The Vikings in Romsey Exhibition
Nearly 400 visitors came to Romsey Town Hall to view the recent exhibition. This had been set up by members of the Local History Society working with staff from Winchester University to display the results of their research into the Anglo- Saxon occupation of the Lower Test Valley from about 400AD to the Norman Conquest of 1066.
Amongst the visitors were Caroline Nokes, M.P., the mayor of Romsey and an Anglo- Saxon warrior also known as Roger Harris, a member of the Society.
The posters around the room illustrated different aspects of the period including iron smelting, water management and local pottery. Other objects on display were a lump of iron slag from excavations at Newton Lane, Michelmersh pot sherds and a model of a pottery kiln site.
Great interest was shown in the two screen display of the Romsey Charter boundaries accompanied by recent photographs and a recording of the Anglo- Saxon text read by Eric Lacey of Winchester University.
Part of the exhibition will be displayed at King John`s House next year in conjunction with a children`s project.
Meanwhile research will continue for another year and will eventually lead to full publication of the results.
report by Jean Brent
Viking Invader Visits Exhibition
Full set of 26 Viking Exhibition Posters
click to view enlarged posters
Anglo Saxon Conference Report
CONFERENCE on Saturday 30TH APRIL 2016
ANGLO-SAXONS AND RIVER VALLEY SETTLEMENTS
Personal Reflections by Jean Brent
The theme and the distinguished speakers attracted a large audience. One of the highlights of the day was the unexpected contribution from Frank Green and Jamie Cameron which is reported in another article below.
As Professor Hinton remarked every river valley is different and unique; nevertheless each speaker provided some relevant observations on the research the local historians are doing along the river Test.
The heavy soil around Romsey was more difficult for early farmers to plough and it is thought to be one of the reasons why so few early Saxon remains have been found. Ros Faith of Oxford University pointed out that while they searched for easily worked soils nevertheless they could get crops from any quality of land; what was essential was access to pasture and woods. Water was not always a deterrent - an understanding of draining and water management developed early.
Professor Hinton emphasized the importance for transport, although on the fast flowing Avon goods could be carried down easily but upriver was more difficult. Since the 1980s new methods such as field walking, Lidar and geophysics had revealed a greater presence of Saxons. Continuity of use has been shown at some of the three thousand new sites found in the New Forest area where many Iron Age and Roman locations have been proved to have Saxon material.
Emma Anderson replaced Andy Russel to give the talk on Hamwic and its hinterland. Hamwic was a middle Saxon town on the west bank of the Itchen with a population of about two thousand. There is a proved connection to Romsey as iron smelted in the Newton Lane area was taken there to be worked. As an industrial and trading settlement it would have needed a great amount of food to sustain it which would have been obtained from a twenty mile radius stretching from Romsey to Wickham.
Ann Cole of Oxford has researched place names and landscape. Many Anglo-Saxon names can be found locally. Some examples given were bourne meaning a clear stream, brook – muddy water flowing over clay, lake a backwater or slow moving stream and wade – a difficult crossing place. The word Romsey is derived from “eye” – a dry point in a marsh.
Nick Stoodley of Winchester University heads a team which has been researching early Saxon settlement in the Meon Valley. Many of the sites have both Roman and Saxon evidence as there is also on the Upper Test at Stockbridge and King`s Somborne . There are known Roman villas in Michlemersh and Braishfield raising the possibility of geophysical investigations for Saxon material. Dr. Stoodley also raised the possibility of the survival of native communities after the departure of the Romans which would have been a hindrance to the expansion of the Saxons into the lower valleys until there was increasing pressure for more land and a need for the Wessex kings to control the coast and international trade. This could explain the lack of Saxon evidence in Romsey before the middle of the seventh century.
Dr. Sue Harrington of UCL recommended the Anglo- Saxon Kent Electronic Data Base for the early Anglo-Saxon census of South Britain which has mapped thousands of Saxon locations dating from the middle of the fifth century to 750 A.D.
Another feature of the conference which attracted attention was the various displays. Romsey Local History Society outlined the work already done and summarized this on posters which can be seen on the web site. These with additional material and photographs from the conference can be seen in an exhibition in the Town Hall, Romsey on November 11th and 12th 2016.
THE ANGLO – SAXONS COME TO ROMSEY.
Jamie Cameron was one of the speakers at a conference held in Crosfield Hall organised jointly by the Romsey Local History Society and Winchester University. Jamie, who attended school at Romsey, is now an archaeological scientist at Oxford University.
He described how, at the age of seven, he saw the head of hair with a plait several inches long in Romsey Abbey and thought that one day he might be able to work out who the person could have been. Using radio-carbon dating on a small sample of hair he has been able to show that probably the individual died in the late Saxon period between 965 and 1045. Isotope analysis gave evidence that the main diet was fish which is typical for a monastic community.
Frank Green, the consultant archaeologist to the Abbey, added that the prominent place of burial, near to the Anglo- Saxon rood and the abbesses` doorway suggests a person of importance. There are more laboratory tests to be done before Jamie can say if the hair belonged to a man or a woman or, even more interesting, one of the parochial saints – perhaps Morwenna or Athelflaeda.
Other informative talks on Anglo - Saxon settlements in river valleys and on place-names were given by well-known specialists speakers from the university's of Oxford, London, Winchester and Southampton (See article above).
A follow-up exhibition was open to the public in the Romsey Town Hall on November 11th and 12th 20016.