Saxon settlement

Saxon settlement at the Orchard site, WaltonEven before the Romans left the Saxons were starting to invade Britain. The Romans had constructed a number of forts along the British coast to repel these invasions, which are now called the Saxon shore forts.


After the Roman army left in AD 410 the raids became more frequent and the Saxons started to settle. Though the Britons fought back, eventually the Saxons settled in most of England. There is some debate as to whether the Saxons killed the Britons, forced them to the fringes of the island or mingled with them. Recent research has shown the last theory is probably most likely.


Whereas the Romans mainly had towns and farmsteads, or villas, the Saxons eventually settled into hamlets and villages. Saxon settlement was often not in the same place as Roman settlement had been. Many of today’s villages have their origins in this Saxon settlement. 

Reconstruction of the Saxon All Saint's church at Wing


Is your village Saxon?

There is a way you can find out. In 1086 there was a list made of all the parishes in England, how much land and how many animals they had. This is called the Domesday Book. By looking at it you can work out which villages have been around since at least this date, and probably for several hundred years before. You can find the Domesday entry for your village by doing a search for your parish on Buckinghamshire's Heritage Portal. What does it say about your village or town? 


Do a search on villages around you too. Mark on the map of Saxon settlement attached to this page which villages date to the Saxon period. 



You can also have a go at dating your village or town from place-name evidence. Look at the guide to English place-names online. Click on the index button and choose Buckinghamshire. Some names are particularly Saxon, like ones with the endings -ing, -leigh or -ley, -wick or -wich, or -don, -ton or -den. Horsenden, for instance, either means Horsa's valley or Horsa's hill, if the den is actually a corruption of dun. Low is also a good Saxon word, meaning mound. So Taplow may be named after the Saxon barrow there, Taeppa's barrow. You might find that some are even older, such as Brill, which comes from Bre Hill. Bre meant hill in the language spoken by the Britons before the Romans invaded in AD43 and the hill was added later once the meaning of the word bre had been forgotten. So Brill actually means hill hill!


What about the archaeology?

In the Saxon period although some people knew how to read and write, it was only the very rich or priests of the church who could. This means there aren’t many written records and often the only form of evidence that is left is objects and monuments. Do a search of your parish on Buckinghamshire's Heritage Portal for the Saxon period and see if there is anything that can tell you about the date of settlement at your village or town and what that settlement was like. Fill in this table:






Search for Saxon pottery






Search for Saxon burials






Add what you know from Domesday





Add what you have found out about the place-name





From all the evidence you have found, do you think your village was founded in the Saxon period?


Go back to find more Changes in the landscape.