Thursday, December 6, 2012

An early Anglo-Saxon settlement in Wolverton

The excavations at Wolverton Turn in the 1990s added considerably to our knowledge of previous settlement. The Bronze Age settlement I described yesterday was confirmed but more revealing as there was substantial evidence for settlement in Anglo-Saxon times.

The archaeologists excavated the enclosure ditches and found evidence of a grubenhaus and a small rectangular post-built structure. Many pottery fragments were found and over half was dated to the 8th to 9th centuries. They also discovered many domestic animal bones, including a surprising number of horse bones, which led to some speculation that this may have been a horse breeding centre. There were some Roman period pottery sherd and some pre-historic.

The authors of the report are cautious about their findings. Although they found evidence of settlement at different periods, they cannot conclude that the site was continuously occupied for the entire period. The most active period of occupation was during the 8th and 9th centuries. It may be that after this time the villagers moved to a site lower down to the site where the medieval village was known to be. The reasons for this are completely unknown, although it is apparently not a phenomenon known only to Wolverton. It is possible that their pattern of agriculture changed. If these middle saxons were, as is suggested, engaged in horse breeding and animal husbandry, the location on higher ground may have made better sense. But if they switched their focus to arable farming, then the lower fields and meadows might have become more attractive.

Might this then be the location of Wulhere's ing tun? Was this the enclosure and meeting place presided over by the chieftain Wulfhere who gave Wolverton its name? The question cannot be answered but it does open up the possibility that the motte and bailey castle built by Mainou le Breton overlooking the valley may have been a hitherto unoccupied site. And possibly the neighbouring church was not built on a saxon site at all. The earlier saxon church, whatever it might have been, may not have been in this location at all.

For a detailed article on this subject:

Bronze Age Occupation and Saxon Features at the Wolverton Turn Enclosure, Near Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes 1972-1994. Steve Preston and others. Records of Buckinghamshire Vol 47, Part 1 (2007)

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