P.H. DITCHFIELD M.A., F.S.A.
TO MY WIFE
Eleven years ago my little book on the antiquities of English villages was published. Its object was to interest our rustic neighbours in their surroundings, to record the social life of the people at various times—their feasts and fairs, sports and pastimes, faiths and superstitions—and to describe the scenes which once took place in the fields and lanes they know so well. A friendly reviewer remarked that the wonder was that a book of that kind had never been written before, and that that was the first attempt to give a popular and readable sketch of the history and associations of our villages. In the present work I have attempted to fill in the sketch with greater detail, and to write not only for the villagers themselves, but for all those who by education are able to take a more intelligent interest in the study of the past.
During the last decade many village histories have been written, and if this book should be of service to anyone who is compiling the chronicles of some rural world, or if it should induce some who have the necessary leisure and ability to undertake such works, it will not have been written in vain.
One of the most distressing features of modern village life is the continual decrease of the population. The rural exodus is an alarming and very real danger to the welfare of social England. The country is considered dull and life therein dreary both by squire and peasant alike. Hence the attractions of towns or the delights of travel empty our villages. The manor-house is closed and labourers are scarce. To increase the attractions of our villages, to arouse an interest in their past history and social life, is worth attempting; and perhaps this Story may be of some use in fostering local patriotism, and in reconciling those who spend their lives far from the busy hives of men to their lot, when they find how much interest lies immediately around them.
The study of archaeology has been pursued with much vigour during recent years, and increased knowledge has overthrown the many wild theories and conjectures which were gravely pronounced to be ascertained facts by the antiquaries of fifty years ago. Gildas, Geoffrey of Monmouth, or Richard of Cirencester are no longer accepted as safe and infallible guides. We know that there were such people as the Druids, but we no longer attribute to them the great stone circles nor imagine them sacrificing on "Druid's altars," as our forefathers called the dolmens. The history of Britain no longer begins with the advent of Julius Caesar, nor is his account of the Celtic tribes and their manners accepted as a full and complete statement of all that is known about them. The study of flint implements, of barrows and earthworks, has considerably thrown back our historical horizon and enabled us to understand the conditions of life in our island in the early days of a remote past before the dawn of history. The systematic excavation of Silchester, so ably conducted by the Society of Antiquaries, and of other Roman sites of towns and villas, enables us to realise more clearly the history of Britain under the rule of the Empire; and the study of the etymology of place-names has overthrown many of the absurd derivations which found a place in the old county histories, and are often repeated by the writers of modern guide books. Moreover patient labour amid old records, rolls, and charters, has vastly increased our knowledge of the history of manors; and the ancient parish registers and churchwardens' account books have been made to yield their store of information for the benefit of industrious students and scholars. There has been much destruction and much construction; and this good work will doubtless continue, until at length English archaeology may be dignified with the title of an exact science. Destruction of another kind is much to be deplored, which has left its mark on many an English village. The so-called "restoration" of ancient parish churches, frequently conducted by men ignorant of the best traditions of English architecture, the obliteration of the old architectural features, the entire destruction of many interesting buildings, have wrought deplorable ruin in our villages, and severed the links with the past which now can never be repaired. The progress of antiquarian knowledge will I trust arrest the destroyer's hand and prevent any further spoliation of our diminished inheritance. If this book should be found useful in stimulating an intelligent interest in architectural studies, and in protecting our ancient buildings from such acts of vandalism, its purpose will have been abundantly achieved.
I am indebted to many friends and acquaintances for much information which has been useful to me in writing this book; to Sir John Evans whose works are invaluable to all students of ancient stone and bronze implements; to Dr. Cox whose little book on How to Write the History of a Parish is a sure and certain guide to local historians; to Mr. St. John Hope and Mr. Fallow for much information contained in their valuable monograph on Old Church Plate; to the late Dr. Stevens, of Reading; to Mr. Shrubsole of the same town; to Mr. Gibbins, the author of The Industrial History of England, for the use of an illustration from his book; to Mr. Melville, Mr. P.J. Colson, and the Rev. W. Marshall for their photographic aid; and to many other authors who are only known to me by their valuable works. To all of these gentlemen I desire to express my thanks, and also to Mr. Mackintosh for his artistic sketch of a typical English village, which forms the frontispiece of my book.
BARKHAM RECTORY May, 1901
I. INTRODUCTION II. PREHISTORIC REMAINS III. TUMULI OR BARROWS IV. PIT AND PILE DWELLINGS V. CROMLECHS, CAMPS, AND EARTHWORKS VI. ROMAN RELICS VII. ANGLO-SAXON VILLAGES VIII. SAXON RELICS IX. ENGLISH ARCHITECTURE X. NORMAN VILLAGES AND THE "DOMESDAY BOOK" XI. NORMAN CASTLES XII. MONASTERIES XIII. THE MANOR-HOUSE XIV. PARISH CHURCHES XV. CHURCH PLATE XVI. MONUMENTAL EFFIGIES AND BRASSES XVII. THE PARISH CHEST XVIII. STAINED GLASS, TILES, AND MURAL PAINTINGS XIX. CHURCH BELLS XX. THE MEDIAEVAL VILLAGE XXI. VILLAGE SPORTS AND PASTIMES XXII. THE VILLAGE INN XXIII. VILLAGE SUPERSTITIONS AND FOLKLORE
APPENDIX—BOOKS AND DOCUMENTS RELATING TO PAROCHIAL HISTORY
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
An English village Village street Palaeolithic implements Neolithic and bronze implements Old market cross Broughton Castle Netley Abbey, south transept Southcote Manor, showing moat and pigeon-house Old Manor-house—Upton Court Stone Tithe Barn, Bradford-on-Avon Village church in the Vale An ancient village Anne Hathaway's cottage Old stocks and whipping-post Village inn, with old Tithe Barn of Reading Abbey Old cottages
IN THE TEXT
Barbed and leaf-shaped arrow-heads Plan of a tumulus Plan of tumulus called Wayland Smith's Cave, Berkshire Celtic cinerary urn Articles found in pit dwellings Iron spear-head found at Hedsor Menhir Rollright stones (from Camden's Britannia, 1607) Dolmen Plan and section of Chun Castle The White Horse at Uffington Plan of Silchester Capital of column Roman force-pump Tesselated pavement Beating acorns for swine (from the Cotton MS., Nero, c. 4) House of Saxon thane Wheel plough (from the Bayeux tapestry) Smithy (from the Cotton MS., B 4) Saxon relics Consecration of a Saxon church Tower of Barnack Church, Northamptonshire Doorway, Earl's Barton Church Tower window, Monkwearmouth Church Sculptured head of doorway, Fordington Church, Dorset Norman capitals Norman ornamental mouldings Croyland Abbey Church, Lincolnshire Semi-Norman arch, Church of St. Cross Early English piers and capitals Dog-tooth ornament Brownsover Chapel, Warwickshire Ball-flower mouldings, Tewkesbury Abbey Ogee arch Decorated capitals, Hanwell and Chacombe Decorated windows, Merton College Chapel; Sandiacre, Derbyshire Decorated mouldings, Elton, Huntingdonshire; Austrey, Warwickshire Perpendicular window, Merton College Chapel, Oxford Tudor arch, vestry door, Adderbury Church, Oxon Perpendicular parapet, St. Erasmus' Chapel, Westminster Abbey Perpendicular moulding, window, Christchurch, Oxford Diagram of a manor Ancient plan of Old Sarum A Norman castle Tournament A monk transcribing Ockwells manor-house Richmond Palace Doorway and staircase, Ufton Court The porch, Ufton Court Window of south wing, Ufton Court Ancient pew-work, Tysoe Church, Warwickshire Early English screen, Thurcaston, Leicestershire Norman piscina, Romsey Church, Hants Lowside window, Dallington Church, Northamptonshire Reading-pew, seventeenth century, Langley Chapel, Salop. Chalice and paten, Sandford, Oxfordshire Pre-Reformation plate Censer or thurible Mural paintings Ancient sanctus bell found at Warwick
Local histories—Ignorance and destruction—Advantages of the study of village antiquities—Description of an English village—The church— The manor-house—Prehistoric people—Later inhabitants—Saxons—Village inn—Village green—Legends.
To write a complete history of any village is one of the hardest literary labours which anyone can undertake. The soil is hard, and the crop after the expenditure of much toil is often very scanty. In many cases the records are few and difficult to discover, buried amidst the mass of papers at the Record Office, or entombed in some dusty corner of the Diocesan Registry. Days may be spent in searching for these treasures of knowledge with regard to the past history of a village without any adequate result; but sometimes fortune favours the industrious toiler, and he discovers a rich ore which rewards him for all his pains. Slowly his store of facts grows, and he is at last able to piece together the history of his little rural world, which time and the neglect of past generations had consigned to dusty oblivion.
In recent years several village histories have been written with varied success by both competent and incompetent scribes; but such books are few in number, and we still have to deplore the fact that so little is known about the hamlets in which we live. All writers seem to join in the same lament, and mourn over the ignorance that prevails in rural England with regard to the treasures of antiquity, history, and folklore, which are to be found almost everywhere. We may still echo the words of the learned author of Tom Brown's Schooldays, the late Mr. Hughes, who said that the present generation know nothing of their own birthplaces, or of the lanes, woods, and fields through which they roam. Not one young man in twenty knows where to find the wood-sorrel, or the bee-orchis; still fewer can tell the country legends, the stories of the old gable-ended farmhouses, or the place where the last skirmish was fought in the Civil War, or where the parish butts stood. Nor is this ignorance confined to the unlearned rustics; it is shared by many educated people, who have travelled abroad and studied the history of Rome or Venice, Frankfort or Bruges, and yet pass by unheeded the rich stores of antiquarian lore, which they witness every day, and never think of examining closely and carefully. There are very few villages in England which have no objects of historical interest, no relics of the past which are worthy of preservation. "Restoration," falsely so called, conducted by ignorant or perverse architects, has destroyed and removed many features of our parish churches; the devastating plough has well-nigh levelled many an ancient barrow; railroads have changed the character of rustic life and killed many an old custom and rural festival. Old legends and quaint stories of the countryside have given place to talks about politics and newspaper gossip. But still much remains if we learn to examine things for ourselves, and endeavour to gather up the relics of the past and save them from the destructive hand of Time.
A great service may thus be rendered not only to the cause of history, but also to the villagers of rural England, by those who have time, leisure, and learning, sufficient to gain some knowledge of bygone times. It adds greatly to the interest of their lives to know something of the place where they live; and it has been well said that every man's concern with his native place has something more in it than the amount of rates and taxes that he has to pay. He may not be able to write a history of his parish, but he can gather up the curious gossip of the neighbourhood, the traditions and stories which have been handed down from former generations. And if anyone is at the pains to acquire some knowledge of local history, and will impart what he knows to his poorer neighbours, he will add greatly to their interest in life. Life is a burden, labour mere drudgery, when a man has nothing in which he can interest himself. When we remember the long hours which an agricultural labourer spends alone, without a creature to speak to, except his horses or the birds, we can imagine how dull his life must be, if his mind be not occupied. But here, on his own ground, he may find an endless supply of food for thought, which will afford him much greater pleasure and satisfaction than thinking and talking about his neighbours' faults, reflecting upon his wrongs, or imitating the example of one of his class who, when asked by the squire what he was thinking so deeply about, replied, "Mostly naught." To remove the pall of ignorance that darkens the rustic mind, to quicken his understanding and awaken his interest, are certainly desirable objects; although his ignorance is very often shared by his betters, who frequently hazard very strange theories and manifest many curious ideas with regard to village antiquities.
We will walk together through the main roads of the village, and observe some of its many points of interest. Indeed, it is no small thing to live in such a "city of memories" as every village is, when at every turn and corner we meet with something that reminds us of the past, and recalls the pleasing associations of old village life. To those who have lived amid the din and turmoil of a large town, where everybody is in a hurry, and there is nothing but noise, confusion, and bustle, the delicious calm and quietude of an old English village, undisturbed by the world's rude noise, is most grateful. But to live in memory of what has gone before, of the lives and customs of our forefathers, of the strange events that have happened on the very ground upon which we are standing, all this will make us love our village homes and delight in them exceedingly. In most of our large towns the old features are fast disappearing; historical houses have been pulled down to make room for buildings more adapted to present needs, and everything is being modernised; but in the country everything remains the same, and it is not so difficult to let one's thoughts wander into the past, and picture to one's self the old features of village life in bygone times.
Most of our villages have the usual common features, and it is not difficult to describe a typical example, though the details vary very much, and the histories of no two villages are identical. We see arising above the trees the church, the centre of the old village life, both religious, secular, and social. It stands upon a site which has been consecrated to the service of God for many centuries. There is possibly in or near the churchyard a tumulus, or burial mound, which shows that the spot was set apart for some religious observances even before Christianity reached our shores. Here the early Saxon missionary planted his cross and preached in the open air to the gathered villagers. Here a Saxon thane built a rude timber church which was supplanted by an early Norman structure of stone with round arches and curiously carved ornamentation. This building has been added to at various times, and now shows, writ in stone, its strange and varied history. The old time-worn registers, kept in the parish chest in the vestry, breathe the atmosphere of bygone times, and tell the stories and romances of the "rude forefathers of the hamlet." The tombs and monuments of knights and ancient heroes tell many a tale of valour and old-world prowess, of families that have entirely died out, of others that still happily remain amongst us, and record the names and virtues of many an illustrious house. The windows, brasses, bells, and inscriptions, have all some interesting story to relate, which we hope presently to examine more minutely.
Nestling amid the trees we see the manor-house, standing probably on the site of a much older edifice; and this building carries our thoughts back to the Saxon and early Norman times, when the lord of the manor had vassals and serfs under him, held his manorial court, and reigned as a king in his own small domain. The history of the old English manor is a very important one, concerning which much has been written, many questions disputed, and some points still remain to be decided.
Then we notice an old farmhouse which has doubtless seen better days, for there are the remains of an ancient moat around it, as if some family of importance once lived there, and wished to guard themselves and their possessions from troublesome visitors. This moat tells of the times of war and lawlessness, of wild and fierce animals roaming the countryside; and if the walls of the old house could speak how many stories could they tell of the strange customs of our ancestors, of bread riots, of civil wars, and disturbances which once destroyed the tranquillity of our peaceful villages!
We shall endeavour to discover the earliest inhabitants of our villages who left their traces behind in the curious stone and bronze weapons of war or domestic implements, and who lived in far remote periods before the dawn of history. The barrows, or tumuli, which contain their dead bodies tell us much about them; and also the caves and lake dwellings help us to form some very accurate notions of the conditions of life in those distant days. We shall see that the Britons or Celts were far from being the naked woad-dyed savages described by Caesar, whose account has so long been deemed sufficient by the historians of our childhood. We shall call to mind the many waves of invaders which rolled over our country—the Celts, the Romans, Saxons, Danes, and Normans—all of whom have left some traces behind them, and added sundry chapters to the story of our villages.
The fields too proclaim their story, and tell us of the Saxon folk who were our first farmers, and made clearings in the forests, and tilled the same soil we work to-day. They tell us too of the old monks who knew so much about agriculture; and occasionally the plough turns up a rusty sword or cannon ball, which reveals the story of battles and civil wars which we trust have passed away from our land for ever. The very names of the fields are not without signification, and tell us of animals which are now extinct, of the manners of our forefathers, of the old methods of farming, and the common lands which have passed away.
The old village inn, with its curiously painted signboard, has its own story to tell, of the old coaching days, and of the great people who used to travel along the main roads, and were sometimes snowed up in a drift just below "The Magpie," which had always good accommodation for travellers, and stabling for fifty horses. All was activity in the stable yard when the coach came in; the villagers crowded round the inn doors to see the great folks from London who were regaling themselves with well-cooked English joints; and if they stayed all night, could find comfortable beds with lavender-scented sheets, and every attention. But the railroads and iron steeds have changed all that; until yesterday the roads were deserted, and the glory of the old inns departed. Bicyclists now speed along in the track of the old coaches; but they are not quite so picturesque, and the bicycle bell is less musical than the cheerful posthorn.
On the summit of a neighbouring hill we see a curious formation which is probably an earthwork, constructed many centuries ago by the early dwellers in this district for the purpose of defence in dangerous times, when the approach of a neighbouring tribe, or the advance of a company of free-booting invaders, threatened them with death or the destruction of their flocks and herds. These earthworks we shall examine more closely. An ivy-covered ruin near the church shows the remains of a monastic cell or monastery; and in the distance perhaps we can see the outlines of an old Norman keep or castle; all of these relate to the story of our villages, and afford us subjects for investigation and research.
Then there is the village green where so many generations of the villagers have disported themselves, danced the old country dances (now alas! forgotten), and reared the merry May-pole, and crowned their queen. Here they held their rural sports, and fought their bouts of quarter-staff and cudgel-play, grinned through horse-collars, and played pipe and tabor at many a rustic feast, when life was young and England merry. We shall try to picture to ourselves these happy scenes of innocent diversion which cheered the hearts of our forefathers in bygone times.
We will try to collect the curious legends and stories which were told to us by our grandsires, and are almost forgotten by the present generation. These we should treasure up, lest they should be for ever lost. Local tradition has often led the way to important discoveries.
In this brief circuit of an ordinary English village we have found many objects which are calculated to excite our imagination and to stimulate inquiry. A closer examination will well repay our study, and reward the labour of the investigator. It is satisfactory to know that all possible discoveries as to the antiquities of our villages have not yet been made. We have still much to learn, and the earth has not yet disclosed all its treasures. Roman villas still remain buried; the sepulchres of many a Saxon chieftain or early nomad Celt are still unexplored; the pile dwellings and cave domiciles of the early inhabitants of our country have still to be discovered; and piles of records and historical documents have still to be sought out, arranged, and examined. So there is much work to be done by the antiquary for many a long year; and every little discovery, and the results of every patient research, assist in accumulating that store of knowledge which is gradually being compiled by the hard labour of our English historians and antiquaries.
Pytheas of Marseilles—Discovery of flint implements—Geological changes—Palaeolithic man—Eslithic—Palaeolithic implements— Drift men—Cave men—Neolithic man and his weapons—Dolichocephalic— Celtic or Brachycephalic race—The Iron Age.
It was customary some years ago to begin the history of any country with the statement, "Of the early inhabitants nothing is known with any certainty," and to commence the history of England with the landing of Julius Caesar B.C. 55. If this book had been written forty or fifty years ago it might have been stated that our first knowledge of Britain dates from 330 B.C. when Pytheas of Marseilles visited it, and described his impressions. He says that the climate was foggy, a characteristic which it has not altogether lost, that the people cultivated the ground and used beer and mead as beverages. Our villagers still follow the example of their ancestors in their use of one at least of these drinks.
Of the history of all the ages prior to the advent of this Pytheas all written record is silent. Hence we have to play the part of scientific detectives, examine the footprints of the early man who inhabited our island, hunt for odds and ends which he has left behind, to rake over his kitchen middens, pick up his old tools, and even open his burial mound.
About fifty years ago the attention of the scientific world was drawn to the flint implements which were scattered over the surface of our fields and in our gravel pits and mountain caves; and inquiring minds began to speculate as to their origin. The collections made at Amiens and Abbeville and other places began to convince men of the existence of an unknown and unimagined race, and it gradually dawned on us that on our moors and downs were the tombs of a race of men who fashioned their weapons of war and implements of peace out of flint. These discoveries have pushed back our knowledge of man to an antiquity formerly never dreamed of, and enlarged considerably our historical horizon. So we will endeavour to discover what kind of men they were, who roamed our fields and woods before any historical records were written, and mark the very considerable traces of their occupation which they have left behind.
The condition of life and the character and climate of the country were very different in early times from what they are in the present day; and in endeavouring to discover the kind of people who dwelt here in prehistoric times, we must hear what the geologists have to tell us about the physical aspect of Britain in that period. There was a time when this country was connected with the Continent of Europe, and the English Channel and North Sea were mere valleys with rivers running through them fed by many streams. Where the North Sea now rolls there was the great valley of the Rhine; and as there were no ocean-waves to cross, animals and primitive man wandered northwards and westwards from the Continent, and made their abode here. It is curious to note that the migratory birds when returning to France and Italy, and thence to the sunny regions of Algiers and other parts of Northern Africa, always cross the seas where in remote ages there was dry land. They always traverse the same route; and it appears that the recollection of the places where their ancestors crossed has been preserved by them through all the centuries that have elapsed since "the silver streak" was formed that severs England from her neighbours.
In the times of which we are speaking the land was much higher than it is now. Snowdon was 600 feet greater, and the climate was much colder and more rigorous. Glaciers like those in Switzerland were in all the higher valleys, and the marks of the action of the ice are still plainly seen on the rocky cliffs that border many a ravine. Moreover we find in the valleys many detached rocks, immense boulders, the nature of which is quite different from the character of the stone in the neighbourhood. These were carried down by the glaciers from higher elevations, and deposited, when the ice melted, in the lower valleys. Hence in this glacial period the condition of the country was very different from what it is now.
Then a remarkable change took place. The land began to sink, and its elevation so much decreased that the central part of the country became a huge lake, and the peak of Snowdon was an island surrounded by the sea which washed with its waves the lofty shoulder of the mountain. This is the reason why shells and shingle are found in high elevations. The Ice Age passed away and the climate became warmer. The Gulf Stream found its way to our shores, and the country was covered by a warm ocean having islands raising their heads above the surface. Sharks swam around, whose teeth we find now buried in beds of clay. The land continued to rise, and attracted by the sunshine and the more genial clime animals from the Continent wandered northwards, and with them came man. Caves, now high amongst the hills, but then on a level with the rivers, were his first abode, and contain many relics of his occupancy, together with the bones of extinct animals. The land appears to have risen, and the climate became colder. The sea worked its relentless way through the chalk hills on the south and gradually met the waves of the North Sea which flowed over the old Rhine valley. It widened also the narrow strait that severed the country from Ireland, and the outline and contour of the island began more nearly to resemble that with which we are now familiar.
A vast period of time was necessary to accomplish all these immense changes; and it is impossible to speculate with any degree of certainty how long that period was, which transformed the icebound surface of our island to a land of verdure and wild forests. We must leave such conjectures and the more detailed accounts of the glacial and post-glacial periods to the geologists, as our present concern is limited to the study of the habits and condition of the men who roamed our fields and forests in prehistoric times. Although no page of history gives us any information concerning them, we can find out from the relics of arms and implements which the earth has preserved for us, what manner of men lived in the old cave dwellings, or constructed their rude huts, and lie buried beneath the vast barrows.
The earliest race of men who inhabited our island was called the Palaeolithic race, from the fact that they used the most ancient form of stone implements. Traces of a still earlier race are said to have been discovered a few years ago on the chalk plateau of the North Down, near Sevenoaks. The flints have some slight hollows in them, as if caused by scraping, and denote that the users must have been of a very low condition of intelligence—able to use a tool but scarcely able to make one. This race has been called the Eolithic; but some antiquaries have thrown doubts upon their existence, and the discovery of these flints is too recent to allow us to speak of them with any degree of certainty.
The traces of Palaeolithic man are very numerous, and he evidently exercised great skill in bringing his implements to a symmetrical shape by chipping. The use of metals for cutting purposes was entirely unknown; and stone, wood, and bone were the only materials of which these primitive beings availed themselves for the making of weapons or domestic implements. Palaeolithic man lived here during that distant period when this country was united with the Continent, and when the huge mammoth roamed in the wild forests, and powerful and fierce animals struggled for existence in the hills and vales of a cold and inclement country. His weapons and tools were of the rudest description, and made of chipped flint. Many of these have been found in the valley gravels, which had probably been dropped from canoes into the lakes or rivers, or washed down by floods from stations on the shore. Eighty or ninety feet above the present level of the Thames in the higher gravels are these relics found; and they are so abundant that the early inhabitants who used them must have been fairly numerous. Their shape is usually oval, and often pointed into a rude resemblance of the shape of a spear-head. Some flint-flakes are of the knifelike character; others resemble awls, or borers, with sharp points evidently for making holes in skins for the purpose of constructing a garment. Hammer-stones for crushing bones, tools with well-wrought flat edges, scrapers, and other implements, were the stock-in-trade of the earliest inhabitant of our country, and are distinguishable from those used by Neolithic man by their larger and rougher work. The maker of the old stone tools never polished his implements; nor did he fashion any of those finely wrought arrowheads and javelin points, upon which his successor prided himself. The latter discovered that the flints which were dug up were more easily fashioned into various shapes; whereas Palaeolithic man picked up the flints that lay about on the surface of the ground, and chipped them into the form of his rude tools. However, the elder man was acquainted with the use of fire, which he probably obtained by striking flints on blocks of iron pyrites. Wandering about the country in families and tribes, he contrived to exist by hunting the numerous animals that inhabited the primeval forests, and has left us his weapons and tools to tell us what kind of man he was. His implements are found in the drift gravels by the riversides; and from this cause his race are known as drift men, in order to distinguish them from the cave men, who seem to have belonged to a little later period.
The first dwellings of man were the caves on the hillsides, before he found out the art of building pile huts. In Palaeolithic times these caves were inhabited by a rude race of feral nomads who lived by the chase, and fashioned the rude tools which we have already described. They were, however, superior to the drift men, and had some notion of art. The principal caves in the British islands containing the relics of the cave folk are the following: Perthichoaren, Denbighshire, wherein were found the remains of Platycnemic man—so named from his having sharp shin-bones; Cefn, St. Asaph; Uphill, Somerset; King's Scar and the Victoria Cave, Settle; Robin Hood's Cave and Pinhole Cave, Derbyshire; Black Rock, Caldy Island, Coygan Caves, Pembrokeshire; King Arthur's Cave, Monmouth; Durdham Downs, Bristol; and sundry others, near Oban, in the valleys of the Trent, Dove, and Nore, and of the Irish Blackwater, and in Caithness.
In these abodes the bones of both men and animals have been found; but these do not all belong to the same period, as the Neolithic people, and those of the Bronze and Iron Ages, followed the occupation of the earlier race. The remains of the different races, however, lie at various depths, those of the earlier race naturally lying the lowest. An examination of the Victoria Cave, Settle, clearly shows this. Outside the entrance there was found a layer of charcoal and burnt bones, and the burnt stones of fireplaces, pottery, coins of the Emperors Trajan and Constantine, and ornaments in bone, ivory, bronze and enamel. The animal remains were those of the bos longifrons (Celtic ox), pig, horse, roe, stag, fowl (wild), and grouse. This layer was evidently composed of the relics of a Romano-British people. Below this were found chipped flints, an adze of melaphyre, and a layer of boulders, sand, and clay, brought down by the ice from the higher valley.
Inside the cave in the upper cave earth were found the bones of fox, badger, brown bear, grizzly bear, reindeer, red deer, horse, pig, and goat, and some bones evidently hacked by man. In the lower cave earth there were the remains of the hyena, fox, brown and grizzly bears, elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, urus, bison, and red deer, the hacked bones of a goat, and a small leg-bone of a man.
Some idea of the time which has elapsed since primitive man inhabited this rude dwelling may be formed from these excavations. Two feet below the surface lay the Romano-British layer, and we know therefore that about 1,600 years was required for the earth to accumulate to that depth. The Neolithic layer was six feet below this; hence 4,800 years would be necessary to form this depth of earth. So we may conclude that at least 6,400 years ago Neolithic man used the cave. A long time previous to this lived the creatures of the lower cave earth, the bison, elephant, and the hyena with the solitary human bone, which belonged to the sharp-shinned race (Platycnemic) of beings, the earliest dwellers in our country.
It is doubtful whether Palaeolithic man has left any descendants. The Esquimaux appear to somewhat resemble them. Professor Boyd Dawkins, in his remarkable book, Cave Hunting, traces this relationship in the character of implements, methods of obtaining food and cooking it, modes of preparing skins for clothing, and particularly in the remarkable skill of depicting figures on bone which both races display. In carving figures on bone and teeth early man in Britain was certainly more skilful than his successor; but he was a very inferior type of the human race, yet his intelligence and mode of life have been deemed not lower than those of the Australian aborigines.
The animals which roamed through the country in this Pleistocene period were the elk and reindeer, which link us on to the older and colder period when Arctic conditions prevailed; the Irish deer, a creature of great size whose head weighed about eighty pounds; bison, elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, lion, wolf, otter, bear, horse, red deer, roe, urus or gigantic ox, the short-horned ox (bos longifrons), boar, badger and many others which survive to the present day, and have therefore a very long line of ancestors.
The successor of the old stone implement maker was Neolithic man, to whom we have already had occasion to refer. Some lengthy period of geological change separates him from his predecessor of the Old Stone Age. Specimens of his handiwork show that he was a much more civilised person than his predecessor, and presented a much higher type of humanity. He had a peculiarly shaped head, the back part of the skull being strangely prolonged; and from this feature he is called dolichocephalic. He was small in stature, about 5 feet 6 inches in height, having a dark complexion, and his descendants are the Iberian or Basque races in the Western Pyrenees and may still be traced in parts of Ireland and Wales. The long barrows or mounds, the length of which is greater than the breadth, contain his remains, and we find traces of his existence in all the western countries of Europe.
He had made many discoveries which were unknown to his Old Stone predecessor. Instead of always hunting for his food, like an animal, he found out that the earth would give him corn with which he could make bread, if only he took the trouble to cultivate it. Instead of always slaying animals, he found that some were quite ready to be his servants, and give him milk and wool and food. He brought with him to our shores cows and sheep and goats, horses and dogs. Moreover he made pottery, moulding the clay with his hand, and baking it in a fire. He had not discovered the advantages of a kiln. He could spin thread, and weave stuffs, though he usually wore garments of skins.
His dwellings were no longer the caves and forests, for he made for himself rude pit huts, and surrounded himself, his tribe, and cattle with a circular camp. Traces of his agricultural operations may still be found in the "terraces," or strips of ground on hillsides, which preserve the marks of our early Neolithic farmers.
Their implements are far superior to those of the Old Stone men, and are found on the surface of our fields, or on hillsides, where they tended their flocks, or dug their rude pit shelters. Their weapons and tools are highly polished, and have evidently been ground on a grindstone. They are adapted for an endless variety of uses, and are most skilfully and beautifully fashioned. There are finely wrought arrowheads, of three shapes—barbed, tanged and barbed, and leaf-shaped; axes, scrapers for cleansing and preparing skins for clothing, hammer stones, wedges, drills, borers, knives, and many other tools. In the Reading Museum may be seen a heavy quartzite axe and chipped flint hatchet, which were found with some charred timber on an island in the Thames, and were evidently used for scooping out the interior of a boat from a tree with the aid of fire. So this New Stone man knew how to make boats as well as a vast number of other things of which we shall presently speak more particularly. His descendants linger on in South Wales and Ireland, and are short in stature, dark in complexion, and narrow-skulled, like their forefathers a few thousand years ago.
Another wave of invaders swept over our land, and overcame the long-headed Neolithic race. These were the Celtic people, taller and stronger than their predecessors, and distinguished by their fair hair and rounded skulls. From the shape of their heads they are called Brachycephalic, and are believed to have belonged to the original Aryan race, whose birthplace was Southern Asia. At some remote period this wave of invaders poured over Europe and Asia, and has left traces behind it in the languages of all Indo-European nations.
Their weapons were made of bronze, although they still used polished stone implements also. We find chisels, daggers, rings, buttons, and spear-heads, all made of bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, and fashioned by the skilled hands of these early Celtic folk. As they became more civilised, being of an inventive mind, they discovered the use of iron and found it a more convenient metal for fashioning axes to cut down trees.
When Caesar came to Britain he found that the inhabitants knew the use of iron, even the less civilised early Celtic settlers driven northwards and westwards by the Belgae, had iron weapons, and the wild Caledonians in the time of Severus, although they were naked, woad-dyed savages, wore iron collars and girdles and were armed with metal weapons.
Such are some of the relics of antiquity which the soil of our native land retains, as a memorial of the primitive people who first trod upon it. Concerning their lives and records history is silent, until the Conqueror tells us something of our Celtic forefathers. From the scanty remains of prehistoric races, their weapons and tools, we can gather something of the earliest inhabitants of our island, and try to realise their habits and mode of life.
TUMULI OR BARROWS
Barrows near churchyards—Their universality—Contents—Food in barrows—Curious burial customs—Belief in future life—Long and round barrows—Interior of barrow—Position of bodies—Cremation— Burial urns—Articles of dress and ornament—Artistic workmanship— Pottery—Remains of agriculture—Organised condition of society among prehistoric people.
Throughout the country we find many artificial mounds which are called tumuli or barrows, or in the neighbourhood of Wales, "tumps." These are the ancient burial-places of the early inhabitants of our island, the word "barrow" being derived from the Anglo-Saxon beorh, a hill or grave-mound. It is not unusual to see a barrow in the centre, or near, an old churchyard, as at Taplow, Bucks. The church was built, of course, much later than the erection of the mound; but doubtless the early preachers of the gospel took advantage of the reverence which was paid to these ancient tombs, proclaimed there the story of the cross, and on the spots so consecrated churches were ultimately built.
These mounds have much to tell us of the early inhabitants. To cover the dead with a mound of earth was a custom common to all nations. All over Europe, in Northern Asia, India, and in the new world of America, we find burial-mounds. The pyramids of Egypt are only glorified mounds; and our islands can boast of an endless variety, sometimes consisting of cairns, or heaps of stones, sometimes of huge hills of earth, 130 feet in height, as at Silbury, Wilts, and covering five acres; while others are only small heaps of soil a few feet high.
The contents of the tumuli differ also. Sometimes the bodies were burnt and the ashes preserved in rude urns; sometimes they were not cremated. Sometimes they were buried in stone cists, or in the hollowed trunk of trees; sometimes without any covering save that of the earth. In nearly all cases we find numerous articles buried with the dead, such as personal ornaments, weapons, pottery, and food.
The presence of food in the tumuli testifies to the natural instinct implanted by the Creator in the human heart with regard to a future existence. The idea that the soul of the departed is about to take a long journey is constant and deeply rooted; the rainbow and the milky way have often been supposed to be the paths trod by the departed, who require sustenance for so long a journey. The Aztecs laid a water-bottle beside the bodies to be used on the way to Mictlan, the land of the dead. Bow and arrows, a pair of mocassins with a spare piece of deerskin to patch them if they wear out, and sinews of deer to sew on the patches with, together with a kettle and provisions, are still placed in the graves by the North American Indians. The Laplanders lay beside the corpse flint, steel, and tinder, to supply light for the dark journey. A coin was placed in the mouth of the dead by the Greeks to pay Charon, the ferryman of the Styx, and for a similar purpose in the hand of a deceased Irishman. The Greenlanders bury with a child a dog, for they say a dog will find his way anywhere. In the grave of the Viking warrior were buried his horn and armour in order that he might enter the halls of Valhalla fully equipped.
These and many other examples might be quoted showing the universality of the belief in a future life, a belief that was evidently shared with other nations by the primeval races who inhabited our islands in prehistoric times.
The presence of food and drinking vessels in the tumuli clearly shows this, and also the store of weapons and implements, adzes, hammers, scrapers, and other tools which the barrows have preserved through so many ages.
These barrows are not confined to one period or one race, as their shape denotes. Some are long, measuring 200 to 400 feet in length by 60 or 80 feet wide; others are circular. The former were made by the long-headed (dolichocephalic) race of whom we have already spoken; the latter by the round-headed (brachycephalic), conquerors of their feebler long-skulled forerunners. When we consider the poor tools used by these primitive peoples, we may wonder at the amount of labour they must have expended on the construction of these giant mounds. Picks made of deer's horns and pointed staves enabled them to loosen the earth which was then collected in baskets and thrown on the rising heap. Countless toilers and many years must have been needed to produce such wonderful memorials of their industry.
With better tools we will proceed to dig into these mounds and discover what they contain. First we notice an encircling trench and mound surrounding the barrow, the purpose of which is supposed to have been to keep the dead person in the tomb, and prevent it from injuring the living. After much digging in the centre of the barrow we find a single stone chamber, entered by a passage underneath the higher and wider end of the mound. Sometimes the chamber is divided into three parts, the centre one being covered by a dome, formed by the overlapping of the stones in the upper parts of the walls. The passage leading to the centre chamber is also built with large stones erected with much care and skill. The contents of these long barrows are not so interesting, or numerous, as those contained in the round barrows. The skeletons are usually found in irregular positions, and few weapons or ornaments accompany the buried bones. Derbyshire possesses many barrows; wherever in a place-name the suffix low occurs, derived from the Anglo-Saxon hlow, signifying a small hill or mound, a barrow is generally to be found. The long barrow is usually about 200 feet in length, 40 feet wide, and 8 to 12 feet high. They run east and west, frequently north-east by south-west, the principal interment being usually at the eastern and higher end. The bodies are often found in a cist or box made of large stones, and several were buried in one mound, generally on the south and east sides, so that they might lie in the sun. This practice may have been connected with sun-worship; and the same idea prevailed in modern times, when the south side of the churchyard was considered the favoured portion, and criminals and suicides were relegated to the colder north side.
The position of the bodies varied, but usually they were buried in a crouching position, with knees bent and head drawn towards the knees. This was probably the natural position which a man would assume when he slept without a luxurious bed to lie upon, and with little to cover him, in order to keep himself as warm as possible. Hence when he sank into his last long sleep, his mourning relatives would place him in the same posture. In the Channel Islands bodies were often placed in a kneeling position.
The custom of burning the body seems to have been adopted later by the same long-headed race who used the long barrows, and prevailed more in the north of England, in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Scotland, than in the south. The cremation was sometimes not very thoroughly performed. The bodies were placed together, wood being piled about them, and over the heap the mound was raised. Then the fire was lighted, which naturally only partly consumed the bodies. We find also, mingled with bones of men and women, the bones of animals, which were probably the remains of funeral feasts.
As we have said the round-headed race introduced the circular barrow, and cremation was their usual, though not exclusive, practice. These people were much stronger and bigger men than their predecessors, their powerful jaws and projecting chins showing much more power of will than the softer narrow-faced dolichocephalic race. However, in the round barrows we also find the bodies of the latter, and we gather that they were not exterminated or driven out by their conquerors, but mingled with them, intermarried, until at length the type of the long-skulled race prevailed, and the Celt of later times possessed the features of the race he had formerly subdued. At least such seems to be the teaching of the barrows.
The Celt became acquainted with the use of bronze, and his tomb was enriched with a store of the relics of the life and art of the workmanship of the time. As cremation was the usual practice, it was no longer necessary to have a chamber which the dead might inhabit; the size of the sleeping-place of the dead was reduced, and a cist was constructed for the receptacle of the urn in which the remains were placed. The mound also was reduced in size and looked much less imposing than the huge barrows of the Stone Age; but its contents were much more important.
The ashes we find frequently contained in a rude urn of black pottery with some ornamentation. Then we discover pins made of bones, which were evidently used to fasten the dress. The people therefore were evidently not naked, woad-dyed savages; moreover we find bits of woollen fabric and charred cloth, and in Denmark people belonging to this same early race were buried in a cap, shirt, leggings, and boots, a fairly complete wardrobe. They also loved to adorn themselves, and had buttons of jet, and stone and bone ornaments. Besides flint implements we find adzes and hatchets and chisels, axe-hammers constructed with a hole in them for the insertion of a handle, grain rubbers, wheat stones, and hammer stones. The mounds also disclose a great variety of flint implements, hatchets, scrapers, both round and long, knife-daggers, knives, saws, drills, fabricators or flaking tools, sling stones, hammer stones, polishers, arrow-points, either leaf-shaped, triangular, or barbed, and heads of darts and javelins. A very curious object is sometimes found, a stone wrist guard, for the purpose of protecting the wrist from the bow string.
These barrows and their contents bear evidences to the artistic workmanship of the prehistoric dwellers in our villages. Their tombs show that these people did not confine themselves to the fabrication of objects of utility, but that they loved to adorn themselves with personal ornaments, which required much art and skill in the manufacture. Necklaces of beads pleased their fancy, and these they made of jet, or shells, the teeth of deer, and the vertebrae of fish. Moreover they loved ear-rings, which were sometimes made of the teeth of pigs. Objects of gold, bronze, glass, ivory, amber, clay, and bone were also used as ornaments.
If we examine the pottery in the barrows we find that a vessel of earthenware was usually placed at the back of the head of the body when it was not cremated. There were also cinerary urns, cups, usually called incense cups, which were certainly not used for incense, whatever may have been their purpose, food and drinking vessels. This pottery was not sun-dried, but burnt in a fire, though not made in a kiln, and the form of the vessels shows that the makers were ignorant of the use of a potter's wheel. The ornamentation consisted of a series of straight lines made by a sharp-pointed instrument and by impressions of the finger nails or string, often revealing much skill and artistic workmanship.
From a study of the barrows we may learn much about the early inhabitants of our island, who lived and worked and died on the same spots where we now are spending our days. We can see them hunting in the wild woodlands, rearing cows and sheep and goats, and cultivating their crops of corn. We can still trace on the hillsides some curious terraces fashioned by them for the growing of their grain, and discover querns, or hand millstones, and stones for bruising the corn. The bones of young oxen a few days old, discovered in the mounds, show that they knew the use of milk, and how to get a good supply. A rude spindle-whorl shows that they knew how to weave stuffs for their clothing, and the numerous buttons, fasteners, and belts prove that the clothes were fitted to the wearer, and not mere shapeless sacks.
The barrows also bear evidence to the existence of some organised condition of society. In the early savage state of human existence the family is the only community; but as man progressed towards civilisation, he learnt how to combine with his fellows for mutual defence and support. We gather from our examination of the tombs of these early races that they had attained to this degree of progress. There were chiefs of tribes and families who were buried with more honour than that bestowed upon the humbler folk. Many families were buried in one mound, showing that the tribal state had been reached, while the many humbler graves denote the condition of servitude and dependence in which a large number of the race lived. All this, and much more, may be learnt from a careful study of the tombs of these prehistoric people.
PIT AND PILE DWELLINGS
Pit dwelling earliest form of house-building—Discoveries at Bright-hampton, Worlebury—British oppida—Hurstbourne—Contents of pit dwelling—Pot-boilers—Condition of civilisation—Pile dwellings— Switzerland—Glastonbury—Hedsor—Crannogs—Modern use of pile dwellings—Description of a lake dwelling—Contents—Bronze Age— Recent discoveries at Glastonbury.
We have examined in our last chapter the abodes of the dead; we will now investigate the abodes of the living which the earth has preserved for us for so many centuries. The age of the cave dwellers had long passed; and the prehistoric folk, having attained to some degree of civilisation, began to devise for themselves some secure retreats from inclement rains and cold winds. Perhaps the burrowing rabbit gave them an idea for providing some dwelling-place. At any rate the earliest and simplest notion for constructing a habitation was that of digging holes in the ground and roofing them over with a light thatch. Hence we have the pit dwellings of our rude forefathers.
Many examples of pit dwellings have been found by industrious explorers. Some labourers when digging gravel at Brighthampton, near Oxford, came across several such excavations. They were simply pits dug in the earth, large enough to hold one or two persons, and from the sides of these pits a certain quantity of earth had been removed so as to form a seat. At the bottom of these a few rude flint arrow-heads were found. In the remarkable British oppidum at Worlebury, near Weston-super-Mare, several circular, well-like pits may be seen, fairly preserved in shape owing to the rocky nature of the ground in which they have been excavated. One in particular is very perfect, and about two feet from the bottom is a seat formed of the rock extending all round the pit.
These ancient pit dwellings are usually surrounded by an earthen rampart. Caesar says that "the Britons called that a town where they used to assemble for the sake of avoiding an incursion of enemies, when they had fortified the entangled woods with a rampart and ditch." The remains of many of these oppida may still be seen in almost all parts of the country; and in most of these hollows are plainly distinguishable, which doubtless were pit dwellings; but owing to the sides having fallen in, they have now the appearance of natural hollows in the earth.
At Hurstbourne, Hants, nine of these early habitations were discovered by the late Dr. Stevens, some of which were rudely pitched with flint stones, and had passages leading into the pit. A few flints irregularly placed together with wood ashes showed the position of the hearths, where cooking operations had been carried on. The sloping entrance-passages are peculiar and almost unique in England, though several have been met with in France. A rude ladder was the usual mode of entrance into these underground dwellings. Fragments of hand-made British pottery and the commoner kinds of Romano-British ware were found, and portions of mealing stones and also a saddle-quern, or grain-crusher, which instruments for hand-mealing must have been in common use among the pit dwellers. The grain was probably prepared by parching it before crushing; the hollow understone prevented the grain from escaping; and the muller was so shaped as to render it easily grasped, while it was pushed backwards and forwards by the hands. Similar stones are used at the present time by the African natives, as travellers testify.
One of the pits at Hurstbourne was evidently a cooking-hole, where the pit dwellers prepared their feasts, and bones of the Celtic ox (bos longifrons), pig, red deer, goat, dog, and hare or rabbit were found near it. One of the bones had evidently been bitten by teeth. The pit dwellers also practised some domestic industries, as Dr. Stevens found a needle, an awl or bodkin, and fragments of pointed bone, probably used for sewing skins together. A rude spindle-whorl shows that they knew something of weaving, and two bored stones were evidently buttons or dress-fasteners. A large supply of flint implements, scrapers, and arrow-heads, proves that the dwellings were inhabited by the Neolithic people before the Britons came to occupy them. I must not omit to notice the heating stones, or "pot-boilers." These were heated in the fire, and then placed among the meat intended to be cooked, in a hole in the ground which served the purpose of a cooking pot. I have found many such stones in Berkshire, notably from the neighbourhood of Wallingford and Long Wittenham. The writer of the Early History of Mankind states that the Assineboins, or stone-boilers, dig a hole in the ground, take a piece of raw hide, and press it down to the sides of the hole, and fill it with water; this is called a "paunch-kettle"; then they make a number of stones red-hot in a fire close by, the meat is put into the water, and the hot stones dropped in until it is cooked. The South Sea Islanders have similar primitive methods of cooking. The Highlanders used to prepare the feasts of their clans in much the same way; and the modern gipsies adopt a not very dissimilar mode of cooking their stolen fowls and hedgehogs.
We can now people these cheerless primitive pit dwellings with their ancient inhabitants, and understand something of their manners of life and customs. Their rude abodes had probably cone-shaped roofs made of rafters lashed together at the centre, protected by an outside coat of peat, sods of turf, or rushes. The spindle-whorl is evidence that they could spin thread; the mealing stones show that they knew how to cultivate corn; and the bones of the animals found in their dwellings testify to the fact that they were not in the wild state of primitive hunters, but possessed herds of cows and goats and other domestic animals.
Who were these people? Mr. Boyd Dawkins is of opinion that the early pit dwellers belonged to the Neolithic folk of whom I have already told you, as the flint implements testify. But these dwellings were evidently occupied by a later people. The querns and spindle-whorl probably belonged to the Celts, or Britons, before the advent of the Roman legions; and that these people were the inhabitants of the Hampshire pit dwellings is proved by the presence of a British gold coin which is recognised by numismatists as an imitation of the Greek stater of Philip II. of Macedon. According to Sir John Evans, the native British coinage was in existence as early as 150 years before Christ. Hence to this period we may assign the date of the existence of these Celtic primitive habitations.
Pit dwellings were not the only kind of habitations which the early inhabitants of our country used, and some of our villages possess constructions of remarkable interest, which recent industrious digging has disclosed. These are none other than lake dwellings, similar to those first discovered in Switzerland about fifty years ago. Few of our villages can boast of such relics of antiquity. Near Glastonbury, in 1892, in a dried-up ancient mere a lake village was discovered, which I will describe presently; and recently at Hedsor in Buckinghamshire a pile dwelling has been found which some learned antiquaries are now examining. In Ireland and Scotland there are found the remains of fortified dwellings called Crannogs in some of the lakes, as in Dowalton Loch, Wigtownshire, and Cloonfinlough in Connaught, but these belong to later times and were used in the Middle Ages.
In primitive times, when tribe warred with tribe, and every man's hand was against his fellow-man, and when wild and savage beasts roamed o'er moor and woodland, security was the one thing most desired by the early inhabitants of Europe. Hence they conceived the brilliant notion of constructing dwellings built on piles in the midst of lakes or rivers, where they might live in peace and safety, and secure themselves from the sudden attack of their enemies, or the ravages of beasts of prey. Switzerland is famous for its numerous clusters, or villages, of ancient lake dwellings, which were of considerable size. At Morges, on the Lake of Geneva, the settlement of huts extends 1,200 feet long by 150 in breadth; and that at Sutz on the Lake of Bienne covers six acres, and is connected with the shore by a gangway 100 feet long and 40 feet wide. Nor is the use of these habitations entirely abandoned at the present time. Venezuela, which means "little Venice," derives its name from the Indian village composed of pile dwellings on the shores of the Gulf of Maracaibo, as its original explorer Alonzo de Ojeda in 1499 chose to compare the sea-protected huts with the queen city of the Adriatic; and in many parts of South America, in the estuaries of the Orinoco and Amazon, such dwellings are still found, also among the Dyaks of Borneo, in the Caroline Islands, and on the Gold Coast of Africa. Herodotus describes similar dwellings on the Lake Prasias, existing in the fifth century B.C., and Lord Avebury states that now the Roumelian fishermen on the same lake "inhabit wooden cottages built over the water as in the time of Herodotus."
These habitations of primitive man were built on piles driven into the bed of the lake or river. These piles were stems, or trunks of trees, sharpened with stone or bronze tools. A rude platform was erected on these piles, and on this a wooden hut constructed with walls of wattle and daub, and thatched with reeds or rushes. A bridge built on piles connected the lake village with the shore whither the dwellers used to go to cultivate their wheat, barley, and flax, and feed their kine and sheep and goats. They made canoes out of hollow trunks of trees. One of these canoes which have been discovered is 43 feet in length and over 4 feet wide. The beams supporting the platform, on which the huts were erected, were fastened by wooden pins. Much ingenuity was exercised in the making of these dwellings. Sometimes they found that the mud of the lake was too soft to hold the piles; so they fashioned a framework of trunks of trees, which they let down to the bottom of the lake, and fastened the upright piles to it. Sometimes the rocky bed of the lake prevented the piles from being driven into it; so they heaped stones around the piles, and thus made them secure. The lake dwellers were very sociable, and had only one common platform for all the huts, which were clustered together. As all the actual dwellings have been destroyed by time's rude action, it is impossible to describe them accurately; but their usual size was about 20 feet by 12 feet. The floor was of clay, and in the centre of the building there was a hearth made of slabs of stone.
The people who inhabited these structures belonged either to the later Stone Age, or the Bronze Age, as we learn from the relics which their huts disclose. In the earlier ones are found celts, flint flakes, arrow-heads, harpoons of stag's horn with barbs, awls, needles, chisels, and fish-hooks made of bone, and sometimes wooden combs, and skates made out of the leg-bone of a horse. Besides the remains of the usual domestic animals we find bones of the beaver, bear, elk, and bison.
When the use of bronze was discovered the people still lived on in their lake dwellings. Fire often played havoc with the wooden wattle walls; hence we frequently find a succession of platforms. The first dwelling having been destroyed by flames, a second one was subsequently constructed; and this having shared the same fate, another platform with improved huts was raised upon the ruins of its predecessors. The relics of each habitation show that, as time went on, the pit dwellers advanced in civilisation, and increased the comforts and conveniences of life.
Some of the dwellings of these early peoples belong to the Bronze Age, as do those of the Auvernier settlement in the Lake of Neuchatel; and these huts are rich in the relics of their former inhabitants. At Marin on the same lake the lake dwellers were evidently workers in iron; and the relics, which contain large spear-heads, shields, horse furniture, fibulas, and other ornaments, together with Roman coins, prove that they belonged to the period of which history tells us.
I have described at length these Swiss lake dwellings, although they do not belong to the antiquities of our villages in England, because much the same kind of habitations existed in our country, though few have as yet been unearthed. Possibly under the peaty soil of some ancient river-bed, or old mere, long ago drained, you may be fortunate enough to meet with the remains of similar structures here in England. At Glastonbury a few years ago a lake village was discovered, which has created no small stir in the antiquarian world, and merits a brief description. Nothing was known of its existence previously; and this is an instance of the delightful surprises which explorers have in store for them, when they ransack the buried treasure-house of the earth, and reveal the relics which have been so long stored there.
All that met the eyes of the diggers was a series of circular low mounds, about sixty in number, extending over an area of three acres. Imagine the delight of the gentlemen when they discovered that each of these mounds contained the remains of a lake dwelling which was constructed more than two thousand years ago.
First they found above the soft peat, the remains of a lake long dried up, a platform formed of timber and brushwood, somewhat similar to the structures which we have seen in the Swiss lakes. Rows of small piles support this platform, and on it a floor of clay, or rather several floors. The clay is composed of several horizontal layers with intervening thin layers of decayed wood and charcoal, each layer representing a distinct floor of a dwelling. In the centre of each mound are the remains of rude hearths. The dwellings, of which no walls remain, were evidently built of timber, the crevices between the wood being filled with wattle and daub. In one of the mounds were found several small crucibles which show that the inhabitants knew how to work in metals. Querns, whetstones, spindle whorls, fibulae, and finger-rings of bronze, a horse's bit, a small saw, numerous implements of horn and bone, combs, needles, a jet ring and amber bead, all tell the tale of the degree of civilisation attained by these early folk. They worked in metals, made pottery and cloth, tilled and farmed the adjoining lands, and probably belonged to the late Celtic race before the advent of the Romans. These lake dwellers used a canoe in order to reach the mainland, and this primitive boat has been discovered. It is evidently cut out of the stem of an oak, is flat-bottomed, and its dimensions are 17 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 1 foot deep. The prow is pointed, and has a hole, through which doubtless a rope was passed, in order to fasten it to the little harbour of the lake village.
It will be gathered that these people, whether dwelling in their pit or lake villages, showed so much capacity, industry, and social organisation, that even in the Neolithic Age they were far removed from a savage state, and a low condition of culture and civilisation. They showed great ingenuity in the making of their tools, their vessels of pottery, their ornaments, and clothing. They were not naked, woad-dyed savages. They could spin and weave, grow corn, and make bread, and had brought into subjection for their use domestic animals, horses and cattle, sheep and goats, and swine. They lived in security and comfort, and were industrious and intelligent; and it is interesting to record, from the relics which the earth has preserved of their civilisation, the kind of life which they must have lived in the ages which existed before the dawn of history.
CROMLECHS, CAMPS, AND EARTHWORKS
Stone monuments—Traditions relating to them—Menhirs or hoar-stones— Alignements—Cromlechs—Stonehenge—Avebury—Rollright stones—Origin of stone circles—Dolmens—Earthworks—Chun Castle—Whittenham clumps— Uffington—Tribal boundaries—Roman rig—Grims-dike—Legends—Celtic words.
Among the antiquities which some of our English villages possess, none are more curious and remarkable than the grand megalithic monuments of the ancient races which peopled our island. Marvellous memorials are these of their skill and labour. How did they contrive to erect such mighty monuments? How did they move such huge masses of stone? How did they raise with the very slender appliances at their disposal such gigantic stones? For what purpose did they erect them? The solution of these and many such-like problems we can only guess, and no one has as yet been bold enough to answer all the interesting questions which these rude stone monuments raise.
Superstition has attempted to account for their existence. Just as the flint arrow-heads are supposed by the vulgar to be darts shot by fairies or witches which cause sickness and death in cattle and men, and are worn as amulets to ward off disease; just as the stone axes of early man are regarded as thunder bolts, and when boiled are esteemed as a sure cure for rheumatism, or a useful cattle medicine—so these stones are said to be the work of the devil. A friend tells me that in his childhood his nurse used to frighten him by saying that the devil lurked in a dolmen which stands near his father's house in Oxfordshire; and many weird traditions cluster round these old monuments.
In addition to the subterranean sepulchral chambers and cairns which we have already examined, there are four classes of megalithic structures. The first consists of single stones, called in Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany, menhirs, a name derived from the Celtic word maen or men signifying a stone, and hir meaning tall. In England they are known as "hoar-stones," hoar meaning a boundary, inasmuch as they are frequently used in later times to mark the boundary of an estate, parish, or manor. There is one at Enstone, Oxfordshire, and at Wardington, Warwickshire. Possibly they were intended to mark the graves of deceased chieftains.
The second class consists of lines of stones, which the French call alignements. Frequently they occur in groups of lines from two to fourteen in number, Carnac, in Brittany, possesses the best specimen in Europe of this curious arrangement of giant stones.
The third class of megalithic monuments is the circular arrangement, such as we find at Avebury and Stonehenge. These are now usually called cromlechs, in accordance with the term used by French antiquaries, though formerly this name was applied in England to the dolmens, or chambered structures, of which we shall speak presently. According to the notions of the old curator of Stonehenge the mighty stones stood before the Deluge, and he used to point out (to his own satisfaction) signs of the action of water upon the stones, even showing the direction in which the Flood "came rushing in." The Welsh bards say that they were erected by King Merlin, the successor of Vortigern; and Nennius states that they were erected in memory of four hundred nobles, who were treacherously slain by Hengist, when the savage Saxons came. There is no need to describe these grand circles of huge stones which all antiquaries have visited.
The cromlech at Avebury covers a larger area than that of Stonehenge, the circle being about 1,300 feet in diameter. There is a fine circle at Rollright, in Oxfordshire, which is the third largest in England. The diameter of the circle is about 107 feet, and the stones numbered originally about sixty. Near the circle stand the Five Whispering Knights, five large stones leaning together, probably the remains of a dolmen, and a large solitary stone, or menhir. Popular tradition has woven a strange legend about these curious relics of bygone ages. A mighty chieftain once ruled over the surrounding country; but he was ambitious, and wished to extend his sway, and become King of England. So he mustered his army, and the oracle proclaimed that if he could once see Long Compton, he would obtain his desire. Having proceeded as far as Rollright, he was repeating the words of the oracle—
"If Long Compton I can see, King of England I shall be"—
when Mother Shipton, who had doubtless ridden on her broomstick from her Norfolk home, appeared and pronounced the fatal spell—
"Move no more; stand fast, stone; King of England thou shall none."
Immediately the king and his army were changed into stone, as if the head of Medusa had gazed upon them. The solitary stone, still called the King Stone, is the ambitious monarch; the circle is his army; and the Five Whispering Knights are five of his chieftains, who were hatching a plot against him when the magic spell was uttered. The farmers around Rollright say that if the stones are removed from the spot, they will never rest, but make mischief till they are restored. Stanton Drew, in Somersetshire, has a cromlech, and there are several in Scotland, the Channel Islands, and Brittany. Some sacrilegious persons transported a cromlech bodily from the Channel Islands, and set it up at Park Place, Henley-on-Thames. Such an act of antiquarian barbarism happily has few imitators.
For what purpose were these massive stones erected at the cost of such infinite labour? Tradition and popular belief associate them with the Druids. Some years ago all mysterious antiquarian problems were solved by reference to the Druids. But these priests of ancient days are now out of fashion, and it is certainly not very safe to attribute the founding of the great stone circles to their agency. The Druidical worship paid its homage to the powers of Nature, to the nymphs and genii of the woods and streams, whereas the great stone circles were evidently constructed by sun-worshippers. There is no doubt among antiquaries that they are connected with the burial of the dead. Small barrows have been found in the centre of them. Dr. Anderson is of opinion that the stone circles were developed out of the hedge, or setting of stone, which frequently surrounds the base of a barrow, and was intended to keep the ghost in, and prevent it from injuring the living. By degrees the wall was increased in size while the barrow or cairn decreased; until at last a small mound of earth, or heap of stones, only marked the place of burial, and the huge circle of stones surrounded it. Stonehenge, with its well-wrought stones and gigantic trilitha, is much later than the circles of Avebury and Rollright, and was doubtless constructed by the people who used iron, about two hundred years before our era. The earlier circles have been assigned to a period eight or ten centuries before Christ.
Many conjectures have been made as to how the huge capstones of the circle at Stonehenge were placed on the erect stones. Sir Henry Dryden thought that when the upright stones were set on end, earth or small stones were piled around them until a large inclined plane was formed, on which "skids" or sliding-pieces were placed. Then the caps were placed on rollers, and hauled up by gangs of men. Probably in some such way these wonderful monuments were formed.
The last class of rude stone monuments is composed of dolmens, or chambered tombs, so named from the Welsh word dol, a table, and maen or men, a stone. They are in fact stone tables. Antiquaries of former days, and the unlearned folk of to-day, call them "Druids' altars," and say that sacrifices were offered upon them. The typical form is a structure of four or more large upright stones, supporting a large flat stone, as a roof. Sometimes they are covered with earth or stones, sometimes entirely uncovered. Some antiquaries maintain that they were always uncovered, as we see them now; others assert that they have been stripped by the action of wind and rain, and snow, frost, and thaw, until all the earth placed around them has been removed. Possibly fashions changed then as now; and it may console some of us that there was no uniformity of ritual even in prehistoric Britain. Dolmens contain no bronze or iron implements, or carvings of the same, and evidently belong to the time of the Neolithic folk.
Among prehistoric remains none are more striking than the great camps and earthworks, which hold commanding positions on our hills and downs, and have survived during the countless years which have elapsed since their construction. Caesar's camps abound throughout England; it is needless to say that they had nothing to do with Caesar, but were made long years before the Conqueror ever set foot on British land. These early camps are usually circular in shape, or follow the natural curve of the hill on which they stand. Roman camps are nearly always square or rectangular. They consist of a high vallum, or rampart of earth, surrounded by a deep ditch, and on the counterscarp, or outside edge of the ditch, there is often another bank or rampart. The entrance to these strongholds was often ingeniously contrived, in order that an enemy endeavouring to attack the fortress might be effectually resisted.
Chun Castle, in Cornwall, is an interesting specimen of ancient Celtic fortress. It consists of two circular walls separated by a terrace. The walls are built of rough masses of granite, some 5 or 6 feet long. The outer wall is protected by a ditch. Part of the wall is still about 10 feet high. Great skill and military knowledge are displayed in the plan of the entrance, which is 6 feet wide in the narrowest part, and 16 in the widest, where the walls diverge and are rounded off on either side. The space within the fortress is about 175 feet in diameter. The Herefordshire Beacon on the Malvern Hills is a fine example of a triple-ramparted Celtic camp.
In Berkshire we have the well-known Whittenham Clumps, the Sinodun of the Celts, on the summit of which there is a famous camp, with a triple line of entrenchment, the mound and ditch being complete. The circumference of the fortress is over a mile. Berkshire and Oxfordshire are very rich in these camps and earthworks, which guard the course of the old British road called the Iknield Way. Hill-forts crown the tops of the hills; and the camps of Blewberry, Scutchamore Knob (a corruption of Cwichelm's law), Letcombe, Uffington, and Liddington, command the ancient trackway and bid defiance to approaching foes.
The object of these camps was to provide places of refuge, whither the tribe could retire when threatened by the advent of its enemy. The Celts were a pastoral people; and their flocks grazed on the downs and hillsides. When their scouts brought news of the approach of a hostile force, some signal would be given by the blowing of a horn, and the people would at once flee to their fortress driving their cattle before them, and awaiting there the advent of their foes.
At Uffington there is a remarkable relic of British times called the Blowing Stone, or King Alfred's Bugle-horn, which was doubtless used by the Celtic tribes for signalling purposes; and when its deep low note was heard on the hillside the tribe would rush to the protecting shelter of Uffington Castle. There, armed with missiles, they were ready to hurl them at the invading hosts, and protect their lives and cattle until all danger was past. Those who are skilled at the art can still make the Blowing Stone sound. The name, King Alfred's Bugle-horn, is a misnomer, and arose from the association of the White Horse Hill with the battle which Alfred fought against the Danes at Aescendune, which may, or may not, have taken place near the old British camp at Uffington. There are several White Horses cut out in the turf on the hillsides in Wiltshire, besides the famous Berkshire one at Uffington, celebrated by Mr. Thomas Hughes in his Scouring of the White Horse. We have also some turf-cut crosses at White-leaf and Bledlow, in Buckinghamshire. The origin of these turf monuments is still a matter of controversy. It is possible that they may be Saxon, and may be the records of Alfred's victories; but antiquaries are inclined to assign them to an earlier date, and connect them with the builders of cromlechs and dolmens. It is certainly improbable that, when he was busily engaged fighting the Danes, Alfred and his men would have found time to construct this huge White Horse.
In addition to the earthen mounds and deep ditch, which usually formed the fortifications of these ancient strongholds, there were wicker-work stockades, or palisading, arranged on the top of the vallum. Such defences have been found at Uffington; and during the present year on the ancient fortifications of the old Calleva Atrebatum, afterwards the Roman Silchester, a friend of the writer has found the remains of similar wattle-work stockades. Evidently tribal wars and jealousies were not unknown in Celtic times, and the people knew how to protect themselves from their foes.
Another important class of earthen ramparts are the long lines of fortifications, which extend for miles across the country, and must have entailed vast labour in their construction. These ramparts were doubtless tribal boundaries, or fortifications used by one tribe against another. There is the Roman rig, which, as Mrs. Armitage tells us in her Key to English Antiquities, coasts the face of the hills all the way from Sheffield to Mexborough, a distance of eleven miles. A Grims-dike (or Grims-bank, as it is popularly called) runs across the southern extremity of Oxfordshire from Henley to Mongewell, ten miles in length; and near it, and parallel to it, there is a Medlers-bank, another earthen rampart, exceeding it in length by nearly a third. Near Salisbury there is also a Grims-dike, and in Cambridgeshire and Cheshire. Danes' Dike, near Flamborough Head, Wans-dike, and Brokerley Dike are other famous lines of fortifications.
There are twenty-two Grims-dikes in England. The name was probably derived from Grim, the Saxon devil, or evil spirit; and was bestowed upon these mysterious monuments of an ancient race which the Saxons found in various parts of their conquered country. Unable to account for the existence of these vast mounds and fortresses, they attributed them to satanic agency.
There is much work still to be done in exploring these relics of the prehistoric races; and if there should be any such in your own neighbourhood, some careful digging might produce valuable results. Perhaps something which you may find may throw light upon some disputed or unexplained question, which has perplexed the minds of antiquaries for some time. I do not imagine that the following legend will deter you from your search. It is gravely stated that years ago an avaricious person dug into a tumulus for some treasure which it was supposed to contain. At length after much labour he came to an immense chest, but the lid was no sooner uncovered than it lifted itself up a little and out sprang an enormous black cat, which seated itself upon the chest, and glowed with eyes of passion upon the intruder. Nothing daunted, the man proceeded to try to move the chest, but without avail; so he fixed a strong chain to it and attached a powerful team of horses. But when the horses began to pull, the chain broke in a hundred places, and the chest of treasure disappeared for ever.
Some rustics assert that if you run nine times round a tumulus, and then put your ear against it, you will hear the fairies dancing and singing in the interior. Indeed it is a common superstition that good fairies lived in these old mounds, and a story is told of a ploughman who unfortunately broke his ploughshare. However he left it at the foot of a tumulus, and the next day, to his surprise, he found it perfectly whole. Evidently the good fairies had mended it during the night. But these bright little beings, who used to be much respected by our ancestors, have quite deserted our shores. They found that English people did not believe in them; so they left us in disgust, and have never been heard of since.
If you have no other Celtic remains in your neighbourhood, at least you have the enduring possession of the words which they have bequeathed to us, such as coat, basket, crook, cart, kiln, pitcher, comb, ridge, and many others, which have all been handed down to us from our British ancestors. Their language also lives in Wales and Brittany, in parts of Ireland and Scotland, and in the Isle of Man, where dwell the modern representatives of that ancient race, which was once so powerful, and has left its trace in most of the countries of Europe.
Roman remains numerous—Chedworth villa—Roads—Names derived from roads—Itinerary of Antoninus—British roads—Watling Street—Iknield Street—Ryknield Street—Ermyn Street—Akeman Street—Saltways— Milestones—Silchester—Its walls—Calleva—Its gardens and villas— Hypocausts—Pavements—Description of old city—Forum—Temple—Baths— Amphitheatre—Church—Roman villa.
"The world's a scene of change," sings Poet Cowley; but in spite of all the changes that have transformed our England, the coming and going of conquerors and invaders, the lapse of centuries, the ceaseless working of the ploughshare on our fields and downs, traces of the old Roman life in Britain have remained indelible. Our English villages are rich in the relics of the old Romans; and each year adds to our knowledge of the life they lived in the land of their adoption, and reveals the treasures which the earth has tenderly preserved for so many years.
If your village lies near the track of some Roman road, many pleasing surprises may be in store for you. Oftentimes labourers unexpectedly meet with the buried walls and beautiful tesselated pavements of an ancient Roman dwelling-place. A few years ago at Chedworth, near Cirencester, a ferret was lost, and had to be dug out of the rabbit burrow. In doing this some Roman tesserae were dug up; and when further excavations were made a noble Roman villa with numerous rooms, artistic pavements, hypocausts, baths, carvings, and many beautiful relics of Roman art were brought to light. Possibly you may be equally successful in your own village and neighbourhood.
If you have the good fortune to live near a Roman station, you will have the pleasing excitement of discovering Roman coins and other treasures, when you watch your labourers draining the land or digging wells. Everyone knows that the names of many of the Roman stations are distinguished by the termination Chester, caster, or caer, derived from the Latin castra, a camp; and whenever we are in the neighbourhood of such places, imagination pictures to us the well-drilled Roman legionaries who used to astonish the natives with their strange language and customs; and we know that there are coins and pottery, tesserae and Roman ornaments galore, stored up beneath our feet, awaiting the search of the persevering digger. Few are the records relating to Roman Britain contained in the pages of the historians, as compared with the evidences of roads and houses, gates and walls and towns, which the earth has preserved for us.
Near your village perhaps a Roman road runs. The Romans were famous for their wonderful roads, which extended from camp to camp, from city to city, all over the country. These roads remain, and are evidences of the great engineering skill which their makers possessed. They liked their roads well drained, and raised high above the marshes; they liked them to go straight ahead, like their victorious legions, and never swerve to right or left for any obstacle. They cut through the hills, and filled up the valleys; and there were plenty of idle Britons about, who could be forced to do the work. They called their roads strata or streets; and all names of places containing the word street, such as Streatley, or Stretford, denote that they were situated on one of these Roman roads.
You may see these roads wending their way straight as a die, over hill and dale, staying not for marsh or swamp. Along the ridge of hills they go, as does the High Street on the Westmoreland hills, where a few inches below the grass you can find the stony way; or on the moors between Redmire and Stanedge, in Yorkshire, the large paving stones, of which the road was made, in many parts still remain. In central places, as at Blackrod, in Lancashire, the roads extend like spokes from the centre of a wheel, although nearly eighteen hundred years have elapsed since their construction. The name of Devizes, Wilts, is a corruption of the Latin word divisae, which marks the spot where the old Roman road from London to Bath was divided by the boundary line between the Roman and the Celtic districts.
In order to acquire a knowledge of the great roads of the Romans we must study the Itinerary of Antoninus, written by an officer of the imperial Court about 150 A.D. This valuable road-book tells us the names of the towns and stations, the distances, halting-places, and other particulars. Ptolemy's Geographia also affords help in understanding the details of the Itinerary, and many of the roads have been very satisfactorily traced. The Romans made use of the ancient British ways, whenever they found them suitable for their purpose. The British roads resembled the trackways on Salisbury Plain, wide grass rides, neither raised nor paved, and not always straight, but winding along the sides of the hills which lie in their course. There were seven chief British ways: Watling Street, which was the great north road, starting from Richborough on the coast of Kent, passing through Canterbury and Rochester it crossed the Thames near London, and went on through Verulam, Dunstable, and Towcester, Wellington, and Wroxeter, and thence into Wales to Tommen-y-Mawr, where it divided into two branches. One ran by Beth Gellert to Caernarvon and Holy Head, and the other through the mountains to the Manai banks and thence to Chester, Northwich, Manchester, Ilkley, until it finally ended in Scotland.
The second great British road was the way of the Iceni, or Iknield Street, proceeding from Great Yarmouth, running through Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Bucks, and Oxon, to Old Sarum, and finishing its course at Land's End. We have in Berkshire a branch of this road called the Ridgeway.
The Ryknield Street beginning at the mouth of the Tyne ran through Chester-le-Street, followed the course of the Watling Street to Catterick, thence through Birmingham, Tewkesbury, and Gloucester, to Caermarthen and St. David's.
The Ermyn Street led from the coast of Sussex to the south-east part of Scotland.
The Akeman Street ran between the Iknield and Ryknield Streets, and led from what the Saxons called East Anglia, through Bedford, Newport Pagnel, and Buckingham to Alcester and Cirencester, across the Severn, and ending at St. David's.
The Upper Saltway was the communication between the sea-coast of Lincolnshire and the salt mines at Droitwich; and the Lower Saltway led from Droitwich, then, as now, a great centre of the salt trade, to the sea-coast of Hampshire. Traces of another great road to the north are found, which seems to have run through the western parts of England extending from Devon to Scotland.
Such were the old British roads which existed when the Romans came. The conquerors made use of these ways, wherever they found them useful, trenching them, paving them, and making them fit for military purposes. They constructed many new ones which would require a volume for their full elucidation. Many of them are still in use, wonderful records of the engineering skill of their makers, and oftentimes beneath the surface of some grassy ride a few inches below the turf you may find the hard concreted road laid down by the Romans nearly eighteen hundred years ago. Roman milestones we sometimes find. There is one near Silchester, commonly called the Imp Stone, probably from the first three letters of the Latin word Imperator, carved upon it. Curious legends often cluster round these relics of ancient times. Just as the superstitious Saxons, when they saw the great Roman roads, made by a people who had long vanished from the land, often attributed these great works to evil spirits, and called parts of these well-made streets the Devil's Highway, so they invented a strange legend to account for the Imp Stone, and said that some giant had thrown it from the city, and left on it the marks of his finger and thumb.
Our English villages contain many examples of Roman buildings. Where now rustics pursue their calling, and sow their crops and reap their harvests, formerly stood the beautiful houses of the Roman nobles, or the flourishing towns of Roman citizens. Upon the sites of most of these old-world places new towns have been constructed; hence it is difficult often to trace the foundations of Roman cities in the midst of the masses of modern bricks and mortar. Hence we fly to the villages; and sometimes, as at Silchester, near a little English village, we find the remains of a large, important, and flourishing town, where the earth has kept safely for us during many centuries the treasures and memories of a bygone age.
Every student of Roman Britain must visit Silchester, and examine the collections preserved in the Reading Museum, which have been amassed by the antiquaries who have for several years been excavating the ruins. The city contained a forum, or marketplace, having on one side a basilica, or municipal hall, in which prisoners were tried, business transactions executed, and the general affairs of the city carried on. On the other side of the square were the shops, where the butchers, bakers, or fishmongers plied their trade. You can find plenty of oyster shells, the contents of which furnished many a feast to the Romans who lived there seventeen hundred years ago. The objects which have been found tell us how the dwellers in the old city employed themselves, and how skilful they were in craftsmanship. Amongst other things we find axes, chisels, files for setting saws, hammers, a large plane, and other carpenters' tools; an anvil, a pair of tongs, and blacksmiths' implements; shoemakers' anvils, very similar to those used in our day, a large gridiron, a standing lamp, safety-pins, such as ladies use now, and many other useful and necessary objects.
In order to protect the city it was surrounded by high walls, which seem to defy all the attacks of time. They are nine feet in thickness, and are still in many places twenty feet high. Outside the wall a wide ditch added to the strength of the fortifications. Watch-towers were placed at intervals along the walls; and on the north, south, east, and west sides were strongly fortified gates, with guard chambers on each side, and arched entrances through which the Roman chariots were driven.
These walls inclose a space of irregular shape, and were built on the site of old British fortifications. Silchester was originally a British stronghold, and was called by them Calleva. The Celtic tribe which inhabited the northern parts of Hampshire was the Atrebates, who after a great many fights were subdued by the Romans about 78 A.D. Then within the rude fortifications of Calleva arose the city of Silchester, with its fine houses, temples, and baths, its strong walls, and gates, and streets, the great centre of civilisation, and the chief city of that part of the country.
It is often possible to detect the course of Roman streets where now the golden corn is growing. On the surface of the roads where the ground is thin, the corn is scanty. Observation of this kind a few years ago led to the discovery of a Romano-British village at Long Whittenham, in Berks. In Silchester it is quite easy to trace the course of the streets by the thinness of the corn, as Leland observed as long ago as 1536. One is inclined to wonder where all the earth comes from, which buries old buildings and hides them so carefully; but any student of natural history, who has read Darwin's book on Worms, will cease to be astonished. It is chiefly through the action of these useful creatures that soil accumulates so greatly on the sites of ancient buildings.
Within the walls of Silchester were gardens and villas replete with all the contrivances of Roman luxury. The houses were built on three sides of a square court. A cloister ran round the court, supported by pillars. The open space was used as a garden. At the back of the house were the kitchens and apartments for the slaves and domestics. The Romans adapted their dwellings to the climate in which they lived. In the sunny south, at Pompeii, the houses were more open, and would be little suited to our more rigorous climate. They knew how to make themselves comfortable, built rooms well protected from the weather, and heated with hypocausts. These were furnaces made beneath the house, which generated hot air; and this was admitted into the rooms by earthenware flue-tiles. The dwellers had both summer and winter apartments; and when the cold weather arrived the hypocaust furnaces were lighted, and the family adjourned to their winter quarters.