The First Known Mention of Adderbury in Writing

The first known mention of Adderbury in writing is contained in an Anglo-Saxon Charter dated c 995 – a little over 1,000 years ago.

Wynflaed, a very wealthy woman with possible royal connections, lived in Berkshire; she owned many properties and manors with thousands of acres of land in the South and South-West of England. Sometime around the year AD 995, she wished to make provision for Edward, her grandson’s, future. She would have used the services of a scribe or a clerk in holy orders to write her statement of intent or charter as official documents were known.

Her instructions to her son Edmund stated: ‘And if it is God’s will that Edward be old enough in his father’s lifetime to hold land then I ask Edmund to relinquish to him one of two estates, either Coleshill or Adderbury’ (Coleshill is in Berkshire). Later on in her charter she wishes her son Edmund, on his death, to ensure that he passes on to Edward both estates.

This, then, is the first known written mention of the name Adderbury. This charter is written in Early English (Anglo-Saxon): the name Adderbury actually appears on the charter as ‘EADBURGGEBYRIG’ Eadburgge’s – byrig. The suffix ‘byrig’ was the Saxon term for a fortified settlement. The Saxon nobility had the right, by birth, to fortify their properties and settlements. These fortifications could be just a ditch, strong paling or something more elaborate. One needs to remember that wild animals such as wolves and wild boar and gangs of landless men proliferated in Saxon and Norman England; so some form of defence for a settlement was a necessity. This Saxon suffix has morphed into the modern ‘bury’ and, as we all know, there are many places in England whose names are rounded-off with a ‘bury’.

Incidentally, there were in the 8th and 9th centuries any number of royal/noble women who all sported the name Edburgga. Bicester’s parish church to this day is dedicated to a St Edburg. The daughter of King Offa of Mercia was named Edburga.

Nick Allen

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