Power, conflict and ritual on the fen-edge: the anarchy-period castle at Burwell, Cambridgeshire, and its pre-conquest landscape

Wright, D.W., Creighton, O., Trick, S. and Fradley, M. (2016) Power, conflict and ritual on the fen-edge: the anarchy-period castle at Burwell, Cambridgeshire, and its pre-conquest landscape. Landscape History, 37 (1). pp. 25-50. ISSN 0143-3768

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Burwell, Cambridgeshire is best known as possessing a castle constructed by King Stephen during the mid-twelfth century civil war commonly referred to as ‘the Anarchy’. Documentary sources confirm that the king built a series of fortifications around the East Anglian fen-edge during A.D. 1144 in an attempt to restrict the activities of the rebellious baron Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, who was using the Isle of Ely as a base to raid the surrounding countryside. Written texts also reveal how de Mandeville was mortally wounded during a skirmish or siege which subsequently took place at Burwell. A combination of topographic and geophysical survey, supplemented by documentary analysis, suggests that the castle was constructed in a landscape with a complex earlier history. It is suggested that during the Romano-British period a temple complex was developed on the site, with a spring rising on the edge of the fens providing the likely focus for ritual activity. Burwell later developed into an important early medieval place and the castle itself may have been inserted into a thegnly enclosure — an act which probably sought to appropriate a recognised pre-existing centre of power. The current research provides the most comprehensive assessment of the site to date, and supports existing interpretations which consider the twelfth-century castle to be incomplete. Analysis also gives additional insight into the functional and symbolic significance of the castle at Burwell, and sheds important light on the character of power and conflict in the fenland during the mid-twelfth century.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2016 Taylor and Francis. This is an author accepted manuscript of a paper subsequently published in Landscape History. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Depositing User: Dr Duncan Wright
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2019 16:45
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2019 15:42
URI: https://bgro.repository.guildhe.ac.uk/id/eprint/512

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