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English Villages by P. H. Ditchfield

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M.A., F.S.A.



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

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.


_May_, 1901








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


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
Rollright stones (from Camden's _Britannia_, 1607)
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
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

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.

[Illustration: A VILLAGE STREET]

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

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

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


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.



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.

[Illustration: PLAN OF A TUMULUS]

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

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

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

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

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 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.

(1) Knife of deer-antler
(2) Bone needle
(3) Marrow scoop
(4, 5) Bone awls]

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

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

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

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.



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

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.

[Illustration: MENHIR]

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."

[Illustration: ROLLRIGHT STONES From Camden's _Britannia_]

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

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.

[Illustration: DOLMEN]

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

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

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.

The floors were made of _tesserae_, or small cubes of different
materials and various colours, which were arranged in beautiful
patterns. Some of these pavements were of most elegant and elaborate
designs, having figures in them representing the seasons, or some
mythological characters.

The walls were painted with decorations of very beautiful designs,
representing the cornfields, just as the Roman artists in Italy loved to
depict the vine in their mural paintings. The mortar used by the Romans
is very hard and tenacious, and their bricks were small and thin,
varying from 8 inches square to 18 inches by 12, and were about 2 inches
in thickness. Frequently we find the impression of an animal's foot on
these bricks and tiles, formed when they were in a soft state before
they were baked, and one tile recently found had the impression of a
Roman baby's foot. Roman bricks have often been used by subsequent
builders, and are found built up in the masonry of much later periods.

[Illustration: CAPITAL OF COLUMN]

It is quite possible to build up in imagination the old Roman city, and
to depict before our mind's eye the scenes that once took place where
now the rustics toil and till the ground. We enter the forum, the great
centre of the city, the common resort and lounging-place of the
citizens, who met together to discuss the latest news from Rome, to
transact their business, and exchange gossip. On the west side stood the
noble basilica, or hall of justice--a splendid building, its entrance
being adorned with fine Corinthian columns; and slabs of polished
Purbeck marble, and even of green and white marble from the Pyrenees,
covered the walls. It was a long rectangular hall, 233 feet in length by
58 feet in width, and at each side was a semicircular apse, which was
called the Tribune. Here the magistrate sat to administer justice, or an
orator stood to address the citizens. In the centre of the western wall
was another apse, where the _curia_ met for the government of the city.
Two rows of columns ran down the hall, dividing it into a nave with two
aisles, like many of our churches. Indeed the form of the construction
of our churches was taken from these Roman basilica. Several chambers
stood on the west of the hall, one of which was another fine hall,
probably used as a corn exchange. The height of this noble edifice, the
roof of which was probably hidden by a coffered ceiling, must have been
about fifty-seven feet.

Passing along the main street towards the south gate we come to the
foundations of a nearly circular temple. Two square-shaped buildings
stood on the east of the city, which were probably temples for some
Gaulish form of religion, as similar sacred buildings have been
discovered in France. A quadrangle of buildings near the south gate,
having various chambers, contained the public baths, whither the Romans
daily resorted for gossip and discussion as well as for bathing. There
is an ingenious arrangement for using the waste water for the purpose of
flushing the drains and sewers. Nor were they ignorant of the invention
of a force-pump, as the accompanying illustration on the next page

[Illustration: ROMAN FORCE-PUMP]

The amphitheatre stands outside the gate, whither the citizens flocked
to see gladiatorial displays or contests between wild beasts. With the
exception of one at Dorchester, it is the largest in Britain. It is made
of lofty banks of earth, which surround the arena, and must have been an
imposing structure in the days of its glory, with its tiers of seats
rising above the level arena. It is difficult to imagine this
grass-covered slope occupied by a gay crowd of Romans and wondering
Britons, all eagerly witnessing some fierce fight of man with man, or
beast with beast, and enthusiastically revelling in the sanguinary
sport. The modern rustics, who have no knowledge of what was the
original purpose of "the Mount," as they name the amphitheatre, still
call the arena "the lions' den."

Silchester was a very busy place. There were dye works there, as the
excavations show; hence there must have been some weaving, and therefore
a large resident population. Throngs of travellers used to pass through
it, and carts and baggage animals bore through its streets the
merchandise from London, which passed to the cities and villas so
plentifully scattered in western Britain.

By far the most important of the discoveries made in Roman Britain is
the little church which stood just outside the forum. It is very similar
in form to the early churches in Italy and other parts of the Roman
Empire, and is of the basilican type. The orientation is different from
that used after the reign of Constantine, the altar being at the west
end. The churches of S. Peter and S. Paul at Rome had the same
arrangement; and the priest evidently stood behind the altar facing the
congregation and looking towards the east at the time of the celebration
of the Holy Communion. There is an apse at the west end, and the
building is divided by two rows of columns into a nave and two aisles.
The nave had probably an ambon, or reading-desk, and was mainly used by
the clergy, the aisles being for the use of the men and women
separately. A vestry stood at the western end of the north aisle. Across
the eastern end was the narthex, or porch, where the catechumens stood
and watched the service through the three open doors. Outside the
narthex was the atrium, an open court, having in the centre the remains
of the labrum, or laver, where the people washed their hands and faces
before entering the church. We are reminded of a sermon by S.
Chrysostom, who upbraided his congregation, asking them what was the use
of their washing their hands if they did not at the same time cleanse
their hearts by repentance. This interesting memorial of early
Christianity was probably erected soon after the Emperor Constantine's
Edict of Toleration issued in 313 A.D.

But not only at Silchester and at other places, once the great centres
of the Roman population, do we find Roman remains. In addition to the
stations, camps, and towns, there were the villas of the rich Roman
citizens or Gaulish merchants on the sunny slopes of many a hillside.
Although hundreds of the remains of these noble houses have been
discovered, there are still many to be explored.

The villa consisted of the house of the proprietor, which occupied the
centre of the little colony, together with the smaller houses of the
servants and slaves, stables, cowsheds, mills, and granaries, and all
the other usual outbuildings connected with a large estate. The main
house was built around a central court, like an Oxford college; and
resembled in architectural style the buildings which the excavations at
Pompeii have disclosed. A corridor ran round the court supported by
pillars, from which the rooms opened. In a well-defended town like
Silchester the houses were usually built on three sides of the court;
but the country villas, which had occasionally to be fortified against
the attacks of wandering bands of outlaws and wild Britons, and the
inroads of savage beasts, were usually built on all the four sides of
the square court. They were usually of one story, although the existence
of a force-pump in Silchester shows that water was laid on upstairs in
one house at least. As the wells were less than thirty feet deep, a
force-pump would not be needed to lift the water to the earth-level.
Hence in some houses there must have been some upper chambers, a
conclusion that is supported by the thickness of the foundations, which
are far more substantial than would be required for houses of one story.
The rooms were very numerous, often as many as sixty or seventy, and
very bright they must have looked decorated with beautiful marbles and
stuccoes of gorgeous hues, and magnificent pavements, statues and
shrines, baths and fountains, and the many other objects of Roman luxury
and comfort. The floors were made of _opus signinum_, such as the
Italians use at the present day, a material composed of cement in which
are embedded fragments of stone or brick, the whole being rubbed down to
a smooth surface, or paved with mosaic composed of _tesserae_. In
whatever land the Roman dwelt, there he made his beautiful tesselated
pavement, rich with graceful designs and ever-enduring colours,
representing the stories of the gods, the poetry of nature, and the
legends of the heroes of his beloved native land. Here we see Perseus
freeing Andromeda, Medusa's locks, Bacchus and his band of revellers,
Orpheus with his lyre, by which he is attracting a monkey, a fox, a
peacock, and other animals, Apollo singing to his lyre, Venus being
loved by Mars, Neptune with his trident, attended by hosts of seamen.
The seasons form an accustomed group, "Winter" being represented, as at
Brading, by a female figure, closely wrapped, holding a lifeless bough
and a dead bird. Satyrs and fauns, flowers, Graces and wood-nymphs,
horns of plenty, gladiators fighting, one with a trident, the other with
a net--all these and countless other fanciful representations look at us
from these old Roman pavements. The Roman villa at Brading is an
excellent type of such a dwelling, with its magnificent suites of rooms,
colonnades, halls, and splendid mosaic pavements. As at Silchester, we
see there fine examples of hypocausts. The floor of the room, called a
_suspensura_, is supported by fifty-four small pillars made of tiles.
Another good example of a similar floor exists at Cirencester, and many
more at Silchester.


Here is a description of a Roman gentleman's house, as drawn by the
writer of _The History of Oxfordshire_:--

"His villa lay sheltered from wild winds partly by the rising brow of
the hill, and partly by belts of trees; it was turned towards the south,
and caught the full sun. In the spring the breath of his violet beds
would be as soft and sweet as in Oxfordshire woods to-day; in the summer
his quadrangle would be gay with calthae, and his colonnade festooned
with roses and helichryse. If we are to believe in the _triclinium
aestivum_ of Hakewill, it says much for the warmth of those far-away
summers that he was driven to build a summer dining-room with a north
aspect, and without heating flues. And when the long nights fell, and
winter cold set in, the slaves heaped higher the charcoal fires in the
_praefurnium_; the master sat in rooms far better warmed than Oxford
country houses now, or sunned himself at midday in the sheltered
quadrangle, taking his exercise in the warm side of the colonnade among
his gay stuccoes and fluted columns. Could we for a moment raise the
veil, we should probably find that the country life of 400 A.D. in
Oxfordshire was not so very dissimilar to that of to-day, ... and that
the well-to-do Roman of rustic Middle England was ... a useful,
peaceful, and a happy person."



Departure of Romans--Coming of Saxons--Bede--Saxon names of places--
Saxon village--Common-field system--_Eorl_ and _ceorl_--Thanes,
_geburs_, and _cottiers_--Description of village life--Thane's
house--_Socmen_--Ploughman's lament--Village tradesmen--Parish

The scene changes. The Roman legions have left our shores, and are
trying to prop the tottering state of the falling empire. The groans
of the Britons have fallen on listless or distracted ears, and no one
has come to their succour. The rule of the all-swaying Roman power has
passed away, and the Saxon hordes have poured over the hills and vales
of rural Britain, and made it the Angles' land--our England.

The coming of the Saxons was a very gradual movement. They did not
attack our shores in large armies on one or two occasions; they came
in clans or families. The head of the clan built a ship, and taking
with him his family and relations, founded a settlement in wild Britain,
or wherever the winds happened to carry them. They were very fierce
and relentless in war, and committed terrible ravages on the helpless
Britons, sparing neither men, women, nor children, burning buildings,
destroying and conquering wherever they went.

Bede tells the story of doings of the ruthless Saxons:--

"The barbarous conquerors ... plundered all the neighbouring cities and

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