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Saxon Tribe rules in Upper Thames
- Many Saxon
groups settled in Berkshire: the Raeddingas,
the Sunningas, the Horningas. The first and most important were called the 'Gewissae'
- Their name means 'the trusted ones'.
So historians think they were mercenary
soldiers hired by the Romano-British to fight off attacks from
other Saxon groups.
- These soldiers wore special
buckles and belts. These have been found in Saxon graves at Blewbury,
Long Wittenham and Dorchester-on-Thames.
- Dorchester is across the river
in Oxfordshire. It was a Roman town and was probably where the
mercenaries were first stationed.
- Archaeologists have found a big
Saxon cemetery at Long Wittenham in Berkshire. It is across the river
from Dorchester. People were buried there from the
- Some of these people may
have been Christians. One boy had a Frankish bucket in his grave
covered with pictures of Jesus and the Christian 'Chi-Rho' symbol.
- Some of the men buried there
seem to have been Frankish thanes (from France).
- Nearby, several Saxon great
halls have been found using aerial photography. These probably
made up the palace of the
Kings of the Gewissae.
- The Romano-British were weak in
this area. The leaders of the Gewissae were strong. They seem to have
taken over ruling the Upper Thames Valley.
- The first King of the Gewissae
there was called Ceawlin. Ceawlin died in AD 591. His name is British.
He may have been
buried at Challow, near Wantage. It means 'Ceawlin's
- His brother, Ceol, may have
lived at Cholsey. It means 'Ceol's Island'. His son was the famous
- King Cynegils became a Christian
when St. Birinus preached to him at Blewbury in AD 634.
His son, Cwichelm, may have been buried at 'Cuckhamsley Barrow' in
- The kings took over other Saxon
groups in Southern England and called their kingdom 'Wessex'.
- In AD 690, King Ine moved his
main palace to Winchester in Hampshire. He may also have moved his
Thames Valley palace to Drayton, near
Sutton Courtenay, after he
helped to set up the Abbey at Abingdon not far away.
Or this may have happened earlier. Archaeologists
have dug up Saxon great halls there.