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Summary of the History of Anglo-Saxon Barton

Geoff Bryant

I have been asked to write a summary of the history of Anglo-Saxon Barton as outlined in my talk to the Society in February. The subject will he dealt with in much more detail in my 'Early History of Barton-on-Humber' to be published in 1994.
c410: End of Roman political control. It seems likely that for some years or decades the Romano-British population maintained a fragile peace though increasingly they were threatened by groups arriving from the Continent.
450 - 600: Slowly but surely the Anglo-Saxon invaders (in the Barton area probably mainly Anglians originally from what is now Southern Denmark) settled among the remnant Romano-British population and took political control. Initially they buried their dead in large cremation cemeteries such as the one which was found under Elsham airfield but by the later sixth century they seem to have turned to inhumation and burial in the cemetery in the Castledyke South area began. Great kings ruling greater kingdoms took over from local petty war leaders and the Kingdom of Lindsey came into being. Barton seems to have had a port with international contacts as witnessed by the exotic finds made at Castledyke - it might well have been a royal port serving Lindsey's kings.
The seventh century: The Kingdom of Lindsey was unable to maintain its independence and came at various times subject to the overlordship of the Kings of Northumbria and Mercia as they struggled to control the Humber Basin vital to each of them as a way out to the North Sea and the Continent. Christianity was introduced and in 669 Barton became part of the estate of the monastery which King Wulfhere of Mercia and his bishop Chad founded at Barrow in 669.
The eighth century: Barton's 'Dark Age' for we have no evidence to show what was happening in the town during this century. Certainly, the monastery continued in existence.
The ninth century: From the middle of this century Viking attacks became increasingly threatening and from the 860's onwards they settled in Mercia and no doubt took control in Barton. After their agreement with Alfred Barton became a town within the Danelaw. The great circular enclosure which lies to the east of St Peter's Church may be a Danish defended burh of this period.
The tenth century: From early in this century the kings of Wessex began the conquest of the Danelaw and by the middle of the century Lindsey was firmly in English hands once again. Local government was re-organised and the Ridings of Lindsey, the Wapentakes and the more local Hundreds were created so that Wessex could control and tax its newly conquered peoples. The monastic estate founded by Chad now became part of the property of the newly refounded Peterborough Abbey and it may well have been these new owners who built the church of St Peter's and created a new, planned town to the west of the church. Late in the Century more Danish attacks (and again Barton alongside the Humber would no doubt have suffered greatly) were only countered when the king began to pay them bribes - the Danegeld - to go home.
The eleventh century: The arrival of Swein Forkbeard and his son Cnut (or Canute) saw first northern England and then the whole country come once again under Danish control. The English King, Aethelred the Unready, fled the land but not before creating the counties of the East Midlands, including Lincolnshire. Barton now lay in the North Riding of the Part of Lindsey in the County of Lincolnshire and was so to remain until 1974. In the second decade of the century Peterborough Abbey seems to have relinquished ownership of its North Lincolnshire estate and it was apparently divided into two parts which became the parishes of Barton and Barrow. Barton clearly prospered and by the middle of the century seems to have had a population of about 1,000, a market, a ferry and 2 mills as well as its fine stone church. It was probably the most important place in the north of the county and had a very important port.
Geoff Bryant

Barton-upon-Humber Civic Society Newsletter 1994, 8


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