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Landholding

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that in AD 655 at the battle of the Winwaed against the Northumbrians, the pagan King Penda of Mercia, at that time overlord of the of all the southern  kingdoms, was killed together with 30 royal personages, some of whom were kings.  This would indicate that by this time the country was already organised into kingdoms, sub-kingdoms and regions that could organise a muster.  

An approximation of the main areas of settlement by people from the low countries.  The exact extent of the territories varied during wars between the Saxons

Map:  Unknown

Initially in response to Danish invasions in the 9th century, southern Anglo-Saxon territory had been divided for administrative purposes into shires (counties) under royal officials known as ealdormen and later shire-reeves or sheriffs.  Sheriffs were primarily responsible for collecting rents from the royal estates in their county. They also collected taxes, such as the danegeld, presided over shire and hundred courts, delivered writs summoning litigants to appear before the royal courts and occasionally summoned local knights for military service on behalf of the crown.  Certainly, the boundary of the county of Surrey with Berkshire seems to have been established by the later 7th century. 

Early Saxon Territories in NW Surrey (based on Blair)

In the early 7th century, the boundaries of the territories were probably quite fluid and often fought over.  The boundary to the east was formed by the Thames and an ancient boundary ditch - the 'Fullingadich'. To the west probably the Blackwater, but maybe just the barren Chobham Ridges.  To the south the Downs and the Hog's Back formed a natural demarcation whereas to the north there is no natural boundary - the county boundary seems merely to be the shortest distance between the Thames and the Blackwater.

There were few, if any villages and certainly no towns.  Staines (perhaps called after the stepping stones remaining from the major Roman crossing of the Thames at this spot), Chertsey and Bagshot were Romano-British settlements and habitation may have lingered into early Saxon times.

Map: David Stokes

The Saxons divided their shires into 'Hundreds' - convenient administrative areas: Surrey was divided into about 14 Hundreds.   The hundreds were not all the same size; they were smaller where population densities were higher; it seems that hundreds could literally have been the area which could contribute a hundred men to the county-wide muster.  Hundreds were normally named after the meeting place in the hundred.  We don't know what our hundred was originally called but by Domesday it was recorded as the Godelie Hundred (God's Land? - perhaps due to the Chertsey Abbey connotations).

People were required to donated a proportion of their produce, usually a tenth, to the King.  But the manors of Egham, Thorpe, Chertsey and Chobham had been given free of royal taxes to Chertsey minster.  So local farmers were required to give their tithes to Chertsey minster instead.

Hundreds did not reflect patterns of land holdings; land could change hands but the boundaries of the hundreds remained unchanged.  So, for instance, when the manor of Ash/Henlie was donated to Chertsey Abbey it stilled remained in the Woking Hundred.  It would have paid its tithes, rents and military obligations to Chertsey Abbey but would have remained in the administrative hundred of Woking.

Each hundred comprised several manors (manors generally translated into parishes in late medieval times).  Early Saxon cemeteries are regularly found on parish boundaries which may indicate that some parish boundaries represent very ancient boundaries.  Windlesham's northern boundary follows the London - Silchester Roman road which indicates that it was defined sometime after the Roman period.  Egham's northern boundary however, cut across and completely ignores the road.  It is possible that estates along the Thames are pre-Roman; those further to the west on the poor heathland soil may represent later, post Roman colonisation.

John Blair in 'Early Medieval Surrey' points out that the edges of parish boundaries in NW Surrey seem to indicate an ancient territory indicated by the yellow and green coloured areas on the map shown.  The territory may have been known as the territory of the Woccingas; a tribe that perhaps invaded along the Thames and then down the Wey until settling in the area we now know as Old Woking.

Boundaries of the Saxon Hundreds

Hundreds and manors in north-west Surrey during the late 7th century.  Egham, Thorpe, Chertsey and Chobham are all mentioned in the Chertsey Abbey charter of 673AD. Chobham manor, covering as it did very poor heathland, needed to be large to have a reasonable economic importance.  Most of the population of the Hundred would have settled on the much better alluvial soil bordering the Thames.

In 673 AD, Frithuwold, who was King Wulfhere of Mercia's ruler of Surrey, converted to Christianity and gave up his and his son's souls together with the north-western part of his territory (later known as Godley Hundred) to Abbot Eorcenwald's newly-founded abbey at Chertsey.

For reasons unknown, Frithuwold may have retained Windlesham as part of Woking.    It may have been to retain the iron working areas along the Windle Brook.  Or maybe Windlesham was originally given but later taken back by the King to extend Windsor Forest.  John Blair suggests that it may have been an important animal foraging area for the Woccingas which they needed to retain.

The grant of this area to Chertsey Abbey defined the eastern edge (the Fullingadic at Weybridge), the north-eastern edge (the Thames) and the northern edge (land of the Sunningas - including Sunningdale and Sunninghill) but strangely not the southern or western edge.  It is possible that the western side petered out into the uninhabited very poor soils of the Chobham Ridges and down to the Blackwater and what is now Frimley.  It is possible that the Abbey was given "all the land to the west" - to the implied limit of the cultivation.  It is interesting that the Chobham parish boundaries run in straight lines up to Chobham Ridge so may well have been defined fairly late in this area.

An Alternative Scenario

The Saxon charter bounds for Godley Hundred do not include Frimley or Windlesham.  It is possible that Frithuwold's 673AD donation of part of his Woking territory extended only as far west as the old trackway (Maultway) on Chobham Ridges.  

Since King Edgar's charter mentions Frimley and Bisley (and Frensham!) as part of the Chobham lands, we can assume that by 967 the district of Chobham extended as far west as the natural barrier formed by the Blackwater and as far south as the neighbouring hundred of Woking. If Frimley were transferred from the Woking Hundred to Godley Hundred fairly late then this would provide an alternative explanation of how Windlesham became detached from Woking.

Click here to read the first description of the bounds of our area - as described in Saxon times.

From 673 AD onwards Chertsey Minster was effectively 'lord of the manor'.

Moots

Saxon elders held meetings called 'moots'.  These were often held on high remote ground where boundaries met.  Since a wet windy place would not be ideal for a meeting, some people have suggested that the business of moots may have been more ritualistic than practical.  Longcross is a possible candidate for the location; the boundaries of Chobham, Egham and Chertsey met here and there is a belief that a tall cross once stood at this site.  It is on high ground and looks down to the three parishes; a tall cross at this site may have been visible for miles against the skyline.  In the 673 AD bounds, in the vicinity of Longcross there is mention of ' wihsan liege'.  This has been translated by some as witsayen field.  Witsayen is generally translated as 'wise'.  So perhaps Longcross was once known as the field of the wise; i.e. where the wise men met.

The triple-ditched enclosure on the Chobham/Chertsey boundary at Old Slade has also been suggested as a moot site.


At the end of the Saxon period, the Domesday Book records Odin as being the largest landholder in Chobham; holding about 40% of the land.  The Norse name 'Odin' was often the written form of the Germanic name 'Woden'.