Inkpen is a
villageand civil parishin the English county of Berkshire. It is situated in the south-west of the county, close to the Wiltshireand Hampshireborder. It is located at gbmapping|SU367642.
Amenities and landmarks
There are no shops in Inkpen. The only public commercial establishments are two
public houses, the Crown & Garter and the Swan. There is a village hall and a small primary school, Inkpen County Primary School, with approximately eighty students. There used to be a Post Office, but it closed down during the 1980s.
The highest point in the south-eastern region of England,
Walbury Hill, is situated half within the parish, only 1.5 miles (3km) to the south of the village, within the North Wessex Downs area of outstanding natural beauty. It stands 974 ft (297m) above sea-level, dominating the whole area, and is surmounted by the Iron Age hill fortof Walbury Camp, the start of both the Test Wayand the Wayfarers Walk. On the adjacent Gallows Down, but just within Combe parish, are Combe Gibbetand the incorrectly named Inkpen Long Barrow. Up on the Down, skylarks may often be heard and hang gliders and paragliders seen circling high above the ancient landscape.
The area used to be part of
Savernake Forest, one of the first landscapes to appear when the last Ice Agereceded at least 10000 years ago. The ice was also responsible for the deposits of heavy clay soil found in Inkpen that give rise to the boggy lowland areas. From the Downs, pockets of ancient woodland scattered in and around Inkpen may still be seen today.
The earliest sign of habitation in Inkpen dates to the Mesolithic period, between 10000 to 4500 BC. Only a single artefact has been uncovered, to the west of the gibbet, but even this helps confirm the traditional view of small groups of Mesolithic people following established cyclic seasonal trails through the forested countryside, often along hilltops. They may have attempted to manipulate resources through forest clearance.
There were people living on the Downs of Inkpen some 5000 years ago. Intact pots by the
Beaker Peoplehave been unearthed at the Hungerfordend of Craven Road in Inkpen, opposite Colnbrook Copse, as well as on the Downs. They show skill and artistic design and now reside in the West Berkshire Museum. Early Beaker People flint tools have also been found close to the old saw mills at the end of Folly Road, along with evidence that suggests they were manufactured nearby. The pottery finds at Craven Road were found in a layer of sand close to where an ancient brook known as the "Ingeflod" would have run. At the bottom of the hill on the Hungerford Road leaving Inkpen, flooding in wet weather, still sometimes re-enacts the meanderings of this river through the fields to the north-east. It seems likely that this fresh water attracted the beaker people to settle down and live in their round houses there, using the fertile soil for crops and livestock grazing. Evidence of an ancient field system is certainly still visible not far from the Inkpen Long Barrow. The West Berkshire Museum has a number of bone tools and a bronze knife found in Inkpen that date from this period. In 1908, trenches dug at Sadler's Farm, the site of a ploughed-out barrow, revealed a large quantity of animal and some human bones, horns and some early or pre-Romano-British potsherds. The beaker people buried their dead in simple stone mounds since called round barrows, often with a beaker alongside the body. Several of these remain on the hilltop to the west of the Gibbet. Four were explored in 1908 when Neolithictools and small urns with burnt human bones, suggesting cremation, were found. Later, in the Bronze Age, communal long barrows were used, like the one under Combe Gibbet.
Iron Age and Roman
Iron Age, burial mounds and circles gave way to permanent fields and hill forts such as Walbury Camp on Walbury Hilladjacent to Gallows Down. It was built in around 600 BC and remained in use until about the time the Romans arrived in Britain. The construction of its massive banks and ditches, encircling some eighty acres, would have been an enormous feat. It would have been defended by a timber fence or palisadeand populated with round houses and maybe pens for livestock. Walbury Camp was built, not only for the protection of the locals from attack by warring groups, but also in response to the increasing importance of the hilltop tracks for trade and the movement of livestock.
There is not much evidence of Roman activity in Inkpen. Some of the hill trail trade was diverted down to the Ermin Way and Romanized
Brythons certainly lived in the area. In 1984, archaeological finds were discovered near Lower Green suggesting the presence of a Roman dwelling of some kind, possibly not unlike the villas found at nearby Kintburyand Littlecote. During building work near Combe in 2003, a Roman burial was also found.
Roman armyleft Britain in around 410 and the settlement of Anglo-Saxonsfrom Denmarkand Northern Germanyfollowed soon afterward. At the foot of the Inkpen Beacon sits what some believe to be the eastern end of the Wansdyke, a long ditch and bank (or linear defensive earthwork) constructed sometime between 400 and 700. Current theory suggests a date around 470 when some hill forts were also being refortified by the Romano-Britons. It runs east-west, from the Inkpen Beacon all the way to Portisheadnear Bristol. Although its eastern end is generally thought to be just south of Marlborough, this small section is named 'Wansdyke' on Inkpen's enclosureaward map of 1733. Its construction clearly points to danger from the north, perhaps from the first Saxons of what is now Berkshire, who settled around Abingdon. Early Saxon coins known as ' sceattas' have been found on the Downs.
The earliest record of Inkpen is contained in the Cotton Charter viii, dated between 931 and 939. This includes the will of a Saxon
thegnnamed Wulfgar, whose name means 'wolf-spear'. Wulfgar owned "land at inche penne" which he "had from Wulfric, who had it from Wulfhere who first owned it", his father and grandfather respectively. Wulfgar left this to be divided amongst named heirs: three quarters to his wife, Aeffe, the other quarter to "the servants of God" at the holy place in Kintbury. Following Aeffe's death, her share was also to go to the holy place at Kintbury "for the souls of Wulfgar, Wulfric and Wulfrere".
Below is a selection of subsequent spellings of a dictated 'Inkpen' interpreted over a period of some three hundred years by various scribes:
*Ingepenna 1167, Ingepenn 1167, Ingepenne 1167, Yngepenn 1167, Yngepenne 1167.
*Ynkepenee 1230, Yngelpenne 1235, Ynkepenne 1241, Ingelpenne 1241, Hingepenna 1242, Ingepepenn 1242, Ingelpenn 1252, Enkepenne 1282, Inckepene 1292.
* [http://www.inkpen-village.co.uk Inkpen Village website]
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