Selwood Forest

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Selwood Forest was a large area of woodland on the borders between Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire in south west England. In Anglo-Saxon times it was very substantial, forming a natural barrier between the Anglo-Saxons of Wessex and the Britons of Dumnonia and the Severn Valley.[1]

The name Selwood is first recorded in Old English around 894 as Seluudu, which some etymologists consider to derive from Sealhwudu or Sallow wood.

Selwood may have been the location of the Battle of Peonnum in 658. At this battle King Cenwalh of Wessex defeated the Britons and annexed Somerset as far west as the River Parret. Selwood is the location of Egbert's Stone, where Alfred the Great rallied his forces against the Great Heathen Army in 878. The event is recorded in Asser's Life of King Alfred:

"In the seventh week after Easter, Alfred rode to the stone of Egbert, which is in the eastern part of the wood which is called Selwood, which means in Latin Silva Magna, the Great Wood, but in British Coit mawr and there met him all the inhabitants of Somerset and Wiltshire, and all such inhabitants of Hampshire as had not sailed beyond sea for fear of the Pagans, and upon seeing the King received him as was proper like one come to life again after so many troubles, and were filled with excessive joy, and there they encamped for one night."
Asser's "The Life of King Alfred"[2]

Today only a few surviving areas of ancient woodland, none of great size, are considered to survive from the medieval Selwood. One such area is Picket Wood at Yarnbrook.[3]

See also


  1. ^ "Between West and East Wansdyke the boundary runs over Oxford Clay through Selwood Forest, a significant boundary to north–south movement." (A. Reynolds and A. Langlands, "Social identities on the macro scale: a maximum view of Wansdyke" in People and Space in the Middle Ages, 2006).
  2. ^ Fordham University: Medieval Sourcebook: Asser's Life of King Alfred.
  3. ^ Ralph Bernard Pugh, ed., The Victoria History of Wiltshire, vol. VII (University of London: Institute of Historical Research, 1953), p. 219
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