Coins, cloth and Chertsey: towards an understanding of trade and trading networks in Surrey, circa 650-900

As with most things I write about on Surrey Medieval, the following began with a book. Peter Sawyer’s newly-published The Wealth of Anglo-Saxon England is a gem, a slimline volume that’s more like an extended essay than one of the lengthy (sometimes over-lengthy) monographs published on similar topics. Sawyer brings his erudition and decades of scholarship to bear in a work that is an accessible introduction to the subject of the economy of Anglo-Saxon England as much as it is a specialist work with a particular point to make about the waxing and waning of patterns of trade and exchange.

Typically, as soon as I found the Google Books preview (accessible via the hyperlink above) I ran a search for mentions of Surrey. However, this yielded virtually nothing of interest aside from a striking suggestion on page 68 that some of the pottery found at Hamwic was produced in Surrey (which is an interesting counterpoint to the idea current in some circles that the county was aceramic in the middle Anglo-Saxon period). To be frank, this was not altogether unsurprising since very little has been done on the subject of the post-Roman/Anglo-Saxon economy of the county area. But this is not to say Surrey has nothing to contribute because it was somehow unaffected by the various processes at work. It was, and their impact can be perceived first and foremost through artefacts, but also through more subtle forms of evidence like place-names and lines of communication. It is the combinations of these I will be looking at here.

Assembling the data

Over the past few days I have collected all of the listings of “early medieval” coins – that is to say ones produced between the later fifth century (thereby excluding early fifth-century issues up to and including Reece period 22, 402-445 CE) through to the start of the twelfth century – from three online databases: Portable Antiquities SchemeCorpus of Early Medieval Coin Finds (EMC for short), and the related Checklist of Coin Hoards from the British Isles, c.450-1180. In the case of the first, the entries are all coins tagged as “EARLY MEDIEVAL” with provenances from within the historic county of Surrey, both those in the modern administrative county (but not the Borough of Spelthorne, a post-1974 addition) and places in the London Boroughs that were formerly counted as part of Surrey.

Interrogation of the EMC database was conducted in much the same way; the scope was set as all coins from Surrey alongside the London Boroughs of Croydon, Kingston, Lambeth, Merton, Richmond, Southwark and Wandsworth, from which I picked out all the ones dated to before 1100 (again, results from Spelthorne were excluded). Finally, the hoards accepted for inclusion are those listed as being from Surrey plus one from Bermondsey, misleadingly attributed to London (although seeing as how it’s dated to circa 1101 it only squeaks in by the skin of its teeth). To the database-derived coins, I have added examples culled from a few published works. The following list is by no means a comprehensive survey of all known coins from the period from Surrey but I wager it does encompass the majority of recorded examples, especially from the earlier centuries.

A Provisional List of Coin Finds in Surrey circa 450-1100 March 2013

It is the coins from the earlier centuries that I want to focus on, specifically those ones produced and used in the later seventh and earlier eighth centuries. Often referred to as sceattas, recte sceats, in recent years most of the leading authorities have stated that they were known as pennies at the time they were in use and the most formally-accurate way of referring to them, “proto-pennies” (as advocated by Tony Abramson), is the one that will be employed here. (Sceat is an Old English term erroneously-applied to these coins in the seventeenth century.) There is a wealth of scholarship dedicated to the study of the various series and types of these tiny silver coins, including in a number of excellent scholarly books (Tony Abramson’s Sceattas: An Illustrated Guide being the most comprehensive account), and I have to admit to still being in the early stages of gaining knowledge of the subject.

The long-standing numismatic study of these coins has been joined in recent decades by a dramatic evolution in understanding of the economy of the period propagated by historians and archaeologists. Both owe a great debt to the increased reporting of finds made by metal detectorists under the auspices of schemes such as PAS. Indeed, it is to metal-detecting that scholars owe the term “productive site”, referring to locations which have yielded concentrations of coins alongside other contemporary metal and non-metallic artefacts. (This article by Katharina Ulmschneider offers a good introduction to them; several others on the same subject can be found easily enough using your preferred search engine – even Bing.) This in turn has led to the proposition of new models of national and international trade and exchange, of which “productive sites” were an important part but at a lower level of a hierarchy headed by the wics (or emporia), the handful of proto-urban trading settlements which faced outwards across the North Sea and English Channel to the continent and kingdoms along the littoral from present-day Denmark to France.

Lambeth, the “lamb landing-place”

A number of productive sites in Kent and Hampshire have been brought to wider attention in various books and articles, in contrast to the picture in Surrey, where the evidence been subject to little or no meaningful discussion at a local/regional level and so has played almost no part in more general, national accounts. When the Surrey data is listed and presented in chronological order as in the attachment, Lambeth immediately stands out for the number of proto-pennies that have been found there. Today the name Lambeth is of course attached to a borough as well as a historic riverside settlement, but the borough river frontage is not so lengthy and there are published notes on the find-spots of at least three of the coins (even if these record the uncertainty of the precise circumstances of their discovery). What is clear is that, with as many as ten coins of the seventh and eighth centuries, Lambeth is far and away Surrey’s most productive “productive site”. I am not the first to refer to it as such; well over a decade ago, Stuart Brookes (2001, 127) wrote the following:

“Using the numismatical criteria, Lambeth would class as a ‘productive site’, yet no one would see it operating independently given the proximity of the specialised trading settlement of Lundenwic and the seat of political and ecclesiastical power within the city walls.”

If this was the case, what are all the coins doing there? It is not impossible that they derived from a hoard (the Woodham Walter hoard from Essex contained a heterogenous mix of proto-pennies), but might there be another, more convincing reading to be proffered? I believe so, and my starting point in outlining this is the place-name evidence. The generic, that is to say the suffixing element of the name (we’ll come onto the other half presently), is Old English hyth, defined by Gelling and Cole (2000, 83) as “landing-place on a river, inland port”. This element is found in a number of other Thames-side place-names (listed in Gelling and Cole 2000, 87) but, for the purposes of this analysis, I am interested in the two other major hyth-incorporating place-names on the Surrey stretch of the river – Rotherhithe and Putney. As can be seen from the numismatic list, both are the provenances of more than one proto-penny (and in the case of Putney a sixth-century Byzantine tax seal: Middleton 2005, 357).

Cowie and Blackmore consider hyth place-names along the London stretch of the Thames as part of a discussion of river crossings and landing places in their excellent Early and Middle Saxon rural settlement in the London region. After noting how the series of ecclesiastical councils held at Chelsea from 785 proves the term had been deployed in place-names by that time, they allow for the others to have existed at a similarly early period in spite of their much later appearance in written record (Cowie and Blackmore 2008, 135). The three Surrey examples are not necessarily contemporary with one another, but the similar numismatic profiles of their foreshore archaeology encourages the view that they should be treated as analogous on some level – presumably as maritime landing places where people were using and dropping coins at the same time.

Now let’s talk prefixes. Putney (like Puttenham!) most likely contains the personal name Putta – the association with hawks (Old English puttan) suggested by Gelling and Cole (2000, 88) is nonsensical – while in the case of Rotherhithe the qualifier is Old English hryther, “cattle”. The latter is rendered all the more interesting by the fact that (and it may come as no surprise to learn this) the counterpart to hyth in the place-name Lambeth is Old English lamb, “lamb” (CDEPN, 486 and 357 respectively). A. D. Mills’ treatment of the latter two names is identical, describing them as the “harbour to or from which [lambs/cattle] were shipped”; his citation of the name Rederesgate in the City of London is interesting but the fact they share an element may be no more than coincidence (Mills 2010, 142, 210).

What made me sit up and think there might be more to Lambeth than first meets the eye is the link Sawyer makes between areas rich in coins of the period circa 650-750, particularly ones of foreign origin, and the trade in wool, cloth and clothing (2013, 72-73). Granted, the link between the aforementioned products and the presence of lamb in Lambeth is not a direct one, unlike Woolwich further downstream, whose name means something like “trading settlement or harbour for wool” (Mills 2010, 277; it is interesting that the corresponding translation in CEDPN, 699, ends “for exporting wool”).

Did those who coined the name of Woolwich get first dibs on the two elements? While it’s a possibility, recently I heard Natalie Cohen note how the wic-names along the Thames are all to be found on the apexes of meanders – perfect natural landing places for boats. The three Surrey hyth place-names are all on the outside of meanders but not in the same optimal locations as the wics, hence the necessity of artificial improvement through the constructions of quays or jetties. As for lamb, in a time when sheep young or old were not generally consumed for meat, it could be that the term was used more or less synonymously with Old English sceap, “sheep”; another option is that Lambeth was the point where young lambs were exported as living creatures (or less probably imported to re-provision sheep farming enterprises in the surrounding region); in both instances Rotherhithe may well be analogous.

he present-day river frontage at Lambeth; the palace and church presumably occupy the same sites as their eleventh-century precursors (maybe the jetty too?)T

The present-day river frontage at Lambeth; the palace and church presumably occupy the same sites as their eleventh-century precursors (maybe the jetty too?)

Lambeth was a place of considerable importance in the eleventh century, being variously the location of the death of King Harthacnut in 1042, a secular college founded and endowed by Gytha, sister of Edward the Confessor, and an estate granted to another collegiate church, Waltham Holy Cross (according to the Anglo-Saxon ChronicleDomesday Book and S 1036 respectively). It is worth noting that the Old English boundary clause of the last makes no reference to the Thames, which indicates the gift excluded the river frontage, which was clearly deemed too valuable to become a minor landed endowment of a distant church (this develops the point made by Keith Bailey in his excellent analysis of the Old English bounds of Lambeth for the Vauxhall Society). But what about is its earlier history? Is there any evidence for pre-eleventh-century Lambeth that might explain the remarkable number of coins found on its foreshore?

Frisian proto-penny from Lambeth (PAS Unique ID LON-F000B2) –

Up until now, the answer to the above questions would have been a flat no. However, there is a cryptic piece of documentary evidence which opens up the possibility that the reverse may be true. In her Charters of St Paul’s, London (2004, 6 note 15), Susan Kelly makes the novel suggestion that the ten-hide moiety of Lambeth that formed the home estate of the collegiate church of St Mary’s, Lambeth was descended from the ten hides “iuxta portam Londoniae ubi naues applicant super idem flumen in meridiane parte iuxta uiam publicum” given by Frithuwald, Mercian subregulus of Surrey, to Chertsey and its founding abbot Earconwald circa 670 x 675 by means of S 1165. With the earliest coins from Lambeth dating from around the same time as the date of the grant, Kelly’s idea should be given much more credit than it has received to date.

The most recent published works that have offered interpretations of the reference have persisted with the idea that the parcel of land lay on the northern side of the Thames, i.e. on the same side as Lundenwic. Maddicott (2005, 11-12) makes a less-than-compelling case for the “uiam publicum” to be the Roman road on the line of today’s Oxford Street, after conceding that a literal reading of the above clause “seems to point to a second port area on the south bank of the river, opposite Lundenwic”; Brown (2008, 54) likewise claims the land lay on the north side of the river, based upon a partial reading of the same, admittedly ambiguous, evidence.

A long time ago (well, 1980) in an article I’ve just discovered is available to read online, Tony Dyson suggested Frithuwald’s land grant was in the area subsequently occupied by Southwark. His proposal is well argued, to the point where his note and rejection of Lambeth as a possible alternative location (Dyson 1980, 85) would be convincing were it not for one major flaw. At the time Dyson was writing, the site of Lundenwic in the area around The Strand had not been identified as the “port of London” referred to in the charter, so he took it to refer to the old Roman city. We now know that the walled area was substantially deserted with the vast majority of the trading activity taking place to its west across the Fleet River.

While this does not in itself make the case for Lambeth more or less convincing, Dyson’s obvious difficulties in reconciling the dearth of archaeological evidence within the old city walls and at Southwark on the one hand and the sporadic documentary references to pre-Viking “London” on the other (Dyson 1980, 90) are alleviated if we set the S 1165 reference within the contemporary archaeological picture and thus look west to the true site of Lundenwic and thence a short distance further upstream to the opposite bank of the river for the Chertsey endowment.

One piece of evidence that hasn’t been mentioned in any of the foregoing works is that the Old English bounds of Lambeth refer to “the street”. According to Bailey this is equivalent to the London to Brighton-area Roman road, though Stane Street to Chichester runs through the area also. It is far from incredible that one of these Roman roads could have been the “public way” referred to in the land grant, although, if the ten hides of S 1165 were the same as the collegiate church estate in 1066, it would be impossible for the “street” mentioned in S 1036 to be the seventh century “uiam publicum“. One other option is that it was the access way to a ford across the Thames between what became Lambeth and Westminster, whose possible post-Roman existence was rejected by Dyson (1980, 85) but has since found favour with Brown (2008, 54). Without doubt, any kind of pre-existing road access to the shoreline would have facilitated the development of a port-like facility at Lambeth.

Among the several important features of the Chertsey charter reference is its clear statement that the “port of London” was in existence in the early 670s (something which has now been proven beyond all doubt by archaeology; Lyn Blackmore’s paper acts as a useful primer on the subject and her more recent work has added to the picture). It is with this in mind that one can begin to offer suggestions for why the ten hides should have been granted to Chertsey. Dyson’s article, though based on the erroneous premise that the endowment consisted of the island(s) which later became Southwark, does contain the only published analysis of why the monastery should have received the property and much of it can be retained for the purposes of this piece (Dyson 1980, 89). Let us begin with the following observation:

“to a far-sighted monastic sponsor it might well be obvious that as the city’s prosperity developed it would increase the value of such a holding with it, either as a source of rents or as a base for commercial activity by the abbey itself, twenty miles upstream.”

He then proceeds to proffer the name of this “sponsor”; Eorcenwald, first abbot of the monastery at Chertsey established under the auspices of Ecgberht of Kent in the 660s (though perhaps on the site of a much earlier ecclesiastical foundation). More importantly, he was, as Dyson puts it, the “addressee” of S 1165. Eorcenwald became Bishop of London in 675, and Surrey probably was included the diocese at this time. Texts of papal bulls or privileges from the pontificate of Agatho (678×81) survive for St Paul’s and Chertsey, both addressed to “Bishop Earconwald” and in the case of the latter “nunc abbati monasterii de Certeseg“, too (Haddan & Stubbs 1871, 161-62), indicating he retained the abbacy after his elevation.

Within the three decades 660-90, the control of Surrey passed from Kent to Mercia (as per S 1165) and from Mercia to Wessex (see S 23512461248) yet, just as he was able to retain the abbacy of Chertsey in the wake of the Mercian seizure of Surrey, there is no record of Eorcenwald being dispossessed of his episcopate at any time between 675 and his death circa 693. Instead, it seems he was able to move between and counsel the rulers of the kingdoms competing for regional supremacy without issue (hence his key role in the formulation of the law code of Ine of Wessex).

As a key player in the political and religious life of the region in the late-seventh century, there could have been few ecclesiastics better placed than Eorcenwald not merely to witness the growth of Lundenwic and the wealth-generating opportunities it brought but more to the point to realise a way of ensuring the distant monastery at Chertsey could benefit from this. To this end, it could be argued that S 1247, a 678 grant and confirmation by Eorcenwald as bishop of privileges and land held by Chertsey, whose reputation Susan Kelly has gone a long way towards rehabilitating, demonstrates how he continued to use his power and influence after his elevation to St Paul’s to safeguard and strengthen the interests of his own monastic foundation.

Most accounts of the trading activity that took place in wics mention the levying of tolls as a means by which the royal authorities who controlled them could raise revenue. That said, much of the direct documentary evidence, from the eighth century at least, concerns the toll exemptions granted to particular monasteries. The extant charters granting such rights were the subject of an excellent article by Susan Kelly and the evidence was revisited a few years ago with greater reference made to potentially-relevant later material by Neil Middleton (Kelly 1992; Middleton 2005). One element of Kelly’s study is that of great interest here is the twelfth-century benefaction list from Worcester which just might remember “an existing…immunity” within Lundenwic that may be associated in some way with a two-ship toll exemption granted to it by King Æthelbald of Mercia in the 740s (Kelly 1992, 12; S 98).

If a distant church and community could hold a ?toll-exempt property in Lundenwic in the eighth century, surely there is no overriding reason why S 1165 should not record the foundation-laying for an analogous Chertsey trading base across the river at what would become Lambeth. Referring back to Brookes’ comment on the likelihood of a trading settlement operating so close to the massive wic, it can indeed be envisaged that Chertsey controlled a separate landing-place a short distance upstream where monetary transactions were conducted (and butter-fingered merchants let tiny proto-pennies slip through their fingers and into the water or the sand and stones on the shore). There is no evidence that the monastery possessed toll exemptions at Lambeth, but it must be considered a very strong possibility in order to explain the number and date-range of coins so implicit of commercial activity.

So, if Chertsey’s “trading concession” at Lambeth points to the situation being more complex than previously believed, can the evidence from other sites along the Surrey riverbank be (re)interpreted in the same way? Three proto-pennies were found in the course of excavations on the site of the monastery at Bermondsey, which were part of a Middle Anglo-Saxon-period assemblage indicating “widespread activity in the mid Saxon period” (Gaimster et al 1988, 186). There is every reason to connect these artefacts with the monastery at Bermondsey recorded in a papal privilege of 708 x 715 which freed the abbot from from episcopal interference in, among other things, “the management of the monastic property” (Kelly 2009, 361-63). However, while the presence of coins indicates monetary transactions took place here, is it a leap too far to suppose they such exchanges were made in a water-side trading area independent of Lundenwic?

Other possible Thames-side trading places

The economic significance of Anglo-Saxon monasteries has been much-discussed by archaeologists and historians, and on occasion arguments have been put forward (perhaps a little over-optimistically) for some “productive sites” to represent lost monastic sites. The suggested affiliation of Bermondsey (and its sister house Woking) with the major Mercian monastery of Medeshamstede has been questioned in recent years (Kelly 2009, 67-78) but, from a strategic point of view, the position of the former hard by Lundenwic would have afforded the latter a valuable outlet for international trading activity. (The same may be even more applicable to Hoo in Kent, situated on the Medway close to its confluence with the Thames, another monastic house with a documentary connection – albeit a dubious one – to Medeshamstede.)

Looking beneath Southwark Bridge towards St Mary Overie (look hard and you can spot its central tower) - an early riverside nunnery?

Looking towards Southwark – a burh and an early riverside nunnery (on the site of St Mary Overie, just visible in the centre of the picture) before that?

Nearby Southwark has been claimed as a possible riverside “productive site” by Ben Palmer (2003, 53) but the two proto-pennies he cited in support of this are finds from the Bermondsey excavations. The tremissis, thrymsa and proto-penny that are recorded from Southwark could be interpreted as casual losses, but equally they may attest to shoreline trading activity associated with an adjacent pre-Viking, pre-burghal monastery. The origins of what became the priory church of St Mary Overie are shrouded in mystery (see summary in Blair 1991, 101-102). The only insight is provided by its garbled foundation legend as told to the sixteenth-century topographer of London, John Stow, by the last Prior of St Mary’s, Southwark. Most dismiss it as of no historical value (e.g. Brown 2008, 54) but for several years I have been inclined to view it more positively. Re-reading Stow’s words (1908, 56) in light of the above, the following jumped out at me:

“unto the which house and sisters [the foundress “Mary”] left (as was left to her by her parents) the ouersight and profites of a Crosse ferrie or trauerse ferrie ouer the Thames, there kept before that any bridge was builded.”

One optimistic interpretation of the above is that it does not recall a cross-river ferry but a toll exemption on a ship, perhaps accorded to an abbess who was a scion of one of the royal houses of the period. Like I say, very optimistic, but not without precedent (see, for instance, S 86).

Finally, the two coins listed under Battersea are noted as having been found on the Thames foreshore “just downstream from a settlement apparently of about the same date” (Metcalf 1986, 3; also Cowie and Blackmore 2008, 101-105). Here, however, another monastery-cum-trading-place need not be posited, for it is known Battersea was a part of (if not the eponym for) a massive estate apparently gifted to the nunnery at Barking in the 680s (S 1248). Barking was a significant locus of internationally-linked mercantile activity in the middle Anglo-Saxon centuries (see summary of finds in Palmer 2003, 52-53 – it is interesting to note the assemblage is of a vastly superior quality to that from Bermondsey) and Battersea, with no tradition of being a minster-like church in its own right, was more credibly a settlement at the level below the nunnery in the productive and exchange networks of the Lower Thames-North Sea region (see Cowie and Blackmore 2008, 105, for comment on the economic connections of Battersea in the 8th and 9th centuries). On the face of it, the coins from Battersea look little different from Putney but the description of the partially-excavated settlement as “domestic” (Cowie and Blackmore 2008, 105, again) suggests it did not entirely owe its existence to being a landing-place and this may account for the retention of its topographical name rather than replacement with one containing hyth.

Looking east along the Thames foreshore at Battersea. St Mary’s church is in the centre; the site of middle Anglo-Saxon settlement at Althorpe Grove is a short distance to the south.

An inland empire?

The fame of Earconwald and Chertsey, as attested by Bede’s mention of both in his Ecclesiastical History, are surely the most credible explanation for the concentration of proto-pennies in Lambeth, some of them foreign-minted (and so logically brought there by foreign merchants). Can the same be said of any other such concentrations in Surrey? In two cases there may be grounds for answering this question in the affirmative. The first is Effingham, where three recently discovered proto-pennies of the period 680 x 710 – whose circumstances of discovery point to them possibly comprising a small hoard – join a continental-minted Series E example as possible testifiers to a “productive site” within the parochial area (although it must be noted that PAS does not give the provenances as lying in the same OS grid square).

The basis for making a connection between these coins (especially the foreign proto-penny) and Chertsey takes the shape of Effingham’s three appearances in charters from the monastery’s pre-Conquest archive: S 1181420 and 1035. For years I’ve sided with David Dumville in taking a very sceptical view of the ability of these charters to tell us anything meaningful about the full spread of Chertsey’s pre-850 landholdings (Dumville 1992), but now I’m starting to reconsider this position and find myself ebbing inexorably towards the more positive attitude outlined in published essays by Alexander Rumble (1976) and Robin Fleming (1985). In terms of Effingham, little much more can be added, though one might care to note it is an Old English -ingahām place-name, comparatively rare in Surrey, which was applied to a hundred (sometime half-hundred – its meeting-place was at Standard Hill south-west of the present village).

Primary proto-penny from Effingham, one of three “deposited together” according to the expert Treasure report (PAS Unique ID SUR-A2BCF7) –

Artefactually, the claim of West Clandon parish a few miles west of Effingham to be host to a “productive site” is more straightforward, with four proto-pennies – three continental and one Northumbrian in origin – and two pin-heads of around the same date (SUR-0108C1 and SUR-127FD3), all stemming from a single OS grid square bisected by the A246 heading west towards Merrow. On the other hand, the charter material in its present form is less accommodating. East Clandon is a recurrent feature of the Chertsey charters that incorporate lists of its purported estates, whereas the first real evidence for the monastery’s tenurial association with West Clandon comes in the mid-eleventh century when two hides were taken from it and grafted onto its easterly namesake (S 1035 – the incidental detail concerning the circumstances of this transfer support the idea of it being rooted in fact). Whatever its tenure in the late Anglo-Saxon period, the existence of two parishes with a shared name strongly suggests they were divisions of an earlier whole (as per Blair 1991, 33), one which might – and here I stress might – point to antecedent unitary ownership by Chertsey; East Clandon was, after all, the larger of the posited two divisions.

Proto-penny, probably minted at Domburg circa 700×715, found at West Clandon (PAS Unique ID SUR-600123) –

Both of the suggested “productive sites” (or should that be “productive parishes”?) lie on the dip-slope of the North Downs. More precisely, they are close to the line of what would seem to have been an important east-west route along the spring-line marked by the present A246. Activity at the West Clandon site may have been at an early crossroads, if the Roman branch road from Stane Street to Farley Heath continued north over the downs and on towards the London-Silchester road near Wickham Bushes, as has been suggested on occasion (e.g. Bird 2004, 46). Effingham, too, may have been on a north-south route between the Thames valley and North Downs. As nodal points with wider terrestrial connections in all directions, these would have been more readily accessed by locals and non-locals alike (although there are cause-or-effect issues to consider in positing this).

What is more certain is that the two proto-penny hotspots owe their existence to the suitability of the adjacent gently-sloping chalk downs for sheep farming. According to the Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names (page 140), Clandon comes from Old English clǣne-dūn, “clean, clear upland”, and stemmed from “the smoothness of the chalk downs” here – from which it can be inferred that the ground in question was open as a result of large-scale grazing. Pastoralism is believed to have grown in scale and importance on the chalklands of south-east England in the post-Roman period (e.g. Gardiner 2011, 109), and the wool and cloth produced ostensibly drew coin-carrying foreign merchants to non-coastal regions for purposes of direct trade (Saywer 2013, 60, 72). Again, the reputation of Chertsey and its abbot(s) was perhaps the lure needed to attract such traders inland from Lundenwic/Lambeth.

It may be permissible to view these coin-rich sites as part of a sophisticated trading network, perhaps established the auspices of Earconwald during his time as abbot, and centred on the two nodes of Lambeth, the entrepot and shop-front for the ovine produce of the monastic estates to the south, and Chertsey, where a very early eighth-century proto-penny of Frisian origin has been found (though not necessarily on or close to the lost site of Frithuwald’s foundation). The surviving Roman road network and local routes, as well as the Thames, were used to transport produce from the dip-slope estates to the monastery’s ?toll-exempt trading centre on the Thames (as well as to provision the monastery) and to lead foreign merchants south to “meet the producer”, to adopt the parlance of farmers’ markets.

It is tempting to seek one or more Chertsey-linked inland trading site on the dip-slope or downs to the east of the Mole. Here was a concentration of estates claimed by the monastery via various charters antedating the Norman Conquest. Among these is Chipstead, an Old English place-name which means “place where a market is held” (CDEPN, 136). Its centrality within the bloc of purported Chertsey estates hereabouts was noted by Rumble (1976, 175) but unfortunately, as yet, no proto-pennies or other early medieval antiquities have been reported from the parish. Another possibility is Ewell, site of a Roman roadside settlement on Stane Street and the provenance of a number of early Anglo-Saxon burials and artefacts. It would have offered a direct route between the North Downs and the Thames, and so it is interesting to note a foreign proto-penny has been reported to PAS from a location in or near East Ewell (see below).

Note might also be taken of the connections between Thunderfield in the Horley-Gatwick area close to the Sussex border and some of the monastery’s supposed East Surrey estates (explicitly Sutton – see internal references in S 420, 752 – and indirectly Merstham, for which see S 528). Dennis Turner (1997) and more recently Roger Ellaby (2004) have analysed the documentary evidence relating to Thunderfield and both accept an underlying veracity to the Chertsey charter references. Ellaby is more overt in arguing for the connection between the monastery and Thunderfield to go back to the eighth or even late-seventh century (2004, 88-89) and the proto-pennies from Charlwood and Horley may lend some archaeological credence to this, as well as suggesting a much earlier commencement of the commercial exploitation of this part of the Weald than is usually argued for. Here, however, the livestock in question were more likely cattle and/or pigs rather than sheep, a timely reminder that the pastoral side of the Chertsey economy (and the wealth that came with it) stretched to more than sheep alone.

Continental proto-penny from East Ewell area (PAS Unique ID SUR-B779E4) –

However one reads the above evidence and the suggestions arising from it, a solitary coin does not a “productive site” maketh, hence caution must be exercised so as not to apportion too much significance to similar isolated finds with a Chertsey connection (e.g. Egham, Henley; note too that a coin-less “productive site” has been partially excavated a few miles upstream from the monastery at Dorney – Foreman, Hiller and Petts 2002). By the same token, there is no need to assume that Chertsey had the monopoly on the internationally-linked trade in wool, cloth and other locally-produced goods.

The coins from Godstone derive from a location that has already been described in print as a “productive site” (‘Coin Register 2000’, 161, 167). When it was subject to the Time Team treatment a few years ago, the conclusion that was reached, on the basis of its much more prominent Roman-period artefacts, was that it represents the site of seasonal fairs or markets held alongside the London to Brighton-area Roman road (thereby giving it a direct link to the Lambeth vicinity). This time-depth arguably sets it apart from those sites in which the evidence overwhelmingly points to the hand of Chertsey as the instigator of the activity/activities which caused coins to be used and lost, though its nodality (being at or close to the intersection with the scarp-foot route remembered by the modern A25) is something Godstone shared with them. The two proto-pennies from Wanborough (found in the same area as a swastika-shaped fitting of 550 x 700 date) might attest to a trading site covering the Hog’s Back ridge and environs, though again the evidence is too meagre to warrant the application of the term “productive site”.

New coins, new clusters

Before concluding, I would like to make a couple of other observations on the chronological and spatial patterns of the later, post-sceatta coins listed in my provisional list. A sudden drop in proto-penny usage/loss (no pun intended) circa 750 has been discerned from the nation-wide data (Sawyer 2013, 76) and in their place came coins bearing the names of the rulers who issued them. We can see their emergence in Surrey primarily under the auspices of Offa, seemingly mirroring the contemporary political situation, and continuing into the first quarter of the ninth century. What is notable is the lack of congruence between those sites which have yielded proto-pennies and ones where the new-style pennies have been found. Not a single example is known from Effingham, West Clandon or – most remarkably – Lambeth.

Instead, new sites emerge as the find-spots of multiple examples of the new types of coinage. The four pennies of the period 770-825 recorded as being from Guildford may in fact derive from a site near Shalford that is the known provenance of two Offan issues; even if their find-spots are more dispersed, it still points to a focus of sustained late-eighth and early-ninth century activity in the Guildford Gap, a place devoid of proto-pennies as things stand. The same may be true of the two ends of the Mole Gap. At Leatherhead, the two known Mercian coins of the period 765-805 come from a site that also yielded a brace of Iron Age coins and halfpennies of Cnut and Stephen (‘Coin Register 1993’, 144, 149, 151, 154). The trio of coins from the Dorking area suggest a similar refocusing of trading and/or toll-collecting activity – a connection between this and the enormous “Dorking hoard” concealed in the early 860s may not be out of the question.

How best to explain this contrasting localised distribution? Were the likes of Guildford/Shalford and Leatherhead the Mercian-imposed successors to the “productive sites” at West Clandon and Effingham? If we return to Offa as the possible catalyst for this change, we may note his remarkable interest in monastic houses dedicated to St Peter (explored by Kelly 2009, 17, 73). In S 127 he is to be found confirming the privileges held by Chertsey, but did this come at an undocumented cost to the house, namely the removal both in a financial and locational sense of its competence over lucrative sheep farming-based commercial activity? Further comparative research (which in my case shall commence with reading Rory Naismith’s monograph, Money and Power in Anglo-Saxon England: The Southern English Kingdoms, 757-865) should be able to determine the answers to the above.

Offan penny found at Shalford (PAS Unique ID SUR-00E794) -

Offan penny found at Shalford (PAS Unique ID SUR-00E794) –

The other matter I wanted to touch upon as a means of posing future research questions for others to attempt to answer (though no doubt I will succumb to temptation and have a stab myself) is the resumption in coin losses at Lambeth circa 825. From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles it is known that 825 was the year in which King Egbert of Wessex retook control of Surrey (as well as Kent, Sussex and Essex) from Mercia. It could be that, as Lundenwic entered its final spiral of decline, Lambeth resumed being an independent (or maybe semi-independent) trading area owned and operated by the monastery at Chertsey under licence from the West Saxon royal house, although there is no extant documentary testimony for this. To judge from the numismatics, renewed trading activity endured through the middle decades of the ninth century before coming to an abrupt halt in the 870s – around the same time as the monastery at Chertsey was subject to a raid in which allegedly many of the monastic community were killed (Blair 1989, 235) and the end of the settlement at Battersea for perhaps the same reason (Cowie and Blackmore 2008, 105).

Corollary to this renewed hiatus in the coin assemblage from Lambeth is a spike in the number of coins post-dating the end of the ninth century found at Southwark, as if the foundation of the burh there (first named as the Suthringa geweorc, “defensive work of the people of Surrey”) led to a re-siting – or enforced concentration – of riverside trading activity on the south bank of the Thames. As mentioned previously, the earliest coins from the Southwark area do not conjure up images of a thriving pre-Viking trading centre, but the recovery of no fewer than four pennies of the period 899×955 would tally with the functioning of a newly-established burghal bridgehead settlement. On the face of it, this would have left no room for Lambeth, but it should be remembered that our knowledge of certain events that took place at Lambeth in the middle decades of the eleventh century is not matched by the numismatics, which are lacking prior to the later 1080s. As a result, we should not be too hasty to construct a historical narrative around the artefactual evidence known at the present time – the discovery of a couple of coins of, say, early to mid-ninth century date at Southwark would throw a spanner in the works of the above. Nonetheless, there is a clear trend in the current county dataset which correlates well with the documentary sources, and this will be enriched and/or modified as new coin finds are reported in the future.

Concluding thoughts

What has all of the above taught us? On a very basic level, that Surrey was not anumismatic (okay, I definitely made that word up) but corresponds to the uneven distribution patterns of Anglo-Saxon coinage identified in other, supposedly more coin-rich counties. While large parts of the county are devoid of reported coins of the period (in contrast to the near-ubiquity of Roman-period coinage), there are more examples than I anticipated when embarking on this piece of research. What is more, the county dataset exhibits clearer chronological and spatial patterning than I believed would exist and this has allowed the tentative identification of a number of “productive sites” and Thames-side landing places at which monetary transactions took place.

With its prodigious quantities of proto-pennies (as well as coins of the period circa 825-75), Lambeth stands head and shoulders above all other such sites in the county and so demands special explanation for why it should be the site of such a large concentration of early coins. The ability to integrate the aforementioned with a hitherto inadequately-explained seventh-century charter reference and the meaning of the place-name completes a circle and thereafter allows the proposition of a model of an interconnected, hierarchical trading network established and operated by the major monastery of Chertsey. Other monastic houses existed in Surrey at the time and undoubtedly were at some level involved in surplus production, but there is no equivalent evidence for their playing such a (pro)active part in internationally-connected commercial activity. That said, Putney and Rotherhithe may have been monastic enterprises in which Chertsey played no part; the proximity of the latter to Bermondsey may be telling.

The concept of a major monastic house generating concentrations of lost proto-pennies away from its main site is something I have not encountered (or else cannot remember encountering) in discussions of “productive sites” and certainly should act as a corrective to the notion that a concentration of coins and other metal artefacts = an undocumented monastic site (or even the site of permanent structures as might be expected at an “estate centre”). I cannot see how equivalent work in other counties would not turn up correspondences with the Surrey evidence outlined above and perhaps in turn refine the arguments that have been presented here. Certainly, after decades of talk about “productive sites” and no end of specialist analyses of the coins and other artefacts deriving from them, we are scarcely any nearer to understanding the physical forms they took and why they occupy the locations they do.

Finally, this piece of research has allowed me to realise a long-held ambition to contribute in a modest way to readjusting a gross imbalance between the advanced archaeological (and to a lesser extent historical) assessments of money-based commercial activity in the middle Anglo-Saxon period on the one hand and the use place-name experts have made of such scholarship on the other. It is incredible – to the point of being infuriating – that the latter have failed to take on board this now-massive corpus of research, despite the impossibility that, save for a few coastal wic-names, new trading practices were not reflected in (and perhaps occasionally altered) the vocabulary of contemporary place-names. The evidence for hyth having come into vogue at much the same time as proto-pennies began to be circulated and exchanged along the lower Thames is meagre but nonetheless suggestive and merits further research, encompassing the place-names containing the element on the Middlesex and Kentish banks of the river. Unless researchers start to consider all forms of evidence when assessing a particular place, name or phenomenon, they will go on missing things which to all intents and purposes are staring them in the face.

Footnote: By way of comparison, the number of Anglo-Saxon-era spear-heads calendared by Swanton (1975) as having been found at the following coin-yielding locations respectively bearing and not bearing hyth place-names are: Putney (4), Lambeth (1), Rotherhithe (0); Kingston (8), Battersea (5), Wandsworth (4), Kew (2), Southwark (1), Bermondsey (0). I’m not going to venture an explanation for these figures nor seek to correlate them chronologically with the numismatic data; I’ll leave that for someone else to try (but please report back to me if you do – it’s always good to get a dialogue going!)

REFERENCES (hyperlinked where available online for free)

Abdy, Richard (ed.), ‘Coin Register 2000’, British Numismatic Journal, 70 (2000), 154-68

Bird, David, Roman Surrey (Stroud: Tempus, 2004)

Blair, John, ‘The Chertsey resting-place list and the enshrinement of Frithuwold’ in The Origins of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, ed. by Steven Bassett (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1989), 231-36

Blair, John, Early Medieval Surrey: Landholding, Church and Settlement before 1300 (Stroud and Guildford: Alan Sutton and SyAS, 1991)

Brookes, Stuart, ‘The Archaeology of Inland Markets, Fairs and ‘Productive Sites’ c.650-850″, Worcester College, Oxford, 15th-17th December 2000′, Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, 12 (2001), 124-27

Brown, Tony, ʻAfter the Romans: was there a Saxon Southwark?ʼ, in Londinium and Beyond: Essays on Roman London and its hinterland for Harvey Sheldon, ed. by John Clark, Jonathan Cotton, Jenny Hall, Roz Sherris & Hedley Swain, Council for British Archaeology [CBA] Research Report, 156 (York: CBA, 2008), 54-58

Cowie, Robert, and Lyn Blackmore, Early and Middle Saxon rural settlement in the London region, Museum of London Archaeology Service [MoLAS] Monograph, 41 (London: MoLAS, 2008)

Dumville, D. N., ‘Ecclesiastical lands and the defence of Wessex in the first Viking-Age’ in Wessex and England from Alfred to Edgar, ed. by Dumville (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1992), 29-54

Dyson, Tony, ‘London and Southwark in the 7th century and later: a neglected reference’, Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, 31 (1980), 83-95

Ellaby, Roger, ‘Erbridge and the Merstham denns in Horley’, Surrey Archaeological Collections, 91 (2004), 71-92

Fleming, Robin, ‘Monastic Lands and England’s Defence in the Viking Age’, English Historical Review, 100 (1985), 247–65

Foreman, S., J. Hiller and D. Petts, Gathering the people, settling the land: The Archaeology of a Middle Thames Landscape, Anglo-Saxon to post-medieval, Thames Valley Landscapes Monograph, 14 (Oxford: Oxford Archaeological Unit, 2002)

Gaimster, David R. M., Sue Margeson and Terry Barry, ʻMedieval Britain and Ireland in 1988ʼ, Medieval Archaeology, 33 (1989), 161-241

Gardiner, Mark, ‘South-East England: Forms and Diversity in Medieval Rural Settlement’ in Medieval Settlement: Britain and Ireland, 800-1600, ed. by Neil Christie and Paul Stamper (Oxford: Windgather Press, 2012), 100-117

Gelling, Margaret, and Ann Cole, The Landscape of Place-Names (Stamford: Shaun Tyas, 2000)

Haddan, Arthur West, and William Stubbs, eds., Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents relating to Great Britain and Ireland, 3 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1871)

Kelly, Susan, ‘Trading privileges from eighth-century England’, Early Medieval Europe, 1.1 (1992), 3-28

Kelly, Susan E. (ed.), Charters of St Paul’s, London, Anglo-Saxon Charters, 10 (Oxford: Oxford University Press [OUP] for The British Academy, 2004)

Kelly, Susan E. (ed.), Charters of Peterborough Abbey, Anglo-Saxon Charters, 14 (Oxford: OUP for The British Academy, 2009)

Maddicott, J. R., ‘London and Droitwich, c. 650–750: trade, industry and the rise of Mercia’, Anglo-Saxon England, 34 (2005), 7-58

Metcalf, D. M., ʻSome finds of thrymsas and sceattas in Englandʼ, British Numismatic Journal, 56 (1986), 1-15

Middleton, Neil, ‘Early medieval port customs, tolls and controls on foreign trade’, Early Medieval Europe, 13.4 (2005), 313-58

Mills, A. D., A Dictionary of British Place-Names (Oxford: OUP, 2011)

Palmer, Ben, ‘The Hinterlands of Three Southern English Emporia: Some Common Themes’ in Markets in Early Medieval Europe: Trading and ‘productive’ sites, 650-800 T, ed. by Katharina Ulmschneider and Tim Pestell (Macclesfield: Windgather Press, 2003), 48-60

Rumble, Alexander R., Place-names and their context; With special regard to the Croydon Survey Region (Croydon: Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society, 1976)

Sawyer, Peter, The Wealth of Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford: OUP, 2013)

Stow, John, A Survey of London: Reprinted from the Text of 1603, 2 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1908)

Swanton, M. J., A Corpus of Pagan Anglo-Saxon Spear-Types, British Archaeological Reports [BAR] British Series, 7 (Oxford: BAR, 1974)

Turner, Dennis, ‘Thunderfield, Surrey – Central place or Shieling’, Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Report, 12 (1997), 8-10

Various, ʻCoin Register 1993ʼ, British Numismatic Journal, 63 (1993), 133-58

Watts, Victor, The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)

2 Responses to Coins, cloth and Chertsey: towards an understanding of trade and trading networks in Surrey, circa 650-900

  1. Pingback: From Eliopoleos to Sunbury-on-Thames, and the mystery of ‘sunnan hyg’ | Surrey Medieval

  2. Pingback: The “missing” Early Anglo-Saxon burials of historic North-East Surrey: bodies in the Thames? | Surrey Medieval

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s