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Before 1000 AD

About this time, Britain becomes an island as melting ice raises ocean levels, and forms the English Channel.

Start of Iron Age in Britain (to 43A.D.)

Julius Caesar lands in Kent, and lays the foundation for 400 years of Roman occupation.

Julius Caesar again invades Kent, but is forced to retire to the Continent.

The emperor Claudius sends legions to invade Britain, beginning the Roman occupation proper. The first
Governor is Aulus Plautius (to 47).

Autumn: Romans complete the southern terminus of the Fosse Way at Axmouth.

`Between Axmouth and Seaton was the site of the Roman station of Moridunum, from which the Romans
carried their great Fosse Way inland to Lincoln, keeping almost parallel with the ridge road along the chalk
downs, and the Cotswold Hills.'[1]

`Moridunum, a settlement near Branscombe..i.Branscombe:- village;, is tentatively placed on the Roman road
between Exeter and London, in the area of Sidford.'[2]
More recent archaeological research has speculated the site of the ‘lost’ Moridunum is at Woodbury Farm,
south-east of Axminster:
‘The area scheduled as a monument in 1988 takes the form of an eroded rectangular earthwork enclosing an
area of approximately 2ha with modern farm buildings encroaching into the NE corner. Excavation evidence
prior to the construction of a swimming pool adjacent to the modern farm house within the enclosure
(Silvester and Bidwell 1984) and the watching brief during the insertion of the SWW water main (Weddell
1991 and Simpson 1993) revealed the presence of a first century Roman fort, a well preserved Roman road
and suggested extensive extra mural activity. The location of the site at the apparent confluence of two
Roman roads (the Fosse Way and the Dorchester to Exeter Road - Silvester and Bidwell 1984 - Fig 1,
Margary 1973) has led to the suggestion that the Roman site at Woodbury may well have developed into a
villa or posting station (mansio) and indeed it is this latter interpretation that is adopted by Silvester and
Bidwell (1984). The discovery of a variety of Roman features during the insertion of both the SWW water
main (Simpson 1993) and the 1992 slurry disposal pipe reinforced this interpretation and provided additional
evidence to suggest the location of a more substantial civilian settlement (vicus) immediately W of the
scheduled monument, possibly the site of the lost Roman town of "Moridunum" (Weddell 1991, Griffith pers
comm).’ [3]
Branscombe is situated near the border between two pre-Roman tribal confederations, the Dumnonii, and the
Durotriges. Many of the Iron Age hilltop forts in Devon, Dorset and Somerset were re-occupied by these
tribes, for defence. While the Durotriges tribes minted coins, the Dumnonii did not. Almost no examples of
Durotriges coins or pottery have been found west of Dorchester.

In ..i.Branscombe:- village;Branscombe, the only examples of contemporary pottery are Glastonbury ware, a
late Iron-Age style. These examples perhaps indicate a strong and clearly-defined cultural border between the
two tribes, located somewhere east of Branscombe.

The Branscombe area and south Devon coast traded with the Empire as early as 160 BC. There was an
established trade route from the Mediterranean, via Brittany. In terms of the Roman acculturation process,
Branscombe lies on the edge of a low impact area, occupying the whole of the south-west peninsula.

Yet Branscombe is only a short distance from Exeter and Dorchester, both civitas or principal towns. A clue
may be found in the distribution of Roman villas in the area:

`A vital component of the settlement hierarchy was the Romanised farm, or villa. The presence or absence of
villas can be used in one kind of assessment of the cultural frontiers of Roman Britain.'[4]

`When the Romans invaded Britain, the indigenous population spoke mainly a P-Celtic language, belonging
to the Brythonic group of dialects. P-Celtic language survives in part in modern , Cornish and Breton, Irish,
and Scots Gaelic.'[5]

`Long before the decline of the empire, the Teutons were beginning to drive the Celts westward and away, a
process which is clearly marked in these islands by the prevalence of place-names in the west country. Thus,
the percentage of Celtic place-names in Cornwall has been calculated to be about 80; in Devon it is only 32,
and in Suffolk, 2. The conflict between Celt and Teuton dragged on in Ireland until 1921, and it is doubtful if
it is quite finished yet. One contingent of the old inhabitants of this island, or Britons, driven to the tip of
Cornwall, decided to leave these shores altogether. They sailed back to the Continent, and there established
themselves in the seaboard district which still bears the name of Brittany. It is said that a Welsh peasant and a
Breton can still, to this day, understand one another's speech well enough for most practical purposes. The
number of proved words which have found their way into English is extraordinarily small - scarce above a
dozen[6]. Bard, bog and glen are among those that have come to us direct, and "car" had to travel through
Latin and French before it reached us, the original having been borrowed by Julius Caesar, Julius from the
Gauls, who had thus named their war chariots. But for the most part, Celtic words like banshee, eisteddfod,
galore, mavourneen [= my darling], have a remote and foreign look, even though we may have used them for
many years.'[7]
`A major problem in assessing the importance of Celtic language is that it did not develop as a written
language in Britain ... nonetheless, it seems to have remained predominant throughout the Roman period.'[8]

The second Legion Augusta, brought from Germany in 43 under the command of Flavius Vespasian
(Emperor, 69-70) confronted the Dumnonii in Devon between 50 and 70 AD.

`The wide estuary of the Axe at that time afforded a safe harbour, so a settlement came into being on the
banks of the river and gave rise to the need for a building material and, to men accustomed to the use of stone
in their homeland, the sight of the nearby white cliffs of must have suggested a possible local source. An
investigative expedition would then have discovered, at the base of the massive chalk cliffs, a seam of fine
limestone of a similar texture to that used in Rome.

Quarrying from the shore would have been impractical, so they followed the steep wooded combe, which
was later to become the village of Beer, inland and then westwards, parallel to the cliffs, until they
discovered the outcrop on the northern slope of the hillside approximately one mile from the coastline ...
Although it is apparent that the Romans quarried vast quantities of stone, the only authenticated findings of
its use in buildings is in Honeyditches Villa, Seaton, the bath house of which was excavated by Henrietta
Quinnell, in 1969 ... it is interesting to note that the method employed by the Romans in the building of the
bath house walls, .i.e. the use of stone as quoins and the remainder of the walls local chert (flint), continues to
be used in local buildings ... it is evident the Romans transported it even as far as Exeter, a great distance at
that time. Here an air raid in 1942 exposed the west doorway of a Saxon church, which was found to be
constructed from Beer stone of Roman origin ... It is probable that the Romans continued with their use of the
quarry until their departure early in the fifth century.'[9]

The Saxon doorway, in South Street, was found to have been incorporated into the remaining west wall of
the later medieval church of Saint George the Martyr, itself demolished in 1843:

‘The church was sited on the west side of South Street, nearly opposite the 14th century College of the Vicars
Choral and on the corner of South Street with a narrow road called George Street. The foundation itself was
ancient and a church dedicated to St George had been on this same location since at least the 9th or 10th
century. This early Saxon church, constructed long before the Norman Conquest of 1066 was even thought
of, was built of coarse rubble masonry, probably with a simple floor plan of a single aisle and chancel. At the
very least, the stone-built Saxon St George's shows that Exeter was a flourishing Anglo-Saxon settlement
with some relatively high status buildings in the early Middle Ages. (St George didn't become the patron
saint of England until Edward III created the Order of the Garter in 1348.)’ [10]

Exeter was an important strategic centre, the key to control of the west Country. The Romans built a fortress
on the site, on the high ground commanding the crossing of the River . It was the western terminus of one of
their great roads, the Fosse Way. Within its walls, the city covered 92.6 acres. `The city Exeterin Roman
times must in some respects have resembled a hill-town of the Mediterranean, with its walls climbing up and
crowning the valley slopes, and with its steep streets giving sudden views over red-tiled rooftops or around a
corner to the neighbouring hills.'[11]

`More than once in Devon you come across the allegation `X was a market town when Exeter was furzy
down', and indeed not much is known of Caer Isc, the Celtic `stronghold on the river'. But the Romans
installed the Second Augustan Legion in a fortress above this strategic crossing-point of the River Exe, and
made their walled frontier town of Isca Dumnoniorum the headquarters and communications centre for the
south-west: so it has been ever since.'[12]

Term of Aulus Plautius, Britain's first Roman governor, ends (since 43). Scapula succeeds (to 52)

Term of Scapula, Britain's second Roman governor, ends (since 47).

The beginning of Boadicea's initially successful revolt.

Roman Emperor Flavius Vespasian (to 70)

The Roman governor, Agricola, having conquered Wales, extends the boundary of his control into Scotland
as far as the .

Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria is born (to 178). A great early cartographer, who influenced early explorers
in Renaissance Europe. An atlas of the known world, based on his researches, was published at Bologna, in

The building of Hadrian's Wall.

A map of Britain by shows Exeter as "Isca", and a place called "Dunium" near Axmouth, possibly Hod Hill.

There was an established trade from the ..i.Branscombe:- village;area with the Empire, at this time. The route
from the Mediterranean was via Brittany.

`The Christian faith reached Britain towards the close of the second century.'[14]
The emperor romanemperorsSeverus drives barbarian invaders from northern England and then advances
beyond Aberdeen.

As early as the 4th.century, Christian pilgrims journeyed to Jerusalem and Rome.

300-900: The classic flowering of the Maya civilisation in the tropical rainforests of Meso-America.

A Roman military tribune, , is martyred at Nicomedia. He became known as George. The dragon-slaying
legends were attached, later. His cult was brought to England by returning rs.[15]

Romans begin withdrawal from Britain

Emperor romanemperorsHonorius tells Britain that Rome can no longer send help against the northern

In about this year, St.saintsPatrick begins his Irish mission.

The English came from between Flensburg fjord and the Schlei. They came in three tribes; Angles, Saxons,
and Jutes.

`The Anglo-Saxon conquest is traditionally accepted as beginning in 449, the date given by Bede for the
landing of brothers (Hengest/Hengist?)[16] and Horsa [`stallion' and `horse']. But raids on the coasts had been
in progress for a considerable time before that, and small settlements of Germanic-speaking peoples were
probably already in existence. Exactly what language the invaders found in this country is uncertain.'

`By the middle of the century Britain had been cut off from the rest of the Roman empire for at least a
generation, and although some Latin speakers might have been found in the larger towns, it seems probable
that Celtic was normally the language with which the invaders came into contact.'[17]

`Alone among all the surrounding parishes, the name Branscombe is, I believe, of pure Keltic origin ... Our
first idea is that, lying off the great western highway and being somewhat difficult of access, the Saxons did
not meddle with the place as much as they did with the others.'[18]
`Saxon invasions exterminated Christianity in England, and isolated the Christians in the south-west, Wales,
north Britain and Ireland. Thereafter, their own conservatism, the ecclesiastical narrowness of Saint
Augustine of Canterbury and his followers, and national pride made out of such matters as differing dates of
Easter and variants of tonsures,[19] themselves theologically unimportant, created barriers behind which grew
up two churches where previously there had been only one; for a century and a half, Christians in the British
Isles were divided from one another.'[20]

By the time the Saxons conquered Devon, they had become Christian, and were worshipping in the Roman

`The decisive defeat of the Saxons in the battle of battlesMount Badon,[21] circa 500 was followed by a long
period of peace for British Christians, and it was then that the foundations were laid for the great expansion
that lasted from the sixth to the ninth centuries and gave to $ Christianity its form and special characteristics.
Historical information, in any strict sense of the term, especially for the earlier periods, is extremely scanty,
for most of the extant "lives" of the British saints were composed not earlier than the eleventh century for
other than historical purposes, though they often preserve earlier sources. For the later periods, information
survives only as it has been edited by interested persons whose prejudiced outlook on the church was due at
least as much to national and political causes as to ecclesiastical differences. Certain general characteristics
of the church can, however, be distinguished.

In doctrine and worship it was one with the rest of western Christendom; in both respects it was orthodox and
catholic. The charges of heresy later brought against it are misleading; such charges were weapons common
to the armoury both of the Celtic church and its opponents.'[22]

4 June: St.Petrock dies, in Cornwall.[23]

West Saxons beat Britons at battlesDyrham.

Christianity officially comes to Britain from Rome, when Augustine lands, in Kent. However, it had already
been established, during the Roman occupation, had been all but obliterated by the invasions, and was being
re-introduced from Ireland via missionary bases in Scotland and Northumbria, at about this same time.

The Benedictines establish in Exeter. They found the Abbey Church of St.Mary and St.Peter.[24]

`Exeter and the eastern parts of the county became anglicised during the latter half of the seventh century.
Another twenty years witnessed the subjugation of the northern districts, and that of the whole county was
completed by the time monarchsEgbert succeeded to his throne, in 802.'
Northumbrians beat Britons at battlesChester.

Approximate year of martyrdom of Winifred, `...an obscure north saint.'[25] ..i.Branscombe:-
church;Branscombe's parish church, St.Winifred's, is dedicated to her. It may be that the chapel at Edge was
built on the site of an original Celtic monastic community dedicated to the same saint. A community of
celebate clergy, observing a religious rule, and entrusted with the care of souls over a wide and ill-defined
area. At some later stage, when the present parish church was built, the monastic community had ceased to
exist, but the dedication was transferred. Hoskins gives parallel cases of this process.[26] The term Barton
applied to the site of Edge would also indicate an early importance as a farm-dwelling. `Wheat, rye, barley an
oats were the standard cereals of Anglo-Saxon England ... Ground into meal for bread-making or converted
into malt for brewing, barley easily eclipsed all other cereals. The Anglo-Saxons consumed beer on an
oceanic scale. This will not surprise us when we bethink ourselves how much of their meat had to be salted
for preservation through the winter months. The original meaning of beretun and berewic is "barley-farm" in
each case, but barley was so clearly taken to be the principle Anglo-Saxon grain that both words came to be
used of the establishments where corn of any kind was stored; hence the numerous Bartons and Berwicks to
be found on the map today ... Until quite late in the Old English period the use of stone as a building material
was confined to churches and some fortified strongholds. With a few exceptions, every dwelling-house was
built of wood, turf, or some form of unbaked earth. This is true not only of farmhouses but of manors and
even royal palaces.'[27]

Barton, or Bere tun, is the Saxon word for a place enclosed for the storage of barley in ricks. The village of
Beer used to be called Bere worth, Saxon for barley farm. ` The Saxons brewed their ale from malted barley,
as we do, but they had no hops. There were four kinds of ale - spiced, mild, clear and Welsh. The national
beverage was sold at taverns ... which priests were forbidden to frequent ... The other beverage of which
Saxons were extremely fond is mead. It is the drink with which, when they were pagans, they hoped to drink
after death in the halls of Valhalla, out of the skulls of their slaughtered enemies, and as a reward for their
bravery upon earth. Its relative value was one cask of mead to two casks of spiced ale and four casks of
common ale. Honey, the chief ingredient of mead, was extensively produced, and generally formed a portion
of the rent paid in kind.'[28] One explanation of the meaning of the place-name Honiton is Honey Farm. The
annual beer festival for the Saxons was the Oktoberfest. A possible alternative root for Edge is the Latin
Agger, meaning rampart (earthwork).

Synod of Whitby decides in favor of Roman, rather than Celtic, Christianity. `In Northumbria the Celtic and
Roman strains in Anglo-Saxon Christianity met face to face, and in the long run they could not be reconciled.
Minor variations of liturgical practice and clerical hair-styles could have been tolerated, but the difference in
the mode of calculating the date of Easter was a chronic irritant. All agreed that this great festival should be
celebrated on the Sunday of the third week of the month in which the full moon fell on or after the vernal
equinox. The Celts took the equinox to be the 25th, the rest of Christendom the 21st of March. The
discrepency could produce two Easters as much as a month apart, as actually happened in 631, when the
Roman Easter fell on 24th March, the Celtic on 21st April ... King Oswy's Kentish-born queen followed the
Roman usage, and it naturally annoyed Oswy to see her still observing the Lenten fast while he himself,
brought up in the tradition of Iona, was feasting on Easter Sunday. He summoned the most eminent
spokesman of both sides to debate the issue, and they met in fateful conference at Whitby in the autumn of
663 or the spring of 664. The debate was lengthy and, at times, acrimonious. It ended when Oswy declared
that if he must choose between St.Columba and St.Peter, he would obey Peter, to whom Christ had given the
keys of heaven. The adhesion of the most powerful monarch in Britain decided the question once and for all,
giving the Roman party the upper hand. The bishop of Lindesfarne, Colman, withdrew discomfited, first to
Iona, then to Ireland.'[29]

The bishops of Kent, East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria and Wessex meet at Hertford, the first national
synod of the Church, and agree that the Bishop of Canterbury will be Archbishop.

Ine is King of Wessex. Between 688 and 694 he commits to writing a code of law which remains one of the
few documents remaining in modern times that give any insight into the workings of Anglo-Saxon society. It
is clear from this and earlier documents that slavery is accepted by both state and church as part of a natural
order of society. Crimes against individuals, including murder and rape, were subject to a scale of fines,
depending on the status of the individual or the person they belonged to, or on whom they were dependent.
Slaves were an important part of the booty arising from tribal/regional conflicts.

Dwellings at this time were either wood and/or mud and thatch long-houses which included shelter for
animals, or simple wattle and daub covers over holes. There were very few stone buildings, even for manors
or palaces. Those that were built were mainly churches or strongholds.[30]

Charles Martel defeats the Moslems at Poitiers, driving them back to Spain ... the start of a process that
would eventually see them driven from there also.[31]

Death of Bede, the scholar-monk of Jarrow.

The first written form of the word combe is found in a Saxon document attributed to about this year,
according to the Oxford English Dictionary.[32]

Combe is a form of coomb (also comb, cumb, coomb). Coomb in Old English [Anglo-Saxon] is cumb, a
masculine word, meaning a small valley, or hollow. It occurs in charters, in descriptions of local boundaries
in the south of England; also in numerous place-names which still exist, as in Batancumb (Batcombe),
Branescumb (..i.Branscombe:origin of name;Branscombe), Eastcumb (Eastcomb), Sealtcumb (Salcombe),
Wincelcumb (Winchcombe), etc..

As a separate word, it is not known in Middle English literature, but has survived in local use, in which it is
quite common in the south of England, especially in its meaning of a steep short valley running up from the
sea-coast. In literature, coomb appears in the second half of the sixteenth century, probably introduced from
local use; a century later it was still treated as a local southern word.

The Old English cumb is usually supposed to be of British origin. Modern has cwm in the same sense, also in
composition in place-names. There are a large number of place-names beginning with cum in such places as
Cumbria, Dumfriesshire and Strathclyde. The Welsh cwm is derived from an even older word, the Old

The Saxons and Angles brought an old Germanic word, kumb or kump, which was remarkably similar in
meaning, being a cup or small measure, a round deep basin, or trough. This coincidence would favour its
retention and common use, even after colonisation. This might further be strengthened after the Norman
Conquest by the existence of a French combe, meaning a small valley surrounded by hills. There are also
equivalent words based on comba, in Spanish, Portuguese and northern Italian. Indeed, a Celtic origin has
been claimed for all these.[33]

Polwhele suggests bran means crow, thus: valley of the crows.[34] This is supported by George P.R. Pulman,
who suggests Branos means young crows. On the subject of combe, he points out that Cumberland probably
means Land of Valleys. He says Borcombe may take its first part from bwr, an entrenchment or enclosure.[35]

‘The Celts were already resident in Britain when the Anglo-Saxons arrived, but there are few obvious traces
of their language in English today. Some scholars have suggested that the Celtic tongue might have had an
underlying influence on the grammatical development of English, particularly in some parts of the country,
but this is highly speculative. The number of loanwords known for certain to have entered Old English from
this source is very small. Those that survive in modern English include brock (badger), and coomb a type of
valley, alongside many place names.‘ [36]

Hoskins[37] suggests Braunton, in northern Devon, is derived from Brannuc, or St.Brannoc/Brynach, a sixth-
century Welsh missionary. `Both William of Worcester and Leland tell us that Brannoc was buried in
Braunton church, where his relics were certainly preserved until the middle of Elizabeth's reign. They now lie
somwhere beneath the high alter.'

`[Branxton, Northumberland] earlier Brankeston, Branxston, contains a personal name as its first element. It
was probably Brannoc, a diminutive of Brand, a name found also in Branscombe and Branxholm,

`The name Brand in English is usually taken to be of Norse origin, but it may be noted that, as early as 1046,
we find Bransbury, Hampshire, as Brandesburgh, while Branston, Staffordshire, is Brantestun in a charter
dated 956.'[39]

`In or about 789 three ships' crews from Norway landed on the isle of Portland. The king's reeve of
Dorchester, believing them to be traders, rode up with a few attendants to demand payment of toll. They slew
him for his pains. Englishmen looked back to this incident as the first visitation of Norse pirates, a presage of
the long series of disasters that lay ahead, threatening the very existence of the church in England, and
overwhelming most of its kingdoms.'[40]

The sacking of Lindisfarne marks the start of attacks.
Death of King monarchsOffa marks the end of Mercian predominance in England.

`Wealth and authority were synonymous with the ownership of land. On his manorial estate, the lord, who
was sometimes an abbot, stood at the head of a descending hierarchy of tenants.'[41]

Chess reaches Western Europe, about 100 years after Russia, from traders.

King monarchsEgbert (I) ascends throne of Wessex.

The Emperor Charles the Great, (Charlemagne) dies at Aachen.

`Charlemagne soon became a legend, and was placed, as a universal hero along with Abraham and among the
Nine Worthies revered in Medieval times.'[1]

Charlemagne introduced to Western Europe the currency of pounds, shillings and pence. (l = libra, s =
solidus, d = denarius) 240 silver pennies weighed 1 pound.

`Charlemagne's development of the lord/man relationship, allied with a system of land tenure which linked
vassal to lord by an oath of fidelity, became the basis for the later feudal organization of society.'[43]

Wessex under King monarchsEgbert defeats Mercia and becomes the dominant kingdom.

The first King of England, MonarchsEgbert of Wessex, ascends the throne (to 839). First of the Danish and
Saxon kings, (829-1066).

Carey's Castle: `It was here that monarchsEgbert had his headquarters, in 833, when defeated by the Danes at

The reign of monarchsEgbert ends (since 829). The second King of England, monarchsEthelwulf, ascends
the throne (to 858).
`According to the chroniclers, the ancient Pictish kingdom of north Britain was united with the Scottish under
Kenneth Macalpine, Kenneth in the year 843, [became "Scotia"] and thereafter the name of the Picts as a
distinct people gradually disappeared.'[45]

Rival king monarchsEthelbald usurps monarchsEgbert as king of England (to 860).

..i.Branscombe:- manor;Branscombe manor in Colyton hundred in 857 the property of the crown, and
mentioned in monarchsEdulwulf's (monarchsEthelwulf?) will.

The reign of MonarchsEthelwulf ends (since 839). MonarchsEthelbert ascends the throne (to 866).

Reign of rival king MonarchsEthelbald ends (since 855).

The Danes land in strength in east Anglia.

Reign of king monarchsEthelbert ends (since 858). monarchsEthelred I ascends the throne (to 871).

Reign of King MonarchsEthelred I ends (since 866). monarchsAlfred the Great ascends the throne (to 899).

`Saxon Exeancester was defended by King Alfred but twice ravaged by the Danes.'[46]

King monarchsAlfred of Wessex defeats the Danes at battlesEdington, near hire.

King Alfred sponsors compilation of the Chronicle, the first history of England.

Reign of monarchsAlfred the Great ends (since 871). monarchsEdward the Elder ascends the throne (to 925).
..i.Branscombe:- manor;Branscombe manor in the Hundred of Colyton given by King Alfred to his younger
son, Aethelweard, in 901. When he died before his father, Branscombe passed to MonarchsEdward the Elder,
and from him to MonarchsAthelstan. (c.895-940)

King Alfred's son Edward builds a small fort on each bank of the Lea River at Hertford, boundary between
English and Danish rule.

Reign of King Edward the Elder ends (since 899). monarchsAthelstan ascends the throne (to 939).

The manor of ..i.Branscombe:- manor;Branscombe is given to the Abbey Church of St.Peter, by Athelstan,
King Alfred's grandson. The Benedictine monks have been resident in Exeter since the seventh century.
Branscombe manor will remain with them until 1050. Parts of St.Winifred's, Branscombe, may date from
about this time.

The remains of Saint Branwallader are removed from Branscombe to Sherborne Abbey?

It was a stormy night, such as we had never seen

The wind was stronger than it had ever been
The sky was alive with light, and thunderous groan
The waves pounded the shore, high the spray was thrown
And into this, came a boat with strangers to our land
Seeking shelter in the corner of the bay, upon the sand.

By day, the strangers made a shelter of wood upon the hill

Although their tongue was strange, they seemed to bear no ill
And as the days turned into weeks, and months, we heard
And understood, and soon our people were enraptured
And took to joining in the lilting chant they sang
But my heart was troubled, and at this I felt a pang.

To the North of the corner of our bay, there was a sacred grove
A place of ancient stones where mystic charms were wove
And we revered this site of the gods of streams and stones
This place in which we saw dreams foretold from buried bones
The tomb of Hélène, the name here from times long past
In which we made our sacrifice of blood to placate the ghast.

But now the tomb fell silent, as all but few had left the sacred way
Processing away instead, with wooden cross held high, to pray
To this man they say was god, who died and rose again
Gave a promise that this sacrifice was for each and all men
And we few make a lonely vigil, to sing the ancient song
At our own stone table, where our beliefs still belong.

Their leader, Branwallader by name, saw us there

And took himself to the rocks in solitude and prayer
When he returned, he gathered all his folk, and all the tribe
And we knew then that our worship he would proscribe
Soon the dance of the oak would end, the stones be gone
And all would be lost, no one to praise our pantheon.

By night, they lit torches, and while we slept, they worked

A dozen hauled the stones down from the hill, none shirked
Until the task was complete, and our sacred tomb taken away
And our gods did nothing to prevent this to our great dismay
The stones themselves were broken up, apart from very largest
Which were made a foundation, and here they were craftiest.

This was the tale of Tomberlaine, our sacred shrine of stone

And how they took it from where it stood to the very last bone
That lay buried there, and moved it downwards by the sea
And scattered what they could not use, then what was left to be
To form a cornerstone for their new shrine, their risen man
And so the old beliefs would wane away in just one brief lifespan.

I am the last of the cult of the oak and tree and stone and rain
And there is nothing left now but in sad memory pain
I tell the tale so that my children will not quite forget
Although in strange form it may be retold, and beget
When none remembers where the stone table once did lay
For all, but I, have now left to rejoice and pray. [47]
King Athelstan's combined Wessex and Mercian army wins the Battle of battlesBrunaburh, bringing most of
England under one king.

Reign of King MonarchsAthelstan ends (since 925). MonarchsEdmund ascends the throne (to 946).

Reign of King Edmund ends (since 939). MonarchsEdred ascends the throne (to 955).

Approximate date when, according to legend, Kupe discovers New Zealand. `(Kupe) returned to Central
Polynesia with the story that the only people he saw were a fantail flitting about and a bellbird that tolled
from the depths of the forest. Yet the idea has persisted that there were older immigrants, `the people of the
land' (tangata whenua), also of dominant Polynesian stock.'(Maclintock, p.25)

Reign of King Edred ends (since 946). MonarchsEdwy ascends the throne (to 959?).

monarchsEdgar becomes king of all England.

?Reign of King Edwy ends (since 955). MonarchsEdgar ascends the throne (to 975). Edgar has been King of
Mercia since 957.

Reign of King Edgar ends (since 959). MonarchsEdward the Martyr ascends the throne (to 978).

Reign of King Edward the Martyr ends (since 975). MonarchsEthelred II Redeless ("Unready") ascends the
throne for the first of two reigns (this time to 1013).

`The conversion of Prince Vladimir of Kiev to Orthodox Christianity leads to the conversion of his Kievian
subjects and, in due course, of all Russia.'(Platt, p.24)

The s defeat the east Anglians at the Battle of battlesMaldon and advance into southern England, until bought
off with Danegeld.

It inspires an Old English poem, The Battle of Maldon, which celebrates the unyielding courage of an English
bodyguard which refused to retreat when their leader was killed, but fought around his body until all were
dead. The very core of the sentiment is expressed by an old retainer called Beorhtwold:

`Heart shall be bolder, harder be purpose,

more proud the spirit, as our power lessens.'

In Tolkien's poem, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, Beorhthelm's Son, the words are not given to
Beorhtwold, but form part of a dream dreamt by the poet Torhthelm:

`It's dark! It's dark! and doom coming!

Is no light left us? A light kindle,
and fan the flame! Lo! Fire now wakens,
hearth is burning, house is lighted,
men there gather. Out of the mists they come
through darkling doors whereat doom waiteth.
Hark! I hear them in the hall chanting:
stern words they sing with strong voices.
"Heart shall be bolder, harder be purpose,
more proud the spirit as our power lessens!
Mind shall not falter nor mood waver,
though doom shall come and dark conquer,"'[48]

© 1996-2011 Ronald Branscombe
Email: genealogy (at) branscombe (dot) net

 Return to Timelines Index

 This page last updated: 16 April 2011

[1] Hippisley-Cox, The Green Roads of England, p.68

[2] Jones & Mattingly, An Atlas of Roman Britain
M A Cole and N T Linford, Report on the Geophysical Survey at Woodbury Farm, English

Heritage Ancient Monuments Laboratory report number: 88/93, 1994. Source, April 2011:
[4] Jones & Mattingly, An Atlas of Roman Britain
[5] ibid., p.153
[6] one of those is the combe in Branscombe
[7] Barfield, History in English Words, pp.45-46
[8] ibid.
[9] Scott & Gray, pp 4-5

Wolfpaw’ blog Demolition Exeter – a century of destruction in an English cathedral city. Source April

2011: http://demolition-exeter.blogspot.com/2011_01_01_archive.html
[11] Fox, p.3
[12] Which? Guide to the West Country, p.114
[13] Hod Hill is a long way from Axmouth!
[14] Hoskins, Devon, 1972, p.219
[15] Withycombe
[16] Hengistbury Head,Dorset?
[17] Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Vol.8, p.538
[18] Elijah Chick, The Parish & Church of Branscombe, p.18
[19] head-shaving styles
[20] E.B. Vol.5, 1966, p.148
[21] location uncertain,but possibly near Swindon
[22] E.B. Vol.5, 1966, p.148
[23] Izacke, Remarkable Antiquities ...
[24] later to become Exeter cathedral
[25] Hoskins, Devon, 1972
[26] ibid., p.220
[27] Finberg, The Formation of England 550-1042, pp.81,87
[28] George P.R. Pulman, Local Nomenclature (1857), p.129
[29] Finberg, The Formation of England 550-1042, p.47
[30] Finberg, The Formation of England 550-1042
[31] Rowling
[32] 1971
[33] Oxford English Dictionary
[34] Polwhele, History of Devonshire Vol II, p.236
[35] George P.R. Pulman, Local Nomenclature (1857), p.56
[36]Philip Durkin, Principal etymologist at the Oxford English Dictionary,
http://www.askoxford.com/worldofwords/history/?view=uk 10 September 2006
[37] Hoskins, Devon, 1972, p.220
[38] A History of Northumberland, 1922, p.104
[39] Mawer, The Place-names of Northumberland & Durham, 1920
[40] Finberg, The Formation of England 550-1042, p.116
[41] Rowling, p.18
[42] Rowling, p.11
[43] Rowling, p.12
[44] Hippisley Cox, p.67
[45] O.E.D.
[46] Which? Guide to the West Country, p.114
[47] Tony Bellows <http://www.societe-jersiaise.org/whitsco/index.html>
[48] Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth, p.118