The Saxons did reach Gloucestershire!

Little physical evidence of Anglo-Saxon Gloucestershire was known until the 19th century when archaeologists began excavating. Whilst many early finds were of pagan burials Gloucestershire in fact appears to have been largely Christian and more Celtic. Carolyn Heighway explained to members at the February meeting that, despite this, several interesting Saxon finds have been made in parts of the county.

By the early 7th century the area mainly comprised scattered farming communities and most people were thus occupied. It was a society dependent entirely on memorising everything from rules, systems, precise boundaries etc. Peasant houses were simple and only recently have archaeologists been able to describe what they may have looked like. The great halls and thegns’ houses by contrast were grand and sophisticated.

Anglo-Saxon minsters were monasteries founded by and for aristocrats as economic and arts centres. Evidence, in particular sculpture, from some of these in Gloucestershire is to be found in several places. Bisley, which was the centre of Bisley Hundred of which Painswick was one village, Lypiatt, Deerhurst and Berkeley all had minsters and still contain examples of Saxon sculpture.

By the 11th century estate sizes had decreased and certainly by the time of the Domesday survey many places had changed. Painswick was clearly established as a market centre, though still very agricultural, and, with a priest listed, probably had a church. Gloucester by this time had become very important with a large population and ten churches.