Page images
PDF
EPUB

his opinion chiefly on the circumstances that Edington, in Wilts (generally accepted as the site of the battle), was much too near to Brixton for Alfred to have stopped to pass the night at after a march from early dawn,' and that Æglea or Inglea in all probability gave its name to the hundred of Eglei, in Berkshire, which lies to the north of Eddington, and is now united to the ancient hundred of Cheneteberie, under the name of Kintbury-Eagle. The names, too, of Daneford, (now Denford), and the hamlet of Englewood (now Inglewood), on the opposite side of the Kennet, he considers to refer to some considerable engagement between the two forces.

Local topography further bears out the theory advanced by Professor Beke in the name of Dane's Field, in the immediate neighbourhood of the supposed locality of this battle.

The Berkshire Eddington has also another argument in its favour as the site of the battle, on account of its proximity to so many ancient camps, barrows, and other relics of the wars, which a thousand years ago were waged with such persevering fury between the Saxons and the Danes. On the plateau of the summit of the Berkshire Downs above Kintbury, and about five miles from Eddington, we have an extensive and strongly fortified encampment, known as Walbury Fort, forming a most formidable military position, being about 1000 feet above sea-level; and it might with good reason be suggested that Walbury was "the fortification to which the Danes fled, and held out a siege of fourteen days." Or, again, Chisbury Camp, on the Wansdyke, a few miles from Hungerford, enclosing within ramparts, 45 feet in height, partly double, partly treble, an area of 15 acres; or Membury Fort, also a strongly

Upon the point as to the probable distance of Ethandune from BrixtonDeverill, some light may be gathered from the Metrical Version of Geoffrey Guimar, who says that on quitting Brixton, the Saxon army "rode through the whole night and the next day as far as they could, until they came to Æglea, that they went on that night, and the next day at nine o'clock they had reached Edensdone." Now in no way is it intelligible that a march (in the whole) of twelve miles, from Brixton to Edington, in Wilts, should be thus described as occupying two entire nights and one day. It is, moreover, doubtful whether the battle did not take place on the third, instead of the second, day; for this is expressly stated by Simeon of Durham, and is not inconsistent with Asser's narrative.

fortified post, on the borders of Berks and Wilts, partly in Lamborne and partly in Ramsbury parish, may either of them well have been the entrenched camp of Asser and the Saxon chronicler.

Whether or not there are sufficient grounds for considering the Berkshire Eddington (the Eddevetone of Domesday) as the site of the battle must remain an open question; but there seems little reason to doubt its being the same with Ethandune, which King Alfred left by will to his wife, Ealhswith, inasmuch as it is mentioned in the same clause with the manors of Waneting (Wantage) and Lamburnam (Lamborne), the former of which is but a few miles to the north, and the latter joins the parish in the north-west point. The three form Alfred's bequest to his wife, and seem to have comprised all his private estate in Berkshire.

Since the above was written the writer has incidentally met with some interesting notes on this subject from the pen of the late Canon Jackson, F.S.A., appended to an article on "The Sheriff's Turn, co. Wilts," in the Wilts Archæological Magazine, vol. xiii., pp. 108-110. In referring to a lively discussion which was conducted some years ago in this magazine, Canon Jackson observes that Brixton (Deverill) could scarcely have been "Ecgbryght's stone," for in Domesday Book Brixton is distinctly called "Brictric's Town," from its owner, Brictric, a Saxon Thane, who, it is conceived, in the days of Edward the Confessor, had been his ambassador at the Court of Flanders. He further calls attention to the existence of an ancient stone a few miles north-west of Warminster, marked on Andrews and Dury's county map of Wilts, 1773, which, being close to the border of two counties, would not have been an unsuitable place for muster, and a ride of thirty miles through Selwood would have brought the King and his staff to it from Athelney.

"The secret of Alfred's success," Canon Jackson goes on to say (like that of Joshua against the Amorites), "lay in the rapidity of a forced march. Alfred did not, indeed, go up all night,' but he 'went up' from break of dawn all day till he reached Ecglea. It must surely have been an unusual distance." Summarizing the arguments for and against, the Canon concludes strongly in favour of the battle having been fought within the Berkshire hundred of

[ocr errors]

Eglei, and trusts that some Berkshire Archæologist may some day discover the exact spot from which the old "hundred" took its name, suggesting that it may possibly be found under the disguise of " 'Eggle, Aggle, Edgelease, Engle, Oakley, or Oxley, or some name of similar sound." He further remarks that if the hundred of Eglie in Berks anywhere touches the boundary of Wilts, a forced march of thirty-five miles would have brought Alfred's men of valour from Ecbright's stone on the western frontier of Wilts to Ecglie on the eastern in the course of the second day.

Now, in the ancient hundred of Æcglie or Eglei, now united to the ancient hundred of Cheneteberie, or Kintbury, under the modern name of Kintbury-Eagle, with which it coincides for the most part, we have Englewood or Inglewood, Inlease, and many other names which might easily have become degraded by the local dialect from the original Ecglei. Eddington, near Hungerford (the Eddevetone of Domesday, and the locality, we believe, where the battle of Ethandune was fought), is within the hundred of Kintbury-Eagle, and, moreover, is on the boundary of Wilts. The "County Cross" is also in this neighbourhood, on "King's Heath," near Inholmes, Lambourn Woodlands, and close by is Dane's Field; while close to Eddington we have the name of Daneford, now Denford.

The Eddington of which we write is that mentioned in King Alfred's will, already referred to as one of his own estates, and, as Canon Jackson observes, "nothing is more likely than he should have secured to himself the very soil on which he crushed the Danish power and secured his throne."

Exception will naturally be taken by the supporters of Edington, near Westbury, Wilts, to the identity of Ethandune with the Berkshire Eddington or Edington. "But why so?" asks Canon Jackson. Alfred's expedition was a master-stroke, the sudden pouncing of a hawk upon its prey. It required energy and celerity. Tardy movements of a few miles a day, almost within sight of the enemy, would never have answered his purpose, aud in this respect the Berkshire Eddington seems to satisfy the most essential demands of the case."

The learned Canon, although laying the scene of the battle within

the hundred of Eglei, has unintentionally strengthened his argument by mentioning Yattendon, a village seven miles north-east from Newbury, as the place referred to by Dr. Beke as the site of the action; but it is Eddington, near Hungerford, which the latter suggested, and some fourteen miles nearer Ecbright's stone.

The Wilts County Court.

Devizes versus Wilton.'

By JAMES WAYLEN.

HE changes which the last two hundred years have brought

about in the judicial machinery of courts and polling places, quite remove from the discussion which the above heading may seem to indicate, anything like the ignominious element of local rivalry. With all this we have now done. But the story of the transfer of the County Court may still have attractions for the archæological mind; the more so as it has hitherto received very little notice from our local annalists.

The first thing to be noted is that in the great Civil War the Parliament's cause had not a more ardent adherent in Wiltshire than Robert Hippisley, of Stanton Fitzwarren: and that in after days he became so attached to the Protector Oliver as to be spoken of by his adversaries as one of Cromwell's creatures. The same epithet was applied to another gentleman in that part of the county, namely, Isaac Burgess, of Marlborough. Now, both of these gentlemen were in turn sheriffs of the county during the transition period before and after Cromwell's death, and both of them interested themselves in getting the County Court transferred from Wilton to

1A portion of this paper has already appeared in "Gillman's Devizes Almanack and Directory for 1892."

Devizes; principally, no doubt, on the ground of general convenience, but possibly also to give greater expression to the liberal element for which Devizes was then conspicuous. Be this as it may, there seems good reason to trace the hand of Cromwell in the affair, and thus again to account for the haste with which the action of the advance party was systematically reversed, here as elsewhere, at the Restoration. Eventually the Wilton folk recovered their lost privilege or appanage, though theoretically it was still dependent on the personal will of the sheriff for the time being. This was shown soon after by the fact that at the ensuing general election, when the sheriff of that year, Sir James Thynne, of Longleat, was anxious to get a nominee of his own returned for Wilton, he threatened the Wilton burgesses that unless they would pleasure him therein he would take his own course, which they understood to be the again removal of the Court to Devizes. The burgesses of Wilton replied to the sheriff that they had already made their election and meant to adhere to it. Sir James does not appear to have pushed matters to extremity on this occasion; it is nevertheless true that in the next reign, when James II. was inviting the Nonconformists to take part with himself in treading down the Anglican party, the proposition for going back to Devizes was again in the air. The subsequent history of the Court we need not further pursue. Let the above suffice as introductory to the ensuing documentary evidence.

The Wilton Petition to recover the County Court.

TO THE RIGHT WORSHIPFUL SIR JAMES THYNNE, KNT., HIGH SHERIFF OF THE COUNTY OF WILTS.

The humble petition of the Mayor, Burgesses, and other the inhabitants of the Borough of Wilton,-Humbly showeth that in this late intestine war the inhabitants of the said borough have suffered much prejudice to the great impoverishment of the said inhabitants. Yet to add more, one Hippisley, late Sheriff of this county, was pleased to add a further prejudice, the removing of the County Court from us to the Devizes; which hath been continued by his successor [Isaac] Burgess, notwithstanding the right honourable Earl of Pembroke was pleased in the behalf of the said borough to write his letter to the said Burgess for the return thereof, which he slighted,-the said Hippisley and himself being the creatures of Oliver late Protector. Besides, the inhabitants of the Devizes made one Captain Scotten (being a States' captain) one of their Burgesses, to serve in Parliament, of purpose to be instrumental for the continuance of the

« PreviousContinue »