Sunday, January 13, 2008

Saxon Avebury

All is troublesome
in this earthly kingdom,
the turn of events changes
the world under the heavens.
Here money is fleeting,
here friend is fleeting,
here man is fleeting,
here kinsman is fleeting,
all the foundation of this world
turns to waste!

taken from the Anglo Saxon "Wanderer" full text here;
Here we come to the sparse written words of the saxons and their invasive presence on the scene of a probably very untranquil late British land of fortified hillforts.Burl gives the name Aureberie as first mentioned in the Domesday book, probably belonging to one of the first settlers by the earthwork "Afa's Burh" but this is of course late 1086. Early saxon settlement in the Glebe field car park west of the henge, probably a single homestead by the river, was found when a 9th century "grubenhaus" was excavated, this later developed into a rectangular enclosure, surrounding the church and regular house plots, extending westward from the west entrance of the henge towards the Winterbourne- probably late 9th/ 10th.Avebury.
Earlier settlement would have developed round the Herepath , military saxon road, and this can be traced to the west of the henge where regular plots of land are laid out perpendicular to the east/west of of this road, also in times of emergency, the henge itself would have provided good protection for stock and people. It is conjectured that Avebury was probably a "failed" town, Marlborough becoming dominant.
The church of St.James, that lies at the heart of Avebury has displaced anglo saxon sculpture,(as do so many churches in this area have); the north-west corner of the present nave is composed of side alternate megalithic quoins with a fragment of A/S sculpture of late 9th/10th century, originally part of a cross shaftor coffin lid, indicating that there was an earlier masonry church here, contemporary with the burh. The A/S chancel was discovered during restoration in 1878, it was shorter than the present one.Burl says that although the font in this church is elegantly sculptured in a much later style (Scandinavian) it would have been an early undecorated a/s font.

Likewise the english king and the prince,
Brothers triumphant in war, together
Returned to their home, the land of Wessex.
To enjoy the carnage, they left behind
The horn beaked raven with dusky plumage,
And the hungry hawk of battle, the dun coated
Eagle, who with white-tipped tail shared
The feast with the wolf, grey beast of the forest.
Never before in this island, as the books
of ancient historians tell us,
was an army put to greater slaughter by the sword..

taken from the Anglo Saxon Chronicles
Three ancient roads ran through the parish, the Ridge Way, the Roman road, and Harepath Way, the path of which has been traced for 1 km. along the edge of West Down. In the 18th century the London-Bath road ran through West Kennett to Beckhampton, crossing the Kennet south-east of Silbury Hill. At Beckhampton the road forked. One branch continued northwestwards to Cherhill, the other led southwestwards, reaching Bath via Sandy Lane in Calne. Both were turnpiked in 1742. (fn. 43) The more northerly branch became the modern LondonBath road, the principal route through the parish. West of Beckhampton its path was moved slightly to the south in 1790 (fn. 44) but it had returned to its original course by 1889. (fn. 45) In the early 18th century a coach road led over the downs from Marlborough towards Avebury village. It entered the Circle from the east and apparently turned south-west across the Kennet to Beckhampton. (fn. 46) The downland route fell out of use after the London-Bath road was turnpiked (fn. 47) and was marked only by a track in 1979. In 1675 a road to Devizes left the London-Bath road near Silbury Hill. (fn. 48) In the 18th century the main route to Devizes within the parish was part of the Bath road via Sandy Lane. The road from Beckhampton to Avebury was turnpiked in 1742 and that north of Avebury in 1767 to form the SwindonDevizes road. (fn. 49) Another turnpike road linked Avebury and West Kennett. The lane leading from the London-Bath road to East Kennett was turnpiked in 1840 as part of the West Kennett to Amesbury road, one of the last roads in England to be turnpiked. (fn. 50) The bridge over the Kennet between Avebury and Beckhampton was replaced in 1950 (fn. 51) and a roundabout built at Beckhampton c. 1960. (fn. 52) Few changes occurred in the pattern of secondary roads between the late 18th century and the 20th. A path which skirted Avebury village to the north and west in the 18th century had, however, disappeared by 1979. The main street of Avebury village was linked by a footbridge with the network of lanes west of the river which connected the farms and houses of Avebury Trusloe. From a point on the old road to Marlborough some 700 m. east of the Circle, tracks radiated to Winterbourne Monkton, Chiseldon, and West Overton. In the 19th century new or improved tracks were made to South Farm on Avebury Down, Windmill Hill, and Beckhampton Penning south of Beckhampton. An older path led from Beckhampton village to Tan Hill in All Cannings. Further east a path ran from the London-Bath road at West Kennett to East Kennett across a bridge perhaps built in the late 18th century. (fn. 53) Avebury village was one of the larger settlements in Selkley. Its assessment
From: 'Parishes: Avebury', A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 12: Ramsbury and Selkley hundreds; the borough of Marlborough (1983), pp. 86-105.

URL: Date accessed: 13 January 2008.

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