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 The History of Grateley

Part one: Pre-History - Death of Athelstan


Grateley has been known by different names over the centuries. In 929 the name was Greatteleian and soon after (935) as Greatanlea. This was the Old English for Big Wood/Clearing. There is reference to Grateley as a parish associated with Cerewartone in The Domesday Book (1086), according to Moody in 1862, as being in the Andovere Hundred in Hantscire. Cerewartone was probably the precursor to Cholderton, being derived from Ceolwartona = Farm of Ceolwaru, a regular name of a woman of the time. In 1174 the name being Chelewartonia and, in 1200, Chelwarton. There is a map of 1611 with Grateley being described as Groteley in Andover Extrahundred in Hantshire.

It is always very difficult to establish the origin of a village but Grateley probably had an existence in Neolithic times, although archaeological finds are very limited . Some Bronze Age (1800 - 800BC) remains have been found with a group of eight barrows or burial chambers being discovered on Grateley Down. There are examples of later Bronze Age boundary ditches (ranch boundaries) in the vicinity of Quarley Hill.

An oval, Iron Age (800BC - AD 43) palisade was in existence on Quarley Hill but was only used spasmodically. Later in the third century BC the palisade was converted to a hillfort of some 8 acres. The clearing of what was to become Grateley was probably used for cattle grazing during the day. A similar, but larger, hill-fort is situated at Danebury some 5 or 6 miles to the South.

The Roman Period (43AD - 410 AD)
This era probably resulted in the occupation of Quarley Hill, in about AD 200, as protection for the Portway, a Roman road that skirts the base of the hill, running from Old Sarum to Silchester and the Streetway running from Cirencester to Winchester. Associated with this period is the Villa discovered in a field that is now part of Home Farm. The villa was investigated in 1910 and 1916 by William Freeman and latterly (1998 and 1999) by Professor Barry Cunliffe.

Recently two archaeological digs have been carried out on the Roman villa at Grateley one in 1998 and one in 1999, the results of these digs have been posted on the internet for all to see, click on the relevant year to be taken to that report.

The Saxon Period (500AD - 1066)
There is little record during the Dark Ages as a result of the withdrawal of the Romans and the national organisation and bureaucracy that was a hallmark of their occupation of any country. However, there must have been some reasonable settlement at Grateley for the great Council to choose to meet there. The requirements for food, accommodation etc of the fairly large numbers that one might expect at such a meeting would be quite substantial. Perhaps it was a site of easy access being at the crossroads of the old Portway and Streetway, running East-West and North-South, which were presumably still used.

uckily there is record of the promulgation of the first Laws of England by King Athelstan (ca.895 - 939), son of Edward the Elder, grandson of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex. He spent much of his youth at the court of his aunt Aethefleda in Mercia. He was thus able to placate many of the ruling class when Wessex took over Mercia. He was crowned in Kingston, a most suitable place as it was on the border of the Wessex and Mercia kingdoms. The Council (Witanagemot) was held in Grateley in 925, only a year after his accession to the throne.

Below is part of the preamble to the proclamation showing that the initial meeting was at Grateley and thence further afield.

King Athelstan 
Judicia Civitatis Lundoniae; Preamble. This is the ordinance which the bishops and reeves belonging to London have ordained and with 'weds' confirmed, among our 'frith-gegildas' as well eorlish as ceorlish, in addition to the dooms which were fixed at Greatanlea and at Exeter and at Thunresfeld.

This was the beginning of a unified Country after successful battles against the Mercians, and West Saxons after which he was crowned their king. He was successful in further battles against the Danes, Welsh and Scots.

Athelstan introduced universal coinage in his kingdoms, examples of which have been discovered bearing his head and the inscription Rex Totius Britanniae: King of All Britain.

He died of some disease at the height of his power in Gloucester on 27th October 939 and was succeeded by his brother Edmund. His burial place is in Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire of which he was a great benefactor.

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