Friday, 11 May 2012

It's complicated now? How about a few hundred years ago?

It's around 1000 years ago, perhaps a few decades earlier.
What have you got? Possessions are few, family - maybe, livestock - if you're lucky. Survival would be doubtful if you were on your own.
Communities were needed, people joining forces just to survive was an answer to this. But where do you set up a community (a community in the Early Medieval Period (EMP) would be small hamlet-sized)? Does a small settlement in the middle of nowhere mean a fresh start and a new beginning or is it seen as an escape, or rebellion, and is as far away from someone/something as you could get?

Who would you be influenced by (this depends on where you are in the UK)? Look who's around, Romans have dissolved and dispersed, there are new folk coming and going around the country - Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisian and Franks - and soon Vikings, each party leaving their mark on the landscape and impression on the communities. There are still people from the west (Wales, Cornwall, and Devon, with a few up-North in Scotland too) - the Celts - who were continuing the fashion of Iron Age settlements.

Another factor to take into account is which kingdom are you in: Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia and Northumbria. Don't forget religion, again, depending on where you were - but moving with the times a Church based religion was the thing - Christianity. Sticky situations if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Let's say you found a spot, it's in the southwest of Mercia, not too far from the boundaries of Wales or Wessex. The nearest well-established town is Gloucester, only a couple of miles to the east, you've got the River Severn on your doorstep, the Forest of Dean a few miles to the west. It's mainly flat with a slight incline up to a main trackway, possibly Roman. Fields of green, large open spaces and only you and your fellow colleagues. How would you use the landscape?

After a relocation, relocation, relocation, it was time for getting your hands dirty and start farming,  Or anything that would bring produce and would aid self-sufficiency. Your new spot gave you a fresh canvas to start with, but remember there's only a few of you, best to start off small. Gain interest from people and travellers, and their trust, they may let you borrow their oxen and plough. Building a community, bit by bit, furlong by furlong.

............................... to be continued........

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