Where was Eorpeburnan ??
The document we have that gives us this problem is the 'Burghal Hidage' which was a collection
of a number of medieval texts that describe the location of defensive forts around the state of Wessex
during the time of Alfred the Great. The document was named the Burghal Hidage by F. W. Maitland in 1897
after a great deal of research into the subject.
The documents list the major defensive forts anti clockwise around Wessex
starting at the unproven location of 'Eorpeburnan' somewhere on the Kent,Sussex or Surrey borders
and ending at the last fort in the list at Southwark on the Thames .
We would like to suggest a possible location for this fort based on data from our researches, this is theoretical
in nature, but we believe the logic for this suggestion is sound.
So firstly do we know what the name meant - using our place name database the translation appears to be
Current translation for Eorpeburnan
eorpe derived from eorp/eorþ - Dark, dusky, brown, swarthy/earthy
burnan derived from burn - a brook or stream
So it was located near to a brown stream, not too much information I am afraid.
if you look at our article on the Burghal Hidage you will note that the forts
are placed strategically around Wessex and also inside the state. This would seem to imply that in times
of Viking raids that the local population would go to these forts to be protected. They are between 20 to 30 miles apart
except where they are near high population centers such as Winchester where this is less. This distance would appear
to be related to the population expected to go to the fort, and meant that no one in Wessex was more than about
15 miles from a fort.
It has been proposed that the location of Eorpeburnan was on the edge of Andredsweald at Newenden in Kent, however
the fort at Hastings would have been big enough for the population in the locality.
There is a major gap in the Wessex defenses between the Forest of Andredsweald and Southwark, and the only location
which had a similar name is Orpington which was known as Orpedingetune in the Domesday Book. The Orpe part of
Orpedingetune could have been based on Eorpe.
At this moment in time the Burh of Eorpburnan(the fort on the brown stream) has not been found, but due to
the Forts along the Sussex Coast and the location of the forest of Andredsweald it would seem likely that
this fort was located to the north of the Forest, possibly near to current day Orpington(Orpedingetune in the
Domesday Book) where we have plotted this on the map above.