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Charter Bounds


Winchcombe - uuincelcumbe 'the winding valley' 
from the bounds of Godmersham (Sawyer 1434)

Anglo-Saxon charters are obviously important documents for the study of Anglo-Saxon history, and those charters that contain bounds in Old English can make a very valuable contribution to the archaeological study of the Anglo-Saxon landscape.

An example:

The Bounds of Godmersham, Kent are written on the written in a ninth-century hand on the back of the record of the Council of Clofesho, AD 824. They are written in Old English (the language of the Anglo-Saxons) and are an excellent example of charter bounds as they include ocasional compass directions.  The Bounds read as follows:

Hæc sunt terrotoria terræ octo aratrorum in Godmæres ham ærest fram æsce (1) norð to stættincgforda (2). ðanon norð be ea (3) to dreaman uuyðe (4) on fisc pol (5). ðanon eastrihte be suðeuueardan bradan lea (6). swa be suðan pur wuda (7). be pytlea (8) to uuincelcumbe (9) on ðæt sol (10). of ðan sole on ða ealdan stræte (11). ðanon on middan stan mere (12). ðanon on gerihte on cyncges lim fine (13). of ðære fine niðer ofer hean leah (14) and lang mele uueges (15) on ðone hean æsc (16) be norðan wol tune (17). swa on bisceopesðorn (18). ðanon west ðurh suð tun (19) on middan hyrst (20). ðanon suð up be ea(21) on norðan bord dæne (22) ðanon on neolan mere (23). of ðam on middan hercincg mere (24). ðanon on sacecumb (25). swa on fearn edisc (26). swa to æsce (1).

The translation of this is:

Here is the territory of eight ploughlands in Godmersham. First from the ash (1) north to the ford called after Stætta's people (2). Thence north along the river (3) as far as Dreama's enclosure (4) on to the fish pool (5). Thence due east along to the south of the broad clearing (6). So on by the south part of Purr wood (7) by the pit clearing (8) as far as the winding valley (9) into the muddy place (10). Out of the muddy place on to the old (i.e. Roman) road (11). Thence into the middle of the stone pool (12). Thence straight on to the King's lime-heap (13). Away from the heap downwards across the high clearing (14) along the 'Cross' way (15) as far as the high ash (16) to the north of wool farm (17). So on to the Bishop's thorn (18). Thence west through the south farm (19) in the middle of the wood (20). Thence south and upwards via the river (21) into the northern part of 'board' valley (22). Thence into the dark pool (23). Out of that into the middle of the pool named after Hearca's people (24). Thence to soke valley (25). So on to the fern park (26). So on as far as the ash (1).

Obviously, some of these points will never be recovered: the ash trees at point number 1 and point 16 can never be firmly placed, although we may eventually reach a good approximation to where they stood. Other points, however, are far easier to locate. The river, for example, at points 3 and 21 provides a basis for locating other boundary points, such as the ford called after Stætta's people at point 2.

Modern place-names can often assist as well: dreaman uuyðe - Dreama's enclosure (point 4) – can be identified with modern Trimworth Manor; pur wuda (point 7) is Purr Wood; uuincelcumbe - the winding valley (point 9) – is to be found in Winchcombe Farm and Little Winchcombe; on ðæt sol. of ðan sole on ða ealdan stræte - out of the muddy place on to the old (i.e. Roman) road (points 10 & 11) are combined in the place-name Sole Street; and sacecumb - soke valley (point 25) – is to be found in Soakham Downs and Soakham Farm.

Fieldnames can also be useful. The entry for point 15 - lang mele uueges - is to be found in the filed name “Millways”. There is much more work to be done with field names in this context.

Other forms of documentary evidence can also help. For example, a reference in the 13th century Court Rolls suggests that point 18 (bisceopesðorn or Bishop’s Thorn) is Thorn where the Family le Pove lived in 1262. A later reference links Thorn with Popestreet Farm.

The points that can be traced are all to be found on, or near, the parish boundary. The modern parish boundary has been altered in the southwest area where detached parts of the parish of Boughton Aluph considerable complicate the picture. Nevertheless, the remaining points of the boundary are to be sought near the parish boundary.

The ability to locate these points means that we can create a map of these points, (see here) showing the degree of certainty for locating each point, and this map can be continually refined as research progresses.

As place-names form an important part of these studies, this website is only concerned with charters that have bounds in English.