For three and a half centuries Britain was under stable Roman rule; by 410AD Britain's shores and internal borders were defenceless. From the north came attacks from the Picts and Scots. From across the North Sea came the Germanic raiders, the Angles and the Saxons, who settled several kingdoms throughout Britain. By 604AD, the kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira had been united to create Northumbria. Through the next century, the Northumbrian kings constantly battled the Mercian kings to create the most powerful kingdom in Britain.
Ebberston and King Alfrid’s Cave
Northumbrian King Aldfrith (Aldfrid, Alchfrid) was thought to have engaged the invading Picts in a battle here in AD 704 or 705. Tradition points to the ‘Bloody Field' as the spot where the battle was fought; the ‘Bloody Beck' which runs along the side of the field ran red with blood after the battle. King Alfred's Cave (also known as Ilfrid's Hole) is a natural fissure or cave.
In the 1800s, a stone structure was built to mark this site, which, as local legend has it, is where King Alfred took refuge after the Battle of Ebberston. He remained in the cave over night, and the next day was conveyed to Little Driffield. An old inscription, recorded by Thomas Hinderwell in his 1798 ‘History and Antiquities of Scarborough and the Vicinity' read: Alfred, King of Northumberland, was wounded in a bloody battle near this place, and was removed to Little Driffield where he lies buried: hard by, his entrenchments may be seen.
St. Mary's Church, Little Driffield
King Aldfrith of Northumbria is thought to have had a castle or mansion near Little Driffield, which may have been why he was brought back here after he was wounded at a battle near Ebberston. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, complied c1100, records that King Aldfrith died at Driffelda in the year AD705. Both historical and archaeological evidence indicate a church in Little Driffield during the Saxon period, probably from the 7th century.
By the late middle ages, there is an inscription on the wall of the chancel of St. Peter's Church indicating the burial of King Aldfrith. Since the 16th century, antiquarians have been drawn to this royal burial, which was reported to have been discovered in 1784. They claimed that ‘after digging some time within the chancel, they found a stone coffin, on opening which, the entire skeleton of that prince presented itself, with a great part of his steel armour!' Recent searches have not identified the grave, so it is more likely that King Aldfrith's grave is located in the churchyard. An earlier inscription painted on the wall memorialised this royal burial but when the chancel was rebuilt in 1807 the present inscription was put up.
There is one step from the porch to the church.