Round and round for ever and ever

The 1928 item from the Wiltshire Archæological and Natural History magazine was notable in writing of the neolithic monument without making any mention at all of King Alfred or of Egbert’s Stone, relying instead on very local information and traditions: Court Hill was a ‘meeting place for Kings’, a place where justice was dispensed – this perhaps the most interesting detail. However, there was a passing reference to an earlier note of 1877 which described a visit by the WANH society to Kingston Deverill in 1877, and this is it:

Visit to Kingston Deverill, 23 Aug 1877,  WANH magazine Vol XVII (1878), p 275.

Visit to Kingston Deverill, 23 Aug 1877, WANH magazine Vol XVII (1878), p 275.

 So the connection had already been made with Ecgbryhtesstan in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Two and two were put together, the total being possibly four. Or five. Or three. And these were the very stones mentioned by the chroniclers. Did the story start with a local antiquarian’s theory, supported by local folk-lore?

But now, fast forward again to 1930 (WANH vol xlv, pp 86-87): another enquirer appears on the scene having read the article of 1928, and citing Asser rather than the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Would it not be possible, ‘nay probable’, that these are “Petra Ecbricti” where King Alfred…Brixton…Kingston = King’s Stone???  We-have-been-here-before. In reverse order: no, no and probably no. However, the article does reveal a little of why  King Alfred’s Tower was built where it was in Stourton (and thence we move from King Alfred to the mystic realms of King Arthur. I think). This was the 1930 article:

EA Rawlence FSA, WANH vol lxv (1930), pp 86-87

EA Rawlence FSA, WANH vol lxv (1930), pp 86-87

It appears that the tower was planned in 1762, by Henry Hoare II but his grandson, Richard Colt Hoare, being then only 3 or 4 years old, was unlikely to have influenced his  grandfather in his choice for the site: old Henry ‘knew something’ back in the 1760s.

More to be discovered, so I will quickly outline ‘the snag’ as regards Kingston Deverill (rather than Penselwood) being the site of Saxon Ecgbryhtesstan. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Alfred rode from Athelney to Ecgbryhtesstan to the east of Selwood and stayed there one night, meeting up with his various fyrds. Early next morning he set out for Acglea/Iglea, identified as Iley Oak in the forest to the west of Sutton Veny, staying there also for one night. A snag is that some people feel Kingston Deverell and Iley Oak would be too close together, barely five miles apart, too close to set up camp on consecutive nights. But that may be explained. For the moment I will end here, as I want to examine what people knew, guessed or hoped for about the location of Ecgbryhtesstan.


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