WEEKEND WEB: Remembering a ‘forgotten’ hero
He has been described as ‘England’s William Wallace’ or ‘The Robin Hood of the Fens’ - yet the story of Hereward the Wake seems to have faded into history over the years.
An ambitious new project is planning to change that to give the folklore hero the recognition he deserves.
Those behind it hope to pave the way to boost tourism around the man who stood up to William the Conqueror.
David Maile and Michael Gilbert, both old school classmates, met up again after 40 years and found they shared an interest in Hereward.
Together they set up the WakeHereward Project and recently held an event at Baldocks Mill Heritage Centre in Bourne which celebrated the 950th anniversary of the icon’s return from exile.
The aim of the event, which saw a packed house, was to boost the profile of the ‘forgotten hero’. It was also to help raise money for an ‘Interpretation Board’ (tourist noticeboard) for Hereward to be put up in Bourne, said to be his birthplace. It is hoped this will match with other sites at Crowland, Peterborough and Ely, to form a ‘Fen Trail’ highlighting Hereward’s resistance to William the Conqueror at the most “cataclysmic point in English history.”
David said: “You hear about people like Robin Hood but not everyone knows the story of Hereward.
“I went to Ely to see if there was a statue because he made his last stand there and there was nothing.
“I was amazed there was nothing about him in the Fens or in Ely.
“This began as a hobby for me but it became apparent that noone was going to do anything.”
I think we are missing a trick with tourism
“I think we are missing a trick with tourism.”
Also at the event in Bourne, was Mia Hansson who is hand-embroidering a 69 metre replica of the famous Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the story of the Norman Conquest. “She has 59 metres left to embroider which will take her the best part of ten years,” said David.
The project has had the backing of the Mayor of Bourne, Coun Paul Fellows, who said: “The project is really exciting...It will help people to fill in gaps to understand part of our history.”
Who was Hereward the Wake?
Some say Hereward was a freedom fighter but according to David he was much more than that.
“He represented the resolve, resilience and reconciliation of England.”
Hereward, also known as Hereward the Outlaw or Hereward the Exile, is said to have became his country’s “last hope against the foreign foe that had taken the crown of England - William the Conqueror.”
According to various sources he amassed an army of peasants, dissidents and refugees, to make a stand against William’s own army in Ely in 1071.
It came five years after the Battle of Hastings where the Norman conqueror defeated Anglo-Saxon King Harold.
Legends says Hereward is buried in Crowland Abbey alongside his wife.