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The Lost Colony Research Group

Genealogy ~ DNA ~ Archaeology


April  2012

No vast 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."

Rowland 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.

The 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.

"Where 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."

Rowland was 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.

"The "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."

About this 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 recorded.

The Rolls 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

"The 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."

But invasions were still occurring...and would occur. The Vikings began raiding in the 9th century and by 1100, Danelaw was firmly in place.


"For 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.

Without 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.

Political 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.

Village 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.

"My 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 earlier.

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."

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