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A Burh is an Old English name for a fortified town or other defended site, sometimes centred upon a hill fort though always intended as a place of permanent settlement, its origin was in military defence; "it represented only a stage, though a vitally important one, in the evolution of the medieval English borough and of the medieval town", H. R. Loyn asserted.Loyn, Anglo-Saxon England and the Norman Conquest, 2nd ed. 1991:138. The boundaries of ancient burhs can often still be traced to modern urban borough limits. Most of these were founded by Alfred the Great in a consciously planned policy that was continued under his son Edward the Elder and his daughter, Aethelflaed, the lady of the Mercians and her husband Ethelred; the Mercian Register tells of the building of ten burhs by Aethelflaed, some as important as Tamworth and Stafford, others now unidentifiable: Some were based on pre-existing Roman structures, some newly built, though some may have been built later. Athelstan granted these burhs the right to mint coinage, and in the tenth and eleventh century the firm rule was that no coin was to be struck outside a burh.

A 10th century document called the Burghal Hidage cites 30 burhs in Wessex and three in Mercia (then under the domination of the West Saxon kings), built to defend the region against Viking raids.

Only eight of the burhs achieved municipal status...
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