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The Kingdom of Wessex existed in South West England from the 6th century to the 10th century. It was established by the Saxons. The name Wessex derives from West Saxons.

Geographically in today’s county boundaries, Wessex would cover Dorset, Somerset, and Wiltshire, parts of Gloucestershire, Hampshire and Berkshire. Although it’s specific boundaries are still debated.

Historically, it was very important to the Saxons, along with its capital Winchester. They both feature in a new book from Denny Bradbury, Borvo, out this June. It’s set in the time of King Alfred the Great, whose statue is found Wessex, in the Broadway in Winchester. Borvo tells the story of a pagan boy who comes to the aid of King Alfred in the ninth century.

King Alfred the Great ruled over Wessex from 871 to 899. His title ‘The Great’ comes from his defence of Wessex and surrounding Kingdoms against the Vikings.

The golden dragon is regarded as the symbol of Wessex, with claims the West Saxons raised a golden dragon during the battle of Burford in the year 752.

Wessex still exists in some forms today, although it’s no longer considered a geographical location. Wessex Stadium is home to Weymouth Football Club, Wessex Water is the name of water company that serves most of the South West region.

Thomas Hardy revived Wessex in many of his novels written between 1872 and 1895, including Jude the Obscure and Tess of the D’Urbervilles. He divides Wessex into regions, Lower Wessex, South Wessex and more. They each represent a contemporary county, for example Mid Wessex is thought to represent Wiltshire.

Hardy’s use of Wessex as a fictitious place in his novels is credited with the interest in Wessex as a geographical location today. There is even a political party dedicated to securing self-government for Wessex. They have had little success in general elections, but they do have representatives at parish levels.

Denny Bradbury sets her new novel Borvo in Wessex for its rich history and importance in the South West of England.

Sarah Hogan