Hamwic, Anglo-Saxon predecessor of Southampton

Today, Southampton is a modern port city of a quarter of a million inhabitants. Before the mid 9th century however, Southampton did not exist. Originally, a Roman fort often called Clausentum lay on the east side of the Itchen. After … Continue reading

Wic wic is wich? The Anglo-Saxon trading settlement

The most prominent type of settlement associated with trading activities in the Anglo-saxon period was the Wic, an Anglo-Saxon loan word from the Latin Vicus meaning a dwelling, farm, hamlet, or subsidiary settlements. The Wics were communities very similar to those found in rural areas with the distinction of servicing trade and industry.

Most communities began as self sufficient, growing enough food to feed only themselves, making cloth only for themselves, making tools and weapons only for themselves. Once society began moving towards a more organised and structured way of life where tasks could be shared amongst a few, a surplus could be created. This surplus, whether in food or other desirable materials, could then be traded with neighbours for something that your community might not be able to produce.

Some communities became well known for a specific commodity or craftsmanship and people would travel further afield to acquire this resource. With more people coming into this one centre for a particular commodity some clever people realised that it would make sense to try and sell their wares at this centre also. Wic’s then were centres of trade and industry which were known locations where people either came to sell their produce, or came because that town was the centre for a specialised commodity (such as honey or a particular cheese or ale) or because there was a high concentration of tradesmen there (metalworking, boneworking, woodworking, textile production, leatherworking, pottery).

The centres that did best were also located along rivers, seaports or at a crossroads. Some famous examples are Hamwic (Southampton), Ipswich, London (Lundenwic) and of course York (Eorforwic). Notice how they all have wic/wich at the end of their Anglo-saxon names?

Lindisfarne, Holy island of the north: Part 2

Welcome to Part two of the history of Lindisfarne. If you have missed the first part in which Lindisfarne was founded and became a religious, cultural and scholarly mecca, you can read the article here. Unfortunately for Lindisfarne, its rise … Continue reading

Lindisfarne, Holy Island of the north: Part 1

In the early 7th century, the death of King Edwin caused the kingdom of Northumbria to split amongst rival groups. This weakened state made it easier for Cadwallon the King of Gweynedd (northern Wales) to attack the land and under … Continue reading

Whitby through the ages

Summer, twilight, 1890: A man paces through an English seaside town. His long legs move briskly, alive with the thrill of the new discovery that propels him homeward to his writing desk. Bram’s mind ran through the scene he had … Continue reading

The history of Jedburgh… and Jedburgh?

The history of Jedburgh especially in the middle and late Medieval period and beyond is fascinating. Being only 12 miles north west of the present English border, like many towns in the borderlands it has found itself caught up with the constant fighting between England and Scotland. The tug of war between the two sides is a well known topic of history that is still felt keenly even today. I don’t have the time or space to go into an in-depth look at Jedburgh’s history during this period and I don’t pretend to know more than the basics anyway, so hopefully you will all forgive me for glossing over this time period quickly. My main interest after all is the Jedburgh, or more accurately the two Jedburgh’s of the 9th century. Continue reading

Melrose, a tale of two abbeys

Scottish Gaelic: Maol Ros Melrose Abbey is one of those beautiful medieval monastic ruins that bring to mind images of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. Or perhaps it is this Scottish abbey’s long association with Robert the Bruce and Sir … Continue reading