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Anglo-Saxon and Viking

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There is some documentary evidence from this period, and also ample archaeological remains, mostly in and around Eynesbury (Ernulf’s Burgh), Eaton Socon (Eatun) and the western part of Eaton Ford (Sudbury). The Anglo-Saxon names are in brackets.

Everyday objects have been found such as the clay weights used in weaving, broken pieces of pottery, a quern-stone, a plough share, and an iron axe. Burials from the period contained other objects such as a sword, spears, pagan brooches, and a knife.

A number of buildings have been discovered, some of them substantial; one or two had wooden floors, a sign of some wealth at a time when most people made do with beaten earth. There were a number of settlements in the area that is now St Neots. One of these would have been the early Priory which may not have been on the riverside site of the later, Norman, Priory.

The Angles and Saxons divided the country into administrative areas called hundreds. St Neots and Eynesbury were in the Toseland Hundred while Eaton was in the Barford Hundred.

Following St Augustine’s mission to Britain in 597, a mother church was built in Eaton to serve as a focus for a large area on the west bank of the Great Ouse, while at Great Paxton on the east bank, another church served an area including St Neots and Eynesbury. Later in Saxon times Eynesbury built its own church. A little later, the first St Neots Priory was dedicated in 974, and the bones of St Neot brought from Cornwall as holy relics for the new foundation.

The Vikings first brought their longships up the River Great Ouse as far as St Neots in the late 10th century and St Neot’s bones were sent to Lincolnshire for safe-keeping, being restored again by 1020. The Danes seem not to have settled in large numbers in or near St Neots, certainly not displacing the Anglo-Saxons completely.