BRANSCOMBE TIMELINES

Before 1000 AD

 


 

 

-5000

About this time, Britain becomes an island as melting ice raises ocean levels, and forms the English Channel.

 

-800

Start of Iron Age in Britain (to 43A.D.)

 

-55

Julius Caesar lands in Kent, and lays the foundation for 400 years of Roman occupation.

 

-54

Julius Caesar again invades Kent, but is forced to retire to the Continent.

 

43

The emperor Claudius sends legions to invade Britain, beginning the Roman occupation proper. The first Governor is Aulus Plautius (to 47).

 

47

Autumn: Romans complete the southern terminus of the Fosse Way at Axmouth.

 

`Between Axmouth and Seaton was the site of the Roman station of Moridunum, from which the Romans carried their great Fosse Way inland to Lincoln, keeping almost parallel with the ridge road along the chalk downs, and the Cotswold Hills.'[1] 

 

`Moridunum, a settlement near Branscombe..i.Branscombe:- village;, is tentatively placed on the Roman road between Exeter and London, in the area of Sidford.'[2]

More recent archaeological research has speculated the site of the ‘lost’ Moridunum is at Woodbury Farm, south-east of Axminster:

‘The area scheduled as a monument in 1988 takes the form of an eroded rectangular earthwork enclosing an area of approximately 2ha with modern farm buildings encroaching into the NE corner. Excavation evidence prior to the construction of a swimming pool adjacent to the modern farm house within the enclosure (Silvester and Bidwell 1984) and the watching brief during the insertion of the SWW water main (Weddell 1991 and Simpson 1993) revealed the presence of a first century Roman fort, a well preserved Roman road and suggested extensive extra mural activity. The location of the site at the apparent confluence of two Roman roads (the Fosse Way and the Dorchester to Exeter Road - Silvester and Bidwell 1984 - Fig 1, Margary 1973) has led to the suggestion that the Roman site at Woodbury may well have developed into a villa or posting station (mansio) and indeed it is this latter interpretation that is adopted by Silvester and Bidwell (1984). The discovery of a variety of Roman features during the insertion of both the SWW water main (Simpson 1993) and the 1992 slurry disposal pipe reinforced this interpretation and provided additional evidence to suggest the location of a more substantial civilian settlement (vicus) immediately W of the scheduled monument, possibly the site of the lost Roman town of "Moridunum" (Weddell 1991, Griffith pers comm).’ [3]

Branscombe is situated near the border between two pre-Roman tribal confederations, the Dumnonii, and the Durotriges. Many of the Iron Age hilltop forts in Devon, Dorset and Somerset were re-occupied by these tribes, for defence. While the Durotriges tribes minted coins, the Dumnonii did not. Almost no examples of Durotriges coins or pottery have been found west of Dorchester.

 

In ..i.Branscombe:- village;Branscombe, the only examples of contemporary pottery are Glastonbury ware, a late Iron-Age style. These examples perhaps indicate a strong and clearly-defined cultural border between the two tribes, located somewhere east of Branscombe.

 

The Branscombe area and south Devon coast traded with the Empire as early as 160 BC. There was an established trade route from the Mediterranean, via Brittany. In terms of the Roman acculturation process, Branscombe lies on the edge of a low impact area, occupying the whole of the south-west peninsula.

 

Yet Branscombe is only a short distance from Exeter and Dorchester, both civitas or principal towns. A clue may be found in the distribution of Roman villas in the area:

 

`A vital component of the settlement hierarchy was the Romanised farm, or villa. The presence or absence of villas can be used in one kind of assessment of the cultural frontiers of Roman Britain.'[4] 

 

`When the Romans invaded Britain, the indigenous population spoke mainly a P-Celtic language, belonging to the Brythonic group of dialects. P-Celtic language survives in part in modern , Cornish and Breton, Irish, and Scots Gaelic.'[5] 

 

`Long before the decline of the empire, the Teutons were beginning to drive the Celts westward and away, a process which is clearly marked in these islands by the prevalence of place-names in the west country. Thus, the percentage of Celtic place-names in Cornwall has been calculated to be about 80; in Devon it is only 32, and in Suffolk, 2. The conflict between Celt and Teuton dragged on in Ireland until 1921, and it is doubtful if it is quite finished yet. One contingent of the old inhabitants of this island, or Britons, driven to the tip of Cornwall, decided to leave these shores altogether. They sailed back to the Continent, and there established themselves in the seaboard district which still bears the name of Brittany. It is said that a Welsh peasant and a Breton can still, to this day, understand one another's speech well enough for most practical purposes. The number of proved words which have found their way into English is extraordinarily small - scarce above a dozen[6]. Bard, bog and glen are among those that have come to us direct, and "car" had to travel through Latin and French before it reached us, the original having been borrowed by Julius Caesar, Julius from the Gauls, who had thus named their war chariots. But for the most part, Celtic words like banshee, eisteddfod, galore, mavourneen [= my darling], have a remote and foreign look, even though we may have used them for many years.'[7]

 

47

`A major problem in assessing the importance of Celtic language is that it did not develop as a written language in Britain ... nonetheless, it seems to have remained predominant throughout the Roman period.'[8]

 

50

The second Legion Augusta, brought from Germany in 43 under the command of Flavius Vespasian (Emperor, 69-70) confronted the Dumnonii in Devon between 50 and 70 AD.

 

`The wide estuary of the Axe at that time afforded a safe harbour, so a settlement came into being on the banks of the river and gave rise to the need for a building material and, to men accustomed to the use of stone in their homeland, the sight of the nearby white cliffs of must have suggested a possible local source. An investigative expedition would then have discovered, at the base of the massive chalk cliffs, a seam of fine limestone of a similar texture to that used in Rome.

 

Quarrying from the shore would have been impractical, so they followed the steep wooded combe, which was later to become the village of Beer, inland and then westwards, parallel to the cliffs, until they discovered the outcrop on the northern slope of the hillside approximately one mile from the coastline ... Although it is apparent that the Romans quarried vast quantities of stone, the only authenticated findings of its use in buildings is in Honeyditches Villa, Seaton, the bath house of which was excavated by Henrietta Quinnell, in 1969 ... it is interesting to note that the method employed by the Romans in the building of the bath house walls, .i.e. the use of stone as quoins and the remainder of the walls local chert (flint), continues to be used in local buildings ... it is evident the Romans transported it even as far as Exeter, a great distance at that time. Here an air raid in 1942 exposed the west doorway of a Saxon church, which was found to be constructed from Beer stone of Roman origin ... It is probable that the Romans continued with their use of the quarry until their departure early in the fifth century.'[9]

 

The Saxon doorway, in South Street, was found to have been incorporated into the remaining west wall of the later medieval church of Saint George the Martyr, itself demolished in 1843:

 

‘The church was sited on the west side of South Street, nearly opposite the 14th century College of the Vicars Choral and on the corner of South Street with a narrow road called George Street. The foundation itself was ancient and a church dedicated to St George had been on this same location since at least the 9th or 10th century. This early Saxon church, constructed long before the Norman Conquest of 1066 was even thought of, was built of coarse rubble masonry, probably with a simple floor plan of a single aisle and chancel. At the very least, the stone-built Saxon St George's shows that Exeter was a flourishing Anglo-Saxon settlement with some relatively high status buildings in the early Middle Ages. (St George didn't become the patron saint of England until Edward III created the Order of the Garter in 1348.)’ [10]

 

Exeter was an important strategic centre, the key to control of the west Country. The Romans built a fortress on the site, on the high ground commanding the crossing of the River . It was the western terminus of one of their great roads, the Fosse Way. Within its walls, the city covered 92.6 acres. `The city Exeterin Roman times must in some respects have resembled a hill-town of the Mediterranean, with its walls climbing up and crowning the valley slopes, and with its steep streets giving sudden views over red-tiled rooftops or around a corner to the neighbouring hills.'[11]

 

`More than once in Devon you come across the allegation `X was a market town when Exeter was furzy down', and indeed not much is known of Caer Isc, the Celtic `stronghold on the river'. But the Romans installed the Second Augustan Legion in a fortress above this strategic crossing-point of the River Exe, and made their walled frontier town of Isca Dumnoniorum the headquarters and communications centre for the south-west: so it has been ever since.'[12]

 

Term of Aulus Plautius, Britain's first Roman governor, ends (since 43). Scapula succeeds (to 52)

 

52

Term of Scapula, Britain's second Roman governor, ends (since 47).

 

60

The beginning of Boadicea's initially successful revolt.

 

69

Roman Emperor Flavius Vespasian (to 70)

 

81

The Roman governor, Agricola, having conquered Wales, extends the boundary of his control into Scotland as far as the .

 

100

Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria is born (to 178). A great early cartographer, who influenced early explorers in Renaissance Europe. An atlas of the known world, based on his researches, was published at Bologna, in 1477.

 

122

The building of Hadrian's Wall.

 

150

A map of Britain by shows Exeter as "Isca", and a place called "Dunium" near Axmouth, possibly Hod Hill.[13]

 

160

There was an established trade from the ..i.Branscombe:- village;area with the Empire, at this time. The route from the Mediterranean was via Brittany.

 

190

`The Christian faith reached Britain towards the close of the second century.'[14]

 

208

The emperor romanemperorsSeverus drives barbarian invaders from northern England and then advances beyond Aberdeen.

 

300

As early as the 4th.century, Christian pilgrims journeyed to Jerusalem and Rome.

 

300-900: The classic flowering of the Maya civilisation in the tropical rainforests of Meso-America.

 

303

A Roman military tribune, , is martyred at Nicomedia. He became known as George. The dragon-slaying legends were attached, later. His cult was brought to England by returning rs.[15]

 

400+

Romans begin withdrawal from Britain

 

410

Emperor romanemperorsHonorius tells Britain that Rome can no longer send help against the northern invaders.

 

432

In about this year, St.saintsPatrick begins his Irish mission.

 

449

The English came from between Flensburg fjord and the Schlei. They came in three tribes; Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.

 

`The Anglo-Saxon conquest is traditionally accepted as beginning in 449, the date given by Bede for the landing of brothers (Hengest/Hengist?)[16] and Horsa [`stallion' and `horse']. But raids on the coasts had been in progress for a considerable time before that, and small settlements of Germanic-speaking peoples were probably already in existence. Exactly what language the invaders found in this country is uncertain.'

 

`By the middle of the century Britain had been cut off from the rest of the Roman empire for at least a generation, and although some Latin speakers might have been found in the larger towns, it seems probable that Celtic was normally the language with which the invaders came into contact.'[17]

 

`Alone among all the surrounding parishes, the name Branscombe is, I believe, of pure Keltic origin ... Our first idea is that, lying off the great western highway and being somewhat difficult of access, the Saxons did not meddle with the place as much as they did with the others.'[18]

 

`Saxon invasions exterminated Christianity in England, and isolated the Christians in the south-west, Wales, north Britain and Ireland. Thereafter, their own conservatism, the ecclesiastical narrowness of Saint Augustine of Canterbury and his followers, and national pride made out of such matters as differing dates of Easter and variants of tonsures,[19] themselves theologically unimportant, created barriers behind which grew up two churches where previously there had been only one; for a century and a half, Christians in the British Isles were divided from one another.'[20]

 

By the time the Saxons conquered Devon, they had become Christian, and were worshipping in the Roman tradition.

 

500

`The decisive defeat of the Saxons in the battle of battlesMount Badon,[21] circa 500 was followed by a long period of peace for British Christians, and it was then that the foundations were laid for the great expansion that lasted from the sixth to the ninth centuries and gave to $ Christianity its form and special characteristics. Historical information, in any strict sense of the term, especially for the earlier periods, is extremely scanty, for most of the extant "lives" of the British saints were composed not earlier than the eleventh century for other than historical purposes, though they often preserve earlier sources. For the later periods, information survives only as it has been edited by interested persons whose prejudiced outlook on the church was due at least as much to national and political causes as to ecclesiastical differences. Certain general characteristics of the church can, however, be distinguished.

 

In doctrine and worship it was one with the rest of western Christendom; in both respects it was orthodox and catholic. The charges of heresy later brought against it are misleading; such charges were weapons common to the armoury both of the Celtic church and its opponents.'[22] 

 

564

4 June: St.Petrock dies, in Cornwall.[23]

 

577

West Saxons beat Britons at battlesDyrham.

 

597

Christianity officially comes to Britain from Rome, when Augustine lands, in Kent. However, it had already been established, during the Roman occupation, had been all but obliterated by the invasions, and was being re-introduced from Ireland via missionary bases in Scotland and Northumbria, at about this same time.

 

600+

The Benedictines establish in Exeter. They found the Abbey Church of St.Mary and St.Peter.[24]

 

`Exeter and the eastern parts of the county became anglicised during the latter half of the seventh century. Another twenty years witnessed the subjugation of the northern districts, and that of the whole county was completed by the time monarchsEgbert succeeded to his throne, in 802.'

 

613

Northumbrians beat Britons at battlesChester.

 

650

Approximate year of martyrdom of Winifred, `...an obscure north saint.'[25] ..i.Branscombe:- church;Branscombe's parish church, St.Winifred's, is dedicated to her. It may be that the chapel at Edge was built on the site of an original Celtic monastic community dedicated to the same saint. A community of celebate clergy, observing a religious rule, and entrusted with the care of souls over a wide and ill-defined area. At some later stage, when the present parish church was built, the monastic community had ceased to exist, but the dedication was transferred. Hoskins gives parallel cases of this process.[26] The term Barton applied to the site of Edge would also indicate an early importance as a farm-dwelling. `Wheat, rye, barley an oats were the standard cereals of Anglo-Saxon England ... Ground into meal for bread-making or converted into malt for brewing, barley easily eclipsed all other cereals. The Anglo-Saxons consumed beer on an oceanic scale. This will not surprise us when we bethink ourselves how much of their meat had to be salted for preservation through the winter months. The original meaning of beretun and berewic is "barley-farm" in each case, but barley was so clearly taken to be the principle Anglo-Saxon grain that both words came to be used of the establishments where corn of any kind was stored; hence the numerous Bartons and Berwicks to be found on the map today ... Until quite late in the Old English period the use of stone as a building material was confined to churches and some fortified strongholds. With a few exceptions, every dwelling-house was built of wood, turf, or some form of unbaked earth. This is true not only of farmhouses but of manors and even royal palaces.'[27]

 

Barton, or Bere tun, is the Saxon word for a place enclosed for the storage of barley in ricks. The village of Beer used to be called Bere worth, Saxon for barley farm. ` The Saxons brewed their ale from malted barley, as we do, but they had no hops. There were four kinds of ale - spiced, mild, clear and Welsh. The national beverage was sold at taverns ... which priests were forbidden to frequent ... The other beverage of which Saxons were extremely fond is mead. It is the drink with which, when they were pagans, they hoped to drink after death in the halls of Valhalla, out of the skulls of their slaughtered enemies, and as a reward for their bravery upon earth. Its relative value was one cask of mead to two casks of spiced ale and four casks of common ale. Honey, the chief ingredient of mead, was extensively produced, and generally formed a portion of the rent paid in kind.'[28] One explanation of the meaning of the place-name Honiton is Honey Farm. The annual beer festival for the Saxons was the Oktoberfest. A possible alternative root for Edge is the Latin Agger, meaning rampart (earthwork).

 

664

Synod of Whitby decides in favor of Roman, rather than Celtic, Christianity. `In Northumbria the Celtic and Roman strains in Anglo-Saxon Christianity met face to face, and in the long run they could not be reconciled. Minor variations of liturgical practice and clerical hair-styles could have been tolerated, but the difference in the mode of calculating the date of Easter was a chronic irritant. All agreed that this great festival should be celebrated on the Sunday of the third week of the month in which the full moon fell on or after the vernal equinox. The Celts took the equinox to be the 25th, the rest of Christendom the 21st of March. The discrepency could produce two Easters as much as a month apart, as actually happened in 631, when the Roman Easter fell on 24th March, the Celtic on 21st April ... King Oswy's Kentish-born queen followed the Roman usage, and it naturally annoyed Oswy to see her still observing the Lenten fast while he himself, brought up in the tradition of Iona, was feasting on Easter Sunday. He summoned the most eminent spokesman of both sides to debate the issue, and they met in fateful conference at Whitby in the autumn of 663 or the spring of 664. The debate was lengthy and, at times, acrimonious. It ended when Oswy declared that if he must choose between St.Columba and St.Peter, he would obey Peter, to whom Christ had given the keys of heaven. The adhesion of the most powerful monarch in Britain decided the question once and for all, giving the Roman party the upper hand. The bishop of Lindesfarne, Colman, withdrew discomfited, first to Iona, then to Ireland.'[29]

 

673

The bishops of Kent, East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria and Wessex meet at Hertford, the first national synod of the Church, and agree that the Bishop of Canterbury will be Archbishop.

 

688

Ine is King of Wessex. Between 688 and 694 he commits to writing a code of law which remains one of the few documents remaining in modern times that give any insight into the workings of Anglo-Saxon society. It is clear from this and earlier documents that slavery is accepted by both state and church as part of a natural order of society. Crimes against individuals, including murder and rape, were subject to a scale of fines, depending on the status of the individual or the person they belonged to, or on whom they were dependent. Slaves were an important part of the booty arising from tribal/regional conflicts.

 

Dwellings at this time were either wood and/or mud and thatch long-houses which included shelter for animals, or simple wattle and daub covers over holes. There were very few stone buildings, even for manors or palaces. Those that were built were mainly churches or strongholds.[30]

 

732

Charles Martel defeats the Moslems at Poitiers, driving them back to Spain ... the start of a process that would eventually see them driven from there also.[31] 

 

735

Death of Bede, the scholar-monk of Jarrow.

 

770

The first written form of the word combe is found in a Saxon document attributed to about this year, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.[32]

 

Combe is a form of coomb (also comb, cumb, coomb). Coomb in Old English [Anglo-Saxon] is cumb, a masculine word, meaning a small valley, or hollow. It occurs in charters, in descriptions of local boundaries in the south of England; also in numerous place-names which still exist, as in Batancumb (Batcombe), Branescumb (..i.Branscombe:origin of name;Branscombe), Eastcumb (Eastcomb), Sealtcumb (Salcombe), Wincelcumb (Winchcombe), etc..

 

As a separate word, it is not known in Middle English literature, but has survived in local use, in which it is quite common in the south of England, especially in its meaning of a steep short valley running up from the sea-coast. In literature, coomb appears in the second half of the sixteenth century, probably introduced from local use; a century later it was still treated as a local southern word.

 

The Old English cumb is usually supposed to be of British origin. Modern has cwm in the same sense, also in composition in place-names. There are a large number of place-names beginning with cum in such places as Cumbria, Dumfriesshire and Strathclyde. The Welsh cwm is derived from an even older word, the Old kumbos.

 

The Saxons and Angles brought an old Germanic word, kumb or kump, which was remarkably similar in meaning, being a cup or small measure, a round deep basin, or trough. This coincidence would favour its retention and common use, even after colonisation. This might further be strengthened after the Norman Conquest by the existence of a French combe, meaning a small valley surrounded by hills. There are also equivalent words based on comba, in Spanish, Portuguese and northern Italian. Indeed, a Celtic origin has been claimed for all these.[33]

 

Polwhele suggests bran means crow, thus: valley of the crows.[34] This is supported by George P.R. Pulman, who suggests Branos means young crows. On the subject of combe, he points out that Cumberland probably means Land of Valleys. He says Borcombe may take its first part from bwr, an entrenchment or enclosure.[35]

 

The Celts were already resident in Britain when the Anglo-Saxons arrived, but there are few obvious traces of their language in English today. Some scholars have suggested that the Celtic tongue might have had an underlying influence on the grammatical development of English, particularly in some parts of the country, but this is highly speculative. The number of loanwords known for certain to have entered Old English from this source is very small. Those that survive in modern English include brock (badger), and coomb a type of valley, alongside many place names.‘ [36]

 

Hoskins[37] suggests Braunton, in northern Devon, is derived from Brannuc, or St.Brannoc/Brynach, a sixth-century Welsh missionary. `Both William of Worcester and Leland tell us that Brannoc was buried in Braunton church, where his relics were certainly preserved until the middle of Elizabeth's reign. They now lie somwhere beneath the high alter.'

 

`[Branxton, Northumberland] earlier Brankeston, Branxston, contains a personal name as its first element. It was probably Brannoc, a diminutive of Brand, a name found also in Branscombe and Branxholm, Roxburgh.'[38]

 

`The name Brand in English is usually taken to be of Norse origin, but it may be noted that, as early as 1046, we find Bransbury, Hampshire, as Brandesburgh, while Branston, Staffordshire, is Brantestun in a charter dated 956.'[39]

 

789

`In or about 789 three ships' crews from Norway landed on the isle of Portland. The king's reeve of Dorchester, believing them to be traders, rode up with a few attendants to demand payment of toll. They slew him for his pains. Englishmen looked back to this incident as the first visitation of Norse pirates, a presage of the long series of disasters that lay ahead, threatening the very existence of the church in England, and overwhelming most of its kingdoms.'[40]

 

793

The sacking of Lindisfarne marks the start of attacks.

 

796

Death of King monarchsOffa marks the end of Mercian predominance in England.

 

800

`Wealth and authority were synonymous with the ownership of land. On his manorial estate, the lord, who was sometimes an abbot, stood at the head of a descending hierarchy of tenants.'[41]

 

Chess reaches Western Europe, about 100 years after Russia, from traders.

 

802

King monarchsEgbert (I) ascends throne of Wessex.

 

814

The Emperor Charles the Great, (Charlemagne) dies at Aachen.

 

`Charlemagne soon became a legend, and was placed, as a universal hero along with Abraham and among the Nine Worthies revered in Medieval times.'[1]

 

Charlemagne introduced to Western Europe the currency of pounds, shillings and pence. (l = libra, s = solidus, d = denarius) 240 silver pennies weighed 1 pound.

 

`Charlemagne's development of the lord/man relationship, allied with a system of land tenure which linked vassal to lord by an oath of fidelity, became the basis for the later feudal organization of society.'[43]

 

825

Wessex under King monarchsEgbert defeats Mercia and becomes the dominant kingdom.

 

829

The first King of England, MonarchsEgbert of Wessex, ascends the throne (to 839). First of the Danish and Saxon kings, (829-1066).

 

833

Carey's Castle: `It was here that monarchsEgbert had his headquarters, in 833, when defeated by the Danes at Charmouth.'[44]

 

839

The reign of monarchsEgbert ends (since 829). The second King of England, monarchsEthelwulf, ascends the throne (to 858).

 

843

`According to the chroniclers, the ancient Pictish kingdom of north Britain was united with the Scottish under Kenneth Macalpine, Kenneth in the year 843, [became "Scotia"] and thereafter the name of the Picts as a distinct people gradually disappeared.'[45]

 

855

Rival king monarchsEthelbald usurps monarchsEgbert as king of England (to 860).

 

857

..i.Branscombe:- manor;Branscombe manor in Colyton hundred in 857 the property of the crown, and mentioned in monarchsEdulwulf's (monarchsEthelwulf?) will.

 

858

The reign of MonarchsEthelwulf ends (since 839). MonarchsEthelbert ascends the throne (to 866).

 

860

Reign of rival king MonarchsEthelbald ends (since 855).

 

865

The Danes land in strength in east Anglia.

 

866

Reign of king monarchsEthelbert ends (since 858). monarchsEthelred I ascends the throne (to 871).

 

871

Reign of King MonarchsEthelred I ends (since 866). monarchsAlfred the Great ascends the throne (to 899).

 

`Saxon Exeancester was defended by King Alfred but twice ravaged by the Danes.'[46]

 

878

King monarchsAlfred of Wessex defeats the Danes at battlesEdington, near hire.

 

891

King Alfred sponsors compilation of the Chronicle, the first history of England.

 

899

Reign of monarchsAlfred the Great ends (since 871). monarchsEdward the Elder ascends the throne (to 925).

 

901

..i.Branscombe:- manor;Branscombe manor in the Hundred of Colyton given by King Alfred to his younger son, Aethelweard, in 901. When he died before his father, Branscombe passed to MonarchsEdward the Elder, and from him to MonarchsAthelstan. (c.895-940)

 

912

King Alfred's son Edward builds a small fort on each bank of the Lea River at Hertford, boundary between English and Danish rule.

 

925

Reign of King Edward the Elder ends (since 899). monarchsAthelstan ascends the throne (to 939).

 

The manor of ..i.Branscombe:- manor;Branscombe is given to the Abbey Church of St.Peter, by Athelstan, King Alfred's grandson. The Benedictine monks have been resident in Exeter since the seventh century. Branscombe manor will remain with them until 1050. Parts of St.Winifred's, Branscombe, may date from about this time.

 

935

The remains of Saint Branwallader are removed from Branscombe to Sherborne Abbey?

 

It was a stormy night, such as we had never seen

The wind was stronger than it had ever been

The sky was alive with light, and thunderous groan

The waves pounded the shore, high the spray was thrown

And into this, came a boat with strangers to our land

Seeking shelter in the corner of the bay, upon the sand.

 

By day, the strangers made a shelter of wood upon the hill

Although their tongue was strange, they seemed to bear no ill

And as the days turned into weeks, and months, we heard

And understood, and soon our people were enraptured

And took to joining in the lilting chant they sang

But my heart was troubled, and at this I felt a pang.

 

To the North of the corner of our bay, there was a sacred grove

A place of ancient stones where mystic charms were wove

And we revered this site of the gods of streams and stones

This place in which we saw dreams foretold from buried bones

The tomb of Hélène, the name here from times long past

In which we made our sacrifice of blood to placate the ghast.

 

But now the tomb fell silent, as all but few had left the sacred way

Processing away instead, with wooden cross held high, to pray

To this man they say was god, who died and rose again

Gave a promise that this sacrifice was for each and all men

And we few make a lonely vigil, to sing the ancient song

At our own stone table, where our beliefs still belong.

 

Their leader, Branwallader by name, saw us there

And took himself to the rocks in solitude and prayer

When he returned, he gathered all his folk, and all the tribe

And we knew then that our worship he would proscribe

Soon the dance of the oak would end, the stones be gone

And all would be lost, no one to praise our pantheon.

 

By night, they lit torches, and while we slept, they worked

A dozen hauled the stones down from the hill, none shirked

Until the task was complete, and our sacred tomb taken away

And our gods did nothing to prevent this to our great dismay

The stones themselves were broken up, apart from very largest

Which were made a foundation, and here they were craftiest.

 

This was the tale of Tomberlaine, our sacred shrine of stone

And how they took it from where it stood to the very last bone

That lay buried there, and moved it downwards by the sea

And scattered what they could not use, then what was left to be

To form a cornerstone for their new shrine, their risen man

And so the old beliefs would wane away in just one brief lifespan.

 

I am the last of the cult of the oak and tree and stone and rain

And there is nothing left now but in sad memory pain

I tell the tale so that my children will not quite forget

Although in strange form it may be retold, and beget

When none remembers where the stone table once did lay

For all, but I, have now left to rejoice and pray. [47]

 

937

King Athelstan's combined Wessex and Mercian army wins the Battle of battlesBrunaburh, bringing most of England under one king.

 

939

Reign of King MonarchsAthelstan ends (since 925). MonarchsEdmund ascends the throne (to 946).

 

946

Reign of King Edmund ends (since 939). MonarchsEdred ascends the throne (to 955).

 

950

Approximate date when, according to legend, Kupe discovers New Zealand. `(Kupe) returned to Central Polynesia with the story that the only people he saw were a fantail flitting about and a bellbird that tolled from the depths of the forest. Yet the idea has persisted that there were older immigrants, `the people of the land' (tangata whenua), also of dominant Polynesian stock.'(Maclintock, p.25)

 

955

Reign of King Edred ends (since 946). MonarchsEdwy ascends the throne (to 959?).

 

957

monarchsEdgar becomes king of all England.

 

959

?Reign of King Edwy ends (since 955). MonarchsEdgar ascends the throne (to 975). Edgar has been King of Mercia since 957.

 

975

Reign of King Edgar ends (since 959). MonarchsEdward the Martyr ascends the throne (to 978).

 

978

Reign of King Edward the Martyr ends (since 975). MonarchsEthelred II Redeless ("Unready") ascends the throne for the first of two reigns (this time to 1013).

 

988

`The conversion of Prince Vladimir of Kiev to Orthodox Christianity leads to the conversion of his Kievian subjects and, in due course, of all Russia.'(Platt, p.24)

 

991

The s defeat the east Anglians at the Battle of battlesMaldon and advance into southern England, until bought off with Danegeld.

 

It inspires an Old English poem, The Battle of Maldon, which celebrates the unyielding courage of an English bodyguard which refused to retreat when their leader was killed, but fought around his body until all were dead. The very core of the sentiment is expressed by an old retainer called Beorhtwold:

 

`Heart shall be bolder, harder be purpose,
 more proud the spirit, as our power lessens.'

 

 

In Tolkien's poem, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, Beorhthelm's Son, the words are not given to Beorhtwold, but form part of a dream dreamt by the poet Torhthelm:

 

`It's dark! It's dark!     and doom coming!
 Is no light left us?      A light kindle,
 and fan the flame!                  Lo! Fire now wakens,
 hearth is burning,                   house is lighted,
 men there gather.                   Out of the mists they come
 through darkling doors          whereat doom waiteth.
 Hark! I hear them                  in the hall chanting:
 stern words they sing with strong voices.
"Heart shall be bolder,           harder be purpose,
 more proud the spirit as our power lessens!
 Mind shall not falter  nor mood waver,
 though doom shall come        and dark conquer,"'
[48]

 

 

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑



© 1996-2011 Ronald Branscombe

Email: genealogy (at) branscombe (dot) net

Northumberland
UK


[1] Hippisley-Cox, The Green Roads of England, p.68

[2] Jones & Mattingly, An Atlas of Roman Britain

[3] M A Cole and N T Linford, Report on the Geophysical Survey at Woodbury Farm, English Heritage Ancient Monuments Laboratory report number: 88/93, 1994. Source, April 2011: http://www.eng-h.gov.uk/reports/axminster/

[4] Jones & Mattingly, An Atlas of Roman Britain

[5] ibid., p.153

[6] one of those is the combe in Branscombe

[7] Barfield, History in English Words, pp.45-46

[8] ibid.

[9] Scott & Gray, pp 4-5

[10]Wolfpaw’ blog Demolition Exeter – a century of destruction in an English cathedral city. Source April 2011: http://demolition-exeter.blogspot.com/2011_01_01_archive.html

[11] Fox, p.3

[12] Which? Guide to the West Country, p.114

[13] Hod Hill is a long way from Axmouth!

[14] Hoskins, Devon, 1972, p.219

[15] Withycombe

[16] Hengistbury Head,Dorset?

[17] Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Vol.8, p.538

[18] Elijah Chick, The Parish & Church of Branscombe, p.18

[19] head-shaving styles

[20] E.B. Vol.5, 1966, p.148

[21] location uncertain,but possibly near Swindon

[22] E.B. Vol.5, 1966, p.148

[23] Izacke, Remarkable Antiquities ...

[24] later to become Exeter cathedral

[25] Hoskins, Devon, 1972

[26] ibid., p.220

[27] Finberg, The Formation of England 550-1042, pp.81,87

[28] George P.R. Pulman, Local Nomenclature (1857), p.129

[29] Finberg, The Formation of England 550-1042, p.47

[30] Finberg, The Formation of England 550-1042

[31] Rowling

[32] 1971

[33] Oxford English Dictionary

[34] Polwhele, History of Devonshire Vol II, p.236

[35] George P.R. Pulman, Local Nomenclature (1857), p.56

[36] Philip Durkin, Principal etymologist at the Oxford English Dictionary, http://www.askoxford.com/worldofwords/history/?view=uk 10 September 2006

[37] Hoskins, Devon, 1972, p.220

[38] A History of Northumberland, 1922, p.104

[39] Mawer, The Place-names of Northumberland & Durham, 1920

[40] Finberg, The Formation of England 550-1042, p.116

[41] Rowling, p.18

[42] Rowling, p.11

[43] Rowling, p.12

[44] Hippisley Cox, p.67

[45] O.E.D.

[46] Which? Guide to the West Country, p.114

[47] Tony Bellows <http://www.societe-jersiaise.org/whitsco/index.html>

[48] Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth, p.118