Posted by: kljolly | April 20, 2018

Æcerbot Ritual III: Place

Just as the “field remedy” found in BL Cotton Caligula A.VI cannot be tied to a particular season or days, it is also not specific to a place or region.   However, clues within the remedy itself suggest some parameters for the type of property and appurtenances needed to carry it out.  My goal in this post is to finds ways to visualize the performance of the remedy using known Anglo-Saxon manorial estate sites.  In particular, we need to imagine the relative position of church to fields.

The ideal would be to triangulate on a site or sites from three nodes of data that would be mappable:

  1. A Domesday Book entry showing who and what was on the property in “the reign of Edward” (before the Norman Conquest).  We are looking for a medium-sized site with ploughlands and animal pasture, and a church with priest (although DB is not consistent in recording the latter, we can extrapolate from other evidence).
  2. A charter (Electronic Sawyer) showing the boundaries of a property, as well as its ownership.  This data complements DB:  while DB tells us who and what is on the property, charter bounds describe the relative size and external parameters.  Of course, not all of the boundary references are recoverable today (trees, stones, mounds).
  3. Archaeological and other material evidence.  I am particularly interested in excavated and/or re-created sites for which someone has drawn up a map showing ridge-and-furrow fields, houses and outbuildings, as well as a church (even if the extant church has been rebuilt in later times).

The third item is a good starting place, just because surveyed sites usually will reference any charter and Domesday Book evidence.  Also useful for correlating this data is PASE (Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England). I have done something similar using GoogleEarth for the Oakley region where Aldred and Bishop Ælfsige camped in 970.

Here are some site maps that potentially provide visualization for the field remedy:

  • Heslerton in the Yorkshire Wolds, excavated and documented by the Landscape Research Centre, either West Heslerton‘s Anglian settlement, or East Heslerton :
  • Also in Yorkshire:  Wharram Percy, although later medieval, has the advantage of being relatively untouched (a “lost” medieval village). The commercial archaeological firm DigVentures posted air images of seven lost medieval villages, including Wharram Percy.  .Historic England  has some good images of it as well:
  • Cuxham in Oxfordshire, the local history site has posted a 1767 map from P. Harvey that illustrates a common medieval field system:

    Cuxham map

    Cuxham, Oxfordshire

  • The University of Sheffield  has a good settlement map for Fillingham, Lincolnshire from their field survey:


    Fillingham, Lincolnshire

  • East Meon history has pictures of a model of a “Domesday Village.”  See also a pdf article on East Meon hundred by Ian Wesley.


    East Meon “Domesday Village” model

  • For Northamptonshire, Rockingham Forest Trust has a lot of maps of villages, such as this one at Corby.

    Corby historic map 1829(500)

    Corby, Northamptonshire

  • Likewise, British History Online has digitized books with a lot of medieval village sites, such as Upton (fig. 17) and Kettering from An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire.


    Upton, Northamptonshire

  • The re-creation site of West Stow is early Anglo-Saxon, for which Angelcynn has posted some evocative images:


    West Stow Angelcynn

  • And then there is “Bede’s World,” the Jarrow Hall Anglo-Saxon farm and village, although the site does not have landscape maps.

    Northumbria 040

    Bede’s World sheep, author photo

One preliminary conclusion from reviewing these various rural maps and diagrams is that the church is not usually very near the fields.  To perform the remedy would mean a certain amount of walking between and through the habitations for the priest and the others participating, suggestive of a processional.



  1. […] imagine a rural community of at minimum eight households, perhaps 40+ adults, in addition to the manor household and the […]

  2. Reblogged this on pmayhew53.

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