King Edwin’s kingdom stretched from Edinburgh – Edwin’s Town- to the River Trent. This was the Kingdom of Northumbria He was accepted as the High King or Bretwalda. Following his marriage to Ethelburga of Kent (daughter of Ethelbert) in AD 627 he became Britain’s second Christian king. Bede described Edwin as more powerful than any earlier king and as time passed he extended his kingdom to the Isle of Man and Anglesey.
His invasion of North Wales resulted in Cadwallada of Wales and Penda of Mercia forming an alliance against him and invading his kingdom in 633. He and two of his sons were killed at the Battle of Heathfield which could be near Cuckney or alternatively at Hatfield near Doncaster – though it would be unlikely for the next part of the story to be true if this were the case.
Edwin’s comrades carried his body from the scene of the battle and buried it in the forest. They carried his head back to St Peter’s in York., though another version has Cadwallada displaying Edwin’s head on the ramparts of York’s city walls following a veritable Saxon-killing spree. In either event the battle was bloody and decisive.
Eventually it was decided that Edwin’s body should be buried in Whitby Abbey where his niece St Hilda was abbess. By that time people were calling him a saint. The spot where his body had been buried was deemed a holy place and a wooden chapel built on the site. This became known as the ‘place of Edwin’ or Edwinstowe.
Edwinstowe was part of the royal manor of Mansfield in 1066. Inevitably, given the Norman kings love of hunting the land around Mansfield and Edwinstowe became part of a royal forest. The Domesday Book of 1086 records the church, a priest and four bordars – these were essentially slaves working the priest’s land. Twenty years later there was even less land being cultivated.
In later times King John, who had a hunting lodge at Ollerton, paid a priest to live in a nearby chantry to say prayers for his soul and for the souls of the people he had wronged.
The local people probably felt they ought to have been included in the number as they were bound by the strict forest laws that protected the timber and the game of royal forests. Those caught breaking the law were taken before the Forest Court or Eyre which was held every six or seven weeks. More serious offences were tried at the Nottingham Eyre.