Chapter 1: A Village is Born - TheSaxon Village

Article Index
Chapter 1: A Village is Born
The Arrival of the Jutes
Arrival of the Jutes contd
How Certain Can We Be?
The Saxon Settlement
TheSaxon Village
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The Saxon village.

One of the joys of living in a village as old as Great Mongeham is that the imprint of its history can still be seen. Saxon roads were cut into the slopes of the downs to provide more gentle gradients for their carts. All the roads shown on the map (page 4) have such cuttings. Almost certainly they were present in Saxon times. The roads linked Saxon homesteads. Perhaps they linked the homesteads of Mundel’s first settlement. Perhaps some of our oldest farms date from this time. Perhaps this is one conjecture too far.

The entry for Mongeham in the Domesday Book

William wanted to know the full extent andaltvalue of the lands in his newly acquired kingdom, principally for taxation purposes. He sent out his men to compile a detailed statement of lands held by the king and by his subjects and of the resources that went with those lands. The document records which manors rightfully belonged to which estates and so it provided a definitive record of ownership. It was completed in 1087. Within a hundred years it became known as the Domesday book because like the Biblical Day of Judgement there was no appeal.

Nevertheless let us stand for a moment at the junction of Northbourne and Mongeham Roads. We close our eyes and let our minds dispel the tarmac and bricks and mortar of modern life. We open our eyes in the ninth century. In front of us is a landscape which has changed little in the past two hundred years and will remain much the same for the next millennium We see a patchwork of fields of wheat and barley and possibly beans or peas. Sheep are grazing on top of the Downs where the soil is too thin for crops. Cattle are in the water meadows by the stream where the water table is too high to permit ploughing. . It is August and men are wielding sickles in the fields while their families are gathering the wheat or barley into stooks to dry. Later the stooks will be gathered for threshing. A hundred yards up the road is a farmstead, a small cluster of buildings around a large hall. Inside a woman grinds corn in a rotary quern. The flour will make bread. Possibly yeast left over from brewing will be used to make it rise. In one of the outhouses grain is spread outon the floor. It has been dampened to make it start germinating, a process
Saxon Brooch

altBrooch dating from the late sixth or early seventh century found in Great Mongeham. It is a Frankish import

known as malting. The malt will be used to brew beer. In an age before tea and coffee, potatoes, pasta and rice, the basis of their diet is provided by bread and beer. Honey collected from hives set in the fields around provide their only sweetener. Chickens are running around the yard and a young girl is bringing home a flock of geese. There is a row of conical beehives under the hedgerow.

A walk up the hill takes us to the main village. Because of the increasing frequency of Viking raids more people are building their homes closer to the church. The church is also a consequence of Viking raids. Since Augustine landed at Ebbsfleet in 597 priests were trained and based at minsters such as Minster in Thanet. They would then go out to the villages to minister the needs of their flock. Wealthy minsters were prime targets for the Vikings, so parish churches were being built to disperse the clergy. There is a mill in the village but not like the mills we are familiar with today, driven by water or wind. There was no suitable water nearby and windmills would not be seen in this country for a few more centuries. This mill consisted of two large millstones, the upper one of which was turned by an animal, probably a bullock, harnessed to it.

The presence of mill and church are recorded in the Domesday book. Sadly it does not tell us when they were built. It has been suggested that there has been a church in the village since 470, but it seems unlikely that a church in Kent predates the arrival of St. Augustine. A mid ninth century date seems most likely. The entry also notes that there is a woodland for four pigs. The animals would forage for beech mast, acorns and the like. No doubt the use of the woodland belonged to the abbey’s farm. Others would keep their pigs in pens near their homes and feed them on scraps.


+1 #1 Anne 2011-03-16 16:08
:-) Very interesting. What a lovely English village Great Mongeham is.

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