A personal rendering

Coach & Horses
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PRE 1066


A Bronze Celt



Here is my attempt to throw light on the early history of the parish of Harvington. It is a mixture of the scant archaeological material that we have from the parish and information gleamed from the few precious pre-Norman Conquest documents that survived Viking raids, the Norman invasion, the dissolution of the monasteries, damp and fires.

  1. Occasional prehistoric finds around the village.
  2. The Romano-British site under Blakenhurst.
  3. The origin of Harvington's name.
  4. Anglo-Saxon charters that mention Harvington.
  5. Harvington being once part of an ancient land division in the province of Hwicce.
  6. The transference of Harvington to the Church at Worcester circa AD 799.
  7. Harvington's first owner Deneberht, Bishop of Worcester.
  8. Harvington's first recorded tenant, a lady called Eanswith.
  9. Harvington's other manor called Wiburgestoke.
  10. Harvington's lost bridge across the Avon.
The first question to ask is what do we mean by 'Harvington', the parish, the manor, village: which came first, certainly not the parish, that was only formed to serve a community; possibly the estate or manor but there were at one time two manors; maybe it was the village but there were probably more than one settlement in the parish; maybe the name, but a name needs something in existence to latch on to. Part of our answer is certainly in the name but that is not, as we shall find out, immediately obvious. So, here we go.

The parish extends from the once wooded slopes of the Lenches in the west to the river Avon and the mill to the south. On the east is an unnamed natural ditch and brook utilised as both a parish and county boundary, while to the west is another natural feature, a brook now called Harvington Brook. With the parish's nicely defined reversed L-shaped boundaries, it gives the appearance of being a stable and long-standing unit. The area on which Harvington is situated is made up of light soil with a heavy mix of pebbles, easy access to water and wood with parts well above the flood plain. This makes an attractive area for mankind to settle, somebody or some people chose well.

Ageing the roads that truncate the parish is difficult but nevertheless need to be taken into account because they are there for a reason, to traverse from one place to another. Did the settlement or settlements in Harvington come into existence because of the roads or vice versa? Running north-south through the centre of the parish is the ancient salt way (one of several in the area), leading down Anchor Lane and across the river to Offenham. It is believed to date to at least Roman times. The two other roads are: the west-east Evesham to Alcester road, this is probably another ancient way which possibly crossed the river on the south side of Evesham21; The other is the Norton to Bidford road, which origanally crossed Harvington brook at 'Carkford', climbed via the sunken ways of the village to join and cross Anchor Lane and on to descend Cress Hill. There are also of course a number of footpaths which traverse the parish.

Name of Harvington
Place names and their origins is a fascinating study and can reveal an origin that is not obvious from its modern spelling. Place-name study is specialised and one can easily draw the wrong conclusions.

Mostly taken from Bailey's, History of Harvington (see elsewhere on this site), and Mawer's Place-Names of Worcestershire9, here are the following early spellings of Harvington:-

  1. Herverton, AD 709 (spurious 12/13th century)
  2. Herefordinne, AD 709
  3. Hereford, AD 799
  4. Hereforda, AD 814
  5. Herefordtun, AD 964
  6. Herferthun, AD 1086
  7. Herverton, AD 1227
  8. Hervorditun, AD 1240
  9. Herfertun, AD 1240
  10. Herfortun, AD 1249
  11. Hervington, AD 1508
  12. Herforton, AD 1542
Apart from the first 'spurious' reference, one can see a progression of the name from Hereford to Harvington, a fairly modern spelling and not to be confused with the Harvington in the north of the county, which originates as Herwine's settlement. The original stem of our Harvington is presumed to be the English 'Here' a road where a body of armed men could pass with the supplement of the self-explanatory 'ford', in this case the Avon ('Afon' in Welsh meaning a river)9. But Hereford can also be interpreted in another way, a translation from the Welsh Henffordd, meaning an old road crossing a river. Was our name originally the British Henffordd, which morphed into English when the settlement became anglicised in the sixth to eighth centuries, or was it of purely English origin? There is evidence that there was originally a settlement down by the river and it was this settlement that would have carried the name. At some stage the settlement dwindled away and the name became associated with the present village.

Until recently there has been very little archaeological research carried out in the parish. Many years ago, on the Harvington and Salford Priors boundary, "a fine bronze CELT" (a prehistoric cutting or cleaving knife) was found. It was 4½ inches (11.43cm) in length, ringed and socketed", and was dated to around 2000 BC. Its present whereabouts is unknown. (Ref:
Bailey's History of Harvington.)

There is a local story that when the Blakenhurst Estate was begun in 1961, a 'small Roman fort' was discovered. The County archaeological Service in Worcester has no record of this find in their Sites and Monuments Record, so it cannot at present be verified. Roman pottery is very distinctive but a fort would suggest something more substantial such as a rectangular earthwork. Before development the land was covered with lengthy gardens stretching back from the houses on Leys. From local knowledge there was nothing unusual about the land, but one notices a distinct rise from Leys road then a flattish area, perhaps something was spotted when the builders cleared the topsoil. At first glance this seems an unlikely place for a Roman fort, however if the salt way is taken into account, then early on in the Roman occupation there may have been a need for a temporary military fort, as one approached the forest on the Lenches and beyond.

In a recent survey carried out prior to development on two areas adjacent to the Blakenhurst Estate, the County Archaeological Service found parts of a Romano-British settlement. One area was on the south west side of Leys Road, later to become Grove Close, while the larger area was under the Community Orchard and Flood Relief Area. The finds were multi-phase ditches and a small amount of low status pottery plus several pieces of tegula, which are red roofing tiles, usually associated the stone buildings of status. My own investigation in the field adjacent to the west of the Community Orchard, suggest that I was on the periphery of a settlement or farmstead and it is clear from the Archaeologists plans that the site extends under the present boundary into Blakenhurst. The only datable material suggests the latter half of the 1st century AD. On the northern side of Blakenhurst is a fairly deep ditch and spring course separating Blakenhurst and the Romano British site from the rising land to the north, thereby giving both water and drainage to the site. For the report of the Archaeological investigation on the Community Orchard, please use this link, it takes a while to load.

Another story that may be of relevance was the discovery of a stretch of stone walling found during the digging of a pond by the then owner in the late 1960's. The find was in the side garden of number fourteen Brookdale, the adjacent estate to Blakenhurst.

The CAS have also recorded other human activity in Harvington, such as prehistoric crop marks in the area beyond Harvington Lodge, plus a suggestive field name of 'Barrow Piece' near to the Hill Farm ruins. The name barrow usually means there is, or in this case was, a distinctive mound or feature in the area, often indicating the presence of a prehistoric burial mound. See CAS report for details. (Being a PDF, it takes a while to load.) Harvington Lodge stands on a slight hill and commands good views of the surrounding countryside, a favourable position for pre-Roman activity.

The Almonry Museum in Evesham has a record of Samian Ware sherds, high class Roman pottery, being found in the corner of 'Mr. Coley's field' in 1938. The Coley's owned a number of plots in the village, in particular the present property 'Oldfields' near to the Golden Cross, built by them in the late 1930's. There are also stories that in the 1930's of a Roman sword (gladius) being discovered on the south-eastern boundary of the present (2018) allotments near to the school and a Bronze Age axe found near to Green Lane beyond the allotments.

Limited spot checking in the old and new churchyard has failed to find any Romano-British pottery. By the ruined mill, a previous notice board commemorating the restoration of the lock, stated that a Roman furnace had been discovered nearby.

Looking further afield there are various sites and find spots in the neighbourhood that give an indication of the density of population in the area. The following have been extracted from ''.

  • Salford Priors: Roman coins SP075 516.
  • Salford Priors: Roman pottery 1992, SP079 518.
  • Salford Priors: Roman coins & pottery with dates of AD 337-340 700m east of church SP078 516.
  • Salford Priors: Large coin hoard found in 1811 - 600 gold & 5000 silver in two pits, SP0714 4936.
  • Salford Priors, Marsh Farm quarry, Iron-age and 5th-century Roman settlement/ditch SP078 520.
  • Salford Priors: Prehistoric hut circle/Bronze-age pit/Roman pit & field boundary 1993, SP08100 52800.
  • Abbots Salford, quarry: Roman settlement/corn-drying oven, topsoil observation SP07200 49300.
  • Dunnington: Iron-age settlement.
  • Bevington Waste: Enclosure SP044 539.
  • Twyford: Blayneys Lane, Roman settlement 1954, SP04500 45800.
  • Fladbury, Ferndale, Chequers Lane: Roman feature SO99560 46060.
  • Offenham: 2nd & 4th-century Romano-British pottery, traditional site of Mercian Royal Palace SP0564 4644.
  • Offenham: possible site of Roman Villa SP0574 4546.
  • Norton, Leylandii House Farm: Roman farmstead hut circle & Romano-British structure, corn drying kiln & ditch. Reburied and preserved 405600 248400.

The nearest Romano-British settlement/farmstead is on the other side of the bypass in the parish of Norton near Leylandii House Farm. Another perhaps important site, not excavated properly, lies adjacent to Blayneys Lane. There is a Roman site on a hill above Offenham, where a collection of bronze spoons was found a few years back and reported to the museum at Worcester, and of course there is the crossing of Icknield/Buckle Street at Bidford with Roman material being discovered in a nearby field.

The Settlement at the Ford
It is thought that the original site of Harvington was down by the river. There are at least two reasons for believing this: one is the name being originally Hereford, with the emphasis on the ford; the other is a raised area near to Mill House where an aerial photograph taken in 1953, indicating crop marks among others which is a circular enclosure, however the area is subject to flooding and the cropmark may well be prehistoric.

From the Almonry

There is a tendency to find British settlements on the higher ground, with the English preferring more low-lying areas. This may represent the situation in Harvington. The original focus of a settlement, not including the area around the ford, was probably on the higher ground, maybe in the vicinity of Harvington Hill where it offers clear views of the surrounding countryside. Crop marks, a barrow and the Romano-British settlement are within this area. Does this hold a memory of British and English co-existence or had the British settlement ceased to exist by the time the English had arrived? Deerhurst near Tewkesbury is an example of co-existence. An early English Christian foundation, by the River Severn and on a hill within one mile is the hamlet of Deerhurst Walton, Walton meaning 'Welsh'.

Historical Background
To give a sense of depth to our history of Harvington a possibly useful exercise is to speculate on our area before the Romans invaded Britain. From the onset there is a good deal of speculation here in this, perhaps first tentative, attempt to place Harvington within a pre-Roman political context. Harvington's later political place in the area will be discussed under Post Roman Land Divisions.

I must now digress - one of the consequences that resulted from Julius Caesar's invasion of Gaul, completed in 51 BC, was the migration to Britain of tribes/peoples. This sent shock waves not only across Gaul but also in Britain. One of the Belgic tribes that migrated to Britain was the Atrebates who were a group based around the modern northern French town of Artois. After the Atrebates were defeated in Gaul Caesar appointed one of their number Commius as king, however this was not successful and he later fled to Britain with a number of followers and established a new Atrebas kingdom in the Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire area. The above may or may not be relevant depending on the origins of the Dobunni, who are relevant to us.

Some authorities suggest that the Dobunni were another Belgic group who fled Gaul, or were they a home-based group, some say they were aligned with the above Atrebates, while others suggest they were connected to the powerful Catuvellauni to the east. In any case their base appears to be in south Gloucestershire with their capital at Bagendon near Cirencester and it is from this base that, in the last decades of the first century BC, the Dobunni expanded rapidly, south and west into Wiltshire and Somerset, east into Oxfordshire and, more importantly for us, northwards into northern Gloucestershire, parts of Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Herefordshire. This Dobunni expansion almost certainly engulfed the Harvington area. It may be significant that during the Dobunni's northern expansion one of the hillforts on Bredon Hill, in our neck of the woods, was taken by storm during this period24.

Between 33 & 43 AD, by coinage evidence, the Dobunni were ruled by two kings Anted and Eisa. At its greatest expansion the new empire appears to have been divided with an east-west line based roughly on the Stroud area in mid Gloucestershire. Coinage distribution suggests that their rulers, Catti and later Corio and Comux, held sway to the south from circa 43 and 47 AD while Bodvoc ruled over the northern sector, it is the northern sector that interests us here. These kings or chieftains, possibly Anted & Eisa and certainly Bodvoc, are the first named individuals we have who most likely controlled this area.

Dobunni coin of Bodvoc

The Roman's under the Emperor Claudius' General, Aulus Plautius, landed on the south coast of Britain in 43 AD and very soon received a number of submissions from British rulers. While Aulus Plautius was in Kent, he appears to have received the submission of Bodvoc, king of the northern Dobunni and at this stage Bodvoc and his realm becomes a semi-independent or a client kingdom, despite the fact that the Roman military machine had apparently not reached the area, although there was probably a good deal of resistance to a very quick and progressive pacification, the Iceni under Boudicca comes to mind.

In 47 AD Aulus Plautius was replaced by Ostorius Scapula as Rome's second Governor of Britain. He immediately set about campaigning against the British and established a forward base at Glevum (Gloucester). The southern Dobunni resisted but it appears likely that the northern Dobunni, who still had their base at Bagendon but their capital at Bagendon didn't shew any sign of war damage. We don't know what happened to Bodvoc, he may have been replaced by a Roman official or continued as the Dobunni's leader under the watchful eye of Ostorius. Cirencester was established circa 50-60 AD under the name Corinium Dobunnorum, as the administrative capital of the Dobunni, which then became a regional capital, eventually being established as the capital of the Roman province of Britannia Prima and becoming one of the largest towns in Roman Britain. Meanwhile Bagendon was abandoned and slowly disappeared from history. Mrs Clifford located and excavated the Dobunni capital during 1954-5624.

A most interesting element to these rather distant events in space and time is that the area controlled by the Dobunni with their capital at Bagendon, corresponds very nicely with the later Mercian province of Hwicce, which may hint at a shadow of a former Roman administrative area and the British/English kingdom. After the Romans left, Cirencester probably continued as a regional capital or independent post-Roman kingdom until it was conquered by the West Saxons in 577 AD, or more likely, the Dobunni area had already sub-divided long before into small units.

In AD 367 Roman Britain suffered a major attack by a united onslaught from all sides, including raiders from the Irish, Picts and Anglo Saxons. It is not known who orchestrated the raids but it was devestating to the inhabitants. The wealth of the province was concentrated in the Roman villas and their estates which probably bore the brunt, many being burnt down never to recover. The local effect is not known but there were probably estates in the area, such as across the river in the Littleton/Offingham and probably in the Wickhamford area and also maybe nearby Twyford, to be discussed later. The raiders were driven out by the Roman army under the Emperor Theodosius, but the province never fully recovered.

For archaeologists and historians there has tended to be a sharp divide between the Roman period and that of the Anglo-Saxon, separated by a black hole described as the 'Dark Ages' but now more commonly as Post Roman. This is due partly because of the disruption and chaos that obviously took place during this period, and partly because of our lack of knowledge of this dark but by no means black period. This is slowly changing as our knowledge grows both in archaeology and studies of ancient charters and place names etc. Clearly some Romano-British towns and hundreds, if not thousands, of settlements ceased to exist, but many continued, slowly changing over the centuries and acquiring Anglicised or English names.

After the centralised Roman authority ceased in AD 410, Roman Britain continued with Governors (or dictators) such as Vortigern, but eventually fractured into many different kingdoms fighting for supremacy over both their British neighbours and the newly arrived English. During the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries many of the British kingdoms were either absorbed or replaced by English kingdoms - sometimes dramatically, sometimes by a gradual tipping of the balance from British to English. At the same time the English were also warring against each other and vying for supremacy, a dog-eat-dog scramble for dynastic land and power where many and eventually most of the early tribal groupings, war bands or small kingdoms became subordinate and then absorbed into larger kingdoms before finally disappearing, often leaving just a name for us to know they once existed.

All this would have led to death or displacement for the ruling classes and huge disturbances and suffering for the 'ordinary folk', some of whom would have profited from the chaos, while others trying to keep a low profile and carry on everyday life, whether the established British or the newly-arrived English. There have been major swings in the historian's and archaeologist's way of thinking between the English sweeping the poor defenceless British into the sea to hardly any English arriving here at all, just a few war bands, the true picture has to lie in between depending on the locality. The British ruling class may have succumbed to a greater extent, but the ordinary folk probably continued to live their lives, albeit gradually being absorbed and learning to speak English. Many British geographical place names survive but it is to be noted that there are virtually no British (Welsh) words in English. A telling and rather chilling detail, is that while the British called themselves Cymbri, the English referred to the British as Welsh, meaning foreigner or slave.

Post Roman land divisions and Harvington
In pre-Roman times it has been assumed that this area was under the control of the
Dobunni, a British tribe with their capital at Bagendon near Cirencester. Virtually no local land divisions such as estates, parishes, hundreds or counties are known from before or during the Roman period. It is possible that, at least initially, major tribes like the Dobunni may have kept their smaller land divisions after the Roman conquest1, it makes more sense for the conquering power to take over an existing bureaucracy. It is now gradually becoming apparent that some Romano-British land divisions, such as estates, may have survived after the coming of the English.

David Cox in his The Church and Vale of Evesham, gives a tantalising glimpse of large local Romano-British estates that may have survived as units from Romano-British times only to be divided into smaller units in middle or late Anglo-Saxon times20; one such case study was an estate based on Murcot and covering Wickhamford and Childswickham, another possible Romano-British estate may have been centred in Twyford, covering Evesham and Norton and Lenchwick. Finburg28 suggests a Romano-British estate which included Batsford and Blockley, governed from a Roman settlement at Dorn on the Fosse Way. Finburg also mentions a charter dated to the late 7th century in which an estate at Henbury by the Severn Estuary in Gloucestershire as having 'ancient boundaries', an evocative description suggesting great age. There are tantalising possibilities here, or is continuity to this degree wishful thinking?

Were there property divisions in Harvington and did its Romano-British population, which is now known to have at one time existed, survive to fuse with the incoming English? Did the surrounding British control centres at Alcester, Worcester or Winchcombe have any impact or governance over the Harvington area after AD 410. Because of its position, hemmed in by the Lenches and forest on side and the River Avon on the other, a likely candidate is the Romano-British town of Alcester. It is possible that the British in the region enjoyed over 150 years of relative (with a strong emphasis on relative) peace before the English arrived in force.

Cædwallan's Fortification
Cædwallanbyrig is mentioned in an unattached boundary clause (Hooke 68) concerned with the holdings of Evesham Abbey. The fortification (SP 021 475) is a small hill top situated just to the north of the larger Tunnel Hill above Wood Norton. The fortification is within an ancient estate called Chadbury named after a Cædwallan and was given to Evesham Abbey, apparently in AD 703. Was Cædwallan the last British ruler of the area and what part did he play? Cædwallan is an ambiguous name in that although it is British, it was born by early English rulers of the West Saxons, indicating a degree of mixing between the peoples.

Twyford is a descriptive name for the two fords which straddled an island (ait) in the middle of the river Avon. There is no long-established centre to Twyford and it is now dominated by a modern shopping complex, bypasses and roundabouts, all created in the last forty years. There is probably a Romano-British settlement/villa off Blayneys Lane (SP047 457) discovered in 1954, where much Roman material was found. The orchard in which it lay was called 'Old House Ground', the area is now covered by houses. It is ascerted20 that this may have been the centre of a Roman estate incorporating Twyford, Norton and Lenchwick. There is also a RB site in Norton, near Leylandii House Farm (SP 405600 248400), which was discovered during the construction of the A44 bypass and hastily reburied, neither site was inspected in any detail. It is tragic that these sites have not been allowed to tell us their tale.

The estate of Twyford, perhaps a ghost of its former Romano-British existence, was acquired by Evesham Abbey, along with other estates in or shortly after AD 703, from Offa, King of Essex, of whom later. Twyford is also mentioned in Byrchtferth's Life of St Ecgwine, in which it appears that in the late 7th century he (St Ecgwine) had acquired the estate, amounting to 20 hides, from Osweard, brother of Æthelheard king of the Hwicce34. It is now within the large parish of Norton and apparently has never had a a settlement of its own, but it is clear that there was once a place, except for the ford itself, called Twyford, was the now lost Roman settlement the original centre with the neighboring Norton and Lenchwick outlying slave or peasant settlements?

A tantalizing object in Twyford was a 6ft tall standing stone29 that once stood in Blayney's Lane, dedicated to an Anglo-Saxon lady called Siflæd, which was removed in the early 19th Century. No one of course knows why it was placed there. Was Siflæd a local land owner or did she die while passing through Twyford and this a memorial to her? The only known Siflæd was a lady who owned land in Norfolk. Her name does have an East Anglican or Viking ring to it. The Norfolk lady left an undated Will written in English in the late tenth or 11th century and has been transcribed by Dorothy Whitelock33:-

Here in this document it is made known how Siflæd granted her possessions when she went across the sea. First, to the village church in Marlingford five acres and one homestead and two acres of meadow and two wagonloads of wood; and to my tenants their homesteads as their own possession: and all my men [are to be] free. And I grant to each of my brothers a wagonload of wood. And I grant to Christchurch at Norwich four head of cattle, and two to St Mary's, and one to my.... And I grant to St Edmund's all that may happen to be left of my property, that is house and homestead in Marlingford, with wood and open land, meadow and live stock. And if I come home, then I wish to occupy that estate for my life; and after my death the will is to take effect. And whomsoever alters this, may God turn away his face from him on the Day of Judgement, unless he repent it here.

The Hwicce
From at least circa AD 650 to the early 11th century Hwicce was one of the provinces of Mercia, initially as a semi-autonomous entity with under-kings and later as a division or province under earls. Judging by place names and later documentation16 the fullest extent of Hwicce encompassed a large area from Kempsford in Gloucestershire to Bridgnorth in Worcestershire, Bath in Somerset to Whichford in Warwickshire, which obviously included Harvington. But this was after it became an established province of Mercia under its own English rulers.

The first mention of Hwicce is in the mid-7th century by which time it was under the yoke of Penda of Mercia and apparently controlling a number of once independent areas such as Worcester and Alcester and maybe the Husmeræ, Stoppingas, Wixna, but unfortunately there is no record of its origins.

There are vague indications 17,28 that Hwicce, or more usually The Hwicce, a possibly British name, was originally a British Christian Kingdom that had retained a degree of stability. Bede22 in the early 8th century makes no mention of an invasion or conversion of The Hwicce, which is thought to imply that the area was already nominally Christian. There are also a higher percentage of British names surviving in Gloucestershire than in other areas in Mercia31. There are also indications16 that its early epicentre may have been in Winchcombe in Gloucestershire, an old wealthy and settled Romano-British area with suggestions of continuity between Romano-British and later English property divisions such as at Withington28.

Conquest by the West Saxons
In AD 577
Ceawlin king of Wessex, defeated23 three British kings, Conmail of Gloucester, Condidan of Cirencester and Farinmail of Bath, at the battle of Deorham13 in southern Gloucestershire. We have no idea how much territory these three British kings had influence over or how far north from Gloucester Ceawlin penetrated and it is possible that he was simply seeking tribute from rather than outright conquest of the British32. We simply don't know how many West Saxons settled in Gloucestershire and beyond but in any case there was probably also pressure from Middle Saxon groups filtering in across the Cotswolds from the Thames Valley.

The West Saxon influence or power in the area was relatively short-lived as fifty years later, in AD 628, the great Mercian warlord Penda was on the march southward from the present day northern Warwickshire, as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles state that Cyngils and Cwichelm his son, King of Wessex, fought Penda of Mercia at Cirencester. They came to an agreement and henceforth Penda was the dominant power in the area known or soon to be known by the name of Hwicce.

Penda and the Tomsætan
Penda is the first ruler to have definitely had an effect on this area when he swept through and from henceforth, whether British or English, Hwicce came under the sway or influence of Penda and his successors, so it is thought worthwhile dwelling on him for a while.

Penda, is believed to have been a ruler of the folk called the Tomsætan, based in the area surrounding Tamworth, dwellers of the Teme Valley. He was born sometime around AD 590-600 to Pybba. Pybba, who commenced his reign in AD 593 and possibly died in either AD 606 or AD 615, had amongst others two sons, Eowa and Penda. This was a time of Tomsætan expansion, more often than not against other English groups. Eowa and Penda ruled together and their expansion was in all directions, they had a powerful neighbour - the Northumbrians and had much ado keeping them at bay. Their success was dramatic and within a few years they had created an empire to be known henceforth as Mercia, in essence they were warlords in its full sense. For our region the crunch came in the AD 620's when Penda and his marauding army cut a swathe through Hwicce all the way to Bath and Cirencester in southern Gloucestershire where in AD 628 his expansion southward was checked by the West Saxons. The provinces or kingdoms caught up in his campaign, whether, British or English, either disappeared or had to pay tribute.

Eowa and Penda's joint campaign culminated in the great Battle of Maserfield in which the Mercians and the British of Gwynedd joined forces and defeated and killed great Oswald, king of Northumbria in AD 644. There is an odd mix here of Pagan Middle Angles and Christian British fighting with Christian Northern Angles, it illustrates the complexity of the situation as opposed to simply pagan English and Christian British. Unfortunately for Eowa, he was also killed in this battle and Penda became sole ruler of the Middle Angles (Mercia). Penda finally suffered a crushing defeat by Oswiu of Northumbria, and was killed at the Battle Winwæd on 15th November AD 655. Penda was one of the last pagan kings of the English, times were changing and so were the English.

It seems that Hwicce now included once independent territories such as the Husmeræ, based on the river Stour, the Stoppingas, based around Wootton Wawen and the river Alne, the Arosæte based at Alcester, and the Weorgoran, based at Worcester3. All this suggests that it was Penda who subdued all these peoples, whether British or English and established the new Mercian province13 with a new ruling family who subsequently established their spiritual capital at Worcester (AD 679/80).

Penda died on 15th November AD 655, and very soon afterwards, Hwicce's first recorded sub-kings, the brothers Eanhere and Eanfrith, were ruling the kingdom and they curiously held Northumbrian names and Eanhere's wife Osthryth was Northumbrian. Were these brothers a couple of disaffected Northumbrians or younger siblings of the Northumbrian royal family who had joined Penda's warband, if so they did well for them selves. The peoples they ruled though would have been a mixture of West Saxons, Middle Angles, Middle Saxons, Northern Angles and of course the poor British. As a kingdom then a province, then county or region of Mercia, it remained an entity until the early 11th century when the present county system blew it away. The AD 620's was probably a troubled time for anyone living in Harvington but by the AD 650's the situation seems to have became more settled.

Known early rulers of the Hwicce

           |                           |
         Eanfrith                   Eanhere
         c650-c674                  c 674-c675  
         = c661 sister of Wulfhere  = Osthryth, dau of
         |      King of Mercia      | Oswui, King of
         |                          | Northumbria
         |                          | Osthryth later
         |                          | married Æthelred of
         |                          | Mercia
         |                          |
         |                 -----------------------------
         |                 |           |               |
        Eabe             Oshere       Osric          Ecberg
        = Æthelwaelh     c 674-c 675  c 675-704      c 675-c 679 
          King of the    =            bur Gloucester
          South Saxons   |            Abbey
          k c685         |
         |              |              |              |
     Æthelheard    Æthelweard     Æthelric     Æthelbert
     c 700          c 710           c 720

     Eanberht            Uhtred              Ældred
     c 759               c 759-c 780         c 759 -c 780

Æthelburh, kinswoman of Ældred

Harvington's first recorded leaseholder is Eanswith in AD 802, the similarity of her name to the rulers of Hwicce is suggestive of a family connection. 

Alcester is the nearest known Roman town to Harvington. Founded circa AD 47 as a walled fort and later known as a Colonia called Alauna, derived from the river Alne which flows nearby, see There is a local hillfort which is supposed to be the forerunner of the town. Its name survived into the English period and it or rather its people appear in the Tribal Hidage as the Arosæte. The fact that its name includes 'cester' suggests that in the fifth & sixth centuries, and maybe later, it was the centre of an administrative district or area. It is not known at this stage whether its rulers were British, English or a mixture of both but it came under the sphere of the English Penda sometime just before AD 628. After the building of Ecgwine's church at Evesham circa AD 709, endowments of that house were confirmed at a great Synod held at Alcester by Bertwald, Archbishop of Canterbury and Wilfred, Archbishop of York. This suggests that the town was not only Christian but deemed a suitable place for such a meeting. Alcester is important to us as it is possible that Harvington, was at one time within its jurisdiction. This will be discussed later on under 'Hundreds'.

The Tribal Hidage
This is the oldest surviving Old English document to give a hint of the local situation. It is an early English tax document and is believed to be Mercian or mostly concerned with Mercia. The likelihood is that it was created for one of the 7th century kings, probably a Northumbrian, while they were partially in control of Mercia between the years AD 656 to AD 675. The document establishes the value of the various client kingdoms within Mercia's realm of influence.

The document is a good indicator that the English already had a system for raising tax or tribute. This implies land ownership, boundaries, knowing who owned what and where.

There are three names on the Tribal Hidage that are especially relevant to us: Mercia proper, (with 30,000 hides), based at Tamworth; the Hwicce, (with 7000 hides) who may have been centred in Winchcombe (but later Worcester); the Arosæte, (with 600 hides) who were based in the Roman town of Alcester (Latin: Alauna).

It is interesting to note that when the document was produced, and we do not know when that was, Mercia proper, the Hwicce and the Arosæte were taxed separately. We also do not know where the boundary between Hwicce and the Arosæte was so we cannot say for sure who controlled Harvington.

An interesting factor is not just the folk mentioned but the folk who are not mentioned: the Weorgoran (Worcester), the Stoppingas, Pencersætan, Huckerie, Wixna, Tomsæte (Tamworth), Beormingas (Birmingham), Husmeræ (River Stour). It is likely that at the time of the Tribal Hidage, some would have been taxed within the Mercian realm while others like the Stoppingas were more likely to have been taxed within the sphere of Hwicce, as they had at one time paid food rent (Tribute) to Hwicce27.

Sætan meaning 'a resident inhabitant holding of land'34.

Christianity and Fladbury.
Christianity is believed to have survived within the Kingdom of Hwicce from Roman times, thereby suggesting a degree of continuity. There are signs of the British and early English Church at
Gloucester. The Venerable Bede in his book The Ecclesiastical History of the English People in AD 731, fails to mention any conversion of the Hwicce. He does state however that Eabe, daughter of Eanfrith, was baptised circa AD 660 "in her own country" (Hwicce) and Eanhere's son Osric was interred at Worcester in AD 685. After the English takeover, the area probably became an assortment of Christian and pagan enclaves, Gloucester, Alcester, Worcester and indeed our area was probably nominally Christian, whereas the areas to the north east in Warwickshire show signs of paganism, certainly Penda and the Tomsæte were pagan. England is recorded as having a relatively peaceful conversion while the Continental pagan Saxons had the ultimatum of becoming Christian or dying. At this time the Church as a structure was growing fast amongst the English. The Diocese of Worcester was established in AD 679/80, whose early bishops bore the title Epicopus Hwicciorum. The original boundaries of the diocese would no doubt have corresponded with that of the then Hwicce kingdom, covering Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and half of Warwickshire. The new Christian religion was taken on with tremendous evangelical fervour by the English, with a great desire to build religious establishments and to lead a truly Christian life, a number of the English ruling classes, both men and women, gave up their power and wealth to take up the ascetic life in a monastery to go on pilgrimage to Rome.

Evesham Abbey was founded in or shortly before AD 709, by Ecgwin, Bishop of Worcester, who died in AD 717. The lands of Evesham and Fladbury were granted to St Ecgwin and the abbey by Æthelred, King of Mercia. He had received these estates by dowry from his wife Osthryth, the daughter of Oswiu, King of Northumbria. It is not clear why she had possession of the estates but it may be via her mother Eanflaed of Bernicia, whose family tradition of alliteration is similar to the rulers of Hwicca, impling a family connection. This was a common practise in Anglo-Saxon culture.

Tradition has it that Ecgwin founded the monastery because of the story about Eof, the swineherd or shepherd who saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. The impression behind this story is that the area was nominally Christian, which would imply that places of worship were nearby. There is an indication that there was already a religious establishment at Fladbury (Flæda's Bury). An early charter dated to AD 691-699, talks about re-establishing a monastery at Fladbury. The part that Flæda played in a possible founding of the Monastery has also to be considered. Was this monastery in fact a nunnery or a twin monastic establishment, a common occurrence at the time, and was she a noble woman retiring from lay life to become a founding Abbess, or was it an already established British church? The establishment was still in existence in AD 777-781 when Ealdred, ruler of the Hwicce leased it for life to Æthelburh, his kinswoman. The Minster was not there in 1066 so may have succumbed to Viking raids which swept through this area in the ninth century.

The mention of a possible nunnery at Fladbury brings to mind the number of place names in the area derived from females, which suggests property ownership or leaseholds by women. We have the above Fladbury named after a Flæda; Osgith, the supposed mother of Offa, King of Essex; Æthelburh, kinswoman to Ealdred of The Hwicce AD 777-781; Eanswith of Harvington in AD 814 & a lost manor called Wiburgestoke in AD 852, named after a lady called Wiburh, was she possibly the same as Wilburgh, mother of Osgith?; and Siflæd's stone in Twyford. English men and women were on a much more equal footing than on the continent. The status of Women was reduced dramatically after the Norman Conquest.

The coming of the English
There have been huge advances in the study of place names and what they tell us. As the English moved westwards across the country passage of time enabled them to make ever more contact with the British, so naming patterns change and surviving British names become more frequent as one travels westwards. The suggestion is that the English arrived in this area as a political force relatively late in the 6th and early seventh century9 either as wandering settlers or by dramatic and sudden raids on or conquests of established British kingdoms.

It would appear that this area and the wealthy lands on the Cotswolds and Severn Valley to the south might have succumbed to political takeovers, whereas to the north and east, into the present day Warwickshire, folk movements appear to be the norm. It is these quiet folk movements that from the east and north east that probably tipped the demographic balance in this area between the British and English speaking peoples. The Tribal Hidage and place names are a great help here in giving faint signs of a patchwork of once existing peoples, such as the Pencersætan, south west of Birmingham; the Husmeræ based on the river Stour; the Stoppingas, around Wootton Wawen and the river Alne; the Feþþingas14, a Middle Anglian folk north east of Worcester; the Wixna, a Middle Anglian people. Collingwood and Myres in their book 'Roman Britain and the English Settlements'2, suggest that a group of the Wixna settled to the north of here:-

Midway between Worcester and Stratford is a small stream, still known as the Whitson Brook, that recalls a settlement here of the Wixna, one of those mysterious Folk of the Tribal Hidage, who soon lost their identity in the formation of larger political units. In the Tribal Hidage the Wixna appear already divided into an eastern and a western group, and while their position suggests that their original homes were in close proximity to the Gyrwe and Spalda of the north-western Fens, it by no means impossible that one branch had migrated at an early date up the Welland and so across the easy watershed and down the valley of the Warwickshire Avon. It may be that this division is itself recognised in the distinction of the East and West Wixna; their appearance in Worcestershire is in any case an excellent illustration of the Anglian element already evidenced in the archaeology of the Avon Valley.

These, except perhaps the last mentioned, were probably family groups setting out either as war bands or simply as settlers. Archaeological research in recent years has shown that pagan Anglo-Saxons penetrated this area during this time. Across the river Avon on Bennetts Hill in Offenham parish was discovered a pagan Anglo-Saxon Cemetery. It was excavated in 1996 and dated to the 6th and 7th centuries. They were likely to have been a mixture of mostly Middle-Angle and Middle-Saxon war bands and settlers. Some of these groups based upon old Roman centres such as the Arosæte at Alcester and the Weorgoran, based at Worcester, may have been British, clinging on by paying tribute to the advancing English. It must be born in mind that it was not simply English against British. Both peoples were just as likely to raid and take over neighbouring states of their own kind, often with help from the other side.

During the seventh century the land was changing with new customs, language and peoples. We know so little and yet we know a lot more than we realise. We know the personal names of dozens, many hundreds across the country, of influential folk such as. Byda's ford (Bidford), Bica's marsh (Bickmarsh), Locc's clearing (Loxley), Penda's Fen (Pinvin), Cædwallan's Fort (Chadbury) and Flæda's Bury (Fladbury) and not forgetting Offa's Ham (Offenham). Names that have become immortalised in the name of the settlement they either started or took over. We don’t know much about them but we do know they were people of note. Some of their names mean something to us such as Offa of Offenham. Many of the town, village, hamlet, farmstead, even field names will hark back to the seventh century when much change was taking place. Margaret Gelling (1924-2009), was an English toponymist who had huge advancements on the understanding of English place names and their origins. Pick up a book on place names and you will be amazed how many relate to individuals who have left us nothing but their name. Field, Forest and Hill
and its effects on settlement. We have already discussed Harvington's situation briefly but there is a wider picture to be noted when dealing with peoples movements and where they settled. Every area in the country has to be studied through the prism of its environment, its ancient roads and waterways etc. The Cotswolds have light soils ideal both for agriculture and husbandry, The Romans realised their economic value and settled on them extensively and the area became very wealthy. A very different but similar value would have been placed on the rich fertile soils of the Vale of Evesham, particularly south and east of the River Avon. North of here one runs into heavy clays and forest. The forested Lench Hills on our doorstep, beyond which is the Forest of Feckenham. To the north east beyond Stratford and well into Warwickshire is the great Forest of Arden, much less peopled, much less Romanised. The picture of the south is of long-term settlement, to the north it is less 'settled', wilder with isolated groups - disparate and smaller bands of settlers filtering through from the then Middle Anglia and the Trent basin. The Rivers Avon and Severn could have been a hindrance but could also have been a transport system and a defensible barrier as in marking out a territory.

A must read for this section is Oliver Rackham's History of the Countryside in giving us a clarity to this complicated subject.

Counties of Mercia
The name Mercia stems from 'Mierce' or Myrce', an old English word meaning borderlands and referred to a loose confederacy of Anglican tribes17. Some of these tribal areas stroke kingdoms, were large such as The Hwicce or the Wreocenætan (around The Wreken), and some were much smaller such as the Middle Angles around Peterborough.

County or shire: (In the case of Mercia, 'province' is perhaps a better term), refers to an area separated from the central authority and administered by an Ealdorman. These Ealdormen were probably originally kings or sub-kings as in the case of Hwicce. The Ealdorman was responsible for governing, raising taxes and, when necessary, the fyrd (army raised for a military campaign). Unfortunately for Mercia the Vikings, especially in AD 877, when they settled at Gloucester for the winter, to a large extent destroyed its administrative organisation. Harvington would have felt their presence. Mercia was also completely reorganised, in the early 11th century, so we know very little of its provincial system. It probably adhered to the old sub-kingdoms that it had absorbed, such as Hwicce, Magonsæte or Pencersæte etc. For later Mercia we can get some idea though through the distribution of its Bishoprics. There are five: Lichfield, founded AD 655; Lindsay, founded c AD 678; Leicester (Peterborough), founded AD 655; Worcester, founded in AD 680; Hereford. founded AD 676. It may be coincidental that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states under AD 827: 'Ludecan', king of the Mercian's, was slain along with his five ealdormen7.

Edric Streona
Edric Streona, a powerful and disruptive figure of the late 10th and early 11th century. He was Ealdorman of Mercia until his execution in 1017. It is very likely that it was he who was responsible for creating the present county system of the Midlands. The old sub-divisions or provinces, (although not the hundreds) were swept away and were substituted by the present system such as Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Lincolnshire etc. Note the regularity of their size. Their boundaries remained almost unchanged until 1974. It has been suggested that the extremely ragged nature of the boundaries between Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire are the result of Edric Streona's personal property in this area, if true then corruption was one of his lesser evils.

Harvington's county
Harvington and its parish, has been tucked into the south-east corner of Worcestershire since the county came into existence in the early 11th century. Before this time Harvington was under the jurisdiction of the province of The Hwicce.

The Parish and county boundary near to the Salford Road looking north.

Hundreds are an ancient Germanic land division, smaller than a county, which are thought to have originally evolved to cover one hundred families with a smaller division called Tithing, an area covering ten families. They also had a military aspect in raising men for a campaign10.

The hundred used a central place to meet (a moot) such as a distinctive or prominent landmark, hill or mound, where the elders of the hundred would meet. The hundred often carried the same name as the meeting place. It will be noticed that many hundreds have a suffix of 'low' at the end of their name. Another meaning of 'low' is a tumulus or barrow. Most hundreds in this area predate the counties in which they are now set.

Harvington's hundred
From the 10th century to the present day, whether under the jurisdiction of The Hwicce or Worcestershire, Harvington has been in the hundred of Oswaldslow, named after Oswald, Bishop of Worcester who died in AD 992. The hundred was set up in a charter by King Edgar and Bishop Oswald at a Christmas meeting in AD 96410. The name Oswaldslow, called Oslafeslow before AD 977, and its centre is identified with Low Hill in White Ladies, Aston9, it was not a solid unit of land but a patchwork of Church property and was itself an amalgamation of three hundreds. They were named: Winburgetrowe, of parishes belonging to the bishop of Worcester; Wulfereslaw an ancient Episcopal hundred; and Cuthburgelow, parishes belonging to the monks of the cathedral priory. Previously Harvington was in Cuthburgelow and was subject to 'Royal exactions' (dues, fines paid to the king). This however changed when the new hundred of Oswaldslow was set up and Harvington became exempt, apart from the repair of bridges etc.10

One must realise that in the case of Oswaldslow, Winburgetrowe, Wulfereslaw and Cuthburgelow, they were all ecclesiastical hundreds and did not behave in quite the same way as the old lay hundreds. They were not compact units but were created to take into account parishes owned by the Church.

Areas in pale pink refer to Oswaldslow, note Harvington within circle.
Map from Mawer's Place-names of Worcestershire.

Cuthburgelow initially only contained the manor of Cropthorne, but Harvington and others, being Church property, were taken from elsewhere and added to make up the numbers for the transference into Oswaldslow4. There appears to be politics here between Church and vested lay interests. (For further reading, see: Whybra's the Lost English County of Winchcombeshire). It is fairly safe to say that the creation of Cuthburgelow, or at least the inclusion of Harvington, took place in or slightly before AD 964. The next question is from which, hundred was Harvington taken?

Harvington and Þennecumbe Hundred
We are now back to AD 964 or thereabouts and there is need to explain the next step and the above heading. We are now in a time long before the counties of Worcestershire and Warwickshire had been created and looking for a county, division, province or sub-kingdom of The Hwicce. The proposition is that Harvington was in a hundred called Þennecumbe prior to it being transferred to the hundred of Cuthburgelow.

Þennecumbe is headed by the old English character Þ (thorn) meaning 'Th'. By 1086 the name Þennecumbe had changed to Fernecumbe and is the forerunner of the present Warwickshire hundred of Barlichway.

The hundred of Barlichway was created in AD 1175 out of the large hundred called Fernecumbe according to the 'Victoria County History for Warwickshire', Barlichway was identical to and a replacement for the 'old' hundred of Fernecumbe, except for the addition of Patelau. There are now four hundreds in Warwickshire and that of Barlichway covers a large block of land in the south western quarter of the county. There are two meeting places in Barlichway, one at Barlichway Greve near Temple Grafton and the other at Bredon Cross near Ipsley.

The name Þennecumbe is a compound of fen and combe. The first part deriving from fen, meaning low lying, swampy, subject to flooding, water meadow and is probably southern English or Saxon in origin. The second part is from combe and again is probably South Saxon in origin. The word means a type of valley, and was used in a variety of ways depending upon the shape of the particular combe.

By 1086 Þennecumbe contained 52 parishes, including Alcester, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bidford-on-Avon, Wixford and our neighbouring parish Salford Priors. Its origin and meeting place is not known but it appears that we are looking for a low-lying combe, subject to flooding. If the above calculations are correct then the hundred of Þennecumbe was already in existence by AD 964 and Harvington was possibly within its jurisdiction.

As stressed before, hundreds are an ancient land division and not subject to frequent change. Þennecumbe was certainly a political land division in Hwicce, and there is a possibility that it was at least an entity if not a hundred as far back as the early 8th century. Who set up Þennecumbe as a hundred? Was it the Hwicce or is there a memory here of an even older entity? Was Þennecumbe originally part of a seventh century sub-kingdom controlled by the Arosæte from Alcester? This is where, at present, the trail goes cold and we are entering the realm of theory.

Harvington in Charters
Charters are amongst the oldest written records to survive and we are most fortunate to have several that mention Harvington. The use of charters, as we know them, appear to have begun in the mid-7th Century, a mixture of Latin formula and English/Germanic law. There are often two sections: lease or affirmation of land between two or more parties and a boundary clause which defines the area involved. There are precious few survivors due to the passing of time, war, fire etc. Their value is without question in giving not only names of people, but places, some long gone, some changed, almost beyond recognition. In this remote time they suggest ownership, property boundaries, a world of order and structure where folk knew who owned what. Upon studying the documents below you will get a sense that there was a place called Harvington, it was owned, tenanted, had boundaries with neighbours and presumably the resulting passing trade from road and river. The landscape surrounding Harvington appears to be settled, whether by English or British. One has to be careful however as monastic establishments were not as honest as one might think. Sometimes the result is an attempt to replace lost or destroyed documents and sometime complete fabrications.

There are two prime sources for published early charters and grants, some in Latin, some in old English: Cartularium Saxonicum by Walter de Gray Birch and Codex Diplomaticus Aevi Saxonici by John Mitchell Kemble. Some of the charters have since been translated by subsequent historians.

There are three Old English charters that need explanation: Ƿ/ƿ - wynn: W & w; Þ & ð - thorn & eth = the two pronunciations of 'th' as in thorn & the.

Here follows a list of the Charters relating to Harvington, coupled with Editor's comments:-

  1. AD 709, This document is to be found in Birch's Cartularium Saxonicum10, (No.125) and is concerned with the granting of lands on the banks of the river Avon, etc. to the recently founded Eve's homme (Evesham) Abbey, thereby enabling the new abbey to support itself. The document records events dated on or before AD 709 as both Coenred, King of the Mercians AD 704-709 and Offa (see paragraph on Offa), King of the East Saxons AD 694?-709, abdicated, gave up worldly affairs and travelled to Rome as pilgrims. It is a lengthy document written in Latin in which there are many local places mentioned in English, including Harvington. A translation and full description of it is to found in Hooke's Worcestershire Anglo-Saxon Charter Bounds, p.46.

    There are however clumsy errors that indicates that the charter was written much later, possibly as late as the 13th century. It includes Bengeworth, Hampton and Willersley which were only included in the abbey estates in the 10th or 11th centuries. Note that the spelling of Harvington is Herverton and not the older version of Hereford. Another error is the statement that Offa was King of the East Angles whereas he was King of the East Saxons (Essex), therefore this document is considered as 'spurious'. Although it was clearly written a long time after the event it purported to confirm lands the abbey owned: Evesham, Lenchwick, Norton, Offenham, Littleton, Aldington, Badsey, Bretforton, Church Honeybourne, Willersey, Wickhamford, Bengeworth, Hampton and also the outlier estate of Abbots Morton. The most likely reason for creating this document was as a replacement of a lost document. The document does however leave us with local places names and spellings that reflect the time in which it was written, whenever that was.

    A small part of the boundary clause, within which is mentioned Harvington.

    The following is an interpretation of the clause by Della Hooke in her book Worcestershire Anglo-Saxon Charter Bounds:-

    1. 'First the boundary of the place runs from Twyford on the south side as far as Cronochomme (Evesham) according to the course of the river', the bounds begin at Twyford on the River Avon at SP 049458. The name of the river Avon is derived from Old British abona, ‘river'. The ford-name means 'double ford' and is so-called because there is an island here in the river;
    2. 'and thence along with the water as far as the boundary of the land of Fladbury which is called the boundary dyke', the boundary runs down-stream to the point at which the eastern boundary of Fladbury leaves the river at SP Oll470. A deep ditch and bank ran along this stretch of boundary, bounding an area of river-meadow known as 'Great Meadow' in 1765. The surviving dyke appears. however, to be related to water control rather than boundary demarcation, associated with the river-side water meadows;
    3. 'and thus straight on by the slope of the hill through the middle of the old gore to (the) old swine hedge (or enclosure)‘, a gore was often a triangular-shaped piece of land and here referred to land at an angular turn in the parish boundary at the top of Tunnel Hill. This was known as Swine Hill in 1765;
    4. 'from (the) old swine hedge (or enclosure) to boelagesette'; this appears to be Old English (ge)set, ‘a dwelling, a camp, a place for animals, a stable, a told’, with a personal name (the name is discussed not very convincingly by Forsberg who suggests a name compounded from Old English bêo, 'bee', and lagu, 'water, flood';
    5. 'from boelageselte to (the) north summit’, the highest point on Hipton Hill which rises to over 350 feet (110m) to the north of the Church Lench-Twyford road;
    6. from which by way of Lench Hill as far as the boundaries of the lands of Lench and of Harvington in Wennecoomb', the boundary follows the ridge of Hipton Hill north-eastwards to join the boundary of Harvington parish in an incised valley at SP 034498 where the field-names ‘Comb Meadow’ and ‘Far Comb‘ are recorded in the 19th century;
    7. thence by (the) foul brook to (the) hare's spring', located by the field-name Narbrook at SP 046489 (the h having become changed to n, probably in copying the written word);
    8. 'and from (the) hares spring to Carke ford’, probably where the road from Norton to Harvington crossed Harvington Brook at SP 048488. Carke may be Old Welsh carrec, ‘rock’, as in S 78 [a reference to Sawyer] but in both clauses is associated with water and the meaning is uncertain;
    9. 'and thence to (the) golden spring';
    10. 'and thus along the stream as far as the watercourse of the narrow marsh'; after turning to flow southwards towards the River Avon the Harvington Brook must have run through marshland, the boundary following one of the watercourses in the marsh. A field-name 'Broad Moor Meadow' has been noted in the north eastern angle of the parish boundary;
    11. 'and thence to {the) Avon'; the boundary meets the Avon at SP 057473;
    12. 'and thus to Offa's pool'; the boundary follows the river Avon upstream and the pool may have been a pool in the river near a bend in the river in Offenham parish. There were latrer mill pools at SP 066478;
    13. 'from Offa's pool to Pikereshomme (... water-meadow)' Pickersom is a river-meadow which lies on both sides of the boundary separating North Littleton from Cleeve Prior;
    14. 'from Pickereshomme to the banks of the fortification'; this appears to refer to ramparts then visible at some point on the northern boundary of Littleton and a location upon Cleeve Hill seems likely. A deed of 1739 mentions 'six selyons of demesne land at Brookling', which obviously perpetuates the name, and a large ditch has been recorded at Ballards Orchard near by;
    15. 'from the banks to (the) old hill'; the land rises to over 150 feet (55m) at SP 100474 where the eastern boundary of Cleeve Prior meets that of North Littleton and the name survives in that of Hoden Farm in Cleeve Prior, referred to in a deed of 1622 which mentions 'one acre in South Field in Olden shooting south of Littleton field' 'Olden' probably derived from ealdenedun;
    16. 'from (the) old hill to (the) old manure-heap'; near Ullington Mill;
    17. 'from which to Burghild's street'; this was the name of the Ryknield Street which is reached at SP 112467 and the boundary follows the road south-eastwards for ½ kilometre;
      [and so on]

    This is a fascinating document with its mixture of Latin grammar and old English place names. It tells us that there was an agreement between two kings over the new Abbey at Evesham with a corresponding circumambulation of the abbey's lands starting at Twyford and working clockwise. There is a place called Harvington as a point of reference, but it does not include it or tell us what Harvington was or who owned it but it does however define its western and southern boundaries.

    Only part of the document is reproduced here with our interest in Harvington being central. One can get a good idea from modern names that the scribe is only using fixed names where possibly such as Fladbury. As a fill in he uses names that are not necessarily fixed in the common vocabulary of the time but simply a description he has made of his route such as the 'oat field'.

    Our scribe starts at Twiford (Twyford = two fords) and heads down the river Avon to Cronochomme (Evesham = possibly from crane [heron] and ham). He follows the course of the river as it sweeps round the Evesham peninsular and eventually comes to Meredic (a boundary ditch or dyke presumably marking the boundary between Evesham, Norphenol (Norton) and Fladeburg (Fladbury). From here he leaves the river and heads up hill and towards the middle of Aeldegaren to Aeldenedsthinhage (both places as yet unidentified 'Aeld' means old and 'hage' means enclosure or enclosed), and on to Boelgesette (sette may mean place or position). He is now in the Lenches and on the upper reaches of the parish of Norton. He then heads through 'Lencdune', to the north western corner of the parish of Harvington called Wenna's Combe.

    He now turns south east and follows the Fulan Broc (foul Brook = Harvington Brook), past Harenthilles (hare's spring, associated with Norbrook a name given to the brook above the Evesham road), and on to Carkforð (Cark ford, associated with the one-time ford across the Salford road and possibly meaning care, it is now just a bend in the road. The scribe continues to follow the brook to a place called Goldthelle (The golden Spring), as yet undentified. Della Hooke does not elaborate by which she presumably is happy with Golden Spring but may a female name such as in Goldgiefu. As he nears the Avon the brook become sluggish and mere like which he describes as smalemeresuch, note it is in English and not Latin, which suggests he is naming the brook. The word is simply descriptive: smale, is a Teutonic and Old English form of small; mere, can either mean a place of standing water or a boundary; suche, is a complicated word but in this case would have meant 'as such', thereby reinforcing the words smale or mere. He now crosses the river to Offpole (Offenham, the ham of Uffa), near to a field of oats and so on.

    What was Wenne? As one stands at the top of the parish near to the head of the Harvington Brook, one is standing in an isolated gentle-sided combe sloping down towards the south east. The brook dominates it, either side of which is a mixture of orchard and arable. Most villagers today probably don't know of its existence. There are two references in the Oxford English Dictionary that could explain the origin of Wenne: an early from of when or an early version of the word venison as in wenison. neither seem applicable but the present combe is a haunt of deer.

    Offa, King of the East Saxons
    It is noted that the scribe who drew up the above document mistakenly stated that Offa was King of the East Angles whereas he was in fact King of the East Saxons. This strongly suggests that this document was compiled a long time after the event. Finburg in his Early Charters of the West Midlands states that Offa, King of Essex, was a major landowner in this area and gave the Littletons, Aldington, Badsey, Bretforton, Poden, Honeybourne and Wickhamford to the newly founded abbey at Evesham, he also owned Offenham and apparently also Twyford. Finberg also states that Offa's property in the area was inherited and suggests that it may have come via his mother Osgyth. She is known to history as a saint and was the daughter of Frithwald, a sub-king of Surrey, by Wilburga, the daughter of, Penda, king of Mercia. We have Offa, a major landowner in this area with no obvious connection other than through his mother Osgyth who was a neice of Wulfhere, King of Mercia and granddaughter of the great Penda himself. Did Penda's daughter Wilburh receive a dowry from her father or did Penda safeguard his granddaughter's future by giving her these lands?

    Here is a pedigree illustrating the probable connection:-

                                                  Penda =
                                    Warlord and then    |
                                    King of Mercia      |
                                    killed 655          |
                    |              |               |               | 
                 Wulfhere       St Edith       St Edburga       Wilburga
              King of Mercia    of Aylesbury   of Bicester      
              died 675                                          = Frithwald 
                                                                | of Chertsey
                                 Osgyth was reared              | sub-king of
                                 by her aunts                   | Surrey
                                                                | died 675
                                                 St Osgyth
                                           born Quarrendon
                                           near Aylesbury
                                           killed by pirates
                                           7 Oct c700        = Sighere
                                                             | King of Essex
                                                             | died 690
                                                     king of Essex
                                                     died 709 

    In AD 628 the warlord Penda, who was originally based at Tamworth, swept through this area on his rampage south and eventually met the Kings of Wessex at Cirencester and after a batle, came to an agreement. In consequence Penda was ceded the Severn Valley, the territory that was or soon to become Hwicce. It appears that it was at this stage the area covering Hwicce changed ownership. It now becomes almost impossible to see through the gloom as to whom the previous owners were. Did they owe their allegiance to the West Saxons from after the Battle of Dyrham in AD 577, or were they still British? The only possible speck of light will be through place names and archaeology. What is certain is that after AD 628, the area, including Harvington, received new landlords.

  2. AD 709, Kemble's Codex Diplomaticus Aevi Saxonici11. There is apparently a reference to 'Herefordinne', but despite a number of searches in the document, it has not been traced.

  3. AD 799, " Coenwulf King [of the Mercian's], to the Abbot Balthun, in exchange for 12 "manentes" at Hereford (Harvington). 30 "manentes" belonging to the minster at Kemesei Kempsey, free of all but the three common dues, with liberty to choose his heir. No payment other than compensation to a victim of crime is to go outside the estate"4 & 8.

    Deneberht's charter to Abbot Balthun from
    Birch's Cartularium Saxonicum.

    Firstly the word 'Manentes' appears to be equivalent to a hide. A hide was traditionally used as a measurement of food rent, either for one family or group, pertaining to a smallholding and more for value of land rather than an area.

    To clarify the above: Coenwulf gave Abbot Balthun of Kempsey Monastery, worth 30 smallholdings in return for the military service and maintenance work at Kempsey, in exchange for 12 'smallholdings' at Harvington.

    If one accepts that a smallholding = one family, which seems likely in this case, then the King received back 12 smallholdings from Baltham. Was Balthun the priest at Harvington, who was moving on to better things? Was this the whole parish or part? The whole village at present seems more likely as 12 hides or smallholdings as the Domesday Book over 250 years later only recorded 3 hides and 17 villagers. This leaves us, or rather King Coelwulf (king AD 796-821) with 12 manentes at Harvington. Was the beneficiary Deneberht (Bishop of Worcester AD 800-822)? Balthun (the Priest) received more land in another charter dated AD 8025.

  4. AD 814, (AD 802 in Birch) Deneberht, Bishop, and his cathedral clergy, to Eanswith; lease, for her lifetime, with reversion to the Church at Worcester. 2 "cassati" at Hereforda, on condition that she keeps the Church's vestments in repair"4. Called 'doubtful' by Della Hooke but there appears no reason to doubt this document.

    Deneberht's grant to Eanswith from
    Birch's Cartularium Saxonicum.

    Harvington's first known tenant was a lady called Eanswith1 whose name suggests she was a member of The Hwicce elite. Geoffrey Hindley in his A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons17 has a little more and fascinating information on this lady and her lease. She was granted by Bishop Deneberht 200 acres of land in return for the maintenance and enlargement of the cathedral's vestments on condition that upon her death that her land passed to the Church. His conclusion drawn was that she was carrying out business in her own right and employing crafts women, or men, to carry out the work. She probably visited Harvington but did she ever live in the village? Probably a coincidence but two hundred acres happens to be the amount of land that was attached to Manor Farm in the mid-20th century, the holding covered the lower section of the parish down to the river.

    From: Magna Britannia Antiqua & Nova, Survey of Great Britain by Thomas Cox, circa 1738.
    "Deneberht, who was consecrated the same year (799?), and was present at the synod of Cloveshoe in AD 803, where he confirmed the agreement made in the year 789, by his Predecessor with Wulfheard. He also, in the same synod, settled a dispute between himself and the Bishop of Hereford about the bounds of their Diocese. He was also present at the synod of Celycuth, in 806. He gave to the Church out of his own patrimony, the Manor of Herforton. He died Anno 822."

    There is no record of Deneberht's parents or family and therefore no indication of who owned Harvington prior to Deneberht.

  5. In AD 852, Beorhtwulf, King of the Mercian's, transferred to his thegn Eadgar for 700 shekels of gold, three "casseti" in Wiburgestoce (Wiburgestoke) in Harvington4.

    This charter is intriguing as it raises a number of salient points.

    The meaning of the name is a compound of an old English lady's name of 5 Wiburgh and the word stoke6 an outlying or "dependent farmstead"6. It appears that we have a Lady called Wiburgh owning a manor which became known by her name sometime before the year AD 852. Wiburgh is fascinatingly close to the name Wilburh, the daughter of Penda, King of Mercia and grandmother of offa, the owner of Offenham. Harvington's Wiburgh had passed away by the time when Beorhtwulf, King of Mercia, who reigned from AD 839/40 to his death in AD 852, had the right to sell it to his thegn Edgar. We do not know what happened to Edgar and there is no mention of Wiburgestoke until the Domesday Book in 1087 when:-

    The Domesday Book records this farmstead in conjunction with Harvington: "The Church itself holds Herfertun with Wiburgestoke. 3 hides which pay tax. In lordship 2 plough; 12 villagers and 3 smallholders with 6 ploughs. 4 male slaves, 1 female, A mill at 10s; meadow, 24 acres. The value was and is 50s". Wiburgestoke is also mentioned in a survey dated AD 1150, after which the trail goes cold.

    The above link to the shekel does not tell us its value in old English times but compared to modern values 700 shekels appears to be a lot of money. The fact that the king is using an Oriental or Jewish measurement is also interesting.

    In a preceeding section dealing with Offa, King of Essex, his grandmother Wilburga, is mentioned as possibly the inheriter of land in the area, is it possible that Wiburgestoke carries a memory of her name?

    Discussion of where and what Wiburgestoke was will be dealt with following the unattached clause below.

  6. AD 964, In Latin and English the document mentions Harvington as being, among other holdings, held by St Mary's Abbey, Worcester as a re-affirmation of lands by King Edgar"4 & 8.

  7. 1016-1035, a translation of this unattached boundary clause, written in Old English, is to be found in Della Hooke's, Worcestershire Anglo-Saxon Charter Bounds, p. 387. Unattached in this case means that there is no charter, transfer or lease attached. There is no date to it but the fact that it is in Old English with the spelling of Hereforda or herefordtune suggests that it is probably early 11th century. It relates to Harvington specifically rather than mentioning it as a side-line.

    Here follows the interpretation of the clause by Della Hooke:-

    1. 'First along (the) Avon so that it comes to Wistane's bridge', begins on the Avon at SP 067484 and the boundary follows southwards and then westwards. If the landmark is correctly brycg, 'bridge', this may have been at the crossing of that river in the far south of the parish at the ford which gave the estate its name, but the next landmark refers to a brook rather than to the river;
    2. 'and thence following the brook so that it comes to (the) bramble-(or hip-) covered hill, the brook forms the western boundary of the parish and the hill is probably the high land at the north-western corner of the parish near Atch Lench, the name derived from Old English hêopa, 'bramble, hip' (?wild rose);
    3. 'from the hill so that it comes near watercress spring', this was the source of the brook at SP 042506 which forms the rest of the northern and eastern boundary of the parish;
    4. 'and following the watercress to (the) tongue of land of the honey water-meadow, the boundary follows the brook to the Avon and the tongue of land may have been that alongside the Avon in the neighbouring parish of Salford Priors, Steot is an error for Old English steort, 'tail, tongue of land', as noted by Tengstrandt, who notes the suggestion 'the tapering or projecting part of Hunighamm (the) water-meadow where honey is gathered from bees' nests?)' or the tongue of land on which Hunighamm is situated'. This name occurs as Hunyhamsterte in a perambulation of Feckingham Forest in 1300 and as 'Onion Stert' in the early years of this century.
    5. 'and there again into the Avon'; the boundary follows the bank to the main river.

    Is the interpretation of this clause correct?
    The question has to be asked, does the above relate to the parish as a whole? Do we here have a clue in the perambulation that may put this article at odds with accepted theories. Up to now it has been seen as a perambulation of the parish but once one realises that the parish includes two manors then another possibility emerges. The clause commences on the Avon, travels down the river and turns up the Harvington Brook (described above as Smalemeresuch) and comes to a bramble covered hill. This has been suggested as Hipton Hill, although the hill now relates to the rise from Lenchwick in Norton. Could not this be where the land rises sharply from the floodplain to the present village, close to Thatchways Cottage? The next clue is where watercress grows. To complete the perambulation this has until now been placed at the top north-east corner of the parish on a sloping hillside - not where watercress normally grows, unless one takes into account of springs. Another explanation is that we are dealing with the bottom of Cress Hill where the flood plain commences on marshy, often waterlogged land now under the old railway line and present old bypass, where, according to local tradition, watercress was grown. This possibility suggests that the above perambulation is only describing half of the parish i.e. the Manor of Harvington, taking into account that the original settlement was near the river thereby excluding the Manor of Wiburgestoke.

    Location of Wiburgestoke
    Where Wiburgestoke manor was situated has not been proven and is considered to be 'lost'. Modern place names do not (at present) offer a clue. Manors, and there can be more than one in a parish, are usually centred on a Manor house, a property of more substance than the norm. It is now clear that there were two manors or estates in the parish of Harvington. Owing to the origin of its name we have placed the original Harvington down at the ford. By definition therefore Wiburgestoke as an outlying farmstead has to be elsewhere in the parish. A tentative suggestion is that the odd 'L' reversed shape of the parish could indicate the joining of two estates, one (Harvington) on the lower levels and one (Wigurgestoke) on the higher ground. It is just possible that Wiburgestoke was the original name of the present Harvington or was it further up the parish? The above unattached clause also states that Wiburgestoke was owned by the King whereas the Harvington manor was already owned by the Church at Worcester.

    St Wistane, Atheling of Mercia
    The above boundary clause has the only reference so far found that Harvington once had a bridge across the Avon. It almost certainly spanned the river at the bottom of Anchor Lane and the above clause appears to support this. At Bidford, now occupied by a medieval stone bridge, there was almost certainly a wooden or series of wooden bridges subsequent to the ford, and the assumption is that ours was a wooden structure. The name is fascinating and may help to identify the period when it existed and also the approximate date of the document in which it is recorded.

    The bridge is named after Wistan (Wigstan), Atheling of Mercia. He was the son of Wigmund, King of Mercia by Æflæd and was murdered by Beorhtfrith, son of Wistan's uncle on 1st June AD 847, see Wikipedia. He was either killed at Wistanstow in Shropshire, Wistow, Leicestershire. or Wistow in Cambridgeshire, and was buried in the crypt of his grandfather King Wiglaf at Repton. He was canonised after a number of miracles were connected to him. Sometime between AD 1016 and AD 1035, at the request of Abbot Ælfweard of Evesham 1014-1044, his relics were transferred to Evesham by the command of Canute, King of England 1016-1035. Dominic, a Prior of Evesham in the 12th century, wrote a hagiography of St Wistan called Vita Sancti Wistani, acquiring saintly relics by monasteries attracted a great deal of qudos and financial reward. The above does not tell us the date of our clause but it does suggest that the name and perhaps also the bridge itself came into existence sometime in the early 11th century after the relics had been transferred to Evesham.

The above boundary clauses give us a number of named or descriptive features which should be explained:-

  • Avene (Avon) - the river Avon
  • Broce (Brook) - the Harvington Brook
  • cærsa Þællan (watercress) - Della Hooke appears to place this feature at the top of the parish, however, in more recent times water cress was grown on the low-lying land below Cress Hill, just outside the village near the Salford Road.
  • Carkeforð (Carkeford) - traditionally placed where the Norton Road crosses the Harvington Brook and enters the village. The old ford has long since gone and the road culverted. The corner now has a much more rounded aspect.
  • Goldwelle (Golden Spring) - not known but presumably lower down the Harvington brook somewhere past the present sewage works.
  • Hare's Spring (Norbrook) - there was a field called Norbrook to the north west of the Evesham Road as it crosses the Harvington Brook.
  • Hêopa hylle (Bramble or wild rose Hill) - traditionally placed at the north-western corner of the parish, or perhaps where the land rises from the flood plain.
  • Hereforda (Harvington) - a descriptive name placing Harvington at a crossing of the River Avon.
  • hommes stroete (honey water meadow) - Della Hooke places this feature at the eastern junction of the parish boundary ditch and the River Avon.
  • Smalemoresye (Smallmmeresuch) - a descriptive name for the Harvington Brook as it joins the River Avon.
  • Þennecumbe (Wennecombe) - a name for the valley at the upper north-western corner of the parish.
  • Wiburgestoce (Wiburgestoke) - an outlying farmstead and Manor lying within Harvington parish once belonging to a lady called Wiburgh.
  • Þistanes brycge (Wistane's Bridge) - a bridge that once crossed the River Avon and named after St Wistan.

An informative website on extant old English documents, both in English and Latin is: Kemble, The Anglo-Saxon Charters. Also Dorothy Whitelock's, English Historical Documents, c.500-1042, Publ: 1979.

Viking impact
During the 8th century Harvington may have enjoyed a fairly peaceful existance under two Mercian kings with unusually long and relitively stable reigns, Æthelbald from AD716-757, and Offa AD757-796. However, what with internal strife and the Viking onslaught during the eighth and ninth century, starting with minor groups of raiders to full-scale armies, had a profound effect on the country and its people, whether English or British. It did catistrophic damage to the infrostructure, the church, the political stability, tax raising, and of course the people. The records that we have, catalogue the various major manouvers of the Viking armies and know where they over-wintered, such as at Gloucester, but we do not know of the countless raids that most have taken place, if nothing else but to feed themselves.

Having said all of the above, we have no indication whatsoever of how Harvington fared. We can say any effect was probably not long lasting as it was well away from the Danelaw and thoroughly within the English, or British orbit with place-names etc., perhaps we were lucky.

Agriculture and trade
The charter of AD 814 suggests that Eanswith, the first known tenant of Harvington, was involved in the "maintenance and enlargement of the cathedral's [Worcester] vestments", which again suggests that she was employing experienced people for needlecraft, something for which the English were renowned. Was she carrying on this business here, we shall never know. What is certain is that there was the river and river trade, and produce from the land. Agriculture was the dominant industry for most of the country and there is no reason to doubt that Harvington was part of that trade.

There are prehistoric crop marks around Harvington Lodge, and ridge and furrow on fields down Anchor Lane on what is now a golf course. It is fairly widely spaced which suggests the use of oxen therefore probably pre 1500. A useful study of ridge and furrow is in a history of Frocester, Gloucestershire, where both in an area surrounding and over the site of a Roman villa, are two sets of ridge and furrow; one stops short of the villa as if the ruins are still there, while the other, dated to the 13th century, ploughs straight over it. The implication being that the site of the villa with its valuable stone was grubbed out and a new ridge and furrow system set down25. The above, although not relating to Harvington, illustrates that ridge and furrow can be of considerable age.

The Romano-British, favoured a large estate system. During the Anglo-Saxon period, these great estates were split up into smaller units - probably becoming the foundation for manors. With the advent of the Feudal system in the 11th century, open field systems were favoured, which survived until the enclosure acts. Trying to understand this complex system of changes over long periods of time is a challenge when it comes down to individual manors and parishes.

For an understanding of the English landscape Oliver Rackham's book The History of the Countryside is a classic and a must to read. He was q prolific writer and although only one of his books are quoted here, it is not meant to diminish his other invaluable works26.

This article has been an interesting study of the origins of Harvington up to the time of the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The study has proved useful in giving a much clearer view of early Harvington and its surrounding. We are most fortunate that Harvington belonged to the Church at Worcester for so many centuries with the survival of so many Old English documents relating to the parish. They suggest that the parish possessed a stable unit of land hemmed in by river brook and ditch going back to least at the ninth century. We now know that Harvington was divided into two manors with the original Harvington down on the flood plain and the lost Wiburgestoke on the rising ground somewhere between the present church and Harvington Hill. There was a prehistoric, British and Roman presence in Harvington. The area probably stayed British until between AD 577 and AD 628, when Penda, the pagan English warlord swept through the area and set up an English governing hierarchy, which became a stable long-lasting province of the new Kingdom of Mercia.

At sometime post AD 814 the Manor of Harvington, a family possession of Deneberht, Bishop of Worcester, was passed to the Church at Worcester, under whose ownership it stayed for over a thousand years. In AD 852 the Manor of Wiburgestoke, property of the King of Mercia, was sold to Eadgar, the king's thegn and at some time, probably in the twelfth century, passed into the possession of the Church at Worcester, the parish becomes one property and the name disappears.

Known inhabitants and owners connected to Harvington and Wiburgestoke before 1066 are:-

Julian Rawes, Crooked Walls, October 2019.


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Plus website links throughout.