Battle of Hehil

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Battle of Hehil
Date c. 721—722
Location "among the Cornish"
Result British victory
St Piran's Flag of Cornwall
West Britons
Wyvern of Wessex.svg
West Saxons (probably)
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The Battle of Hehil was a battle won by a force of Britons, probably against the Anglo-Saxons of Wessex around the year 720. The location is unknown, except that it was apud Cornuenses ("among the Cornish").


The only direct reference to the battle appears in the Annales Cambriae. A translation from the original Latin is as follows:

The battle of Hehil among the Cornish, the battle of Garth Maelog, the battle of Pencon among the South Britons, and the Britons were the victors in those three battles.[1][2]

The Annales Cambriae are undated but Egerton Phillimore placed the entry in the year 722.[3]

Although the source does not name the Anglo-Saxons as the enemy in any of the three battles, it has been claimed that the failure to specify the enemy was simply because this was so obvious to all, and that any other opponents would have been clearly named.[4]

The battle is not mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and H. P. R. Finberg has speculated that this is because Wessex was defeated.[5]


The location of Hehil is not known, but many scholars have tried to identify it. In 1916, Celtic scholar Donald MacKinnon was not willing to say more than that it was on "the Devonian peninsula",[6] and Christopher Snyder simply stated in 2003: "722 The Annales Cambriae record a British victory at Hehil in Cornwall".[7]

Frank Stenton thought it was at Hayle in west Cornwall,[8] but Leslie Alcock (in 1987) notes that although the most obvious interpretation of 'Hehil among the Cornish' is the river Hayle in west Cornwall, he refers to Ekwall's identification of the name with the River Camel (previously known as the Heil) and he concludes that this "more easterly attribution may be preferable".[9] Other scholars preferring the River Camel include W. G. Hoskins, who put Hehil at Egloshayle on that river;[8] Leonard Dutton who suggested in 1993 "at or near the spot where the fifteenth century bridge at Wadebridge crosses the Camel";[10] and Philip Payton who in 2004 located it "probably [at] the strategically important Camel estuary".[11]

Malcolm Todd stated in 1987 that these sites are "too far west to be taken seriously", and made two suggestions, firstly Hele at Jacobstow in north Cornwall,[12] which had been mentioned as a possibility in 1931 in the introduction to the Place-names of Devon,[13] and which was supported by the landscape archaeologist Della Hooke in 1994.[14] Todd's other suggestion was Hele in the Culm Valley in east Devon.[12]


The British victory at Hehil in 722 may have proved decisive in the history of the West Britons: it was not until almost a hundred years later (in 814) that further battles are recorded in the area, a period which Nicholas Orme sees as probably consolidating the division between Cornwall and Devon.[15]


  1. ^ Ingram, James. s:The Annals of Wales A. Everyman Press (London), 1912.
  2. ^ For the original Latin for both the A & B texts, see: Annales Cambriae at the Latin Wikisource. (Latin)
  3. ^ Phillimore, Egerton, Y Cymmrodor 9 (1888), Harleian MS. 3859, pp. 141–83 (Latin)
  4. ^ Simmons, Robert (August–September 2009). "722 and all that". Cornish World Magazine. pp. 32–5. Retrieved 11 July 2012. 
  5. ^ Finberg, H. P. R. (1953). "Sherborne, Glastonbury, and the Expansion of Wessex". Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. 5 (3): 110. JSTOR 3678711.   – via JSTOR (subscription required)
  6. ^ MacKinnon, Donald. The Celtic Review, Vol. 10 (1916), p. 325
  7. ^ Snyder, Christopher (2003). The Britons. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub. p. 292. ISBN 978-0-631-22262-0. 
  8. ^ a b Cited in: Higham, Robert (2008). Making Anglo-Saxon Devon. Exeter: The Mint Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-903356-57-9. 
  9. ^ Alcock, Leslie (1987), Economy, society, and warfare among the Britons and Saxons, Cardiff: University of Wales Press, p. 231, ISBN 978-0-7083-0963-6 
  10. ^ Dutton, Leonard (1993). The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms : the power struggles from Hengist to Ecgberht. Hanley Swan, Worcestershire: SPA, in conjunction with L. Dutton. p. 232. ISBN 978-1-85421-197-2. 
  11. ^ Payton, Philip (2004). Cornwall: A History (2nd ed.). Fowey: Cornwall Editions Ltd. p. 68. ISBN 1-904880-00-2. 
  12. ^ a b Todd, Malcolm (1987). The South West to AD 1000. A Regional History of England. Longman. pp. 272–3. ISBN 0-582-49274-2. 
  13. ^ Gover, J.E.B.; Mawer, A. & Stenton, F.M (1931). "The Place-Names of Devon". English Place-Name Society. Vol viii. Part I. Cambridge University Press: xviii. 
  14. ^ Hooke, Della (1994). Pre-conquest charter-bounds of Devon and Cornwall. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK Rochester, NY: Boydell Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-85115-354-4. 
  15. ^ Orme, Nicholas (1991). Unity and Variety: A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall. Exeter Studies in History. 29. University of Exeter Press. p. 6. ISBN 0-85989-355-3.