<i>Burhs</i> and Boroughs: Defended Places, Trade, and Towns. Plans, Defences, and Civic Features

R. A. Hall

in The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199212149
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

 Burhs and Boroughs: Defended Places, Trade, and Towns. Plans, Defences, and Civic Features

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The term ‘Borough’ is derived from the Old English word burh/byrig, the basic meaning of which is ‘defended site’. It seems that although earthworks and Roman fortifications were places where their enemies took refuge, contemporary Anglo-Saxons did not themselves build defended sites. Burh became a vernacular equivalent of mynster, meaning monastery or minster church. When burh defences were built anew in Wessex, and not incorporating Roman walls, they typically consisted of an earthen rampart with a ditch in front of it. Worcester has complementary archaeological evidence for topographical change in the Anglo-Saxon period. From the mid tenth century onwards, in relation to Worcester, Norwich, and Lincoln, there were signs in several major towns that occupation became more intense. It seems clear that right up to the Norman Conquest, kings, together with leading secular and ecclesiastical lords, attempted to foster further urban growth for the economic rewards which towns could generate.

Keywords: burh; borough; defended site; Anglo-Saxons; Worcester; Norwich; Lincoln; defences; trade

Article.  9057 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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