Anglo-Saxon England

Research Article

The language of the ‘Fonthill Letter’

Mechthild Gretscha1

a1 University of Munich

The ‘Fonthill Letter’ is a document sent by Ordlaf, ealdorman of Wiltshire from 897 onwards, to King Edward the Elder (899–924). It was intended to be used as evidence in a lawsuit which one Æthelhelm Higa had instituted against the bishop of Winchester, claiming possession of five hides at Fonthill in Wiltshire, which Ealdorman Ordlaf had given to the bishop in exchange for five hides in another part of Wiltshire. The letter traces the intricate history of the Fonthill estate, relating the sequence of events by which it had come into Ordlaf's possession through his godson Helmstan, who had distinguished himself by having been twice convicted of theft. Eventually, the letter served its purpose: Æthelhelm Higa withdrew from the suit.