The “Surrey Fens” causeways

I’m not sure if it is actually possible to write a 13-page essay unintentionally, but it pretty much explains the genesis of this paper. A presentation in which an “early” (i.e. tenth or early-eleventh century) date was proposed for two causeways crossing the floodplain of the River Wey near Old Woking and Pyrford in Surrey sparked a dim recollection of an Anglo-Saxon charter relating to nearby Send. Some Googling on my iPhone led to the promise of an email explaining the muniment (which had turned out to be an Old English memorandum). Soon the email had expanded into a detailed contemplation of Archbishop/St Dunstan’s approach to the management of the estates belonging to his churches, or those which he favoured, and over the course of several months it became a topic too large for one essay.

The Surrey Fens Causeways July 2012

The one posted here, now weighing in at an even beefier 20 pages (making it comfortably the longest piece of work I have posted to date), relates primarily to the causeways and a holistic assessment of the evidence for the date(s) of their construction. It goes earlier than previous incarnations, first into the mid-Saxon period in order to acknowledge a number of case studies from elsewhere in England, and then back even further to consider what if any relationship there was between the causeways and votive depositions (which I think I have mentioned before is something of an “on trend” topic in early medieval studies right now). For months now I’ve been promising myself that I would put this study to bed and upload it, only to discover a new work germane to some element of the analysis, or to think of another angle from which to view the topic. However, I think I can safely say that while I could never have hoped to cover everything of relevance to what I have written, I have done more than enough to be in a position now to disseminate my findings and then leave it up to others to take it further (or to dismantle what I have argued!)

Inevitably, there is some thematic overlap with the subject matter of the proposed second essay, which looks at “what happened next” after St Dunstan bought an estate at Send (almost certainly commensurate with the medieval parish) around the year 968, a purchase recorded in a memorandum (Sawyer 1447) preserved in the archive of Westminster Abbey. The core of this new paper will be paragraphs extracted from earlier versions of the one above, including that disseminated via the SyAS Medieval Studies Forum email newsletter no. 7, which was referenced by Dennis Turner in his recently-published paper ‘The village of Ripley: a possible morphological history’, SyAC volume 96 (2011), 257-61. (For anyone desperate to see this first incarnation, email me and I’ll send you a copy.) In attempting to identify the ecclesiastical recipient of Send, I will examine Dunstan’s acquisition of estates in south-east England and beyond in the latter half of the tenth century through the numerous references found in the charter and other documentary material, something which as far as I am aware has not been attempted before. My focus will nevertheless be first and foremost on Send and Surrey, and the hint it gives that, contrary to what might be expected, landholdings acquired by ecclesiastical lords could be sold or lost just as easily as ones in lay ownership. All being well, I hope not only to upload the finished essay here within the next couple of months, but also to submit a shortened version for consideration for publication in a forthcoming edition of the journal Surrey History.

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