seaxe left Anglo Saxon History

seaxe right

Background to this website

While looking at the Village names in the South East of England for another of my web sites VillageNet(, I noticed that some of the names appeared to have a pattern to them.

The village/town names containing ham appeared to be associated with water either the sea or rivers. The village/town names containing ton appeared to be associated with hills. The village/town names containing ye,eye or sea all appear to be associated with islands.

A bit more research and these villages all appear to be Saxon in origin.

So I firstly mapped the hams onto an ordnance survey map, however this brought up a lot of anomalies where hams were found inland today and not near water. So a bit more digging and overlaying a high tide mark of +5 metres on the land today and the hams started to again show their links to water.

There are obviously some hams that have moved over the last 1600 years, due to pestilence, flooding etc but these are relatively few, and the majority show the influence of water.

The Saxons are believed to have spread from Kent to Dorset and Kent to Lincolnshire over time so the area in East Sussex near Rye was settled relatively early in the process. When plotting the hams from this area on a map, it became obvious from the number of hams and their proximity to each other that these settlements could only have been farmsteads with a safe mooring for their vessels. So to see if this logic worked I looked at the area around Cambridge, nowadays many miles from the sea, but applying a +5 metre high tide mark the majority of hams in this area showed the same water influence.

So it would seem that the Saxon term ham originally meant a settlement that you could park your boat at, and as time went by the term began to mean a settlement near water.


Now to the tons in our area we have very few tons, as there are lots of river estuaries so we mostly find hams. So I decided to look at the South Downs, and all the village names found on the hills are named tons, so I applied this logic to East Kent and again the ton, ham names show either hill or water influence.

So it would seem that the Saxon term ton originally meant a settlement that was on a hill.


Lets look at the ey,eyes,seas, seys etc these all appear to have been islands if the water level is raised by +5 metres, aproximately high tide at the present day, and allowing for significant sea defence work in the last 2 centuries. There seem to be a number of derivations for island, these include eye, sea, sey and ye at least, examples are Horse Eye(on the Pevensey Marshes), Rye(on the East Sussex coast), Pevensey(again on the East Sussex coast), Brightlingsea(on the coast in Essex) and Ely(Inland in Cambridgeshire, a long way inland but on the fens) .

So it would seem that the Saxon suffix eye,ye,sea and sey originally meant an island.


Right so i have worked out what these names are for, but now I noticed that some hams, tons and seas were actually ingham, ington or ingsea, and also that there were villages ending only in ing, so what did the ing mean ?. It must be important or all villages would be ingham, ington and ingseas, so is unlikely to mean something like 'the village of' or 'XXXX's settlement', as that could be applied to all village names.

Therefore another map is in order, one that shows the locations of ings,inghams,ingtons and ingseas and again I looked in detail on the Ordnance Survey maps for Hastings and Rye and can see that there are quite a few of these village names(we have no ingseas in East Sussex), but they appear to be in strategic positions, overlooking rivers, estuaries and other places.

This again got me thinking that perhaps these were fortified positions, but why are they located in these places.

This is the reason for this website, to prove or not prove that the Saxons were militarily skilled, and that they built defensive places on strategic sites to protect their land. so now we need to find out where the roads and ports were, so I guess this means we need to go back to Roman times possibly earlier. so click here.

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Author Simon M - Last updated - 2024-03-13 13:16:05
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