Founded 1946, by Geoffrey Beard

Stourbridge Historical Society

On May 16th Vice President Trevor Sidaway welcomed everyone to a meeting of The Stourbridge Historical Society where the speaker for the evening was the ever-popular Max Keene whose subject was Hereward the Wake.  As always Max was resplendent in full costume. He invited the audience to consider the significant weight of his helmet which was of Saxon design. He admitted that there was an element of guesswork in his attire but Hereward would have almost certainly used the Danish Broadsword. He revealed that Wake means watchful and then went on to demonstrate that Hereward was required to live up to that meaning for much of his life.

Hereward was born in Bourne in Lancashire and interestingly his mother was Lady Godiva. He was frequently depicted as an all action hero and many of the adventures of Robin hood are supposedly based on his activities. He was so wild in his youth that his Father requested that Edward the Confessor declare him an outlaw. The death of Edward left England vulnerable and Hereward returned to England after a period in Flanders to find that William the Conqueror and his army had seized his Father’s land, killed some of his family and mounted their heads on spikes. A period of revenge followed where it is said that Hereward killed 14 Normans with a double handed axe. Hereward’s safe fortress was The Isle of Ely which had a marshy and reedy terrain which rendered it difficult for William and his men to negotiate. William had dismissed Hereward’s exploits as inconsequential but came to respect Hereward when despite building a causeway he still struggled to control the Fenlands or capture Ely. Eventually, witchcraft which was deployed by William and betrayal by Abbot Thurston whose monks showed William’s army a secret passageway was to lead to Herward’s defeat by William in 1071.  

It is said that after the defeat he went to live in the greenwood; another clear link to the tales of Robin Hood. Subsequently it is believed that William invited Hereward to make peace at Winchester. Max explained that the means of Hereward’s death is a matter of conjecture but what is clear is that his life was one of heroism, myth and legend and that he left a legacy. This includes HMS Herward, a train that was named after him, a BBC series about him made in the 1960’s and references to him on a Pink Floyd track and in an episode of Hancock’s Half Hour.

Trevor thanked Max for an entertaining talk which he delivered with his usual enthusiasm despite suffering from a debilitating virus.  The Society has two trips during the summer months so the next meeting will talk place on September 19th when Stuart McMaster will speak on Two Black Country Engineering Companies.