Let battle commence

In the blue corner, Penselwood; in the red corner, Kingston Deverill … both competing to be the site of Egbert’s Stone.

Assessing the various bits of information, Kingston Deverill at least offers some interesting features.

1. Kingsettle Hill to Kingston Deverill was on a main trackway, the Harrow Way according to Timperley and Brill, passing through Redlynch just south east of Bruton as the present Hardway. I can see no ancient trackway passing near Penselwood from the west that might have been King Alfred’s route from Athelney.

Several major tracks meet in the vicinity of Kilmington Common

Several major tracks meet in the vicinity of Kilmington Common

2. There was also the Mendip track and several other tracks meeting in the vicinity of Kilmington Common, all of which could have brought the Hundreds fyrds of Somerset, Wiltshire and (north) Hampshire to the common assembly point.

3. Accepting that ‘Penselwood’ could mean ‘in or near Penselwood itself’, I haven’t discovered a prominent landmark which might have been recognised in Saxon times as Ecgbryhtesstane. It is true that the tripoint of Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorset is just here, but did King Egbert have anything to do with the establishment of the boundaries? And why would that be important? Surely, if the fyrds were being summoned there needed to be some well-known landmark to tell them where to gather? Kingston Deverill had the prominent sarsen stones on Court Hill and there seems to have been a much larger open space for the fyrds to gather.

4. There seems to be an authentic tradition of Court Hill in Kingston Deverill having been a place of assembly, a local meeting place, which seems to go back to a distant past.

5. Penselwood is not in the eastern part of Selwood Forest,  administratively (i.e. in Wiltshire) or geographically: it is in Somerset in the west. Kingston Deverill is well into Wiltshire, and in the eastern half. That fits with the descriptions in Asser and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

6. The snag about Kingston Deverill being too close to Iley Oak can be explained away by the geographical features of Salisbury Plain and the logistics of moving a large army; and if it was a serious difficulty, it pretty much applied to Penselwood as well.

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