In due course came the Saxons, who have left a good mark indeed, for their descendants live in Parley to this day, speaking, in intonation, accent and word a purer, though not perhaps so fashionable a form of English, than that spoken by the majority of their country-men outside Wessex.
The main tide of the Saxon invasion of the South Country was based on Southampton. Its progress towards the West was checked by the victory of the Britons, at Mons Badonicus in A.D. 516. Sarum, however, fell in 552, and the conquest of the South West was made sure by the Saxon victory of Deorham near Bath in 577.
While the invasion of Dorset is believed to have come from the North East, there is some evidence to shew that the settlement of the valley of the Lower Stour was made with direct relation to the River as a means of communication, and it is not unlikely that the invaders of this district came by this route.
Above Christchurch (the Saxon Twinham) the existing ancient parish churches mark the heart of the earlier settlements. They alternate on the right and left banks of the River, and are in each case close to the main or a branch stream, although above flood level. Holdenhurst, West Parley, Kinson, Hampreston and Canford are all situated thus, and, in some cases, as at West Parley, road communications are so disregarded that the Church lies at the end of a blind lane, well off the main roads.
At West Parley, the backwater, where a small stream enters the river below the Rectory, seems to have been enlarged to form a small rectangular dock. Although no date can be assigned to it, it probably implies a greater use of the river as a means of communication than at present.
Perhaps the name Parley gives us a glimpse of the first Saxon owner pushing cautiously up the river, and seeing, between the marshes and the forest a strip of pasture, from which the British owner had just fled. Possibly a pear tree in blossom grew on the edge of the field. At any rate the new owner called it "Pirige-Leah"(a) that is "Pear Tree Field" (A.S. pirige, a pear tree; from peru, a pear.)
It may have been one of the same band who claimed Dudsbury Camp as his own. The name indicates that one Duddi, or Dudd, possessed himself of the "byrig" or earthworks that we still call the Castle.
What followed the Saxon conquest? Was it merely a period of aimless fighting, when one petty king strove against his neighbour, with brief periods of peace under an occasional strong ruler, which ended with his death, when turmoil again fell on the land?
Of fighting there was certainly plenty, but we are able to see in Parley other results of Saxon energy. The entries in Domesday Book give us also a picture of the Land in the days of Edward the Confessor. We find that the area of plough-land and pasture in our Parish was practically the same as it is to-day and that almost all the available land that was worth it was under cultivation or grass. Think what this implies; the clearing, draining and fencing,and the keeping of it in good farming condition with the crude implements and by the small population that then existed.
Thus we may imagine Saxon Parley as being mostly concerned with its agricultural work, except when the young men were called up to follow their thane to the wars or when the Danes came unpleasantly close and seized Wareham or burnt Wimborne.
The country became Christian and a stone church was built, fragments of which remain to this day.
Civil and ecclesiastical organization is shewn in the present parish boundaries, first marked out in Saxon days. Like other parishes in the valley, it has its due proportion of fertile land along the river and also stretches far back to take in a wide area of the heath.
An interesting sign of the antiquity of the parish boundaries is seen in two cases, just East and West of West Parley, where the original main stream was undoubtedly the boundary, but the river, having changed its course, has left two stretches of land,belonging to Holdenhurst and Kinson respectively, on the "wrong" side(b).
We also know that West Parley was in the Hundred of Canendona in late Saxon Times.
(a) In Anglo Saxon the letter "g" in this position is pronounced like the modern "y". The form "Parley" seems to be comparatively recent, the first vowel invariably being "e" in early writings. (Cf. Place-names of Berkshire, by Professor W.W.Skeat, p 76, and Chief Elements in English Place-names edited by Allen Mawer p 48)
(b) Similar changes are common. Cf "Antiquities of Middlesex" by Montagu Sharpe p27