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Dark Age Obscured (History)
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Mick Harper
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I can't bear it, I just can't bear it. They start digging at one of the four thousand and find fifteen bodies, all women, children or babies.

It is curious, there are no males at all. Clive thinks they may have been captured, forced to join the attacking tribe.

"Hey, guys, wanna join us?"
"Too right. What's first, a swift jar?"
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Mick Harper
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The last item in the programme was the Jersey Hoard, an enormous cache of coins (and other valuable trade goods) made, as the bloke put it, 99.5% before 62 BC which pretty much tied it down datewise, and minted in or immediately to the south of St Mâlo which pretty much tied it down place-wise. There are two competing explanations for the presence of this stupendous find on Jersey, far too small an island to need this amount of gear for local needs. Ours and theirs.

You’ve all seen our version which is that Jersey is an entrepôt exchange point between the tin and copper coming from Britain, and more to the point from Burgh Island (tin) and Chesil Beach (copper) and going to St Mâlo, the port of entry for the European markets for these metals. Score one for us.

Their explanation was that the locals around St Mâlo were frightened of Julius Caesar coming towards them and moved their money offshore to avoid him. The fact that Caesar didn’t even set foot in Gaul until 58 BC didn't seem to bother them one little bit. Score none for them.
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Wile E. Coyote


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The latest theory c/o the Daily Mail is that the Jersey Hoard is two separate caches from different places and dates buried together.

Asterix "Yikes the Romans are coming over the hill"

Obelisk "Never fear, I will chuck a menhir at them"

Asterix "No. First we must hide our stash of coins on a far off island"

Obelisk " Great idea, but first I will run over to our much hated neighboring tribe, to see if they would like to join us in this cunning venture to outsmart the Legions"

Asterix " Err." "Why don't you just stick to tossing the menhirs"
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Wile E. Coyote


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Caitlin Green has done an article that discusses the evidence for a significant number of emigrants having left England for the Byzantine Empire in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest.

They then found a 'New England' on the Black Sea.

https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/anglo-saxons-eastern-odyssey-fleeing-william-conqueror-black-sea/

I have to agree with Caitlin when she says it's all too easy to dismiss the idea of Anglo-Saxons pitching up on the banks of the Black Sea and establishing a thriving colony, as I actually immediately did. Still, I am increasingly attracted to the study of what orthodoxy rejects, then reinvents. What is actually going on?
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Mick Harper
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Anglo-Saxon resistance had been resourceful and determined. It had seriously troubled the new Norman regime.

Caitlin means 'it was all over in an afternoon'.

But, by the mid-1070s, it had become clear even to the most optimistic of rebels that William the Conqueror had won the battle for England.

I think Caitlin means 'after the harrying of the north'

The Anglo-Norman chronicler Orderic Vitalis tells us that, in the wake of their defeat at Hastings, “the English groaned aloud for their lost liberty and plotted ceaselessly to find some way of shaking off a yoke that was so intolerable”.

Sounds more Anglo than Norman. Sounds more blatant forgery than genuine article.

That yoke remained firmly in place, however, and so, a little under 10 years after William’s invasion, the Anglo-Saxon lords were left with a stark choice.

All right, Cattikins, let's be having them

The options they faced were two-fold: they could stay and see what Norman rule would bring, or they could abandon England to its conquerors and seek to make a new life elsewhere.

A fair summation. Is that you, pet, or do you have a source?

Several thousand English nobles and their followers seem to have decided to take this last option.

I don't want to be awkward or anything but if England had several thousand nobles at any time in the rough period 500 AD to 2000 AD, I'd be quite surprised.

But they didn’t simply flee to neighbouring regions of Europe. Instead they sailed right across the Mediterranean, establishing a new homeland for themselves thousands of miles away – creating a medieval New England on the northern coastline of the Black Sea.

I don't want to be awkward or anything but several thousand nobles plus followers is larger than, say, the average expedition to the Crusades so we're talking more than Thomas Cook here. Did the Normans controlling the central Mediterranean have any say in the matter. "Look out, it's the Barmy Army, lock up your daughters!"

More if I can bear to go on.
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Hatty
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Mick Harper wrote:

The Anglo-Norman chronicler Orderic Vitalis tells us that, in the wake of their defeat at Hastings, “the English groaned aloud for their lost liberty and plotted ceaselessly to find some way of shaking off a yoke that was so intolerable”.

Sounds more Anglo than Norman. Sounds more blatant forgery than genuine article.

Just looked up Orderic and found he was the author of a book called The Ecclesiastical History, albeit incomplete, published by Jean Mabillon in 1668 though first identified as 'by Orderic Vitalis' in the nineteenth century

Between 1123 and 1141 he wrote The Ecclesiastical History which mainly dealt with the rule of William the Conqueror.

I thought the Ecclesiastical History was by the once Venerable Bede (the Venerable seems to have been dropped lately). Hang on

Inspired by the work of Bede, Ordericus Vitalis used original documents, interviews and literary sources to write his history books. In his work he criticized the violence and greed of the Norman conquerors. He also attacked the English for being degenerate who benefited from Norman rule. Ordericus Vitalis died in about 1143.

Bede hadn't been invented in 1143. The Moore Bede, the earliest extant manuscript of Bede's History, was 'acquired sometime' from France by a "famous bibliophile", John Moore, Bishop of Ely

Moore had acquired it sometime between 1697 and 1702, and before that it had been in France, in the library of the cathedral of St. Julien at Le Mans. The ex libris of St. Julien can be seen at the foot of the last complete folio (128v). Other evidence on that same page shows that the manuscript had been in France for a very long time, perhaps even since the reign of Charlemagne (r. 768–814). The travels of the book, as well as its very early date and proximity to the life of Bede himself, make it one of the most important surviving medieval English manuscripts.
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Mick Harper
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The rest of Caitlin's account is rather good, as these things go. She is suitably sceptical but able to cite far too many sources for some simple explanation. My first thoughts that the whole thing was got up in support of either the Levant Company of Elizabeth I or the push into the Med by the Protectorate and then Charles II is obviously wide of the mark. Nevertheless two sources immediately seemed bogus

The fullest descriptions of the vanquished lords’ decision to quit their homeland is contained within the pages of the early 13th-century Chronicon Laudunensis and the 14th-century Icelandic Saga of Edward the Confessor (Játvarðar saga) – both of which are thought to be based on a lost 12th-century account.

So there is yet hope!
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Wile E. Coyote


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As the nerve-centre of an empire, Constantinople would also have offered the English exiles a wealth of new experiences, as the Chronicon‘s account of one of those exiles, a man named Hardigt, implies:

“He was reputed to be the strongest of all the Angli, for which reason he was suspect to the Greeks, who cunningly let loose a lion to devour him,” the Chronicon relates. “Hardigt was alone in the courtyard of the palace. But he ran to the marble columns that stood in the atrium of the palace to use them as protection against the lion. Then (by a series of adroit manoeuvres) he succeeded in braining the lion by bashing its head on a column.”

We’re then told that, for his troubles, the lion-slaying Hardigt earned himself a promotion to chief of the Varangian Guard


This struck me as interesting as we have previously come across Harald Sigurdsson, also known as Harald of Norway c. 1015 – 25 September 1066 who was given the epithet Hardrada, roughly translated as "stern counsel" or "hard ruler" in the sagas.

wiki wrote:
After a few years in Kievan Rus', Harald and his force of around 500 men[11] moved on south to Constantinople (Miklagard), the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire (later known as the Byzantine Empire), probably in 1033 or 1034,[26] where they joined the Varangian Guard. Although the Flateyjarbók maintains that Harald at first sought to keep his royal identity a secret, most sources agree that Harald and his men's reputation was well known in the east at the time. While the Varangian Guard was primarily meant to function as the emperor's bodyguard, Harald was found fighting on "nearly every frontier" of the empire.[27] He first saw action in campaigns against Arab pirates in the Mediterranean Sea, and then in inland towns in Asia Minor / Anatolia that had supported the pirates. By this time, he had according to Snorri Sturluson become the "leader over all the Varangians".


You might remember that Harold Godwinson defeated Harold Hardrada at Stamford bridge shortly before Hastings.
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Hatty
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wiki wrote:
There are two extant sources which give an account of the foundation of "New England". The first account is the Chronicon Universale Anonymi Laudunensis. This was written by an English monk at the Premonstratensian monastery in Laon, Picardy, and covers the history of the world until 1219.[1] The Chronicon survives in two 13th-century manuscripts, one in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (Lat. 5011), and the other in the Staatsbibliothek, Berlin (Phillipps 1880)

No provenance record for the BnF's copy of the Chronicon. The Berlin Library copy is from the collection of Thomas Phillipps, the greatest book collector in the nineteenth century. He also made sure to carry out the task of cataloguing it himself.

From his private press at his estate at Middle Hill, Broadway, Worcestershire, England, Sir Thomas Phillipps issued Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum in bibliotheca d. Thomae Phillips, Bt., listing the most significant collection of manuscripts ever assembled by a collector.

There were reportedly 60,000 manuscripts, of which almost 24,000 were catalogued, and it took a while to sell them

During his lifetime Phillipps attempted to turn over his collection to the British nation and corresponded with the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Disraeli in order that it should be acquired for the British Library. Negotiations proved unsuccessful and ultimately the dispersal of his collection took over 100 years. Phillipps's will stipulated that his books should remain intact at Thirlestaine House, that no bookseller or stranger should rearrange them and that no Roman Catholic should be permitted to view them. In 1885 the Court of Chancery declared this too restrictive and thus made possible the sale of the library which Phillipps’s grandson Thomas FitzRoy Fenwick supervised for the next fifty years.

Significant portions of the European material were sold to the national collections on the continent including the Royal Library, Berlin, the Royal Library of Belgium and the Provincial Archives in Utrecht as well as the sale of outstanding individual items to the J. Pierpont Morgan and Henry E. Huntington libraries

Keeping a collection together is a red flag. It'd only take one genuine manuscript to give the rest of the collection away. Not that he managed to give it away apparently.
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Mick Harper
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a red flag

Blimey O'Reilly, how many do you want? This is both incredible and disheartening. If the BnF's copy also has a nineteenth century origin, we're home and hosed on the Chronicon but someone will have to make a start on Phillipps's sixty thousand hookey manuscripts. I don't even trust how he spells his name. Does the BL have a loading bay round the back?
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Wile E. Coyote


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Mick Harper wrote:

I don't want to be awkward or anything but if England had several thousand nobles at any time in the rough period 500 AD to 2000 AD, I'd be quite surprised.


Mick Harper wrote:

I don't want to be awkward or anything but several thousand nobles plus followers is larger than, say, the average expedition to the Crusades so we're talking more than Thomas Cook here. Did the Normans controlling the central Mediterranean have any say in the matter. "Look out, it's the Barmy Army, lock up your daughters!"



According to the recently discovered Chronicon universale anonymi Laudunensis, this group of English notables who emigrated to Byzantium did so on 235 ships. 4350 of these refugees and their families remained in Constantinople on imperial service, while a majority of the refugees sailed to a place called Domapia, conquered it and renamed it Nova Anglia. It's a bit surprising to Wiley that William and his mates did not realise the Anglos had built a navy. They probably did it under cover of darkness. No wonder they were immediately put in charge of the Guard. They must have been like Wiley, incredibly cunning. It's a bit unclear what happened to the colony or the guard as, by the time they appear in written accounts, they have gone again. I guess they sailed off in their ships....
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Boreades


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Wile E. Coyote wrote:

According to the recently discovered Chronicon universale anonymi Laudunensis,.


Wikipedia is disparaging.

New England (Latin: Nova Anglia, Old English: Nīwe Englalond) was a colony allegedly founded in the late 11th century by English refugees fleeing William the Conqueror. Its existence is only attested in two much later sources, dating from the 13th and 14th centuries, the French Chronicon Universale Anonymi Laudunensis and the Icelandic Játvarðar Saga. They tell the story of a journey from England through the Mediterranean Sea that led to Constantinople, where the English refugees fought off a siege by heathens and were rewarded by the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus. A group of them were given land to the north-east of the Black Sea, reconquering it and renaming their territory "New England". This theory is often described as fantastical.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_England_(medieval)

And yet, some Saxon overlords might have thought the English gig had been a good run for the money but now, with the newer Norman overlords, the game was up.

Why not indeed, would some have not said "Blow this for a game of soldiers, we'll go and play somewhere else"? And upped sticks and sailed off for mercenary pastures new?
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Mick Harper
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Another Hatty banning. Sounds like one of those awful tweedy women detectives.

Hugh Williams
I've posted about the old church at Avenbury before, but in the light of finally gaining access to it and the new information I gathered there – I think it's time to rewrite and update.

Avenbury was a village nestled around a curve of the river Frome close to Bromyard in Herefordshire. It began as an Anglo Saxon settlement according to records but was probably much older than that. A Saxon church was built here in the late 800s during the short reign of the Mercian king Beorhtwulf and with the coming of the Normans a new tower was added sometime during the 1100s.

A bog standard Anglo-Saxon church, that is one that is 'in the records'. But it has had a non bog standard history since then

Avenbury's fortunes fluctuated over the centuries but despite the village being a centre for lime production during the Tudor and Stuart eras it was completely abandoned by the mid 19th century. As the old dwellings gradually vanished into the landscape the Church of St Mary continued to serve the outlying farms and homes of the area but finally closed it's doors for good in 1931.

But neither knocked down nor put in suspended animation -- the usual fate of surplus twentieth century churches. And this is why

Since the 1970s the old church has gained a legendary reputation for the paranormal and the occult. Various pagans, Satanists and others have made their way to the ruins to perform rites and rituals and it became a rite of passage for local teens to spend the night there with some hair raising tales being told of this locally. The current owner of the church and the land around confirmed that little has changed in this regard, telling me of hearing the bell herself along with strange trumpet or horn notes being played from within the tower.

Remember that one-careful-lady-owner, she has a part to play.

This brings us to the current state of the little ruin at Avenbury. In contrast to my previous write up, I can report that St Mary's is now in safe hands. Restoration work is underway but is a very gradual process, with little money being made available. The 12th century tower has two large splits down it and about half of the Anglo Saxon chancel is still standing, but what remains is in good condition. It is incredible to think that this building stood during the reign of Alfred the Great.

Incredible indeed, thought Hetty Banning

Harriet Vered
Do you perhaps know the source(s) for this account? Avenbury has a Domesday entry but there's no mention of a church in the 1086 inventory. Archaeologists date the remains of St Mary's as late 12th/early 13th century, clearly not 'Saxon'. Thank you.

Meanwhile dozens of people have expressed their delight with ol' Hugh and how they are going to visit the pile as soon as Covid permits. This is why Hatty should get banned. It's harmless fun and she is ruining it for everyone. No complaints. Nevertheless some significant new themes got aired...
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Mick Harper
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Hugh Williams
The owner of the place is knowledgeable about what she has bought into. It has been identified as Anglo Saxon for decades. Even to the non aficionado, the brickwork of the chancel is instantly recognisable. If you place that corner next to Odda's Chapel or Deergurst church, the resemblance is unmistakable.

This is unusual on two grounds. Orthodoxy is adamant that all Anglo-Saxon churches were made of wood (for obvious reasons) and above-ground Anglo-Saxon (claimed) features are so rare, few would attempt a typology. Hatty shoots it down without looking up from her knitting

Harriet Vered
St Mary's is a fine example of Romanesque architecture, instantly recognisable as early Norman. Cf. St Mary's Edvin Loach, six miles away "The old mediaeval church which this building replaced lies to the east of the present St Mary, it was an ancient edifice with Norman features in both nave and chancel, regrettably the building was allowed to fall into ruin, although nowadays cared for by English Heritage."

Hugh decides it is time to roll out his own authorities, albeit hesitantly

Hugh Williams
Wikipedia is not the best source but if you insist "The church was founded c 840 AD but rebuilt in Norman times." That is re-built with the chancel intact. How did I confirm this? "In 2009 St Mary's Church was bought by a local archaeologist." She is a very knowledgeable archaeologist at that.

The significance of this is that ninety-nine times out of a hundred the Anglo-Saxon charter would have been rolled out but, as I mentioned elsewhere, word seems to have got round that Anglo-Saxon historical sources are currently under a bit of a cloud. Hatty points out who's boss source round here

Harriet Vered
You or the current owner may wish to take the matter up with English Heritage who state St Mary's is a ruined 12th century church and make no mention of any A-S archaeology. The church was surely constructed much later, otherwise how to explain its non-inclusion in Domesday?

Domesday Book really is history (as far as we can tell) and certainly is usually taken as gospel by historians. But it can be finessed with careful handling

Hugh Williams
Makes no mention of what? The village or the church? If the church was ruined then it wouldn't necessarily be listed, as happened in other cases.

Oh dear, 'other cases'. Does Hugh know what he is getting into? As Hatty said to me when we were chatting about this, "If Domesday can list how many pigs there are, it can list how many ruined churches there are." But she zooms off on another tack....
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Mick Harper
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Harriet Vered
Oddly enough, brickwork can never be diagnostic. Because bricks are so regular, because they are made from such a small range of local raw materials (to include the mortar), it is not possible to say much more than they're sort of bricky, sort of oldish. They've had the problem in Mesopotamia since Day One of archaeology. Doesn't stop people giving them a date though, but you do have to have some associated archaeology. Which St Mary's, Avenbury hasn't got.

Historic England has no reference to a 'Saxon church' in its entry for St Mary's, which is simply listed as a ruined 12th century church.

Hugh correctly ignores the meat and concentrates on the potatoes

Hugh Williams
Yes, I read their summary before I wrote this piece. The owner has probably carried out more examination and research than they did on this one, as you cannot just sum it up in a couple of sentences. For example, the long and short quoins on the corner of the chancel are a pointer to Anglo Saxon architecture. I visited Odda's Chapel and the church at Deerhurst (another St Mary's) just a couple of days before and there is some similarity. I'm siding with the owner at the moment while she works at it, perhaps she will change her opinion when it's finished, in which case I will too.

Hatty pounces. One missing church is acceptable, two missing churches can be special-pleaded away, three missing churches should work the oracle

Harriet Vered
It is passing strange to include Odda's Chapel and St Mary's Deerhurst in the mix bearing in mind, as with Avenbury, neither are in Domesday and neither are recorded in contemporary sources. The first record of Odda's chapel was in 1675 when a stone with a Latin inscription was discovered nearby referring to 'Earl Odda' but back in 1675 no one knew which building it referred to.

No Saxon architecture is in evidence unless you count the font, once thought to be Saxon; it was found on a farm before 1846 where it was being used as a drinking trough, probably its intended purpose all along, and given to Longdon Church (Worcs) before being transferred to Deerhurst c. 1880.

Oh no it didn't. Not even nearly...
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