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The Gewissae
Saxon Tribe rules in Upper Thames Valley


Frankish Boy buried at Long Wittenham -  Nash Ford Publishing

 

  • Gewisse Wolf Brooch from Saxon Cemetery at Long Wittenham -  Nash Ford PublishingMany Saxon groups settled in Berkshire: the Raeddingas, the Sunningas, the Horningas. The first and most important were called the 'Gewissae' (pronounced Yoo-iss-eye).
  • 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 5th century.
    • 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 Burial Mound'.
  • His brother, Ceol, may have lived at Cholsey. It means 'Ceol's Island'. His son was the famous King Cynegils.
  • 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 East Hendred.
  • 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.

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