A Saxon angle on the “British” weala-tun

This is another paper that’s been a long time coming – or more accurately a long time on hiatus – originally intended for distribution with a future SyAS Medieval Studies Forum newsletter (hence the rather breezy tone of the opening couple of paragraphs). As the reader might gather from the introduction, there are long-overdue winds of change blowing through the subject matter, and I hope this may act as a county-level contribution to the emerging re-evaluation of place-names containing Old English w(e)ala, as well as the stimulus for further debate in Surrey.

***I’VE REMOVED THE PAPER AS SUBSEQUENT RESEARCH HAS SHOWN A COUPLE OF KEY PIECES OF EVIDENCE USED TO CONSTRUCT THE ARGUMENT ARE NOT AS THEY SEEMED TO ME AT THE TIME OF WRITING. THIS IS A TEMPORARY MEASURE AND I AIM TO HAVE AN AMENDED VERSION UPLOADED HERE BEFORE LONG. IN THE MEANTIME, IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN MY RESEARCH ON THIS TOPIC, PLEASE EMAIL ME AT SURREYMEDIEVAL.BLOG@GMAIL.COM FOR A COPY OF A PRESENTATION I GAVE AT THE 2015 LEEDS INTERNATIONAL MEDIEVAL CONGRESS***

There’s one more reference I was unable to incorporate within the body of the essay but is worth mentioning, if only for my own peace of mind. In her discussion of the early Anglo-Saxon context and importance of Eastry in Kent, the late Sonia Chadwick Hawkes (1979, 97) wrote the following:

“[O]ne wonders whether the group of Walton names just north of the village derive from Old English W(e)ala tun, a settlement of Britons, who perhaps played a role, presumably mainly servile, in the economy of the royal vill.”

Because Hawkes’ article was published the year before Kenneth Cameron’s extensive analysis of Old English walh, the associated footnote references A. H. Smith’s account of the term from volume 2 of his landmark English Place-Name Elements. This may at first be thought of as a considerable drawback, but in fact it makes it seem closer to current thinking than much scholarship published during the intervening three decades (keeping on the Kentish theme, a good example of the latter is Stuart Brookes’ cautious connection of place-names like Walton to “surviving Romano-British communities” (Brookes 2010, 79). Hawkes’ words may embody the not-infrequently encountered “fence-sitting” position, yet they constitute a more practical, contextual contemplation of the meaning of such place-names than may be found in many more recent works.

REFERENCES

Sonia Chadwick Hawkes, ‘Eastry in Anglo-Saxon Kent: its Importance, and a newly-found Grave’, Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History, 1 [BAR British Series, 72] (Oxford: BAR, 1979), 81-102

Stuart Brookes, ‘Population Ecology and Multiple Estate Formation: The Evidence from Eastern Kent’, in The Landscape Archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England, Publications of the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies, 9 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2010), 65-82

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