Settlers in Essex & East Anglia

Settlers in Essex & East Anglia

One of the most interesting circumstances connected with the settlement of Essex is the old Kentish colony which formed in the north-east of the county, and was part of the territory belonging to St. Paul`s Cathedral.

AEthelbert, King of Kent, was the overlord of Essex in the beginning of the seventh century. He was also the founder of St. Paul`s, and endowed it and the bishopric of London with its earliest estates. Three centuries after his time AEthelstan, King of Wessex, confirmed its possessions to the church. The date and authenticity of the charter in which AEthelstan is said to have done this is perhaps doubtful, but it is not doubtful that the landed estates of the See of London had been held beyond the memory of man in AEthelstan`s time. The estate of this church in the north-east of Essex comprised Walton-on-the Naze and the adjoining parishes of Kirby-le-Soken and Thorpe-le-Soken. These parishes were known as the `Liberty of the Soke` for many centuries, and comprised several later manors within them. The name for this district in the Anglo-Saxon period was AEdulfness or AEduves-nasa.

That this district on the north-east coast of Essex was a Kentish colony is proved by its customs,which were identical with the gavelkind customs of Kent in the following particulars:

  1. The land in AEdulfness, or the later Liberty of the Soke, were divisible among sons, and failing these, among daughters, as in Kent. The evidence of this is found in the record known as the “Domesday of St. Paul’s”,  in which a list of tenants is given. In some of these entries the sons are named, and in others the daughters, as holding their fathers land in the year 1222, according to ancient custom.
  2. The services due from the tenants are laid on the hides and not on the actual tenements. This was the case in Kent. Each hide, or, as in Kent, each sulong-the distinction being only in name-included a great number of plots. Some of these plots were very small, and in many instances the same person held plots in several hides. The system in the Essex soke was in this essential particular the Kentish system.
  3. The widows of tenants had their dower land, as in Kent, many entries of such lands being mentioned in the “Domesday of St. Paul’s”.
  4. The tenants paid gafol, or small rents, as in Kent.
  5. They could pull down their houses or lease them, as in Kent, without their lord’s license, and in other ways act with a degree of freedom unknown on other manors in Essex, but common in Kent.

Within this ancient soke are Horsey Island and Puetie, or Pewit Island, identical in name to Horsey and Puetie, or Pewit, Islands in the north of Portsmouth Harbour, and within the territory of the Jutes in Hampshire, who were themselves closely connected with the people of Kent.

There is no record relating to the settlement of East Anglia and Essex similar to those concerning Kent.Sussex, and Wessex. All we know is that attacks on this part of England were many and often by people from Germany, who settled in these counties and in Mercia.1

The East Anglian State was probably formed in the sixth century, for Bede tells us of its King Eaedwald, son of Tytilus, whose father was Uffa,2 and Raedwald is historical.

The East Anglian people in the ninth century do not appear to have been regarded as different in designation from those of Essex, for Asser, in his `Life of Alfred,` says under the year 866, that `a large fleet of pagans came to Britain and wintered in the Kingdom of the Eastern Saxons which his called in Saxon East Anglia.` The important later ethnological circumstance in Norfolk and Suffolk is the large settlement of Danes, who appear to have been, according to Malmesbury, the ancestors of the free tenants or sokemen who were so numerous at the time of the Domesday Survey, Ethelweard, in his Chronicle, tells us that after the peace between Alfred and Guthrum the Danes went into East Anglia and reduced all the inhabitants of those parts to subjection. Malmesbury also tells us that they held East Anglia in subjection during their later invasions, and that in time of Cnut-they distributed themselves as best suited their convenience in the towns and in the country.

Among the Essex place-names apparently dervived from those of known Germanic tribes is Ongar, which appears to have come from the Old Saxon Angarian tribal name. Its old form in Domesday Book are Angra and Angre. In a Saxon charter(3) a stream calle Angrices-burne is also mentioned.

The name Coggeshall may possibly have been derived from a settler of the Chaucian tribe, and Amberden or Amberdon from the Old Saxon Ambrones. In the north-west corner of the county we find old places named Radwinter and Quendon, and these words, Wintr and Quen, are Old Danish or Norrena for Wend and Fin.

In this district, also, there are names such as Wixhoe,Duddenhoe, Farnham, Haverill, Wicken, and others pointing to Norrena-speaking people. There are several groups of names in Essex, such as Roothings and Raines, which have been derived from clan settlements. The eight places called Roothing are all near each other, and Baintree, anciently Rayne Magna, was a centre of the settlement of people called by the clan-name Rayne. Dengy, also called danesey, near the coast, points to Danish occupants.

The Old English place-names(4) in Essex that are suggestive of settlements of families or communities of Wends are important. They are Wenesuuic, Wendea`, Weninchou, Wenesteda`, and the hundred name Wensistreu. These names appear to have been chiefly those of localities in the south and west of the county, and Wanstead, the ancient Wenesteda`, survives. There is also an old place in Essex close to the Thames called Wenington.(5) When we remember the evidence of settlements of Wends, whether named from heads of families or communities, which exists in the place-names and surviving customs in the higher parts of the valley of the Thames, there can be little doubt that these old place-names in Essex point to people of the same race. The name Wendena in the genitive plural appears to denote a kindred of them. The modern name is Wendens, south of Chesterford, where the custom of Borough-English survived, and this confirms the Wendish origin of the name. From the evidence of probable Wendish settlements in Essex, Sussex, and parts of Wessex, it would appear that the Saxons at the time of the settlement of these parts of England were in alliance with some tribe or tribes of Wends, as the Continental Saxons were with the Wendish Wiltzi in the time of Charlemagne. These Wend names in Essex and elsewhere in England can be compared with similar names in the old frontier lands in the East of Germany, and even to this day the Fins call Russia Wennalaiset, or the land of the Wends.(6)

There are in Essex other traces of Wendish settlements. Of these, Hauelingas, which is the Domesday name of places in two hundreds, is remarkable, in view of the statement of King Alfred that the Wendish tribe known as the Wilte or Wiltzi were also called the men of Havel.(7) It is direct evidence of the settlement of people called by the tribal name Havel.

The Essex Domesday names Ruuenhala and Ruenhale may also reasonably be connected with settlers who were Rugians. These names are similar to those found relating to Rugians in old Germanic records, and with those in the Saxon charters relating to Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, and Hampshire.

In East Anglia there is sufficient evidence that Frisians, including Chaucians and Hunsings, and Wends, including Wilte, must be regarded as among the settlers. These people were certainly not of the Anglian race as known to Charlemagne, or of the Angli as known in the time of Tacitus. There are still remaining in East Alglia traces of Saxon settlers. The earliest record we have of Teutonic people on the shores of the eastern counties is that of the Saxons. The name was, no doubt, sometimes used for Frisian, and Frisian for Saxon. The Frisian ports were Saxon outlets to the sea, and it would thus be likely that some Saxons would be called Frisians, and visa versa. Domesday Book tells us of Saxon place-names-Saxalinghaham and Sastorp in Norfolk, Saxmondeham, Saxham, and Saxteda in Suffolk, some of which remain at the present time. Among the early Continental Saxons was the pagus or tribe known as the Bucki, of whom records exist as far back as A. D. 775-776,(8), and in Norfolk we find Bucchesteda, Buccham, Bucham Regis, Buchestuna, Buchenham, and other names dervived from settlers recorded in Domesday Book.

The name East Anglia which was applied to the country of the North folk and South folk is misleading to some extent, for it seems to imply that the settlers were chiefly Angles. If they were all Angles from Danish and Scandinavian lands we might expect to find in these counties some traces of their runic letters. Runes have been found in the Anglian districts north a and south of the Humber. They have not been found in Northfolk or Southfolk except in one eleventh-century inscription, which is of a much later date. This is an important fact, especially when considered in reference to the absence of any fixed runic monument or inscription in Friesland, Old Saxony, or any pert of Germany. “The monuments might have been destroyed and disappear,” says the greatest writer on runic monuments “but if they had ever existed in German or Saxon lands they would have left some trace behind them”.(9)

This at once establishes a sharp line of distinction between the Goths, Swedes, and Norwegians of Scandinavia, the Danes, Angles, and Goths or Jutes of England, on the one hand, and the Saxons, Frisians, Wends, and other nations and tribes of Germany on the other hand. As the latter have left no monuments with runic inscriptions in their original homes, and as certain parts of England which are supposed to have been mainly colonized by them are also marked by the absence of such monuments, the runic inscriptions on fixed objects in England help to prove the settlement in some parts of the country of Goths and other Scandinvians, whether called

Anglians or Jutes, or by their later names of Norse and Danes. Similarly, the absence of such inscriptions appears to point to the colonization mainly of those parts of the country which are wanting in them by settlers of other races.

The absence in East Anglia of fixed runic inscriptions, except a late example about A. D. 1050 in the church at Aldborough,(10) therefore suggests the inquiry whether East Anglia was not originally occupied partly by settlers of Frisian and German origin rather exclusively by colonists of the Anglian race. It is evidence also that its earliest colonists came mainly from north German lands rather than from the original homes of the people known as the Angles. Viewed in this light, the original settlement of the eastern counties must be regarded as more Saxon than Anglian, more Frisian than Gothic, Beddoe(11) has, however, pointed out that the name of Tytila (A. D. 586), son of Uffa, King of East Anglia, is very like that of Totlia, King of the Ostrogoths.

In the eastern counties, as elsewhere, the place-names derived from people are probably as old as the settlement. The places must have been the abodes of men after whom they were named, and where they were designated by tribal names it probably was because their occupants were of these tribes.

When we think how few must have been the original places of settlement in any county compared with the total number of inhabited places at the present time, the survival of even a few place-names which maybe referred to clan or tribal names must be regarded as remarkable. Many very old tribal or family names have, however, survived of which only a few of each type can be quoted, such as Hunn and Finbo. Hunn is a family name at the present time at Old Hunstanton in Norfolk, which derived its name, apparently, from one or more settlers that were called Hunn. Finbo also survives in the same neighbourhood. These names point to the settlements in this part of England of some individuals of the Hunsing and Fin tribes.

The survival, also, here and there in these counties of customs and inheritance that are different from the common customs point, probably, to different tribal usages of a very remote origin which were brought by early tribal settlers.

Many years ago some remarkable burial urns of the Anglo-Saxon age were found at Eye in Suffolk, and at Little Wilbraham in Cambridgeshire. Another large collection was found at Stade in the old Chaucian country of North Germany. Kemble says of these collections : “Generally the urns in sepulchres of North Europe are not of a complicated character. The urns found at Stade, as well as those from Eye and Little Wilbraham, are however, beaten out and embossed, the raised parts most likely pressed out with the thumb. The urns embossed like those at Eye, at Wilbraham, and at Stade stand by themselves”.12 This is a remarkable coincidence, for it is near Eye that we find such old Place-names as Fressingfield and Hoxne, names that are probably traces of Frisians and Hocings-i.e., Chaucians. Stade is in old Chaucian country, and hoxne is written in Domesday Book in the genitive plural form Hoxna.

Among may places which have old tribal names in Norfolk, we find both Wendling and Winterton, and these not improbably refer to settlers of the same race, who were called Wends by German tribes, such as the Frisians, and Wiinthr by the Scandians. The names Wendling and Winterton, which were probably given to these places by the neighbouring settlers, may, perhaps point to people mainly of Frisian descent near Wendling, and to people mainly of Scandinavian descent near Winterton. The name Somerton, which occurs closely to Winterton in Norfolk, is probably of later origin, and arose after the word Wintr had ceased to be understood as a race name. The name Wintretuna or Wintredona occurs in nine entries in that part of Domesday Book which relate to Norfolk.

King Alfred, in his  ‘Orosius’,  says that Wendland was also called Syssele, and in the old name Syselond in the Norfolk Hundred of Launditch we probably have to trace of it. This hundred, named Lauuendic in Domesday Book, maybe compared in name with Lauenberg, a Province and city on the Elbe, in part of the Wendish area of North East Germany. The river Wensum flowed on the east of the hundred of Launditch, and among the Anglo-Saxon place-names on its banks are Wenlinga, Lewingham, Leccesham, Goduic, and Elmenham.

It is not suggested that settlements of Wends in the eastern counties, or, indeed, in any part of England, were relatively numerous, but the collective evidence concerning such settlers appears to be great.

Owing to the later Danish settlement, Lincolnshire and Norfolk have an abundance of names of Danish origin. These counties and the East Riding are marked by the bys and thorpes, which will be considered under Lincolnshire. The country of the Danes was small, and the parts of England they colonized were large. It is certain, therefore, that they must have had allies who came in with them. There are historical references to their alliances or political connections with Swedes, Esthonians, Livonians, Kurlanders, and Wends.13 Some of these probably settled in England. In the country to which the Wash is the entrance from the sea there are old place-names still surviving which appear tp point to the Wilte, one of the Wendish tribes. In Lincolnshire we find Wilingha, Wilsthorp, Wilgesbi ; in Cambridgeshire, Wandlebury ; in Northamptonshire, Wilaveston, Wendlingborough, now Wellingborough ; and in Huntingdonshire Wansford and Wintringham. Frisians are denoted by many such names as Friston in Lincolnshire, Hunston or Hunstanton in Norfolk, while Swaffham in Cambridgeshire and in Norfolk may reasonably be connected with settlers who bore names derived from the Swaefas or Suevi, a tribe of, or closely connected with the Saxons. The siginifivant old place-name Wynter-worda occurs in the early records of Ely,(14) and may possibly be a survival of a Norrena or Northern Gothic name for a worth that was the home of a man named Winthr-i.e., a Wend.

Among the Domesday places mentioned in Suffolk are Wellingaham, Humbresfelda, Scandena, Scadenafella, and Elga. The name Wellingaham denotes the home of a community known as the Wellings, and the only known people of this name are the Weletabi or Wile. Humbresfelda apparently refers to the settlers of the tribal Ambrones or Old Saxons from the country along the ancient Ambra or Ems. The Scadena name may point to Scandians, and Elga probably to a clan or ga? Differentfrom those near it. Most of these names so closely resemble tribal names that it is very difficult to see what their origin could have been other than tribal. The English race in all parts of the country appears to have resulted from the blending of people of the same nationsor tribes, but in varying proportions. In the eastern counties the later Danes formed a large proportion, and the racialcharacters of the English of Norfolk and Suffolk must have been modified greatly by the later Danish admixture. In the old record known as the `Liber de Hyda` we find what is apparently a reference to this. The writer says that Offa first reigned in East Anglia, the people of which `were clled Offingas, but now they are called Fykeys.`(15) A fusion of race apparently occurred.

As regards old customs of inheritance in the eastern counties, that which prevailed in Ipswich was the partible custom between all the children, male and female. The old book called `the Domus Day of Gippeswich` says : `Alle tenementz in the foreseid toun ben partable as weel betwixen heires male, as betwixen heyres female, and zif they be not forclosed by zifte or be devis of her antecessourys.“And zif the hertage be parted betwixen hem by her comoun assent, thane have the eldere parcener avauntage to chesyn which part that he wil.`(16) This custom points to the Frisians or Goths, and that Frisians largely settled in the eastern counties there can be know doubt. The general custom of inheritance among the Frisians was the partibility of the property equally among all the children, males and females. It will be noted that the burgesses of Ipswich had the same privileges as those of London and the people of Kent in regard to devising their estates or conveying them to others, and the evidence is strong that both Kent and the neighbourhood of London was partly settled by Frisians.

In the eastern counties there are or were a considerable number of manors in which some form of the custom of borough-English or junior right survived as the customary mode of inheritance. Corner, who investigated this subject, tells us that he found it on eighty-four manors in Suffolk.(17) he also states that there were fourteen in Essex and twelve in Norfolk known to him.(18) Among the Norfolk manors are Kenninghall, Gessinghall, Herling Thorp, Semere Hall, and Thelton. Among the Suffolk manors are Sibton and its members, Yoxford and its members, Aldborough, Hoxne, Brockford near Woodbridge, fressingfield, Elmswell (Framlingham), Geslingham, Pakenham, Middleton, and Mendlesham. The members of the Court Leet of Clare were called Headboroughs, a simi;ar name to that in use in Sussex, where borough-English largely prevailed. Among the Essex manors are Maldon, Chesterfield, South Berstead, Tony Walthamstow, Wivenhoe, Wikes, Wrabness, and Woodford. It is not likely that this custom originated on these several manors. It is more probable that it was introduced by communities of settlers who brought it from the Continent, and it is not necessary to look for its origin entirely to Wendish tribes, for it is known to exist in some parts of Friesland, whence in some instances it may have been introduced by Frisian tribal settlers, and as their descendents formed new colonies or new rural settlements, the custom may have spread with the growth of the population. Although the custom of junior right, by which the youngest son in the partition of the father`s possessions retained the homestead, was followed in some parts of Frisia, the prevailing general custom among the Frisians, as already stated, was partible inheritance, and if Norfolk and Suffolk received Frisian settlers, as there is reason to believe they did, we may look fOr survivals of that custom as well as the custom of junior succession. We find that customs of partible inheritance in these counties are mentioned by Bracton in the early law cases. He quotes cases at Altingeham, Fisinges, and Hecham in Norfolk, and at Gipewico or Ipswich, Illegha, Lilleshaya, and Sproutona in Suffolk.(19)

The records of the Court of King`s Bench, Hiliary Term, 20 Edward III., also shows that the lands within the Fee of Pickering were partible among the males.(20) The old manor of Clipsby in Norfolk was alleged to be within this Fee and had this custom. The Marshall`s Fee and Billockby in the same county had a similar custom,(21) as had also the lordship called Perting Fee, at Saxham in Suffolk.(22)

In Cambridgeshire there are two names of hundreds mentioned in Domesday Book of much interest-viz., Wederlai and Flamindic. The first so much resembles the name Wederas,(23) which was that of the Goths of the Wedermearc east of Lake Wetter in ancient Gothland, that it is difficult to see a more reasonable origin of the name, especially in a country which affords so many other traces ofsettlements of Northmen. The name Flamindic, similarly, appears to point to some of the people who were among the earliest to be known as Flemings. The survival of the old name Wendlebury for the earthwork on the Gog Magog Hills near Cambridge may be compared with the similar old name Wendlebury north-east of Oxford, and with Wendal Hill in the Elmet district of Yorkshire, all apparently referring to settlers who were called by this name. Among other significant Cambridgeshire place-names is Hinxton, which is certainly a contraction of Hengesteston, the town of Hengest. Leverington, written Liuerington in 1285, probably represents a tribl name, as also do Hockington, the town of the Hockings, and Haslingfield, written Haslingefield in Domesday Book, the field of the Haeslings.(24)

The chief circumstances we can discover in the records of Cambridgeshire concerning the classes of tenants within it and their customs point more clearly to the later settlement of Danes than to the earlier one of Anglians and their allies. There was at the time of Domesday Survey a considerable number of cottars in this county, and in the Hundred Rolls, in which the actual holders of the land are stated in detail, a large number of small free tenants are mentioned by name. The presence of numerous holders of crofts, tofts, or other small tenements is a striking character of the records in the Hundred Rolls relating to this county. The very large number of small holdings of various sizes-12, 10, 7, 3, 2 ½, 2, acres, also 1 ½ acres and 1 acre-which were held in many places in Cambridgeshire proves that the customary and small free tenements were divided on inheritance, as in Gothland and in Kent.

Another feature is the number of widows holding land, and in some instances it is expressly stated that they hold their tenements for life, so that it must have been by customary right. These circumstances point to small tenants who were free and, as mentioned in many instances, paid small rents, in lieu of personal services. On some manors parceners are mentioned. In the town of Cambridge, Domesday Book tells us of lahmen, which shows that officers originally Danish survived there. The burgesses also had the power of devising their tenements by will. These customs indicate that in the earlier or later Scandinavian or Danish settlements a large number of free tenants were located in this county, and retained their personal freedom and privileges. In Cambridgeshire the frequency of the lordless village type is a prominent feature of the Domesday record, as pointed out by Maitland.

As regards the dialect of the eastern counties, one of the most interesting circumstances is that stated by Ellis, who says : `It is remarkable that in the American colonies, afterwards the United States, a distinctly East Anglian character was introduced.`(25) there was, as is well known, a large emigration from East Anglia. Ellis also says : `In intonation, the “drant” of Norfolk and the “whine” of Suffolk are well known, but, like other intonations, are difficult to understand, and practically impossible to symbolize.`(26) The Suffolk is broader and more drawling intonation, the speakers voice running up and down half an octave of sharp notes. Whatever maybe the origin of these intonations, we may probably conclude from there were some tribal differences in the origin settlers form whom the people of two countries are descended.

Mackintosh, one and a half century ago, expressed his opinion that `a considerable proportion of the inhabitants of the East of England present the Dutch physical and mental characteristics, but the more influential inhabitants of Norfolk and the neighbourhood are Danes.`(27) This is what might be expected form a settlement of ancient Frisians, and the subsequent domination of the Danes is perhaps indicated by the records of the tenure of the land in Domesday Book, in which it is shown that there was in Norfolk a much larger proportion of freemen or sokemen than in any other part of England. These latter were presumably descendants of the Danish people, who supplanted or partly enslaved the descendants of the previous settlers. Beddoe says : `A remarkable tall blonde race occupies the hundred of Flegg in the north-east of Norfolk, where the local names are Danish.(28) The same physical characters have been observed around Debenham in Suffolk. People of a blonde complexion form the prevailing type in both Norfolk and Suffolk.` `In Cambridgeshire and the north-west of Essex,` says Mackintosh, `there would appear to be mainly Saxons, but in the east and south of Essex the mass of the people show very few signs of Teutonic descent.`(29) The natural entrance open to settlers in Cambridgeshire and north-west Essex would be by way of the Wash and up the valleys of the Cam and its tributaries. The survival of various tribal names among the place-names of those districts appear to point to a mixed population of much the same tribes as those indicated by the names of Sussex and Wessex, among which Frisian, Jutish, or Gothic, and some of Wendish origin, can certainly be traced. In the same districts customs can be recognised which certainly prevailed among these tribal people.


1 Henry of Huntingdon, `History of the English,` edited by Arnold, p. 48.

2 Beda, `Hist. Eccl.,` ii. 15.

3 Codex Dipl., No. 104.

4 Domesday Book, Index to vol. ii.

5 Morant, P., `History of Essex,` i. 85.

6 Morfill, W. R., `Slavonic Literature,` 35.

7 King Alfred`s `Orosius.`

8 Monumenta Germaniae, Script. i. 15

9 Stephens, G., `The Old Northern Runic Monuments,` i., p. viii.

10 Stephens, G., loc. cit., i. xxiii.

11 Beddoe, J., `Races of Britian,` p.42.

12 Kemble, J. M., Archaeologia, xxxvi. 273.

13 Saxo Grammaticus.

14 Inquisitio Eliensis, Index.

15 Liber de Hyda, edited by Edwards, E., p. 10.

16 `The Black Book of the Admiralty,` edited by Sir T. Twiss, ii. 121-123.

17 Bury and West Suffolk Arch. Inst. Proceedings, vol. ii, pp. 227-235.

18 Elton, C. I., `Robinson on Gavelkind,` quoting Corner`s list.

19 Bracton, H. de, `Note-book,` edited by Maitland.

20 Elton, C. I., loc.cit., 33.

21 Ibid., 34-36.

22 Ibid., 40.

23 ‘The Scop, or Gleeman’s Tale’, edited by B. Thorpe, Glossarial Index.

24 Skeat, W. W., Cambridge Antiquarian Soc., Oct. Pub., xxxvi.

25 Ellis, A. J., “English Dialects, their Sounds and Homes”, p. 87.

26 Ibid., p. 59.

27 Mackintosh, D., Transactions of the Ethnological Soc., i. 221.

28 Beddoe, J., loc. cit., 254.

29 Mackintosh, D., loc., i. 221.

Taken from the book =`Origin of the Anglo-Saxon race`

Author: J. W. Shore.