London, British Library, Harley Charter 43, C.2

Written in Square minuscule (‘Phase IV’), Harley Ch. 43, C.2, is a genuine original issued in 961 at the court of King Edgar (957/9–975). It is a grant by King Edgar to his faithful man Cenwulf of four mansae, or hides, at Withiel Florey in Somerset. As was the norm in pre-Conquest English charters, the bounds—that is, the boundaries of the estate—are set out in Old English (and in the present example, in a smaller script) whilst the rest of the text is given in Latin. Images of the facing side and of the outer side known as the ‘dorse’ may be downloaded from the Hist424 Moodle Site along with a copy of Rebecca Rushforth’s useful analysis of the charter’s contents, breaking it up into its component parts. What role does each component play in making the document? How does this charter differ from others which you have examined?

It should be noted, however, that the forms employed in this charter are considered authentic but somewhat irregular. Simon Keynes has observed affinities with two other grants of King Edgar to his ‘faithful retainers’: Sawyer 736, a grant of King Edgar to Wulfheard, of three virgae at Cheselbourne (Dorset) which survives as an original document; and Sawyer 721, a grant to Wulfhelm of land at Ottery St Mary (Devon) which survives in two fourteenth-century copies. The former item survives as Dorchester, Dorset Record Office, D.124.

The document was preserved among the muniments of the Old Minster at Winchester, because the estate was later granted to this church. It was part of the hundred of Taunton and Taunton Dean which belonged to the minster (and later the bishop) in its entirety. The charter was later copied into its mid-twelfth-century cartulary, London, British Library, MS Additional 15350, at folio 25rv. Since the two versions of the document are both available online, it is relatively easy to compare the different ways in which the text was presented. What differences do you notice?

Printed Facsimile: E. A. Bond, Facsimiles of Ancient Charters in the British Museum, 4 vols (London, 1873–8), iv, 11. Legal History Collection 34LEI: Enquiries.

Printed Editions: (1) J. M. Kemble (ed.), Codex Diplomaticus Aevi Saxonici, 6 vols. (London, 1839–48) [34MU5 Enquiries], no. 488; (2) W. de G. Birch (ed.), Cartularium Saxonicum: A Collection of Charters Relating to Anglo-Saxon History, 3 vols. and index (London, 1885–99), no. 1072 (the best of the presently available editions); (3) H. Pierquin, Recueil général des chartes anglo-saxonnes: Les saxons en Angleterre, 604–1061 (Paris, 1912), pt. 2, no. 121.


  • Bond, Facsimiles of Ancient Charters, 4 vols (London, 1873–8), iv, 7.
  • Chaplais, P., ‘The Royal Anglo-Saxon “ Chancery” of the Tenth Century Revisited’, in H. Mayr-Harting and R. I. Moore (eds), Studies in Medieval History presented to R. H. C. Davies (London, 1985), pp. 41–51, suggests at p. 50 that the charter was drafted by Bishop Ælfwold of Sherborne.
  • Darlington, R. R., ‘Domesday Survey’, in Victoria County History of Wiltshire, vol. 2 (London, 1955), p. 86 n. 52.
  • Dumville, D. N., English Caroline Script and Monastic History: Studies in Benedictinism, A.D. 950–1030 (Woodbridge, 1993), p. 73, n. 330 (for the script, which he identifies as a late form of insular square minuscule).
  • Finberg, H. P. R., The Early Charters of the Wessex, Studies in Early English History 3 (Leicester, 1964), no. 484, authentic, bounds are a slightly expanded version of those in Sawyer 254. MVC.C.
  • Hart, C. R., ‘The Codex Wintoniensis and the King’s Haligdom’, in J. Thirsk (ed.), Land, Church and People: Essays presented to Prof. H. P. R. Finberg, Agricultural History Review 18, Supplement (Reading, 1970), pp. 7–38 (pp. 22 and 26). MU7.
  • Keynes, S. D., ‘Church Councils, Royal Assemblies, and Anglo-Saxon Royal Diplomas’, in G. R. Owen-Crocker and B. W. Schneider (eds), Kingship, Legislation and Power in Anglo-Saxon England (Woodbridge, 2013), pp. 17–182 (esp. pp. 60, 97 and 176). Available at JSTOR.
  • Keynes, S. D., The Diplomas of Æthelred ‘the Unready’ 978–1016: A Study in their Use as Historical Evidence, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought, 3rd ser. 13 (Cambridge, 1980), p. 70 n. 138, and p. 76 n. 153 (original, compare Sawyer 736). MVD.
  • The Electronic Sawyer, no. 697.
  • Thompson, S. D., Anglo-Saxon Royal Diplomas: a Palaeography, Publications of the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies (Woodbridge, 2006), p. 23.

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