Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

evidence, the imitation of Roman models seems to be clear. If we turn from remaining facts to à priori likelihoods, we call to mind that the Danes were a muchtravelled people, had been in Gaul as well as in England, and had had opportunities of observing Roman fortifications, as well as much practice both in the assault and defence of fortified places. It may not be without significance that it is not until after the return of "the army" from France that we hear of their building camps at all, except in the case of Reading.

As far as our information goes, their camps were without citadels. What evidence we have from the other side of the channel supports the same conclusion. Richer gives us an account of the storming of a fortress of the Northmen at Eu, by King Raoul, in 925, from

, which it is clear that as soon as the king's soldiers had got over the vallum, they were masters of the place; there was no citadel to attack. Dudo speaks of the Vikings “fortifying themselves, after the manner of a castrum, by heaped up earth-banks drawn round themselves," and it is clear from the rest of his description that the camp had no citadel.?

In no case do we find anything to justify the theory that mottes were an accompaniment of Danish camps. In five cases out of the twenty-four there are or were mottes at the places mentioned, but in all cases they belonged to Norman castles. The magnificent motte called the Castle Hill at Thetford was on the opposite side of the river to the borough, which we have seen reason to think was the site of the Danish winter quarters. Torkesey in Leland's time had by the river

? Richerii, Historiarum Libri Quatuor, edition Guadet, p. 67.

3 “In modo castri, munientes se per girum avulsæ terræ aggere.” Dudo, 155 (edition Duchesne).

DANISH FORTIFIED HARBOURS

57

[ocr errors]

side “a Hille of Yerth cast up,” which he judged to be the donjon of some old castle, probably rightly, though we have been unable as yet to find any mention of a Norman castle at Torkesey; a brick castle of much more recent date is still standing near the river, and probably the motte to which Leland alludes was destroyed when this was built. The motte at Cambridge is placed inside the original bounds of the borough, and was part of the Norman castle. We have already dealt with the Boley Hill at Rochester, and shall have more to say about it hereafter. The rock motte at Nottingham was probably not cut off by a ditch from the rest of the headland until the Norman castle was built.

It seems highly probable that besides providing accommodation in their camps for very large numbers of people, the Danes sometimes fortified the hithes where they drew up their ships on shore, or even constructed fortified harbours. We have already quoted Mr Spurrell's remark on the hithe : at Benfleet (p. 51), and there is at least one place in England which seems to prove the existence of fortified harbours. This is Willington, on the river Ouse, in Bedfordshire, which has been carefully described by Mr A. R. Goddard." This “camp” consists of two wards, and a wide outer enclosure (Fig. 7). “ But one of the most interesting features is the presence of two harbours, contained within the defences and communicating with the

2

3

1 "The castle end of Cambridge was called the Borough within the memory of persons now living.” Atkinson's Cambridge Described (1897), p. 9.

2 Steenstrup says that the Northmen built themselves shipyards all round Europe, especially on the islands where they had their winter settlements. Normannerne, i., 354. 3 A.-S., hyth, a shore, a landing-place.

Victoria County History of Beds., i., 282.

[ocr errors]

+Railways

[ocr errors]

+

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ERiver

Ouse

***.***....

100 200 300 400 500

Feet.

sun.

a. Outer Harbour b Inner

[blocks in formation]

FORTIFIED TOWNS

59

river.” Mr Goddard points out that the dimensions of the smaller one are almost the same as those of the “nausts (ship-sheds or small docks) of the Vikings in Iceland. He also cites from the Jomsvikinga Saga the description of a harbour made by the Viking Palnatoki at Jomsborg. “There he had a large and strong sea burg made. He also had a harbour made within the burg in which 300 long ships could lie at the same time, all being locked within the burg.” The harbours at Willington are large enough to accommodate between twenty-five and thirty-five ships of the Danish type. Unfortunately there is no historical proof that the Willington works were Danish, though their construction makes it very likely. Nor have any works of a similar character been as yet observed in England, as far as we are

aware.

But if archæology and topography give a somewhat scanty answer to our question about the nature of Danish fortifications, there are other fields of research, opened up of late years, from which we can glean important facts, bearing directly on the subject which we are treating. Herr Steenstrup's exhaustive inquiry into the Danish settlement in England has shown that the way in which the Danes maintained their hold on the northern and eastern shires was by planting fortified towns on which the soldiers and peasants dwelling around were dependent.' The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives us a glimpse of these arrangements when it speaks of the Danes who owed obedience to Bedford, Derby, Leicester, Northampton, and Cambridge. It also tells us of the Five Boroughs, which, as we have already said, appear to have been a confederation

Steenstrup's Normannerne, vol. iv. ; Danelag, p. 40. ? A.-S. C., 914-921.

2

of boroughs forming an independent Danish state between the Danish kingdoms of East Anglia and Northumbria.

The same system was followed by the Danes who colonised Ireland. "The colony had a centre in a fortified town, or it consisted almost exclusively of dwellers in one. But round this town was a district, in which the Irish inhabitants had to pay taxes to the lords of the town." I The Irish chronicle called The Wars of the Gaedhil and the Gaill says, further, that Norse soldiers were quartered in the country round these towns in the houses of the native Irish, and it even says that there was hardly a house without a Norseman. Herr Steenstrup does not go so far as to assert that this system of quartering obtained in England also; but he shows that it is probable, and we may add that such a system would help to explain the speedy absorption of the Danes into the AngloSaxon population, which took place in the Danelaw districts.

The large numbers of the Danish forces, and the fact that in the second period of their invasions they brought their wives and children with them, would render camps of large area necessary. These numbers alone make it ridiculous to attribute to the Danes the small motte castles of class (e), whose average area is not more than 3 acres.

Finally, the Danish host was not a feudal host. Steenstrup asserts that the principle of the composition of the host was the voluntary association of equally Steenstrup, Danelag, p. 41.

2 Ibid., pp. 22, 23. 3 Such quartering must have been confined to the unmarried Danes, but there must have been plenty of unmarried men in the piratical host, even at the period when it became customary to bring wives and children with the army.

« PreviousContinue »