Bits from Downton History Web
Cerdic and the Cloven Way From an article by O.G.S. Crawford in Antiquity, Vol. V, December 1931.
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England is an Anglo-Saxon country. Most of its present inhabitants are at least in part descended from Teutons who came over here from Scandinavia and Germany. The history of these invasions must therefore be of interest to all English-speaking people; and fresh evidence deserves early publication.

It is plain that these events began somewhere on the coast of Hampshire. Though few of the places mentioned can be identified with certainty, there are enough to indicate the locality. Cerdices ford is said by Ethelwerd to be on the Avon and can safely be identified with Charford, between Salisbury and Fordingbridge. (The exact topography of the fords there is dealt with below). Searo burh is Old Sarum; Beran burh is Barbury Castle on the Marlborough Downs; Wihtgara burh is Carisbrooke Castle4; and Wiht is of course the Isle of Wight.

The key of the opening campaign is Cerdices ora, and unfortunately the site of this is unknown. It must be somewhere between Christchurch and Portsmouth, and it is very unlikely to have been in the immediate neighbourhood of either of these two places. If Cerdic and Cynric landed at or near Christchurch and advanced up the Avon Valley - and that is the only possible direction to take - they would have had to cross the Avon at Fordingbridge; for north of this place the steep eastern sides of the valley abut right on the river and prevent passage along that side. Further advance would have to have been then as now, along the western side. The battle would then have been at Fordingbridge rather than at Charford.

On the other hand, it is most improbable that they would have landed anywhere east of the Test, for in that event they would surely have spread northwards into Hampshire rather than north-eastwards into Wiltshire. Calshot is topographically possible, but the name has no connection with Cerdices ora.Indications point to a site somewhere on the western shore of Southampton Water, near its head; and for reasons which will be evident later I should place Cerdices era at Totton. This is the natural haven of ships coming from the east, if they enter Southampton Water; there are no harbours between it and Calshot, and indeed Calshot is hardly a harbour at all. Totton is still used by quite big ships, and within living memory it was quite a busy port. It is at the head of Southampton Water, and they would naturally penetrate as far inland by water as they could. Another argument in its favour is the statement that the district between Cerdices era and Cerdices ford was called Natan leah. For immediately to the west of Totton is a low-lying district called Netley Marsh, and the early forms are consistent with a derivation from Natan leah. The old name of the mysterious earthwork at Downton was Nettlebury; but we must, in the absence of early forms, resist the temptation to connect it etymologically with Nata; for a form Natan byrig would have become Natebury or Netebury, and the more obvious explanation of Nettlebury is better.

Cerdices leah is to be looked for west of the Avon, for the battle their occurred after that at Cerdices ford.

If, then, the Chronicle is to be trusted, and if these identifications of places are correct, even if only approximately, we must conclude that the invaders led by Cerdic and Cynric landed on the coast of Hampshire and gradually spread northwards into what became later the kingdom of Wessex. And now a word must be said about the Jutes.

The Jutes were a Teutonic tribe that migrated from Jutland and settled in Southern Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. It is certain, however, that the Jutes occupied the whole of Southern Hampshire. That it included Bishop's Stoke (Eastleigh) is proved by the old name of this place Aet Yting Stoce (A.D. 960), and this, whether to be identified with Stoneham or elsewhere, cannot in any case have been far from Redbridge. The old name of the New Forest, Ytene, contains the same word.

Now according to Asser, Stuf and Wihtgar were Jutes. Speaking of Oslac, Alfred's maternal grandfather, Asser says: 'Qui Oslac Gothus erat natione; ortus enim erat de Gothis et Jutis, de semine scilicet Stuf et Wihtgar. This is quite a definite statement that Stuf and Wihtgar were Jutes; and if they were, then their 'relations' Cerdic and Cynric must surely have been Jutes also.

Let us suppose, then, that Cerdic and Cynric were Jutes who led a Jutish army from south Hampshire northwards through Wessex, and whose successors established a kingdom there.

We have seen that Cerdic landed at Cerdices ora, which I suggested was at Totton, and that later he crossed the Avon at Charford. I think it is possible to identify the exact route he followed.

Dr Grundy has established the fact that Saxon armies invariably followed important highways, generally ridgeways.; and that in consequence the sites of battle-fields are to be looked for along such roads. It as indeed for this reason that they were called 'herepaths' (here = an army). Only along such roads could a large body of men have moved in those days without becoming 'entangled in the land'. It is unnecessary to enlarge upon this fact, which must be obvious to students of history and topography. Now it so happens that an old road (if or the most part disused and forgotten) can be traced without a break from Totton, along the northern skirts of the New Forest to Charford, and thence across the Avon to Old Sarum. It is not, like some such, a mere figment of the map-reader's imagination; it can actually seen today, in the form of deeply-cut trenches or traffic-ruts, produced by the combined action of use and weather. It was this feature which gave it its name, for at a certain point in its course (between Lyburn and Golden Cross, near Windyyates) it has cut right through a narrow sandy spur called, from this, Cloven Hill. But everywhere along its course these traffic-ruts occur, as may be seen from the air-photographs

When I discovered this old road in 1912, I had no thoughts of connecting it with Cerdic, but it imagined that it was an old track from Southampton to Fordingbridge. I was led to examine it by noticing a trench marked by hachures on the Ordnance Map (Hants. 64NE), running southwards from Tachbury, a hill-fort. I thought it might have some connection with a Roman road I was interested in. The aforesaid trench proved to be an old lane, long disused, which ran south-eastwards into what is now called Calmoor Road; at Bearslane End it comes into the main Fordingbridge road and, under the name of Bear's Lane, enters Totton. North-westwards I followed it over the shoulder of Tachbury Hill, across Barrow Hill to the Cadnam River and Stagbury, where are four barrows on a steep sided natural knoll. Furzeley Common (the Stagmoore of 1620), has many systems of traffic-ruts and their general course may be observed from the top of Stagbury. Those we are following converge into a single, fairly deep cleft on the southern spur of the hill, but immediately spread out again and pass into a wood. I followed them thence to Dazel Corner. Here they cross the county boundary into Wiltshire, running parallel with the boundary a few yards to the north of it. They cross the Landford road19 near Lord's Oak just south of the crossroads, and are plainly visible across Woodside bottom, north of Nomansland. Here they separate into two distinct groups, which unite again in a copse at the southern end of Risbury hill. They cross the road near the saw-mill south of Lyburn Farm, and can be followed continuously through the beautiful pine-woods of Cloven Hill Plantation. Over Cloven Hill itself they converge into the before mentioned deep cleft from which this part of the road obtained the name I have here applied to the whole of it. The positive aspect of the cleft is seen in a broad causeway where the washed-out debris has been spread in the course of ages as a small delta.

We have seen that the ground between Totton and Barbury, a distance of nearly 60 miles, provides a reasonable line of advance along a road whose existence is proved by documentary references, and whose traffic-ruts (though in their present form doubtless of a later age) are still in evidence. All four mainland battles can be identified on this road, in three instances certainly. The course of the Cloven from Totton may not seem the most direct route to Old Sarum, but it may well have been the easiest. The route to be inferred from the Chronicle represents rather the general line of advance of an invading host, which in each campaign would follow the line of least resistance. Such would naturally be along an important and well known highway. But each advance probably had a limited objective, consisting of the acquisition and settlement of the new territory. The result in either case is much the same, but we must beware of attributing to the original settlers projects which they are most unlikely to have formed. They did not land with their luggage labelled 'Barbury via Old Sarum'. Good open arable land, however, is not to be found in abundance round the head of Southampton Water - at any rate on the west side. The need for expansion must soon have been felt; and as so often before in our history the dry but well-watered chalk lands exerted a powerful attraction, though they could only be taken by force from the Britains. The Cloven Way is the shortest route to the chalk, which is first encountered in Rye Hill Copse above Charford. The road may well have been in use in yet earlier times (though there is no evidence of this) as a thoroughfare between the villagers of Cranbourne Chase and the sea. Tachbury may be the predecessor of Totton.

But even as an early route to Old Sarum there is much to be said for the Cloven Way. It is only four miles longer than the direct distance in a straight line. True, it involves crossing of the Avon twice, and the Ebble once; but neither passage would have presented great difficulties, and in any case a more easterly route would have involved a crossing of the Winterbourne (thus cancelling one of the others out) and two separate belts of tangled, often waterlogged, country, on either side Dean Hill a group of settlers in the Totton district, if they wished to acquire fresh arable land, would most naturally turn to these regions, which , as we are told, they did acquire.

For these reasons I conclude that the account in the Chronicle is a trustworthy historical description of events which actually took place. It is confirmed (in 'Fyrdinges lea') by what may well be a nearly traditional record of these events set down within 150 years of their occurrence. It is not impossible that this same tradition may have survived to a later date when racial distinctions between Jute and Saxon had been obliterated, or were discreetly forgotten by the Chronicler. Surely no mere series of suggestive place-names could have given rise to a narrative that, when studied topographically, is seen to be eminently plausible.