Thurrock History: Turning back to Anglo-Saxon times

THE latest meeting of Thurrock Historial Society was enjoyed by members and visitors who listened to a presentation called ‘Anglo-Saxon Landscapes’ by John Matthews.

He gave a very detailed talk on the Anglo-Saxon landscapes covering place names, topography, buildings, archaeology and documents in the Barstable Hundred.

In Saxon times men regularly met at Basildon Hall (now an earthwork). He showed a charter boundary of Vange with land holdings named Bookland and Folkland. The Anglo-Saxon charters can take the form of a will, diploma or writ, but some are forgeries. Landowners built churches which became parishes and their boundaries, which came into being in the 13th century.

An 1841 Vange Tithe Map showed boundaries. It is still possible to find something mentioned in the charter, even when modern Basildon was built, using major roads. There were various boundary changes to Vange, Ralph FitzTurrold holding the Bishop of Vange, which included part of Canvey Island.

Using the Geographical Information System John pointed out various boundary points, superimposing maps.

Members were taken on a journey round the boundaries, comparing the tithe map with a modern one as far as possible, from Basildon to Vange, an ancient ditch and hill or bank still existing today. Various modern scenes of points mentioned in the charter were shown – landscapes, wood, roads, a deer park, creeks and rivers – names of boundaries shared by others being described as ‘used to be by the tree stump’ etc. The word street was the Roman name for road and a highway was suitable for an army.

When the fifth century arrived people settled where they wanted, landowners being taxed by the king, covering the whole of the landscape. Vange appeared to be a much more important place than it is today, but John made it come alive.

The society now has a full lecture programme for 2021/22. The next meeting is at 8pm on Friday, 19 November at St John’s Church hall in Victoria Avenue, Grays, when Martin Lockwood will be giving a talk on Essex Connections, Heroes & Villains. Visitors are welcome.

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