Lost Saxon fort of Eorpeburnan - Burghal Hideage 914AD.

Anglo Saxon History

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Map Position

This map shows the position of locations containing 'hides' centered on Tonbridge in .

Map Logic

Lost Saxon fort of Eorpeburnan - Burghal Hideage 914AD.

The forest of Andredsweald is shown in lightly shaded green with a green border , which was impassable except where Roman Roads or rivers cut through it.

Roman roads are shown in black plotted from Ivan D Margary 'Roman Roads in Britain' published in 1955.

The red roads are taken from Ivan D Margary 'Roman ways in the Weald' published in 1948.

The Blue lines show the extent of the tidal rivers with the blue shaded areas showing tidal salt marshes as it would have been in Saxon times(aproximately 5 metres above todays high tide marks).

The dark areas jutting into the sea show the original land based on the current erosion rates(aprox 0.8 mtrs/year).


 
Icon Key:
Saxon Fort
 


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.


Our findings.

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/eorū - 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.



External References in no particular order :-
Original Manuscripts of the Anglo Saxon Chronicles
Online Anglo Saxon dictionary
Online Etymology dictionary
Open Domesday Book - The first free online copy of the Domesday Book
The Ermine Street Guard Roman re-enactment and research Society
The "Kent A" cadastre - page 5 - Peterson 2002
Archaeologia Cantiana Online
Romney Marsh Research Trust
Romney Marsh the Fifth Continent
VillageNet the reference guide to villages in Kent & Sussex
Global warming Flood Maps
The Anglo Saxon Chronicles
Google Maps - the core of the system
GeoPlaner - Useful site for plotting map data
Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars 55BC(Books 4 & 5)
Wikipedia - Caesar's invasions of Britain
Wikipedia - Portus Istus
The Geography of Claudius Ptolemy (Bill Thayers)
Roman Britain.org
Runetree Beowulf
Bayeux Tapestry Online
The Secrets of the Norman Invasion
Chronicles of John of Worcester
Battle Historic Society
Binsted village website(Mearcredesburnan Steðe)

 

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Author: Simon M       Document Created: 2016-12-28
Data is derived from a number or sources including the Ordnance Survey Gazetter data overlayed onto Google Maps