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COMMUNITY ARCHAEOLOGY AT THYNGHOWE, BIRKLANDS, SHERWOOD FOREST by Lynda Mallett, Stuart Reddish, John Baker, Stuart Brookes and Andy Gaunt

INTRODUCTION Thynghowe, a place which takes its name from the Old Scandinavian þing ‘assembly’ and haugr ‘mound’, is a mound located on Hanger Hill, Birklands, Sherwood Forest (SK 599 683). As is suggested by the name, alongside archaeological, cartographical, and locational evidence described in detail below, it is probable that the mound once served as the site of open-air assemblies. Such assembly mounds are attested from elsewhere in England and more widely across early medieval northern Europe, but few in this country are properly understood and they remain largely unstudied in British archaeology (a notable exception is Adkins & Petchey 1984). This reason alone justified the fieldwork with which this report deals, carried out in early 2011 by the Friends of Thynghowe, members of the Landscapes of Governance project from University College London Institute of Archaeology and the Institute for Name-Studies, University of Nottingham, and Nottinghamshire Community Archaeology. But set alongside this account is a description of a community archaeology project which has grown from very humble beginnings into a much wider concern, aiming to reassess the forgotten heritage of Sherwood and its physical composition over time. It provides a case study underlining the considerable merits of a collaborative approach, involving local researchers, professional archaeologists, and the wider academic community. EARLY MEDIEVAL ASSEMBLY PLACES As they are understood from contemporary written sources, open-air assembly-places – often

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known as ‘moots’ or ‘things’ – were a fundamental institution through which early medieval societies settled disputes and passed laws. Already in the earliest legal code produced in England in the court of the Kentish King Æthelberht c. AD 600, is outlined an elaborate series of payments, connected with the notion of leodgeld or wergild, through which kindred could be compensated by the initial wrongdoer for any injurious acts. These laws also regulate behaviour at assemblies, the very first clause of Æthelberht’s code making provision for compensation to be paid in the case of a breach of the peace at a meeting. Presumably, for meetings to be defined for such purposes, their venues were already established in some way. Scandinavian and Icelandic sources from the later medieval period (eleventh to fourteenth centuries) provide more detailed descriptions of the procedures involved at ‘things’. In the Icelandic Heimskringla an account is given of an assembly in Uppsala (ch. 80), during which two rival delegations were assembled, each around their seated leaders, who faced each other across a circle, around which the peasants were congregated. Speeches were made, and the assembled exhorted to make noises of approval by clashing their weapons together. This custom of making noise with weapons to express an opinion has been suggested to be the origin of the OE wapentake (ON vápnatak; Anderson 1934, xxi; Brink 2008, 26), a term which also came to refer to the administrative territories over which the court presided. Proceedings at a Norwegian assembly recorded in the saga of Egill Skallagrimsson, illustrate how the court was contained within a ‘judge’s ring’ – a circular cordon demarcated by cords (vébond, ‘sanctuary bonds’) staked into the

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ground (Ewing 2008, 77; Brink 2008, 26). Then, after judgment was given at the Iceland Althing of Thingvellir, formal notice of the punishment was proclaimed from the Hill of Laws (Gomme 1880, 33). Conflating these descriptions together gives an impression – however imperfectly – of some of the proceedings of thing assemblies, and hints at some of the physical traces they might leave archaeologically. The actual location of many early medieval assembly places can be identified by triangulating written, archaeological and toponymic sources. A crucial source in this regard for England is Domesday Book, the great survey of holdings and liable taxes completed in 1086. Amongst the categories of information recorded by the Domesday survey is geographical data on the estates, manors, and vills, and the administrative territories (hundreds and wapentakes) to which they belonged (Fig. 1). These territories were in general named after their meeting places, and toponymic analysis of these names can often identify – sometimes very precisely – the locations where assemblies were held. Early medieval assembly places in England are currently the subject of a major research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust (http://www.ucl., which, amongst its varied aims, seeks to map and analyse places of assembly and their names, examine the scale and forms of related administrative and social functions, and explore chronological patterns in the evidence for the first time on a national scale. One aspect of this research has been to compile evidence for assembly places in order to define their principal characteristics and typological features. In this regard Thynghowe provides an important opportunity for archaeological fieldwork. It is a rare example of a ‘pristine’ assembly place where the larger landscape context and chronological development of the site can be properly evaluated through non-intrusive means. Perhaps just as importantly, it provided the ideal opportunity for a project in which historians, place-name scholars, and archaeologists could collaborate to bring their respective expertise to bear.

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TOPOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY Birklands Forest lies to the north of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. It is now mainly a forest of tree plantations, comprising a mixture of plantation pines, with some beech groves and mixed woodland, but also containing some very old ‘stag’ oaks. Birklands is a remaining woodland fragment of the medieval royal Forest of Sherwood; a large area of important forest now managed as a National Nature Reserve (NNR). Birklands is an Old Scandinavian (OScand) place-name (Gover, Mawer, and Stenton 1940, xviii fn2, 77), but is not the earliest recorded name for this piece of woodland, which is first mentioned as Birchwude 1188 (also Birchewude 1203, Birchewode 1230), a name going back to OE beorc ‘birch’ and wudu ‘wood(land)’. By the end of the thirteenth century, forms such as Birkelund(e) (1251) and Birkelound (1252) are much more frequent, and this represents a semantically similar OScand compound containing the elements birki ‘birch wood’ but also probably ‘birch tree’, and lúndr ‘a small wood, a grove’, sometimes meaning ‘a sacred grove’ (Smith 1956a; Smith 1956b; Parsons et al. 1997, p.105). This OScand place-name must have been in use long before it was first recorded, existing for a time alongside Birchwude, and Birkland subsequently displaced the alternative name completely. Two spellings, Burkwode (1230) and Birkewode (1290), suggest that pronunciation of the English compound was also influenced by Scandinavian speakers, with <k> indicating that the final consonant in beorc was unassibilated (Jordan 1974, pp.163–68). A final point is worth making. Parsons et al cite Birklands as evidence that OScand birki, the primary sense of which is ‘place growing with birch-trees, birch wood’, came also to denote individual birch-trees, giving here the sense ‘birch-tree wood’. Given the alternative sense of OScand lúndr, ‘(sacred) grove’, we might alternatively think of Birklands as meaning ‘the sacred grove in the birch wood’, an interpretation perhaps relevant to the earlier communal use of the site discussed below. Birklands and the adjoining Budby forest form an extensive area of old wood-pasture and heathland on the dry nutrient-poor soils of the

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Figure 1: Map of the administrative districts of England as reconstructed from Domesday Book and later medieval sources. Also shown is the extent of the ‘Danelaw’ as defined by Hadley (2000, 3).

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Sherwood Sandstone. Large tracts of dry sandy heathland, dominated by heather, gorse and bracken, were once widespread across Sherwood and important remnants of this landscape are found on Budby South Forest and other open areas of the NNR. The wood was the property of the crown for nearly 600 years. It was used as a source of timber and for grazing, but its main use was as an exclusive royal hunting ground. Today the Forestry Commission manage the Birklands on long term leases from the Thoresby, Welbeck and Fitzherbert estates. Thynghowe (Hanger Hill), at OSGR 459928, 368368, is near the centre of Birklands on a ridge of relatively high ground defined by the valley of the River Maun to the south and east and the valley of the River Meden to the North. It lies at the top of the highest point (95m O.D.) on the lordship boundary between Warsop and Edwinstowe, which is also the junction of the three parishes of Warsop, Edwinstowe and Budby cum Perlethorpe. The hill is a small but pronounced natural rise at the end of an east-west ridge. From it the ground falls away most steeply to the north-west into the Meden valley; to the south and east the gradient is less pronounced, forming a large bowl-like plateau. PROJECT BACKGROUND Thynghowe was re-discovered six years ago by husband and wife team Lynda Mallett and Stuart Reddish, historians and professional researchers. At a general sale on the Welsh border in 2004, they had purchased, along with other documents, an 1816 Lordship of Warsop Perambulation document which described a boundary through Birklands (Fig. 2) (Reddish & Mallet 2012). In January 2005, with the permission and support of the Forestry Commission who manage Birklands, they searched the forest for any evidence of the boundary markers and other features mentioned in the document. These included ancient oak trees, parish boundary markers, ditches and banks. One site mentioned in the document was Hanger Hill (Fig. 3). It was described as the place whereupon the perambulation party ate bread and

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cheese, drank ale and got local boys to run races “according to ancient custom”. This was clearly a significant place, and was described as being a hill upon which stood three stones: boundary stones for Warsop and Edwinstowe; and one unmarked stone. Using this description, Mallett and Reddish were able to find Hanger Hill in the middle of a pine tree plantation. The low mound is still surmounted by two of the stones – the third now lies fallen in an area of quarrying to the west of the summit – closely fitting the description of the 1816 perambulation (Fig. 4). Two stones are marked with an ‘E’ for Edwinstowe and a ‘W’ for Warsop respectively, whilst the third stone on the summit of the mound bears no inscription. Research was done to find out why Hanger Hill was regarded as significant. A crudely drawn map dated 1606 (MP/WP5S Nottingham Archive) showed Hanger Hill and the name ‘Thynghowe’ together (Fig. 5). There is an artist’s impression of a hill upon which they show a standing stone and refer to this as the Forest Stone of Birklands. Gradually, supporting material was found to show that the summit of Hanger Hill and Thynghowe were the same place (Map 1606 MP/WP5S Nottingham Archive; Mastoris & Groves 1997; Bromley House Forest Book 1335). The indication was that this was an important assembly site with possible Viking connections. Mallett and Reddish formed the Friends of Thynghowe group to bring the site back to local knowledge and to undertake more research. The Friends drew together three local history groups and have since 2008 instigated a range of community projects aimed at bringing the historical and natural heritage of Sherwood to a wider audience. From an early date the Friends collaborated closely with the Forestry Commission, who manage the area for three local landowners: the Fitzherbert Estate, the Welbeck Estate and the Thoresby Estate. There are public rights of way through the forest but permission needs to be sought to access Hanger Hill and Thynghowe, so the Forestry Commission support was vital in undertaking any practical research of the area. Shortly after the discovery of Thynghowe, the Forestry Commission undertook a

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Figure 2: 1816 The Lordship of Warsop Perambulation document.

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Figure 3: Site location.

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Figure 4: Photo of the mound, showing the stones on its summit.

clear fell of the area. By this time the significance of the archaeological features was becoming clearer and this led to a more careful felling of trees in the area. Mallett and Reddish also undertook an emergency survey of the summit of the hill in case some features were lost due to forestry operations. With assistance from Prof Ian Rotherham and Dr Paul Ardron of Sheffield Hallam University the group became a case study in the publication of the Woodland Heritage Manual (Gathercole & Rotherham 2007). Through this involvement English Heritage visited the site and listed Thynghowe on the National Monument Record as a possible Viking ‘thing’ site, and potentially ‘a national rarity’.

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Further involvement was subsequently invited from Nottinghamshire Community Archaeology and the Landscapes of Governance project, who undertook an archaeological survey of the site in January 2011. The project brings together grassroots local historians, place-name scholars, and archaeologists from diverse constituencies – the general public, government, and academic sectors – to provide a model of collaborative fieldwork. It is a project which is community-led, but which is closely affiliated with a national academic research project, as well as a range of other local and regional stakeholders. Future plans, described below, aim to continue this programme of cooperative and participatory archaeology.

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Figure 5: 1609 Survey of Birklands.


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ARCHAEOLOGICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE SITE The archaeological survey was divided into three parts. Part one was a topographic earthwork survey of Thynghowe undertaken by Andy Gaunt, Emily Gillott and Lorraine Horsley of Nottinghamshire County Council Community Archaeology along with members of the Friends of Thynghowe group, who also undertook part 2: a walkover survey of the hinterland to record the locations of archaeology and earthworks in the surrounding area. A third part involved a geophysical fluxgate gradiometer survey of the central part of the site, undertaken by Stuart Brookes (UCL) and John Baker (The University of Nottingham). The earthwork survey was undertaken using Differential survey grade Global Positioning System (GPS) and an Electronic Distance Measuring (EDM) Total Station. Systematic survey was carried out following 2m transects across the site at right angles to the edges of the survey areas. Subjective survey was used as a means to record features in more detail. EDM Total Stations were used to record the tops and bottoms of slopes. This subjective survey method was employed in order to allow a hachure plan of the site to be created (Fig. 6). The gradiometer survey covered the central area of visible earthworks. Sherwood Sandstone (a unit of New Red Sandstone) will normally provide generally good responses for magnetic survey (David 1995, 10). The survey grid consisted of 20 x 20m grids; each of which was surveyed with 1m traverses, with samples taken every 0.5m (Fig. 7). The survey results are discussed in the following section in relation to the hachure map and numbers in Fig. 6. The topographic GPS and Total Station survey mapped features both on the top of the mound and in the immediate vicinity. The results show a number of raised features. The mound (1) has been steepened on its southern and western sides by quarrying. The area of quarrying (2) is subsequently lower than the mound and is surrounded by a number of earthworks (3) which

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stand as higher ground. These areas were probably untouched by the quarrying or were created as a result of re-deposition of quarried material. These earthworks are higher relative to area 2, but are lower than the hilltop labeled 1. â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Spikesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; (small discrete spots) in the gradiometer data are normally caused by ferrous material within the topsoil. There was a concentration of small anomalies caused by ferrous spikes particularly in the area of quarrying (2), probably resulting from dumped material. To the north of this collection of earthworks is a north-south linear ditch or holloway that runs downhill to the north (4). Whilst it seems to provide access to the site from this direction, it is on the alignment of a twentieth-century forestry boundary and the parish boundary of Perlethorpe-cum-Budby, and appeared clearly in the gradiometer survey to continue across the site to the south, and is therefore likely to be the result of modern forest management. To the northeast of the mound is a curved linear holloway or ditch (5) which follows to some extent the natural contours of the hill. The feature appears as a v-shaped holloway at its northern end but towards its southern end closes its eastern side, and only survives on its western side as a cutting into the slope of the hill. It appears as a faint positive linear feature in the gradiometer data. Feature 6 is a series of small curved linear hollows or ditches running from the mound (1) downslope to the north. Feature 7 represents two near parallel linear holloways running northsouth; diagonal to the slope of the hill. Perhaps significantly, the extension of this holloway was not identified as a linear feature in the gradiometer survey to the south, suggesting that it may have terminated at (and is therefore contemporary with) the mound. Feature 8 is a short but well cut hollow running for a short distance across the hill roughly where the slope becomes gentler, and begins to flatten out. To the north of the survey area is a platform surrounded by small cut ditches. This is most probably a modern feature, with remains of Ministry of Defence activity present close by.

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Figure 6: Hachure plan. The top of the mound is labeled (1).

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figure 7: Hachure plan overlain with the gradiometer survey results.

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DISCUSSION Archaeological parallels The limited archaeological corpus of early medieval assembly mounds covers a large spectrum of sites. In one of the best-known examples in England, at Saltwood, near Folkestone in Kent, a group of Bronze Age barrows was found to be the focus for both a cluster of early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, and the later hundred meeting-place of Heane (Booth et al. 2011, 366–7). A similar association of prehistoric barrow, ‘folk’ cemetery, and early medieval hundred meeting-place has been suggested at Mill Hill, Deal (the meeting-place of Cornilo hundred), and Ozengell (at Lord of the Manor on the Isle of Thanet), both in Kent (Brookes forthcoming). By way of contrast, at Lovenden Hill in Lincolnshire, the meeting-place of the Domesday wapentake of Lovedun(e) (1086 DB) and site of a large early medieval cremation cemetery, the central part of the cemetery appears to have been focussed on a natural knoll which resembles a barrow (Fennell 1964, 80–2). In general, however, assembly mounds are not associated with early medieval burials. From a statistical survey of the patterning of hundred meeting-places, Brookes (forthcoming) established that only 16% of assembly places overall are associated with (i.e. within 1000m of) early AngloSaxon burials. Indeed, in many cases, artificial assembly mounds, not containing burials, were also built. The meeting-place of Secklow hundred in Buckinghamshire, for example, has been identified with a mound, c. 25m in diameter, shown through excavation to have been purpose-built at some time between the fourth and thirteenth centuries (Adkins & Petchey 1984). Similarly, excavations on the assembly mound known as Bledisloe Tump in Gloucestershire, and that of Court Hill, the meeting-place of the Norfolk hundred of Taverham, failed to identify any human remains (ibid., 248; Anon 1859; Dornier 1966). Dating evidence for the construction of these mounds is, however, largely lacking. At Bledisloe Tump, pottery in the buried ground surface suggested a twelfth-century date. By contrast, a large mound, lying c. 200m southwest of Gumley village in Leicestershire, appears to

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have been built at a much earlier date. This mound is likely to have been used as part of the Gumley council of AD 749 (Sawyer 1968, Cat. No. 92), but was not recorded as a hundred meeting-place in Domesday Book, by which time assemblies in the region appear to have taken place at Gartree Bush in Shangton parish (Pantos 2002, vol. 2, 321). Whilst artificial assembly mounds are not necessarily located in highly visible elevated locations, many open-air assembly sites do incorporate prominent topographical features and command views over large areas. The Thynghowe survey shows clearly that the mound dominated the skyline when viewed from its surroundings (see below), and in this regard the site most closely resembles that of the aforementioned Mill Hill, Deal, or the shire meeting-place of Cwicchelmeshlæwe ‘Cwichelm’s mound’ (now Scutchamer Knob in Berkshire; Sanmark & Semple 2008). In both cases a prominent prehistoric mound was adapted for use as an assembly place, and commanded extensive views over territories of settled land associated with it. The purpose of assembly mounds may have been functional, serving as ‘soapboxes’ for public pronouncements (Meaney 1997, 212–3), or as the seat of high-status representatives at the assembly; an arrangement which is attested in procedures adopted by the assemblies at Tynewald Hill, in the Isle of Man (Pantos 2002, 73–4). The use of prominent mounds for assembly may also have been to make deeper symbolic gestures. In an important survey of Anglo-Saxon burial sites Sarah Semple has drawn attention to the role of visible burial monuments as “‘locale[s] of discourse’... place[s] where communication was facilitated between the living and the dead, its use and reuse acting as a legitimate route to the past” (Semple 2004, 139). Even when they did not contain human remains, it is possible that mounds were intended to evoke similar ancestral associations to lend greater legitimacy to the proceedings. Common to other known assembly places, Thynghowe can be closely associated with routes of communication and movement (Sanmark 2009; Baker et al. 2011). It is likely that the identified

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holloway (7) running to the north from the mound is the same as a trackway on the 1609 map, and this would have provided easy accessibility for people climbing the slope from the Meden valley. At Saltwood, similar tracks, preserved as modern bridle-ways running through the meeting-place, were shown through excavation to be Iron Age and Roman in origin (Booth et al. 2011). In no case in England can an enclosure be genuinely associated with an assembly mound, and such features are also rare in Nordic countries. Mention of ‘judge’s rings’ in Scandinavian written sources suggest that circular structures may have existed at some assembly places (Brink 2008, 26). Indeed, excavations at Þingnes in Iceland revealed a concentric circular structure surrounded by farmhouses, but in this case there was no indication of an accompanying mound (Ólafsson 1987, 343). In light of the evidence it is most likely that the associated earthworks at Thynghowe relate to quarrying or other activities which took place at the site at a much later date. Thynghowe and the wapentake of Bassetlaw The Thynghowe area experienced considerable political turmoil during the ninth and tenth centuries. An integral part of the Mercian kingdom from early times, it had fallen into Scandinavian hands by the 880s, under the terms of the treaty between Alfred and Guthrum, if not earlier under the division imposed on Ceolwulf in 877. The precise terms of the earlier settlement are unknown, but generally accepted to have anticipated those of the later treaty (Stenton 1971, 254–5; Keynes & Lapidge 1984, 20; Cameron 1985, 131; Gelling 1992, 127; Hart 1992, 7, 16–18; but cf. Pagan 1972; 1986, 63 n33; Pythian-Adams 1977, 73; Cox 1989, 142–4; 1994, xxxvii–xli, lxiv n64), which divided Mercia into south-western and north-eastern parts using the Rivers Thames, Lea and Ouse, and Watling Street for delineation. The region ruled from the stronghold of Nottingham remained outside the Kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons until Edward the Elder first of all conquered the borough in 918 and then constructed his own fortifications two years later. Apart from a brief interlude between 939

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and 941, during which Olaf Guthfrithsson briefly established his rule in the north-east midlands, Nottinghamshire subsequently remained within the English political sphere (Stafford 1985, 114–5). The status of Nottingham as one of the Five Boroughs of the late tenth century, and its separate legal status as part of the Danelaw from the eleventh, emphasise the social and cultural impact of the period of Scandinavian domination (Stafford 1985, 115–7). Although the number of Scandinavian settlers has been much debated (for summaries of the debate see Wormald 1982 and Hadley 2006, 1–27), the toponymic evidence is relatively clear that Old Scandinavian became an important stratum of language in the north-east midlands (FellowsJensen 1978), providing new place-names (e.g. Birkland, Budby, Thoresby) and field-names such as Garth in Cuckney and Carr Close in Edwinstowe; Gover et al. 1940, 77, 91–3, 302–3), and influencing the form and pronunciation of existing Old English ones (e.g. Kirton, Askham; Gover et al. 1940, xviii n1, 44, 52); as well as introducing a fresh set of personal names and other lexical items into the local English vocabulary of name-creation (e.g. Clipstone; Gover et al. 1940, 73, 91 and see Cullen et al. 2011). As can be seen, examples of these kinds of innovation can be identified within the vicinity of Thynghowe, although it should of course be noted that many settlements in this area retained their English names (e.g. Edwinstowe, Ollerton; Gover et al. 1940, 75–6, 89). That these English placenames survived does not mean that Scandinavian settlement was necessarily absent (Cameron 1973); on the other hand, the replacement of an English name by a Scandinavian one does not imply the substitution of one population by another. What is clear from the place-name record, however, is the considerable linguistic impact of Old Scandinavian on the regions under Viking rule (Gover et al. 1940, xvii). The name Thynghowe itself derives from Old Scandinavian, and is perhaps indicative of the substitution of a Scandinavian legal and governmental structure – or of a Scandinavian nomenclature – for existing arrangements. Bassetlaw wapentake, the administrative unit in which Thynghowe was located at the time of Domesday, is recorded in 1086 as Bernedeselawe,

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Bernedelawe, Bernesedelawe (Anderson 1934, 39–40). The etymology of the name is difficult, and the best suggestion is that it represents OE *bærnetsǣtnahlāw ‘the mound of the inhabitants of the land cleared by burning’ (Ekwall 1914, 199; Anderson 1934, 40; Gover et al. 1940, 23; Mills 2003, 45). The origins of the *Bærnetsǣte, if indeed that is how they called themselves, are obscure, but their territory was close to the strategically important communications corridor between Northumbria and the southern English kingdoms, and the establishment of semi-autonomous or independent tribal identities around the fringes of the middle Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia is not unparalleled – the location of many of the Tribal Hidage groupings between Mercia and East Anglia is clearly a relevant parallel. Of further interest in this regard, is the location of Bassetlaw beyond the northern periphery of a series of coherent burghal territories associated with major strongholds, running north-west/south-east across the Danelaw. It has recently been argued that these territorial divisions represent an initial phase of West Saxon administrative organisation, around the fringes of which existed a series of territories of complex origins, diverse identity, and legal status (Baker & Brookes forthcoming a).

sometimes found on the periphery of the named groups (e.g. Hooke 1985, 6 fig.1, 14–5), in which case the territory of the *Bærnetsǣte may have lain immediately to the east of Hatfield division, or have been more or less coextensive with Hatfield. To the west of Thynghowe, Shirebrook in Derbyshire (OE scīr and brōc) records the stream that marked the boundary of Hatfield division, Bassetlaw wapentake and the shire of Nottingham from Derbyshire and its administrative districts (Cameron 1959, 298). On the other hand, the boundary may post-date use of Beacon Hill as an assembly site, in which case the territory of the *Bærnetsǣte may have included areas on both sides of it.

It is, however, unlikely that Thynghowe was the meeting-site of the wapentake, which has been more convincingly placed at Beacon Hill in East Markham (Crook 1982). According to postDomesday records, Domesday Bassetlaw was divided into two of the three divisions that made up the later medieval wapentake of the same name. Thynghowe was within Hatfield division, while Beacon Hill to the east was within South Clay. If the administrative functions probably associated with Thynghowe do not relate to the wapentake as a whole, it is conceivable that it was the meetingplace of Hatfield division – if the history of that division stretches beyond the twelfth century (Gover et al. 1940, 24) – or of some earlier subdivision of Bassetlaw. The place-name Markham may indicate the presence of an earlier boundary (Gover et al. 1940, 55), and as Crook (1982, 113–4) points out, it is on this boundary that Beacon Hill and therefore the mound called Bassetlaw were located. Place-names making reference to tribal groups are

Sherwood itself is recorded from the tenth century (Gover et al. 1940, 10) and may well mean ‘wood belonging to the shire or district’ (OE scīr and wudu). This name is found also in Sherwood in Clive, Shropshire (Gelling 2004, 122) and may also be analogous with the lost Hereswode ‘wood of the army or host’ (perhaps implying ‘of the whole people’) in Leicestershire (Gover et al. 1940, 10; Cox 1971, 103–4). The implication of the name may be that the people of the district had common rights to pasture and other resources in Sherwood. As a focal point for a shire or district as a whole, and as an area of common land, Sherwood would have been a suitable location for wider assemblies, and this opens the possibility that Thynghowe served as a meeting-place for a much wider district. It is perhaps significant that the River Meden running below Hanger Hill, about 1km to the northwest, is derived from OE medume ‘middle’ (Ekwall 1928, 283–4; Gover et al. 1940, 6). This may, as Ekwall suggested, refer to its position between the

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Thynghowe’s regional centrality is emphasised by its topographical qualities. The mound was evidently a prominent feature in the local landscape. By combining the results of the survey with Ordnance Survey Digital Terrain Models (DTM) it is possibly to run different analyses to investigate the site’s location. One such method is viewshed analysis, which determines the field of visibility from a designated location (Fig. 8). From the results of the analysis carried out at Thynghowe, it is clear the site was most visible from the north into the Meden valley.

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Figure 8: Viewshed analysis for Thynghowe. The area which is visible is shown in green.

rivers Maun and Poulter, but it might also reflect the centrality of this area within a wider district. The Meden valley was certainly the location of intense settlement since the Bronze Age. Numerous Bronze-age weapon finds have been recorded (e.g. Nottinghamshire Historic Environment Record (L11084) – a socketed spearhead, Sookholme; (L4082) – spearhead, Warsop; (L10048) – Bronze Axe, Warsop). National Mapping Project cropmark data shows that this area was also part of the Brickwork-plan field-systems of the 1st century BC to first century AD (Garton 2008). In this area of porous sandstones, settlement is likely to have concentrated on lower ground adjacent to the rivers, but significantly, the archaeological evidence suggests that at certain times the landscape was clear of much of its present-day tree cover; indeed

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John Chapman’s map of 1774 shows it as open heath. Potentially, during the early medieval period, Thynghowe could be seen from long distances away. There is certainly a long folklore of assembly of one kind or another in the neighbourhood of Thynghowe. Edwinstowe – the boundary of whose parish passes over Thynghowe – may well owe its name to the cult of King Edwin, possibly killed near here at the battle of Hatfield c.632 (Gover et al. 1940, 76). The second element of the name, OE stōw, seems to imply a periodic gathering together of some kind, perhaps for religious purposes (Gelling 1982; Forsberg 1984; Cederlöf 1998 Just over 3km south-west of Thynghowe, Parliament Oak (a modern name first recorded in

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the 1816 Perambulation Document), is reputed to have been the site of a parliament in the reign of King John (Rooke 1799, 18; Gover et al. 1940, 74), emphasising the perceived convenience of the area for major gatherings, even if the tradition is mistaken.

liminal qualities of the site which rendered it appropriate for assemblies – ‘things’ – in the early medieval period.

Early medieval assembly places are commonly on the meeting points of several local estate boundaries (Pantos 2003), and this too, finds accord with the evidence from Thynghowe. Its location on a hill top would, moreover, have made this location peripheral throughout much of its history; a finding which may provide some indication of Thynghowe’s legal status. Surveying the corpus of known early medieval assembly sites some distinctions can be drawn between the locations of places and the social and territorial groups which used them. Hundred courts located close to head vills, minsters, or manors, for example, are more likely to reflect local patterns of elite control and administration, than sites located at the periphery of a landscape or settlement area. Indeed, in many of the cases where assembly places are located on elevated land, these sites appear to have been used by communities living in neighbouring hundreds. Often later medieval sheriff’s tourns and countyleets – such as that of Ham Hill in Somerset (Dunning 1978, pp.76–77), or Penenden Heath in Kent (Douglas & Greenaway 1953, pp.481–83) – took place on marginal commons shared by several hundreds. Similarly, a certain class of meetingplace related to shire-level functions took place on exposed ‘hanging promontories’ away from the main areas of settlement (Baker & Brookes forthcoming b). Such locations might reflect the underlying requirement for neutral arbitration. By being located in ‘a sort of “no-man’s-land” ’ or perhaps more correctly an ‘every-man’s land’ (Pantos 2003), in Gelling’s words “as far away as possible from the settlements of the community it served and on the boundary between two or more estates...”(Gelling 1997, p.210), the settlement of disputes could take place at assembly sites in a more impartial and unbiased fashion. In light of the place-name evidence discussed above an argument could certainly be made that this site was at the boundary of communities far before the current parish boundaries, and that it was these essential

In 2011 the Friends of Thynghowe were awarded a grant of £49,950 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to undertake in depth research into the Birklands part of Sherwood Forest. The research includes the commissioning of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to record as many features as possible on the forest floor. This will enable a more thorough analysis of all aspects of evidence of human intervention in the landscape and help to discriminate the various phases of occupation of the forest. This process will include opportunities for community involvement in surveying and ‘groundtruthing’ any newly discovered features. The cultural heritage of the forest will also be revitalised by community involvement in re-enactments of the Lordship Perambulation and a recreation of a Viking Assembly. Educational opportunities are also being developed to include schools and students in the making of further discoveries

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Archive research will be undertaken to assess the impact of changes of use and ownership of Birklands which may help to provide a better understanding of any archaeological features remaining within the forest. It is hoped that the findings of the desk-based, LiDAR, and field survey may enable closer comparison with other local and national meeting sites and with Scandinavian examples. The possible application of targeted trial trenching by professional archaeologists could be considered for some of the features already detected to aid in a more comprehensive dating of the site. This would need to be undertaken with guidance from the county archaeologist and under discussion with English Heritage if the site is one day to be considered for scheduling. CONCLUSIONS The collaboration undertaken at Thynghowe, at the instigation of Mallett and Reddish, sets out

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a useful blueprint for community-led landscape archaeology. As is the case in many other situations, the complexity of the archaeology and its historical context, set alongside wider issues of cultural and natural heritage management, have required at Thynghowe the collaboration of public authorities, academic specialists, and local interest groups. Each of these parties brings a different range of expertise to the project, but although local government and university researchers are able to provide technical help and advice, it is the local experts who have the best understanding of the landscape to be investigated. It is also local volunteers who are able to provide the impetus and the detailed work on local archives necessary


to move the project forward. The success of the fieldwork at Thynghowe is due largely to the fact that the aims, the definition of the key local questions to be addressed, and the coordination of the different agencies remained community-led, but informed by and situated within a wider framework of academic research. Further opportunities for collaborative research of this kind will be facilitated by the Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Hopefully, these will add to the understanding of the history of Birklands, particularly the Scandinavian influence on the legal, social and economic shape of this part of Nottinghamshire; a society that lived, farmed and created an ‘ancient custom’ of assembly in Sherwood Forest.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS We are grateful to Andy Norman and the Forestry Commission for access to the site, and the Nottinghamshire County Council Local Improvement Scheme for funding the project. Thanks are also due to the many volunteers of The Friends of Thynghowe group, particularly Steve

Horne and Paul Walsh who helped with the survey of the site, and the many others who have walked tirelessly up and down the borders of the different parishes in search of boundary stones and other archaeological features.

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Anon, 1859. Extracts from the proceedings of the committe of the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society. Norfolk Archaeology, 5, 357–365. Baker, J. & Brookes, S. 2013. Governance at the AngloScandinavian interface: hundredal organisation in the southern Danelaw. Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume: The Assembly Project: Meeting Places in Northern Europe AD 400–1500. Baker, J. & Brookes, S. 2013. Monumentalising the political landscape: a special class of Anglo-Saxon assembly-sites. Antiquaries Journal. Baker, J. Brookes, S. & Reynolds, A. 2011. Landscapes of Governance: Assembly sites in England, fifth-eleventh centuries. Post-Classical Archaeologies, 1, 499–502. Booth, P. et al. 2011. On Track: The Archaeology of High Speed 1 Section 1 in Kent, Oxford: Oxford Wessex Archaeology Monograph 4. Brink, S. 2008. Law and Society: Polities and legal customs in Viking Scandinavia. In S. Brink & N. Price, eds. The Viking World. London: Routledge, 23–31.

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Community archaeology at thynghowe, birklands, sherwood forest  
Community archaeology at thynghowe, birklands, sherwood forest  

Thynghowe, a place which takes its name from the old Scandinavian þing ‘assembly’ and haugr ‘mound’, is a mound located on hanger hill, Birk...