An emporium for all eras: David Hinton and four institutional phases in the rise of hamwic, Anglo-Saxon Southampton

Authors: Brisbane, M. and Hodges, R.

Pages: 21-34

ISBN: 9781789690361

DOI: 10.2307/j.ctvndv5s1.6


This paper starts from the premise that every generation gets the Saxon Southampton it deserves. After a brief summary of the history of ‘the Hamwic creation myth’, we explore how ideas on this ‘mercimonia’ have developed over the past 150 years or so. It begins in the mid-19th century when antiquarian interest started in earnest, largely due to the expansion of Southampton with the coming of the railway, through some of the first modern excavations in the wake of WWII bomb damage and site clearance, into the 1960s and 70s with the beginnings of professional archaeological units, through large scale open-area excavations and the rise of the heritage industry, and finally the post-PPG16 world of watching briefs and UPDs. The paper will chart the emergence of new ways of describing and explaining the morphology of the place and its associated economic functions. But are we any closer to an understanding of the place? Even its name still confuses generations of archaeologists and historians (was it Hamwih, Hamwic, Hamtun or perhaps a polyfocal shapeshifter?). No sooner is one myth debunked then another one takes its place. ‘To understand the development of the Saxon port…, it must be seen in the context of developments both in Wessex and in England as a whole - indeed, in the whole of north-west Europe.' (Hinton 1975: 4) David Hinton has been a constant counsellor, advocate and supporter of the excavations and research at Hamwic (or Hamwih, as it was once known1) since he arrived at the University of Southampton in 1972. Over more than forty years he has seen the excavations and related research take different forms under four institutional phases. In this essay we wish to pay tribute to David’s focussed commitment and intellectual contributions to Anglo-Saxon Southampton.

Source: Scopus