The name Ashdon means ‘hill of the ash trees’, and neighbouring Bartlow means ‘hill of the birch trees’ – this was hilly, wooded country and other clues are some of the local names such as Bowsers farm which means ‘land cleared by burning’, Rothe End showing a clearing, Thickhoe a thicket and Ridducks Hill from Red Oaks Hill. Not far from here is the source of the River Bourne which flows through the village to join the Granta at Bartlow and thence to the Cam. In the summer this is just a trickle of water, but it can swell dramatically in winter (p11).
Early settlement evidence was found in the 19th century when traces of a small Roman village emerged from a dig at Great Copt Hill – a coin of King Alfred was later found nearby. Another Roman villa was found later in Bartlow, and large numbers of Roman coins have been found. The most spectacular survivals are the Bartlow Hills – originally there were 8 but half of them have gone, leaving 4 extraordinary mounds up to 45 feet high – when excavated in the 19th century they turned out to be burial mounds of the first century AD, full of grave goods (p14).
problematic is whether Ashdon
the site of the Battle of Assandun
18 October 1016,
which enabled Cnut to claim the throne of
all the villages of NW Essex, Ashdon
life revolved for centuries around agriculture, on which much
given in the Tithe Award dated 1848 for Ashdon,
on a survey made three years earlier (p49).
At that time the population was 1,200 and land ownership
111 different parties, many of whom owned merely a cottage and garden.
4,825 acres in the parish, 2,110 were owned by Viscount Maynard,
From the mid-19th century further insights are offered by the Census returns, showing that in 1851 there were 1,195 people in Ashdon and Bartlow, having grown from 873 at the beginning of the century, and slipping back to just 800 by 1901. This was the general trend, as poverty and other factors drove people from the villages. A tradition of radicalism existed in the village, exemplified in the Ashdon labourers’ strike of 1914, a dramatic episode on the event of WW1 (chapter 9).
[The information above, as indicated by the page numbers, is taken from Annals of Ashdon: no ordinary village by Robert Gibson(1988) ISBN 0-900360-72-0.]
are considerable archives relating to Ashdon,
reflecting the history of poverty, education, the gentry, courts, the
and other facets of village life, and the documentary record of the
comprehensively analysed in Angela Green’s book, Ashdon.
The village has also produced a huge amount of oral history and
reminiscences by Spike Mays, Reubens
and Five Miles from Bunkum. Visitors can explore Ashdon
past at the excellent village museum, open one or two afternoons a week
from winter) in the old Labour hall in Church Hill. In my own book, Discover
Walden, a book of walks around Saffron Walden, I could not
one of the many country rambles on Ashdon’s
public rights of way, and a particularly fine walk around this
village can be read by following the link attached here.