Tag Archives: Local History

Anglo-Saxon Marlow

Tony Reeve is a well know local historian, who has published leaflets and booklets and also leads town walks for the Marlow Society. This talk was Part 1 and covered the period up to Domesday. The second part of the talk, about Marlow in Domesday Book, will be given to the Local History Group, on Monday 20th October in the Garden Room at Liston Hall at 7.30 p.m. They assure us everyone will be welcome (cost £1).

Tony Reeve
Tony Reeve

Tony commenced by showing a map of Britain in mediaeval times and mentioned that on average the temperature was around 10 C warmer, with vines being grown for wine, including at Bisham. From c 900 it was also drier than now. Another map of 6th century showed Roman roads in the area, Tony said we should remember that the Romans left England in 407 and the early Anglo Saxons were not literate and had no calendar for instance, so used the lives of local kings to record years, which was not accurate.

In 571 at the Battle of Biedcanford, Cuthbert defeated the Britons and captured several towns around the Chilterns. The first time Anglo Saxons were in the area was before 600AD. The indicators of Anglo Saxons near Marlow include a 6th C spearhead found at Marlow and another at Temple Lock. A 6thC brooch is in Bucks Museum and of course the burial at Taplow of about 600 and a burial dating from c 650 at Castle Hill in Wycombe. At Wooburn, spearheads and a sword blade from 7/8th C have been found; a 7th or 8th C cemetery with weaponry was in Bourne End and skeletons and weapons have been discovered at Cookham. The people of the area were called Chilternsaete – people of the Chilterns.

In the 7th century, the Tribal Hidage listed territories and the number of hides each contained – similar to a tax code assessment to define the amount of contributions that should be expected from each area in times of war for example.

In 1086 the population of Chilterns and the Thames Valley was 10 people per sq mile, adjoining areas was about 5 – 9 people per sq mile. Starvation kept the population down, as did plagues, drought and flood and in 1046 there was an earthquake. This allied with the constant battles did not give the population any time to recover.

Land use was for growing grain, as well as grazing for cattle, pigs and sheep. Tony told us how a few Celtic names still survive e.g. Freith, Wendover.

Marlow was fortunate to be sited on the Thames, but the river formed the boundary between Mercia and Wessex and there were frequent squables between the two territories which ceased when they united to defend themselves from the Vikings in 832. The next map showed local Danish settlements, including Danesfield, Westhorpe, Coldmoorholm and Addlestrop (near Marlow mill). Others were in the Hambleden valley at Coldthorp, Fingest and Skirmett.

Alfred fought back against the Vikings and became England’s first King. He formed the burhs to fight the Vikings. These included forts at Sashes Island (Cookham), Wallingford, Oxford and Buckingham.

Tony told us of AEthelflaede, the daughter of Alfred, she is not well–enough–known, but fought and won many battles.

There was peace for 60 years, giving time for hamlets such as Marlow to develop by people co-operating with each other in agriculture and to be able to defend themselves from attack.

In the 10th century there were more attacks and in 1011 the King begged for peace and promised tax and provisions, but many burhs were still burned down by the Vikings. The hamlet of Marlow was probably burned at this time. The counties began to be formed, each with its own King’s Sheriff and Court.

In 1017 the Anglo Saxons were defeated and the Viking Cnut became King, giving the country some years of stability during which time burgage plots probably started to be established, such as those measured by AIM in Marlow.

The main mention of Marlow is in the will of the aethling AEthelstan in 1014 where he mentions his estate at Merelafan “I bought from my father AEthelraed”.

Another mention is of St Wulfstan’s visit to the church on the site of the current All Saints church in 1070 where he lost his shoe in the mud.

Thanks to Tony for his interesting talk and we hope to hear part 2 on 20th October.

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