Page images

itself if we examine it carefully. In the first place, its character is more pronounced than that of any other class of earthwork. It differs entirely from the great camps which belong to the tribal period. It was evidently not designed to accommodate a mass of people with their flocks and herds. It is small in area, and its citadel, as a rule, is very small indeed. Dr Sophus Müller, the eminent Danish archæologist, when dealing with the specimens of this class of fortification which are to be found in Denmark, made the luminous remark that "the fortresses of prehistoric times are the defences of the community, north of the Alps as in the old classical lands. Small castles for an individual and his warrior-band belong to the Middle Ages."1 These words give the true direction to which we must turn for the interpretation of these earthworks.

In the second place, this type presents a peculiar development of plan, such as we do not expect to find in the earliest times in these islands. It has a citadel of a most pronounced type. This alone differentiates it from the prehistoric or Keltic camps which are so abundant in Great Britain. It might be too hasty a generalisation to say that no prehistoric camps have citadels, but as a rule the traverses by which some of these camps are divided appear to have been made for the purpose of separating the cattle from the people, rather than as ultimate retreats in time of war. The early German camps, according to Köhler, have inner enclosures which he thinks were intended for the residence of the chief; but he calls attention to the great difference between these camps and the class we are now considering, in that the inner enclosure is of much greater size. It would appear that some of the fortifica


1 Vor Oldtid, p. 629. 2 Entwickelung des Kriegswesens, iii., 379.



tions in England which are known or suspected to be Saxon have also these inner enclosures of considerable size (6 acres in the case of Witham), but without any vestige of the hillock which is the principal feature of class (e).

It is clear, in the third place, that the man who threw up earthworks of this latter class was not only suspicious of his neighbours, but was even suspicious of his own garrison. For the hillock in the great majority of cases is so constructed as to be capable of complete isolation, and capable of defending itself, if necessary, against its own court. Thus it is probable that the force which followed this chieftain was not composed of men of his own blood, in whom he could repose absolute trust; and the earthworks themselves suggest that they are the work of an invader who came to settle in these islands, who employed mercenaries instead of tribesmen, and who had to maintain his settlement by force.

When on further inquiry we find that earthworks of this type are exceedingly common in France, and are generally found in connection with feudal castles,1 and when we consider the area of their distribution in the United Kingdom, and see that they are to be found in every county in England, as well as in Wales and in the Normanised parts of Ireland and Scotland, we see that the Norman invader is the one to whom they seem to point. We see also that small forts of this kind, easily and cheaply constructed, and defensible by a small number of men, exactly correspond to the needs of the Norman invader, both during the period of the Conquest and for a long time after his first settlement here.

But it will at once occur to an objector that there have been other invaders of Britain before the Normans,

1 See Chapter VII.

and it may be asked why these earthworks were not equally suited to the needs of the Saxon or the Danish conquerors, and why they may not with equal reason be attributed to them. To answer this question we will try to discover what kind of fortifications actually were constructed by the Saxons and Danes, and to this inquiry we will address ourselves in the succeeding chapters.

It will clear the ground greatly if it is recognised at the outset that these earthworks are castles, in the usual sense of the word; that is, the private fortified residences of great landowners. It was the chief merit of Mr G. T. Clark's work on Medieval Military Architecture, that he showed the perfect correspondence in plan of these earthen and timber structures with the stone castles which immediately succeeded them, so that it was only necessary to add a stone tower and stone walls to these works to convert them into a Norman castle of the popularly accepted type. We regard the military character of these works as so fully established that we have not thought it necessary to discuss the theory that they were temples, which was suggested by some of our older writers, nor even the more modern idea that they were moot-hills, which has been defended with considerable learning by Mr G. L. Gomme.1 Dr Christison remarks in his valuable work on Scottish fortifications that an overweening importance has been attached to moot-hills, without historical evidence. And Mr George Neilson, in his essay on "The Motes in Norman Scotland" (to which we shall often have occasion to refer hereafter), shows that


1 Primitive Folkmoots. See Appendix A.

Early Fortifications in Scotland, p. 13. He adds an instance showing that Moot Hill is sometimes a mistake for Moot Hall.

Scottish Review, vol. xxxii.



moot-hill in Scotland means nothing but mote-hill, the hill of the mote or motte; but that moots or courts were held there, just because it had formerly been the site of a castle, and consequently a seat of jurisdiction.1

That some of these hillocks have anciently been sepulchral, we do not attempt to deny. The Norman seems to have been free from any superstitious fear which might have hindered him from utilising the sepulchres of the dead for his personal defence; or else he was unaware that they were burial-places. There are some very few recorded instances of prehistoric burials found under the hillocks of castles; but in ordinary cases, these hillocks would not be large enough for the mottes of castles. There are, however, some sepulchral barrows of such great size that it is difficult to distinguish them from mottes; the absence of a court attached is not sufficient evidence, as there are some mottes which stand alone, without any accompanying court. Excavation or documentary evidence can alone decide in these cases, though the presence of

1 Some writers give the name of moot-hill to places in Yorkshire and elsewhere where the older ordnance maps give moat-hill. Moat in this connection is the same as motte, the Scotch and Irish mote, i.e., the hillock of a castle, derived from the Norman-French word motte. As this word is by far the most convenient name to give to these hillocks, being the only specific name which they have ever had, we shall henceforth use it in these pages. We prefer it to mote, which is the Anglicised form of the word, because of its confusion with moat, a ditch. word mount, but this appears to us too vague. in origin, it appropriately describes a thing when first introduced here.

Some writers advocate the As the word motte is French which was very un-English

? At York, a prehistoric crouching skeleton was found by Messrs Benson and Platnauer when excavating the castle hill in 1903, 4 feet 6 inches below the level of the ground. The motte at York appears to have been raised after the destruction of the first castle, but whether the first hillock belonged to the ancient burial is not decided by the account, "Notes on Clifford's Tower," by the above authors. Trans. York. Philosoph. Soc., 1902. Another instance is recorded in the Revue Archæologique, to which we have unfortunately lost the reference.

an earthen breast work on top of the mount furnishes a strong presumption of a military origin. But the undoubtedly sepulchral barrows of New Grange and Dowth in Ireland show signs of having been utilised as castles, having remains of breastworks on their summits.1

1 From the report of a competent witness, Mr Basil Stallybrass.

« PreviousContinue »