About

I might get round to writing something here eventually. I don’t have moral objections.

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5 thoughts on “About

  1. Hello Nick – A long time since I was working on Castrum Cynuit, in fact I could be done under the Trade Descriptions Act for calling the blog ‘Old Somerset’, since I’ve travelled round Wiltshire, Devon, Cornwall, Gloucestershire and a large chunk of the old Roman Empire … However, nothing wrong with loyalty to one’s home territory. Cannington is an interesting case: not a totally new suggestion and one I prefer to the scholars’ preference for Countisbury. The Danes, after all, did attempt a raid at the mouth of the Parrett. I think it had to be somewhere where the Danes could carry out a sudden raid.

    Edington, Somerset, was accepted as a near certainty by some writers in the 19th c. and I did look at the possibility. Why would the defeated Guthrum be brought from Edington, Wiltshire, to be baptised at Aller? And thence to Wedmore? I even located an area called ‘Oakley’ (Achelai in Domesday) just south of Ilchester – for Acglea/Iglea. But trying to work out the possible manœuvrings of the two armies after the raid on Chippenham, I couldn’t make Edington, Somerset, work. Guthrum’s army seemed to be on the wrong side of Alfred’s, but maybe you can fathom that one out!

    As for Brent Knoll, I think we have to stick with Athelney for the location of the burnt cakes. The earliest account (though not very early, maybe eleventh or twelfth century) that tells the story is clear that the event took place on Ethelingaige, the island of the nobles, in the salt marshes of Somerset.

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  2. The source documents – Asser and the Chronicle – are fairly terse. They leave considerable room for doubt about the locations of Alfred’s hiding place, Cynuit, Egbert’s Stone, Iley Oak, and the Battle of Ethandun (aka Edington).

    It now seems to be accepted that the hiding place was at Athelney on the Somerset levels.

    The argument that Edington was in Wiltshire seems to be largely based on the fact that Alfred left some land there in his Will. Which doesn’t seem to me to be good reasoning.

    I wish to pencil in a suggestion that Cynuit was the location now known as “Cannington Castle”. An old Roman site, on the River Parrett. Near (2 miles at most) a harbour now called Combwich (pronounced Cummich).

    It is close to the Roman Road across the Poldens – a couple of miles if you are prepared to for the Parrett. Also within about 16 miles of Athelney (by todays main roads).

    I also suggest that Ethandun is Edington in Somerset. This is less than 10 miles from Athelney; less than 10 from Cynuit/Cannington; less than 10 from Wedmore, where the Treaty was signed; two or three from Aller (Guthrum was baptised there). There is a site on the ridge of the Poldens, overlooking Athelney, and on the Roman Road that runs from the River Parrett north east towards Bath (and so Chippenham). Between Edington and Egbert’s stone, the route might take one to Ilminster and Ilchester (as Iley Oak).

    I accept that these men routinely marched considerable distances.

    I can see that the meeting at Egbert’s stone was at least 30 miles away.

    I acknowledge that they went to Chippenham, which is at least 45 miles away, between the battle and the Treaty.

    Another weakness in my theory is that there is no evidence of Danes in Somerset. But this does not prove that they weren’t here either.

    Finally I acknowledge my own loyalty to Somerset – and proximity to Edington.

    But I think that the Will is a weak argument; and I think that proximity is a stronger one. The routeways (such as we can envisage today) add weight. And I note the suggestion that the Danes were in strength on the ridge of the Poldens – possibly gathering troops from Chippenham together with troops from Cannington.

    My theory also allows for the romantic possibility that Alfred was on Brent Knoll when he burned the cakes – watching his men carry out the raid at Cynuit/Cannington across the river.

    A look at the ground on the sites I mention adds value to my theory.

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  3. Dear Sir
    Many thanks for the very quick and informative reply. I too came accross your website when I was looking for any info. on the altar.
    Kind regards
    Bill

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  4. Hello Bill,

    Very wise of you not to wade through the long-drawn out and pedantic arguments! I’ve approached the question from the literary/historical angle, with archaeology being dragged in, as and where I found evidence, to support my case. So I’m not even an amateur archaeologist. The Romans have barely featured because there is little sign that they reached this area of Exmoor and north Devon: a couple of fortlets near the coast are supposed to have served as watch-out posts for marauding/invading Silures from south Wales, but nothing intended for permanent settlement. It’s been a direct leap here from the British/Welsh/Celts (Dumnonii) straight to the Anglo-Saxons, particularly under Egbert, who were determined to push as far west as possible.

    I came upon Piercebridge because I was investigating the origin of the name ‘Countisbury’ if not the historians’ assumed ‘Cynuit’. The East Lyn had two separate confluences surrounding the Iron Age hillfort and that led me to discover ‘Condatis’ the Celtic god of confluences: hence to the Roman altar at Piercebridge (and Condate as the Roman name for Northwich).

    As for Roman canals, it might be something to investigate further north, on the Somerset Levels where the Romans had a port (possibly two – at Combwich and at Crandon Bridge) and there was much Roman settlement on the uplands. Did they build canals? I don’t know of any archaeological evidence, but canals and drainage ditches or ‘rhynes’ have been built since then. Travel and transportation across the Levels were needed from Neolithic times (which is when the Sweet Track was built) but the Romans seem to have mainly relied on roads. Plenty of Roman roads across the Poldens and Mendips where they were mining lead, but these may have been too close to the natural rivers to need canals as well (my totally uneducated opinion).

    As for the Exmoor terrain, my early theory that the Vikings might have reached land at Lynmouth and sailed up the East Lyn river had to be quickly abandoned: no longships would have climbed up the steep rocky river with its waterfalls. Canals would therefore have been unlikely too.

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  5. Hi
    Without reading the full story of Somerset and some of your comments could I make the following comment. I am an amaetur archaeologist and have been investigating the possibility of the Roman’s supplying Piercebridge by river or canal. This had led me to carrying out excavations in a strange “ditch” at High Coniscliffe where the Roman altar was found in 1709. The altar description condate relating to a Roman surveyer could point to this ditch being the remains of a canal. The research is an attempt to prove the controversial Piercebridge Formula on Roman navigation was a true interpretation of the Roman Dam/Bridge site at Piercebridge. In that respect is the Somerset levels a site also for Roman navigation. The excavations in the ditch could not prove a canal but it is too small to take the River Tees and cuts cleanly through higher ground. Do you have any comments please on Roman navigation.
    Kind regards
    Bill Trow
    Northern Archaeology Group.

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