Posted by: kljolly | January 27, 2012

Oakley Down

“Besuthan wudigan gaet aet áclee on westsaexum on laurentius maessan daegi. on wodnes daegi aelfsige thaem biscope in his getélde aldred se p’fast ðas feower collectae on fif naeht áldne mona aer underne awrat. . . . ” [Special characters changed]

South of Woodygate at Oakley among the West Saxons on Lawrence’s massday, on Wednesday, for AElfsige the bishop in his tent, Aldred the provost these four collects, on the five nights old moon, before tierce [9 a.m.], wrote.

Aldred wrote this Old English colophon on fol. 84r in Durham A.IV.19, below four prayers for St. Cuthbert he had presumably just copied.  Other scholars (see T. J. Brown, Durham Ritual, EEMF, 24) have figured the date as 10 August 970 and the location as south of Woodyates along the A354 between Salisbury and Blandford.  Cod. Lind. gives coordinates of 50° 58’ N x 1° 58′ W, but when I swoop in with GoogleEarth, I see some other options.

South of Woodyates a bit further (a bit over a mile) are the Bronze Age Oakley Down barrows:  rings, a bell mound, some lower bowl mounds.  Cutting through the site is the Roman road Ackling Dyke, which deviates from the A354 just south of Woodyates.  The Romans had little regard, apparently, for the barrows.  Slightly northeast along Ackling Dyke from the downs is a rectangular earthwork that might be Roman.  This site has good images:

Oakley Down

Aldred and AElfsige would have been on the Ackling Dyke road and might have set up tent in the (possibly) Roman earthwork, in view of the barrow downs to their southwest.  Whichever direction they traveled along the Roman road (or both), they would have passed through the downs.  So I am imagining a scene where Aldred reflects on mortality and historical memory–the men in the barrows, the Romans, the West Saxons.

At that angle from the Roman earthwork looking southwest toward the barrows, could he have seen the hill mound highlighted at sunset?

I am also thinking about visiting the site, if I can get the means to do so after a workshop in London in April.  The bus from Salisbury to Blandford has a stop at Woodyates.  I could get off and walk along Ackling Dyke to the downs and take a look, and some pictures.


  1. I used to live near there and never managed to visit! Good to see you, Karen, and I look forward to lots of interesting posts 🙂

  2. […] on Friday 20 April 2012, taking a bus from Salisbury, camera in hand to capture the site where Aldred pitched his tent with Bishop Ælfsige on 10 August 970, a Wednesday.  I was glad I had picked up an Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (118 Shaftesbury & Cranborne […]

  3. […] says he wrote the Cuthbert collects for Bishop Ælfsige in his tent, at Oakley south of Woodyates, 10 August 970.  What is this tent (getelde) and what does it […]

  4. […] posted a new draft of the Oakley chapter/short story that tries to account for the Durham A.IV.19 colophon and memorandum Aldred wrote.  This revision has taken a great deal of time, hence the silence in […]

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