Anglo-Saxon life at Brightlingsea

The Trust began an excavation at Moverons Quarry in Brightlingsea on the 1st September, which is being supervised by Trust archaeologist Ben Holloway. Yesterday (the 18th), our excavation team uncovered the bases of two or possibly three Anglo-Saxon huts or Grubenhauser. We have also excavated a large Anglo-Saxon pit which produced fragments of loomweights (used in weaving), and evidence of a post-built structure which may have had an agricultural use. Our continuing work on the site next week, when we excavate the remains of the huts, will enable us to determine the number of huts in this group. We don’t know if these remains represent an Anglo-Saxon settlement or farmstead but, again, further excavation may help us to identify the character of the occupation here. We have excavated fragments of Anglo-Saxon pottery, including parts of a vegetable-tempered jar.

The origins of the name ‘Moverons’ suggest a Saxon homestead (from mor, a hill and hus, a house) or a house or village (from –ham). Near Moverons there is a field with the ancient name of ‘Aldborough’: ald is probably the Saxon word for ‘old’, while borough is a form of the Saxon burh, ie a fortified place such as a castle, town, village or house (from Edward Dickin 1913). The Anglo-Saxon period, in England, covered roughly the 5th-11th centuries. Brightlingsea is recorded in the Domesday survey as a royal manor or vill in the possession of the Saxon King Harold, and which passed to William the Conqueror at the Norman Conquest of England. Moverons may have been a subsidiary estate belonging to Brightlingsea. Other royal manors in Essex included Writtle, Lexden, Lawford and Newport. Colchester, further up the River Colne, was a royal vill and burh. An early Saxon burial has been recorded at Alresford, next to Brightlingsea, and there were 7th-century minsters at Bradwell and St Osyth. For the late Saxon period, Brightlingsea was the findspot of a plaited gold arm-ring dating to the 11th century, which is now held by the Ashmolean Museum: it is one of only four plaited gold arm-rings found in England, and it probably represents ‘portable wealth’ (The world before Domesday by Ann Williams, 2011).

Last summer, during our excavation on another part of the site, we recorded evidence of two Anglo-Saxon huts, and Anglo-Saxon domestic pits and a field system, fragments of Thetford-ware pottery, a late Saxon bone hair-comb, and a complete iron sickle. In 1066, the Domesday survey recorded Brightlingsea as including five cobs, sixteen cattle, 62 pigs, and 166 sheep, with 24 villagers, 26 smallholders and five slaves. So we now have archaeological evidence which supports the documentary evidence for some activities on the site in the Anglo-Saxon period – sheep-farming, the production of wool and weaving, and the harvesting of food and feed crops. Apparently, large quantities of oystershells were ploughed up here in the past, suggesting that oysters were an important local food resource. This year, we have already recorded evidence of prehistoric and Roman field systems, and excavated a Bronze Age ring-ditch and a Roman cremation burial (dated to the 2nd-3rd century), as well as the Anglo-Saxon remains. The Trust is uncovering evidence of thousands of years of occupation and exploitation of resources, and developing a snapshot of Anglo-Saxon life, here at Moverons, on the high ground overlooking the estuary of the Rivers Colne and Blackwater.

The images show the vegetable-tempered jar, the large Anglo-Saxon pit, Trust excavator Felix with the Roman burial, and the Roman burial in more detail.

 

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Brightlingsea gruben

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Felix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brightlingsea burial x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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