this wave of attacks came in 1016, which saw prolonged fighting between the forces of King Edmund Ironside and the Danish king Cnut, including an English victory over the Danes somewhere in northeastern Surrey, but ended with the conquest of England by Cnut.
Cnuts death in 1035 was followed by a period of political uncertainty, as the succession was disputed between his sons. In 1036 Alfred, son of King Ethelred, returned from Normandy, where he had been taken for safety as a child at the time of Cnuts conquest of England. It is uncertain what his intentions were, but after landing with a small retinue in Sussex he was met by Godwin, Earl of Wessex, who escorted him in apparently friendly fashion to Guildford. Having taken lodgings there, Alfreds men were attacked as they slept and killed, mutilated or enslaved by Godwins followers, while the prince himself was blinded and imprisoned, dying shortly afterwards. This must have contributed to the antipathy between Godwin and Alfreds brother Edward the Confessor, who came to the throne in 1042.
The hostility climaxed in 1051, when Godwin and his sons were driven into exile; returning the following year, the men of Surrey rose to support them, along with those of Sussex, Kent, Essex and elsewhere, helping them secure their reinstatement and the banishment of the kings Norman entourage. The repercussions of this antagonism helped bring about the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 by William the Conqueror.
The Domesday Book shows that the largest landowners in Surrey at the end of Edwards reign were Chertsey Abbey and Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex and later king, followed by the estates of King Edward himself. Apart from the abbey, most of whose lands were within the shire, Surrey was not the principal focus of any major landowners holdings, a tendency which was to persist in later periods. Given the vast and widespread landed interests and the national and international preoccupations of the monarchy and the earldom of Wessex, the Abbot of Chertsey was therefore probably the most important figure in the local elite.
The Anglo-Saxon period saw the emergence of the shires internal division into 14 hundreds, which continued until Victorian times. These were the hundreds of Blackheath, Brixton, Copthorne, Effingham Half-Hundred, Elmbridge, Farnham, Godalming, Godley, Kingston, Reigate, Tandridge, Wallington, Woking and Wotton.
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