Hwicce

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The Hwicce (also spelt Hwicca or Wiccia) were one of the peoples of Anglo-Saxon England. The exact boundaries of their kingdom are uncertain, though it is likely that they coincided with those of the old Diocese of Worcester, founded in 679–80, the early bishops of which bore the title Episcopus Hwicciorum. The kingdom would therefore have included Worcestershire except the northwestern tip, Gloucestershire except the Forest of Dean, the southwestern half of Warwickshire, the neighbourhood of Bath north of the Avon, plus small parts of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire[1] and north-west Wiltshire.[2]

The territory of the Hwicca was assessed at 7000 hides in the Tribal Hidage, giving it a similar sized economy to the kingdoms of Essex and Sussex.

Hwicce is Old English for trunk or chest.[3] Some have also interpreted it as meaning "sacred vessel" and linked to the shape of the Vale of Gloucester and the Romano-British regional cult of a goddess with a bucket or cauldron.[4] The goddess was probably known as the Mater Dobunna who seems to have been asssociated with West Country legends concerning the Holy Grail.[5] The name survives in Wychwood in Oxfordshire, Whichford in Warwickshire, Wichenford and Wychbury Hill and Wychbold in Worcestershire and the modern Wychavon district (also Worcestershire).

Contents

History

The territory of the Hwicce may roughly have corresponded to the Roman civitas of the Dobunni.[6] The area appears to have remained largely British in the first century or so after Britain left the Roman Empire, but pagan burials and place names in its north-eastern sector suggest an inflow of Angles along the Warwickshire Avon and perhaps by other routes;[7] they may have exacted tribute from British rulers.[8]

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