Skip to main content

Late Saxon Planned Towns

  • Martin Biddle and David Hill

Documentary, topographical, and archaeological evidence suggests that the rectilinear street plan of modern Winchester was laid out as a planned system not later than the mid tenth century and probably before c. 904. Among the places listed in the Burghal Hidage there are seven which show clear evidence of rectilinear planning which is not of Roman origin. Four are on the sites of Roman towns—Winchester, Chichester, Exeter, and Bath—and three on non-Roman sites—Wareham, Wallingford, and Cricklade. These plans are seen as the result of a deliberate policy of urban formation in response to the military situation during Alfred's reign (871–99). These places are not so much fortresses as fortified towns in which the rectilinear street plan is a deliberate expression of the organization and apportionment of the land for permanent settlement. Rectilinear street systems appear to be characteristic of the larger places founded or re-organized by Edward the Elder or Athelstan, but rectilinear planning does not thereafter appear until the plantation of new towns in the Norman and later period.

Hide All

page 70 note 1 Biddle, M., ‘Excavations at Winchester 1962–3’, Antiq. Journ. xliv (1964), 215–17.

page 70 note 2 We would like to thank Mr. D. J. Keene of the Winchester Research Unit for reading and commenting on this article in typescript, but the views expressed and any errors are the authors’ responsibility. Mr. Alec Down kindly provided unpublished information concerning the plan of Roman Chichester.

page 70 note 3 Ibid., 214–15, fig. 1. Further details were added in 1964: ibid., xlv (1965), 260–1, fig. 1.

page 70 note 4 Roman town gates still survive at Lincoln and Canterbury, and are known to have survived until the eighteenth century in other towns.

page 70 note 5 The south, east, and west gates are first mentioned in the mid tenth century (south gate, c. 970, Sawyer, P. H., Anglo-Saxon Charters (1968), no. 1449 (hereafter Sawyer), CS 1163; east gate, c. 950, Sawyer 463, CS 758; west gate, c. 950, Memorials of St. Dunstan (ed. Stubbs, W., Rolls Ser., 1874), pp. 1415.ASC, s.a. 1006, mentions the gate or gates of Winchester. The north, east, and west gates all appear in the Winchester Survey of c. 1110 in such a way as to imply their existence already by 1066 (Domesday Book, iv (ed. Sir Ellis, H., 1816), pp. 531–42); see now The Winton Domesday (ed. Frank Barlow, Martin Biddle, and Derek Keene, Winchester Studies, i, ed. M. Biddle, Oxford, Clarendon Press, forthcoming).

page 71 note 1 Arch. Journ. cxix (1962), 156–7; Antiq. Journ. xliv (1964), 195, 206, 214; xlv (1965), 242; xlvi (1966), 313, 320; xlviii (1968), 270; 1 (1970), 311–14, fig. 11.

page 73 note 1 There were many minor lanes of which some still survive, e.g., Cossack Lane, Minster Lane, and St. Thomas’ Passage, but others were being closed already in the twelfth century, and some disappeared as late as the sixteenth century (e.g. St. Pancras’ Lane) and even later. They seem to run mainly into or across street blocks, but it is unlikely that it will ever be possible to establish their full plan. Many, like the eastern part of St. Pancras’ Lane (Antiq. Journ. li (1971), forthcoming) were probably additions to the original street layout.

page 73 note 2 The Square is not earlier than the twelfth century, and Market Lane is of seventeenth century date (Antiq. Journ. xliv (1964), 215, n. 3). Neither is therefore a continuation of St. Clement Street.

page 74 note 1 Sawyer, 1560 CS 630; de G. Birch, W., An Ancient Manuscript (Hants. Record Soc, 1889), pp. 32–3 (map and comment on un-numbered pages following p. 32), 96.

page 74 note 2 McVaugh, Michael R., ‘The Position of Alware Street in Medieval Winchester’, Proc. Hants. Field Club, xxiv (1967), 82–5.

page 74 note 3 For a detailed analysis see Keene, D. J., The Survey of Medieval Winchester (Winchester Studies, ii, ed. M. Biddle, Oxford, Clarendon Press, forthcoming).

page 74 note 4 Domesday Book, iv (ed. Sir Ellis, H., 1816), pp. 531–42. One of the Minster streets is omitted, almost certainly the street known today as Great Minster Street, which seems to have arisen on part of the site of the royal palace, after the fire of 1141 and presumably after the reorganization of this area in 1150 (Arch. Journ. cxix (1962), 178). In 1437 Little Minster Street was Ministerstret and Great Minster Street was the vicus iuxta cimiterium Sancti Swithuni Wyntonie, i.e. the street next to the cathedral cemetery (The Black Book of Winchester (ed. Bird, W. H. B., Winchester, 1925). P. 75).

page 74 note 5 Domesday Book, iv (ed. Sir. Ellis, H, 1816), pp. 542–62; for the date and a brief discussion see Round, J. H., ‘The Survey of Winchester, Temp. Henry I’, in V.C.H. Hants. i (1900), pp. 527–37, and also Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, ii, 1100–1135 (ed. C. Johnson and H. A. Cronne, 1956), no. 969. For a new edition of the Winton Domesday, see p. 70, n. 5 above.

page 75 note 1 The Minster streets are also omitted, Great Minster Street presumably because it was not yet in existence, the royal palace occupying this area (see p. 74, n. 4, above). The omission of Little Minster Street presents a more difficult problem which cannot be solved before the detailed analysis of the tenement history of this area has been completed. Little Minster Street stands apart from the other north-south streets, since the distance between it and St. Thomas Street is approximately half the width of a normal street block. It may also be relevant that the properties on the east side of Little Minster Street are in the constabulary of the castle, a jurisdiction thought to represent the extent of the twelfth-century royal palace. It may be that the curving line of Little Minster Street represents the west boundary of the palace area, and that in c. 1110 properties on the east side of the street were omitted from the survey as being within the palace, while on the west side of the street the properties were either regarded as belonging to St. Thomas Street, or did not include any in royal demesne. Colebrook Street is also omitted from the c. 1110 survey, possibly because it was only developing as a built-up street in the later eleventh and twelfth centuries, but more likely because there was no royal property on this street in 1066. In the 1148 survey only one property on this street was in the king's hands.

page 75 note 2 Sawyer 889, K 1291, of A.D. 996: Finberg, H. P. R., The Early Charters of Wessex (1964), p. 60, no. 142; see below n. 4.

page 75 note 3 Sawyer 925, K 720; Goodman, A. W., The Manor of Goodbegot (Winchester, 1923); Cunliffe, Barry, Winchester Excavations 1949–60, i (1964), pp. 25–7, 43–5, 49–52, figs. 7, 9, 10.

page 75 note 4 Sawyer 889, K 1291. Similar extensions of the names of north–south streets to the adjacent back streets occur occasionally in the post-Conquest period, and are an expression of the informality in the naming of the back-streets which has already been mentioned.

page 75 note 5 Sawyer 874, K 673.

page 75 note 6 Sawyer 463, CS 758; Sawyer 488, CS 786; Sawyer 693, CS 1077; Sawyer 689, CS 1080; Sawyer 1376, K 1347; Sawyer 845, K 635; Liber Monasterii de Hyda (ed. Edwards, E., Rolls Ser., 1866), pp. 228–31; Sawyer 871, Finberg, Early Charters of Wessex (1964), no. 137.

page 76 note 1 Sawyer 1443, CS 605, 1338; see Liber Vitae … of New Minster and Hyde Abbey (ed. de Birch, W. G., 1892), pp. 155–8. For topographical discussion of the bounds see Quirk, R. N., ‘Winchester New Minster and its tenth-century Tower’, J.B.A.A., 3rd ser., xxiv (1961), 51–4, fig. 6; revised in M. Biddle and Quirk, R. N., ‘Excavations near Winchester Cathedral, 1961’, Arch. Journ. cxix (1962), 177, fig. 6.

page 76 note 2 Cal. Charter Rolls, ii, p. 12.

page 76 note 3 Salter, H. E., ‘A Lecture on the Walls of Oxford’, in Records of Medieval Oxford (Oxford Chronicle Co. Ltd., 1912), pp. 7684, esp. p. 78. For Canterbury, see Urry, W., Canterbury under the Angevin Kings (1967), p. 45.

page 77 note 1 Interim reports in Antiq. Journ. xliv (1964), 196, fig. 2 and ibid., xlv (1965), 242–3, fig. 2, pls. LXXIII, LXXXII. During the preparation of the results of the 1964 excavations for full publication, it has become clear that the cobbled surface under ‘Street I’ must itself be regarded as a street surface; there were thus six rather than five superimposed street surfaces (ibid., xlv (1965), pl. LXXXII) and they have been so renumbered in the present text, from the lowest (1) to the uppermost (6).

page 77 note 2 Mr. Michael Dolley kindly advised on the interpretation of the evidence of these coins.

page 77 note 3 Antiq. Journ. 1 (1970), 285–9, pl. XXXIX. For the date of the first construction of the castle see Frank Barlow, ‘Guenta’, ibid., xliv (1964), 217–19 and cf. ibid., 193.

page 77 note 4 Domesday Book, iv (ed. Sir Ellis, H., 1816), p. 535.

page 77 note 5 Ibid., p. 533.

page 77 note 6 Cf. the case of Shulworth Shtreet, above p. 75.

page 78 note 1 Biddle, M., Antiq. Journ. xliv (1964), 215–17.

page 78 note 2 Beresford, M. W. and Joseph, J. K. S. St., Medieval England: an aerial survey (1958), pp. 179–81. It should be noted that in fig. 4 we have not accepted the line of the riverside defence shown on the new edition of the Ordnance Survey 1:2500 plan. This was omitted as there did not appear to be sufficient evidence for so major a revision. See also Brooks, Nicholas P., ‘Excavations at Wallingford Castle 1965: an Interim Report’, Berks. Arch. Journ. lxii (1966), 1721, for the regularity of the street plan which was such that Professor E. M. Jope was able to forecast the position of the Saxon north gate.

page 78 note 3 Hill, David, ‘The Burghal Hidage: the establishment of a text’, Med. Arch. xiii (1969), 8492.

page 78 note 4 Robertson, A. J., Anglo-Saxon Charters (1939), pp. 247–9, Appendix II, no. 1, first pointed out the correspondence for Winchester, Wareham and Wallingford. For Cricklade see Thompson, T. R., Materials for a History of Cricklade (rev. ed., 1959), pp. 66–7.

page 81 note 1 Stenton, F. M., Anglo-Saxon England (1947), pp. 261–2.

page 81 note 2 David Hill, ‘Lydford: the promontory burhs’, in P. V. Addyman, Lydford, Devon: Castle, Fort and Town (Royal Archaeological Institute monograph, forthcoming).

page 81 note 3 Salter, H. E., Medieval Oxford (Oxf. Hist. Soc, C (1936)), p. 8. For a criticism see Lobel, M. D.‘Notes on the History of Medieval Oxford’, Oxoniensia, iii (1938), 83102.

page 81 note 4 Wareham: R.C.H.M. (England), ‘Wareham West Walls’, Med. Arch, iii (1959), 137. Wallingford: Brooks, op. cit. in n. 2, p. 78, above. Cricklade: Wainwright, F. T., ‘The Cricklade Excavation of 1953–4’, Wilts Arch. Mag. lvi (1955–6), 162.

page 82 note 1 e.g. in Exeter: Irlesbyri, Kalenderhaie and Teyglestrete. See Glover, J. E. B., Mawer, A. and Stenton, F. M., The Place Names of Devon (1931), pp. 21ff.

page 82 note 2 e.g. St. Olave in North Street, Chichester; St. Olave, High Street, and St. Kerrian, North Street, Exeter; St. Mary in Tanner Street, Winchester.

page 82 note 3 e.g. at Canterbury: Urry, W., Canterbury under the Angevin Kings (1967), p. 192 and Map 2(a).

page 82 note 4 Ibid.. The Winchester evidence discussed above shows that the street plan survived the fires of 1102 and 1180, as well as the extensive destruction said to have been caused by the troubles in Winchester in August 1141.

page 82 note 5 Darby, H. C. and Finn, R. Welldon, The Domesday Geography of South-West England (1967), p. 280.

page 82 note 6 Renn, D. F., Norman Castles in Britain (1968), p. 337.

page 82 note 7 V.C.H. Sussex, iii (1935), pp. 75, 76, etc.

page 83 note 1 Stevenson, W. H., Asser's Life of King Alfred (1904), cap. 91, p. 77. For a translation of this phrase, see Whitelock, D., English Historical Documents, i (1955), p. 272.

page 83 note 2 Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, s.a. 886; D. Whitelock, op. cit., p. 183.

page 83 note 3 W. H. Stevenson, op. cit., cap. 83, p. 69.

page 83 note 4 Ibid.; The Chronicle of Æthelweard (ed. A. Campbell, 1962), p. 46.

page 83 note 5 This is to be inferred from the expressions used by Asser in the passages cited in nn. 1 and 3 above.

page 83 note 6 Sawyer 1628.

page 83 note 7 Sawyer 346 and 1628.

page 83 note 8 From later parallels it is clear new towns had their streets laid out first, the plots being dependent upon them: Maurice Beresford, New Towns of the Middle Ages (1967), p. 16.

page 83 note 9 David Hill, op. cit. in n. 2, p. 81, above.

page 84 note 1 D. F. Renn, op. cit. n. 6, p. 82, above, p. 154.

page 84 note 2 In particular by the large precinct of the Friary. There are records of other ecclesiastical foundations blocking the king's highway.

page 84 note 3 Hill, David, ‘Late Saxon Bedford’ in Beds. Arch. J. iv (1969), forthcoming.

page 84 note 4 The area to the east of St. Paul's seems to have been planned in a regular fashion at an early and presumably pre-Conquest date.

page 84 note 5 Information from Mr. Henry Hurst, Gloucester City Museum.

page 84 note 6 Historic Towns, i (ed. Lobel, M. D., 1969), s.v. Hereford, ‘The Saxon City and its Origins’.

page 84 note 7 Addyman, P. V. and Hill, D. H., ‘Saxon Southampton: a review of the evidence. Part II’, Proc. Hants Field Club, xxvi (1969), 8990.

page 84 note 8 David Hill, ‘The Burghal Hidage—Southampton’, ibid., xxiv (1967), 59.

page 84 note 9 Medieval England (ed. Poole, R. L., 2nd edn. 1958), pp. 64, 217.

page 85 note 1 J. Tait, The Medieval English Borough (1936), p. 27.

page 85 note 2 F. M. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (1947), pp. 332, 359–61.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Antiquaries Journal
  • ISSN: 0003-5815
  • EISSN: 1758-5309
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquaries-journal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 72 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 534 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th April 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.