Saxon Bexhill

The first reference to Bexhill is in a charter of King Offa in 772AD. Some of the stone work in St. Peter’s Church is also believed to be Saxon. There were certainly people living here before this time, but we know almost nothing about them.

The Bexhill Stone was discovered under the nave of St. Peter’s Church during extensive alterations in 1878. It is a fine example of Saxon stone work possibly dating to the late 9th or early 10th century. At first it was thought to be the lid of a child’s stone coffin, but is probably the lid of a reliquary, a box containing holy relics. It has been suggested that they might have been relics of St. Wilfred, although there is no direct evidence to support this. It is not clear if the church mentioned in 772 is St. Peter’s, as the land described does not appear to include the Old Town. The Domesday survey of 1086 mentions two churches, the location of the second one is unknown. Offa seems to be establishing a minster church in 772 which would serve a wide area. Such a minster would have had an elaborate reliquary like the Bexhill Stone

The 772AD Bexhill Charter – from a medieval transcription

“In the name of our Lord God and saviour. What is done for this world barely lasts until death, but what is done for eternal life remains forever after death. Therefore it is for everyone with deep forethought of mind to ponder and consider how with the fleeting possessions of this world he may obtain for his treasure the abodes of heavenly promise. Wherefore I, Offa, King of the English, for the good of my soul and for the love of God, and in accordance with my former promise grant in eternal possession to Almighty God and the venerable Bishop Oswald [of Selsey 765-780] a certain piece of land in Sussex for the building and endowing there of a minster church so that it may be seen to serve the praise of God and the honour of the saints, that is, 8 hides in the place which is called Bexhill [Bixlea] as set forth in the bounds.”

“These are the bounds of the 8 hides of inland of the people of Bexhill. Firstly at the servants’ tree, from the servants’ tree south to the treacherous place, so along the shore over against Cooden Cliff, eastwards and so up on to the old boundary dyke, so north to Kewhurst, and so to the Benetings’ stream, and so north through Shortwood to the boundary beacon, from the beacon to the bold men’s ford from the ford along the marsh to the road bridge, from the bridge along the ditch to Beda’s spring, from the spring south along the boundary thus to the servants’ tree.”

“These are the gavolland of the outland of Bexhill, in these places which are called by these names: At Barnhorn 3 hides, at Worsham 1 hide at Ibba’s wood 1 hide, at Crowhurst 8 hides, at Ridge 1 hide, at Ghyllingas 2 hides, at Foxham and Blackbrooks 1 hide, at Icklesham 3 hides; with all things pertaining thereto, fields, woods, meadows, fishponds. Let the aforesaid land remain from this day, given through me as I have said in the name of God, free from all royal extraction and bound to the use of those serving God, but on this condition: that after his day, this gift is returned to the episcopal see which is Selsey. If anyone at any time in great or small degree dares to reduce this gift made by me, let him know that he will incur the penalty for his presumption in the stern judgement of the all-powerful God, and will not escape from a bad hearing.”

“These are the bounds of Icklesham, to the pool in the hollow of the cliff, out on the middle of the brook, so to Tatta’s corner of land, to the moor, to Eadwine’s valley as far as the boundary of Kent, then west along the middle of the bathing brook.”

“This Charter was written in the year 772 from the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, the 10th indiction, on the 15th day of the month of August. I, Offa King of the Mercians, as the power was conceded to me by God who reigns, have confirmed the Charter of gift, signing it with my own hand, and placed the sign of the holy cross. I, Ecgberht King of Kent, have agreed and signed. I, Jaenberht, archbishop [of Canterbury 765-792] by the grace of God have signed. I Cynewulf, King of the West Saxons, have agreed and signed this gift. I, Eadberht, bishop [of Mercia 764- 781], have agreed and signed. I, Oswald, bishop [of Selsey 765-780], have signed the gift made to me. I, Righeah, bishop, have agreed. I, Diora, bishop, have signed. I, Oswald, Lord of the South Saxons, have agreed. I, lord Osmund, have agreed. I, lord Aefwald, have acquiesced. I, lord Oslac have consented. And these witnesses were also present whose names are written below: Abbot Botwine, Eata, Heabercht, Borda, Berhtwald, Esne, Huithyse, Baldraed, Bryne, Stridberht, Cyne, Ealdred, Lulling, Berht, Byrnbere, all the shire and Aemele, prefect. All these agreed, signed, and confirmed.”

“These are the land boundaries of Barnhorn, firstly at the mossy spring, from the spring south into the valley, from the valley up to the little heath, to the goblin’s spring, so south and east to the old road, along the road to the old boundary mark which stands by the side of the road, to the deep valley, to the reed pond. From the pond to the five roads, and south to the red ditch, along the ditch to the Picknill [Picknoll] and so south to Cylla’s Hill, from the hill to Cylla’s spring, west along the stream to Thunor’s clearing, and so west along the stream on the outside of the saltmarsh, and so north to the black brook, up along the stream to the swine enclosure. North along the boundary to the slaughter pit, and so north to the muddy ford, and so on up to the old dyke, and thus to the mossy spring.”

Bexhill History

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