Colony Research Group
Genealogy ~ DNA ~ Archaeology
fleet of ships, no armies, no generals, no campaigns figure in this
'invasion'. No historians have recorded it, although some made vague
references to it. Historically, we might well wonder in fact if it ever
happened, were it not that every square mile of our land, every village,
4/5th of our language, many of our customs and most of our character
present us with irrefutable evidence that it did. The actual details are
shrouded in an almost impenetrable obscurity."
feels that this silent Anglo-Saxon invasion indeed is what made the common
man's England, although we know little about them. We do know they were
pagan. The names of their Gods have survived as days of the week. Burials,
and there are some at Foxton, indicate some belief in a form of life after
death, but we know nothing else of their religion.
Anglo-Saxons invaded and settled southern and central England. Counties
such as Sussex - "South Saxon", Essex - "East Saxon"
and Wessex - "West Saxon" stiil remind us of where they were
most influential. The Angles, or Danes, settled in modern day East Anglia,
a corruption of "Ost" Angle which actually means West Angles.
The map below shows us these areas and the area of Anglo-Saxon influence
in the 8th century.
the Celts were in the majority, over in the west of Britain, it was a
different story. The Saxon invaders suffered at least one serious repulse,
and their penetration was permanently halted. How much was due to
organized racial resistance and how much to the geographical limits of
good agricultural land, none can say for certain."
unable to find much history of the next 500 years or so between 500 AD and
1000 AD, a time period known as the 'Dark Ages' due to the lack of
archaeology and remaining records, as compared to the Roman period.
Clearly, life went on in the villages and along the stream. Families
probably stayed much the same in the villages, or maybe people moved to
neighboring villages - but probably not far. Five hundred years is about
20 generations. People who lived in the year 1000 likely knew nothing
about their ancestors from the year 500, just as few of us know much about
our ancestors in the year 1511 - and that is with all of the technology
and electronic records we can bring to bear today. Mostly, they probably
just knew their family had lived there "forever", which is
exactly what people in Britain will tell you today.
"vill" had clearly defined boundaries. It always had, in the
opinion of those who lived there, but there was now no longer the need to
back that opinion by force or guile; it was set down in writing. Most of
these charters defining the villages have long since vanished. The ones
which survived are those which supported the claim of some nobleman or
churchman or religious foundation to ownership to the village or part of
it. They were carefully copied and re-copied; sometimes carefully forged;
in many of them, indeed in most of them, streams and brooks feature
prominently as boundary-markers. The vills, usually in groups of 10, were
organized into Hundreds. The Hundred - it has never been satisfactorily
determined whether its basis was 100 families, a hundred hides of land, a
hundred fighting mean, a hundred monetary units, or whatever else it could
have been - was an administrative area created for purposes of justice,
taxation and defense of the whole realm."
time, the Hundreds were defined in another way as well. The Hundred Rolls
are a census of England and parts of what is now Wales taken in the late
thirteenth century. Often considered an attempt to produce a second
Domesday Book, they are named for the hundreds by which most returns were
include a survey of royal privileges taken in 1255, and the better known
surveys of liberties and land ownership, taken in 1274-1275 and 1279-1280,
respectively. The two main enquiries were commissioned by Edward I of
England to record the adult population for judicial and taxation purposes.
Perhaps even more interesting, they also specify the services due from
tenants to lords. Things had changed
Copyright, Roberta Estes 2012 Page 12
land of Foxton and every other village, once proudly owned by those who
had won it, no longer belonged to the men of the village. It belonged
nominally to the King, who had granted it, or some of it, in consideration
of various dues and services to various lords. The men of Foxton still
cultivated the land, partly for themselves, in return for various dues and
services, and partly for their lord, to whom they now owed the traditional
allegiance even though he was not of their clan. Much of their independent
spirit had gone, crushed out of them not by foreign invaders, but by the
exigencies of the system."
invasions were still occurring...and would occur. The Vikings began
raiding in the 9th century and by 1100, Danelaw was firmly in place.
the past 150 years, they had never been long without some form of contact
with the Danes who, like themselves, had come first as piratical raiders,
then later as settlers. It was in fact the presence of these fearsome
newcomers which hastened the adoption of the System.
organized resistance, it is quite possible that the Anglo-Saxons would
have suffered the fate which they themselves had inflicted on the Celts.
Indeed, in some areas they did. But over most of East Anglia the Danish
settlers were absorbed into the native population, and even though Danish
law was for a time paramount, Danish influence on the language, customs
and landscape was relatively slight, in contract with Lincolnshire where
it was very marked."
On the map
of England, at right, in 878, the area under Danelaw is shown in yellow.
organization within the villages began to take a shape we would find as
familiar. They elected a man with the title of Reeve who held the office
for a year. He was chairman, spokesman, foreman and scapegoat, in turn,
according to Rowland. He was to attend the monthly meeting of the hundred
with 4 of his fellow villagers and there vouch for the good conduct of the
whole community. He also presided at village meetings. If village meetings
were anything like court day in colonial America, they were
"THE" function to which everyone attended.
meetings at this time, according to Rowland, took place in the open air,
generally a meadow, often on a hill or beside a brook, and always well
away from the village itself. Rowland says that the word meadow is
descended from the Saxon word meaning "meeting-hill", but other
sources say that meadow or more particularly "ow" means to cut,
so "an area of grass which is cut down." But a more telling
question perhaps is why was the meeting outside, and why not within the
village? Was it somehow connected to an early ritual? Was this peculiar to
Foxton? We may never know. Rowland never found the answer. In time, of
course, the meetings came to be held inside, hence today's Village Halls.
theme is the story of the common men, 9/10ths of the population of
England, but that story will make little sense over the next 2 or 3
centuries if I do not say something about the remaining tenth, which the
system had by this time placed firmly on top of the other 9. I have
already said that the King "owned" all the land, and that in
return for certain services, he granted some of it to nobles. They in turn
granted some of it to knights, who thereby incurred the obligation of
military service and the knights likewise granted some of it to peasants,
who thereby pledged their labor and freedom. What the peasant got in
return was a very dubious measure of protection and the right to hold just
about sufficient land to feed himself and his family. Exactly when the
manor system as we later know it was established, we do not know, but it
seems evident that something very like the manorial system was already in
being by the beginning of the eleventh century, and perhaps a good deal
By no means all the land which the King chose to give away went to nobles
and knights. Even as early as the 7th century a practice began which was
to result in the material and political enrichment of the Church to the
point where Church and Crown became rivals for the domination of the land
and its people. As I see it, it arose from a misunderstanding or a
deliberate misinterpretation of the Gospel message. The King who was
buried at Sutton Hoo was provided with fabulous treasures to ensure that
he should enjoy in the after-life the same status and prestige as he had
enjoyed in this earthly life. Christianity put an end to such burials, but
it did not wholly succeed in eradicating the idea which lay behind them.
Perhaps the teachers of Christianity did not wish to eradicate that idea,
but rather to put it to their own advantage. Material wealth and prestige
were clearly not to be considered in the next world; spiritual wealth and
security took their place and had the added attraction that they could be
assured before the death of the person whose soul
was at risk. Salvation of the soul was treated as a commodity which
could be bought by the simple expedient of bestowing gifts on the church,
mostly in the form of grants of land. It may have started as an act of
piety or charity. The church may have sincerely intended to use the gifts
for the relief of the poor and the furtherance of true religion. But
certainly by the beginning of the 11th century, God was steadily losing to
Mammon and the principle was firmly established that the Privileged on
earth should also be the privileged in Heaven."