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Were Some Burhs Temporary?

“Jeremy Haslam has argued that some of the small rural burhs were temporary sites that were later replaced with larger urban burhs. His argument for this is as follows:
“As Hill has pointed out, the Burghal Hidage is ‘a unitary list marshalled into a sequence by someone who knew where the sites were and was familiar with the drafting of boundary descriptions’ 1. This implies that it had a purpose at the time it was drawn up. I have also argued that this document was produced before a number of the more insubstantial forts listed in it were replaced by newer fortified burhs on more appropriate sites. Thus Eorpeburnan was replaced probably by Old Winchelsea or Rameslie (possibly Rye); Burpham by Steyning and Arundel; Eashing by Guildford; Brydian by Bridport; Halwell by Totnes and probably Kingsbridge; Pilton by Barnstaple; Chisbury by Marlborough; and Sashes by probably Aylesbury and / or Reading  2. This shows not only that the Burghal Hidage records an early stage of the genesis of the overall system, but also that the system as a whole was developed and consolidated internally.”

Haslam, J., (2016) p. 174 3


1. D. Hill, ‘The Nature of the Figures’, The Defence of Wessex, p.- 80. This of course implies that a group of administrators would have had a detailed mental map of southern England as a whole.
2. Haslam, ‘Towns of Devon’, pp. 251-6, 259-62. See further discussion in J. Haslam, ‘The Development of Late Saxon Christchurch, Dorset, and the Burghal Hidage’, Medieval Archaeology 53 (2009), 95-108, at 98-100, 103-4.
3. Haslam, J., (2016), “The Burghal Hidage and the West Saxon burhs: a reappraisal” in Anglo-Saxon England , Volume 45 , pp. 141 – 182.