The search for Hebbeshamm

At the risk of sounding like I’m blowing my own trumpet, you could say this paper is in a teeny, tiny way of national significance. That is because it deals with a run-of-the-mill event (the promulgation of a charter) which has taken on greater significance than it otherwise might because it took place in a period of English history from which relatively few other written records survive, and because it includes a juicy morsel of a phrase pointing to a military campaign led by the renowned King Alfred “the Great” overlooked by the narrative histories of the period. In a way I feel bad for taking away a significant event from Epsom and Surrey and giving it to Essex, but history should be about establishing the facts, not county allegiances, and I’m sure that one day in the future I can return the favour by repatriating a place-name or person mistakenly ascribed to the latter. (In fact this has occurred already, since there is now an overwhelming case for the Cealua dune in Sawyer 753 – subject of a brief note elsewhere on this site – to be commensurate with Chaldon in Surrey rather than Kelvedon in Essex.)

Now hold your horses there a second… Discoveries made subsequent to the completion of the paper in the version to be found below have rendered a large chunk of its paragraphs on thirteenth-century place-name forms out-of-date. I intend to undertake a rewrite as soon as possible but, having still to amass all of the sources I require, this has not happened yet and as such I advise that the following be read after my update note which explains the nature and implications of the recently-identified information.

The search for Hebbeshamm February 2012

As well as providing an overdue resolution to a problem that should never have been allowed to go unchallenged for so long, I hope that this note also serves to show how simple Google searches can be used to obtain references that otherwise could only have been found following an inordinate amount of trawling through old editions of medieval legal and administrative records – not something I can sustain for more than an hour or so at a time! I believe there are more such references still to be found, and these will require the legwork to be done in the “traditional” way, but someone else (maybe in Essex?) can take up that baton. For now I’m just glad to no longer be doing repeated searches for permutations on the name Hebbeshamm that turn up disparaging message board posts about Hebersham, by all accounts a bogun suburb of Sydney (Wiki tells me the name is unrelated).

I am indebted to Jeremy Haslam for identifying errors and suggesting improvements of the penultimate draft of this paper, drawing upon his own extensive research into the period in question (including an excellent contribution to the most recent volume of Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History – a pre-publication draft is available to download from his blog). The version presented above takes on board many of his recommendations.

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