Why 'Splatts Abbey' Wood?

Why is it called Splatts Abbey?

As we have already noted, place names can be very, very old, often recording facts that have been long since forgotten. SPLATT is an Anglo-Saxon word suggesting a small plot of land, often by a brook. ABBEY means just what it suggests. So it would seem that before the Norman Conquest, the wood belonged to an abbey. But which one?

By the time of the Domesday Book, it belonged to ‘Duns a thane’, together with the rest of Stoke. So it seems it was the possession of an abbey, which declined before 1086.

One possible candidate is Berkeley Abbey. This certainly existed in the 8th century and it seemed to be a wealthy and influential place. King Offa was probably responsible for endowing it with lands.

Berkeley Abbey owned large areas of Filton. As we have seen, the manor of Walls is closely associated with Filton. Berkeley Abbey seems to have disappeared in 1030, which would explain why there was no record of the wood being owned by it at the time of Domesday.

The demise of Berkeley Abbey is surrounded by legend. Earl Godwin - the father of King Harold - was extremely rich and extremely covetous. He looked upon the abbey and desired its rich lands for himself. So he hit upon a plan. He conspired for his attractive young nephew to be taken into the abbey on the pretext of injury. Once within, it is alleged that the young man then proceeded to destroy the reputation of the nuns who lived there. Earl Godwin himself brought the scandal to public notice and as a reward, received the Abbey lands.

This is legend but it may contain a grain of truth. Domesday describes Godwin as purchasing Woodchester for his wife as she could not bear to eat the produce from the land belonging to Berkeley Abbey. So it would seem that something undesirable did happen at that place. Incidentally Godwin, who was frequently in conflict with the king, had his lands confiscated by the Crown in 1050.

History : The Middle Ages →