The Celts & English Settlers

EngliscHeritage

THE EARLY ENGLISH AND THE CELTIC WEST

 

The Roman forces, who finally abandoned Britain in 410, left behind a decaying system of towns and a road network which focused on London and on the shortest sea routes to the Continent. The peoples of Atlantic Britain were communicating with each other at this time along the western sea routes. In Highland Britain local tribal leaders rose to power as what had become a light Roman yoke was finally removed. In the Lowland Zone, after a century of sporadic Saxon raiding, there was already some Frisian settlements along the North Sea coast. These settlers, in contact with their homelands across the narrow seas, were the spearhead of penetration of what was now a vulnerable and disunited land.

 

A century of migration by Anglo-Saxon peoples started in the mid-fifth century. These folk movements brought in families from Jutland (Jutes and Angles), north-west Germany (Saxons) and the Low Countries (Frisians). There were Teutonic folk, speaking closely related tongues, who brought in the cattle-rearing and corn-growing economies of their largely coastal and estuarine homelands and, at first, sought similar lands in the lowlands of Britain. They settled coast plains and broad river valleys and the lower slopes of downlands, grouping their farmsteads together and forming hamlets and villages. At first they moved by sea and river and had little need for the Roman roads and towns, which continued to decay. Some Romano-British families and tribes may have moved into the Highland Zone when they were displaced by the Anglo-Saxons. Others may have become slaves and serfs and other Romano-British groups could have peacefully co-existed with the new settlers in the lowlands. Some intermarriage would have occurred, but the English tongue of the dominant tribes soon displaced Celtic and Latin in the Lowland Zone. Celtic river- and hill- names survive there, and another small group of place-names, which includes those of several towns, are Romano-British in origin.

 

A great deal of dense forest and marshland still covered Sub-Roman Britain. Forests like Epping, Sherwood, Arden, Savernake, and those of the Chilterns and Weald, were then far more extensive than they now are. A ninth-century author described Andredswald, the Weald Forest, as extending for 120 miles, with a breadth of thirty miles, from Hampshire to the Kent coast. River valleys and coast flats were often marshy and could not be tilled unless they were drained. The early English settlers occupied many valley sites and, with their heavy iron axes, made ever-expanding clearings in the forests and along their margins. The shares of their heavy ploughs turned rich and deep alluvial soils, their cattle grazed the valley meadows and their sheep the hillsides; their pigs, seeking mast in the forests, hindered their regeneration.

 

The early Anglo-Saxon settlers sought good farmland near their landings and at first pioneered lines of settlement, running inland from them, similar to those of their descendants along the coast of North America. Kent, the Thames and adjoining estuaries, and East Anglia were first settled first. Angles and Saxons from south-west Jutland and the lower Elbe and Weser basins, and Frisians from the Low Countries also settled Sussex and penetrated up the Thames valley to Wessex. The estuaries and areas such as the Sandlings of East Suffolk still claim descent from the Angles, while Essex men, born south of the Stour estuary, boast of their Saxon ancestors. As the flow of migration increased, Jutes became numerous among the families who settled in Kent, the Isle of Wight, south Hampshire and parts of East Anglia. Penetration from the Hampshire estuaries brought another stream of Anglo-Saxons into Wessex. From the Thames valley the Anglo-Saxons spread to the scarp-foot of the Chilterns, forcing British families to retreat upslope into the Chiltern forests. Celtic elements lingered in the Chiltern Hundreds for centuries. once regarded as a wild area, it stewardship is now merely a sinecure.

 

Iron, and salts preserve meat and fish, were commodities which had already been circulating in Britain for a thousand years before the early English arrived. Saltpans, and salthouses, where the brine was evaporated, continued to multiply. Both inland and at the coast small trading centres gradually developed. Southampton and Ipswich are both seventh-century foundations. By about 600 the Anglo-Saxons had occupied the Lowland Zone and the demands of their leaders for luxuries and jewellery spread trade more widely. Royal and noble families thus acquired and traded fine brooches (some of the finest were made in English Kingdoms like Kent), and silverware, pottery and wine from Mediterranean lands. Some wool appears to have been exported and King Offa of Mercia sent Charlemagne some of the felted cloaks for which Britain had been famous in Roman times. Families captured in times of war went into slavery in both early English and Celtic households, and slaves were also exported to Carolingian Gaul and to the Mediterranean. “Not Angles but angels” could reflect a wish to convert lively pagan children who might be sent home to spread Christianity among their own people.

 

Groups of Anglo-Saxon families often gave their chief`s name to their cluster of farmsteads, its fields and pasture land. The word –ing (plural ingas), meaning “followers of”, widely used for early settlements, is found, for example, at Goring (Domesday Garinges, people of Gara), Hastings and Reading. It was also used in the sense of “people,” for example at Avening, the dwellers by the Avon river, the ingas names of south-east England, suggests an early occupation of good soils which were already free from dense forests and an early recognition of what are still highly productive farmlands.

 

Inghams, and later –ington, “the homestead of the people of,” are common names of Anglo-Saxon settlements. Ham went out of use in later centuries and is rare beyond the Jurassic scarp. It is most common in East Anglia, Essex, Cambridgshire, Surrey and Sussex. The commonest Anglo-Saxon suffix came to be –ton. It is possible that –ing and –ham were used by kinship groups who immigrated together and that –ton was used to describe the neighbourhood unit of less closely related families as settlement expanded and the population increased.

English place-names elements often reflect the cattle-rearing economy of the Anglo-Saxons. Names like Cowley, Oxton, Swindon, Shepton and Shapwick are obvious examples. Pastures, especially for swine, were given the name –den, a common element in Kentish place-names. Tenterden, the swine pastures of the men of Thanet, would be initially a temporary settlement of swineherds who took pigs up to the Weald Forest. It is one of many names for outaying lands which supplemented those around settlements. Marshlands yield good grass for summer grazing, and Burmarsh, on Romney Marsh, is a seventh-century name which is thought to mean “marsh of the people of Canterbury,” sixteen miles away. Somerton and Winterton denote seasonal movements with herds and flocks seeking pasture suitable to the season. Transhumance took herdsmen and animals not only upslope to sweet upland pastures but also to bogs and marshlands which would literally not support cattle in winter. Both the Celtic and, later, Sacandinavian settlers also practiced Transhumance. It was, and still is, widespread in most regions of the Old World where animals have to be moved off the valleys hayfields in summer to green hillsides which may be snow-covered during the winter half-year

In Britain, summer grazing of upland pastures would have been carried on in areas where Bronze Age and Iron Age settlers had tended flocks. But while prehistoric peoples often had permanent settlements high in the western hills or eastern downlands, the Anglo-Saxons and most contemporary Celtic peoples preferred valley or lowland sites for their permanent homesteads. This valley-ward movement of settlement left behind on the higher hills deserted Bronze Age cairns, Iron Age and Sub-Roman camps and Roman-British farmsteads which had witnessed primitive ceremonial and tillage for two thousand years. Land hunger took some farmers upslope in later centuries, but the Anglo-Saxon farming system, imprinted on the lowlands, established the Lowland Zone of southern and eastern England as the most productive. Most desirable and best-settled part of Britain. This lowland, the seat of Roman civil power, became and remains the dominant zone of modern Britain. The games of its towns and villages are mostly those given to them by the Anglo –Saxons who settled and tamed the Lowland Zone.

Some ingas names may be those of minor tribal groups of early settlers. Hastings (Haestingas) is an example from Sussex. Larger tribal groupings gave their name to territories and kingdoms. For instance, the name Sussex (South Saxons) was already in use in 607, Essex (East Saxons) in 604 and Wessex (West Saxons) in 514. In the territory of the East Angles, the south and north folk (Suffolk and Norfolk) were differentiated by the ninth century. Among British names which persist in the area of English settlement, Kent (probably Welsh caint, a plain or open country) appears to have been taken over by the Jutish settlers. Lindsey combines the Celtic name of Lincoln with the Old English suffix for island and describes its encirclement by marshes before the witham fens were drained.

 

Early English villages have been excavated at Selsey and Chichester in Sussex, at Farnham in Surrey, and at Radlet and Sutton Courtenay in Berkshire. At the latter there was a cluster f thirty small houses about twelve feet long by ten feet wide, with rounded corners. Only the smith`s and carpenter`s tools, and the women`s looms, were recovered. At Canterbury Jutish and Frisian burials have been found and there are signs that most Romano-British settlements in Kent were frequented by the immigrants. At Southampton a lively trade with Gaul and the Rhineland produced a more substantial trading settlement which had brick huts rather than timber or wattle-daub hovels. Glassware came to Southampton from Carolingian France. Niedermendig lava was imported from the Rhineland to make the quernstones with which the Hampshire basin and the chalklands are ill-endowed. The farmers and traders of Southampton reared cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. Here large quantities of animal bones were found, with those of cattle predominating.

In the Celtic west, tribal groups headed by chiefs at first lived in little contact with the Teutonic immigrants. Romano-British peoples were strongly established in Cornwall and west Devon, around the Severn estuary, along and beyond the Welsh border, in Cumbria, in Strathclyde, and in Elmet, the area between the Pennines and the forested Ouse valley in Yorkshire. They loved in decaying Romano-British towns and in refortified Iron Age forts such as Eddisbury in Cheshire, the Breidden fort on the eastern border of Montgomeryshire and Old Oswestry in west Shropshire. Outside these towns and forts they lived in hamlets, small clusters of farms in a countryside which was partly pastoral, and had large wastelands which were not yet cleared by the relatively small population.

 

In the west, Celtic aristocrats, some partly Romanised, emerged as leaders to oppose the Anglo-Saxons. Vortigern, associated with the country between the Wye and Severn, and Ambrosius Aurelianus (Emrys Wledig) are two fifth-century leaders. The legendary Vortigern may have been the last Romano-British governor of Britain; he is also said to have lived in Kent and to have authorised the early settlement of the Saxons in eastern Britain, being later defeated by them in 457 at Crayford in Kent. Two individuals may be involved in the legends of Vortigern. Ambrosias is associated with Dinas Emrys near Beddgelert, a fortress above Lake Gwynant which has produced pottery with a Chi-Rho monogram on its base.

The best-known legendary opponent of the Anglo-Saxon is Arthur, who appears to have been born in Cornwall and to have succeeded Ambrosius as leaders of the Celtic opposition. He may have fought his twelve battles with the Anglo-Saxons both in the Southern Uplands of Scotland and in south-west Britain. The advance of the Saxon settlement up the Thames valley appears to have resulted in the building of the northward-facing Wansdyke by the Celtic defenders of south-west Britain in order to keep the Anglo-Saxons out of the lands south of the Bristol Channel. Gildas suggests that a Saxon expedition had already been in the Land`s End area and “licked the western ocean with its red and savage tongue.” The Wansdyke rune westwards along the chalk downs from Savernake Forest and from them across the Avon valley to Bath. It angles sharply southwards on the hills south of Bath and then continues westwards along Dundry Hill towards the Severn Sea. On the hills south of Bath, Arthur probably defeated the Saxons at Mons Badonicus about 500. His Camelot, or one of his stong-holds, may have been the refortified Iron Age fort at South Cadbury, between Ilchester and Wincanton in Somerset. He may also have fortified or refortified a frontier line of camps on the scarps between Badbury Rings in Dorset and Badbury Hill, a name given to hills in both Berkshire and Northamptonshire. This frontier, if it existed, was pushed westwards by the advancing Anglo-Saxon settlers, as they established the kingdoms of Wessex and of Mercia.

 

Wessex, the metropolis of Britain in the peaceful Bronze Age centuries, lost its leadership in the unsettled Iron Age and in the Anglo-Saxon Period, though in the face of Danish and Norse invasions it was again to lead England. During the Anglo-Saxon settlement, consolidation of Wessex, by groups coming in from landings on the channel coast, or up the Thames, eventually gave it a south-western boundary with the Celts of Cornwall. Its western boundary, after the death of Arthur, was the Bristol Channel, and in the east it extended into Sussex.

Mercia became, in the ninth century, the most powerful of the English kingdoms. Centred at first on the Trent basin, its leaders conquered the Middle Angles of the south-east Midlands, the Hwicce of the lower Severn basin, and the Magonsaete of the middle Wye. They had then reached the Welsh Marches where the hills rise, often sharply, from the good pastures of the Midlands. To emphasise the function of this natural bastion of Wales, a frontier was agreed and demarcated along the hills. The dyke built by King Offa of Mercia in the second half of the eighth century is a boundary which uses the lie of the land well. Dense forests in major valleys like those of the Severn and Wye, which break the hll barrier, were regarded as adequate barriers in themselves and Offa`s Dyke does not continue through them. The dyke is a boundary or line of confrontation which had no military function. As in some sections it runs close to the modern boundary of Wales, some Welsh politicians still refer to Clawdd Offa as a divide between England and wales.

 

In Northumbria and its sub-kingdom Bernicia, the first settlers who came across the North Sea appears to have been Frisians. They were followed by Anglians who built Bamborough as their stronghold. The great fortress on Yeaving Bell may have been adapted by them and Old Yeavering was inhabited until the seventh century. Celtic Elmet, the forested and partly marshy area around the lower Wharfe and Ouse, separated Northumbria from Mercia until it was taken over by the Anglo-Saxons in the late seventh century. The Roman Rig earthwork in South Yorkshire may have been built as part of the Northumbrian frontier with Mercia. West of the Pennines Celtic-speaking groups survived in Cumbria, as they must have done in remote Pennine valleys.

The tide of Anglo-Saxon immigration did not come in as an overwhelming wave which wiped out the British population, or cast it as jetsam into Highland Britain. Many British hamlets, hidden away behind barriers of forest or marsh, retained their identity and continued to practice their self-contained economy. When the Anglo-Saxons eventually took over these hamlets and thei lands, many of their Celtic inhabitants would be forced to become serfs. The Anglo-Saxons recognized many of these British communities as Walas or Wealas, or Brettas, and the names of these hamlets of Welsh, serfs, or Britons, are widespread in England. Some of the numerous Walton, Walcot, Walbrook, Walmer. Walpole, Walden, Bretton and Brettenham names denote British settlements. In areas like Elmet, west Cumberland and west Lancashire, they point to a recognition by the immigrants of distinctive communities firmly established on relatively good land.

 

The Early English of Northumbria extended their settlement across Hadrian`s Wall in the seventh century, taking over former Votadini territory and forming a kingdom which stretched from the Humber to the firth of forth. Celtic peoples continued to hold the kingdom of Strathclyde. Beyond them in Argyll the Scots had come from Ireland in the late fifth century to found the kingdom of Dalriada. The Picts continued to occupy the Highlands of Scotland, and the lower land east of them, where many of their mysterious Pictish stones occur. The symbols on these stones may be the insignia of Pictish leaders commemorated by illiterate followers.

 

Around the Irish Sea the lands which jut out into the Atlantic sea-way formed a cultural province. Seaborne migrations occurred hence too. Before the Scots went to Argyll the Deisi had colonised Pembrokeshire (Dyfed) from eastern Ireland and their princely dynasty lasted there for five centuries. The Deisi lived in Pembrokeshire in raths, homesteads enclosed by earthern banks. Raths were built in Ireland from the third century B. C. until the Middle Ages. Cornwall, then known as West Wales, was not conquered by the Anglo-Saxons until 838. There was a fifth-century migration from Cornwall to Brittany in face of an earlier Saxon threat. The distinctive nature of both Wales and Cornwall was acknowledged by the Early English who gave the Britons of both areas the name Wealas, foreigners, Celts who had been under Roman rule. The Welsh call themselves Cymry (compatriots) and Cumberland, which still retains remnants of Celtic speech, was also recognized as the land of the Cumbras or Britons. The county appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle`s record for 945 as Cumbraland.

In their social organisation the Early English and Celtic peoples had much in common. Kings and chiefs, with bands of aristocratic followers, formed a court which was rarely based on a settled capital. The court moved frequently around the countryside and depended on hospitality offered by nobles and, later, by monasteries. Nobles were probably more numerous in Anglo-Saxon than in British society. In both of them freemen held lands in the community tilled fields, and farmsteads in the villages; bondsmen had cottages to which small crofts were attached. Slaves, often captured in wars, were the drudges of both systems. In both societies priests and smiths ranked as freemen and both English and Britons honoured their bards and ministrels, for these men knew the traditions of their peoples and sang of heroes of former wars and those of their own days.

 

Some farmsteads in Celtic Britain were merely larger versions of Iron Age round huts, stone-built and thatched, with sleeping-benches around the walls. Small groups of such huts, surrounded by a wall, were still being built in Anglesey in the sixth century. Rectangular timber houses, with the thatched roofs supported by a ridge-pole, became common where timber was plentiful. In the west, and in many early Anglo-Saxon villages, houses were simpler than the homesteads before. Celtic bards sang of the glories of their lord`s halls and suggest that they were equal of those of the Anglo-Saxons.

 

At Dinas Powys, on the Glamorgan coast plateau south-west of Cardiff, a Celtic chief refortified an Iron Age camp. Set on a spur of limestone, it was reoccupied during the fifth and sixth centuries. The two rectangular houses on the hill at Dinas Powys were stone-built and had round corners. They probably represent the chief`s hall and a dwelling for his herdsmen and metalworkers. The area is well wooded and cattle and pigs were reared and killed off each autumn. Corn was grown and three rotary querns were found in the settlement. The metalworkers used fragments of glass and bronze which was imported as scrap, perhaps from Gaul, or acquired when broken, from the Anglo-Saxons. The Dinas Powys folk melted down the scrap metal and glass and made bronze brooches with vitreous inlays, using small clay crucibles. At Garranes in County Cork a similar industry was carried on in a strongly defended rath between 450 and 550.

 

There was no pottery-making at Dinas Powys. Most Anglo-Saxons appear to have used wood, leather and horn containers rather than pots. Organised manufacture of wheel-made pottery lapsed after the Romans withdrew. Kilns found in late seventh-century Ipswich suggest that the pottery industry was ten beginning to be resumed, after three centuries. The people of Dinas Powys, and other settlements along the Atlantic route, imported their pots from Mediterranean lands. They included amphorae, containers for wine and oil, which can be matched in sicily, spouted mortaria for mashing fruit to make purees, a method inherited from Roman kitchens, and fine red bowls, one adorned with leopards, which were being made in Antioch on the Orontes after 425. One or other of the types of pottery has been found at sites on both sides of the southern Irish Sea, including Dinas Emrys and a cave near Tenby in Wales, Cadbury in Somerset, Tintagel and Gwithian in Cornwall, and Bantham in south Devon. More are likely to be found. These were important religious and secular communities which brought in their supplies up the long Atlantic seaway to maintain feeding and drinking habits which were remembered from the days of the Romans. The well-known story of the Egyptian merchant ship which relieved a famine in Cornwall, and exchanged its cargo of corn for tin, dates from about 615 and is part of the trading tradition of this period. This old-established trade with the Mediterranean became much more difficult after the eighth century when the Moors occupied both shores of the Straits of Gibraltar, Iberia and southern France. Coarse locally made pots then replaced imported Mediterranean pottery in many homesteads.

 

The Ogam alphabet, which originated in southern Ireland, was used on both sides of the Irish Sea. It is a system in which horizontal or oblique notches are cut to represent an alphabet of twenty letters across or on one side of the edge of stones, and once, no doubt, wood. The distribution of the Ogam-inscribed stones is, mainly in south-western wales and southern Ireland. The language is the geodelic or Irish form of Celtic, and Ogam inscriptions begin the fifth century. Their concentration in the lands of the Deisi, Irish immigrants in Pembrokeshire, is noticeable. Irish settlers, traders and missionaries carried the Ogam script to the Isle of Man and to the Northern Isles. Ogams may first have been used by pagans, but the majority occurs in Christian memorial stones of the fifth to seventh centuries in Wales had Roman names, and in Breconshire particularly, the stones were often set up along Roman roads across the hills, a Carmathenshire stone bearing both Latin and Ogam inscriptions. Avitoria was the daughter of Cynin, a son or grandson of Brychan, the best-known Breckonshire missionary. His numerous sons and daughters preached in many of the lands around the Bristol Channel and there are other dedications to Cynin in south-west Camarthenshire. On its western boundary, Voteporix, king of Dyfed, fifth in descent from Eochaid of the Deisi, is commemorated on a stone dated about 540-50. This stone is inscribed only in Latin, and Voteporix is given the Roman title of protector.

 

In Roman Britain, Christianity was the faith of townfolk andof families who lived in Romano-British villas, and therural folk of Highland Britain were not converted in large numbers until the fifth century. Traditions of fourth-century conversions centres in Wales round St. Helena (Elen), who had been converted by St. Martin of Tours, and several churches are dedicated to her. Saint Aaron and Julius are said to have been martyred near the legionary fort of Caerlon. The evangelisation of Atlantic and highland Britain was carried out by Celtic missionaries, often recognised as saints, during the fifth and sixth centuries. From monastic cells in the deserts around the Fertile Crescent, Christianity was taken to the Mediterranean islands, including Lerins off the south coast of France, and thence through France to Britain. St. Martin of Tours trained missionaries like St. Ninian, and St. Patrick studied at Lerins and under St. Germanus of Auxerre. St. Ninian and St. Patrick played a large part in the conversion of the Irish coastlands, St. Ninian founding Whithorn Priory at the end of the fourth century, and St. Patrick later converting Ireland. Both trained missionaries to succeed them.

 

The Celtic church was essentially monastic. The mother church, or clas, was served by a monastic community headed by an abbot, and hermitages were built on islands or on remote coasts. Ynys Seiriol (Puffin Island) off Anglesey, was the retreat of St. Seiriol and a small group of monks whose material needs were catered for in small fields around their cells. Bardsey, often isolated by storms, was a saints` retreat off the Llyn peninsula. In Orkney, the Brough of Deerness has monks` cells around the small church and St. Ninian`s chapel near Jarlshof in Shetland and in Bute were similar hemitages. Tintagel hermitage was in use from the fifth to eighth centuries and here the separate monks` cell were placed around springs on the headland with the abbot`s cell lying apart from them. On the cliff were the library, sweathouse and corn-drying kiln. The chapel was later replaced by a Norman church. Wine and oil were imported from the Mediterranean for use in Tintagel monastery. St. Perrin`s oratory, also in north Cornwall, survives from this period because it was buried by drifting sand. Similar chapels are more numerous in western Ireland.

 

The records of missionary journeys, such as the seventh-century life of St. Samson of Dol, makes it obvious that sea travel was commonplace. The more difficult journeys were overland ones and it is these which are recorded in detail. St. Samson travelled between Brittany and St. Illtud`s monastery at Llantwit Major (Llanilltud Fawr) in Glamorgan. Using the sea route from Llantwit Major he came to Padstow and used one of the Cornish tranpeninsular routes, probably that to Fowey. His overland journey, with a wagon-load of holy vessels and manuscripts took him through country where megaliths retained their sanctity. He preached to pagans dancing around a stone idol and cut a cross on it, a common practice in Brittany. Re-use of pagan sites honouredby country folk can also be seen at Ysbytty Cynfyn, twelve miles east of Aberwstwyth, where a Bronze Age circle was incorporated in the churchyard wall. Many churchyards in Celtic lands are enclosed by round walls.

 

St. David, son of St. Non, appears to have been born near the Cardiganshire coast. His main centre, Mynwy (St. David`s) lies in a sheltered valley cut into the Pembrokeshire coast plateau. Pilgrims could use a number of landings before walking inland to his shrine, as they frequently did after St. David`s began to rank with Rome as a pilgrim centre. At Porth Mawr (Whitesand Bay) and Porth Stinan, both west of St. David`s, and at St. Non`s Bay south of the little cathedral city, there are old chapels where pilgrims went when they landed. They were using creeks frequented by travellers since the time of the megalith builders, who buried their dead on the headlands of the St. David`s peninsula. In thr lowland of England some monasteries were built in deserted Roman forts when the Early English became Christians –Reculver and Dover are examples. At Canterbury sites outside the Roman wall were usually chosen.

The dedications to native Celtic missionaries along the Atlantic coasts of Britain show them to have often worked in provinces which already well defined culturally. Dedications to St. David, now the patron saint of Wales, are confined to the southern half of Wales and to a few localities across the Bristol Channel and in Brittany, to which there were folk movements in the fifth century. St. Teilo, St. Cadog, St. Illtud and St. Padarn also belong to South Wales, where all established monasteries. St. Deiniol and St. Beuno are the best-known North Wales Celtic saints, and a small building below the floor of the chapel of St. Beuno`s monastery at Clynnog Fawr, in Caernavonshire, may have been built in his day.

Dedications to St. Mungo (Kentigern), and his followers, link North Wales, Cumbria, and the lands of the Votadini in the Lothians and the Southern Uplands. St. Mungo, who later became the patron saint of Glasgow, may have followed in the steps of the Votadini who had already moved from Manaw Gododdin, the land south of the Forth estuary, to north Wales. Dedications to St. Chattan of Antrim are found on the Irish side of the North Channel and in Argyll and the Western Isles.

 

The early English settlers were pagans who worshipped gods like Woden, apparently in sacred groves and temples. His name is perpetuated in Woodnesborough in Kent and in names like Wednesbury, Wednesfield and Wednesday. Earthworks were attributed to him, hence Wansdyke. In 597 the Roman Church sent St. Augustine to Canterbury to convert the English, ( the reason for this,the passing of Columba at Iona, a great man who the Pope could not challenge, but now he had gone and so Augustine with great reluctance went on this very important mission for the church of Rome, with the intention of breaking or subdueing the Celtic church under the Church of Rome) and the wife of king Ethelbert of Kent, who was converted with his court, was a Christian Frankish princess who had here own bishop. He had been assigned a church of St. Martin which had survived from the fourth century. Pope Grogory, at this time, advised missionaries to convert pagan temples into Christian churches “in order that the people may have more familiarly resort to the places to which they have been accustomed.” A traditionlingered in Canterbury that St. Pancras` Church there was on the site of a pagan temple.

 

A princess of Kent who married King Edwin of Northumbria took Christianity there and initiated great gatherings for baptism, by rivers like the Swale at Catterick and the Glen at Yeavering, where warriors had more frequently congregated. Northumbria was st. Cuthbert`s mission field, and the Angles there called the see of the bishop of Durham Cuthbertsfolk, St. Cuthbert`s body, carried to and fro during the Danish invasions, was eventually enshrined in Durham Cathedral.

 

The differing views of the Celtic and Roman Christianity on, for example, the date of Easter, were resolved at the Synod of Whitby in 664 and when the Welsh/Celtic/British Church was persuaded to conform,( the reason for the synod was the fact that Roman churches mission was not doing very well, whereas the Celtic church was very successfulso using King Oswy`s `a Celtic Christian` wife `a Roman Christian` with the help from abbot Wilfrid who instigated problems so the synod came about, Wilfrid was a very arrogant man, who was able to gain the advantage over Colman who could not match the arguments so lost and thus the slow demise of the Celtic church which took many centuries to achieve as they had spread over the whole of Europe and beyond), both lowland and highland Britain became more firmly linked with the Roman ecclesiastical tradition and through it, with the imperial Roman heritage. Pope Gregory may have visualised England as a united Roman province rather than as a land of differing pagan kingdoms, and the archbishops who were appointed by his mission of 597 wereto have had their sees at London and York. But Ethelbert`s power had spread outside Kent, and the southern archbishop was appointed to Canterbury, then his chief city. London was unimportant at that time, and its see, like that of York, was a later creation. In the late seventh and early eighth centuries bishops were consecrated at London, whose see included Essex; at Dunwich and Elmham in East Anglia; in Lindsey; at Lichfield (whose see extended north to the Ribble valley), Worcester, Hereford and Leicester in Mercia; at York, Lindisfarne, Hexham and Abercorn in Northumbria; at Winchester and Sherborne in Wessex and at Selsey in Sussex. These are all large sees where it wold be necessary to appoint priests to serve churches and from this, and the need to endow them, parish and the tithe system gradually spread.

 

Few of the small churchws built by the Anglo-Saxons survive. Their walls have characteristic “long and short work,” stones set alternately upright and horizontal, often between pilaster strips. Arcading and doorways are sometimes triangular-headed. Five of these churches can be seen in the valleys of Mercia, at Bradford-on-Avon near Bath, at Brixworth and Earls Barton in the Nene basin near Northampton, at Deerhurst on the Avon near Tewkesbury, and at Great Paxton on the Ouse near St. Neots.

Pagan Anglo-Saxons were buried with their weapons, jewellery and pottery, as were the prehistoric peoples in Britain. Converts to Christianity, however, were buried without grave goods. As late as 630 a king (it is believed to be king Readwald Bretwalda/High King) was buried at Sutton Hoo with his ship and magnificent jewellery and weapons. This famous burial, by the Deben estuary in East Suffolk, indicates splendour in personal ornament and skill in craftsmanship, especially in inlay and

Some converted Anglo-Saxons adopted the monastic life introduced by Augustine, himself a monk, (who became the Apostle of Kent) who founded the abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul outside the decaying walls of Canterbury. Reculver and Dover monasteries were soon built afterwards. The life and layout of the first Northumbrian monastery, Aidan`s (who became the Apostle of England) foundation at Lindisfarne, was Celtic. The cells of the monks and that of the abbot were encircled by a wall, as they had been at Iona where Aidan was trained. Other Northumbrian monasteries were set up at Melrose, Tynemouth and Whitby, and later, Benedictine houses set up at monkwearmouth, in 674, and at Jarrow, where Bede worked, in 681. Benedictine monasteries in Mercia included Peterborough, and those of East Anglia Bury St. Edmunds.

 

The churches and monasteries of both Anglo-Saxon and Celtic Britain were richly endowed. The beautiful eighth-century silver bowl and brooches buried under the floor of St. Ninian`s chapel, near Jarlshof in Shetland, show that the churches were regarded as sanctuaries where the community`s wealth might be deposited during Viking raids. The hanging bowl of St. Ninian`s may have had a liturgical use. Irish styles of ornament influenced the makers of the St. Ninian`s treasure and, with some saxon traditions, they flowered richly in the illuminated of the period. The Lindisfarne Gospels, now in the British Museum, date from about 700 and are adorned with rich and elaborate detail. ( The Roman church had this put together from all parts of the Christian world, a very beautiful book but was this another element in the Roman church taking over the Christian church which it tried to in the schism of the 1050s as it tried to destroy the Orthodox church, whilst the Roman church became the Roman Catholic church). Across the Irish Sea, the Book of Kells, in Trinity College, Dublin, is the finest surviving illuminated manuscript of this period. These are the works of craftsmen who loved colour and decoration, who finely schematised native animals andplants, and who were in contact with the lands where vines grew more successfully than they did in Britain. These craftsmen and their pupils prepared many manuscripts for monasteries which made a major contribution to West European scholarship. Bede`s `Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation`, based on wide reading and exchanging of ideas with other scholars, continues to inspire historians. Alcuin of York was a scholar who fostered learning both in England and at the court of Charlemagne. Many centuries of learning were destroyed by Viking raiders, but the Vikings were eventually converted to Christianity, as were many of the peoples across the North Sea, in the homelands of the Anglo-Saxons, by monks such as Willibrord and Wynfrith (St. Boniface), who went out from British monasteries.

 

Farming economies such as those of the Early English and Britons used three types of land. Arable land was needed for crop-production and pasture was necessary for herds and flocks. If the plough oxen and the breeding stock of cattle were to be sustained over the winter, hay had to be produced on meadowland. In the broad valleys of the lowlands, meadows could readily be laid out, though in the narrower valleys of Celtic Britain meadowland was more restricted. Where mountains rose sharply from the coast, as in the Highlands of Scotland and North Wales, arable patches were also small, and, if the soils were thin, soon lost their fertility. Here tillage was shifted to other arable patches to rest the corn patches. Forests provided grazing for cattle and leafy twigs and undergrowth were recommended as cattle fodder up to the eighteenth century; pigs reared in the forests were important in Anglo-saxon farming. Herds which ranged were liable to be stolen and penalties for cattle-lifting loom large in Anglo-Saxon law.

Co-operation in farming was inevitable in lowland, highland, and Atlantic Britain. Incoming and often related families of Anglo-Saxons, and kinship groups in the west, lived in villages and hamlets and together cleared the forests, laid out and tilled the fields, and co-operated in the struggle against the hostile elements to win harvests and increase their flocks. In thinly peopled and difficult terrain in western Britain, small kinship groups tilled such arable patches as they could dig and their herds grazed a much larger area of moorland which might encircle the arable and have poorly defined mountain limits. So long as the economy was based on oats and cattle the population of these western areas was relatively small. The later introduction of the potato fostered population increase and land hunger.

 

The better ands of lowland Britain, tilled by an Anglo-Saxon population which quickly increased by immigration and by natural increase, were occupied by about 800 in well-defined parishes whose boundaries were natural features such as streams and ridge crests. The valley and scarpments were often laid out in strip parishes. For shelter and water supply the village might lie on a gravel terrace above the flood plain of the river, or it might be on the spring-line where the porous chalk or Jurassic limestone escarpment met the impervious clays of the valley.

The arable fields were laid out around the farmsteads and usually lay on the lower hillsides or above flood-level in the valley. The meadows would lie along the river and its tributaries, and on the swiftest of these, or by a millpond, there would be a watermill for grinding corn. The upper hillsides and the woodlands would provide pasture for cattle and sheep and pannage for swine. A line of villages on spring-lines or valley margins would have its lands in strips stretching from the scarp crest to the river. For larger villages with greater demands on land, the strip might stretch across theriver and up to the top of the scarp beyond it. Groups of strip parishes are frequently found to-day stretching, for example, from the Vale of White Horse to the crest of the Berkshire Downs, or from rivers which flow through the Fenland up into the adjoining heathlands. Beyond the Jurassic scarp, in the great plains of Mercia, in northern England, and in the more limited lowlands of Wales and south-west Britain, strip parishes are less common, but similar demands for arable, meadow and pasture had to be met and parishes came to have a variety of shapes within boundaries which were again well defined by physical features.

This well-planned system depended for its success on communal working of the lands of the village. Joint effort on the land to produce food for a community is world-wide and antedates the Anglo-saxons. All the ox teams of from two to six oxen, shown in prehistoric carvings on rocks in the Maritime Alps of Italy, are unlikey to have belonged to rich individuals. Prehistoric farmers must have contributed one, or a pair of oxen, to such plough teams, and this was the custom of Anglo-Saxon and medieval farmers. In remote parts of Atlantic Britain the soil was more often turned by the spade or breast plough (caschrom), which depended on human motive power. Much of the Highland Zone had ploughs in prehistoric times and in the Dark Ages, and there, as in the lowlands, holdings were often awarded according to the farmers contribution to the communal plough teams.

These holdings were strips of arable and meadowland grouped in common fields, which were enclosed only by hurdles along their outer margins while they were under corn or hay. They were thrown open after harvest and the herds grazed on the stubble or aftermath. The common arable fields were cultivated under arotation in which one-third of the land was in autumn-sown corn (wheat, winter beans or rye), one-third in spring corn (barley, oats, spring beans or peas) and the remainder was rested in fallow. This is the basic pattern of the so-called three-field system, and it is a rotation system rather than an indication of the number of the fields of a village. These varied from one huge field worked in thirds to such numbers as were dictated by relief and drainage. Many villages had five or six fields. The size of the strip holdings was similarly determined by the lie of the land. Heavy valley land was ploughed into high ridges to improve drainage. Dark Age and medieval plough ridges in the Midlands, and in the wide valleys between the Jurassic limestone and chalk scarps, can be clearly seen to-day in spite of the efforts of mechanised to obliterate them

A farmer`s strips were widely separated and were spread over the fields according to the quality of the land. Equality of opportunity was ensured on land both near and far from the village. As the population increased and more land was cleared for tillage, the same system was extended to it. Boundaries between the strips varied in form, but none of them was broken up by the community`s ploughs. Narrow bands a furrow or more wide were left between the cultivated strips on heavy ground. On light soils such as those of the Jurassic scarp, or the chalklands of Wessex, and on lands underlain by limestone or gravel in Wales and south-west England, baulks which were called landsherds, landshares or landskers were built up between the strips. They were low narrow banks of small field-stones and can still be seen in common fields on both sides of the Bristol-Channel. Wider unploughed strips of land lay transversely to the ends of the ploughed strips and were the headlands on which the plough teams were turned. On meadowland, and on some arable land, other boundary-marks such as mere stones were placed to mark the ends of the strips. These survive, if only as local names; they can still be found in Atlantic Britain and in western Ireland.

 

Strips in common fields were theoretically a day`s work for a plough team and did not always cover an acre. In the lowlands they were long and narrow, but even here small strips occurred in field corners. These short or triangular pieces were called butts and gores. In western Britain, where communities available arable patches and open fields were smaller, long strips are less frequently found. But bundles of shorter strips of a quarter or a half-acre, or more, were laid out and shared out in the same way here. The scarce meadowland was even more minutely fragmented. In Celtic Britain kinship groups tilled strips communally. Their common field system, known as rundale in Ireland and runrig in the Scottish Highlands, lasted until the nineteenth century. Four Welsh settlements still have common arable fields. In isolated parts of Atlantic Britain regular fallowing to rest the land, as part of a rotation system, was not practiced, for the infields and outfields which were laid out there were irregular, and not necessarily contiguous, patcheswhich were tilled in turn. The infield, nearer the farm cluster, was more often manured and tilled than the outfield. Both could be subject to a complete reallocation of strips over the years. Farmers would have share in the arable, perhaps a quarter or an eighth according to the size of the farm cluster, and a “stint” in the large common grazings, based usually on their share of the arable land. This stint determined the number of animals which might be turned out on to the common pasture and was a precaution against overstocking.

 

In the Highland Zone herdsmen built summer dwellings on pastures which were too far from the main settlement for the flocks and herds to return each evening. In Scotland these summer dwellings in the mountains, or near coastal marshes, were called shielings, and in Ireland booleys. In Wales the summer settlement was the hafod (or the lluest in South Wales) and the permanent home the hendre.

 

When the benefits of resting the land were first realised in England, the first rotation which was practiced was one in which half the cropped land was in winter-sown and half in spring-sown crops, while the other half was in fallow. Both “two-field” and “three-field” systems are known to have been practiced in Britain, sometimes in the same area. Walter of Henley makes it clear that this was so in the thirteenth century. Though there is little difference in practice between them, the three-field system with its more economical use of the land eventually predominated.

Farming in common fields, widespread over Anglo-Saxon and Celtic England, reached its greatest extent in the Middle Ages. Piece-meal enclosure of common fields began long before parliamentary enclosure, especially where there was a demand for building land, and where there were ambitious landowners or men likely to be in touch with nwe ideas in farming, like those of Essex. But this communal system, with its many advantages for farmers, imprinted by Anglo-Saxon settlers and fully developed under the medieval manorial system, supported much of Britain until the Industrial Revolution and has still not entirely disappeared.