Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Creation of the Ashdown Estate

Ashdown makes its first appearance in written history in a charter of 947AD. This document, held in the records of Glastonbury Abbey, shows a grant of land by King Eadred of the West Saxons in "Ayssehudun" to one of his thanes, Edric.

How good is your Anglo-Saxon? I must admit I struggled a bit with this having not studied the language since I was at university, but it makes fascinating reading and when you read it in conjunction with an Ordnance Survey map you can still recognise - or hazard an informed guess - as to where some of these places are (Although I imagine such poetic descriptions as "Bucca's Pool and Lippa's tree stump are, sadly, lost forever). So here is the Anglo Saxon description of the boundaries of the 947AD estate of "Ashdown":

"Erest of Buckansticke (tree trunk) west on Buckanmer’ (Bucca’s pool-possibly on Frognam Down, Lambourn Corner) to þan Ruancrundele (Rough chalkpit) þanon mide ward Burnestowe (?bathing place) to þan stone þanen west endlangsmalweyes (along the narrow way) on þare crundel (chalkpit) bi est þa Ertheburgh’ (east of the earthwork - though this may be an error for ‘west’) and so north on rizt to Hordenstone, þane to elden berwe (old barrow)and so endlangdiches (along the ditch) north to þan Whytestone, þan to Stanberwe (stone barrow) þare, þanen to þe litel berwe (little tumulus) þanen endelangmeres (along the boundary) to Middildych (middleditch) þanen north to rizt weye on þan ston on midderiztweyes (north to the Ridge way to the stone in the middle of the Ridge way) an so to Loppancomb’ (the upper part of Loppa’s valley) þar, forth endlangfurth (furrow) on rizt to Merewelle (boundary stream-just north of Icknield way) endlangstremes to Folanruwers (uncertain) over þan ridde (possibly ‘clearing’) to þan stone whytoute þar Irwelond’ (stone outside the ploughed land) þar forth to þan beche (stream valley) þan to Piwanmer’ (uncertain) of Piwanmer on Lippanstubbe (Lippa’s tree stump) þar on Kinggesdych (King’s Ditch) endlangdych to Melanbrok’ (mill stream-probably the mylen broc flowing through Shrivenham) of Melanbrok’ on Lortanbrock (Lorta’s brook, probably connected with Lertwell) þanen on Lortanberwe (Lorta’s hill or tumulus), so up endlangfurtz (along the furrow) to Mereberwe (boundary hill or tumulus), þanen out to þan wydem yate (wide gate) of þan zate to þan horestonford (boundary stone ) to Rammesbury (raven’s camp-likely to be on Weathercock Hill) yate, of Rammesbury so forth endlangweyes to Buckanstick’.

(This is adapted from Margaret Gelling’s description in The Place Names of Berkshire.)

My interpretation of  the estate is that it starts near Lambourn Corner, south of Ashdown House, on the Ashbury to Lambourn B road. I visualise it running along the footpath that heads west towards Botley Copse before turning north and running up to the Ridgeway passing Alfred's Castle on the right. Crossing the Ridgeway it comes down to the Roman road, crosses that too and turns east at Lertwell, where there is the "pest house." It skirts the northern edge of the village of Ashbury, running along the King's Ditch which I think is the point where the modern road turns sharp right as you drive north out of Ashbury towards Shrivenham. By the mill on the Melanbrook in what is now Kingston Winslow it turns south again and heads  back up to the Ridgeway, continuing south along the top of Weathercock Hill and back to the tree trunk at Lambourn Corner. I'd be thrilled to hear from anyone local who has their own interpretation of where the boundary might run.

This description places "Rammesbury" the "Raven's Fort" where King Alfred's Battle of Ashdown was said to have taken place in 871AD at Weathercock Hill, where there are still ravens to this day.


lostpastremembered said...

Ha! I love the anglo-saxon! I had a marvelous professor who spoke it and looked it... great large fellow with a huge beard and laughing eyes... made it sound just gorgeous. I will peruse this again and try to here it as I read... marvelous language... so sad it dissolved into history.

Keira Soleore said...

Nicola, thanks for the tidbit about Raven's Fort.

Nicola Cornick said...

So pleased you enjoy the Anglo Saxon, lostpastremembered. I enjoy hearing Michael Wood read Anglo Saxon for the same reason you mention - he makes the language sound gorgeous!

Nicola Cornick said...

Thanks for dropping in, Keira. Although there are many theories about the site of Alfred's Battle of Ashdown I liked the one by a local historian who placed it a mile from the present Ashdown House. The argument for the Raven's Fort is very plausible though. Not only is it near the earthwork now known as Alfred's Castle, it fits the description of the battle site and as mentioned, there are still ravens at weathercock Hill today.

White Horse Pilgrim said...

That is interesting about the perambulation of the Ashdown Estate. When you have time, can you also write something about the Park Pale?

As for the battle of Ashdown, I did have the opportunity last week to quiz a retired senior military officer as to the location. His advice was to consider the ground - Alfred would have chosen ground favourable to his forces, taking account of whether they were heavily loaded, included mounted men, etc.

Nicola Cornick said...

Thank you, I'd be delighted to write about the park pale and I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Very interesting to consult the military on the site of the battle. Weathercock Hill does have the advantage of being close to Alfred's base and it fits the geographical description of the battle site. There is an interesting article on this subject in the Autumn edition of the Friends of the Ridgeway magazine.