The Ancient Ways of Wessex: Travel and Communication in an Early Medieval Landscape [Paperback]

Alexander Langlands(Author)

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ISBN: 9781911188513 | Published by: Windgather Press | Year of Publication: 2019 | Language: English 256p, H9.7 x W7.5, b/w and color
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The Ancient Ways of Wessex


The Ancient Ways of Wessex tells the story of Wessex’s roads in the early medieval period, at the point at which they first emerge in the historical record. This is the age of the Anglo-Saxons and an era that witnessed the rise of a kingdom that was taken to the very brink of defeat by the Viking invasions of the ninth century. It is a period that goes on to become one within which we can trace the beginnings of the political entity we have come to know today as England. In a series of ten detailed case studies the reader is invited to consider historical and archaeological evidence, alongside topographic information and ancient place-names, in the reconstruction of the networks of routeways and communications that served the people and places of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex.

Whether you were a peasant, pilgrim, drover, trader, warrior, bishop, king or queen, travel would have been fundamental to life in the early middle ages and this book explores the physical means by which the landscape was constituted to facilitate and improve the movement of people, goods and ideas from the seventh through to the eleventh centuries. What emerges is a dynamic web of interconnecting routeways serving multiple functions and one, perhaps, even busier than that in our own working countryside. A narrative of transition, one of both of continuity and change, provides a fresh and alternative window into the everyday workings of an early medieval landscape through the pathways trodden over a millennium ago.

Table of Contents



List of Figures


Part 1: Literature Review

Chapter One: The Landscape of Routes and Communications

Prehistoric Trackways

Roman Roads

Medieval Ways and Paths

Bridges and Fords

Waterways and Water Transport

Chapter Two: Travellers and Journeys


Clerics and the Mobility of the Church


Landscapes of Governance

An Anglo-Saxon Highway Code

Driving Droves and Leading Loads

Chapter Three: From Emporia to Markets – Trade Networks in Wessex

Emporia, Minsters and ‘Productive’ Sites

The Emergence of a Market-based Economy

Part 2: The Case Studies

Chapter Four: A note on the evidence: Anglo-Saxon Charters and Ordnance Survey maps

Anglo-Saxon Charters

The Ordnance Survey, and the theory and practice of landscape archaeology

Chapter Five: Hampshire

Study Area 1: The Harroway, Whitchurch, and the Bourne Rivulet Valley

Study Area 2: Winchester and the Upper Itchen Valley

Chapter Six: Devon

Study Area 3: Crediton

Study Area 4: South Hams

Chapter Seven: Dorset

Study Area 5: Isle of Purbeck

Study Area 6: Shaftesbury’s Southern Hinterland

Chapter Eight: Wiltshire

Study Area 7: The Ebble Valley

Study Area 8: The Salisbury Basin

Study Area 9: Bradford-on-Avon and its hinterland

Study Area 10: Kinwardstone Hundred

Part 3: Discussion

Chapter Nine: Roman Roads, Markers and Gates

The Roman Road Question

Wayside Markers

Gates and Access in the Early Medieval Landscape of Wessex

Chapter Ten: Bridges, Herepaths, Trade Routes and the King’s Peace

Bridge-work, Fortress-work but no Road-work

Herepaths and the Hierarchy of Anglo-Saxon Routes

Trade and Trade Routes

Conclusion: Wessex and the early medieval world beyond

The Via Publica and Early Medieval Roads

Herepaths, Portways and an Age of Infrastructure

From Rivers to Roads



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