The parish of Shudy Camps lies to the north of Castle Camps and was, until about the 14th century, known as Little Camps. It includes the ancient hamlet of Nosterfield to the east and its boundaries follow mainly ancient field boundaries. It is probable that settlement in the area began in small clearings in the woodland.
Early this century the chance discovery of ancient grave sites on the south west slope of White Hills Field (part of Carters Farm) was reported in the "Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society". In 1933 it was decided to try and find these burial sites again, in order to date them and subsequently a further 148 burials were found and dated as "the earliest form of Christian Saxon culture" in the area.
The skeletal remains were generally in poor condition and were determined to be of 115 adults and 33 children, interred over a period of years. They were distributed in two clear groups, one group with heads towards the south west and the other with heads towards the north west, but with no other particular differences to suggest or confirm that these positions were of significance. It also seemed quite obvious that a now unknown boundary limited the expansion of the cemetery to the south west. On the other side of this imaginary boundary were a number of pits about 2 feet deep, but no further burials or evidence of dwellings was found. T.C. Lethbridge suggests that these pits may have been dug for chalk (hence the later name of the field).
Approximately 76 burials were accompanied by grave-goods, and it is analysis of the type and origin of these goods which leads to the conclusion that the burials took place no earlier than the seventh century. These goods included:
- glass beads - blue, green, yellow, white and red
- fifty iron knives, both with adults and children
- rings of silver wire
- Roman coins
- mosaic beads
- bronze hasps - originally on leather pouches
- iron keys and chains
- an ivory ring - seemingly cut from the base of a very large elephant tusk
- bronze brooches
- cowrie (Cynaea paterina) shells - long recognised as a fertility charm and aid to childbirth. Two complete shells and a number of smaller pieces were found - and these are shells form the Indian Ocean!
A description of one of the burials follows: (Full source reference)
Grave no 36
Head south west. Adult male skeleton, enough remaining of the bones to show that the body had lain on its back with the knees so much drawn up to the right that a notch for them had had to be cut in the side of the grave. The grave had been dug 6 ft long, which was no doubt considered the right length for him by the sextons. He had, however, died in his clothes and had not been straightened before rigor mortis set in. An iron spear-head lay on the right side of the skull, which faces it. On the left side of the skull were two pieces of bronze binding which probably belonged to a wooden cup. His arms were crossed over his middle and beneath them lay an iron dirk with a blade a foot long. An iron buckle lay between the left elbow and hip. Between the right humerus and the vertebral column lay three little plates of silvred bronze, a minute buckle and strap-end of the same material, an iron knife, point upwards, a sharpening steel, and an S-shaped link of iron wire. Two small iron buckles and various bronze studs were found close to the dirk and were evidently part of the scabard fittings.
Then follows an analysis of the grave goods and deductions made from their type and presence.
In 1086 - there was enough woodland for 12 pigs on one manor and Robert Gernon's manor supported 16 peasants and 6 servi.
By 1219 there were two woods - Frakenhoe wood, held of Ely Priory and Northey wood, lying among the fields to the west of the village. (Part of Frakenhoe wood still survived in 1586 and Northey wood still covered about 26 acres in 1841. However the Dayrells felled much of Northey wood leaving ony 10.5 acres by 1936.)
1279 - Hatfield Priory in Nosterfield owned 38 acres of wood know as Goodwood, situated in the south eastern corner of the parish. It covered 31.5 acres in 1793 but had probably been cleared by 1799.
frequently asked how Shudy Camps obtained its curious name, and the
question has been rather hard to answer. The probable answer is this.
In the year 1200 A.D., a person from Normandy named Galfridus de Suthecamps
came to England and settled in this parish. He had a daughter, Juliana
de Suthecamps. She married and had three children. Thus the family
that gave its name to the parish was founded. Juliana had the Church
built in which we now worship. She also made a charge upon all her
land, which was called Tithe, and was set apart for the support of
the worship of God in the Church in this parish. This family probably
lived in a house on what is now called Barsey.
from the Parish Magazine July 1929