Mick Aston made outstanding contributions to our knowledge of early medieval Somerset. In tribute to his achievement, this lecture sets Somerset in the wider context of cultural interchange between Britons and Anglo-Saxons in the south-west during AD 600-1000.
Although Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset were politically ‘English’ by c.650, it can be questioned how far their settlements, buildings, art and portable culture were English in a material sense, either then or for long afterwards.
The lecture looks in detail at building forms, especially the solid-walled forms of construction – including rubble, cob and timber-laced – that were ubiquitous in the late Iron-Age to post-Roman west, but are much less visible archaeologically than posthole and post-in-trench construction. It is suggested that double-layer wattle walls, with the cavity packed with gorse or broom, were more widespread than is generally thought. ‘Anglicization’ of a kind did eventually come, but in the context of a cosmopolitan Irish Sea world that owed as much to Brittonic and Hiberno-Norse traditions as to Anglo-Saxon ones. In its local context, the first phase of the royal hunting-lodge at Cheddar is an exotic anomaly: a typical tenth-century East Midlands farmhouse transplanted into a different world.