Sunday 13 December 2020

The importance of Lincolnshire in the fifth to seventh centuries AD

The following post is largely the text of a lecture that was given at the time of the launch of the first edition of my Britons and Anglo-Saxons back in 2012, with a handful of minor additions. It offered a little light-hearted musing on the importance, or apparent lack thereof, of pre-Viking Lincolnshire; in the absence of a formal launch for the second edition of the book in 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic, I thought I would post this here in case it is of interest.

Two maps showing (a) the location of the ceremonial county of Lincolnshire and (b) a reconstruction of the coastal landscape of pre-Viking England, showing the low-lying areas and wetlands in the Lincoln region, along with the 'barrier islands' that existed off the Lincolnshire coast until the thirteenth century (images: map a—Wikimedia Commons; map b—Caitlin Green).

By and large, most people are accustomed to thinking of Lincolnshire as peripheral. Whilst it has cities, they are not large; most modern major routeways pass it by or skirt its edges; and although Lincolnshire is the second largest ceremonial and historic county in England—encompassing over a twentieth of the total land area, with the distance from Barton-upon-Humber in its north to Stamford in its south being the same as the distance from Stamford to London—it has far less than its fair share of the total population, around 1.9%. Even when we go back into the Anglo-Saxon period, this sense of Lincolnshire as peripheral to the main historical action often continues to pervade. When historians deal with the pre-Viking era in general, they generally talk about the northern kingdom of Northumbria, or the Midland kingdom of Mercia, or the kingdoms of Wessex, Kent and the East Angles. However, despite this, there are good indications that Lincolnshire was rather more important in the early medieval period than is sometimes allowed.

From an archaeological perspective, the notion that Lincolnshire was truly peripheral in the pre-Viking period is difficult to justify. For example, metal-detectorists continue to recover astonishing quantities of pre-Viking coinage from Lincolnshire. Nearly thirty years ago, Mark Blackburn observed that the quantity of coinage from Lincolnshire marked it out as one of the richest parts of seventh- and eighth-century England, and this conclusion has only been strengthened by recent finds and the work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). So, a significant quantity of Merovingian gold coinage has been found in this area of Britain, testifying to significant trading with the continent from an early date, whilst one site at Garwick in southern Lincolnshire has produced the second largest group of Middle Saxon coins from any site in England, exceeded only by the major West Saxon trading-site at Southampton. Likewise, if we look at the overall ranked totals for seventh- to eighth-century coins recorded on the PAS, Lincolnshire is not only is in 'first place', but has over twice as many coins recorded as is the case for the second-place county, Suffolk, and many more times those recorded in counties like Oxfordshire, Wiltshire or even Kent (a fact that becomes even more impressive once one notes that around a third of Lincolnshire's land area, the entire Fenland district which lies below 5m OD, has produced virtually no finds of this date at all). 

Bar chart showing the number of seventh- to eighth-century coins recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme from each county through to December 2020; note, this only represents a proportion of the total coin finds known, with others recorded on the Corpus of Early Medieval Coin Finds or EMC, but it is a large enough dataset for the present purposes (image: Caitlin Green).

Two maps; click here for a larger version of both: (a) A map of the distribution of seventh- to eighth-century coin finds recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme in the Lincoln region to December 2020, showing how they are largely absent from the extensive low-lying parts of Lincolnshire, especially the Fenland district of Holland; note, a significant number of other finds from this region are also recorded on the EMC, but the broad pattern is the same even if these are added (image: Caitlin Green, based on data from the PAS and my base-map of the pre-Viking landscape from Britons and Anglo-Saxons)
(b) A map of England showing John Blair's core ‘eastern zone’ of pre-Viking English identity and building tradition (forward hashing) and Toby Martin's zone of fifth- to sixth-century Anglian immigration, burial tradition, costume and ethnogenesis (backward hashing, based on the primary area of his Phase B brooches), combined with the distribution of Anglian cremation-predominant cemeteries (image: Caitlin Green).

This apparent significance for Lincolnshire before the ninth century is confirmed by other finds and evidence types too. For example, it has been argued that the distribution of sixth-century imported amber from the Baltic, an Early Anglo-Saxon luxury good used in jewellery, clusters at several 'nodal points' from which amber may well have been redistributed to the surrounding regions, one of which is at Sleaford in southern Lincolnshire, the site of an exceptionally large inhumation cemetery that also contains notable quantities of imported rock crystal beads and ivory rings. Similarly, it can be observed that Lincolnshire and East Anglia together are where the earliest and largest fifth- to sixth-century Anglo-Saxon cemeteries are found, the great cremation urn-fields, with well over a thousand such burials at sites like Cleatham (Kirton-in-Lindsey) and Loveden Hill. Indeed, Lincolnshire lies at the heart of the core ‘eastern zone’ of pre-Viking English identity and building tradition that has recently been identified by John Blair, and at the heart of Catherine Hills, Toby Martin and John Hines’s core zone of fifth- to sixth-century Anglian immigration, burial tradition, costume and ethnogenesis too. Finally, it is worth noting that Lincolnshire and East Anglia together seem to have also been amongst the most densely populated parts of England at the time of the Domesday Survey in the eleventh century, suggesting a long-lasting economic importance for these east coast regions.

If Lincolnshire was thus significant and even, in some respects, 'central' in at least the fifth to eighth centuries when looked at from an archaeological perspective, what then of its political importance in this period? Unfortunately, Lincolnshire suffers from a lack of early documentary evidence for these centuries, which may well have led to its import being under-estimated. The narratives that historians have developed are often based on those regions that lie outside the archaeologically identified core 'eastern zone', but which have significantly better documentation, such as Kent, Northumbria and Wessex. The reason for this lack of documentation in the east is uncertain and disputed, but whatever the case may be, the effect is clear. In addition, we perhaps also suffer from the fact that the name of Lincolnshire’s own seventh-century kingdomLindsey or Lindissisurvives today as a district-name in Lincolnshire. Although reasonably extensive, the modern district of Lindsey isn’t really large on a national or regional basis, and its present size can lead to an assumption of a relative lack of importance for this kingdom. That this assumption is problematical is demonstrated by my own research, which indicates that the modern district of Lindsey was very much smaller than the seventh-century kingdom whose name it preserves.

Two maps showing the difference between the likely extent of the seventh-century Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Lindissi and the modern district of Lindsey; note, the map also shows the pre-Viking landscape of the Lincoln region, with light-blue representing low-lying wetlands. Click the image for a larger version (images: Caitlin Green).

Even more interesting are those few glimpses we do get of Lincolnshire and the kingdom of Lindsey in the documentary record relating to the seventh century.  Perhaps the most arresting thing is the fact that the major players in the seventh century all seem to have wanted to rule Lincolnshire. The kingdom of Lindsey appears to have been finally conquered and dissolved by the Midland kingdom of Mercia (based around Tamworth and Repton) in the later seventh century. However, this is the very last act in a remarkable saga, whereby the kingdom of Lindsey looks to have been the major prize that the better-known and documented kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria were fighting repeatedly over. So, for example, the kingdom of Lindsey appears to have changed hands at least seven times in less than half a century, and some of the most important battles of the seventh century that were fought between Mercia and Northumbria probably actually took place within the kingdom of Lindsey itself. Indeed, Bede himself is reasonably explicit on this topic, stating that the kingdom of Lindsey was what the king of Northumbria had won from the Mercian king when he defeated him in 678 (‘the kingdom of Lindissi, which King Ecgfrith had recently won by conquering Wulfhere and putting him to flight’, Historia Ecclesiastica IV.12).

This apparent political importance of control of Lincolnshire to the two major semi-'imperial'/imperium-wielding dynasties of seventh century England is, of course, intriguing, and it is supported by other evidence too. For example, when King Edwin of Northumbria (Deira) was the overlord of Lincolnshire in the 620s and early 630s, he seems to have taken an exceptional interest in the province. He oversaw, for example, the completion of a stone church in Lincoln before even his own likely 'capital' of York had one (HE II.14, II.16). Such churches were highly symbolic, and this favouritism for a place which was a conquest over his own ecclesiastical and potentially royal city is most curious. Moreover, when heas the most powerful ruler in England at that timewas in a position to control the process of consecrating the next Archbishop of Canterbury (named Honorius), he didn’t insist that the politically and symbolically important consecration took place in York or even his own kingdom, but rather in the stone church he had built at Lincoln, the probable chief centre of the conquered kingdom of Lindissi/Lindsey (HE II.16, II.18).

So, what on earth is going on here? Why was Edwin so concerned with Lincoln, apparently over and above even York? And why was the kingdom of Lindsey such a prize for both Northumbria and Mercia, to the extent that multiple battles appear to have been, at least in part, fought specifically over its control? Both economics and strategic position have been suggested in the past as explanations for these actions, but whilst the former may well have been a significant influence, given how wealthy eighth-century and earlier Lincolnshire seems to have been, these factors are perhaps insufficient on their own. I would tentatively suggest that it is possible that a full explanation may additionally involve recognising that Lincoln and Lincolnshire actually had a somewhat greater significance in the early stages of the evolution of 'Anglo-Saxon England' than is usually allowed for, just as some of the archaeological evidence noted above seems to hint at. What will be discussed in the remainder of this piece is just what this significance might have been that could have resulted in Lindsey and Lincoln being such a prize and focus for the two great powers of seventh-century politics, Mercia and Northumbria. In doing this I’d like to focus on focus on two potential key factors, which can be roughly summarized as the ‘political baggage’ and the ‘family baggage’ of these two seventh-century kingdoms.

The sequence of late/post-Roman churches at St Paul in the Bail, Lincoln, showing their relationship to the Roman forum— the second, fifth- to sixth-century apsidal church would have able to hold up to 100 worshippers (image: Caitlin Green, Britons and Anglo-Saxons, 2012, fig, 12, copyright English Heritage).

Dealing with the potential ‘political baggage’ first, it is important to remember that Lincoln was a major political centre at the end of the Roman period, being both the probable seat of one of Britannia’s four bishops and a provincial capital. So, the question is, could this political importance and and 'centrality' for Lincoln have continued beyond the end of the Roman period and thus have had an effect on the later-recorded Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, perhaps making the city and its territory a real political and symbolic prize for these kingdoms, as the fragmentary historical evidence for the seventh century implies that it was? In my view, the answer to this ought to be a tentative ‘yes’. Certainly, I have made the case both in print and elsewhere for Lincoln having been an important British political centre in the fifth and sixth centuries too, with a sizable apsidal church built in the centre of the Roman forum that can now be confidently dated to the fifth to the sixth centuries and exceptional quantities of high-status British metalwork of the fifth and sixth centuries known from across Lincolnshire. Furthermore, the seventh-century Anglo-Saxon kingdom-name Lindissi and the modern district-name Lindsey both derive from the Late British name of this territory, *Lindēs, rather than any Old English name, which is notable. Indeed, looking at all of the available evidence, it can be credibly argued that the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Lindissi was, to a large extent, the direct descendant of this fifth- to sixth-century British territory of *Lindēs, which is a point of considerable interest in the present context.

There is no need to go into depth here on the evidence for the British territory of *Lindēs and its links to the subsequent kingdom of Lindissi, but it is worth pointing out that the apparent avoidance of the former provincial capital by the major fifth- to sixth-century Anglian cremation-predominant cemeteries of this region—each containing hundreds or thousands of burials—is most interesting. As can be seen from the map below, the great cremation cemeteries form, in effect, a ring around Lincoln, with the nearest large cremation cemetery to Lincoln being that at Loveden Hill, over 27 km to the south of the city, with this avoidance appearing to continue at least partly into the sixth century. This offers a very marked contrast to the situation at and around other major Roman centres in eastern and northern Britain such as York, Leicester, and Caistor-by-Norwich, where Anglo-Saxon cremation cemeteries are found close by. Furthermore, it has been observed that the distribution of these cemeteries is very similar in pattern to that of the apparent last stage in the deployment of the late Roman army in the Lincoln region (based on recent artefactual studies), leading to the suggestion that the people who used these large cemeteries could have been initially tasked with a similar defensive role with regard to fifth-century Lincoln and *Lindēs

Indeed, there are even hints that a vestige of Roman provincial control from Lincoln survived at least some way into the fifth century. Although we do need to be cautious here, it has been suggested that a real distinction appears to be observable between a mainly Anglian cultural zone and a mainly Saxon one in the archaeology of the fifth century, and that the dividing line between the two accords surprisingly well with the most recent reconstruction of the Late Roman provincial boundaries, with early Anglian cremation-predominant cemeteries being nearly all located within the province controlled by Lincoln. In this context, it is likewise intriguing to note that the probable Late Roman provincial governor's residence at Lincoln, the Greetwell villa-palace, was not only maintained to a high standard right through until the end of the Roman coin sequence in the early fifth century and even potentially a little beyond, but also has notable evidence for estate continuity into the medieval period at both the local and sub-regional levels, with its wider territory in the Witham valley recently argued to have become a major royal estate of the seventh century and after. 

Two maps showing (a) the large early Anglo-Saxon cremation cemeteries of the Lincoln region, set against the late/post-Roman landscape, and (b) the distribution of both the large and small early Anglian cremation-predominant cemeteries, represented by filled squares, plotted against Saxon artefacts of the second half of the fifth century, represented by stars, and the Late Roman provincial boundaries as reconstructed by J. C. Mann in ‘The creation of four provinces in Britain by Diocletian’, Britannia, 29 (1998). Click here for a larger version of these maps (images drawn by Caitlin Green, based on Caitlin Green, Britons and Anglo-Saxons, figs 11 and 21a).

If Lincoln was thus a former Late Roman provincial capital that was subsequently the centre of a late-surviving British Christian state of the fifth and sixth centuries, which was apparently able to 'control' Anglo-Saxon activity in its immediate region for several generations and eventually became the seventh-century kingdom of Lindissi, then this could certainly begin to provide a potential motive for why the seventh-century Anglo-Saxon dynasties of Mercia and Northumbria might have seen control of the city and the kingdom of Lindissi as an important symbolic and political prize. This is particularly the case if the distribution of almost all Anglian cremation-predominant cemeteries was indeed somehow related to the territory of the Late Roman province controlled by Lincoln, as has been tentatively suggested. In such circumstances, it would seem more than credible that the imperium-building seventh-century rulers of both Mercia and Northumbria—who, it should be noted, claimed descent from Anglian immigrant groups—would have seen Lincoln and *Lindēs/Lindissi as a prize well worth fighting over, if only for the symbolism it possessed deriving from its apparent fourth- to sixth-century importance.

The second point relates to the personal origins of the ruling lineages of both Mercia and Northumbria themselves in the seventh and eighth centuries, and is part of the ‘family baggage’ referred to earlier. To put it simply, it seems possible to trace at least key groups within Northumbria, and possibly within Mercia too, back not only to Anglian groups claiming immigrant descent within Lincoln's wider former province, but also to groups who actually had roots within the Lincoln region/*Lindēs itself. The key piece of information here has come up in the questions to virtually every lecture and talk I’ve ever given on early Anglo-Saxon Lindsey—namely, the relationship between the group-name of the people of Lindsey, the Lindisfaran ('the people who migrated to the territory of *Lindēs') and the northern island-name Lindisfarne, Old English Lindisfarena ea/Lindisfarnae, Anglo-Latin insula Lindisfarnensis. The link between the Lindisfaran and the island-name Lindisfarne has been much discussed over the years. Numerous researchers have attempted to explain why the two names look so alike, most relying on etymologies for the name Lindisfarne that deliberately don’t involve linking it to the Lincolnshire Lindisfaran and then assuming a quite remarkable coincidence to explain why the names look so similar. Unfortunately, none of the proposed etymologies stand up to scrutiny—they all have serious problems that cannot be easily avoided. In consequence, it can be argued that the only really credible explanation of the name Lindisfarne is that it is indeed intimately related to the group-name of the inhabitants of Lindissi in Lincolnshire, the Lindisfaran—the final element in 'Lindisfarne' is simply the Old English word for island, whilst the first part is the regular Old English genitive form of Lindisfaran. In other words, it quite transparently means ‘the island of the Lindisfaran’.

A map of Lincolnshire, Lindisfarne and the North, showing key sites, groups and place-names (image: Caitlin Green, Britons and Anglo-Saxons, fig. 46)

Now, the question has to be asked, why was it called this? The great place-name scholar, Eilert Ekwall, wrote many decades ago that if we accept the transparent Old English etymology for Lindisfarne, then the primary interpretation has to be that this island was settled by people from Lincolnshire. Recent work on the archaeology of Northumbria has arguably tended to back up this conclusion. Whilst the available archaeological evidence clearly indicates that there was a notable degree of 'Anglo-Saxon' activity in the Lindisfarne region from around the middle of the sixth century onwards (as evidenced by, for example, the settlements and cemeteries at Yeavering, Milfield, Thirlings, Ford and Bamburgh), south of this general region there is relatively little evidence for significant pre-seventh-century Anglo-Saxon activity until we reach the vicinity of Hadrian’s Wall. This raises the possibility that the area around Lindisfarne was indeed under the control of a group of people making use of 'Anglo-Saxon' material culture who had maritime links to regions significantly further south, just as might be expected if Lindisfarne and the surrounding area were somehow occupied by Lindisfaran from Lincolnshire, as the name of the island implies.

The problem with all this is that the archaeology and textual evidence is also clear that the area around Lindisfarne was the heartland of the Anglian kingdom of Bernicia (northern Northumbria). It is here that the famous palace site of Yeavering is found, and it is also here that the fortress of Bamburgh was located. Situated only a couple of miles to the south of Lindisfarne itself, this was—according to Bede—the ‘royal city’ of Northumbria, and recent excavations have discovered a massive Anglo-Saxon-era inhumation cemetery here, which dwarfs all other known cemeteries from north of the Humber. Indeed, Lindisfarne itself appears in early medieval accounts as a major sixth- and seventh-century possession and sanctuary of the kings of Bernicia. It is consequently difficult to avoid associating the mid- to late sixth-century 'Anglo-Saxon' material in the region around Lindisfarne with the documentary evidence for the mid- to late sixth-century 'arrival' of either the founders of the kingdom of Bernicia or the ancestors of the same here; certainly the rulers of Bernicia seem to have been based in this area from this period onwards. Needless to say, it is unlikely that another group would be subsequently allowed to take possession of the island of Lindisfarne after the establishment of the Anglian kingdom of Bernicia, given the apparent status of the island as a royal territory and sanctuary and the fact that the neighbouring fortress of Bamburgh was ‘the royal city’ of the Bernicians. At the same time, the archaeological and textual evidence doesn't really support the idea of a previous Anglo-Saxon 'arrival' or 'influence' in this region that occurred before the mid-sixth century. Consequently, the natural conclusion is that the migration of the Lindisfaran to Lindisfarne (recorded by the place-name Lindisfarne, ‘the island of the Lindisfaran’) must be identical with the settlement of ancestors of the historically recorded Bernician kings. That is to say, it seems quite possible that the Bernician royal family were ultimately Lindisfaran who had migrated to this region from Lincolnshire.

St. Paul's church, Jarrow; part of the Anglo-Saxon monastery of Jarrow survives today as the chancel of St Paul's Church (image: Stanley Howe/Geograph).

Such a conclusion is far less implausible than might be at first thought. After all, the Bernician royal family is usually considered to have moved to the Lindisfarne region from somewhere further south. Furthermore, there is actually a selection of other evidence that backs up the idea that Anglian groups from Lincolnshire may have played a key role in settling Northumbria in the fifth and sixth centuries. Take, for example, Jarrow and the area around the mouth of the Tyne. The available historical accounts imply that this was the second early heartland of the Bernician kings after the Lindisfarne–Bamburgh region, and it was moreover where Bede worked and wrote. What is particularly interesting about this second Bernician royal heartland, however, is that the key settlement within it, Jarrow, bears a name meaning ‘at the settlement of the Gyrwe’, a group-name that is also recorded as that of a well-attested south Lincolnshire and northern Cambridgeshire Anglian group, in whose territory Crowland once lay. Moreover, it has also been suggested by James Campbell that both Bede and the founder of Jarrow, Benedict Biscop, may have actually themselves been members of the royal lineage of the Lindisfaran, which is a point of considerable interest too.

Similarly, if we look for the largest Bernician Anglo-Saxon cemetery which lay outside of the Lindsifarne area, it can be found at Norton-on-Tees. This sixth-century cemetery is far larger than any of the other ones outside of the Lindisfarne area, suggesting some degree of local importance, but the place-name Norton is probably later in date and can’t refer to settlement that the cemetery served. However, only half a mile to the east of the cemetery is Billingham, a documented pre-Viking estate-centre that bears a name that is said to be ‘one of the earliest Old English settlement forms to survive’ in the region and which current place-name chronologies would place within the early Anglo-Saxon period. Once again, this name is most intriguing, as it means the ‘estate of the Billingas’, a group-name that likewise recurs in Anglo-Saxon Lincolnshire, where it applied to a significant sub-group within the southern part of the kingdom of Lindissi, based around Sleaford. Finally, attention can be directed the largest cemetery in the southern half of Northumbria, Sancton cremation cemetery. This is not only the location of the largest and earliest Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Deira, which seems to have its origins in the fifth century and from which the remains of 454 cremated individuals have been excavated, but it is also very close to the site of the principal heathen shrine of Deira, according to Bede. In other words, a credible case might be made for this area as a key centre of the southern Northumbrian kingdom of Deira. What is especially interesting here, however, is the fact that, first, the cemetery lies on the Roman road leading north from the bank of the Humber; second, that there are close links between the cremation urns found at Sancton and those from the Lincolnshire cremation cemeteries of Cleatham, Elsham, South Elkington, and Baston; and third, that just to the west of Sancton there is an extensive district known as Spalding Moor that includes a hamlet called Spaldington on its south side, both of which names contain the population-group name Spalde/Spaldingas, which is once again the name of a major group in southern Lincolnshire who were based on the siltlands of the Lincolnshire Fenland around Spalding and who appear in the 'Tribal Hidage'.

In sum, whilst each of the above instances of population-group names occurring both in Northumbria and in southern Lincolnshire might be individually dismissed as coincidences, the combined weight of these coincidences is difficult to explain away. Furthermore, in each case the group-name is found at or next to some of the most important sites in Northumbria, as identifiable both from the archaeological and textual evidence, and there is archaeological evidence of links to Lincolnshire in at least one of these locations. All told, the simplest and most credible solution would seem to be that Anglo-Saxon population groups from Lincolnshire did indeed play a major role in both the settlement of Northumbria and the foundation of the kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira, just as the place-name Lindisfarne implies.

A sixth-century gold sword pommel from Rippingale ('the halh of the Hrepingas'), Lincolnshire, mentioned below (image: PAS/British Museum)

With regards to Mercia, the evidence is less clear-cut, but we may well have a partially analogous situation. In particular, attention might be drawn to the place-name Repton, where the pre-Viking kings of Mercia were buried, which means ‘the hill of the tribe called Hreope/Hrype’. It is usually agreed that the group- and territory-name Hrepingas that occurs in early Mercian charters represents an alternate form of this group-name (compare Spalde/Spaldingas above), and that the Hreope/Hrepingas were moreover one of three major sub-groups within the seventh-century Mercian kingdom. Needless to say, in this light it is intriguing to note that the Hrepingas also occur as an early Anglo-Saxon group within Lincolnshire, with Rippingale in southern Lincolnshire being ‘the valley of the Hrepingas’. This population-group seems to have been located just to the south of the Billingas and there is, moreover, archaeological evidence for elite activity in the late fifth and sixth centuries from the Rippingale area, including a recent find of a high-status gold sword pommel, pictured above.

We also have the interesting case of the Hwicce, whose kingdom in the West Midlands to the south-west of Mercia is multiply-attested, but who also appear in a significant number of place-names in and around Rutland, immediately to the west and north of Stamford, Lincolnshire. So, not only is their name apparently preserved in that of the eleventh-century Whitchley Hundred that met at Wicheley Heath, 'the woodland of the Hwicce' (Hwicceslea), a district that encompassed around a third of modern shire of Rutland, but there are also other Hwicce names within Rutland, with yet another potential 'Witchley' name in the north-west of this small county—Wichley Leys—and a probable *Hwiccena-denu, 'valley of the Hwicce', there too. Quite what this means is open to debate, but both A. H. Smith and Barrie Cox suggest that these names could reflect a situation whereby the Hwicce originally controlled a territory in this area prior to the establishment of their documented seventh- to eighth-century (sub-)kingdom in the West Midlands, which is notable given what has been discussed already. 

Map of Rutland, showing the Rutland Hwicce names; the names in italics are those of the Witchley East Hundred and Witchley West Hundred, as recorded in the Northamptonshire Geld Roll of 1072–8, and the approximate position and extent of 'Wicheley Heath' is based on the maps of 1603–11 and 1756, along with the location of the surviving Witchley Warren Farm in Edith Weston parish. The grey lines reflect the late eleventh-century hundred boundaries, with the dotted line representing the division between the later East and Wrangdike hundreds, which is thought to perpetuate that between Witchley East Hundred and Witchley West Hundred (image: Caitlin Green).

In conclusion, it can be suggested that the apparent seventh-century Mercian and Northumbrian interest in Lincoln and Lindissi/Lindsey is perhaps explicable not simply in terms of the exceptional wealth of seventh-/eighth-century Lincolnshire, but also the political history of that region and the family 'baggage' of the two major imperium-building Anglian dynasties. Put simply, it seems possible that the seventh-century Anglian rulers of Northumbria and Mercia may have additionally wanted to enhance their own position, status and rule by controlling a city that had probably been one of the last centres of Romanitas in the east, perhaps able to control Anglian activity in not only the Lincoln area but also the wider region during parts of the fifth and sixth centuries, and a part of eastern Britain with which they may well have had personal, family ties. If so, then it is perhaps not quite so surprising that the control of Lindissi was so contested through the course of the seventh century between these two dynasties, nor that Edwin of Northumbria, who was apparently concerned with portraying himself as a Roman-style ruler (HE II.16), seems to have favoured Lincoln over his own likely 'capital' of York, building a new stone church there first and then having the consecration of Archbishop Honorius held in this structure.

The content of this post and page, including any original illustrations, is Copyright © Caitlin R. Green, 2020, All Rights Reserved, and should not be used without permission.