Here and there – a detour

Here being the west Devon coast round Appledore which I’m  looking at now, and there being back on the north Devon coast round Countisbury which I’ve “done”, both suggested locations for Asser’s arx Cynuit.

Just a smug interjection: I found an interesting South West Archæology report (pdf download) which almost made me think someone had read my blog 🙂 : On the name Kenwith (my bolds):

Interestingly the ‘-with’ element can be derived from the Old English widu or wiht meaning ‘wood’ or ‘bend’ respectively, and the ‘Ken-’ element from the Cornish Keyn meaning ‘back or ridge’ or a personal name. This place-name theory could push the origins of the name ‘Kenwith’ back to the early medieval period; however, there are no early forms of the place-name to corroborate the theory. While this could explain the early use of ‘Kenwith’, it is equally possible it could  represent an antiquarian retrospective, attributing a site to a key historical event or figure. The latest work on this subject (D. Gore, The Vikings in the West Country, Mint Press, 2015, pp  32-35) opts for the hillfort at Countisbury for ‘Arx Cynuit’, but admits this is a very odd place for a Danish army to land safely and achieve anything decisive.
That last sentence summed up my conclusions about Countisbury: the Danish fleet couldn’t land anywhere near there (I reckoned the closest would be about 10 miles away) because of the precipitous cliffs; and anyway, what would be the point? – there was nothing there; and if they pursued the Saxons west to Countisbury, they would be leaving the area where they made a number of easy raids, around the wealthy royal estates, to a deserted place where there was just an abandoned hillfort with no provisions.
I also liked the remark about the ‘antiquarian retrospective’, whereby it became generally accepted that Kenwith was the earlier name for Henny Castle  because the antiquarians had decided it was Asser’s arx Cynuit. In actual fact, Henny Castle or Heni-burh would be the earlier name and it was changed later to Kenwith to fit the confected myth. Hence, when Donn published his 1765 map of Devon and marked ‘Henny Castle Olim Kenwith’ he had no evidence that it was an earlier name, but that was what antiquarians were implying (as we see in Vidal’s attempted etymologising of ‘Henny’ from ‘Kenwith’).

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