A personal rendering

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PRE 1066


A Bronze Celt



Here is my attempt to throw light on the early history of Harvington. It is a mix of the scant archaeological material that we have from the parish and information gleamed from the few pre Norman Conquest documents that survived Viking raids, the Norman invasion, the dissolution of the monasteries and fires.

  1. Occasional prehistoric finds around the village.
  2. The Romano-British site under Blakenhurst.
  3. The origin of Harvington's name.
  4. Ango-Saxon charters that mention Harvington.
  5. Harvington being once part of an ancient land division of the sub-kingdom of Hwicce.
  6. The transference of Harvington to the Church at Worcester circa AD 799.
  7. Harvington's first recorded tenant, a lady called Eanswith.
  8. Harvington's other manor called Wiburgestoke.
  9. Harvington's lost bridge across the Avon.
  10. Harvington's thousand year old parish boundary.
The parish extends from the once wooded slopes of the Lenches to the north west to the river Avon and the mill to the south. On the east is an unnamed natural ditch and brook utilised as a parish and county boundary, while to the west is another natural feature, a brook now called 'Harvington' brook and the 'Norbrook'. With the parish's nicely defined odd reversed L-shaped boundaries, it gives the appearance of being a stable and long standing unit. The area on which Harvington stands is made up of light soil with a heavy mix of pebbles, easy access to water and wood with parts well above the flood plain. This makes an attractive area for mankind to settle, somebody or some people chose well.

Ageing the roads that truncate the parish are difficult to date but nevertheless need to be taken into account when dealing with studies like this. Did the settlement or settlements come into existence because of the roads or vice versa? Running west-east through the centre of the parish is the ancient saltway, leading down Anchor Lane and across the river. It is believed to date to at least Roman times. The two other roads are the south-north Evesham to Alcester road, and the Norton to Salford road which now bypasses the village.

Name of Harvington<
Place names and their origins is a fascinating study and can reveal an origin that is not obvious from its modern spelling. Place-name study, is specialised and one can easily draw the wrong conclusions.

Mostly taken from Bailey's, History of Harvington with additions, here are the following early spellings of Harvington, taken from Mawer's Place-Names of Worcestershire9:-

  1. Herverton, AD 709 (spurious)
  2. Herefordinne, AD 709
  3. Hereford, AD 799
  4. Hereforda, AD 814
  5. Herefordtun, AD 964
  6. Herferthun, AD 1086
  7. Herverton, AD 1227
  8. Hervorditun, AD 1240
  9. Herfertun, AD 1240
  10. Herfortun, AD 1249
  11. Hervington, AD 1508
  12. Herforton, AD 1542
One can see here a progression from Hereford to Harvington. Harvington is a fairly modern spelling and not to be confused with the Harvington in the north of the county, which originates as Herwine's settlement. The original stem of our Harvington is 'Here' and the addition or supplement of 'ford', which is self explanatory i.e. a ford across a river, in this case the Avon9. Now 'here' as in Hereford, can be interpreted in two ways: a place where a body of armed men could ford a river; or translated from the Welsh as Henffordd, meaning an old road fording a river. On the face of it the latter is more suitable to our situation - an ancient river crossing over a river called Avon, 'Afon' in Welsh means a river. If the British name has survived, albeit morphed into English, then it might have originally only referred to a settlement near the ford, more of which later. When this settlement dwindled away the old name was transferred to a mile away to a rise of ground topped by the church.

Until recently there appears to have been very little archaeological research carried out in the parish. Many years ago, on the Harvington and Salford Priors boundary, there was found "a fine bronze CELT (a prehistoric cutting or cleaving knife). It was 4½ inches (11.43cm) in length, ringed and socketed", and was dated to around 2000 BC. Its present whereabouts is unknown. (Ref:
Bailey's History of Harvington.)

There is a local story that when the Blakenhurst Estate was started in 1961, a 'small Roman Fort' was discovered. The County archaeological Service in Worcester has no record of this find in their Sites and Monuments Record, so it cannot at present be verified. Roman pottery is very distinctive but a fort would suggest something more substantial such as a rectangular earthwork. Before development the land was covered with lengthy gardens stretching from the houses on Leys road to a ditch. From local knowledge there was nothing unusual about the land, but one notices distinct rise from Leys road, a flatish area and then a slight descent to the brook on the north side. Perhaps something was spotted when the builders cleared the topsoil. At first glance this seems an unlikely place for a Roman fort, however if the saltway is taken into account, then early on there may have been a need for a temporary military fort as one approached the forest on the Lenches and beyond.

In a recent survey carried out prior to development on two areas adjacent to the Blakenhurst Estate, the County Archaeological Service found parts of a Romano-British settlement. The first area was on the south west of side of Leys Road, later to become Grove Close, while the larger area was under the Community Orchard and Flood Relief Area. The finds were multi-phase ditches and a small amount of low status pottery and also several pieces of tegula, which are red roofing tiles, usually associated the stone buildings of substance. My own investigation in the field adjacent to and to the west of the Community Orchard, suggests that I was on the periphery of a settlement or farmstead. It is clear from the Archaeologists plans that the site extends under the present boundary into Blakenhurst. The only datable material suggested the latter half of the 1st century AD. On the northern side of Blakenhurst is a fairly deep ditch and spring course separating Blakenhurst and the Romano British site from the rising land to the north, thereby giving both water and drainage to the site. For the report of the Archaeological investigation on the Community Orchard, please use this report link, it takes a while to load.

Another story that may be of relevance was the discovery of a stretch of stone walling found during the digging of a pond by the then owner in the late 1960's. The find was in the side garden of number fourteen Brookdale.

The CAS have also recorded other human activity in Harvington, such as prehistoric crop marks in the area beyond Harvington Lodge, plus a suggestive field name of 'Barrow Piece' near to the Glebe Farm ruins. The name barrow usually means there is, or in this case was, a distinctive mound or feature in the area, often indicating the presence of a prehistoric burial mound. See CAS report for details. (Being a PDF, it takes a while to load.) Harvington Lodge stands on a slight hill and commands good views of the surrounding countryside, a favourable position for pre-Roman activity.

The Almonry Museum in Evesham has a record of Samian Ware sherds, high class Roman pottery, being found in the corner of 'Mr. Coleys field' in 1938. The Coley's owned a number of plots in the village, in particular the present property 'Oldfields' near to the Golden Cross and built in the 1930's. There is also a story that in the 1930's a Roman sword (gladius) was discovered near the south-eastern boundary of the present (2018) allotments near to the school.

Limited spot checking in the old and new churchyard has failed to find any Romano-British pottery. By the ruined mill, a previous notice board commemorating the restoration of the lock, stated that a Roman furnace had been discovered nearby, the mill is mentioned in the Doomsday Book.

The Settlement at the Ford
It is thought that the original site of Harvington was down by the river. There are at least two reasons for believing this: one is the name being originally Hereford, with the emphasis on the ford; the other is a raised area near to Mill House where an ariel photograph taken in 1953 shews crop marks indicating, among others, a circular settlement, however the area is subject to flooding and the cropmark may well be prehistoric.

From the Almonry

There is a tendency to find British settlements on the higher ground, with the English preferring more low-lying areas. This may represent the situation in Harvington. The original focus of a settlement, not including the area around the ford, was probably on the higher ground to the vicinity of Harvington Lodge sitting as it does on a low-lying hill offering clears views of the surrounding countryside. Crop marks, a barrow and the Romano-British settlement are within this area. By AD 800, the focus of settlement may be around the site of the church. Does this hold a memory of British and English co-existing or had the British settlement ceased to exist by the time the English had arrived, perhaps not. Deerhurst near Tewkesbury is an example of co-existence. A probable British Christian foundation, by the river Severn and on a hill within one mile is the hamlet of Deerhurst Walton, Walton meaning 'Welsh'.

In the surrounding area, a Bronze Age axe was found near to Green Lane beyond the allotments. Roman material has been found on the other side of the bypass towards Norton (CAS WSM38436). This is indicated towards the end of an archaeological development report. There is a Roman site on a hill above Offenham, where a collection of bronze spoons was found a few years back and reported to the museum at Worcester, and of course there is the crossing of Icknield Street at Bidford with Roman material being discovered in a nearby field.

Historical Background
For archaeologists and historians there has tended to be a sharp divide between the Roman period and that of the Anglo-Saxon, separated by a black hole once described as the 'Dark Ages' but now more commonly as Post Roman. This is due partly because of the disruption and chaos that obviously took place during this period, and partly because of our lack of knowledge of this dark but by no means black period. This is slowly changing as our knowledge grows both in archaeology, studies of ancient charters and placenames. Clearly some Romano-British towns and hundreds if not thousands of settlements ceased to exist but many carried on, slowly changing over the centuries and acquiring Anglicised or English names.

After the centralised Roman authority ceased in AD 410, Roman Britain continued with Governors (or dictators) such as Vortigern, but eventually fractured into many different kingdoms fighting for supremacy over both their British neighbours and the newly arrived English. During the fifth and sixth centuries many of the British kingdoms were either absorbed or replaced by English kingdoms - sometimes dramatically, sometimes by a gradual tipping of the balance from British to English. At the same time the English were also warring against each other and vying for supremacy. A dog eat dog scramble for land and power where many and eventually most of the early tribal groupings, war bands or small kingdoms became subordinate and then absorbed into larger groupings before finally disappearing, often leaving just a name.

All this would have led to death or displacement for the ruling classes and huge disturbances and suffering for the 'ordinary folk', some of whom would have profited from the chaos, while others tried to keep a low profile and carry on everyday life, whether British or English. There have been major swings in historian and archaeologist way of thinking between the English sweeping the poor defenceless British into the sea to hardly any English arriving here at all, just a few war bands, the true picture has to lie in between. The British ruling class may have succumbed to a greater extent, but the ordinary folk probably continued to live their lives, albeit gradually being absorbed and learning to speak English. Many British geographical place names survive but it is to be noted that there are virtually no British (Welsh) words in English. A telling and rather chilling detail is that while the British called themselves Cymbri, the English referred to the British as Welsh, meaning foreigner or slave.

Post Roman Harvington
In pre-Roman times it has been assumed that this area was under the control of the
Dobunni, a British tribe with their capital at Cirencester. No local land divisions such as hundreds or counties are known from before or during the Roman period. One can only wonder whether tribes like the Dobunni kept any of their smaller land divisions after the Roman conquest1. It is however now becoming apparent that some Romano-British land divisions, such as estates survived into the 'written' English period. Was there property divisions in Harvington and did its Romano-British population that is now known to have at one time existed, survive to fuse with the incoming English? We do not know whether the surrounding British control centres at Alcester, Gloucester, Winchcombe or Worcester had any impact or governance over the Harvington area after AD 410. The British in the region may have enjoyed over 150 years of relative peace before the English arrived in force, by the mid to late 6th century however the area was to change politically in a dramatic way.

In AD 577 Ceawlin king of Wessex, defeated three British kings, Conmail of Gloucester, Condidan of Cirencester and Farinmail of Bath, at the battle of Deorham13 in southern Gloucestershire. We have no idea how far north Conmail of Gloucester held sway, it might have been Gloucester and a small surrounding area or it could have been the predecessor of the later Hwicce, with other unnamed British kingdoms to the north. If the British had reverted back to their original Dobunni boundaries, which are remarkably similar to the later kingdom of Hwicce, then after this battle it is possible that Harvington had new English overlords.

The Hwicce
It is not known how or when the territory of the Hwicce was formed or what preceeded it. There are suggestions17 that it was originally a Britsh Christain Kingdom as by the time of Bede in the 7th century it appears that it was nominally Christian. There are also indications16 that its epicentre was in the Winchcombe area in Gloucestershire, an old wealthy and settled Romano-British area.

Its extant can be judged by placenames and later documentation16, although its boundary would no doubt have fluctuated as it came up against neighbouring states. At one time under Mercian control it controlled a large area from Kempsford in Gloucestershire to Bridgnorth in Worcestershire, Bath in Somerset to Whichford in Warwickshire.

After AD 577, it is likely that there was an influx of Saxon peoples moving up from the south, both as administrators and settlers. Fifty years later in AD 628, Cyngils and Cwichelm his son, King of Wessex, fought Penda of Mercia at Cirencester. They came to an agreement and it appears that Penda took over the province, known or soon to be known by the English name of Hwicce. At this time, Penda was a war lord, later becoming king of Mercia, of an area centred on Litchfield and Tamworth. There is a surviving fieldname indicating a boundary between Hwicce and Mercia proper in Radway parish near Edge Hill. It may well have been Penda who was responsible for setting up Hwicce as a sub-kingdom13. It seems that from very early on Hwicce included the territory of the Husmerae, based on the river Stour, the Stoppingas, based around Wootton Wawen and the river Alne, and the Weorgoran, based at Worcester3. Penda died on 15th November 655, and very soon afterwards, Hwicce's first recorded kings, the brothers Eanhere and Eanfrith (Harvington's first recorded person is Eanswith in AD 802), were ruling the kingdom. The ruling family curiously held Northumbrian names. The populace though would have been a mixture of South Saxons, Middle Angles, northern Angles and British. As a kingdom then province then county or region of Mercia it remained an entity until the early 11th century.

Rulers of the Hwicca

                   |                           |
                 Eanfrith                   Eanhere
                 c650-c674                  c 674-c675  
                 = c661 sister of Wulfhere  = Osthryth, dau of
                        King of Mercia      | Oswui, King of
                 |                          | Northumbria
                 |                          | Osthryth later
                 |                          | married Æthelred of
                 |                          | Mercia
                 |                          |
                 |                 -----------------------------
                 |                 |           |               |
                Ease             Oshere       Osric          Ecberg
                = Æthelwaelh     c 674-c 675  c 675-704      c 675-c 679 
                = King of the    =            bur Gloucester
                  South Saxons   |            Abbey
                  k c685         |
         |                  |                |                |
     Æthelheard        Æthelweard       Æthelric       Æthelbert
     c 700              c 710             c 720

     Eanberht                Uhtred              Ældred
     c 759                   c 759-c 780         c 759 -c 780


Christianity and Fladbury.
Christianity is believed to have survived within the Kingdom of Hwicce from Roman times, thereby suggesting a degree of continuity. There are signs of the British church at
Gloucester and Deerhurst. The Venerable Bede in his book 'The Ecclesiatical History of the English People' in AD 731, fails to mention any conversion of the Hwicce. He does state however that Eabe, daughter of Eanfrid, was baptised circa AD 660 "in her own country" (Hwicce) and Eanhere's son Osric was interred at Worcester in AD 685. At this time the Church as a structure was growing fast amongst the English. The Diocese of Worcester was established in AD 679/80, whose early bishops bore the title Epicopus Hwicciorum. The original boundaries of the diocese would no doubt have corresponded with that of the then Hwiccean kingdom, covering as it does most of Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire.

Evesham Abbey was founded in or shortly before AD 709, by Egwin, Bishop of Worcester, who died in AD 717. Egwin founded the monastary because of the story about Eof, the swineherd or shepherd who saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. The impression behind this story is that the area was nominally Christian, which would imply that places of worship were nearby. There is an indication that there was already a major religious establishment at Fladbury (Flæda's Bury), an early charter dated to AD 691-699, () talks about reastablishing a monastary at Fladbury. The part that Flæda played in a possible founding of the Monastary has also to be considered. Was this monastary in fact a nunnery, a common occurance at the time, and was she a noble woman retiring from lay life to became a founding Abbess, or was it an already established British church? The establishment was still in existance in AD 777-781 when Ealdred, ruler of the Hwicca leased it for life to Æthelburh, his kinswoman. The Minster was not there in 1066 so may have succumbed to Viking raids which swept through this area in the ninth century.

The mention of a possible nunnery at Fladbury brings to mind a number of femanine placenames in the area, which suggests property ownership or leaseholds. We have the above Fladbury named after a Flæda; Æthelburh, kinswoman to Ealdred of the Hwiccain AD 777-781; Harvington, Eanswith in AD 814 & a lost manor named called Wiburgestoke in AD 852, named after Wiburh;

The coming of the English
There have been huge advances in the study of place names and what they tell us. As the English moved westwards across the country passing of time allowed the English to make ever more contact with the British, so naming patterns change and surviving British names from east to west become more frequent. The suggestion is that the English arrived in this area as a political force relatively late in the 6th century9 either as wandering settlers or by dramatic and sudden raids on or conquests of established British kingdoms. Across the river on Bennetts Hill in Offenham parish was discovered a pagan
Anglo-Saxon Cemetery. It was excavated in 1996 and dated to the 6th and 7th centuries.

There were folk movements to the north of us and place names are a great help here in giving faint signs of a patchwork of once existing peoples, such as the Pencersætan, south west of Birmingham; the Husmeræ based on the river Stour; the Stoppingas, around Wootton Wawen and the river Alne; the Feþþingas14, a Middle Anglian folk north east of Worcester; the Wixna, a Middle Anglian people. Collingwood and Myres in their book 'Roman Britain and the English Settlements'2, suggest that a group of the Wixna settled to the north of here:-

Midway between Worcester and Stratford is a small stream, still known as the Whitson Brook, that recalls a settlement here of the Wixna, one of those mysterious folk of the Tribal Hidage (discussed below), who soon lost their identity in the formation of larger political units. In the Tribal Hidage the Wixna appear already divided into an eastern and a western group, and while their position suggests that their original homes were in close proximity to the Gyrwe and Spalda of the north-western Fens, it by no means impossible that one branch had migrated at an early date up the Welland and so across the easy watershed and down the valley of the Warwickshire Avon. It may be that this division is itself recognised in the distinction of the East and West Wixna; their appearance in Worcestershire is in any case an excellent illustration of the Anglian element already evidenced in the archaeology of the Avon Valley.

These, except perhaps the last mentioned, were probably family groups setting out either as war bands or simply as settlers. Archaeological research in recent years has shown that pagan Anglo-Saxons penetrated this area during this time. They were likely to have been a mixture of mostly Middle-Angle and Middle-Saxon war bands and settlers. Some of these groups based upon old Roman centres such as the Arosæte at Alcester and the Weorgoran, based at Worcester. may have been British, clinging on by paying tribute to the advancing English. It must be born in mind that it was not simply English against British. Both peoples were just as likely to raid and take over neighbouring states of their own kind with help from the other side.

Cædwallan's Fortification
Cædwallanbyrig is mentioned in an unattached boundary clause (Hooke 68) being concerned with the holdings of Evesham Abbey. The fortification is situated near the present Tunnel Hill above Wood Norton. This is a tantalising survival a British personal name of perhaps a significant British ruler attached to a fortification.

The Tribal Hidage
This is probably the oldest surviving document to give a slight hint of the local situation. It is an early English tax document called the
Tribal Hidage. The likelihood is that it was created for one of the 7th century kings, possibly a Northumbrian, while they were in control of Mercia. The document established the value of the various client kingdoms within Mercia's realm of influence. The Mercians were centred on Tamworth and during the 7th century, under their pagan king Penda, they expanded dramatically over the Midlands, including this area.

The document is a good indicator that the English already had an advanced system for raising tax or tribute. This implies land ownership, boundaries, knowing who owned what and where. There are three names on the Tribal Hidage that are relevant to us: the Hwicce; the Arosæte, who were probably based at the Roman town of Alcester (Latin: Alauna), and only known from the Tribal Hidage; and the Wixna, again only really known from the Tribal Hidage.

Counties of Mercia
The name Mercia stems from 'Mierce' or Myrce', an old English word meaning borderlands and referred to a loose confederacy of Anglican tribes17. Some of these stroke tribal area, stroke kingdoms were large such as The Hwicca or the Wreocenaetan (around The Wreken), and some were much smaller such the Middle Angles around Peterboroiugh.

County or shire: (In the case of Mercia, 'province' is perhaps a better term), refers to an area separated from the central authority and administered by an Ealdorman. |These Ealdormen were probably originally kings or sub-kings as in the case of Hwicce, sub-king. The Ealdorman was responsible for governing, raising taxes and, when necessary, the fyrd (army raised for a military campaign). Unfortunately for Mercia the Vikings, especially in AD 877, when they settled at Gloucester for the winter, to a large extent destroyed its administrative organisation. Harvington would have felt their presence. Mercia was also reorganised, in the early 11th century, so we know very little of its provincial system. It probably adhered to the old sub-kingdoms that it had absorbed, such as Hwicce, Magonsaete or Pencersaete etc. For later Mercia we can get some idea though through the distribution of its Bishoprics. There are five: Lichfield, Lindsay, Leicester, Worcester and Hereford. It may be coincidental that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states under AD 827: 'Ludecan', king of the Mercian's, was slain along with his five ealdormen7.

Edric Streona
Now steps on to the stage '
Edric Streona', a powerful and disruptive figure of the late 10th and early 11th century. He was Ealdorman of Mercia until his execution in 1017. It is very likely that it was he who was responsible for creating the present county system of the Midlands. The old sub-divisions or provinces, (although not the hundreds) were swept away and the present system created, such as Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Leicestershire etc. Note the regularity of their size. Their boundaries remained almost unchanged until 1974. It has been suggested that the extremely ragged nature of the boundaries between Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire are the result of Edric Streona's personal property in this area, if true then corruption was one of his lesser evils.

Harvington's county
Harvington and its parish, has been tucked into the south-east corner of Worcestershire since the county came into existence between AD 1000 and AD 1016. Before this time Harvington was under the jurisdiction of the province of the Hwicce.

The Parish and county boundary near to the Salford Road and looking north.

Hundreds are an ancient Germanic land division, smaller than a county, which is thought to have originally evolved to cover one hundred families with a smaller division called Tithing, an area covering ten families. They also had a military aspect in raising men for a campaign10.

The hundred used a central place to meet such as a distinctive or prominent landmark, hill or mound, where the elders of the hundred would meet. The hundred often carried the same name as the meeting place. It will be noticed that many hundreds have a suffix of 'low' at the end of their name. Another meaning of 'low' is a tumulus or barrow. Most hundreds in this area predate the counties in which they are now set.

Harvington's hundred
From the 10th century to the present day, whether under the jurisdiction of Hwicce or Worcestershire, Harvington has been in the hundred of Oswaldslow, named after Oswald, Bishop of Worcester who died in AD 992. The hundred was set up in a charter by King Edgar and bishop Oswald at a Christmas meeting in AD 96410. The name Oswaldslow, called Oslafeslow before AD 977, is identified with Low Hill in White Ladies, Aston9. It was not a solid unit of land but a patchwork of Church property and was itself an amalgamation of three hundreds. They were named: Winburgetrowe, of parishes belonging to the bishop of Worcester; Wulfereslaw an ancient Episcopal hundred; and Cuthburgelow, parishes belonging to the monks of the cathedral priory. Previously Harvington was in Cuthburgelow and was subject to 'Royal exactions' (dues, fines paid to the king). This however changed when the new hundred of Oswaldslow was set up and Harvington became exempt, apart from the repair of bridges etc.10

One must realise that in the case of Oswaldslow, Winburgetrowe, Wulfereslaw and Cuthburgelow, they were all ecclesiastical hundreds and did not behave in quite the same way as the old lay hundreds. They were not compact units but were created to take into account parishes owned by the Church.

Areas in pale pink refer to Oswaldslow, note Harvington within circle.
Map from Mawer's Place-names of Worcestershire.

Cuthburgelow initially only contained the manor of Cropthorne, but Harvington and others, being Church property, were taken from elsewhere and added to make up the numbers for the transference into Oswaldslow4. There appears to be politics here between church and vested lay interests. (For further reading, see: Whybra's the Lost English County of Winchcombeshire). It is fairly safe to say that the creation of Cuthburgelow, or at least the inclusion of Harvington, took place in or slightly before AD 964. The next question is from where, or whence hundred, was Harvington taken?

Harvington and Þennecumbe Hundred
We are now back to AD 964 or thereabouts and there is need to explain the next step and the above heading. We are now in a time long before the counties of Worcestershire and Warwickshire had been created and looking for a county, division, province or sub-kingdom of the Hwicce. A possible proposition is that Harvington was in a hundred called Þennecumbe prior to the parish being transferred to the hundred of Cuthburgelow. The supposition is based upon a detail in a document apparently dated to AD 709 but almost certainly of a later date, the document will be dealt with later.

Þennecumbe is headed by the old English character Þ (thorn) meaning 'Th'. By 1086 the name Þennecumbe had changed to Fernecumbe. Þennecumbe is the forerunner of the present hundred Warwickshire hundred of Barlichway.

The hundred of Barlichway was created in AD 1175 out of a large hundred called Fernecumbe, and a small hundred named Patelau centred on Snitterfield in the present Warwickshire. According to the 'Victoria County History for Warwickshire', Barlichway was identical to and a replacement for the 'old' hundred of Fernecumbe, except for the addition of Patelau. There are now four hundreds in Warwickshire and that of Barlichway covers a large block of land in the south western quarter of the county. There are two meeting places in Barlichway, one at Barlichway Greve near Temple Grafton and the other at Bredon Cross near Ipsley. It is important to consider this Warwickshire hundred in relationship to Harvington because of the above mentioned document.

The name Þennecumbe is a compound of fen and combe. The first part deriving from fen, meaning low lying, swampy, subject to flooding, water meadow and is probably southern English or Saxon in origin. The second part is from combe and again is probably South Saxon in origin. The word means a type of valley, and was used in a variety of ways depending upon the shape of the particular combe.

By 1086 Þennecumbe contained 52 parishes, including Alcester, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bidford-on-Avon, Wixford and our neighbouring parish Salford Priors. Its origin and meeting place is not known but it appears that we are looking for a low lying combe, subject to flooding. If the above calculations are correct then the hundred of Þennecumbe was already in existence by AD 964 and Harvington was possibly within its jurisdiction.

As stressed before, hundreds are an ancient land division and not subject to frequent change. Þennecumbe was certainly a political land division in Hwicce, and there is a possibility that it was at least an entity if not a hundred as far back as the early 8th century. Who set up Þennecumbe as a hundred? Was it the Hwicce or is there a memory here of an even older entity. Was Þennecumbe originally part of a seventh century sub-kingdom controlled by the Arosæte from Alcester? This is where, at present, the trail goes cold and we are entering the realm of theory.

Harvington in Charters
Charters are amongst the oldest written records to survive and we are most fortunate to have several that mention Harvington. The use of charters, as we know them, appear to have begun in the mid-7th Century, a mixture of Latin formula and English/Germanic law. One can divide them into two sections starting with an transfer, lease or affirmation of land between two or more parties. In addition there is a boundary clause which defines the area involved. They are previous survivers due to the passing of time, war, fire etc. Their value is without question in giving not only names of people, but places some long gone, some changed, almost beyond recognition. In this remote time they suggest ownership, property boundaries, a world of order and structure where folk knew who owned what. Upon studying the documents below you will get a sense that there was a place called Harvington, it was owned, tenanted, had boundaries with neighbours and presumably the resulting passing trade from road and river. The landscape surrounding Harvington appears to be settled, whether by English or British. One has to be careful however as monastic establishments were not as honest as one might think. Sometimes the result is an attempt to replace lost or destroyed documents and sometime complete fabrications.

There are two prime sources for published early charters and grants, some in Latin, some in old English: Cartularium Saxonicum by Walter de Gray Birch and Codex Diplomaticus Aevi Saxonici by John Mitchell Kemble. Some of the charters have since been translated by subsequent historians.

There are three Old English charcters that need explanation: Ƿ/ƿ - wynn: W & w; Þ & ð - thorn & eth = the two pronunciations of 'th' as in thorn & the.

Here follows a list of the Charters relating to Harvington, coupled with Editor's comments:-

  1. AD 709, This document is to be found in Birch's Cartularium Saxonicum10, (No.125) and is concerned with the granting of lands on the banks of the river Avon, etc. to the recently founded Eve's homme (Evesham) Abbey. Basically enabling the new abbey to support itself. The document records events dated on or before AD 709 as both Coenred, King of the Mercians AD 704-709, and Offa (see paragraph on Offa), King of the East Saxons AD 694?-709, in AD 709 abdicated, gave up worldly affairs and travelled to Rome as pilgrims. It is a lengthy document written in Latin in which there are many local places mentioned in English, including Harvington. A translation and full description of it is to found in Hooke's Worcestershire Anglo-Saxon Charter Bounds, p.46.

    The are however clumsy errors that indicates that the charter was written much later. It includes Bengeworth, Hampton and Willersley which were only included in the abbey estates in the 10th or 11th centuries. Note that the spelling of Harvington is Herverton and not the older version of Hereford. Another error is the statement that Offa was King of the East Angles whereas he was King of the East Saxons (Essex), therefore this document is considered as 'spurious'. Although it was clearly written a long time after the event it perported to represent it is attempting a confirmation of lands the abbey owns: Evesham, Lenchwick, Norton, Offenham, Littleton, Aldington, Badsey, Bretforton, Church Honeybourne, Willersey, Wickhamford, Bengeworth, Hampton and also the outlier estate of Abbots Morton. The most likely reason for this document was after loss or damage such as by fire, water or Viking raids. The document does however leave us with local places names and spellings that reflect the time in which it was written.

    A small part of the boundary clause, within which is mentioned Harvington.

    The following is an interpretion of the clause by Della Hooke in her book Worcestershire Anglo-Saxon Charter Bounds:-

    1. 'First the boundary of the place runs from Twyford on the south side as far as Cronochomme (Evesham) according to the course of the river', the bounds begin at Twyford on the River Avon at SP 049458. The name of the river Avon is derived from Old British abona, ‘river'. The ford-name means 'double ford' and is so-called because there is an island here in the river;
    2. 'and thence along with the water as far as the boundary of the land of Fladbury which is called the boundary dyke', the boundary runs down-stream to the point at which the eastern boundary of Fladbury leaves the river at SP Oll470. A deep ditch and bank ran along this stretch of boundary, bounding an area of river-meadow known as 'Great Meadow' in 1765. The surviving dyke appears. however, to be related to water control rather than boundary demarcation, associated with the river-side water meadows;
    3. 'and thus straight on by the slope of the hill through the middle of the old gore to (the) old swine hedge (or enclosure)‘, a gore was often a triangular-shaped piece of land and here referred to land at an angular turn in the parish boundary at the top of Tunnel Hill. This was known as Swine Hill in 1765;
    4. 'from (the) old swine hedge (or enclosure) to boelagesette'; this appears to be Old English (ge)set, ‘a dwelling, a camp, a place for animals, a stable, a told’, with a personal name (the name is discussed not very convincingly by Forsberg who suggests a name compounded from Old English bêo, 'bee', and lagu, 'water, flood';
    5. 'from boelageselte to (the) north summit’, the highest point on Hipton Hill which rises to over 350 feet (110m) to the north of the Church Lench-Twyford road;
    6. from which by way of Lench Hill as far as the boundaries of the lands of Lench and of Harvington in Wenne's coomb', the boundary follows the ridge of Hipton Hill north-eastwards to join the boundary of Harvington parish in an incised valley at SP 034498 where the field-names ‘Comb Meadow’ and ‘Far Comb‘ are recorded in the 19th century;
    7. thence by (the) foul brook to (the) hare's spring', located by the field-name Narbrook at SP 046489 (the h having become changed to n, probably in copying the written word);
    8. 'and from (the) hares spring to Carke ford’, probably where the road from Norton to Harvington crossed Harvington Brook at SP 048488. Carke may be Old Welsh carrec, ‘rock’, as in S 78 [a reference to Sawyer] but in both clauses is associated with water and the meaning is uncertain;
    9. 'and thence to (the) golden spring';
    10. 'and thus along the stream as far as the watercourse of the narrow marsh'; after turning to flow southwards towards the River Avon the Harvington Brook must have run through marshland, the boundary following one of the watercourses in the marsh. A field-name 'Broad Moor Meadow' has been noted in the north eastern angle of the parish boundary;
    11. 'and thence to {the) Avon'; the boundary meets the Avon at SP 057473;
    12. 'and thus to Offa's pool'; the boundary follows the river Avon upstream and the pool may have been a pool in the river near a bend in the river in Offenham parish. There were latrer mill pools at SP 066478;
    13. 'from Offa's pool to Pikereshomme (... water-meadow)' Pickersom is a river-meadow which lies on both sides of the boundary separating North Littleton from Cleeve Prior;
    14. 'from Pickereshomme to the banks of the fortification'; this appears to refer to ramparts then visible at some point on the northern boundary of Littleton and a location upon Cleeve Hill seems likely. A deed of 1739 mentions 'six selyons of demesne land at Brookling', which obviously perpetuates the name, and a large ditch has been recorded at Ballards Orchard near by;
    15. 'from the banks to (the) old hill'; the land rises to over 150 feet (55m) at SP 100474 where the eastern boundary of Cleeve Prior meets that of North Littleton and the name survives in that of Hoden Farm in Cleeve Prior, referred to in a deed of 1622 which mentions 'one acre in South Field in Olden shooting south of Littleton field' 'Olden' probably derived from ealdenedun;
    16. 'from (the) old hill to (the) old manure-heap'; near Ullington Mill;
    17. 'from which to Burghild's street'; this was the name of the Ryknield Street which is reached at SP 112467 and the boundary follows the road south-eastwards for ½ kilometre;
      [and so on]

    This is a fascinating document with its mixture of Latin grammar and old English place names. It tells us that there was an agreement between two kings over the new Abbey at Evesham with a corresponding circumambulation of the abbey's lands starting at Twyford and working clockwise. There is a place called Harvington as a point of reference, but it does not include it, tell us what Harvington was or who owned it, but it does however define its western and southern boundaries.

    Only part of the document is reproduced here with our interest in Harvington being central. One can get a good idea from modern names that the scribe is only using fixed names where possibly such as 'Fladbury'. As a fill in he uses names that are not necessarily fixed in the common vocabulary of the time but simply a description he has made of his route such as the 'oat field'.

    Our scribe starts at Twiford (Twyford = two fords), the border between Norton and Evesham parishes and heads down the river Avon to Cronochomme (Evesham = possibly from crane [heron] and ham). He follows the course of the river as it sweeps round the Evesham peninsular and eventually comes to Meredic (a boundary ditch or dyke presumably marking the boundary between Evesham, Norphenol (Norton) and Fladeburg (Fladbury). From here he leaves the river and heads up hill and towards the middle of Aeldegaren to Aeldenedsthinhage (both places as yet unidentified 'Aeld' means old and 'hage' means enclosure or enclosed), and on to Boelgesette (sette may mean place or position). He is now in the Lenches and on the upper reaches of the parish of Norton. He then heads through 'Lencdune', to the north western corner of the parish of Harvington called the Wenna's Combe.

    He now turns south and follows the Fulan Broc (foul Brook = Harvington Brook), past Harenthilles (hare's spring, associated with Norbrook a name given to the brook above the Evesham road), and on to Carkforð (Cark ford, associated with the one-time ford across the Salford road and possibly meaning care, it is now just a bend in the road. The scribe continues to follow the brook to a place called Goldthelle (The golden Spring), as yet undentified. Della Hooke does not elaborate by which she presumbably is happy with Golden Spring but may a female name such as in Goldgiefu. As he nears the Avon the brook become sluggish and mere like which he describes as smalemeresuch, note it is in English and not Latin, which suggests he is naming the brook. The word is simply descriptive: smale, is a Teutonic and Old English form of small; mere, can either mean a place of standing water or a boundary; suche, is a complicated word but in this case would have meant 'as such', thereby reinforcing the words smale or mere. He now crosses the river to Offpole (Offenham, the ham of Uffa), near to a field of oats and so on.

    What was Wenne? As one stands at the top of the parish near to the head of the Harvington Brook, one is standing in an isolated gentle-sided combe sloping down towards the south. The brook dominates it, either side of which is a mixture of orchard and abable. Most villagers today probably don't know of its existance. There are two references in the Oxford English Dictionery that could explain the origin of Wenne: an early from of when or an early version of the word venison as in wenison. neither seem applicable but the present combe is a haunt of deer.

    Offa, King of the East Saxons
    It is curious that the scribe drew up the above document and mistakenly stated that Offa was King of the East Angles whereas he was in fact King of the East Saxons. This does again suggest that this document was compiled a long time after the event. Finburg in his Early Charters of the West Mindlands states that Offa, King of Essex, was a major landowner in this area and gave the Littletons, Aldington, Badsey, Bretforton, Poden, Honeybourne and Wickhamford to the newly founded abbey at Evesham. He also owned Offenham. Finberg also states that Offa's property in the area was inherited and suggests that it may have come via his mother Osgith, who was possibly connected with the Hwiccian royal line. The Evesham Chronicle states that Æthilheard of Hwicce son of king Oshere was a kinsman of King Offa.

  2. AD 709, Kemble's Codex Diplomaticus Aevi Saxonici11. There is apparently a reference to 'Herefordinne', but despite a number of searches in the document, it has not been traced.

  3. AD 799, " Coenwulf King [of the Mercian's], to the Abbot Balthun, in exchange for 12 "manentes" at Hereford (Harvington). 30 "manentes" belonging to the minster at Kemesei Kempsey, free of all but the three common dues, with liberty to choose his heir. No payment other than compensation to a victim of crime is to go outside the estate"4 & 8.

    Deneberht's charter to Abbot Balthun from
    Birch's Cartularium Saxonicum.

    Firstly the word 'Manentes', appears to be equivalent to a hide. A hide was traditionally used as a measurement of food rent, either for one family or group, pertaining to a smallholding and more for value of land rather than an area.

    To clarify the above: Coenwulf gave Abbot Balthun of Kempsey Monastery, worth 30 smallholdings in return for the military service and maintenance work at Kempsey, in exchange for 12 'smallholdings' at Harvington.

    If one accepts that a smallholding = one family, which seems likely in this case, then the King received back 12 smallholdings from Baltham. Was Balthun the priest at Harvington, who was moving on to better things? Was this the whole parish or part? The whole village at present seems more likely as 12 hides or smallholdings as the Domesday Book over 250 years later only recorded 3 hides and 17 villagers. This leaves us, or rather King Coelwulf (king AD 796-821) with 12 manentes at Harvington. Was the beneficiary Deneberht (Bishop of Worcester AD 800-822)? Balthun (the Priest) received more land in another charter dated AD 8025.

  4. AD 814, (AD 802 in Birch) Deneberht, bishop, and his cathedral clergy, to Eanswith; lease, for her lifetime, with reversion to the church of Worcester. 2 "cassati" at Hereforda, on condition that she keeps the church's vestments in repair"4. Called 'doubtful' by Della Hooke but there appears no reason to doubt this document.

    Deneberht's grant to Eanswith from
    Birch's Cartularium Saxonicum.

    Finberg1 states: "The date is a lease.

    Harvington's first known tenant was a lady called Eanswith1 whose name suggests she was a member of the Hwiccan elite. Geoffrey Hindley in his A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons17 has a little more and fascinating information on this lady and her lease. She was granted by Bishop Denebert 200 acres of land in return for the maintenance and enlargement of the cathedral's vestments. His conclusion drawn was that she was carrying out business in her own right and employing crafts women, or men, to carry out the work. She probably visited Harvington but did she ever live in the village? Probably a coincidence but two hundred acres happens to be the amount of land that was attahced to Manor Farm held in the mid 20th century, the holding covered the lower section of the parish down to the river.

    From: Magna Britannia Antiqua & Nova, Survey of Great Britain by Thomas Cox, circa 1738.
    "Denebert, who was consecrated the same year (799?), and was present at the synod of Cloveshoe in AD 803, where he confirmed the agreement made in the year 789, by his Predecessor with Wulfheard. He also, in the same synod, settled a dispute between himself and the Bishop of Hereford about the bounds of their Diocese. He was also present at the synod of Celycuth, in 806. He gave to the Church out of his own patrimony, the Manor of Herforton. He died Anno 822."

    There is no record of Denebert's parents or family and therefore no record of who owned Harvington prior to Denebert.

  5. In AD 852, Beorhtwulf, King of the Mercian's, transferred to his thegn Eadgar for 700 shekels of gold, three "casseti" in Wiburgestoce (Wiburgestoke) in Harvington4.

    This charter is intriguing as it raises a number of salient points.

  6. AD 964, In Latin and English the document mentions Harvington as being, among other holdings, held by St Mary's Abbey, Worcester as a re-affirmation of lands by King Edgar"4 & 8.

  7. 1016-1035, a translation of this unattached boundary clause, written in Old English, is to be found in Della Hooke's, Worcestershire Anglo-Saxon Charter Bounds, p. 387. Unattached in this case means that there is no charter, transfer or lease attached. There is no date to it but the fact that it is in Old English and the spelling of Hereforda or herefordtune suggests that it is 11th century or earlier. It is the earliest document we have to describe the parish boundary in full and relates to Harvington specififally rather than mentioning it as a sideline, note that the boundary appears to have been the same for over a thousand years.

    The following is an interpretion of the clause by Della Hooke:-

    1. 'First along (the) Avon so that it comes to Wistane's bridge', begins on the Avon at SP 067484 and the boundary follows southwards and then westwards. If the landmark is correctly brycg, 'bridge', this may have been at the crossing of that river in the far south of the parish at the ford which gave the estate its name, but the next landmark refers to a brook rather than to the river;
    2. 'and thence following the brook so that it comes to (the) bramble-(or hip-) covered hill, the brook forms the western boundary of the parish and the hill is probably the high land at the north-western corner of the parish near Atch Lench, the name derived from Old English hêopa, 'bramble, hip' (?wild rose);
    3. 'from the hill so that it comes near watercress spring', this was the source of the brook at SP 042506 which forms the rest of the northern and eastern boundary of the parish;
    4. 'and following the watercress to (the) tongue of land of the honey water-meadow, the boundary follows the brook to the Avon and the tongue of land may have been that alongside the Avon in the neighbouring parish of Salford Priors, Steot is an error for Old English steort, 'tail, tongue of land', as noted by Tengstrandt, who notes the suggestion 'the tapering or projecting part of Hunighamm (the) water-meadow where honey is gathered from bees' nests?)' or the tongue of land on which Hunighamm is situated'. This name occurs as Hunyhamsterte in a perambulation of Feckingham Forest in 1300 and as 'Onion Stert' in the early years of this century.
    5. 'and there again into the Avon'; the boundary follows the bank to the main river.

    St Wistane, Atheling of Mercia
    The above boundary clause has the only reference so far found that Harvington once had a bridge. It almost certainly spanned the Avon at the bottom of Anchor Lane and the above clause appears to suggest this. At Bidford, now occupied by a medieval stone bridge, there was almost certainly a wooden or series of wooden bridges subsequent to the ford, and the assumption is that our's was a wooden structure. The name is fascinating and may help to identify the period when it existed and also the approximate date of the document in which it is recorded.

    The bridge is almost certainly named after Wistan (Wigstan), Atheling of Mercia. He was the son of Wigmund, King of Mercia by Æflæd and was murdered by Beorhtfrith, son of Wistan's uncle on 1st June AD 847, see Wikipedia. He was either killed at Wistanstow in Shropshire, Wistow, Leicestershire. or Wistow in Cambridgeshire, and was buried in the crypt of his grandfather King Wiglaf at Repton. After a number of miracles connected with him, he was canonised. Sometime between AD 1016 and AD 1035, at the request of Abbot Ælfweard of Evesham 1014-1044, his relics were transferred to Evesham by the command of Canute, King of England 1016-1035. Dominic, an early 12th Prior of Evesham wrote a hagiography of St Wistan called Vita Sancti Wistani, acquiring saintly relics by monastaries attracted a great deal of qudos and financial reward.

    The above does not tell us the date of our clause but it does suggest that the name and perhaps also the bridge itself came into existance sometime in the early 11th century after the relics had been transferred to Evesham.

The above boundary clauses give us a number of named or descriptive features which should be highlighted:-

  • Avene (Avon) - the river Avon
  • Broce (Brook) - the Harvington Brook
  • cærsa Þællan (watercress) - Della Hooke appears to place this feature at the top of the parish, however, in more recent times water cress was grown on the low-lying land below Cress Hill, just outside the village near the Salford Road.
  • Carkeforð (Carkeford) - traditionally placed where the Norton Road crosses the Harvington Brook and enters the village. The old ford has long since gone and the road culverted. The corner now has a much more rounded aspect.
  • Goldwelle (Golden Spring) - not known but presumably lower down the Harvington brook somewhere past the present sewage works.
  • Hare's Spring (Norbrook) - there was a field called Norbrook to the north west of the Evesham Road as it crosses the Harvington Brook.
  • Hêopa hylle (Bramble or wild rose Hill) - placed at the north-western corner of the parish, or perhaps the northern corner.
  • Hereforda (Harvington) - a descriptive name placing Harvington at a crossing of the River Avon.
  • hommes stroete (honey water meadow) - Della Hooke places this feature at the eastern junction of the parish boundary ditch and the River Avon.
  • Smalemoresye (Smallmmeresuch) - a descriptive name for the Harvington Brook as it joins the River Avon.
  • Þennecumbe (Wennecombe) - a name for the valley at the upper north-western corner of the parish.
  • Wiburgestoce (Wiburgestoke) - an outlying farmstead and Manor lying within Harvington parish once belonging to a lady called Wiburgh.
  • Þistanes brycge (Wistane's Bridge) - a bridge that once crossed the River Avon and named after St Wistan.

An informative website on extant old English documents, both in English and Latin is: Kemble, The Anglo-Saxon Charters. Also Dorothy Whitelock's, English Historical Documents, c.500-1042. Publ: 1979.

This article has been an interesting study of the origins of Harvington up to the time of the Norman conquest of England. We are most fortunate that Harvington and its parish has been a stable entity under the ownership of the church at Worcester for so many centuries. This has safeguarded the survival of a number of old English documents. It is hoped that in future, archaeological research will increase our knowledge of Harvington in this period and as it does so it will be added to this page, plus of course any historical material that may come to light.

Julian Rawes, Crooked Walls, January 2019.


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  8. Julian Whybra, The Lost English County of Winchcombeshire. Publ: Boydell 1990.
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  10. Allan Mawer, The Place-Names of Worcestershire. publ: Cambridge UP 1927.
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  15. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England. Publ: Oxford UP 1971.
  16. Salmon & Styles, ED., A History of the County of Warwick. Victoria County series Vol.3, p.155. Publ: Oxford UP 1945.
  17. Sarah Zaluckyj, Mercia. Publ: Logaston Press 2013.
  18. Geoffrey Hindley, A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons. Publ: Robinson 2015.
  19. Della Hooke, Wocestershire Anglo-Saxon Charter-Bounds. Publ: The Boydell Press 1990.

  • Plus website links throughout.