Witta of Long Wittenham

c. 480

( Witta )



vidence for the name Witta is found from the very earliest times in which the Anglo-Saxon people began to migrate from Scandinavia and north-western Germany into southern England. In a studying of place-names of the region, much can be learned about our name's early history.

For example, the name Long Wittenham (Witeham) clearly displays the name of its founder. ‘Witta's Ham was the original Saxon name' for the settlement. It is said to have been established by Witta and his people sometime during the fifth century, perhaps not too long after the very first arrival of Angles, Saxons and Jutes in 445. »

Long Wittenham, a Thames-side village of a thousand people, sits on a quiet yet historic site. Archaeological remains ranging from a mam­moth’s tooth to an Iron Age shield, from a Viking age bracelet to a Roman brooch, have been found in the parish, in addition to a complete Iron Age village and a large Saxon cemetery. It takes its name from Witta, presumably a minor Saxon chief, who settled here with his people in the 5th century. »

A Saxon phrase meaning 'Witta's Water Meadow' is the more usual interpretation. »

In an area of Long Wittenham known as Saxon Heath, there is a great deal of evidence of an early Anglo-Saxon center. Examples of glass and amber beads, bronze brooches and buckles provide for an accurate account of their presence. » Saxon Heath was an area of some importance with a great feasting hall and surrounding dwellings and associated farm buildings. »

Witnesham takes its name from Witta's or Wittin's meadow »

Not far to the northwest of Long Wittenham lies the town of Witney. One source states that this is were the Wittan, or the Council of Saxon Kings, met. There is surprisingly little to be learned of such an important historical site, yet in commemoration, Witan Way winds along the eastern outskirts of town.»

Witney means 'Witta's Island in a Marsh' David Whittaker has compiled a concise dictionary of Oxfordshire Place Names (Wavestone, £6.99),

Before the Norman Conquest, Witney was the meeting place of the Saxon King?s Council. This Council was known as the ?Witan? and it was from this that the present name of Witney was probably derived. So the place name of Witney means "Witta's Island", which is ideal for a place, on the bottom of the valley of the River Windrush and its tributaries.

There is strong evidence of both Iron Age and Roman settlements in the area. Witney became a place of importance to Saxons and it was first recorded in AD 969. Then it was a very small settlement covering an area from where Corn Street is now through to West Oxon College. »

To the southeast of Long Wittenham is found the area of Witley. Great Witley was once a flourishing Saxon community. » Its earlier name is recorded as Witlege, Old English meaning Witta's leáh. » A large estate known as Witley Court was built on land known to be part of the Saxon settlement.

Though this reveals very little, it does allow some understanding of the early familiarity of the name Witta among the Anglo-saxon people. It seems that this name has roots in the regions from which these groups came. It has a more ancient history, far beyond what written documents are likely to reveal.


Wittenham, Witeham

O.E., Witta's ham: ham ="homestead" »

ham, hamm

n. O.E., a pasture or meadow enclosed with a ditch. Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2002. Thus the name Wittenham indicates a meadow very likely used in the raising of domestic animals.


see léah; léah (léas/léas) n. O.E., piece of ground, lea, meadow. »; leáh g. leás; m. O.S., A lea, meadow, open space, untilled land » Bosworth, J., and Toller, T., An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898.


Bosworth, J., and Toller. An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898. Last retrieved on October 6, 2006: »

Domesday Place-Names of Berrochescire (Berkshire). Historical Maps of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Last retrieved on October 6, 2006: »

'Dictionaries'. Old English Made Easy. Last retrieved on October 6, 2006: »

'Saxons Heath'. Welcome to Long Wittenham. Last retrieved on October 6, 2006: » »

Ford, Davis Nash. 'Little Wittenham: A Castle, Cromwell & a Game of Cards'. Royal Berkshire History. Last retrieved on October 6, 2006: »



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