Saxon Portsea Island

By Tim Lambert

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle the Saxons arrived in the year 501. They were led by a man called Port. At that time Portsea Island was probably uninhabited. The Romans built Portchester Castle but there is no evidence of any Roman settlements on Portsea Island. The Roman army left Britain in 407 AD and a few decades later Saxons from what is now Germany invaded.

They settled on Portsea Island and they founded 3 villages. One was called Frodda ing Tun. Frodda was man and tun meant farm or hamlet. So it was the farm or a small village belonging to Frodda. In time it became Froddington then Frotton then Fratton. Between Fratton and the sea at Eastney was another settlement called Middle Tun. In time it became known as Milton. There was another village called boche (meaning book) land. In Saxon times any written document was called a book and if the king or an important noble gave land to someone and gave a written document with it then it was called book land. In time the name changed to Buckland.

The Saxons also gave names to other areas. Their word for an island was eg. So they called part of Portsea Island Eastern eg. In time it became Eastney. Hilsea was hollis eg. Hollis meant holly trees and this case eg probably meant an area of dry land surrounded by marsh with holly trees on it.

The name Stamshaw was originally made up of two words, stam meaning post and shaw, which was an old way of spelling shore. Nobody knows why there was a post by the shore but posts were sometimes used to mark the boundary of the land. There was also an area called Rudmore at the entrance of the motorway. It was reed mere. The Saxon word mere meant pond. Tipner was Tippanora. Tippa was a Saxon and he owned a stretch of shore, in the Saxon language an ora. In the Saxon language, Tippan ora meant Tippa’s ora. Copnor was originally Coppanora or the ora belonging to Coppa.

The Saxons also gave Portsea Island and Portsdown Hill their names. The Latin for harbour is Portus. The Saxon word for an island was eg (pronounced ee). So they called the island Portus eg. In time it became Portsea. Meanwhile, the language changed and the word eg was forgotten so they began to call it Portsea Island. The Saxon word for a hill was dun so the hill was called Portus Dun. In time it became Portsdown. Meanwhile, the word dun was forgotten and people began to called it Portsdown Hill.

The Saxon word ham meant village and Cosham was once Cossa’s ham. Wymering was once called Wygmaer ingas, which means the people of Wygmaer in Saxon. The name slowly changed to Wymering. Paulsgrove was Palla’s grove. The Saxon word tun meant farm or settlement and dray meant drag. It is not certain what they dragged. Perhaps boats were dragged onto the shore. Farlington was Fern leah inga tun, which meant the estate or village belonging to the people of Fern clearing.

In Saxon times Portsea Island was marshy and it only had a small population. At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, Hayling Island had more people. A church on the site of St Mary’s in Fratton was first mentioned in the 12th century but there was probably one there much earlier.

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