Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Lansdown Saxon History

This is an example of an ancient boundary marker. One of the barrows at Langridge, marking the modern day boundary between Gloucester/Somerset

Another example of one the many small streams that emerge on the hills, this one is on the Langridge side.

This is Lansdown with the racecourse, nestling in Great Down. On the racecourse are three bronze age barrows, with a further two just before the pub at Braythwaite

Little Down backs on to Great Down, and in the corner the triangulated Iron Age fort, which had 3 barrows in it before they were ploughed . There are a further 3 barrows in the field outside; the rectangular mark in the field is an old civil war defence enclosure.

The following extracts are taken from Miss Hargood-Ash's little book - Through the Middle Ages in a Somerset Village. She must have been writing in the early part of the 20th Century, and the book is a library copy and badly worn, so perhaps it would be prudent to record some of the information she found. Especially as I always write about the Lansdown but hardly any historical insight. Yet the lands up on these high downs have been in use since prehistory, and under saxon rule land charters were laid down. I find these saxon boundaries a marvellous evocative memory of the past, where is that little apple tree now long gone into dust, or Pucan spring, did Puck roam these hills as well, or was it a spring that belonged to Pucan the saxon?
The translation was made by Prof.Earle, and the notes in brackets are by Rev.T. Whale, who apparently lived at Mountnessing in Weston Park, just across our valley of gardens, almost opposite my house.
Boundaries of the Lands Granted to Aethelare by King Edmund AD946

From Pucan Wylle (under Kelston Knoll) along the brook to Hidewood (now Shagbear wood); from Hidewood up to the three acres; from the three acres to the angular point to the other angular point (near the monument); along the ridge (boundary of Langridge) to the little maple tree; from the maple tree to the hawthorn; from the hawthorn to the brook (at Langridge); so up by the brook to where the black spring arises (Langridge side); from the black spring to the 'wic' (dwelling) (Chapel farm house) to the west of where the black spring arises; from the wic to the apple tree(the 84 acres of old down probably means the part that we think of as Lansdown behind the pub at Blaythwaite, just before LittleDown?);
from the apple tree to the birch tree stone in front of the hill (at the boundaryof the edge s.e. of chelscombe farm); from the birch tree stone to the two wics standing in a row(there are now two fields as you begin to descend Lansdown Lane called 'Old Wic'. Also the boundary, goes as far as the wic standing beneath the boelles way (Weston Farm - a number of stone coffins have been found near this land, probably called the boelles way as the funeral pile road). From the wic within the boelles way as far as the path (this may be the footpath just below Heather farm leading to the kennels, or Broadmoor Lane); along the path as far asthe hollow (a little south of Weston Wood); from the hollow to the maple tree, to the road to Huttes oesce (ash). ( We now seem to be going s.e towards to the village); so by the hedge to the little spring(above Newbridge Hill House); from the little spring to Pucan spring (this may be the spring on Dean Hill farm, and looks like Pucan wylle with which we began). From the old Homestead that Aethelare owned to Plegi-dic(probably where the court was held on Pen Hill ridge); From the plegi-dic to the highway. From the highway into the solitary thorn. Up the solitary thorn into selardes pole (the lord's mill pool into Loxan (Locksbrook); from Loxan into the Avon (this brook goes through our garden, and the mill would have been at Montrose cottages, just down Weston Lane.)
As a footnote when the brook was put into a pipe by the water board a few years ago and a great ditch stretched through Weston village and the valley of gardens, there was evidence of sluice walls in our garden, showing the longevity of this mill through the middle ages.
So by the water to Brightwold's Weir; from the weir to the dyke(at Newbridge); from the dyke to the spring; from the spring to the leap-gate; from the leap-gate to the Hach (perhaps the oak) into cloenan field. From there on to Loxan. Along by Loxan into the gemytha (mouth?) From the gemytha up to Midridge. From Midridge to Studardscombe, to rawuwe; from the rawuwe to Stony way along by the Edge till you come to the spring (under Weston Wood). From the spring so northward till you come to the wall. From the wall along by the spring till you come to Ellborough into Stanclude along by the hedge to the Old Wic, to the wall. From the wall along by the hedge(boundary) back into the 13 acres of Loxan extending by the byri ( either a burgh or burying place where Partis college now is) near the Abbots boundary.
The second Boundaries of Land 'Restored' to the Abbey of St.Peter at Bath by King Edwin
First from cortimeade (now Cork Street,etc) to Aesc (ashwood); thence to pleg dic; thence to swincumbe (there is still a field called Swincumbe running up to the head of the combe under Primrose Hill); then to Crawen Hylle (Cran hill); thence up to Dune (lansdowb) west be ecgge to lacwege(eastward by Edge?, still retaining its name to the springwater way); thence to ceolescumbe (chelmscombe farm); est be ecgge to tham weallon (eastward along the slope to the wall at the top of Lanswon Lane); thence to tham tune (to the village); thence on gighwey (the village street) to aenlypan thunan, thence on selardes pole (the lord's mill adjoining the road to Bath -Weston Lane);thence ut auene (following the eastern bank of Locksbrook to the Avon), thorna eft aerost on the ealden lane to horpytton upp on epenn(then back again, first along Pen hill Lane to the cucking stool pit (pond,where brawling women were ducked on the end of a plank) at the upper corner of the first large field on the right 'horepytton became 'horepit' then 'hollypit', thence up on Pen Hill); then on Heanoescs (Ash 6wood on the hill facing Weston House)' thence andlange weges to blacan lega, to there ealden dic (along the road to Blackley and to the old dyke, now called Shipslade)bence a be graue to Wulfslade (by a grove to Wolfslade, which became Wilslade, then Winslet); thence a be wega to alesbeorga (by the road to Alesburgwhich is where the boundaries of Aethelare's holding of Kelston, Northstoke and this holding meet); thence to tham hlypgate a be wealle to lincube (to the leapgate along by the wall to lIncumbe); thence to midda hriccges wege (to the road by Midridge);thence to studardes cumbes grafe ( a grove or wood in the coombe to the west of Foxhall Farm); thence to Starforda(Starfurlong) and lang broces to tune (following the brook to the village)
Brief Anglo saxon timeline by Miss Ash; At the end of the 5th century the West Saxons landed under the leadership of Cerdic, but it was not until 552 that the 'invader/pioneers' reached Wiltshire and drove the 'Walas' as they called the British out of Sarum. In 577, they were in our district for it is in this year that the decisive battle at Deorham(Dyrham)was fought, some 10 miles north of Bath. In that battle the saxon kings Cuthwine and Ceawlin, killed three British kings Commail, Condidan and Farinmail; the cities of Gloucester, Cirencester and Akeman(Bath) fell, after many years Akeman was a desolate ruin, with perhaps a little hamlet outside called ;Wals cote' (Walcot) the cots of the Walas.
Foundation of a nunnery at Bath under Abbess Bertana in 676, destroyed in the first half of the 8th C it was refounded in 775 by King Offa, as a house of secular canons.
It is interesting to note that in Offa's time, only the thegns were allowed to build weirs and block streams for mill-water, so that the villagers had to pay a 'fee' to have their corn ground. All hand querns were destroyed by the time of the conquest.
A brief period of peace was of course followed by another invasion of the vikings at the end of the 8th century. Guthrun their leader - king of the Danes, became King of Wessex in 871 and it was'nt until the battle at Edington that Guthrum was desposed. As Bath lay in the centre of the turmoil, the villagers probably had a hard time of it.
End of 10th century Weston was divided into two estates, each with a considerable acreage of land, Aethelare owned one parcel (see the first charter), and Miss Ash gives no name for the second estate. Aethelare's holding lay on the slopes of the Lansdown and west of the present Lansdown Lane. She presumes that his homestead was on the site of the present Dean Hill farm, his mill was at the western end of the village.

The Famous Midridge, stretching to Kelston Round Hill.
1) This is a photo of Kelston Hill with cross roads/track marked at x; to the left goes down to Weston, to the right to Northstoke; this trackway is considered to be the old roman Via Julia road. The following photos will attempt to show them in better detail.

This is the old stone that marks the crossroad, Via Julia and Cotswold Way under Kelston Hill. The strange shadow is Moss with ball in mouth, making sure that we both go down the same track as he never trusts me...

This is the trackway down to Weston and Bath from the Midridge, a steep but picturesque walk through the trees.

Looking back up to the top. A tale to be told; at the top until last year was a thick hedge, but the farmer cut it down last summer, and discovered a body of a 60 year old man underneath it. It turned out that the man had disappeared 3 years ago from a nursing home, and presumably had a heart attack from such a steep hill and died.... but why was he under the hedge?

This is looking to the opposite direction of the track to Northstoke, if it is the Via Julia, then this is the way the romans would have travelled to Abona (Sea Mills) past the great Keynsham villa and the other villas down by the river......

Now all the above is supposition, there is no concrete facts to identify the old Roman road, except perhaps that in the field adjoining this part of the track old roman stone coffins were found. The Romans normally buried their dead along the road away from towns or villas.

But to return to the Saxons and their boundaries. Miss Ash states that the Saxon holding was up on Dean Hill Farm, its land lies under Kelston Hill on the south side. Today I walked up the steep little lane that ends up on the Cotswold Way. At the top are two farm 'labourers houses, now empty, they must have been built in the 1960s, ugly looking bleak houses. The track leads up to Kelston Hill, but there is a left hand track down to an old farm just below the hill on the Newton Loe side, and it would be interesting to find out its history.

Given that as the boundary here could be the 'hogs back' ridge up to Kelston, there should be a spring somewhere round, the so called 'black spring' though to be quite honest most of the springs as they emerge from the earth look black. Miss Ash says that "Aethelare's land lay on the slopes of Lansdown and west of the present Lansdown Lane down to the river Avon". As I walked the furtherest boundary yesterday at the top of the Lansdown in beautiful weather, amongst old trees and fields, today's weather was overcast and grey, and my camera had run out of power. But what did strike me what a beautiful stretch of land he had in his possession, protected by a high scarp, graceful woods, and gentle sloping fields he was truly rich in the bounties of nature.

The overhanging scarp that probably formed a boundary

Partof Weston Wood


  1. Interesting article! It's fascinating to see how our ancestors shaped the landscape.

    We're putting together a new resource website for the Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic civilisations from the Middle Ages, with a range of academic articles and reconstructive archaeology projects mentioned. If you're interested please do take a look!
    http://www.thethegns.blogspot.com or contact me; chase.aed@gmail.com

  2. Hi, Wrote that article a long time back, will keep an eye out for your new blog spot,doesn't seem to work for the moment.
    We have a Saxon church down here in Essex - Greenstead church,
    http://northstoke.blogspot.com/2009/03/greensted-church-essex.html but I have'nt done much on the Saxon history down here, though of course have been to Sutton Hoo and its great Saxon barrows..