• FIELD NOTES, Knepp Farm

Did Boadecia take her life on Peckham Rye?

Late Victorian historians thought she may have.

The Councillor John Nisbet wrote a short sketch of the history of One Tree Hill in 1905. “Of the early history of One Tree Hill very little is known. Some modern researchers are of the opinion that the area comprising Honor Oak and Peckham Rye is the locality where, A.D. 61, was fought the battle that resulted in the total defeat of the heroic Boadicea, the warrior queen of the Iceni, and the slaughter of 80,000 of her followers by 10,000 Roman veterans under the leadership of Suetonius Paulinus.”

The Roman historian Tacitus describes the sight of the battle as “a spot in a defile,” [Woodvale?] “encircled with woods,” [Forest Hill on the right and the thickets of Fryern upon the slopes of Ladlands Hill on the left, with The Great North Wood behind. The open plain of Peckham Rye was below where the Iceni gathered. Close by, on the summit of Ladlands Hill [across which runs Overhill Road] there was a Roman military station.

The inhabitants of Londinium, in terror of the Iceni and their allies, could of fled to this forested area seeking safety and watched their town burnt to the ground. In the battle the disciplined Roman army prevailed and Boadicea took her life with a poison draft.

Dion Cassius described Boadicea as riding in her war chariot with her daughters, everywhere encouraging her followers, to conquer or die. She possessed a grim face, keen eye, and rough speech. Her golden hued hair flowed to her waist, she wore a plaid, and torques of gold, and carried a spear in her hand.

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