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What are they Worth An Examination of the Role and Origins of Anglo-Saxon Settlements which Incorporate the Name-element worth

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posted on 18.08.2021, 08:57 by Graham Aldred
It is commonly recognised that in the Anglo-Saxon world, the naming of geographical features and settlement names was far from an arbitrary association of attractively linked elements. Settlement names, in particular, were specifically descriptive, communicating more than simply the name of a point in a landscape. This thesis considers the settlements incorporating the name-element worth in the context of the Kingdom of Mercia. From its origins in the 6th Century AD to its decline and the division under the Danelaw during the 9th Century, the extent of Mercian territory and influence, at its extreme, took in a central area of England, south of the River Humber and north of a line from Bristol to Southampton. This thesis concentrates on the Mercian heartlands and generally, though not entirely, excludes the counties south of the Thames valley. Worths in this core area of Mercia exhibit common patterns of location in the landscape: they tend to cluster, usually occur in groups of three or four and lone examples are rare; and clusters occur close to junctions of major routes, usually of Roman or earlier origin. As such these settlements seem to be strategically placed, overlooking areas traversed by these roads or holding a controlling position. This thesis exploits the onomastic evidence but accords equal weight to landscape analysis, the meaning and significance of both place and place-name, settlement morphology, the historical record and archaeological evidence of both the settlements and their surroundings, treating each as an artefact in their own right. My thesis contends that whilst these locations indicate specific hierarchical social functions within a planned and organised landscape, it may be more prosaically viewed as a combination of coincidence and convenience borne of late Anglo-Saxon landscape reorganisation.



Neil Christie; Mark Gillings

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School of Archaeology and Ancient History

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University of Leicester

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