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Tyne and Wear HER(6439): Newcastle, Monkchester - Details

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Newcastle, Monkchester






Early Medieval


Documentary Evidence

The situation in Newcastle from the end of the Roman period to the foundation of the new castle in 1080 is mysterious, since no archaeological evidence has yet been found for a Saxon settlement. There are two documentary references however, to a place called 'Moneccestre'. The association between Newcastle and an older site called Monkchester was made by the author of the 'Vita Oswini' in the 12th century. The author had been a monk at St. Albans, but wrote his book at Tynemouth. The book states that the army of William the Conqueror made camp at Monkchester on their return march southward from a campaign against the Scots in 1072. In 'History of the Church of Durham' Symeon of Durham mentions 'Munecaceastre' on the northern bank of the Tyne, called the 'City of Monks', which belonged to the monks of Durham, but which was under the jurisdiction of the earl of Northumbria. Symeon connects 'Munekeceastre' and Newcastle in 'History of the Kings'. Aldwin of Winchcombe and two monks of Evesham settled in Munekeceastre before being invited to resettle in Jarrow by Bishop Walcher in History of the Kings. Aldwin of Winchcombe and two monks of Evesham settled at Munekeceastre before resettling Jarrow in 1074. Like other "chester" place-names in Northumberland, Monkchester need imply no more than ruined defences, in this case perhaps of the Roman fort (HER 204), which was still visible in a degraded condition in the 8th century (Nolan et al, 2010). It may well be that Beresford is right when he says that the problem ceases to be baffling if we accept that the town came into being with the foundation of the new castle. Nevertheless this is still open to speculation. Earlier writers suggested that the settlement could have lain in other parts of the town. Gray favoured Pandon (HER 1390) as a possible site for a pre-Conquest settlement. Honeyman and others favoured the vicinity of St Andrew's. Honeyman (1941) argued the antiquity of St. Andrew's Church due to the presence of pre-Conquest sculpture and because of nine churches in Northumberland dedicated to St. Andrew, only one has no pre-Conquest evidence. Medieval topographical details in the area around St. Andrews which are suggestive of a village layout - the site of the White Cross (HER 230) and mention of nine tofts and a horsepool in a charter of Henry II, have given rise to speculation that this was the area of the Saxon settlement of Monkchester. Firm evidence is however lacking. Bourne also thought Monkchester was located at the north of Newgate Street and believed that the Hucksters' Booths (market stalls) there were established to serve the monks who lived nearby.




R. F. Walker, 1976, The Origins of Newcastle upon Tyne, p 60; Newcastle Deeds, Surtees Society 137, No. 69 (dated 1166-73); C.P. Graves and D. H. Heslop, 2013, Newcastle upon Tyne, The Eye of the North - An Archaeological Assessment, pp 85-86; J Raine, 1838, Miscellanea Biographica, Surtees Society 8, pp 20-1 and vii-viii; LDE III.21; T Arnold (ed), 1882, Symeonis Monachi Opera Omnia 1, Historia Dunulmensis ecclesiae, p109; D W Rollason, 2000, Tract on the Origins and Progress of this Church of Durham/Symeon of Durham, pp 201-2; Hreg I.108; T Arnold (ed), 1885, Symeonis Monachi Opera Omnia 2, Historia regum, p 201; H Bourne 1736, The History of Newcastle upon Tyne, p 39; HL Honeyman 1941, The church of St Andrew, Newcastle upon Tyne, Archaeologia Aeliana, Series 4, Vol 19, pp 117-8; J Nolan et al, 2010, The Early Medieval Cemetery at the Castle, Newcastle upon Tyne, Archaeologia Aeliana, Series 5, Vol 39, pp 252-3 and 258-9

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