HEREWARD (fl. 1070–1071), outlaw (called on the bad and late authority of ‘John of Peterborough’ the Wake, i.e. apparently ‘the watchful one’), fills a larger place in legend than in authentic history. A few references to him in the chronicles and an account of his possessions in Domesday are all that we really know of him. But his exploits in defending Ely from the Normans caused the generation succeeding his own to regard him as the popular hero of the English resistance to their French conquerors. Popular songs commemorated his wonderful deeds, and were the sources of many mythical histories which disagree with each other, and with known history. They are written with obvious exaggeration, though some of them are not sixty years subsequent in date to the time when Hereward in all probability was still alive.
Two distinct legendary sources make Hereward the son of Leofric of Bourn, and the authentic testimony of Domesday shows that he was in all probability a Lincolnshire man. But Morkere, not Leofric, held Bourn in the days of King Edward, and the romancer, by making out Leofric to be a kinsman of Ralph, the French earl of Hereford, shows that his main object was to exalt the family of his hero. A pedigree writer of the fifteenth century boldly says that Hereward was the son of Leofric, earl of the Mercians (Michel, Chroniques Anglo-Normandes, ii. xii, from a Cotton. MS.) This story, though accepted by Sir Henry Ellis (Introd. &c. to Domesday, ii. 146), would be rejected for its absurdity, even if it came from a less suspicious source.
Hugo Candidus (Hist. Burg. p. 49) says that Hereward was the ‘man’ of the monks of Peterborough. We also learn from Domesday that Hereward owned lands in several places in Lincolnshire. Along with a certain Toli he had once possessed four bovates at Laughton (‘Loctone’), which afterwards belonged to Oger the Breton (f. 364 b). The same Oger, who at the time of Domesday held Bourn itself, was also tenant of the ‘land of St. Guthlac’ (i.e. of Crowland Abbey) in Rippingale (‘Repinghale’) which had been once part of the monks' domain, but had been let out to Hereward to farm by Abbot Ulfcytel on terms to be agreed on between themselves. This must have been after 1062, the date of Ulfcytel's appointment. But as Hereward did not keep his agreement Ulfcytel took the land back into his own hands (Domesday, f. 377). The unruly character ascribed in the legends to Hereward is borne out both by this and by another passage in the ‘Survey,’ which refers to a claim raised by him, or on his behalf, for the land of Asford in Barholm (‘Bercham’) hundred in Kesteven, Lincolnshire. But the wapentake men certified that this land did not belong to Hereward on the day of his flight (ib. f. 376 b). Hereward also appears in ‘Domesday’ as a landowner in the distant shires of Warwick and Worcester in the days of King Edward. He had four librates of land at Marston Jabbett (‘Merstone’) in Hemlingford (then called Coleshill) hundred (ib. f. 240), three virgates of land at Barnacle (‘Bernhangre’) in the same neighbourhood (ib. f. 240 b), and three virgates at Ladbrooke (‘Lodbroc’) (ib. f. 241), all within Warwickshire. Hereward also held five hides of land at Evenlode in Worcestershire (ib. f. 173). It is, however, very possible that the Hereward of the midlands is another Hereward.
Nothing more is heard of Hereward in real history after his flight from England until he reappears to fight against the Normans. The false Ingulf (in Gale, i. 67) makes him banished at his father's request for his violence, and says that he visited Northumberland, Cornwall, Ireland, and Flanders, in which latter country he married the beautiful Turfrida. But the ‘Gesta Herewardi’ give a long and plainly mythical account of his wanderings. This story makes him first go to Northumberland, where Gilbert of Ghent, said to be his godfather, had summoned him. This is, of course, wrong, as Gilbert only came over with the Conqueror; but it may possibly represent in a distorted form some real connection with Gilbert, because in ‘Domesday’ Gilbert held the soke over Oger's lands in Laughton, part of which had once belonged to Hereward. The ‘Gesta’ go on to tell so many wonderful tales of Hereward's feats in Flanders, that the Canon de Smet, disgusted that no Flemish historian except M. Kervyn de Lettenhove had mentioned so great a hero, consecrated a long article to Hereward's Flemish exploits. The canon complained that he could get no help from Flemish authorities (‘Hereward le Saxon en Flandre’ in Bulletins de l'Académie de Bruxelles, vol. xiv. pt. ii. pp. 344–60). Of course the whole story has no historical basis.
In the spring of 1070 the Danish fleet of Osbeorn and Christian, allowed by William under a treaty to winter in England, appeared in the Humber and Ouse, and roused the country to revolt. At last they came to Ely, when ‘the English folk of all the fenlands came to them, weening that they should win all the land’ (Anglo-Saxon Chron. s.a. 1070). About the same time the stern rule of the new Norman abbot Turold drove into revolt the tenants of Peterborough Abbey, hitherto under the milder government of Abbot Brand, who was, according to the legend, Hereward's uncle. Hereward put himself at their head, and joined with the Danes, whom he incited to plunder Peterborough (Hugo Candidus, p. 48). On 2 June 1070 Hereward and his gang of outlaws sailed up to Peterborough with many ships. They soon put down the weak opposition of the monks, and burnt all the monks' houses and all the town save one house. They then rushed through the burning streets to the monastery church, climbed up to the holy rood and to the steeple, in their greedy search for booty, and ‘went away with so many treasures as no man may tell to another, saying that they did it from love to the monastery’ (ib.) But the approach of Turold drove them all back to their ships, and they went to Ely, whence the Danes soon departed with the spoil, leaving the outlaws to resist the Normans as best they could.
For a whole year nothing is heard of ‘Hereward and his gang,’ but there can be no doubt that they continued to hold out in the isle of Ely. The fame of their resistance gradually gathered the few who still dared to remain open foes of King William. The brothers Eadwine and Morkere now finally broke from the king. After Eadwine's death in an attempted flight to Scotland, Morkere found a refuge with Hereward. Siward Barn, the Northumbrian thegn, and Æthelwine, bishop of Durham, came there from the north. The fame of Ely as a camp of refuge became so great, that the legends put Eadwine, who was dead, and Stigand, who was in prison, among those who sought shelter there. At last William himself led an expedition against the valiant outlaws, and from his camp at Cambridge assailed the island by land and water. Hereward displayed prodigies of valour, but at last William ‘wrought a bridge, and went in.’ Thereupon Æthelwine, Morkere, and all who were with him, lost heart and surrendered to the king, ‘except only Hereward,’ says the chronicle, and ‘all who could flee away with him.’ ‘And he boldly led them out, and the king took their ships, weapons, and treasures, and all the men, and did with them what he would’ (ib. s.a. 1071). Florence of Worcester confirms the account of the chronicle, and says that the ‘vir strenuissimus’ Hereward escaped through the marshes with a few companions. The undoubted history of Hereward here ends, but the legend goes on to speak of his later exploits against the Normans. According to the ‘Gesta’ he obtained in the end a pardon from William, and thus died in peace. This is confirmed by the entries in ‘Domesday Book,’ which make Hereward still holding at the time of the ‘Survey’ the lands at Marston Jabbett and Barnacle, which he had possessed in the days of King Edward (Domesday, f. 240, 240 b). But instead of ‘holding them freely,’ he held them of the Count of Meulan. Their value was still the same as in King Edward's days. If, therefore, we could be sure that this Hereward was the same as the defender of Ely, we should know that he was alive in 1086.
The French rhyming chronicler, Geoffrey Gaimar [q. v.], who wrote within eighty years of Hereward's escape from Ely, gives a different account. As in the ‘Gesta,’ Hereward is reconciled with William through his wife, and in 1073 William took him along with him to the war of Maine. One day his chaplain, who was on the watch, went to sleep. Some Normans at once fell on Hereward, who after he had slain sixteen of his foes was himself slain. One of his murderers, Asselin, swore that had there been three other such men in England, the French would have all been killed or driven out.
Up to the thirteenth century a wooden castle in the fenland was known as Hereward's Castle (Flores Hist. ii. 9, Engl. Hist. Soc.)
[The undoubted authorities for Hereward's history are, besides the passages from Domesday referred to in the text, the Anglo-Saxon Chron. s.a. 1070–1 and Florence of Worcester, ii. 9 (Engl. Hist. Soc.), in a passage essentially followed by Henry of Huntingdon and Simeon of Durham. A few details may be gleaned from Hugo Candidus, Cœnobii Burgensis Historia, in Sparke's Hist. Angl. Scriptt. pp. 48–51. Many chroniclers, including Ordericus Vitalis, who yet gives a full though confused account of the defence of Ely, Hist. Eccles. ii. 215, ed. Le Prévost, do not mention Hereward at all. The legendary authorities are: 1. Geoffrey Gaimar's Estorie des Engles, published partly in M. Francisque Michel's Chroniques Anglo-Normandes, vol. i., and more fully by Wright for the Caxton Society; and in the complete edition issued in the Rolls Series, 1888; the passages bearing on Hereward are between lines 5478 and 5710. 2. Gesta Herewardi Saxonis, also published in Michel's Chroniques Anglo-Normandes, vol. ii., and by the Caxton Society in an appendix to Wright's edition of Gaimar. Both editions come from a very late and incorrect transcript at Trinity Coll., Cambridge, of a manuscript at Peterborough, said to belong to the twelfth century. 3. The false Ingulf's Historia Croylandensis in Gale's Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores, i. 67, 68, 70, 71. Professor Freeman says that this story may contain genuine Crowland tradition. 4. The Historia Eliensis, edited by Mr. D. J. Stewart, for the Anglia Christiana Society, i. 224–39, which refers for further information to the Liber de Gestis Herewardi, compiled by Richard, a monk of Ely. The best modern version is in Freeman's Norman Conquest, iv. 454–87, where the more probable details of the legend are picturesquely worked up with the facts of the undoubted history; in note o o in the same volume the sources of the legend are examined. Mr. T. Wright has given a vigorous modern version of the legend in his Essays on the Literature, Superstitions, and History of England during the Middle Ages, ii. 91–120. Hereward's story is the subject of a novel by Charles Kingsley entitled Hereward the Wake, 1866. See also Frère's Manuel du Bibliographe Normand, ii. 76, and Chevalier's Répertoire des Sources Historiques du Moyen-Age, i. 1042.]