After the publication of my note on “the seven acres” I received an email from Peter Finch, a historian with whom I exchanged a series of emails on the subject of Undersnow, the meeting place of Tandridge Hundred in east Surrey. He has been researching the boundaries of adjacent Reigate Hundred, which is abutted by the small parish of Chaldon, best known for the twelfth-century Doom mural on the west wall of its church, but the subject of a curious charter purportedly dating from 967.
The charter, Sawyer 753, details the grant of one-and-a-half-hides, representing one half of an estate at Chaldon (presumably, but not necessarily, the sole landholding which bore the name at the time), to Archbishop Dunstan. However, the deed is found in the archive of Westminster Abbey, a monastery he was instrumental in founding, so it can be presumed that he vested it among its estates rather than that of the Archbishopric or the cathedral community. The most illuminating analysis of the charter to date, though brief, is given by Simon Keynes in his 1994 essay ‘The “Dunstan B” charters’. He notes that the charter as it exists today is most likely a late tenth-century concoction based on a now-lost earlier diploma, since the occurrence of “Archbishop Oswald” among the witnesses is an impossibility. On the other hand some of the details it contains are clearly original; notably the record of how not long before the estate had been forfeited to the king by a certain Eadwold on account of his having been found guilty of theft.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the charter is its Old English boundary clause. This is a common feature of charters of the late Anglo-Saxon period, but what marks this one out is the discrepancy explicit in the statement which introduces them;
“These are the boundaries which surround the whole land in Chaldon but it does not pertain to the Bishop except a half part of it”
Keynes thought that the draughtsman of the surviving charter text added the second half of the above statement to fit with the details of the grant. However, the boundary description does not represent a full circumnavigation of the estate, since it does not begin and end in the same location. This has become readily appreciable thanks to a short study of the Chaldon bounds by Tim Northfield published in the journal Surrey History. Indeed, accepting his analysis, the boundary described represents a relatively short stretch of the present parish boundary between modern-day Broad Wood and Ditchie’s Lane (the final two points probably pertain to unidentifiable Wealden denns, as also suggested by the editor(s) of the charter’s LangScape entry).
Developing Keynes’ interpretation, I would suggest that the brevity of the boundary clause is as much due to the fact that only half of the Chaldon estate was granted to Dunstan circa 967 as it is to the probable truncation of the source charter text by the Westminster draughtsman. In support of this hypothesis I again call upon the evidence from Thames Ditton and its two pre-Conquest charters with boundary clauses. These pertain to a nine-hide estate which is all but impossible to define in the modern or historic landscape, but which was clearly smaller than the medieval parish since no mention is made of the Thames. What is particularly important about these bounds is that they are the only ones belonging to a Surrey estate – aside from Chaldon – which do not commence and terminate in the same named location; they begin at “crane pool’s thorn” and end at “Cwichelm’s worth“.
Clearly further examples of charters for landholdings of sub-parochial size, but which nevertheless abutted a stretch or stretches of a parish (or otherwise identifiable) boundary, are required in order to corroborate the idea proposed here. For now at least the indications are promising, and affirm the ability of such documents to continue to be read in new lights and hence to yield new information.
Keynes, Simon, ‘The “Dunstan B” charters’, Anglo-Norman Studies, 23 (1994), 165-94
Northfield, Tim, ‘Nine Newly Identified Bounds of Three Contiguous Manors in Tenth Century Surrey Charters’, Surrey History, 7.3 (2005?), 144-50