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Another Origin for Peplow

I have long been troubled by the idea that Peplow came from ‘pebbled hill’.  Finding that there was a town in Germany called Pepelow, made that origin even more suspicious.

The following exerpt from Swain Wodening Canote’s  work “History of Mercia” may provide an answer for two such distant towns having the same ‘odd’ name

History of Mercia

by Swain Wodening Canote 

The Foundation of Mercia

According to the 18th century scholar David Hume (based on earlier works such as Flores Historiarum,  Historia Anglorum, and Chronica Majora), Creoda, grandfather of Penda and great grandson of Icel founded the kingdom of Mercia in 585 CE (David Hume, The History of England). The medieval chronicles Flores Historiarum,  Historia Anglorum, and Chronica Majora all agree that Creoda came to power as a result of the battle of Fehtan Leag in 584 CE between the West Saxons and Britons. This battle has been placed in a wood near to Stoke Lyne 11 miles southeast of Banbury in Oxfordshire (Zaluckyj, Mercia: the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Central England, page 21). None of the chronicles are clear as to how or why this battle brought Creoda to power. Zaluckyj suggests that this battle, which caused a great loss for both the Saxons and Britons created a power vacuum that Creoda stepped in to fill (Zaluckyj, Mercia: the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Central England, page 22). This idea is as good as any, and if the site of the battle is indeed near Stoke Lyne, then it would have been near the Iceling migration trek towards what was to be Mercia (click on the map below). The other possibility is that the West Saxon kings were not facing Britons, but instead Angles, and that the king that defeated them (or at least fought them to a pyrrhic victory) was none other than Creoda himself. In favor of this, there is a place called Crubridge (Creoda's Bridge) to the west of Oxford and not far from the what is thought to be the battle site. A Creoda is listed in some versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as an ancestor of West Saxon kings, and while this is sometimes thought to be an error (and if it is the Mercian Creoda, it most likely is an error), it could be that it was a remembrance of a time when Creoda had overlordship over the Gewis (the ancestors of Wessex).

There are other places named for the early Mercian kings in a direct line to the west. Some feel Credenhill, an old hill fort in modern Herefordshire was named for Creoda, while Pybba, his son had other sites named for him in Warwickshire and Worcestershire (Pepwell and Pepper Wood amongst others). Penda is thought to have places named for him in Gloucestershire and Staffordshire (Pinbury and Pendeford) (Zaluckyj Mercia: the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Central England, page 22).  Most place name evidence would place Creoda as arriving in the southwest of what was to be Mercia (actually the subkingdom of Hwicce) with his descendants moving towards the more settled areas around the Trent. Other than that, nothing is known of Creoda or his son Pybba. Creoda's death is placed at 593 CE due to an entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for that year listing the death of a Cryda. There was also a man named Creoda that founded Lindsey's dynasty, and it is often held that he is one and the same as Creoda Iceling. Even less is known of Pybba, who is not named at all in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.  His reign is commonly given as being between 593 and 597 CE (Zaluckyj Mercia: the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Central England, page 21). There is place name evidence for him to the west of what we think of as Mercia proper (such as Peplow in Shropshire), as well as the place names for him amongst the Hwicce as shown above, but beyond that he is nothing more than a name.  Similarly, Penda is first associated with the area of the Hwicce, an Anglo-Saxon tribal grouping located in what is now modern Gloucestershire. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle he fought the West Saxons near Cirencester in AD 628. If this place name evidence is to be trusted, when taken along with the evidence of Penda's first battle site, it could show that the Icelingas' were the first to expand the kingdom beyond Staffordshire and establish the boundaries of what was to become Mercia. Or it could show their original seat of power in Mercia was not in Staffordshire, but in an area to the south of it, and that a rival dynasty, that of Cearl, the first Mercian king mentioned in any early historical document (and seemingly unrelated to the line of Penda and Eowa) had control of the Trent valley. Eowa and Penda may have taken the Trent valley upon Cearl's death sometime between 616 and 626 CE (perhaps been the cause of his death even). With no real evidence to go on, such is merely idle speculation of an interesting nature. It could be that the Icelingas had been in the area of Staffordshire since settling in the Midlands, and new settlements founded in the southeast were simply being named for their kings.

It is with King Cearl that Mercia enters the historical record. Cearl is named as having married his daughter Cwenburga to Edwin, King of Deria by Bede. Not much is known of Cearl. It is not clear whether he was an Iceling or of a separate dynasty. The earliest sources are silent on him, and later ones have him a cousin of Pybba. It could be he usurped Pybba's throne when Eowa and Penda were too young to rule. Or it may be that he was legitimately elected king to avoid a child king. It is also possible that he was only a reagent acting on their behalf. The final possibility (and with so little information, the possibilities may be endless) is he may have been a puppet of either the kingdoms of Deria or Bernicia. This may be entirely possible according to J.N.L. Myres: 

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