While rewriting the Oakley draft on Aldred’s adventures with Bishop AElfsige in Wessex, I have been reconstructing the Dorset landscape as it might have been in the late tenth century, using Domesday Book and charter data (Electronic Sawyer, but PASE provides an excellent search gateway as well). The Ordnance survey map is fine for showing the present day locations of ancient and medieval evidence around Oakley (barrows, dykes, Roman roads, etc), but it does not indicate the older woodland and pasture areas in relation to tilled fields. GoogleEarth gives a satellite view that is dominated by tilled fields with recently planted woodland “plantations” and not much in the way of pasture and meadow. However, the Domesday Book evidence suggests that Woodyates and Pentridge were dominated by woodland and pasturage more than ploughland, unsurprising in the chalk downs without the kind of major rivers and streams found northward around Old Sarum.
Both Woodyates (Odiete) and Pentridge (Pentric) in Domesday Book were held in the reign of Edward (TRE, pre-1066) by the Abbey of St. Mary’s Glastonbury, although charter evidence also shows a Beorhthere receiving land at Woodyates under Eadwig (955×959) [PASE Beorhtere 5; Sawyer 1753 but no text available online]. Glastonbury’s claims are hard to date from the charter evidence, but more than likely in 970 they already held the land at Woodyates and Pentridge Domesday Book records. To the southwest, Sixpenny Handley (Hanlege; the Sixpenny part is after the merger in the 14th century with Sexpenna) was much larger than Woodyates and Pentridge; it was held by St. Mary’s Shaftesbury, a women’s house. I can have Aldred walk from the Glastonbury lands through Beorhthere’s and then down until he impinges on Shaftesbury’s lands, but I am not sure yet who held the lands around Oakley Down–a lot depends on configuring the sizes given in Domesday with the existing landscape.
Woodyates in Domesday Book paid geld for 4 hides and had land for 4 ploughs; and overall was worth £4. The demesne is listed as having 3 hides 1 virgate; 1 plough; 3 slaves, 2 villans, 5 bordars, and [gap]. But interestingly, its pasture was 16.5 furlongs length and width and its woodland 7 furlongs long by 5.5 wide.
A hide= 120 acres (0.1835 mi2 and a league= 1.5 miles, or 12 furlongs, so 1 furlong= .125 mile. I used decimals in miles in order to draw ruler lines in GoogleEarth. By these calculations, Woodyates was somewhat under 4 miles square, although of course its land wasn’t actually a neat square.
Pentridge in Domesday Book paid geld for 6 hides and had land for 6 ploughs; it was worth £6. Charter data (Sawyer 513, 944×949) shows King Edmund giving it as part of a larger grant to his queen Æthelflæd for life, with reversion to Glastonbury. After the Conquest Domesday Book says it was held by the king in demesne with 1 plough, 4 slaves, 6 villans, and 6 bordars with 3 ploughs; curiously, Wulfweard, who held it before the Conquest, “could not be separated from the church.” I don’t know if this means he was the priest of its church, presumably appointed by Glastonbury, or some other kind of dependent who, for whatever reason, could not be dislodged. Pentridge has more tilled acreage than Woodyates, but it is long and narrow in its pasturage and woodland: pasture was 8 furlongs x 4 furlongs and woodland 1 league long by 3 furlongs wide. This fits with the terrain situated between the Roman road (Ackling Dyke) on the west and the hilly area to the east.
Handley in Domesday Book before the Conquest paid geld for 20 hides and land for 9 ploughs, worth total £8. In demesne it had 3 hides, 3 ploughs, 3 slaves, 16 villans, and 9 bordars with 6 ploughs. It also had a mill rendering 10 shilling and 30 acres of meadow, in addition to small woodland and pasture (each 1 furlong square). That 20 hides translates to 3.67 square miles, a huge amount of tilled land compared to Woodyates and Pentridge, where animal pasturage must have been the dominant mode (probably sheep). St. Mary’s Shaftesbury therefore owned a productive estate, granted to them with some other estates by King Alfred for some curious reasons having to do with his daughter Æthelgifu placed there, and some obstruction of justice sins (Sawyer 357, in Old English and Latin). The charter includes Gussage with Handley in the 20 hides, so that makes it a bit easier to map it out southward.
I have drawn onto these GoogleEarth images the dimensions I have listed, but of course the proportions could be adjusted each direction in relation to each other and continguous estates. But it does give a sense of the lay of the land. Here is an overview:
This leaves Oakley Down barrows at the intersection of these three estates, which may provide a basis for the “tent meeting” Aldred and AElfsige have there, perhaps involving Glastonbury and Shaftesbury personnel in a discussion of boundaries–or monastic reform–with Cuthbert mediating.
As for flora and fauna, I have lingering questions. My favorite old fashioned resource is the Victoria County History (VCH), but annoyingly for Dorset vol. 1 with the basic landscape info is not published (volumes 2 and 3 are); so I may dig through Wiltshire and Hampshire for info.
Trees: I expected oaks, given the place name, but what I saw and took pictures of are not oaks, although between human-created plantations and oak diseases this is not surprising.
Animals: I am thinking sheep in the pasturage–handy for wool, meat, and parchment, with some cattle and goats for milk and cheese. Woodlands have many resources–wood, birds (I saw pheasants), nuts, pig forage, perhaps red deer? I may have also seen a hare.
Crops: what grows well on chalk downlands? I need to check my early medieval and Anglo-Saxon farming books and articles in my office, but suggestions are welcome.