Person of the Week: Beornwine the cleric

This new feature of Heavenfield is a way to remember some of those little known medieval people mentioned in 7th-8th century sources. I have a fondness for the name element Beorn- so we’ll start with Beornwine.

Beornwine the Cleric (c. 686)

Beornwine was the sister’s son (nephew) of Bishop Wilfrid. Beornwine is entrusted with the management of 300 hides of land on the Isle of Wight given in fulfillment of a vow by King Caedwalla of Wessex that he would give 1/4 of the island to God if he won the island and subdued its pagan natives. Bede describes him as a member of Wilfrid’s clergy but Wilfrid also leaves a priest named Hiddila to teach and baptize. Given that Wilfrid leaves a priest in addition to Beornwine, he probably was an non-ordained monk. He was clearly there to manage the land and look after Wilfrid’s new large estate. By definition, 300 hides of land is enough to support 300 families, though it is further defined here is 1/4 of the whole island. Stephan doesn’t mention Beornwine in the Life of Wilfrid, which has a rather different account of Wilfrid’s involvement in the conquest of the island.

Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book IV Chapter 16


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