The Seisdon anomaly

In coming to a the definition of the Original Mercia outlined in “The first Mercian Lands”, I included Seisdon Hundred in south Staffordshire within its bounds (figure 1). The reason for doing so was primarily because this area became part of the Mercian Diocese of Lichfield. However there is some rather disparate evidence that at least part of Seisdon hundred was Hwiccan territory at some stage before the formation of the diocese. 

  • Topographically, the area is in the catchment of the Smestow and Stour and thus of the Severn itself, as is the case for the other Hwiccan territories. Other parts of Staffordshire are in the Trent catchment.
  • There are Domesday linkages between the manors of Tardebigge and Clent in Worcestershire and Kingswinford in Staffordshire – and indeed Clent was for many centuries post-Domesday an island of Staffordshire within Worcestershire.  
  • The manors of Kingswinford and Amblecote (in Staffordshire) and Oldswinford (in Worcestershire) were almost certainly once part of the same land unit. 
  • The ecclesiastical parish of Oldswinford was split between the manors of Oldswinford in Worcestershire and Amblecote in Staffordshire.
  • The large Worcestershire enclave of Dudley has been surrounded by Staffordshire since the Domesday survey.
  • The name of the Hundred itself is taken from the village name of Seisdon, which can plausibly be translated as the Hill of the Saxons. This ties in with the now rather dated assumption that the Hwicce represent the northward advance of Saxons up the Severn valley.

Thus a case can be made that the area of Seisdon Hundred was originally Hwiccan territory that was absorbed into the Original Mercia. The reason for this is clear from the map of figure 1 – strategically it is a very important area. The Roman road system centred on Greensforge controls access along the Saltway from Droitwich to the north, access to Shropshire, the borders and Wales, and gives a direct link to Quatford on the Severn, allowing control of river traffic. Three potential roads are shown on the map that are not shown on the larger scale map of figure 8 in the main text – those from Greensforge north east to Wall, from Water Eaton to Metchley and from Metchley to Greensforge. The routes of the first two can be traced in places on the ground (Horovitz, 2005; Bassett, 2001), but the lines shown on the map are purely conjectural. It is however likely that the two routes crossed at Wednesbury. The route between Metchley and Greensforge (Baker, 2013) begins with the Metchley to Water Eaton route but branches from it through the village known as the Portway near Oldbury and then passing though, or to the south of Dudely, to Kingswinford and Greensforge.  Taken together this road network clearly adds to the connectivity of the region and emphasises its strategic importance. 

Figure 1 – Seisdon Hundred

(Red shows boundary of the hundred  – a solid line where it coincides with the county boundary, and a dotted line otherwise; grey shows other county and hundred boundaries; brown shows the pre-1974 county boundary, reflecting the early post-Domesday losses to Shropshire; roads are shown (schematically) in green and rivers in blue).

D Horovitz (2005) “Place names of Staffordshire”, published by D Horovitz, Brewood

S Bassett (2001) “Birmingham Before the Bull Ring”, Midland History, 26, 1, 1-33,

C J Baker (2013)  “Pensnett – its name and origins” Staffordshire History Journal

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