Saxons and Normans
The area passed under Saxon rule about AD 571 when once again the invaders
chose the gravel terraces of the Thames and Colne for their settlements.
An 8th century scramasax, housed in Reading museum, was found at O.S. 000
Recent excavation has brought to light at O.S. 992 746 the Royal township
of Kingsbury (old Windsor), inhabited for more than 300 years from ad 750
by successive Saxon Sovereigns and their Court. The buildings were made
of wood but evidence of them as well as of tools, coins, pottery,
etc. was found together with an artificial waterway.
Wraysbury is situated immediately opposite the site of the Saxon Palace
and formed part of the Royal Hunting Grounds, access being provided by
means of a ferry at O.S. 994 746. It was a common occurrence for
servants, horses, etc. to be loaded onto ramps and brought across the river
for the chase; both deer and wild boar were hunted. Some courtiers also
had large residences in Wraysbury. It was the proximity of the village
to the Saxon Court which established its significance at this time.
A description of Wraysbury at the time of Edward the Confessor in 1041
showed that the King owned both the manor and lands. They were held by
Edmund, a thegn (a title abolished at the Conquest). At that time there
were sluices and fish markets, fish garths - weirs in the river for
catching fish - and fisheries in the locality. The eels were said
to be excellent, also the salmon, the last of the latter being caught here
in 1820 and weighing 4 lbs.
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Pointing to a well established community, the entry in the
Survey of 1086 concerning Wraysbury, reads as follows:-
"In Stoke Hundred M. Robert Gernon holds Wirecesberie . It is assessed
at Twenty hides. There is land for 25 ploughs. In the Demesne there are
5 hides and on it are 2 ploughs and 32 villeins with 8 bordars have 15
ploughs and there could be 8 ploughs more. There are 7 serfs and 2 mills
worth 40 shillings yearly, meadow sufficient for 5 plough teams and hay
for the beasts of the Court. Woodland to feed 500 swine and 4 fisheries
in the Thames worth 27 shillings all but 4 pence. In all it was and is
worth 20 pounds."
Obviously agriculture, fisheries and the mills formed the basis of the
life of the village. In total, apart from the Lordís family, there
were 57 local inhabitants (32 villeins, 18 bordars - cottagers, and 7 serfs
With the conquest, Norman replaced Saxon, the wooden Palace of Kingsbury
was replaced eventually by the stone Castle of Windsor, but Wraysbury remained
as a place of residence for noblemen and as the Royal Hunting Ground across
The name "Wiresesberie" quoted in the Domesday Survey may be derived
from the words "Weir" meaning a dam and "Bury" a fortified place.
Although it is more likely that a Saxon landowner by the name or "Wyrarad"
gave the name "Wyrardisbury" which, until very recently, has continued
to be used in conjunction with the title of the local parish council.
There have been more than 30 different spellings of the name but always
with the same pronunciation as at present and since the War this has come
to be the acceptable form. Christiana de Mariscis made a deed of
gift to the Priory of Ankerwycke (29 E.1 1300) in which the name was variously
written as "Wyresdysbury", "Wiredesbery", "Wyrardesbury",
and "Wraisbury" and in a grant to Lord Wyndsore (31 Henry VIII 1540) it
was written as "Wyredysbury".
Gernon, who was Lord of the Manor at the time of the Domesday
Survey, was a Norman Baron related to William the Conqueror. He granted
the Saxon Church of St Andrew at Wraysbury to the Abbey of St. Peter Gloucester.
William, thought to be his son, took the name of Montfichet and succeeded
to the Manor in 1125. His son Sir Gilbert Montfichet founded Ankerwycke
Priory, a Benedictine nunnery O.S. 003 727 about 1160. By 1194 the Abbessís
seal was used on all documents. One of the Prioresses died of the
black death in 1347.
|The Priory was dissolved with the dissolution of Religious Houses by
Henry VIII in 1537. Within the grounds are the remains of this building
and also of small lakes in which carp were kept. A private ferry
ran between here and Runnymede.
Ankerwyke Priory 1843
In addition to the vital crossing point between the Royal Palace and
Wraysbury, another ferry was found at SU 9925 7362 which formed a link
with the "Bells of Ouseley" - formerly a coaching inn. It is thought
that this is on the site of an ancient inn, perhaps even as old as the
Saxon ferry and that the name "Bells" referred to the ferry bells which
were rung when the ferry was required; although more likely explanation is
that it is named after the bells of Osney Abbey in Oxford which were brought
downstream at the dissolution and disappeared into the mud at this point .An entry in the marriage register
of St. Johnís Church, Egham, dated the 13th January 1676, gives details
of a Henry Vahan whose address was given as the "Bells of Osel".
By 1745 an engraving of William Oram showed the title as "The Five Bells
of Osely". It gained its present name in 1785 with the landlord
named as William Haines, whose son ran the ferry. A coloured illustration
by Earnest Haslehurst in 1906 shows the ferry with a chain ramp which permitted
the transport of horses, cattle and even vehicles. The Haines family
had links with Old Windsor and Wraysbury for 300 Years. Mary Haines,
carrying on a boat-building business, lived at Wharf House (SU 9924 7389)
until just before the last War. The Wharf was situated on the north
bank and used extensively for unloading copper and other commodities .
Just outside Old Wharf Cottage, built on the site of the Wharf, is a milestone
giving the mileage to London as 23 miles.
There are sinister associations which linked the great loop of the Thames
round Ham Fields (SU 999 753 - 999 759) with the footpads and highwaymen
who once haunted the Bath Road in the neighbourhood of Colnbrook.
This part of the river was used by them to dispose of the corpses of those
whom they robbed and murdered. It became known as "Colnbrook Churchyard".
The boundary of the River Thames within the Parish of Wraysbury is situated
just west of the City Post (TQ 028 717) and London Stone (TQ 028 717) which
marked the upper limit of jurisdiction by the City of London over the river
and its navigation. The original London Stone inscribed with the
words "God Preserve Ye City of London A.D. 1285" was moved to the Staines
Museum in the 1980s and replaced with a replica. For seven centuries the
Lord Mayor of London was rowed up from the city to the London Stone where
a toast was drunk to the City of London and money was distributed.
The last recorded occasion was in 1957. The real significance is
the fact that at a point just beyond this, i.e. in Wraysbury, smuggling
was a much easier matter. This may well also account for the original
siting of the copper wharf, because copper and iron could be landed here
without the payment of the Mineral Tax.
|1Lib. Censual, tom.
i. fol. 149.
2Magna Carta also prohibited any
weirs that interfered with navigation; this tenet still holds good.
4Victoria Country History - Vol.
1, page 259