In or around 854 A.D. Burghred (or Burgred), King of West Mercia, gave the land that is now called Hartlebury to Aelhun, Bishop of Worcester.
The reason for this land grant is not certain, however as the Vikings and the Welsh were causing trouble along the River Severn, it may well have been to ensure a force of men-at-arms was stationed close to the river. An alternative view is that it was part of a complex system of land trading being carried out between the Kings of West Mercia and Wessex. Ecgberht, King of Wessex, had established himself as overlord of Mercia in 828, now his successor Aethelwulf was having his own problems with invasions of Vikings and Welsh. Both Kings would have looked to the bishops for military support – the Bishop of Sherborne, Ealhstan, was assisting the King of Wessex, so it is probable that Burghred would seek similar assistance from Worcester.
Whatever the initial cause, the land and subsequent castle have remained possessions of the See of Worcester since that time with only one short break following the civil wars of the 17th century.
A small hoard of Saxon silver coins from Severn Stoke, minted under King Burghred, is in Worcestershire County Museum’s collections – a tangible link of the modern museum with the original grant of the land by that king.
Thanks to David Kendrick for his research into this object.