Images of Ankerwycke

In June 2004 Oxfordian Malcolm Blackmoor and I tracked down Ankerwycke, the location of Sir Thomas Smith’s manor where Edward de Vere lived and studied with him for four years, from December 1554 to November 1558.  Age four-and-a-half when he joined Smith and his household, he was eight-and-a-half when, with the death of Mary Tudor, he was sent to live at Smith’s alma mater while Smith was busy helping his old student, William Cecil, prepare for Elizabeth’s coronation.  Although the manor is long gone, as is the Victorian mansion built nearby by Smith’s decendant, the land is still much the same.  There’s a bit of an old stone wall, either what’s left of the priory that Smith renovated in 1552-3, or what’s left of the manor itself.  There’s also a famous 1,000 year old yew tree, or what’s left of it, that was old back when de Vere spent his early boyhood here.

The river isn’t so wide as it once was, but the Isle of Runnymede, where de Vere’s ancestor,  along with the other barons, signed the Magna Carta, is still within shouting distance.  Located in a bend in the Thames where it turns north at the juncture of Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, the forest of Windsor once extended for miles on the far side of the river, Windsor Castle, England’s ancient fortress, rising on the highest point of ground to the northwest.  On the southern side of the river lies the Runnymede water meadow, now an area of National Trust and a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI), comprising an area of 188 acres, plus an area of 110 acres of woodland just beyond.  The wetland, considered a Site of Special Scientific Interest, is still home to flocks of birds of all sorts.

3 responses to “Images of Ankerwycke

  1. The name “ankerwycke” translates from the Native British (or Welsh,. if you prefer) as “An Ker Ywig” meaning “the Yew Fort”.

    • Thanks for this. There was an ancient yew tree at Ankerwycke when I was there in 2004, that they said was 1000 years old. I wonder if in prehistoric times if the natives built fortifications by planting yew trees close together, as they created boundaries with hedges and ditches later.

  2. Hi. I’d like to make some points and corrections to the text etc above.

    Firstly I would like to offer another interpretation of the name ‘Ankerwycke’. The research I have undertaken suggests that there was a monastic cell or ‘anchorite’ located there prior to the foundation of the priory in c1160. Wycke has numerous meanings including ‘a bend in the river’ or ‘wooded isle’.

    Secondly, the chalk ruins that presently survive at Ankerwycke for part of the South Range of the 13th Century Priory of St Mary Magdalene. When Smith constructed his mansion, he subsumed some of the surviving buildings into his House, and made improvements to the environment there through creating an elaborate parterre and garden to the south.

    Smiths’ Mansion (or part of it) survived until 1803, when John Blagrove, a Jamaican Plantation owner, removed the mansion in favour of a new site on higher ground 300m away. He left some of the medieval chalk structure as a folly.

    Lastly, the age of the Yew is open to quite a great deal of discussion, but its age is more likely closer to 2000yrs

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