We travel this week to Abbots Morton, in the east of Worcestershire and close to the border with my home county of Warwickshire. The last time we were in Worcestershire we visited Abberton, and Abbots Morton is just a couple of miles north-east of there.
It is a quiet, picturesque, rural location, with a smattering of farms, houses, and a church. The name “Morton” comes from “More” meaning marshy, and “Tone” meaning settlement. And “Abbots” goes all the way back to the earliest records, when in 708 it was granted to the Abbey of Evesham (eve-sham).
The village of Abbotsley is situated in the ancient county of Huntingdonshire, which today is a part of Cambridgeshire. It is situated to the west of Cambridge, and south-east of the town of St Neots. Relative to the English east coast, head south-west from where the bulge of East Anglia heads north again.
Right, enough with the directions. It is a small, picturesque settlement, with whitewashed, thatched-roofed houses, a village green and a pub. Which could probably describe many of the English villages we’ll be visiting on our alphabetical tour.
The name “Abbotsley” sounds like it should have something to do with an abbey, but in fact the name has been twisted from the original Saxon. The earliest records we have, from the twelfth century, give the name as ‘Adboldesle’, meaning Eadbold’s clearing or Eadbold’s woodland. In the thirteenth century, other versions include ‘Abbodesle’ and ‘Abbotesley’.
The Domesday Book does not list Abbotsley as an independent settlement, but it probably existed as part of the lands of Countess Judith of Lens.
Another long episode for you all today, but unlike last week at Abbots Langley we’re visiting several different periods in British history. Hang onto your hats, people!
The pleasant, rural village of Abbots Leigh is situated on the west coast of England, south west of Bristol, and close by the banks of the River Avon. The area’s rich history dates back to the stone age, as evidenced by flints that have been discovered there.
Later on, iron age Britons constructed hill forts nearby – there’s Stokeleigh Camp at Leigh Woods, and Burwalls Camp and Clifton Down Camp on either side of the Avon Gorge where the Clifton Suspension Bridge now spans the river. The forts were inhabited from the 3rd Century BC to the 1st Century AD, when people moved out during the Romano-British period. Later, they returned to the hill forts, possibly due to the Roman departure from the islands. Pottery and coins have been found there.
Welcome to Hertfordshire, the English county immediately to the north of London. Our tour stop today is Abbots Langley, a village situated in-between three prominent towns in the area. There’s Watford to the south, St. Albans to the north east, and Hemel Hempstead to the north west. Abbots Langley is just inside the north eastern corner of the M25 motorway that surrounds Britain’s capital.
If it weren’t for one man, this village would be much like many of the other villages in England – quiet, peaceful, and nothing much ever happens there. But Nicholas Breakspear makes Abbots Langley a much more fascinating place, and most of this episode will be taken up with his life story.