Swinbeorg. Is it or isn’t it?

This post is adapted from my book, King Alfred: A Man on the Move, available from Amazon.

Swinbeorg is an unidentified location that is mentioned in Alfred’s will where he describes an assembly having taken place at which inheritance matters were discussed.  Although this might seem quite mundane there are limited places where we might be able to pin the location of Alfred down quite precisely. If we could find this location it would in fact therefore be quite exciting! The context of the entry in his will indicates that this meeting would have taken place when King Alfred’s brother Æthelred was still alive but after the Viking emergency commenced (i.e. between 870 and the summer of 871). It has been speculated that this would have been at the presumed Anglo-Saxon meeting place called Swanborough Tump near Manningford Abbots in the former Swanborough Hundred in Wiltshire.

The monument in the countryside near Pewsey, Wiltshire, commemorating the meeting between King Alfred the Great (not yet king) and his brother at Swanborough Tump (Swinbeorg)
The monument in the countryside near Pewsey, Wiltshire, commemorating the meeting between King Alfred the Great (not yet king) and his brother at Swanborough Tump (Swinbeorg)

Although this seems tempting, the vowel change is problematic as even in 987 the place-name began with “Swan” and not “Swin.” However, I am not aware of any other proposed location so it seems that this site could indeed be Swinbeorg. A plaque at the location indeed decares this to be the case! It is worth noting, though, that there was a Suaneberge Hundred in Sussex, and this location cannot be ruled out. 

The site is easy to visit, being at the roadside on a quiet Wiltshire country lane. It is west of Pewsey and is marked on Ordnance Survey maps.

Detail from the monument near Pewsey, Wiltshire, commemorating the meeting between King Alfred the Great (not yet king) and his brother at Swanborough Tump (Swinbeorg)
Detail from the monument near Pewsey, Wiltshire, commemorating the meeting between King Alfred the Great (not yet king) and his brother at Swanborough Tump (Swinbeorg)

There is much more about the travels of King Alfred in my book, including maps and references. Tap or click the image below to learn more about the book.

3 Replies to “Swinbeorg. Is it or isn’t it?”

      1. I have been thinking about Swindon in this context for some time and it is tempting to exchange the “don” for “beorg” after which it would become a direct fit. However, when I looked I could find no evidence that Swindon ever had a name with “beorg”. Nonetheless, this only takes us back to 1086 (Domesday) and does not rule out an earlier name change in the previous approximately 200 years. Swanborough itself has the disadvantage of being “swan” instead of “swin”, so there are problems with this location as well. My understanding is that “beorg” can refer to barrows etc. as well as hills and mountains, and there appears to have been at least one low earthwork at Swanborough Tump. This paper by Semple and Langland is interesting in this regard. http://dro.dur.ac.uk/5902/1/5902.pdf?DDD6+DDC65+drk0sjs+dul4eg Nonetheless, as we cannot be certain that the meeting took place at Swanborough Tump, Swindon cannot be ruled out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *