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A guest feature by Resonox

Oxted in Surrey is a delightful little village. Yet St. Mary’s church, established long before the Norman invasion, whilst being part of the village now was once over half a mile from the old village centre.

Oxted means “Place of The Oaks” (Ac-stede), but the actual oak grove which the village was named for has long since vanished, perhaps it was originally on the mound where the church now stands? The site is said to have been a pre-christian burial mound, which explains why a church was built on it in 1040 AD, according to local folklore, but not why so far from the village centre. The mound is emphasised these days by having been made an island by a surrounding wall and path. 

There is a separate little mound (a tumulus?) to the south of the main door (north of the lych-gate), where now a yew tree, rumoured to be 600 years old, stands guard. Tucked neatly by the first buttress on the south wall are two slabs lying side by side with carved crosses on them, 

these grave covers were long thought to be memorials to two crusaders (Knights Templar), but have since been dated as late Anglo Saxon and compared with similar stones in situ in Titsey and Tandridge. To the west of Oxted is Barrow Green,

It has often been listed as a motte and bailey site, though no stones are available at all to support this, unlike the motte and bailey remains at nearby Bletchingley. There is however a raised rectangular area north of the mound which might lend provenance to the claim. 

The very name does insinuate that this large artificial hill is an ancient barrow, unfortunately it is fenced and inaccessible (I believe the present owner is Mr Al-Fayed of Harrods fame) so without permission to explore it remains an enigma.

Oddly enough an Oxtedian tells me as a child he was told that it was built as a Victorian viewing platform for Barrow Green Court gardens, a pretty if implausible idea as the house would be named after the area and not vice-versa.

Further west yet, in between Oxted and Godstone, there is a monument known as The Moot Stone indicating the meeting place  (moot is a Saxon word for meeting place) of the Saxon hundreds.

The area is also know as Undersnow which is a corruption of Hundreds Knowe in what is now considered to be the first Saxon “parliament”, where the lands were divided and allocated amongst the Saxon lords, this allocation is almost unchanged to the present day.

Unfortunately the A25 cuts through what would’ve been the mound where the wooden hall would have stood. Though there is a raised copse slightly south which in my opinion would be a likely canditate for the hall – if and only if, the stone was in the wrong place.

Anyone visiting the area would be advised to visit Godstone too, for behind the Hare & Hounds public house (a varied selection of beers and home-cooked foods available for the weary explorer) there is the Godstone tumulus, known affectionately by the locals as “The Grave”.

 It is a popular dog walking area so whilst it is easy to access, just mind your step as not all the dog walkers are as responsible as they ought to be in cleaning up after their pets!  There is another possible tumulus but as it is sited in someone’s garden so it is not readily available for photographing and /or investigating.


July 2010

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