Dean, West Sussex is a Norman manor featured in Knight's Fee, and apparently the same site as the unnamed Bronze Age village in Warrior Scarlet. It lies in a combe of the South Downs downstream of Bramber and Steyning on the west bank of the River Adur, in the neighbourhood of modern Coombes, Botolphs, or North Lancing. (Despite the names, it is not to be confused with East Dean and West Dean, West Sussex, in the Lavant valley.)
Dean and Drem's village in Warrior Scarlet are evidently meant to be the same or nearly the same place, close to the Hill of Gathering. As Warrior Scarlet was published two years earlier than Knight's Fee, it may not have been written with the site in mind, and their descriptions not entirely match. This page will treat them as one area, as seems to have been intended.
- Coombes, topographic-map.com
- Time out of mind (Warrior Scarlet) – The Little Dark People built the barrow mounds.
- Bronze Age – The Golden People conquered the Half People.
- c. 900 BCE – Life of Drem One-Hand & Co.
- 1066 (Knight's Fee) – Thegn Wulfhere killed at Hastings. Everard d'Aguillon made lord of Dean.
- 1106 – Randal of Dean made lord of Dean.
- Surrounding area
- The Great Forest | Andred's Weald, northward
- The Marsh Country, seaward
- The Downs
- Long Down, west of Dean
- The Hill of Gathering | Bramble Hill, south of Dean, possibly west of Drem's village
- The village of the Half People, on the sheep runs above the village of the Golden People
- The quarry
- Thunder Barrow, across the river from Dean
- The ridgeway, east-west along the crest of the Downs
- The Royal Dun, about a day and half west along the ridgeway
- The river [Adur, unnamed in Knight's Fee]
- Bramber and Steyning, 2-3 miles upriver
- Drem's village
- Manor of Dean
- the stream
- the ford
- the Mill
- the driftway
- the Hall
- North, South, and Muther-Wutt Fields
- the smithy
- Bronze Age
- Drem's household
- The chieftain's household
- The Boys' House
- Talore's household
- The village of the Half People
- Norman Conquest
- D'Aguillon's household
Warrior Scarlet (c. 900 BCE) Edit
Knight's Fee (1094-1106 CE) Edit
Dean is the main setting of Knight's Fee, a Saxon manor held since 1066 by the Norman knight Sir Everard d'Aguillon, into which protagonist Randal is adopted from nearby Arundel.
- (4) [the road to Dean] Late in the day there was a town of reed-thatched houses under the downs, that Sir Everard said was called Steyning, and a little later still there was suddenly a familiar thing; a grey, stone-built castle on the last low shoulder of the downs, with a river casting a bright loop through the marshy valley about its foot. “That is Bramber,” Sir Everard said. “De Braose holds it from the King as Hugh Goch holds Arundel—as I hold Dean from de Braose.” And almost as he spoke, the roan turned aside of his own accord through the dusty wayside tangle of bramble and seeding willow herb, heading southward, where the downs fell back to let the broadening river through.
- (4) It was not yet dusk, but the ‘tween-light was blurring the outline of all things, when they came at last, two or maybe three miles down-river, to the ford of a stream brawling down from the high chalk, and saw through the smoke-soft screen of willows and alders the gleam of a firelit doorway reflected in the glossy darkness of a mill leat. “Yonder is the Manor Mill,” Sir Everard said, as he steadied Valiant down to the ford and they splashed up on the farther side. “And now—does the wind smell different? We are on Dean land”; and a while later still, pointing, as the woods fell back, “See, up the valley yonder. There is Dean. That is your home, Randal.”
- (4) Looking where the finger pointed, Randal saw a straggle of deep-thatched huts and bothies strung along the track where it wound upwards towards the downs, the faint, irregular pattern of field strips striping the valley, and at the upper end of the straggle, set about with hawthorn and old fruit trees, a long low hall with its byres and barns around it. Beyond, only the steepening coomb winding upward, and the whale-backed ridge of the downs against a sunset that was like the echo of a brighter sunset somewhere else. Soft blue wafts of evening wood-smoke lay across the village, and the sunset looked as though there were trails of smoke across it, too. And as he looked, a queer thing happened; for it was as though something in Randal much deeper and older than his ten years, said softly and with certainty, “Yes, this is home.”
- (5) The Hall was the heart and centre of the Manor, a long, low timber-framed building deep-thatched with reed that was bee-brown save where the new reed of a mended place shone pale as honey, with its fire burning on a long hearth down the centre of the floor, and the smoke-blackened beams showing still where firelight or torchlight touched them, the red and blue and saffron paint that had made them gay for a Saxon master before the Normans came. D’Aguillon had made little change in the place, save that for comfort he had built on a small solar at the far end, raised up a few steps over an undercroft where they stored farm implements and spare bee skeps at one end and the Manor’s quota of war bows and leather jacks in great iron-bound kists at the other.
- (5) The byres and barns huddled about the Hall, all within the tangled hedge of hawthorn and the little half-wild fruit trees. Below the Hall garth, the reed and turf and bracken-thatched bothies of the villeins straggled downhill, each with its kale and herb plot, its tethered cock among his clucking hens, its woodpile beside the door, its bee skep at the back; and beyond the village stretched the three great arable fields, each divided into long narrow strips, lord’s land and villeins’ land all mixed up together, with the long, communal pasture lying between it and the high, wind-haunted stride of the downs above, where Lewin Longshanks kept the Manor sheep. It was all Dean land, from the river in the east where the trading ships passed up to Bramber or down to the open sea, away up to the whale-backed ridge of Long Down, a mile and more to the westward; from the ford by the Mill where the Manor corn was ground, downriver until the Bramble Hill thrust half across the valley, and, so they said, the King of a forgotten people slept with his golden treasure about him, in the heart of the green grave-mound against the sky.
- (6) He was making for the woods that licked in a long tongue up the steeply-winding coomb following the course of the chalky stream. They were mostly of stunted oak, hazel and hawthorn and elder, but in one place an ancient pollarded ash leaned out across the stream, and it was for this ash tree that Randal was making.
- (6) Far off across Muther-Wutt Field they heard someone whistle to a dog, the low of a plough ox, the ring of hammer on anvil from the smithy, and above them the bees were busy in the ivy bloom.
- (6) [Ancret's house] The shadows were lengthening as they crossed the familiar driftway that led up from the ford to the village, and headed southward, for Ancret lived withdrawn from the rest of the Manor folk, away beyond the cultivated land, within the fringe of the woods below the Bramble Hill. A thrush flew out of a hazel bush as they stepped out from the trees into the little clearing that was Ancret’s herb plot; nothing else moved, not even the air. In that first moment Randal would not have thought that there was a cottage there at all, save for the dark oblong of a doorway in the side of a little green mound in the midst of the clearing, and the whisper of woodsmoke, curling out through a hole in the top to mingle its blue tang with the wet wood and fallen leaf and coming frost smells of the autumn evening.
- (6) Through the berry-laden branches of the elder tree he could see the Bramble Hill against the sky, and the turf hummock on its crest that Ancret said “they” had raised when the world was young, and the other hummock of brushwood and furze roots that the Manor folk had been raising for days now, ready to be lit on All Souls’ Eve, Reynfrey said, as the fires had been lit up there every All Souls’ Eve and every May Day Eve since before the memory of man.
- (6) “Did I say the Hill of Gathering? It is an old name; folk do not use it any more.”
- (6) Bevis swallowed the last of his barley cake and sucked his fingers. “Maybe they called it the Hill of Gathering because of the great gathering that there must have been when they raised the barrow on the top—or maybe it’s because of the gatherings when they make the fires and the Sun Dance on All Souls’ Eve.” They were all three looking up towards the hill, through the elder branches, seeing it withdrawn into its own shadows, its own secrets, dark against the sunset.
- (7) And what a countryside, from up here on Long Down! Craning forward, Randal could look southward to the sea, northward to the Weald, Andred’s Weald far below him, rolling away into the distance—the vast oak forests that cut this high down country of Sussex off from the rest of England far more surely than the sea cut it off from Normandy. Ahead of him the world fell away into the sweeping whorls and hollows of the river valley, then rose again like the waves of a slow sea gathering themselves to the crest of Thunder Barrow full four miles away, with nothing between him and it, but the emptiness of wind and rain and flying sunshine, and the wings of a sailing gull. Far below, and a mile or more away, he could make out the huddled roofs of Dean with its three great fields running to the river woods and the marshes seaward. And on the long curved slopes of the coomb-head below them, sheltered somewhat from the wind, Dean’s sheep grazed in a quiet, grey crescent, watched over by Lewin and his dogs.
- (8) Presently they came over the shallow neck of the woods that ran up between North and South Fields, and saw in the distance their own Mill, and the ford of the Dean stream above it. The few elm trees by the Mill stood up tall and stately golden, the hazels and alders by the ford kindled to a more russet fire by the setting sun: the whole wide, wooded valley wound its way up to Bramber touched with apple colours, bonfire colours, as though the woods too made their Sun Dance, and the faint mist of the frosty evening was already rising blue as bonfire smoke under the trees.
- (10) [the stream] The branches of the old pear tree dripped and splattered on them as they went out through the gate gap and turned uphill for the open downs, and away to their right they could hear the voice of the little winter bourn that began to run when the springs broke in November and would dry up again by May.
- (10) [the left-handed ax] “What it is called I do not know, but with such things it is in my mind that men fought the wolf-kind, and maybe each other, very long ago. I have seen others turned up on the downs, but never one to equal that one. I found it up on Long Down, years ago, and kept it because it was made for a left-handed man, even as I.”
Randal shifted it to his right hand, and found that it was true. One could use it perfectly well with the right hand, but it did not lie there happily, as in the left.
“Left-handed, or one-handed.” He did not know what made him say that.
- (10) He had an extraordinary sense of kinship with the unknown man who had first closed his fingers over that strange weapon, who had perhaps seen the wolves leaping about the lambing folds as he, Randal, had almost seen them for an instant tonight; an extra-ordinary feeling of oneness with Dean, of some living bond running back through the blue, living flint, making him part of other men and sheep and wolves, and they a part of him. [...] This was the true seisin.