The Fields of Puttenhamia: Some thoughts on the place of Roman landscape features in the early medieval period and beyond

This is me returning to the theme of early fields and field systems initiated by a long (and gratifyingly popular) post from back in the Spring. Identifying the physical remains of field systems in the northern half of Puttenham Common may have been easy, what with them standing out so clearly on the LiDAR imagery, but identifying when they were created is a very different matter. As things stand – and this is all very provisional – the evidence fits best with an origin in the (Middle) Bronze Age but with at least one subsequent phase of re-use, as arguably attested by the scatters of abraded Romano-British pottery sherds, and one brief phase of partial destruction by plough in the late 1940s.

Screen shot 2016-07-27 at 23.27.56

Abraded sherds of what I take to be Romano-British pottery found by yours truly on the Hillbury ridge and northern lip of the Long Bottom valley

Beyond such matters, however, are other questions that I’d like to pursue in depth here. What I held back from highlighting (but is perfectly obvious from the LiDAR imagery) is that the field boundaries to the east and north of those parts of Puttenham Common containing the suggested field systems follow very similar orientations. Could it be that the traces of field boundaries on the Common share a genesis with the extant systems beyond? If so, is the extant fieldscape of Puttenham parish in part much, much older than has been believed?

My starting to write up this recent bout of field systems-related work just so happened to coincide with getting my hands on a major new-ish book, The Fields of Britannia (trust me, if this had been intentional I wouldn’t mention it being coincidental!) The major Leverhulme-funded, University of Exeter-based research project of the same name that preceded the book had been on my radar for some time – I mentioned it way back when in an update to my paper on Thursley, reporting the dissemination of radiocarbon dating of a peat deposit from Boundless Copse that showed they belonged to the early medieval period. Contrary to what I anticipated, this finding does not appear in the full published report of The Fields of Britannia, but does make it into a Surrey Archaeological Collections article probably published too late to make the project’s cut (see the section by Grant, Norcott and Stevens in Thompson and Manning 2014, 12-15). I’ll come back to this very interesting bit of research later, but for obvious reasons want my primary focus to return to The Fields of Britannia.

Screen shot 2016-06-20 at 17.36.08

I mention all of this because palaeoenvironmental evidence is one part of the “triple threat” that The Fields of Britannia comprises. The other two are diachronic change in faunal assemblages, and the common orientation/alignment of dated Late Roman field boundaries with ones of medieval or later date. The brilliance of project and book alike are their scope, and the latter interweaves the results of the data collection and analysis to compelling (if lengthy and dare I say it occasionally repetitive) effect. I have no doubt that The Fields of Britannia will prove to be a landmark book in English landscape studies, both as a go-to reference work and also the stimulus for new research.

A major feature of the analysis is the extent to which excavated Late Roman field boundaries (i.e. excavated rural linear features found to contain pottery or other artefacts dateable to the 4th century CE) and those mapped in the later 19th century – but potentially in existence in the medieval period – are oriented (coincident, either one overlying the other or one effectively acting as an extension of the other) or aligned (run in the same direction but not overlying or continuing the other) in ways that might admit the persistence of the Roman-era land divisions to influence those of the historic landscape (definitions given in Rippon, Smart and Pears 2015, 100-101).

The “headline” result is that roughly two-thirds – 64% to be precise – of the excavated Roman-era boundaries studied in lowland England ‘share a common orientation or alignment or orientation with medieval landscapes (i.e. historic landscapes characterized by former medieval Closes or former Open Fields)’ (Rippon, Smart and Pears 2015, 323, which includes some caveats about the sources of the percentage). For the South East region as defined by the project, the figure is a very similar 63%, dropping to a still impressive 55% when landscapes of Indeterminate type that may or may not be of medieval origin are factored in (Rippon, Smart and Pears 2015, 141; also 107 for definitions of the aforementioned types of fieldscape). Each represents a powerful, quantitative case in favour of continuity in some form from the 4th to 5th century and beyond, rather than wholesale abandonment.

This post will look at two arguments presented in The Fields of Britannia (alignment being unrelated to topography, and the non-survival of former field boundaries in dense woodland environments) where I think there’s some margin for doubt, before concluding with an application of some of the key conclusions of The Fields of Britannia to Puttenham in the belief that this can help to frame and enhance our understanding on the exceedingly limited body of evidence from the parish.

Posted in Agriculture, Anglo-Saxon, Archaeology, Books, Dating, Field-names, Landscape, Old English, Pottery, Puttenham, Topography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pannage and the Disco: Reflections on Leeds International Medieval Congress 2016

It’s little over a week since I returned from Leeds and this year’s International Medieval Congress. Previously when I’ve been to big conferences I’ve prevaricated about writing up my experiences and observations as, well, it requires quite a lot of time and words to do it justice. In spite of this, I’ve fast-tracked my IMC 2016 write-up because I was keen to set down my thoughts on the event, as it was a really significant one for me. Not so much because of its theme (‘Food, Feast & Famine’, which was something of a fertile topic – heck, I even contrived to get in on the act in a roundabout manner) but because there were certain things about the congress that were truly inspiring, and reassured me that, whatever the future holds (both for higher education and my place within it), the next generation of medievalists has an abundance of passion and energy for the period that is sure to take their various disciplines to better places.

Screen shot 2016-07-18 at 14.17.09

I spent the Monday night of IMC week not in Leeds but in nearby Wakefield, staying in a hotel my Dad designed back in the 1970s. Here’s a view from the main staircase towards the spire of Wakefield cathedral, renewed in 1823 in what I hope was faithful emulation of the medieval original. At the time of my visit there was a family of peregrine falcons (with some very vocal fledglings) in residence on the spire, with one of the birds using a crocket as a perch! The falcons have their own webpage and Twitter account, although I think nesting season may be over for this year.

Swings and round tables

Truth be told, I arrived at the Congress on a massive downer about the prospect of days hearing (and speaking) about the medieval period when things in the present day are in such a rotten state. The vote in favour of Brexit was the last thing anyone needed, and the issues it raised about real and perceived inequalities in British society got me thinking that, on a personal level, is it really worth dedicating so much time and attention to things that took place so long ago as to be essentially irrelevant to the here and now? As someone looking for work in a new field to the one I have been employed in for the past few years, could/Should I not be focusing on “real world” activities that serve to address and remedy some of the things that motivated people to vote for the illogical and self-destructive option? Yet the subsequent three days restored my faith in medieval studies and convinced me that the discipline is one worth sticking with in some capacity.

But hang on, I hear you ask, what’s with three days when the Congress lasts four? Last year, I hared around IMC bouncing from session to session to wine reception, to the extent that I burnt out by the Thursday lunchtime and skipped the final session in favour of sinking a couple of bottles of Congress Ale while trying to work out what the hell had happened over the past few days. My attitude this year was less is more. If there’s precious little in the programme that appeals for one or more set of sessions, is it really worth being present on the off-chance something might prove far better than its advertised title? I thought not, and skipped the entire first day in favour of doing other things outside of Leeds, finally arriving mid-morning on the Tuesday. (Apologies to anyone reading this who organised, moderated and/or spoke at a session on the first day, I’m sure it and you were great – this was about me being mercenary, not a negative personal judgement against you!) Thereafter, for various reasons, I went to three sessions a day, plus a couple of plenaries (including foraging!) and a non-programmed meeting, and came out the other side feeling pretty good all things considered.

Screen shot 2016-07-18 at 14.34.48

I had a very quick transition from holiday to conference mode after arriving in Leeds, plunging almost immediately into the fray with Session 624, organised and populated by my pals at the University of Nottingham’s Institute for Name-Studies. For me, the pick of the three papers was Becca Gregory‘s look at field-name vocabulary in the context of the “Midland System” of open/common-field agriculture, of which this is a murky mid-paper snapshot.

There was a lot of talk at last year’s IMC about utilising social media to reach out beyond the academy and engage with wider audiences, which was (and is) all well and good, but in retrospect had something of a self-congratulatory, I-have-this-many-followers air about it – thinking something is a solution to an issue without ascertaining if that is truly the case. This year I felt there was more of an edge, and for good reason. The anti-expert tone of some of the debate in the run-up to the EU Referendum in the UK was a worrying turn of events and, in an age of state austerity measures, medieval studies is an obvious soft target, a luxury that can be dispensed with to focus on proper, useful subjects (let me add that I don’t for a second presume that most or all of the aforementioned issues also apply wherever else in the world you might be reading this). Medieval studies – what’s it good for?

Quite a lot actually. Among the things that reinvigorated my positivity towards the field, the first was the off-programme IMC Anti-Brexit meeting, held on the Tuesday evening and representing the coming together of a bunch of brilliant people – mostly junior academics and PhD students – concerned about how medievalists can best respond to the issues thrown up by Brexit. I dovetailed the meeting with a round table (in name only – the participants were sat in a long line) entitled ‘Are The Middle Ages Relevant?’ (Session 926), which took a much-needed global perspective in addressing the question. It hammered home that the period can be (more) relevant to (more) people if the concept of a thing or things being medieval is applied to different parts of the world rather than just Europe and the Near East as is so often the case. Fast forward to Thursday morning and Session 1503 – ‘Medieval Modern: The Use of the Medieval in Modern and Contemporary Arts’ – was excellent, a hangover-beating 90-minute reminder that Old and Middle English literature shouldn’t be left to ossify in standard scholarly editions but merits performance and publication in new and different formats.

Screen shot 2016-07-18 at 14.50.36

Like a beautiful analogue word cloud, this is one of the multi-lingual inscription plates that accompany poet David Jones’ The Anathemata (1955), shown as part of Francesca Brooks‘ paper ‘A Poetic Historiography of the Early English Settlements’ in Session 1503.

Probably the most important event at this year’s IMC was one I did not attend (for good although not entirely unavoidable reasons – I wish I had made more of an effort to sort other stuff in advance so as to free up my time to be present). The Wednesday lunchtime round table ‘Embracing the #Femfog’ (Session 1198), was a last-minute addition to the programme, and a powerfully progressive statement on the part of IMC’s organisers. If you’re not familiar with the Femfog controversy and how it tore through the medievalist community (and beyond) at the start of this year then there’s plenty of online articles that give the necessary background – I’m linking this one because its author summarises other responses as well as offering their own opinion. Since then, there’s been a reappropriation of the term/hashtag for the purposes of highlighting structural inequalities and abuses of power within academia as it’s presently configured and staffed, and the round table provided a public forum for discussing these and ways of overcoming them. I urge you to read the tweets that resulted from the session, helpfully Storified by Shyama Rajendran. If there could be a single instance of something at IMC 2016 demonstrating why medieval studies is a vibrant, diverse and dynamic field of scholarship, and what is more one that can look forward to a brighter, better future, this was it.

Screen shot 2016-07-18 at 14.59.01

Little bit of a non sequitur, but a beautiful one nonetheless, this is a double-page from a lavishly-illustrated ninth-century Carolingian manuscript showing scenes from the story of St John the Baptist (now you see it!) The image was a repeated part of Beatrice Kitzinger’s paper ‘The Transformation of Carolingian Art’ in Session 1612, most of which went waaay over my head but was a treat for the eyes all the same.

A few quick shout-outs to other papers in other sessions I attended that I thought were especially good. Walter Pohl is a titan of Late Antique/Early Medieval studies, and I foresee some of my coming years spent reading through the breezeblock-sized volumes he’s edited as part of the Transformation of the Roman World programme. Thus it was a delight to hear him in Session 1612 present (at greater length than planned owing to a speaker dropping out) on ‘Ethnicity and the “Nation” in 9th- and 10th-Century Europe’ and the many theoretical implications of his title. Another Austrian highlight was a session that formed part of a strand linked to the ongoing project Digitising Patterns of Power, notably the contribution from cartographer Alexander Pucher setting out what post-Google Maps cartography might look to achieve in the context of historical research. Last but by no means least, in Session 1337 James Chetwood gave a fantastic paper, underpinned by statistics and intermittent Paul Simon lyrics, on changes to dithematic personal naming practices in England circa 700-1100 that did away with the old chestnut of the Norman Conquest changing everything (someone should tell English Heritage) in favour of a period of gradual transition, one in which the ninth century was a more significant motor for change.

Screen shot 2016-07-18 at 18.31.48

Bought more books in the second-hand book fair than I’d intended to (c’mon, who can resist a half-price offer?), fortunately there’s at least one blog post I can squeeze out of them, and that’s on top of their long-term referencing potential.

Looking at the pig picture

My paper was in Session 1221, ‘Hunting and Husbandry’, and a very good session it was too, thanks to my fellow speakers and audience of course, but especially the input of the moderator, László Bartosiewicz. The main focus of my research lies elsewhere but, as longer-term readers of Surrey Medieval may be aware, I have been working away at an article about pig farming on and off for the best part of the past three years. I dealt with what will hopefully prove to be the final set of corrections suggested by the editors last month, so all being well it will be published in Volume 99 of the Surrey Archaeological Collections before the year is out. It dawned on me at some point after last year’s Congress that the food-y focus of the 2016 edition would fit well with the article’s subject matter and so I put together a paper proposal, which was duly accepted by the IMC Programming Committee and pooled with two others into the aforementioned session.

I like conference panels where there’s a diversity of subject matter and disciplinary perspectives among the papers, and this session was all that and more. I kicked off proceedings, following which came Sirpa Aalto of the University of Oulu looking at the wealth of medieval hunting regulation texts from medieval Sweden and some of their zoological implications, and Zoe Bartliff of the University of Glasgow examining whether recurrent topoi related to hunting episodes in medieval Welsh literature could stem from a pan-Celtic fertility mythos. It all hung together very well and made me reevaluate how I have understood forests (in the geographical rather than legal sense). Coming from a background where I look at place-names as a source of testimony about settlements and other centres of archaeological significance, I realised I had fallen into the trap of seeing woodlands as not merely marginal, but largely deserted environments. The reality is that in the medieval period they were places full of both animal and human life.

Screen shot 2016-07-18 at 17.56.25

Here’s my model of extensive pig husbandry in the Wealden region of South-East England. If you weren’t there for my paper, you’ll have to wait for the article for an explanation (though frankly it is pretty self-explanatory).

Other than overrunning the allotted 20 minutes by a little bit, my paper went well, and in the concluding discussion and afterwards people said things about it which were far more complimentary than perhaps it merited. Preparing it had led me to reevaluate elements of the model at its heart and, had I had the time, there were one or two of which I would have changed, but as it was they had to remain in there and likewise will do in the published article. However, on the whole I stand by its contents and the coherent system it depicts. I’ve never come across another attempt to distill early medieval pig husbandry practices into a model so, regardless of its minor flaws, I’m satisfied it will contribute something to future discourse on the subject.

One significant point was raised in the questions at the end of the session, concerning the nature of the most famous (and very possibly only) Anglo-Saxon depiction of humans and pig-like creatures in a wooded setting – the September page of the so-called Cotton Tiberius Calendar manuscript, held at the British Library, and reproduced below. The questioner (whose identity I neglected to note, but my thanks to him for his contribution) pointed out that the details of the illustration make it much more likely that it depicts a wild boar hunt than the driving of a herd of pigs to a mast pasture (what would become the pannage of this post’s title). It just so happened that something Sirpa said in her paper made me think of this scene and caused me to reach the same conclusion in the time between my paper and questions – honestly! So, at the risk of seeming to wander off-topic, here’s a short explanation-cum-justification for my change of heart…

Screen shot 2016-07-18 at 12.05.50

An 11th-century depiction of boar hunting NOT pig droving, from the September page of the Cotton Tiberius Calendar (London, British Library Cotton Tiberius B V f.7r). The image and some further information about the manuscript can be found via the BL Online Gallery.

I knew there wasn’t consensus as to the subject matter of the Calendar illustration, but the majority of things I read that mention it interpret the scene as one of swine herding/pasturing, not wild boar hunting, so I went along with that in my paper and article alike. Earlier medieval pigs were probably little different in appearance to wild boars, so the key is to focus on what the men have with them: two dogs, a horn, a spear, and a sword. The gentlemen who made the comment during the questions characterised such accoutrements as ‘aristocratic’; I wouldn’t go quite so far along the social spectrum but they are at odds with what other sources of information tell us about the swineherd’s toolkit. Later manuscript illustrations of swineherds show them with long sticks with which to beat acorns down from trees, but never so far as I know with anything more weapon-like (other than for slaughtering the beasts come winter). The OE version of the Rectitudines Singularum Personarum notes that a tenant swineherd had to be gehorsad (“horsed”) at all times – there’s no mention of being “gehundad” (“hounded”, i.e. “having a hound” – I’m improvising the OE here) but elsewhere in the same text there’s a reference to a headorhund, “hunting dog”. So, all in all, I think we’re on firm ground rejecting the September page of the Cotton Tiberius Calendar as a (unique) depiction of Anglo-Saxon pig pasturing under trees; instead, it shows well-armed men hunting wild boar in a wooded environment. Spread the word!

Time to be realistic

If IMC 2016 got me thinking more positively about medieval studies and the future, it also made me think more practically about where I’m going with my PhD research and what it’s likely to lead to. It seems to be the default setting among PhD students that becoming a doctor is a stepping stone to a career as an academic, which of course it is, but it’s not as simple or linear as that. Many (and, based on personal anecdotal experience, I would hazard most) get no further than graduation, and maybe publishing a chapter of their thesis, before finding employment in other sectors. Not being the youngest of guns, I’ve been grappling with what I want to achieve with my PhD, and mid-Congress I came to the conclusion that I want to complete my thesis and thereby make what I hope will be an important contribution to my sub-field(s), but abandon the pursuit of forging a career in academia off the back of it. I met plenty of brilliant current PhDs and early career medievalists with a true ardour for the period and for teaching others about it, and have no doubt that the best of them will become the leading academics of tomorrow. I’ll be back at Leeds next year and aim to present on some aspect of my PhD research (I’m toying with the idea of proposing a group-names-related session). By then, I may have a kickass new job/career as well!

Oh, and to reference the second part of my title, the disco (or dance, or whatever you want to call the gloriously non-academic blowout on the Wednesday night) was every bit as good as last year. These guys are the bomb.

Screen shot 2016-07-18 at 18.35.57

On the Friday morning, and on the way to the coach station, I finally I made good on my intention to take a general picture or two of the Congress – just as they’re dismantling the temporary structures (or erecting ones for the next conference).

Posted in Being organised, Conference, Leeds, Pigs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coins, hoards, and special deposits workshop (plus a note on Goldhord names in Surrey)

Screen shot 2016-06-10 at 11.19.57I’m attending a workshop being held at UCL next week, ‘Coins, hoards, and special deposits: current research’. It looks like it will be a cracker – how could it not be given the subject matter? – so I thought I’d shout about it to encourage any readers with an interest in the theme and the ability to travel to London for the day to join in. Here’s the blurb for the event:

“Whether by intent or accident, the deposition of objects provides the bricks and mortar for an understanding of social, economic, and ritual behaviour in past societies. As the finds record continues to grow, attention has increasingly focused on three deposit classes: ‘single finds’, particularly coins, deemed accidentally lost, intentionally-deposited object hoards, and ‘special deposits’ representing a ritual act(s). Hosted at the Institute of Archaeology (UCL), this workshop seeks to advance an interdisciplinary and multi-period dialogue on objects and their deposition, highlighting the work of current doctoral and research projects at UK institutions.”

And now you’re convinced that you simply must attend, here’s the Eventbrite link for booking a free ticket (or tickets) alongside a full schedule of the day’s speakers and papers.

Hordes of Goldhords – but is there any gold?

The workshop has been organised by all-round good egg Murray Andrews, a fellow IoA PhD researcher and late of Medieval Bayton parish. I’m pretty certain the first time I got in touch with Murray was about a brilliant blog post he wrote on a cryptic 17th-century Worcestershire parish register entry that he’d turned up: “It ye ghold yt was found was buryed“. It made me think of Surrey instances of the place- or field-name Goldhord (or riffs upon it), literally “gold/treasure hoard”. I had a quick search of the usual reference works and shared what I found with Murray, then let the matter be. The upcoming workshop has been the inspiration for working up my original list into a blog post, testing the distribution of the names against Portable Antiquities Scheme data.

Let’s begin with the minor place-names and field-names in Surrey from OE goldhord/ME gōldhord noted in The Place-Names of Surrey (PNS), to which I’ve added another, making a surprisingly high county total of seven. In order of attestation, they are:

  1. Goldsworth in Woking < la Goldhord(e) 1229- (PNS, 157)
  2. Goldenlands in Dorking < ?Goldhordland 1403 (PNS, 275)
  3. Goldhord ?1408 (lost) in Ewell (shown just to the right of centre of this map of early 15th-century Ewell)
  4. Goldhurd 1548 (lost) in Shere (PNS, 157)
  5. Goldwhurd 1610- (lost) in ?Titsey (PNS, 338; ‘Various neolithic finds have been made in the neighbourhood and it may be that some treasure was once found here’)
  6. Goldhorde (Field) in Chiddingfold < Golden-hoard 1798, Gold Hord 1842 (Gardner 1924, 3; PNS, 389-90)
  7. Goldhard Farm in Godstone (No early forms given in PNS, 321, only the comment ‘It is on a Roman road’) is perhaps the same as Golards Farm deep in the Surrey Weald south of Newchapel, and apparently to be associated with Gold Hoards Wood 1748.

(Another, admittedly very dubious, name is Golding’s Copse in Abinger < Goldens lande c.1570? (PNS, 263); this may well be a reference to a one-time owner/holder of the land, or perhaps to the perceived golden quality of its soils.)

In medieval literature, the term was a popular one. A simple search of the Dictionary of Old English Web Corpus turns up no fewer than 157 results for goldhord, while the Middle English Dictionary (in subsection 2d of the entry for gōld) quotes a further eight instances spanning the period circa 1175-1500. So what do these names mean? Bosworth Toller’s dictionary entry for OE goldhord, based upon literary rather than toponymic attestations, gave two meanings: ‘A treasure, treasury’ (MED supplies only the former for ME gōldhord). He supplied many more instances of OE gold used in texts, but did not adequately distinguish whether this meant gold as the precious metal element or as a more abstract signifier of riches or payment. The additional entries under gold give a much better sense of the range of meanings: treasure, form of wealth, ornament, material, and payment. For OE hord, he gave the partly overlapping ‘hoard, treasure’. The diverse possibilities for gold set out by Bosworth Toller are refined by the Thesaurus of Old English, which advances what boil down to three basic senses: a metal, treasure/wealth, and coinage/money.

The general sense emerging from the above is of literary goldhord/gōldhord is much as PNS posited regarding its meaning in place-names: ‘The gold hoard or treasure’ (PNS, 157) or ‘Land where some treasure was once found’ (PNS, 275; this is paraphrased by Field 1989, 90). PNS speculated at several points on what lay behind the names, doing so at greatest length in the Introduction (xviii):

“The compound gold-hord which occurs three or four times in the county does not necessarily refer to treasure buried by Britons at the time of the Saxon invasions, but an examination of the sites shows that all except Goldsworth are at no great distance from old roads or tracks.”

The whole fifth-century chaos idea is indeed a weak one, particularly in terms of trying to explain all such names. What I’m interested in here, particularly in light of Murray’s post and its focus on the possible discovery of golden artefacts as the stimulus for a record in a local source, be it a parish register or place-name, is to see if data from PAS might be able to help account for them. 

Acquiring the data is a straightforward task: All artefacts & coins ➔ County of origin = Surrey ➔ Material = Gold. This generates a total of 198 results, from a total county population of 10818 available search results, as of 15th June 2016. (The numbers are a little higher with researcher-level access, but I’m a man of the people so I’ll keep it public.) In other words, artefacts recorded as being made of gold make up a less than 2% of the Surrey total. Within these, 157 (or not far off 80%) are ascribed to the Iron Age; a substantial proportion are duplicates of entries from the Celtic Coin Index.

Screen shot 2016-06-16 at 08.36.50

Iron Age gold stater of Verica, 20-40 CE, from Dorking parish (PAS Unique ID SUR-9945337). Image used on a CC BY 2.0 licence from © The Portable Antiquities Scheme / The Trustees of the British Museum

The next highest number are objects attributed a post-medieval date (23), which are probably too late to be of relevance to Goldhord name coinages. Save for one unidentified small, plain lump of sheet gold, the remaining artefacts are of no little interest. There are nine Medieval artefacts: 5 finger-rings, 3 coins, and a beautiful jewelled pin-head found during the recent excavations at Woking Palace. Almost all are late medieval: the earliest of the rings, from Shere (shown below), at least is dated to the period 1175-1300, whereas the earliest coin belongs to the years 1363-69 (SUR-BAB296). This is relevant, at least to an extent, given Goldsworth first appears on record in the early 13th century, but some of the other names may have been formed later in the Middle English period.

Screen shot 2016-06-16 at 08.26.15

Medieval gold finger-ring from Shere parish; the bezel originally held a precious stone (PAS Unique ID SUR-FB85D0). Used on a CC BY 2.0 licence from © The Portable Antiquities Scheme / The Trustees of the British Museum

Numbers of artefacts from other PAS periods are much more scarce. The search yields three Early Medieval results, yet there are issues even with this small number. One is a disc pendant (SUR-883362) that came to light at a Surrey car-boot sale, but probably was not originally found in the county. A second is a pale gold Pada coin found at Pyrford (SUR-075EF5); the gold content in such coins is very low and for this reason the main material of a comparable coin from Dorking is given as silver (SUR-2CF753). By contrast, the third find, a Merovingian tremissis from Titsey parish, is one instantly recognisable as being made of gold because its gold content is much higher.

Screen shot 2016-06-16 at 08.59.45.png

Reverse of what is in reality a tiny Merovingian tremissis, possibly struck in Orleans, found in Titsey parish (PAS Unique ID KENT-33C0D2). Image used on a CC BY 2.0 licence from © The Portable Antiquities Scheme / The Trustees of the British Museum

There are three Roman gold artefacts, all later fourth-century solidi, including a very worn one from Godstone (PAS-67A4E1 – unfortunately there’s no photo). Lastly, the Bronze Age is represented by two penannular rings from below the North Downs scarp at Betchworth (SUR-8F221C) and Reigate (SUR-B78614). By picking out the entries relevant to parishes containing Goldhord names (and I must underscore that I’ve kept this to parish level, rather than pursuing congruences between recorded artefacts provenances and the names), I’ve produced the following table:

Screen shot 2016-06-16 at 11.01.28

NOTE: A gold coin of 1471 has been found in Ewell parish (SUR-7358F0), but this post-dates what would seem to be the earliest attestation of the nearby Goldhord field-name. I’ve also left out the Woking Palace pin-head for the same reason.

What the table shows is that 5 out of 7 parishes are the provenance of at least one gold artefact entered in the PAS database. Remember this is a PAS-only survey; scouring the likes of the Historic Environment Record may very well fill in some of the gaps. Another point that must be made is that without going through the PAS data and finding out the total number of Surrey parishes from which gold artefacts are recorded, it’s probably not wise to place a huge amount of emphasis on the above proportion. All the same, proceeding on the assumption that none of them represents a modern loss or deliberate disposal of a long-curated item, it does demonstrate that there was the possibility for “ancient” gold objects to be found in these places and inspire the creation of Goldhord  names. Obviously this was all without the aid of metal detectors, but it must be remembered that these were more hands-dirty days when most people in rural areas were directly involved in agriculture.

Even so, is this really any more convincing as a universal explanation than British ‘treasure’ concealment in the expectation of Saxon invaders? Does it not still beg the question of what is “golden” about these names? After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Antiquarian accounts provide some good context for the Chiddingfold example, and suggest it may be better not to interpret Goldhords too literally. It was first discussed by Rev. James Douglas in his 1798 Nenia Britannica, who made the following valuable record (quoted by Gardner 1924, 3; bold formatting my addition):

“I opened a very large barrow, at a place called Gostrode, and traditionally preserved by the country people under the name of Golden-hoard, from a conception, by its artificial structure, of its containing a treasure: the only treasures found were the remains of a skeleton, and brown vessel of unbaked clay, usually placed in our large barrows […] Near the skeleton were some trifling fragments of corroded brass, probably the remains of a clasp or buckle.”

Here, if Douglas’ local informants are to be trusted, we find local tradition regarding the possibility of treasure being found rather than the actual discovery of any artefacts, golden or otherwise. Douglas notes that the barrow had been repeatedly ploughed in recent years but, unless it being ‘considerably depressed’ (see Gardner 1924, 3) has more than one implication, there’s no sense that it had already been plundered. Prehistoric worked flints but no metalwork were reported in the vicinity of the barrow in the 1920s, when the field-name is rendered as ‘Goldhorde Field’ and ‘Goldhorde field’ (Halahan 1925.) The stimulus for the field-name was hence the existence of a round barrow, its recognition as such, and the (mis)understanding that monuments of its kind contained “treasure” – a trope that stretches far back in time.

Surrey’s Goldhord place-names and field-names stand for encounters between the inhabitants of a place and the material remains of a past they understood in terms of time-out-of-mind folklore. Golden artefacts could be found in the fields and woodlands of medieval Surrey, but people were far more likely to discover other types of “treasure”. Non-gold coins, other metal artefacts, even prehistoric flints: all seem to have had the power to spark the imaginations of those who found or heard about them. So too the potential to find ancient riches. Consequently, a Goldhord name is best interpreted as indicative of a site of what we’d now class as archaeological significance, be it an above-ground feature or a find-spot, for which there was no explanation in the direct memory of the local community for how it came to be there, but a ready-made (and long-standing) vernacular term for characterising it.

REFERENCES (hyperlinked when available online for free)

Field, John, English Field Names: A Dictionary (Gloucester & Wolfeboro, NH: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1989).

Gardner, Eric, ‘Bronze Age Urns of Surrey’, Surrey Archaeological Collections [SyAC], 35 (1924), 1-40.

Gover, J. E. B., A. Mawer and F. M. Stenton, The Place-Names of Surrey, English Place-Name Society, 11 (Cambridge: University Press, 1934).

Holohan, Brenda C., ‘Chiddingfold. Find of flints’, SyAC, 36 (1925), 122.

Posted in Archaeology, Coins, Conference, Field-names, Folklore, Landscape, Middle English, Numismatics, Old English, Place-Names, Portable Antiquities Scheme, Surrey | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Godalming and Old English -ingas name formations


Inside the bell chamber of Godalming parish church. The rough triangular feature is the remnant of a Late Anglo-Saxon drip course, originally at the junction between nave and chancel. Above is a rubbing of a gallows erected on the nearby Lammas Lands for the last public execution in Godalming; parts of the structure were subsequently reused in the church’s spire when it was reconstructed in the 19th century.

On Saturday just gone, I was in Godalming for an Surrey Archaeological Society Medieval Studies Forum study day, both to hear about and see corners of the town and parish church that are of medieval (or general historical) importance, and to give a short presentation on the significance of the town’s name in light of the early stages of my PhD research (and my MA dissertation before it). I put together a handout to go with my talk and thought it might be of interest and use to a wider audience of Godhelmian and non-Godhelmian readers alike. Click below to read/download it.

Godalming and OE -ingas name formations June 2016

The paper here is a little different to yesterday’s printed version. In addition to correcting a couple of factual errors, it modifies the discussion of the extraordinary iron spearhead found in Farncombe and now in the collection of the excellent Godalming Museum (here’s a photo of it from an SM post a couple of years ago). It certainly looks a lot like a Swanton type H3 spearhead but, as the Museum’s curator pointed out to me, not a lot like one buried in generally acidic Surrey soil for 1450 years. There’s an element of mystery (and a whiff of suspicion) about the spearhead that I hadn’t appreciated before, and is something I now really want to get to the bottom of for my PhD!

(There’s also a second lengthy iron spearhead of unknown date on display in Godalming Museum. It’s in much poorer condition, possibly because it was found in the River Wey, which of course made me think of the many Anglo-Saxon-period spearheads found in the Thames as well as the couple known from the Wey or close to its banks. In form, it does bear a resemblance to Swanton type E3 spearheads but knowing nothing about later medieval equivalents – let alone ones of earlier and later periods! – I don’t want to make any statements about its date now that I’ll come to regret down the line…)

I had a truly fantastic day in Godalming, one that really opened my eyes to what a interesting historic town it is (one whose earlier medieval archaeology is more abundant and better understood than any comparable urban centre in present-day Surrey – with the recently-excavated Priory Orchard site certain to provide further revelations). I was born and grew up a matter of miles away from Godalming, and knew of many aspects of its medieval history, but still managed to see many new things and hear about many unknown bits of local history that I left with a renewed appreciation of the town. If you ever find yourself in South-West Surrey with some time to spare, or are looking for a historical day out, let me repeat what the car stickers of my youth proclaimed; Go to Godalming!


Old houses in Mint Street, Godalming. The street-name has yet to be adequately explained, but it’s not thought to relate to the minting of coins (as there are none known to bear the town’s name). Late Anglo-Saxon occupation evidence was found at the other end of the street in excavations conducted in 1990.

Posted in Anglo-Saxon, Archaeology, Godalming, Old English, PhD, Place-Names, Surrey, Talk | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting to the root of Getinges: tribal memory and group identity in Early Anglo-Saxon Surrey

Recently, I uploaded a revised version of my Nottingham MA dissertation under the Work tab. To sum up its purpose and content in a sentence, the dissertation constitutes a predominantly-linguistic reassessment of all place-names in the historic county of Surrey which might derive from Old English (OE) -ingas or -ingahām, two related place-name elements with (potentially) significant social implications. It was originally written over the course of Summer 2014, and, ever since the marked version was returned to me a couple of months after it was submitted, it’s been on my slate to sit down and work through the corrections. That it took me so long to find the time to do this turns out to have been for the better, as the intervening months gave me the time to work through some lines of enquiry I was unable to investigate (or did not adequately appreciate) in the course of the original research. Inevitably this research will never be 100% DONE, and I had to call time on it at some point. However, because I can’t just let things lie and walk away, I’ve caved and written this post.

Here, I want to look closer at the composition of the earliest recorded -ingas place-name in Surrey (and very possibly the whole of England): Getinges, which occurs in a much-interpolated charter now dated to the years circa 670 x 675 (S 1165; Kelly 2015, 89-104). John Insley (2005, 139) has provided the most recent authoritative etymology of the name, identifying it as an -ingas formation based on the personal name Gēata ‘only known from genealogies and poetry, but cf. Old Norse Gauti‘. Getinges has been connected to the extant minor place-name Eaton Park/Farm in Cobham, for reasons I’ll discuss presently. I deliberated over whether to include the following reevaluation of the make-up and significance of this place-name in the updated dissertation rather than here; I ended up fudging the issue with a short paragraph on page 38 noting the very interesting implications of the place-name vis-à-vis royal genealogies and regnal lists, but holding back from working through them for fear of wandering off topic.

Eaton Farm from Taylor 2003

Eaton Farm, Cobham, as it exists today (or existed in the very recent past). Photo taken from Dr David Taylor’s book Cobham: a history, page 10 illustration 11.

By way of context, one angle I’m working on in my PhD research is investigating how the origins and identities of -ingas groups represented solely in place-names might be better understood through -ing-formations with royal connections: plural ones that identified lines of kings (Bede’s Oiscingas and Wuffingas being the best known) and singular ones that are employed in genealogies to denote the son and heir of a king. This is not to say every -ingas group was royal, or saw themselves as such, but there do seem to be hints of a correlation with elite status that I want to pursue further. The instances of the singular -ing constructions I highlight in my discussion of Getinges (Godulf Geoting in the genealogy of the kings of Lindsey, and Godwulf Geating in that of King Æthelwulf of Wessex) have aroused a considerable amount of scholarly interest in terms of what they may signify as to the importance of Geot/Geat (sometimes Geata) as an ancestor figure. What has not been factored into any of these discussions is the evidence of the place-name Getinges and others understood to derive from the name(s) Gēat(a).

Genealogies and Geot/Geat

The most influential (and arguably still the single most important) work on the Anglo-Saxon royal genealogical texts is Kenneth Sisam’s 1953 essay (republished as Sisam 1990, which I’ve used/cited throughout this post). It provides a treatment of the texts that is both extensive and intensive, and a summary of the whole piece would be tricky and unnecessary. His survey of the relevant texts identified the ‘Vespasian group’ as the key genealogical source, with the earliest extant manuscript having in his opinion roots in Mercian royal patronage of the late-eighth century. So far as Geat is concerned, the key points of note concern his characterisation as a god, first on page 165 and then in more detail on pages 171-72, where Sisam cited the testimony of the Historia Brittonum and Asser’s Life of King Alfred (the latter probably borrowing from the former) as evidence for this deific status.

In Sisam’s wake, David Dumville produced two penetrating studies: the first on what he dubbed the ‘Anglian collection’ within the Vespasian group (a name that’s stuck and is used here: Dumville 1976), the second on the general topic of European early medieval geneaologies and regnal lists (Dumville 1977). He tweaked Sisam’s dating (backwards in time to the period 765 x 779) and provenancing (to Northumbrian) of the Anglian collection, but in many other ways was accepting of the arguments presented in the earlier scholar’s essay. Dumville discusses the place of Geot in the Lindsey lineage in both works (Dumville 1976, 45-47; 1977, 90), some of which I will appraise in detail below, but it is worth noting here the link made between the possible godly figure of Geat and the Gothic ‘racial eponym’ Gapt or Gaut, a tribal ‘hero’ according to the sixth-century historian Jordanes (Dumville 1977, 96).

Screen shot 2016-05-31 at 23.10.13

Excerpt from the late-10th-century B-text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle annal for 856, that includes the sequence ‘godulf geating . geata tætwaing‘ = “Godwulf son of Geat(a), Geat(a) son of Tætwa” (BL Cotton Tiberius A VI f. 17r)

The matter of Geot/Geat was revisited and its scope expanded by Richard North in his 1997 book Heathen Gods in Old English Literature. He sets the genealogical/ancestral references in the broader context of Classical and Late Antique historical writings and Germanic religion, beginning with the eye-catching (not to mention rather complex) argument for the name to have originated as ‘an ancient epithet of [the god/god-like figure] Ingui or Ing‘, either within OE or transposed from the Gothic cognates Gapt (< gáut) and Enguz (e.g. North 1997, 133). Beyond identifying the context for influences of Gothic history-cum-legend on Anglo-Saxon England (a phenomenon he proposes could have commenced as early as the mid-seventh century: North 1997, 154), the book’s key contributions are twofold. First, to see the earliest OE instances of the name, ones from which all others were derived, as the second element in Anglian dithematic personal names ending -geot; pre-dating the late eighth century, but – as early and not-necessarily-real ancestral figures tend to be – otherwise not especially well rooted in time (North 1997, 153). Second, to suggest a context in the mid-ninth century for the appearance of Geat in the West Saxon genealogy of King Æthelwulf and also in the poem Deor to be bound up in the politics of the time, with ‘the deified founder of the Goths’ having a significant and desirable role to play as a purported ancestor (North 1997, 154-71).

Putting the West Saxon genealogy to one side for the moment, there are now major question marks surrounding the dating of the Lindsey genealogy’s compilation to the late-eighth century. A lot rested on the identification of the latest name in the lineage, Aldfrið, as one and the same as the Ealfrið rex who witnessed a confirmation of an earlier South Saxon charter during the last 10 years of the reign of Offa of Mercia (S 1183). Whereas Sisam and Dumville were satisfied with the equation of the two, first proposed by F. M. Stenton, more recently a succession of Anglo-Saxonist heavyweights (Simon Keynes, Susan Foot, and Susan Kelly) have concluded that the charter witness’s name is a corrupt form of Ecgfrið, Offa’s son (Kelly 1998, p. 54). This was taken up by Caitlin Green, who developed Foot’s proposition that Aldfrið was the last (mostly) independent ruler of Lindsey/Lindissi to argue for the genealogy to be a largely authentic text/tradition of the late seventh century, at least as far back as Woden (Green 2012, 99-100; she was kind enough to confirm for me that this remains her preferred interpretation of the genealogy).

The question thus becomes whether the generations back from Woden to Geot also belong to a seventh-century archetype, or were they invented and introduced in the late eighth century? As detailed by Sisam (1990, 165-72), the same sequence of names appears elsewhere: in the Historia Brittonum, a work generally dated to the late 820s, but this time in relation to the lineage of the kings of Kent (Sisam 1990, 167-68); in the late-ninth-century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle A-text annals for 547 (Ida of Northumbria) and 855 (Æthelwulf of Wessex); and in Asser’s Life of King Alfred, written around the same time. All are doubtless derivative of earlier sources. It was demonstrated by Dumville (1976, 45) that the Historia Brittonum pedigree is based on a lost geneaological collection similar to but earlier than the earliest extant version of the Anglian collection, which pushes it back in time a little bit, but there’s still upwards of a century between this and the reign of Aldfrið if, as seems wise, we choose to accept the new, earlier dating of his reign.

Now here’s where things get really, brilliantly technical. Sisam (1990, 185) argued for a symmetry among the royal genealogies in the Anglian collection with the notable exception of the kings of Lindsey. In his eyes, their pedigree ‘seems to be a later addition’ to the collection, and I read the implication of his subsequent comment that ‘as if to make up for the deficiency [of its abnormally-short length], it alone was carried back to Geat’ to be that he understood it to be an introduction of the late 700s. Dumville addressed and developed this point to what I consider was conclusive effect. Having witheringly noted how Sisam’s thesis of genealogical symmetry ‘is not a notably useful conclusion, taken by itself’, he proceeded to set out a codicological case for the pre-Woden generation to be applicable to all the royal lines, but became appended to the Lindsey lineage by a ‘subsequent copyist or reviser … [perhaps] for the sake of symmetry’ (Dumville 1977, 89-90). This decouples the dating of the continuation back to Geot from the likely date of Aldfrið’s kingship.

As a consequence, in purely historical terms, the place of Geot/Geat as a royal ancestor can be traced no earlier than the late eighth century, unless you attach weight to the uses of -geot as a deuterotheme in a number of early names in the Deiran, Bernician and Mercian genealogies, but these are highly dubious pieces of evidence with little if any anchorage in reliable chronology. This is of course not to say that Geot/Geat was not a figure of currency and significance well before the period of the earliest written pedigrees, and place-name evidence may serve to show that this was the case.

Screen shot 2016-06-04 at 14.34.24

Before finally getting around to discussing Getinges as a name formation, I want to throw a curveball into the mix – Jane Acomb Leake’s 1967 monograph The Geats of Beowulf. Her book is one of those rare things: a “lost” work on an early medieval topic that’s scholarly rigorous, as opposed to the sort of landfill cod-histories that clog up the shelves of bookshop History sections. I know of it only thanks to Catalin Taranu, who used it extensively for his 2015 Leeds IMC paper ‘The “Germanic” Origins of the Anglo-Saxons in the 9th Century’ (or at least that’s the title I jotted down). Leake’s book was apparently unknown to Dumville and North, and the brief citation it does receive from Andy Orchard actually ignores its fundamental thesis (Orchard 1995, 110 footnote 106).

That thesis concerns the identity of the Geats, or Geatas in OE, and an (over)long argument for their being the Getae or Getes of Classical literature, the mythical ‘founding nation of all Germanic people’ (Leake 1967, 133). Part and parcel of this is that the Geatas were ‘an unreal people’ (Leake 1967, 7), meaning there’s no point trying to pin them down to the Scandinavia as might be suggested by the references to them in Beowulf and the attested tribe of the Gautar, or the lands of the Goths with who they became confused. While some elements of Leake’s case perhaps overstep the mark (I swear at one point she tries to do away with Bede’s Iutarum as Jutes), in general it’s a work that could really do with a full critical reappraisal in light of the near half-century of work that’s emerged since its publication. For the purposes of this post, I merely note the superficial resemblance of Getae and Getinges, and the possibility that the latter might be directly related to the former rather than through an intermediate OE name in Gēot-, Gēat-.

The Chertsey place-name tradition

The place-name spelling Getinges is found in three diplomas: S 1165, S 353 of 871 x 899, and S 420 of 933. These texts, along with all other pre-1066 Chertsey muniments (most of which contain little or no material contemporaneous with their stated dates), were copied into the mid-13th-century Chertsey cartulary (BL Cotton Vitellius A. xiii). All were edited in Susan Kelly’s recent Charters of Chertsey Abbey. Through her meticulous research, Kelly advanced a sequence of charter fabrication that would place S 1165 as the earliest, with the other two following in chronological order (see Kelly 2015, 39-45, for full discussion). Moreover, in contrast to previous authors who have seen Getinges as an “outlier” of the main Chertsey estate, she proposes that ‘it is at least a possibility that only the four places named in Alfred’s charter [S 353] (Chertsey, Getinges, Hunewaldesham and Woodham) were originally mentioned in Frithuwald’s charter [S 1165]’ (Kelly 2015, 103). This raises the strong possibility that S 1165, or rather the original diploma at the core of the received text, was the source of the spelling Getinges.

The trouble is Getinges isn’t convincing as an OE spelling, let alone one of the late seventh century. But it looks even less like one of the later 13th century, as the 1294 attestations Ethinge and Etynge 1294 prove. Time to go back to basics.

Screen shot 2016-05-23 at 21.50.07

Signs of trouble? To judge from Google Maps and Street View, Eaton Farm is stuck somewhere along Eaton Park Road, a private thoroughfare but at least one that Joe Public is able to access on foot, in case you wanted to go look for the farmhouse yourself.

The -inges ending is consistent with an Early Middle English (ME) rendering of the OE nominative/accusative plural ending -ingas. The other half of the name on the face of it could derive from an OE personal name Gēat, Gēata, or the noun geat, ‘gate, gap, pass’. (Of course, we may be dealing with a name in Gēot, Gēota, but for the purposes of the following I’ll keep things simple and stick to references to the “conventional” form(s) alone.) It’s worth noting that Insley’s citation of Gēata alone (potentially a hypocoristic or shortened form of a name beginning Gēat-) is too prescriptive if the recensions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle are any guide. As noted previously, the 855 annal of the A-text gives Geat, Geating, whereas the late-tenth-century B-text has GeataGeating (shown above), and the 11th-century C-text the geminated GeattGeatting (below), both as part of the annals for 856. (The mid-11th-century D-text fluffs it somewhat with the inconsistent Geat, Gating in its annal for 855, though a later scribe added a tiny superscript -e- to indicate the error of their predecessor.) Thus, the prototheme of Getinges could be a monothematic personal name Gēat as much as it could be Gēata.

Screen shot 2016-06-04 at 13.03.27

Excerpt from the C-text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle annal for 856, including the sequence ‘godulf geatting . geatt tætwaing‘ (BL Cotton Tiberius B I f. 129v)

Screen shot 2016-05-31 at 23.17.44

Excerpt from the D-text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle annal for 855, showing its scribe’s rather haphazard attempt at reproducing the West Saxon royal lineage – ‘fingo dulfing . godulf gating . geat tætwaing‘ – valiantly emended by a later annotator (BL Cotton Tiberius B IV f. 32r)

Turning to analogous place-names, we find (as is noted on page 38 of the dissertation) Yate in South Gloucestershire to be an early-recorded example of a place-name derived from geat, and the word has also been suggested to form the first half of Yatton on the Welsh borders as well as its near-namesake Yatton Keynell in Wiltshire (CDEPN, 709). The personal-name alternative has been suggested for a handful of place-names including, in the strong form Gēat, Yatesbury in Wiltshire, and, as weak diminutive *Gēatela, Yetlington in Northumberland (CDEPN, 709, 711). The combination of Gēat(a) and -ingas (in its genitive inflection -inga) has also been suggested for the Berkshire place-name Yattendon (full list of historic spellings here: CDEPN, 709).

The rule of thumb seems to be that place-names for which -e- is the predominant initial vowel in ME spellings come from Gēat(a), because of the long vowel (i.e the e with the flat hat on, pronounced something closer to “ay” than the “eh” sound of the short vowel), and those with mostly -a- spellings are from geatLate and few as the ME forms might be, the data for Eaton points towards Gēat(a) rather than geat being the first element in the name formation, as per Insley and others before him (e.g. PNS, 88). (For those wondering about the initial G-, it stands for a sort of short “yuh” sound; [j] is you’re being fancy and phonetic.) 

Kelly’s study of the Chertsey charters is excellent (my own review of it is currently under construction) but still leaves room for future research in several areas. One aspect in which the book could be seen to be lacking is in its discussion of the place-name spellings contained in the various charter texts. As I note on page 57 of my dissertation, despite the Chertsey charters showing considerable evidence for ME-period tampering and fabrication, a spelling like Piccingauurþe 1062 in S 1035 is likely to be an essentially accurate transcription of an OE-period written form. The “original” portions of S 1165 contain eight Surrey place-names, which show a mixture of OE- and ME-looking spellings. These, along with the provincial name Sunninges (another -ingas name formation), are listed, reconstructed, and tabulated alongside other early dated spellings below:

Screen shot 2016-06-04 at 15.14.41

Surrey place-names (plus adjoining provincial name) found in S 1165, alongside reconstructed OE forms and attestations in S 353 and other dated sources. Note Sonning and Sunninges are not strictly speaking the same thing, but do derive from the same group-name formation. S 1165 and S 353 spellings are from Kelly 2015, 89-90 and 131 respectively; other spellings are drawn variously from PNS, CDEPN and Kelly 2015.

It should be pretty clear from the above that there are place-names for which the S 1165 spellings pass muster as ones of OE origin (Cerotesegt/Cirotesegt, Muleseg, Huneuualdesham) and others which are clearly ME-era revisions or interpolations (Torpe/Thorpe, Chebeham, Egeham, Wodeham). The two -ingas names, Getinges and Sunninges, occupy an uncertain middle ground. They lack the same authentic look of the twice-occurring Fullingadich (whose middle element is commensurate with an accurately-reproduced OE genitive plural -inga), but still preserve a terminal -s which was often lost during the 13th century (cf. discussion of Tooting on pages 48-49 of my dissertation). The reduction of -ēa- to -ē-/-e- is an entirely development between OE and ME (compare attestations of Beddington quoted on page 60 on my dissertation with the spelling Bedintone found in the Chertsey charters S 1181 and S 420, both of highly dubious authenticity, and many times after).

There are a small number of examples of Anglo-Latin Get- for expected OE Gēat- spellings: Geta in a copy of the Historia Brittonum believed to be derived from a late-10th/early-11th-century English manuscript (see Leake 1967, 112-13, 141) and Getis in the Liber Monstrorum (Leake 1967, 143; Orchard 1995, 109). One could go all in with Leake’s argument to read these as unadulterated forms of the name of the Getae (or the eponymous tribal figurehead thereof = *Geta?). However, she also set out a very different argument based on sound-changes that suggests a different means of explanation (Leake 1967, 117-19). By this, Primitive Germanic (PGmc) *Gautoz developed into a West Germanic (WGmc) stem *Gat-, whence came Primitive OE *Gæt-. In turn, this yielded Early West Saxon *Geat- (Leake didn’t always use macrons to indicate long vowels, so this should probably be rendered *Gēat-) and, more relevantly, Anglian and Kentish *Get- (on the basis that diphthongization didn’t occur in these dialects). Given S 1165 is a charter with strong Mercian connections as well as pertaining to a region likely to have lain within the Kentish dialect zone, this might be considered significant, even more so in light of Anglian-cum-Kentish spellings like Huneuualdesham (cf. my discussion of the specific of the name Warlingham on pages 63-64 of my dissertation) and several names in the charter witness list (e.g. FritheuualdusEbbi).

Dumville’s account of the linguistic context indicates a different sequence which somewhat undermines the applicability of Leake’s proposal (Dumville 1976, 48 including footnote 2). He gives a sequence running from a WGmc root *Gaut- > POE *Gǣut > *Gǣot (written as *Geot) > *Gǣat (in all OE dialects save for South Northumbrian, and rendered as *Geat). Thus Getinges could well stand for *Geotingas, not *Geatingas. But, to take it a step further, could it be a textual example of Anglian smoothing of -eo- > -e- to yield *Getingas (see page 30 of my dissertation and the references cited there)? Reliable philological analogues are scarce for Surrey in this period, but we can at least note the early attestation of Bermondsey, another early Surrey minster with strong Mercian links, as Vermundesei 708 x 715 (c. 1200) < OE *Beornmundesēg (PNS, 16; CDEPN, 52).

What seems to emerge from the above is that Getinges as a place-name spelling belongs to a date later than the formulation of the diploma on which the received version of S 1165 is based, but maybe not as late as the time, circa 1260, when it was written into the Chertsey cartulary. Kelly posits various episodes of fabrication of charters and/or tampering with existing documentation: around the time of the application for a papal privilege from Victor II in the years 1055 x 1057 (2015, 28); in the closing years of the 11th century (2015, 31); in the reign of Henry II (2015, 42); and at points during the first two-thirds of the 13th century (2015, 33). Particularly in the years either side of 1066, say 1055-1100, there is no shortage of contexts ripe for the reworking of old charters and concoction of” new” ones to secure or extend the interests of the abbey and its community. It is conceivable that there arose a need to alter the seventh-century base charter (or a later recension of it), either adding the place-name Getinges or updating an earlier spelling to fit contemporary orthography. S 1165 certainly warrants being looked at again for other signs of alteration during the Saxo-Norman transitional period.


To summarise, the onomastic connections made between Eaton Park and Getinges do hold up under close scrutiny. Getinges has the hallmarks of a place-name spelling emended from an OE archetype *Geotingas, *Geatingas, or possibly simply *Getingas. The balance of probability is firmly tilted in favour of the first part of the name to derive from a male personal name Gēot/Gēat (or a hypocorism of one or the other ending in -a). What this means in turn is that we have a group-name whose prototheme is most likely derived from a name associated directly or indirectly with a tribal deity-cum-eponym, whose ultimate origin is either Gothic or Geatish (or just possibly Getic). If this is indeed the case, it opens up a really tasty new avenue for assessing OE -ingas names and groups, by making connections – not necessarily direct ones, I must stress – between them and prominent historical (or pseudo-historical) figures from Germanic mythological culture. A brace of other possible examples that occurred to me this afternoon will have to suffice for now.

The first is the lost Frankingham, somewhere not so far from the Thames in historic north-east Surrey, which I could do no more than note in passing on page 56 of my dissertation. It can be derived from the OE personal name Franca, borne by an abbot who witnessed a credible early East Saxon charter (S 65b) as well as in the early-ninth-century portion of the Durham Liber Vitae (Insley & Rollason 2007, 176). But might we now be able to contemplate that this represents an Anglicisation of the name and memory of Francio (or Francus), legendary leader of the European Franks who migrated from Macedonia to Francia (here’s the Wikipedia summary of the Frankish foundation myth featuring Francio – sorry it’s not a more scholarly reference but I’m trying not to place too much emphasis on this point!) Likewise, can we detect a memory of another Frankish “king”, Sunno, in the name of the *Sunningas mentioned earlier? What might this imply about the past or present, real or imagined, connections between these -ingas groups and the Franks? (For what it’s worth, the two names – or their approximate locations – lie on the peripheries of two Frankish ‘corridors of activity’ proposed in Harrington and Welch 2014, 189 Figure 57.)

How then should we seek to understand the name Gēat(a) or Gēot(a) as seems to be present in the place-name Getinges/Eaton? Maybe as a more mythical analogue of ethnic bynames like Wealh (present in the -inga place-names Wallingford and the lost Wealingawirth 771 x 786 of S 1183 (14th)), meaning “Briton, foreigner”, and the related Welisc (attested as the name of a priestly witness to S 235, another early Surrey charter), “British, foreign”? Going down this route feeds into the debate on the location of the tribal heartland of the Geatas at the heart of (but not settled by) Leake’s book, and whether there might be any correlation with the archaeological records of those places in part named after individuals with ethnic bynames. The current evidence bases for Frankingham and *Sunningas/Sonning would appear to cast doubt upon the possibility, but there is clearly scope for more targeted work to be done on the matter.

Another way of interpreting the name would be as the figurehead of a Kultverband – for want of a better translation a “cult-group”, or group of people whose shared identity was based around a religious cult with a named leader. This has been put forward by Insley as an explanation for the *Gumeningas associated with Gumeninga hergae 767 (Harrow on the Hill), ‘the heathen shrine of a group of people led by a certain Gumen’ (Insley 1999, 192)? This would place Geot-Geat(a) as a real-life leader figure, perhaps one who was considered or claimed to be a god or god-like. Not impossible, I suppose (I was reminded of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, although in this case Koresh changed his name to that of the cult), but a bit of a stretch of the imagination.

Arguably more relevant in this conjunction could be the Ingham place-names discussed by Sandred, who interpreted them as stemming from PGmc *Ingwia-haimaz (Sandred 1987). This has been adopted by Green in respect of the Lincolnshire example, for which she supplies the translations ‘the estate of the Inguione‘, that is of a king of the Inguionic dynasty, or ‘the estate of the devotees of the deity Ing‘ (Green 2012, 101-103). If there was a direct and authentic link between the early kings of Lindsey and Geot, then North’s proposition that the latter stemmed from ‘an epithet of Ingui’ (1997, 171) could be cited in support of Ingham’s royal associations. However, the indications are that Geot was an ancestor common to many or all Anglo-Saxon royal lines confected in the eighth century rather than Lindsey alone, which weakens the contention. Getinges, meanwhile, is an uncompounded group-name, capable of interpretation as “the people/followers/devotees of the deity Geot/Geat” but this is by no means the most credible or best paralleled of the various possible interpretations.

Alternatively, adhering to a more prosaic line of interpretation, Getinges/Eaton Park at the very least admits that, by the second half of the seventh century, Gēot, Gēat may have been in use in the OE anthroponymicon for male personal-names, either as a simplex name or as a prototheme of a dithematic name which was shortened for the purposes of the -ingas compound. Furthermore, contrary to the suggestion of North (1997, 153) that Geot, Geat, etc., ‘were constructed on the basis of the suffix -geot in older Anglian names’, it opens up the scenario that they were based on monothematic names, or dithematic names commencing with the same element, of non-Anglian background. The ambiguous spelling of Getinges, about which I think there is still more to be said on a linguistic level, hints at early sound-changes, but mostly embodies the complex and perhaps not fully-understood history of reworking of S 1165 at intervals between the later-seventh and later-13th centuries.


What I find most thought-provoking about Getinges is that it points to the existence of an ethnically-charged element in the personal- and/or group-naming lexicon by the late seventh century. To my mind it’s clear that there’s much more of an ideological dimension to -ingas name formations than has been acknowledged by previous academic contemplations of them, and Getinges would appear to be a prime example of the way they conveyed powerful messages about origins and legitimacy. They make little sense as formal commemorations of real-life migrant folk-leaders that decades’ worth of published studies had them pegged as prior the Dodgson-initiated step change of the 1960s (and which some Continental scholars have continued to assert: e.g. Kleinschmidt 2003, 56-68). Instead, they seem to be cut from much the same cloth of the royal genealogies and heroic poetry – in between fact and fiction, history and myth. Whether they had a real-life basis and so were unique to a given group, or were entirely imaginary and picked out from a pool of Germanic mythological greats-cum-gods, and regardless of their role in any seminal migratory movement or military victory (and each of these on its own or in combination with another may be applicable to certain -ingas), the protothematic elements of these name formations invented were rooted in the construction of group mythologies that are all but irretrievable to us now.

We cannot know therefore whether the*Geotingas/*Geatingas/*Getingas whose name is preserved as Getinges (and thus Eaton) were the same group whose name is found in Yattendon (OE *Gē(o)t-, Gēatingadenu), or if the two place-names merely recall separate groups who happened to exist not so far apart (but not necessarily at the same time) and whose members based their collective identity on the same figure (or conceivably on two different personages of the same name). There is no documented historical link between the two, nor any topographical logic for why they should have been associated. On the other hand, both place-names are not so many miles from the Thames, and connections between certain artefacts from the early cemeteries of Surrey and the Upper Thames region have been noted before (e.g. Welch 1977, 28 – not the most relevant source, but the best I have to hand). It’s one of the main aspirations for my PhD research that archaeology, even in the form of single finds as opposed to excavated cemeteries, may help to establish the nature of the links between places with names which could derive from the same social group. In the process, I hope it will also reveal meaningful things about such groups and the people who comprised them.


CDEPN = Watts, Victor, The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names (Cambridge: CUP, 2004) 

Dumville, David N., ‘The Anglian collection of royal genealogies and regnal lists’, Anglo‑Saxon England, 5 (1976), 23-50

Dumville, David N., ‘Kingship, Genealogies and Regnal Lists’ in Early Medieval Kingship, ed. by P. H. Sawyer and I. N. Wood (Leeds: The School of History, University of Leeds, 1977), 72-104

Green, Caitlin R., Britons and Anglo-Saxons: Lincolnshire AD 400-650, Studies in the History of Lincolnshire, 3 (Lincoln: History of Lincolnshire Committee, 2012)

Harrington, Sue, and Martin Welch, The Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of Southern Britain AD 450-650: Beneath the Tribal Hidage (Oxford and Philadelphia: Oxbow Books, 2014)

Insley, John, ‘Gumeningas’ in Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde, 13, ed. by Rosemarie Müller (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1999), 191-93

Insley, John, ʻSurreyʼ in Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde, 30, ed. by Rosemarie Müller (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2005), 137-41

Insley, John, and David Rollason, ʻEnglish monothematic namesʼ in The Durham Liber Vitae, Volume 2: Linguistic Commentary, ed. by David Rollason and Lynda Rollason (London: The British Library, 2007), 165-87

Kelly, S. E., ed., Charters of Chertsey Abbey, Anglo-Saxon Charters, 17 (Oxford: OUP for The British Academy, 2015)

Kleinschmidt, Harald, People on the Move: Attitudes toward and Perceptions of Migration in Medieval and Modern Europe (Westport, CT and London: Praeger, 2003)

Leake, Jane Acomb, The Geats of Beowulf: A Study in the Geographical Mythology of the Middle Ages (Madison, Milwaukee and London: University of Wisconsin Press, 1967)

North, Richard, Heathen Gods in Old English Literature, Cambridge Studies in AngloSaxon England, 22 (Cambridge: CUP, 1997)

Orchard, Andy, Pride and Prodigies: Studies in the Monsters of the Beowulf-Manuscript (Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press, 1995)

PNS = Gover, J. E. B., A. Mawer and F. M. Stenton, The Place-Names in Surrey, English Place-Name Society, 11 (Cambridge: CUP, 1934)

Sandred, Karl Inge, ‘Ingham in East Anglia: a new interpretation’, Leeds Studies in English, new series, 18 (1987), 231-40

Sisam, Kenneth, ʻAnglo-Saxon Royal Genealogiesʼ in British Academy Papers on Anglo-Saxon England, ed. by E. G. Stanley (Oxford: OUP for The British Academy, 1990), 145-204

Welch, Martin G., ‘Early Anglo-Saxon Sussex: from Civitas to Shire’ in The South Saxons, ed. by Peter Brandon (Chichester: Phillimore, 1978), 13-35

Posted in Annals, Charters, Chertsey, Genealogy, History, Nottingham, Old English, PhD, Place-Names, Surrey | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New work – tracing early field systems on Puttenham Common

For a number of years, I have been itching to get hold of LiDAR imagery for Puttenham parish, having read a number of local and not-so-local studies which use it to enviably good effect. (For those who aren’t familiar with LiDAR, rather than me make a ham-fisted attempt at explaining it, I’ll defer to the experts at Historic England to provide an introduction.) So it was a matter of great excitement when c/o Twitter I was pointed in the direction of a ready-made and free-to-access national LiDAR survey imagery viewer available in the slightly unlikely-sounding location of the website – and even greater excitement when I spotted what to my eyes looked a lot like linear boundaries making up a lost field system at the east end of the Hillbury ridge on Puttenham Common! A couple more days of staring and thinking and this was the result:

all without image

With thanks to Studio Katja Alissa Mueller ( for keeping an expert eye on me while I was producing the plans of the suggested field systems.

Please click here to read a thorough but still interim account of what I’ve found, both on the LiDAR imagery and subsequently on the ground (and have a play around with the LiDAR viewer via the link above). The indications are that this is one of the most important archaeological discoveries made in Puttenham parish in many a long year (as well as providing more context for those that have gone before). It’s certainly got me thinking in a number of new directions, not least in terms of the implications for the interface and inheritance between prehistoric and historic landscapes. This has also coincided with me reading an important new study on rural continuity between the Roman and Early Anglo-Saxon periods. As a result, I’ve already got a companion piece underway discussing field boundary orientation and how the agricultural landscape of medieval and early modern Puttenham may have owed a debt to land divisions from previous eras. All being well this will be completed and posted in the next couple of weeks.

Posted in Agriculture, Archaeology, Dating, Landscape, Puttenham | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment