Saxon boundaries

The Saxons indicated their boundaries by describing obvious landmarks in Land Charters and much of the work on those Charters was carried out by Dr G.B. Grundy. In an article in the Archaeological Journal. Vol. LXXVI of 1919 he identified two surveys, the first dated AD 901. This stated that King Edward granted the area of ’10 hides’ to the thegn Wihtbrord and of this he writes:

‘The extant copy of the survey is certainly at least founded on an Anglo-Saxon original, and is probably itself of pre-Conquest date. Whether it is the record of the survey made at the time of the grant is open to doubt.’

A further charter, dated 994, granted by King Aethelred (978-1016), gave land to the church of St. Mary the Virgin at Wilton and later on, an extract from the Domesday Book, made in 1086, reads, ‘The same church (Wilton) holds Fobefont’ (it lists ploughlands, meadows and mills, but not a church).

The boundaries were indicated by the identification of succeeding landmarks and many of these are still recognisable today, either as features or as surviving names. This may be seen when superimposing them on a modern map as below. (Click to enlarge)

For example, both surveys refer to Cock’s Spring at the head of a small valley that runs up from the Nadder to Fovant Wood. The name persists, although corrupted, in Woodcock Corner.Dr Clay, in his examination of the Charters, thought that Sigewine’s Dyke referred to a hollow-way that runs up the downs to sweep round the feature that we know as Chiselbury, which the survey identified as Chester Camp. The next landmarks described were thirty rods east of Chester Camp where the Flowers grow and then the Burial place. Although Dr Clay’s excavations in 1928 failed to find a burial place, he did record a patch of ‘the very handsome and conspicuous Greater Willow Herb’, remarking that ‘it is pleasing to think that this same patch existed and flowered in Saxon days’.

One prominent boundary, The Herepath, survives as a byway, whilst part of the word itself survives as the German heer or army. It is therefore likely that the track was thought of as wide enough for an army to use.

In Sutton Mandeville, a boundary point named Rough Dyke survives today as Row Ditch.  (M.C.L.H.). 2005

More detail of Dr Grundy’s work, together with other comments by Dr Clay are contained below:

From “The Saxon Land Charters of Fovant”

By G.B. Grundy, M.A., D.Litt. Archaeological Journal. Vol. LXXVI. Nos. 301–304, 2nd series, Vol. XXVI Nos. 1–4, pp. 191–197

Charter of the lands of Fovant and Sutton Mandeville.

Birch, 588. Kemble, 331.
RD. AD 901.

Granted by King Eadward to the thegn Wihtbrord.
Hides. 10.
Names in title Fobbanfunta , in body of document Fobbefunte .

A second charter of the same lands.

Kemble, 687.
RD. AD 994.

Granted by King Aethelred to the church of St. Mary the Virgin, at Wilton (Wilton Convent)
Hides. 10.
Names in title Fobbefunte , in body of document Fobbafunta .

The remarks made with regard to the survey of B.588 apply also to the survey attached to this charter, except that the extant copy cannot conceivably be the record of the survey made at the time of the grant.

The surveys of the two charters.

(A indicates landmarks of Birch 588; B those of Kemble 687.)

The two charters have been combined into the table below:


RefAnglo-SaxonTranslationComment (by Dr R.C.C. Clay)
A1Aerest on Hanan WelleFirst to Cock's SpringThese two different names refer to the same spring. It is fairly clear that it was towards the N. end of the E. boundary of Fovant, probably at the head of a small valley which runs up from the Nadder more or less at the place where Fovant Wood joins Compton Wood. (The name persists, although corrupted, in Woodcock Corner)
B3Of Earnhylle on PottwyllFrom Eagle Hill to Pot Spring
A2Siththan on Hanan WurtheAfter that to Cock's (outlying) Farm
B4Of, etc. on tha Ealdan WryrtheFrom Pot Spring to the Old ( outlying) FarmBy dead reckoning from the neighbouring landmarks it may be safely asserted that the farm stood on the E. boundary of Fovant just N. of the road from Wilton.
A3Thonne forth on Stan MaereThen on to Stone BalkThis was probably a balk of a ploughland where stones had been placed as landmarks. It ran almost certainly along the straight piece of the E. boundary of Fovant which runs south from the Wilton road towards the downs.
B5Of, etc. to HearpatheFrom the Farm to the HighwayThis old highway passed along the foot of the hill on which Chiselbury Camp stands.
B6Thonne andlang Hearpathes to tham AnheafdanThen along the Highway to the Headland (of a ploughland)This shows incidentally that the highway mentioned could not be what I had once supposed it to be, the Wilton road. The passage of the boundary along the highway must have been brief, viz. the short bend which the E. boundary of Fovant makes from SSE to ESE, at the bottom of the slope of the down. The headland was no doubt at the end of this bend.
The landmarks in both charters come very quickly in this part of the boundary.
B7Of, etc. on Lokeres LeageFrom the Headland to (Locer's ?) LeaThis must have been very near the last, on the slope of down just NE of Chiselbury Camp.
A4Thonne on Siegewunne Dic westeweardeThen to Sigewine's Dyke on its west side
B8Of, etc. on Sigwynne DicFrom (Locer's) Lea to Sigewine's Dyke.Sigewine's Dyke is the Hollow-way which runs up the slope of the down, and fades off when it reaches its shoulder.
A5And so up on Land Scare HangranAnd so up to the Hanging Wood of the Boundary.This wood must have been more or less on the site of the wood called Compton Ivers.
A6Thonne bi eastan Cester Slaed Byrg XXX gerdaThen thirty rods east of Chester Slade Camp.
B9Thonne of, etc. upp on Dune thrittig gyrda be eastan Ceaster Blaedbyrig on tha Byrigenne.Then from Sigewine's Dyke up on the Down thirty rods east of Chester Camp where the Flowers grow to the Burial place.Chester Camp is Chiselbury. If the Saxon boundaries had corresponded with the modern boundaries, so that the E. boundary made a right angle with the Highway on top of the downs, the situation of the burial places would have been somewhere in the angle, for the distance between a spot 30 rods east of Chiselbury to the Highway is small. I have however proved by excavation that no burial place exists at or near the present SE corner of the parish. The natural conclusion to be drawn is that the Saxon boundary made a sweep round Chiselbury, and that the boundaries were straightened out at some later time. It is also of interest to note that immediately south of Chiselbury there is still a patch of the very handsome and conspicuous Greater Willow Herb, Epilobium augsutifolium , met with in patches, usually far apart, on the downs. It is pleasing to think that this same patch existed and flowered in Saxon days.
A7Swae up to Here Pathe.So up to the Highway.
B10Of, etc. on thane Hearpath.From the burial place to the HighwayThis highway is the great ridgeway which runs all along the S. boundaries of Fovant and Sutton Mandeville
A8Thaet swa uest on Here Pathe anlang Hrygges.Then so west on the Highway along the ridge.
B11Thonne andlang Herepathes.Then along the highway.The boundary runs along the ridgeway
A9Thaet of, etc. on Rugan Dic.Then from the Highway to Rough Dyke.The Rough Dyke survives in Row Ditch which is in the parish of Sutton Mandeville.
B12On thone Scearpan Garan westewerdne.To the Sharp Gore (triangular piece of land) on its west side.
B13Of, etc. in on tha YfreFrom the Gore to the Escarpment.
A10On Ber Hulle westewearde.To … Hill on its west side.
B14On tha Garethru.To the Foot of the Slope of the Escarpment.
B15Of, etc. Feower Aekeras be westan than Hangran.From the Foot of the Slope Four Strips of Ploughland west of the Hanging Wood.
B16Of, etc. andlang heafda on Blacan Hylle middlewerde.From the Four Strips of Ploughland along the Headland to the (middle ?) of Black Hill.
A11Thonne forth afer Here Path.Then on over the Highway.
B17Thonon of, etc. north to Hearpathe.Then from Black Hill north to the Highway.
A12Thaet on Sticelan Path.Then to the Steep Path.
B18Of, etc. on tha Westran Dune westwerde.From the Highway to the west side of the Western Down.
A13On Wadding Gerstan easte weardne.To the east side of the Grass Croft of the Waddings.
A14.Thaert forth ofer Chealf Hylle midde wearde.Then on over (the middle) of Calf Hill.
B19Of, etc. on Chealf Hylle midderwerde.From the Down to the middle of (?) Calf Hill.
A15Thonne on Wulf Cumb ufewearde.Then to Wolf Combe from its upper side.
B20Thonne of, etc. on Wulfhylle (read cumbe) middewerde.Then to the middle of Wolf Combe.
A16Swa thurh Dellwuda on Land Scor Ac.So through Quarry Wood to Boundary Oak.
B21Of, etc. to wuda.From Wolf Combe to the Wood.
B22Swa be than Eald Wyrtruman in on Nodre.So by the Old Hillfoot to the Nadder.
A17Swa on stream on Nodre.So to the river, to the Nadder.
A18Swa of dune on stream.So down stream.The boundary goes down stream as far as the NE corner of Fovant where Compton Wood and Fovant Wood meet the river.
A19That up of streame on Hanan Welle.Then up from the stream to Cock's Spring.See A1.
B23Thonon andlang streames eft on thaene Haeran Haesl.Then along the stream once more to the Hoar Hazel tree.This tree must have stood where the E boundary of Fovant leaves the Nadder.
B1Aerest on thone Haran Haesel.First to the Hoar Hazel-tree.See the last landmark.
B2Of, etc. on Earnhylle middewerke.From the Hoar Hazel-tree to the middle of Eagle Hill.Eagle Hill is the projecting promontory on the E. boundary of Fovant in Fovant Wood about 1½ furlongs S. of the Nadder.