The history of the Isle of Ely from the Seventh Century to the Twelfth Century is outlined in Liber Eliensis, compiled by a monk of Ely on the 500th anniversary of his monastery’s formation. It has been translated into modern English by Janet Fairweather, in 2005, published by The Boydell Press, Woodbridge.It states that a vill (something between a farmstead and a town) was situated at Cratendune. This means vallis Crati (“the down of Cractus”). Cractus is a personal name. It was a mile away from Ely. The Ely Croucher Book says was is next to Grunty Fen.

In 1946 it was discussed by Gordon Fowler, “Cratendune: A Problem of the Dark Ages” Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society Bd 41 (1946/1947) S p 70-73.

In the first dawn of Christianity amongst the Saxons, Ethelbert, King of Kent and Chief of the Saxon Kings (who reigned from 560 to 616) founded a Church in honour of the Virgin Mary in a village named Cratendune. Later that church was destroyed in the war between Anna, King of East Anglia and Penda, King of Mercia. When Anna’s daughter, Etheldreda, adopted a religious life, she first intended to repair the old church at Cratendune, but on second thoughts chose a more attractive site a mile further north and built her monastery in 673. When Liber Eliensis was written in the later part of the twelfth century the village of Cratendune was hardly discernible, but many iron utensils, coins of various kings have been found.

Among the coins found by Gordon Fowler are:-

Brass Coin Lupondres I, probably Domitian A.D. 81 -96
Brass Coin Marcus Aurelius A.D. 161 -90
Brass Coin Salonia, wife of Gallienus A.D. 260-8
Brass Coin Crispus A.D. 317-26
Brass Coin Constantine I A.D. 307-37
Brass Coin Valentinian I A.D. 364-75
The most likely location of Cratendune is between Bedwell Hay Farm and Ely Fields Farm. In 1945 Dr Margret Murray of Cambridge found a cemetery just north of Robert Driver’s Ely Fields Farm where she found skeletons and pagan Anglo-Saxon grave goods.During the construction of Lancaster Way Aerodrome Gordon Fowler found a ten-ton American Bulldozer levelling off the ground and shattering skeletons in graves, which had originally been 3 foot deep. As it was urgent work he could not stop the work. He was however able to rapidly recover objects from 30 graves.

Things he found are;-

An iron sword, with a pattern welded central band described by Herbert Maryon “A Sword of the Nydam Type from Ely Fields Farm, Near Ely” in Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, Bd (1946/1947) S, p 73-79. It is an example of sword from Nydam Moor in Denmark. In the Beowulf Poem, Beowulf’s sword is of Nydam type and is described as “Hrunting was the name of that hilted sword, which was one the foremost of ancient heirlooms. The blade was of iron, patterned with twigs of venom, hardened with the blood of battle” and “the curious sword, with a wavy pattern”. The sword is early Saxon to Middle Saxon 410 AD to 700 AD.

  • BEAD (Early Saxon – 410 AD to 650 AD)
  • BROOCH (Early Saxon to Middle Saxon – 410 AD to 700 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Early Saxon to Middle Saxon – 410 AD to 700 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Early Saxon to Middle Saxon – 410 AD to 700 AD)
  • GIRDLE HANGER (Early Saxon to Middle Saxon – 410 AD to 700 AD)
  • KNIFE (Early Saxon to Middle Saxon – 410 AD to 700 AD)
  • SHERD (Early Saxon to Middle Saxon – 410 AD to 700 AD)
  • SPEAR (Early Saxon to Middle Saxon – 410 AD to 700 AD)
Sources and further reading<1> Article in serial: Fowler, G. 1948. Cratendune: a Problem of the Dark Ages. PCAS 41: 70-3
<2> Article in serial: Murray, M. and Garrood, J. R.. 1955. Archaeological Notes. PCAS 48: 47-9. p. 48 – 49
<3> Bibliographic reference: Meaney, A.. 1964. A Gazetteer of Early Anglo-Saxon Burial Sites. p. 64