Angles, Saxons and Jutes came from their Germanic homelands, arriving on the eastern shores of Britain around 450 AD. They worked their way slowly west across the country. Small numbers of them reached Somerset in the late C7th..Their old English ĪSomorsaeteā, for those dependent on or living in Somerton, gave the county its name by 845 AD. Under their control the resident British aristocracy were reduced in social status, but still functioned as land holders, whilst the peasantry, the bulk of the population, remained tied to the land.
The C8 and C9th were fairly turbulent with the tribal kings fighting for supremacy in Britain. Wessex, including Somerset, gradually became dominant and peace enabled a period of expansion when the population grew and major changes in the organisation of society were established.
New settlement would have reflected the limitations of the Saxon farming techniques and they shunned the flooded moors (The Levels), but otherwise existing settlements of small hamlets and isolated farmsteads would have continued. Settlement has always been influenced by communication so rivers and ancient roads have played their part. Early Saxon settlements are found near the old route ways, about a mile or so off the road, where there had been Roman or pre Roman farming. They preferred to develop a promontory site, where the land approach was from one direction only. Tintinhull qualifies as an ideal site.
By 900AD the majority of the places recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) were in existence as estates, but not as Īvillagesā. Saxon settlement lacked a street plan on which buildings are set with regularity. Rather the settlement was transitory, being built, rebuilt and shifted a number of times in as little as 100 years before abandonment for a new spot in the same parish. This and their use of decomposable building materials make it very difficult to identify Saxon sites without documentary evidence.
A larger population entailed more complex government. By the mid C9th. the country was divided into Shires; today these remain much as they were defined in Saxon times. The Shires were divided into ĪHundredsā and the Hundreds into ĪTithingsā. A ĪTithingā was a group of ten families and ten of these comprised the Hundred. The Hundreds varied in size according to the fertility of the land. They were divided into areas of land called ĪHidesā and each hide needed to be sufficient to keep a family and provide 1 man for the county wide muster of troops for the Īfrydā.
Tintinhull was the head of the Tintinhull Hundred. This comprised Ilchester, Northover, Sock Dennis, Montacute, Stoke sub Hamdon, Lufton, Thorne Coffin and Kingstone. It was the meeting place for the Hundred Court which met every 4 weeks, in the open air on the village green, to settle minor cases relating to civil, criminal or religious matters. Representatives of the Hundred Court attended the Shire Court.
Fairs were common at the Hundred meeting place and Tintinhull had a 13 day fair, a glorified market, which shows its importance in the local area.
Recorded history begins circa 940 when Edmund the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, gave Wilfic, his Īservantā, some land from the Saxon Royal Estate at Martock. Wilfric acquired 5 hides in Tintinhull. His holding would have been around 450 to 500 acres, the average holding for a ĪThane (theign). Wilfric was probably elevated from ĪCeorlā in the society structure of the time:-
Nobles ö earldormen and thegns
Ceorls ö free peasants, akin to yeomen
Laets ö half free peasants
Wilfricās estate would have comprised a family group of perhaps 6 houses and work-shops with a central Hall for meetings and feasts. These buildings would have been rectangular and made of wood and thatch, the Hall may have housed the only hearth. Wilfric may not have been the first Saxon to hold this land and it is certain to have been farmed before this (see Pre historic fields).
His land would have been turned using a heavy plough pulled by ox teams. The invention of the scythe for hay making would enable him to keep some animals over the winter period. His crops would have included wheat, oats, barley, all milled locally, and beans and the root crops introduced by the Romans. Flax was grown for cloth making and woad for dyeing. Fruit and nuts were gathered from the woodlands, with possibly a few fruit trees planted on the fringes of the wood.
Wilfric, in turn, bequeathed this land to Glastonbury Abbey for his Īsoul-scotā. At much the same time the Abbey acquired another 5 hides of Tintinhull land. This was to come together, as one holding under the Normans.
Meanwhile, towns, as defensive and administrative centres and for marketing, both local and imported items, provided the setting for the new merchant class and for the re-creation of a coin based economy. The most important trade was with France, especially the rising power of Normandy. Tintinhull would have been able to take advantage of the Īpassing tradeā along the Fosse Way en route from Exeter to the Midlands.
Around this time there was a deliberate re-shaping of estates and a transformation of the rural landscape. The communal land was re-arranged to enable it to be grouped into great open fields. These fields displaced the ancient farmsteads requiring re-housing. This was achieved by grouping buildings in the centre of the fields and the concept of the Īvillageā was born. Each estate had a demesne farm,
the home farm of the Lord, and was worked by peasants in return for land of their own unless they were slaves. The open field system proved a very efficient and effective means of harnessing peasant labour and was to remain in place throughout the middle ages and beyond.
D Robbins Oct 05