Pre-Viking Lindsey (Lincoln Archaeological Studies 1). Edited by Alan Vince. 21 x 29 cm. ii + 156pp., figs., pb. Lincoln: City of Lincoln Archaeology Unit, 1993. ISBN 0-9514987-7-0. Price £18.00 + £2.50 from C.L.A.U., Charlotte House, The Lawn, Union Road, Lincoln LN1 3BL.
The papers collected in this volume have their origin in a conference jointly organized by the City of Lincoln Archaeological Unit and Nottingham University and held in Lincoln in 1990. The purpose was to place the growing volume of archaeological evidence for Dark Age Lincoln in its regional setting, and in this aim the volume is more than successful. There are three papers on Lincoln itself. Simon Esmonde Cleary argues that late Roman towns had an essentially command economy: it was the needs of imperial administrators that underpinned towns and once they were withdrawn there was no rationale for the continuation of urban life. As neat as this model is, Michael Jones shows that the reality was more complex in Lincoln itself. Archaeological evidence demonstrates that the city, like others, was undergoing radical change, if not decline, in the second half of the fourth century significantly earlier than the withdrawal of imperial control.
Kate Steane and Alan Vince discuss the physical remains of Roman Lincoln which influenced the Dark Age settlement of the site, painting a familiar picture of the survival of walls, gates, and monumental structures, if only as masses of rubble, but with the loss of property boundaries and streets. The archaeological evidence for the City in the sixth and seventh centuies is slight, but Kevin Leahy in his discussion of the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Lindsey elegantly argues for a later settlement of the area around Lincoln from the distribution of early centralized cremation cemeteries and later dispersed inhumations. In a thoughtful paper on the hierarchies of territorial organization thereby indicated, Paul Everson examines the aristocratic burial at Caenby Corner and, through a web of later documentation, argues for a continuity of authority in the West Riding of Lindsey from the seventh century almost into the modern period. The considerable wealth of the whole area is examined by Rupert Bruce-Mitford and Mark Blackburn in papers on Celtic hanging-bowls and Dark Age coin finds from Lindsey.
In a paper on the church David Stocker maintains that we have misconstrued the nature of religious foundations in the period by looking for holy buildings rather than holy areas. For him Crowland Abbey is the paradigm. It was founded on the island of Crowland and consisted of a group of chapels which were placed within a sacred landscape sharply differentiated from the outside world. However, the model, exemplified for him in all but two of the pre-Viking monasteries of Lincolnshire, is based almost exclusively upon the later medieval Historia Croylandensis, the Pseudo-Ingulf, and its evidence must be treated with more caution than is accorded it. Tenth and eleventh century documents and tradition can be teased from the text, but there is little independent evidence (notwithstanding Felix's Life of Guthlac) to support its account of the earlier history of the abbey. Nevertheless, although that may weaken the case, the fact does not invalidate it, and the hypothesis will stimulate further research.
No less stimulating are Stocker's views on the organization of the church in the period. He asserts that the perennial problem of the location of the bishop of Lindsey's cathedra is largely an irrelevance, for bishops were itinerant, officiating in both royal chapels and episcopal monasteries. Thus, he sees St Paul's in the Bail in Lincoln as a palace church which was complemented by the bishop's familia at Bardney twenty miles or so down the Witham. Richard Gem addresses the same problem and demonstrates that there were indeed two episcopal churches in the early ninth century and argues that they can be traced much earlier. He suggests, however, that analogy with York and elsewhere would suggest that both were located in or near Lincoln itself. Neither conclusion is as yet amenable to verification, but the balance of probabilities lies with Gem since the historical evidence indicates that Bardney was a royal church.
Sarah Foot surveys the meagre documentary evidence for Lindsey and concludes that it was indeed a seventh-century kingdom rather than an eighth-century subdivision of Mercia. Barbara Yorke concludes the volume with a fine synthesis of the evidence presented. She marshalls the now considerable evidence for some sort of continuity of institutions at Lincoln and formulates, if not resolves, the various problems in the elucidation of social and territorial organization in Anglo-Saxon Lindsey, including the thorny problem of the location of its wic. Equally valuably, she lists approaches that may provide further evidence.
As a review of the subject Pre-Viking Lindsey is a valuable addition to the history of the region and period, with the added bonus of some stimulating ideas. There are, however, omissions. One presumably reflects publication deadlines. It is regrettable that Micheal Parker's identification of the Hatfield of the Tribal Hidage with the Hatfield and Clay Divisions of northern Nottinghamshire in the 1992 issue of Northern History was unknown to the contributors. It goes a long way to resolving the problem of the extant of the kingdom (almost certainly coextensive with the historical Lindsey) and opens up the problem of its political allegiances. Another omission might have been remedied. Thus, there is only passing reference to estate structures. The correspondence between cremation cemetries and Domesday soke centres, as noticed by Everson, hints at the preservation of earlier relationships and recorded patterns of tenure enable many such to be reconstructed. A complex pattern of interlocking sokelands, for example, clearly indicates that the high status site excavated at Flixborough belonged to a pre-Viking estate with its centre in West Halton. This cannot prove that the site was the monastery founded by Æthelthryth at West Halton in the late seventh century but goes a long way to providing a context for it. Other analyses of this kind would have gone a long way to resolve many of the problems raised but not tackled. Pre-Viking Lindsey nevertheless remains a considerable achievement and will provide a touchstone for future research.