The Manor of Oesewalum (also Oeswalum and Osuualun)

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A large part of the centre of the old parish of Nonington was made up of the Manor of Oesewalum (also Oeswalum and Osuualun) which was held by abbesses of Minster-in-Thanet (sometimes referred to in documents as Suthmynstre,which is now  believed by some authorities to be a “lost” abbey in or near Eastry) and Lyminge Abbeys in the late eighth and early ninth centuries.

The origin of the name Oesewalum has been the subject of discussion for many years, some scholars believe the name is derived from oisc; a deity or semi-deity, and walum; a bank or ridge, giving a literal meaning of the ridge or bank of the god(s). The connection to a semi deity may possibly derive from an association with descendants of Hengist, the founder of the Jutish Kingdom of Kent.

By tradition Hengist and his brother, Horsa, were the leaders of the Jutes who initially came to Kent as mercenaries from what is now Northern Germany and Denmark at the invitation of King Vortigern of the Britons to fight the invading Picts. They were said to be the sons of Victgilsus, whose father was Vectaand, a son of Woden or Wodin, a widely venerated pre-Christian Germanic god.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle records them as arriving at Ipwinesfleet, now Ebbsfleet near Ramsgate on the Isle of Thanet, in 449. King Vortigern initially gave them the Isle of Thanet for their services but the brothers fell out with the king and took possession of a large part what later became the Jutish  Kingdom of Kent. Hengist and Horsa, whose names meant “stallion” and “horse” respectively, had a white horse standard which became the standard of the Kingdom of Kent and is now the standard of the present County of Kent.

In 455 the brothers fought and defeated King Vortigern at the Battle of Aegaels threp, now Aylesford, in Kent. During the battle Horsa was killed and  Hengist subsequently ruled the newly acquired lands with Æsc, his son, or grand-son according to some Anglo-Saxon historians,  and established  the Kingdom of Kent. Hengist is believed to have died around 488.

The Anglo-Saxon historian Bede believed that Hengist’s son, whom other Anglo-Saxon scholars believed was Hengist’s grand-son, was actually called Oeric and that he had the cognomen (surname or nickname) Oisc, which is cognate with Æsc.  This is said  to mean “god”, which could apply to  Hengist’s son or his descendants as  they could claim  direct descent from Woden.  From Oisc’s time until the late 8th or early 9th century when the male line died out the Kentish royal family was known as “the Oiscingas”.

Oesewalum lay on the western boundary of Eastry Hundred and  therefore presumably part of the old sub-kingdom of Eastry (East rige-eastern province). Eastry had a Royal palace, now said to be the site of the later Eastry Court,  where about 666 Ecgberht (Egbert), King of Kent, allowed the murder Ethelbert and Ethelred (Aethelbert and Aethelred), his two pious young cousins, by Thunor, a Royal advisor. He  killed them and buried their bodies in a shallow grave in  the palace’s hall where almost immediately a strange holy light appeared to emanate from the grave whih revealed its location and the fate of the two boys. The King’s conscience was troubled by this apparent divine intervention and eventually admitted his complicity in their deaths. This obliged him to pay weregild (‘the price of blood’) for the crime to their sister Æbbe, also known as Domneva. The weregild was to allow her to have as much land as her pet doe could encompass in a day, which amounted to some 80 sulungs on which Æbbe then founded the dual monastery of Minster-in-Thanet in 670. Thunor, the actual murderer, is said to have been swallowed up by the ground when he tried to prevent the doe from running her course.

After two centuries or so as one of the seven most powerful kingdoms in England (the Heptarchy) Kent eventually declined and became a part of the Kingdom of Wessex around 825.

Æsc also meant ash tree or ash spear or spear shaft in Old English, so the name may simply derive from  Æsc walum: ash tree bank or ridge or possibly spear shaft bank or ridge. The later interpretation could mean that the ash trees growing there were noted for their suitability for use as spear shafts or that the bank or ridge ran as straight as a spear shaft, which for most of its length it does.

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