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East Meon is founded

Bede provides the first direct written evidence of Anglo Saxon times for this area. He was writing in Northumbria at the beginning of the eighth century, and his knowledge of the south of England in the sixth and seventh century was sketchy, but he mentions the existence of a Jutish province in southern Hampshire and a subgroup within the Meon Valley: the Meonwara (‘province of the dwellers of the Meon’). The Jutes had colonised Kent and the Isle of Wight and spread up the valley from Titchfield.

Tribes and towns in Anglo Saxon England 650 AD

Tribes and towns in Anglo Saxon England 650 AD

A settlement near today’s East Meon was named ‘Ytedene’ – ‘Valley of the Jutes’. In the late seventh century the provinces of the Isle of Wight and the Meonwara were given as part of a christening present from King Wulfhere of Mercia  (656 to 675AD) to King Adelwah of Sussex. Bede recounts its subsequent conquest and annexation by Gewisse (West Saxons) in the second half of the seventh century and an explicit reference to the Meonwara suggests that the area was still autonomous. Like many once-independent areas, or small kingdoms, it seems to have survived as an administrative unit under West Saxon control. The eighth and ninth century Meon charters (and the place name Ytedene) suggest that the settlement was still defined by its ethnicity; however, following the conquest by the South Saxons the area was quickly assimilated into the overall Saxon culture. Initially the Anglo Saxons occupied sites on the downs; the settlement in neighbouring Chalton Down was abandoned in the 8th century in favour of a river valley site, either due to exhaustion of the soils, to lack of land management or to the introduction on the mould plough which enabled heavier soils to be cultivated. At some point in the 9th century farmers chose to move from the downland and weald into the valley, to a site a mile and a half from the source of the River Meon.

The Christian faith came to the valley at some point in the 7th century, brought by one of two missionaries. Saint Birinus was sent by Augustine of Canterbury to convert the heathens of Wessex; he established a church at Porchester and worked his way northward, baptising and teaching as he went.  The other candidate is St Wilfrid, born in Northumberland and educated at Lindisfarne. Wilfrid was a pugnacious character who fell foul of the religious authorities, who sent him south; he based himself at Selsey and converted the south Saxons (of Sussex). East Meon later became a mynster, a form of monasterium, a church served by a community of celibates rather than a single priest, administering on behalf of the Diocese of Winchester an area extending to the Sussex border and beyond to the tithing of Ambersham in West Sussex. In 959, King Edgar ‘ruler of all England’ gave to his grandmother Aedgifu the 65 ‘mansae’ in ‘that famouse place which the locals have always called Aet Meon’.