Twenty hides – a gift from Cissa – by gravel terrace three rivers meet – two swans rise. You may like to close your eyes to see if you guess the answer first but this is what I think …
This was the land Cissa, a Saxon King, granted to his nephew to found a monastery. Abingdon sits on a gravel terrace, and the three rivers that meets here are the Stert, Ock and Thames. There are two swans rising on the town’s coat of arms. The Abbott of Abingdon Abbey may have been entitled to keep swans on the river – usually a royal prerogative.
A little further on from the stone riddle at Neave Mews is a sculpture – an A shape, and on one side are the bronze faces of Hean and Cilla.
In the Historia Ecclesie Abbenonensis (The History of the Church of Abingdon) are Charters from which the earliest origins of Abingdon Abbey can be traced. A charter in the year 675 granted land by Cissa to Hean (or Haeha) to build a monastery. It does not look like a lot happened at first. King Cissa was followed by King Caedwalla who in another charter gave back to Hean the land which King Cissa had once given to him (for a monastery) and to Cilla his sister (for a nunnery). Then a bit later the next King Ine took away the land and then it back to Hean again to build a monastery. So I am not sure what took Hean so long. One legend, told by Mieneke Cox (The Story of Abingdon part one), says Hean started building the monastery near Boars Hill and then it kept falling down, and he was told by a hermit it was in the wrong place and was directed to build it down where Abingdon is now.
So he could have built his first monastery in the Abbey Grounds around 699, having delayed for 24 years for whatever reason. I don’t think anybody has ever found any physical evidence of that first Saxon monastery.