Edric, or Ealdric The Wild, deserves his place in history and yet he’s almost forgotten. My hometown of Stafford is no Chester or Bath but it has some interesting history if only it would make something of it. The photo on the left shows Broad Eye in Stafford. It has a well-known windmill and commuters or visitors will walk past it to reach the train station from the town centre. The windmill has its supporters, alas, Edric doesn’t. And if ever there was a figure to instil pride it’s Edric. Although much of the background is lost in the dim history of the 11th century, Edric’s story has enough stupidity and bravery to make any Englishman’s heart sing. For we love nothing more than an underdog.
In the late 1060s Edric, a Saxon lord, decided to rebel against the Norman incomers. He blazed across what was then Mercia and even allied with the canny Welsh to storm Shrewsbury. This was where things went a bit wrong. Although the Shrewsbury folk sided with Edric the town was torched and pillaged in the confusion (as it’s Shrewsbury it may be reasonable to blame the Welsh).
Edric was cornered in Stafford, not far from where the Essence of the Orient restaurant now stands. We know what he thought of the Normans, but sadly we’ll never know what he would have made of egg-fried rice. William the Bastard’s men defeated Edric and the rebels and put them to flight. It’s a lovely walk along the river here. There are yew trees, a dovecot, neat Victorian terraces and a quiet, reedy stretch of the Sow. What it needs is a plaque or a sign. Something important happened here! Americans have set up theme parks for less. Stafford has plenty of secrets. It should share them.
Prince Rupert stayed at the Ancient High House and shot the weathervane on St Mary’s church for target practice. Dickens stayed here (although he wasn’t impressed). Stafford was founded as a frontier town by King Alfred’s daughter. Dances with Wolves in Staffordshire! There are battlefields close by at Blore Heath and Hopton Heath. Victorian serial killer Dr William Palmer owned the town centre pub now known as the Pie and Ale house, pictured right. Mary Queen of Scots was locked up nearby at Chartley Castle. The Duke of Cumberland’s troops (or Butcher of Culloden if you’re a Scot) pitched their tents near here before chasing Bonnie Prince Charlie north. Of course there’s much more but you wouldn’t know it, because no one seems to care. The stories are there; they’ve been written. Who’s telling them?