THE MERCIANS(the beginnings)
‘In modern times in Mercia there ruled a mighty king called Offa, who struck all the kings and regions around him with terror. He it was who ordered the great dyke to be constructed between Wales and Mercia, stretching from sea to sea.’
Between the Thames and the Humber, between the Severn and the heavily settled lands of Middle Anglia, lay the area which later became the kingdom of Mercia. It centred on the modern day English counties of staffordshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Southern Derbyshire and North Warwickshire. ‘Mercians’ meant ‘borderers’ and was applied presumably because the Mercian kingdom lay between the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of the east and the Welsh or British kingdoms in the west.
At about the middle of the sixth century this large area of midland England contained two enclaves of Germanic settlement, one in the valley of the middle and upper Trent, the other in the valley of the Warwickshire Avon.
The Trent settlement formed the nucleus of Mercia, that of the Avon produced the kingdom of the Hwicce, which subsequently was incorporated into Mercia. During the course of the next decades small groups of poineers pushed forwards from existing settlements and established themselves over all the midlands shires. By the middle of the seventh century the rulers of the Trent valley people had established their dominion over all the lesser folk groups, and the Britons had everywhere been driven back across the Severn. No history, no tradition even, of the process by which this was achieved has survived. The rulers of Mercia suddenly intervene on the political scene of the mid-seventh century, decisively, but without warning.