« PreviousContinue »
We must now inquire into the nature of the fortifications built by the Danes in England, which are frequently mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It has often been asserted, and with great confidence, that the Danes were the authors of the moated mounds of class (e); those in Ireland are invariably spoken of by Lewis in his Topographical Dictionary as "Danish Raths." This fancy seems to have gone somewhat out of fashion since Mr Clark's burh theory occupied the field, though Mr Clark's view is often so loosely expressed as to lead one to think that he supposed all the Northern nations to be makers of mottes; in fact, he frequently includes the Anglo-Saxons under the general title of "Northmen "! We must therefore endeavour to find out what the Danish fortifications actually were.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions twenty-four places where the Danes either threw up fortifications (between 787 and 924) or took up quarters either for the winter, or for such a period of time that we may infer that there was some fortification to protect them. The word used for the fortification is generally geweorc,
1 Medieval Military Architecture, i., 18. See Mr Round's remarks on Mr Clark's vagueness in his "Castles of the Conquest," Archæologia, 1902.
NOTTINGHAM, ROCHESTER, MILTON
a work, or fæsten (in two places only), which has also the general vague meaning of a fastness. There are ten places where these works or fastnesses are mentioned in the Chronicle:
I. NOTTINGHAM.-We have already seen that the Danish host took up their winter quarters here in 868, and that there is the highest probability that the borough which Edward the Elder restored was first built by them. We have also seen that it was a camp. of roughly rectangular form, and enclosed a very large area, necessary for great numbers.1
2. ROCHESTER.-This city was besieged by the Danes in 885, and they fortified a camp outside. As the artificial mound called Boley Hill is outside the city, most topographers have jumped to the conclusion that this was the Danish camp. But the character of the Danish fortification is clearly indicated in the Chronicle: "they made a work around themselves," that is, it was an enclosure. They could hardly have escaped by ship, as they did, if their camp had been above the bridge, which is known to have existed in Saxon times. But Boley Hill is above the bridge.
3. MILTON, in Kent (Middeltune).-Hæsten the Dane landed at the mouth of the Thames with 80 ships, and wrought a geweorc here in 893. Two places in the neighbourhood of Milton have been suggested as the site of it, a square earthwork at Bayford Court, near Sittingbourne, and a very small square enclosure called Castle Rough. Neither of these are large enough to have been of any use to a force which came in 80
1 The A.-S. C. speaks of this Danish host as "a great heathen army." 866. 2 "Worhton other fæsten ymb hie selfe." The same language is frequently used in the continental accounts of the Danish fortresses: "Munientes se per gyrum avulsæ terræ aggere," Dudo, 155 (Duchesne): "Se ex illis (sepibus et parietibus) circumdando munierant." It., p. 81.
ships.1 Steenstrup has calculated that the average number of men in a Viking ship must have been from 40 to 50; Hæsten therefore must have had at least 3200 men with him. It is therefore probable that the camp at Milton has been swept away.
4. APPLEDORE.-A still larger Danish force, which had been harrying the Carlovingian empire, came in 250 ships, with their horses, in 893, and towed their ships "up the river" (which is now extinct) from Lymne to Appledore, where they where they wrought a work. There are no earthworks at Appledore now, but at Kenardington, 2 miles off, there are remains of "a roughly defined rectangular work, situated on the north and east of the church, on the slope of the hill towards the marsh, a very likely place for an entrenchment thrown up to defend a fleet of light-draught ships hauled up on the beach." The enclosure was very large, one side which remains being 600 feet long.
5. BENFLEET.-Here Hæsten wrought a work in 894; here he was defeated by Alfred's forces, and some of his ships burnt. Mr Spurrell states that there are still some irregular elevations by the stream and about the church, which he believes to be remains of the Danish camp.* "As the fleet of ships lay in the Beamfleet,
1 The earthworks at Bayford Court must belong to the medieval castle which existed there. See Beauties of England and Wales, Kent, p. 698. Castle Rough is less than an acre in area.
2 Mr Harold Sands, Some Kentish Castles, p. 10.
3 See the plan in Victoria History of Kent, paper on Earthworks by the late Mr I. C. Gould. Hasted states that there was a small circular mount there as well as an embankment, and that there are other remains in the marsh below, which seem to have been connected with the former by a narrow ridge or causeway, Kent, iii., 117. The causeway led to a similar mount in the marsh below, but Mr Gould inclined to think the mounts and causeway later, and possibly part of a dam for "inning" the marsh. V. C. H., p. 397.
4 "Hæsten's Camps at Shoebury and Benfleet," Essex Naturalist, iv., 153.
it is obvious that the camp must have partaken of the character of a fortified hithe, with the wall landward and the shore open to the river and the ships." He also learned on the spot that when the railway bridge across the Fleet was being made, the remains of several ancient ships, charred by fire, and surrounded by numerous human skeletons, were found in the mud.1 Benfleet must have been a very large camp, as not only was the joint army of Danes housed in it, that from Milton and that from Appledore, but they had with them their wives and children and cattle.
6. Shoebury (Fig. 6).—After the storming of the camp at Benfleet by the Saxon forces, the joint armies of the Danes built another geweorc at Shoebury in Essex. We should therefore expect a large camp here, and Mr Spurrell has shown that the area was formerly about a third of a square mile. About half the camp had been washed away by the sea when Mr Spurrell surveyed it in 1879, but enough was left to give a good idea of the whole. It was a roughly square rampart, with a ditch about 40 feet wide, the ditch having a kind of berm on the inner side. The bank also had a slight platform inside, about 3 feet above the general level." As Hæsten had lost his ships at Benfleet, there would be no fortified hithe connected with it, and if there had been, the sea would have swept it away. The camp was abandoned almost as soon as it was made, and the Danish army started on that remarkable march across England which the Saxon Chronicle relates. They were overtaken and besieged by Alfred's forces, in a fastness at
7. BUTTINGTON, on the Severn.-It has sometimes
1 The Chronicle says that the ships of Hæsten were either broken to pieces, or burnt, or taken to London or Rochester. 894.
2 Essex Naturalist, as above, p. 151. These berms certainly suggest Roman influence.
been contended that this was the Buttington near Chepstow; but as the line of march of the army was 'along the Thames till they reached the Severn, then up along the Severn," it is more probable that it was Buttington in Montgomery, west of Shrewsbury.2 Here there are remains of a strong bank with a broad deep ditch, which was evidently part of a rectangular earthwork, as it runs at right angles to Offa's Dyke, which forms one side of it. It now encloses both the churchyard and vicarage. Whether the Danes constructed this earthwork, or found it there, we are not told.
8. There appear to be no remains of the geweorc on the river Lea, 20 miles above London, made by the Danes in 896. But 20 miles above London, on the Lea, would land us at Amwell, near Ware. Brayley's Hertfordshire it is stated that at Amwell, "on the hill above the church are traces of a very extensive fortification, the rampart of which is very distinguishable on the side overlooking the vale through which the river Lea flows." 8
9. Bridgenorth, or Quatbridge.-The Winchester MS. of the Chronicle says the Danes wrought a geweorc at Quatbridge, in 896, and passed the winter there. There is no such place as Quatbridge now, only Quatford; and seeing there were so few bridges in those days, we are disposed to accept the statement of the Worcester MS., which must have been the best
1 A.-S. C., 894.
2 Montgomery Collections, xxxi., 337 ; Dymond, On the Site of Buttington. See also Steenstrup, Normannerne, ii., 80.
Beauties of England and Wales, vii., 246. There is nothing left either at Great or Little Amwell now but fragments of what are supposed to be homestead moats. Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, pp. 95, 142, Herts. vol.