The 3rd King of Wessex, Ceawlin, becomes Bretwalda - overlord of all the English. But his reign ends in chaos and disaster. This History of England Podcast coversthe period from 530 and 635, during which Wessex grows into a significant state, and Christianity arrives in town.
Cerdic's grandson, Cynric, took over the leadership on Cerdic's death. During this time the kingdom of Arthur - or some other British warlord - remained stromg. But in the 550's we see a change. Cynric won two very significan battles against the British. He therefore captured two crcuial strongpoints - Old Sarum and Barbury castle, which dominated key trade and communication routes. Here at last was evidence that the British control was slipping.
Ceawlin, King of Wessex and Bretwalda, 560-592
Ceawlin was Cynric's son, and the most successful king of Wessex until Egbert over 200 years later. He first achieved mention with the first recorded battle between Anglo Saxon states, when he beat Aethelbert of Kent. But his big breakthrough came in 571 at the battle of Dyrham in Gloucestershire. There he defeated 3 British kings, and won a large swathe of territory in the South West, and drove a wedge between the Britons of Wales and Cornwall.
Ceawlin's brother Cuthwulf also won a battle at Becanford, which won 5 towns for the kingdom of Wessex. The men of Wessex, or the Gewisse as their tribe was then known, were now competing for territory north of the river Thames, in land that would become Mercian. By this time, Ceawlin is acknowledged as the overlord of all the Anglo Saxon states - Merica, Northumbria, Kent, Sussex, East Anglia.
But in 591 he was defeated by his nephew Ceol, and in 594 Ceawlin died in exile. But he had laid the foundation of Wessex.
Ceol (591-597), Ceolwulf (597-611) and Cynegils (611-643)
Over these 50 years, Wessex absorbed its new territory, but lost ground against it's northern neighbours Mercia and Northumrbia. But in 635, Cynegils was baptised in the then capital of Wessex, Dorchester on Thames, by St Birinius.