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Cymenshore (also : Cumeneshore, Cumenshore, Cimeneres horan, Cymeneres horan.) is the place in Southern England where according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Ælle of Sussex landed in 477 A.D. and battled the Welsh with his three sons Cymen, Wlencing and Cissa.

Historical context

The account of Ælle and his three sons landing at Cymenshore marks the beginning of Saxon Sussex. The chronicles go on to then describe Ælle's battle with the British in 485 AD near the bank of Mercredesburne, and his siege of Pevenseymarker in 491 after which the inhabitants were massacred. There is very little information after 491 about Sussex until the arrival of Christianity in the 7th Century. The scant information about early Sussex derived from the chronicles have been supplemented by what was happening elsewhere in England and by a growing body of archaeological evidence.

Towards the end of the Roman occupation of England Saxon raids on the channel coast became more intense, and the expedient adopted by Romano-British leaders was to enlist the help of Anglo-Saxon mercenaries to whom they ceded territory. It is believed that mercenaries may have started arriving in Sussex as early as the 5th century, but so far there is no evidence to back it up. It is likely that their first major territorial gains came with the arrival of Ælle some twenty years earlier than recorded by the chronicles.

Archaelogical evidence suggests that the main area of settlement during the 5th century can be identified by the distribution of cemeteries of that period All the known examples, except Highdown, near Worthing, are between the lower Ouse and Cuckmere rivers in East Sussex. This area was believed to have been an area for the treaty settlement of Anglo-Saxon mercenaries .

Subsequently Ælle seems to have tried to break out of the treaty area and in about AD 465 he fought the battle of 'Mearcredesburna', one translation of which is 'river of the frontier agreed by treaty'. The Chronicles do not tell us who won the battle, but with the taking of Pevensey in c 471 AD Ælle extended his territory up to the Pevensey Levels. East of the Levels was an area independently settled by the Haestingas, a people whose territory continued to be regarded as an area apart from the rest of Sussex as late as the 11th century. No pagan cemeteries have been found in this region, and this is an indication that they were already Christian when they arrived. As far as the west of the Arun Valley, which includes the Selsey and Chichester areas to date there have been no archaelogical finds of the early Anglo-Saxon period. The only known pagan Saxon burials are at Pagham (7th or 8th century AD) and Bow Hill.

Although evidence for Ælle's existance and invasion is scant, there is supporting evidence for the existance of Cymenshore the place where he landed.The landing place is believed to be named after one of Ælle's sons and from the Old English means Cymens shore, beach or landing place.Richardson. The Owers - Discussion of derivation of the name Cymen Ora, p.57

Selsey Area

Section of 1695 map of Sussex showing location of Cymenshore (spelt Cimenshore on map)

Evidence for Selsey Area

The Selseymarker area, is the most popular candidate for Cymenshore.The primary evidence to support this conjecture is based on Kelly's assertion that Cymenshore, in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is the same place as Cumenshore as described in the Anglo-Saxon Charters S.232. Also Margaret Gelling & Ann Cole state that There's no obstacle to connecting the 'Cumeneshore' of BCS 64 (Sawyer 232: a 13th c. MS) with the 'Cymenes ora' of the A-S Chronicle s.a. 477.The Anglo-Saxon Charter was a legal document that defined the land award to St Wilfrid at Selsey by King Caedwalla. The authenticity of both the chronicles and charters have been challenged by historians, however the place-names on the charter are generally believed to have been genuine. The relevant section, to do with the boundary of the land, in Latin is:
Ab introitu portus qui appellatur Anglice Wyderinges, post retractum mare in Cumeneshore, sic uersus occidentalem plagam iuxta mare usque Rumbruge,... .
and the translation is:
from the entrance of the harbour which is called in English Wyderinges round where the sea falls back at Cumenshore then towards the western shore at Rumbruge..".
Remains of jetty at Wytherings location(grid reference SZ8797)

A further source is from the Charter of Byrhthelm, this was to do with the settlement of a dispute over the See at Selsey, it confirms that the boundary is from Wytherings Mouth and Cymenshoran in the east to Hormouth in the west.

Rumbruge/ Rumbridge (alias "thri beorg"- three barrows), is believed to have been an islet and trading port off southwest coast of the Manhood Peninsula, that has long since succumbed to the sea.Richardson. The Owers, pp.64 - 65, Map on p.93 gives an indication of the shoreline as it would be in the 6th century, with locations for Cymenshore and Rumbruge.

Wytherings mouth was part of what is now Pagham Harbourmarker.

Pagham Harbour

Pagham Harbour currently is a nature reserve, however in earlier times was a working harbour with three ports, one at the western end at Sidlesham Mill known as Wardur, one at the other at the entrance to the harbour and known as Charlton and one on the Pagham side known as the Port of Wythering (Wyderinges). The port of Wardur was part of 'New Haven' a development in the Middle Ages. The Port of Wythering was overrun by the sea in the 13th Century and the whole harbour eventually silted up and ceased to be navigable, except for small craft.

The Owers

Just off the tip of Selsey Bill, to approximately 11 km SSE, are groups of ledges and rocks known as the Owers.

The Owers showing possible location for Cymenshore.

Outer and Middle Owers

Some historians such as Hunter-Blair identify the Outer Owers and Middle Owers as the landing place for Ælle. However this is problematical as the coastal erosion pattern means that this section of the Owers would not have been part of the shoreline for at least 5000 years. The Outer Owers are approximately 11 km off Selsey Bill and the erosion pattern suggests that the shore would have been 2 – 3 km seaward 5000 years ago.

The Mixon

the south of Selsey Bill lies the Mixon rocks.Richardson speculates that the name Owers could be derived from the ora in Cymensora, he also suggests that the Mixon could be the site of Cidade Celha (the Old City) and therefore Cymensora.Richardson. The Owers, p.76.Richardson. The Owers, pp.64 - 65, Map on p.93 Archaeological evidence demonstrates that this would have been the shoreline during the Roman occupation.
The Mixon shoreline not being breached by the sea until the 10th or 11th century. As late as the 17th century, it was reported that the remains of the ancient little city could be seen at low tide.

Stenton also believes that Cymensora is south of Selsey Bill.


The Manor of Keynor is situated at the western end of Pagham Harbour.Selsey based historians Edward Heron-Allen and Francis Mee favour the Keynor area of Sidleshammarker for Cymenshore, they suggest that the name Keynor is derived from Cymensora.However Margaret Gelling asserts that Keyn-or actually means Cow - Shore in Old English.

Other Possible Locations


Welch believes that the location for Cymenshore is more likely to be in the Ouse-Cuckmere area of East Sussex, his reasoning is that there is no archaeological evidence to support a landing at Selsey. However Richardson states that the place names with the Old English, ora element of Cymensora are very common along the Hampshire and West Sussex coastline but not around the Ouse-Cuckmere area.Richardson. The Owers, pp.58 - 59 There is also a suggestion that the archaeology off the Selsey coast has just not been fully realised yet


Section of 1583 Dutch map showing location of the Owers, Weenbrug in Dutch)
Shoreham has also been cited as a possible location, for example in 1906 Hilaire Belloc in his Hills and the Sea when discussing St Wilfrid he said:
...But those memories were getting worse and worse, for it was nearly two hundred years since the ships of Ælle had sailed into Shoreham ,which showed him to be a man of immense determination, for it is a most difficult harbour, and there were then no piers and lights)--it was nearly two hundred years, and there was only the least little glimmering twilight left of the old day.

Further Reading

  • - Reno argues that Cymenshore was on the Welsh borders and that Ælle waged his campaign there rather than the South Coast.

See also


  1. "S. E. Kelly, Charters of the Selsey, Anglo-Saxon Charters Volume VI p. 118" - Oxford: Published for The British Academy by Oxford University Press, 1998. - Kelly believes that The Owers is where Cymenshore is, she gives the alternate spellings as Cumeneshore, Cumenshore, Cimeneres horan, Cymeneres horan
  2. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
  3. Bell.(1978) p.64
  4. Morris (1965) Dark Age Dates. pp.145-185
  5. Bell.(1978)- Six Anglo-Saxon cemeteries provide the bulk of the archaeological evidence for the early period; these are Highdown, near Worthing, and the group between the rivers Ouse and Cuckmere: Alfriston, Selmeston, South MaIling Beddingham and Bishopstone. They all seem to have been of moderate size: those which have been fairly fully excavated are Highdown, with over 170 graves; Alfriston, 150-160; and Bishopstone, 118. Inhumation was the predominant rite in each cast, but a proportIOn of cremations was present at Highdown (about. 28) and Bishopstone (6).
  6. Welch.The South Saxons : pp.23-25)
  7. (1971)Late Romans and saxons
  8. Hunter Blair, Roman Britain, p. 176.
  9. "The Landscape of Place-Names Gelling Ann Cole" (2000), pp.199-210. Tyas (2000) ISBN 1900289261
  10. 'The hundred of Manhood: Introduction', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4: The Rape of Chichester (1953), pp. 198. URL: Date accessed: 10 June 2009
  11. Kelly. Charters of Selsey. Charter 20, Bishop Brithelm Charter. S.1291 pp. 85-91 - A man known as Ælfsige seized the land at Selsey, Byrhthelm was brought in to resolve the dispute. Kelly discusses the Charter and suggests who Ælfsige may have been. Possibly the Bishop of Winchester?
  12. Salzman.'The City of Chichester: The port', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 3 (1935), pp. 100-102. URL: Date accessed: 14 August 2009 - Information on the now abandoned ports in Pagham Harbour and a discussion about the City of Chichesters claims.
  13. 'Selsey', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4: The Rape of Chichester (1953), pp. 205-210. URL: Date accessed: 26 October 2009 - This includes a history of the harbour of Wythering.
  14. 'Sidlesham', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4: The Rape of Chichester (1953), pp. 210-215. URL: Date accessed: 10 October 2009 - Bishop Stephen de Bersted (1262–7) established a 'new township of Wardur', to encourage which he granted that the tenants should have their land freehold at 14d. the acre and should be free of toll in all his fairs and markets. There is no later evidence of this settlement; but perhaps the 'free court of Newehavene' held every three weeks in Sidlesham in the 14th century may be connected with it.
  15. 'Pagham', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4: The Rape of Chichester (1953), pp. 227-233. URL: harbour Date accessed: 14 August 2009
  16. The Shell Channel Pilot, p.12, This book is a modern book mainly for leisure craft, it gives useful information on how to get into port and also various hazards out to sea.
  17. Admiralty Chart 2045 - This chart provides details of the coastal waters around Selsey Bill including the location of the Owers. The modern distances were based on the location of Selsey Bill being 50º43.05'N 0º47.65W, Outer Owers Light Beacon 50º38.59N 0º41.09W
  18. SCOPAC. Sedimentary Study from East Head to Pagham. p.2. - The Standing Conference on Problems Associated with the Coastline (SCOPAC) was established in 1986 and consists of local authorities, the Environment agency and others. Archaeological evidence demonstrates that the coastline was some 2 to 3km seawards of where it is now at about 5,000 years
  19. Admiralty Chart 2045 - This chart provides details of the coastal waters around Selsey Bill including the location of the Owers.
  20. Camden. Britannia. p.228
  21. Admiralty Chart 2045 - This chart provides details of the coastal waters around Selsey Bill including the location of the Owers
  22. Wallace. “The search for Roman Selsey”, The Underwater book pp136 – 145. Pelham. Ruins of an old Roman fort and also ballista ammunition have been found at the site.
  23. SCOPAC. Sedimentary Study from East Head to Pagham. p.3 Barrier breaching and shoreline recession associated with rising sea-level and storm events caused The Mixon to become an offshore bank, or shoal, probably at about 950-1050 AD
  24. Stenton. Anglo Saxon England. PP.17 - 18
  25. 'Sidlesham', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4: The Rape of Chichester (1953), pp. 210-215. URL: Date accessed: 14 August 2009
  26. "Selsey Bill. Historic and Prehistoric", Heron-Allen, p.88
  27. "A History of Selsey",Mee,p.10, Phillimore (1988)
  28. Gelling. The Landscape of Place Namespp.208 - 209
  29. SCOPAC Sediment Transport Study 2003 East Head to Pagham.referring to Selsey There is a rich, only partially explored, offshore archaeological legacy of submerged Romano-British, Saxon and early medieval landscape features, partially recorded in documentary and archival records.
  30. Richarson.The Owers pp.63 - 65. Discussion on derivation of Weenbrug.
  31. "Hills and the Sea" Belloc pp.117 - 118. Belloc was a historian and keen yachtsman, he knew the waters off the South Coast quite well so it is interesting to hear his commentary on the waters around Shoreham.


  • {{cite book |last= Kelly|first= S.E|title= Anglo-Saxon Charters VI, Charters of Selsey|year= 1998|publisher=OUP for the British Academy}| ISBN=0-19-726175-2}}

External links

  • Sidlesham Parish Site - Information on how to find Keynor - Note Keynor Lane on map and Earnley (suggested area for Rumbruge)immediately to the west.
  • St Thomas a Becket - Parish Church at the East end of Pagham Harbour near to Wythering. St Wilfrid gave Pagham to the Archbishops of Canterbury when he left Selsey, and they are still the patrons of this church. A Saxon burial urn was found near to the church in the 1950s and now is on display in the south aisle.
  • A Church Near You - Map of the modern Parish of Saint Peter, Selsey the Northern boundary remains relatively unchanged since the charter. Note that it comes into the harbour at the Wythering channel and exits near Keynor.
  • SCOPAC - Standing Conference on Problems Affecting the Coastline's website.
  • Movable Type Scripts - Useful site for calculating distances based on the latitude/ longitude bearings. It will also provide a map of the locations. You can use this to calculate the distances between Selsey Bill and the various Owers rocks.
  • Online translation of the 1607 edition of Camden's Britannia- See section 4. of the Sussex pages for description of Selsey.

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