Page images

We can easily test this by comparing Anglo-Saxon history with Norman of the same period, after castles had arisen in Normandy. Who among Saxon nobles was more likely to possess a castle than the powerful Earl Godwin, and his independent sons? Yet when Godwin left the court of Edward the Confessor, because he would not obey the king's order to punish the men of Dover for insulting Count Eustace of Boulogne, we do not hear that he retired to his castle, or that his sons fortified their castles against the king; we only hear that they met together at Beverstone (a place where there was no castle before the 14th century)' and “arrayed themselves resolutely."? Neither do we hear of any castle belonging to the powerful Earl Siward of Northumbria, or Leofric, Earl of Mercia. And when Godwin returned triumphantly to England in 1052 we do not hear of any castles being restored to him.

Now let us contrast this piece of English history, as told by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, with the Norman history of about the same period, the history of the rebellion of the Norman nobles against their young duke, William the Bastard. The first thing the nobles do is to put their castles into a state of defence. William has to take refuge in the castle of a faithful vassal, Hubert of Rye, until he can safely reach his own castle of Falaise. After the victory of Val-ès-Dunes, William had to reduce the castles which still held out, and then to order the destruction of all the castles which had been erected against him.

Or let us contrast the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 1051 with that of 1088, when certain Norman barons


1 Parker's Domestic Architecture in England from Richard II. to Henry VIII., part ii., 256. 2 A.-S. C., 1048.

3 William of Jumièges, vii. xvii.



and bishops in England conspired against the new king, William Rufus. The first thing told us is that each of the head conspirators “went to his castle, and manned it and victualled it.” Then Bishop Geoffrey makes Bristol Castle the base of a series of plundering raids. Bishop Wulfstan, on the other hand, aids the cause of William by preventing an attempt of the rebels on the castle of Worcester. Roger Bigod throws himself into Norwich Castle, and harries the shire; Bishop Odo brings the plunder of Kent into his castle of Rochester. Finally the king's cause wins the day through the taking of the castles of Tonbridge, Pevensey, Rochester, and Durham.

If we reflect on the contrast which these narratives afford, it surely is difficult to avoid the conclusion that if the chronicler never mentions any Saxon castles it is because there were no Saxon castles to mention. Had Earl Godwin possessed a stronghold in which he could fortify himself, he would certainly have used it in 1051. And as the Norman favourites of Edward the Confessor had already begun to build castles in England, we can imagine no reason why Godwin did not do the same, except that such a step was impossible to a man who desired popularity amongst his countrymen.

The Welshmen, we are told (that is the foreigners, the Normans), had erected a castle in Herefordshire among the people of Earl Sweyn, and had wrought all possible harm and disgrace to the king's men thereabout.' The language of the Chronicle shows the unpopularity, to say the least of it, of this castle-building; and one of the conditions which Godwin, when posing as popular champion, wished to exact from the king, was that the Frenchmen who were in the castle should be given up to

1 A.-S. C. (Peterborough), 1048.

him. When Godwin returned from his exile, and the Normans took to flight, the chronicler tells us that some fled west to Pentecost's castle, some north to Robert's castle. Thus we learn that there were several castles in England belonging to the Norman favourites.

It is in connection with these Norman favourites that the word castel appears for the first time in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. This is a fact of considerable importance in itself; and when we weigh it in connection with the expressions of dislike recorded above which become much more explicit and vehement after the Norman Conquest, we cannot but feel that Mr Freeman's conclusion, that the thing as well as the word was new, is highly probable. For the hall of the Anglo

, ? Saxon caldorman or thane, even when enclosed in an earthwork or stockade, was a very different thing from the castle of a Norman noble. ' A castle is built by a

A man who lives among enemies, who distrusts his nearest neighbours as much as any foe from a distance. The Anglo-Saxon noble had no

to distrust his neighbours, or to fortify himself against them. Later

[ocr errors]


1 A.-S. C., 1052 (Worcester). This castle is generally supposed to be Richard's Castle, Herefordshire, built by Richard Scrob; but I see no reason why it should not be Hereford, as the Norman Ralph, King Edward's nephew, was Earl of Hereford. We shall return to these castles later.

3 Mr Freeman says: “In the eleventh century, the word castel was introduced into our language to mark something which was evidently quite distinct from the familiar burh of ancient times. . . . Ordericus speaks of the thing and its name as something distinctly French : "munitiones quas Galli castella nuncupant.” The castles which were now introduced into England seem to have been new inventions in Normandy itself. William of Jumièges distinctly makes the building of castles to have been one of the main signs and causes of the general disorder of the days of William's minority, and he seems to speak of the practice as something new.” N. C., ii., 606. It is surprising that after so clear a statement as this, Mr Freeman should have fallen under the influence of Mr Clark's burh theory, and should completely have confused castles and boroughs.




historians, who were familiar with the state of things in Norman times, tell us frequently of castles in the Saxon period; but it can generally be proved that they misunderstood their authorities. The genuine contemporary chroniclers of Saxon times never make the slightest allusion to a Saxon castle.

The word castellum, it is true, appears occasionally in Anglo-Saxon charters, but when it is used it clearly means a town. Thus Egbert of Kent says in 765: Trado terram intra castelli mania supranominati, id est Hrofescestri, unum viculum cum duobus jugeribus, etc.,” where castellum is evidently the city of Rochester." Offa calls Wermund "episcopus castelli quod nominatur Hroffeceastre.”? These instances can easily be multiplied. Mr W. H. Stevenson remarks that “in Old-English glosses, from the 8th century Corpus Glossary downwards, castellum is glossed by wic, that is town. In this sense no doubt we must interpret Asser's “castellum quod dicitur Werham.”+ Henry of Huntingdon probably meant a town when he says that Edward the Elder built at Hertford “castrum non immensum sed pulcherrimum." He generally translates the burh of the Chronicle by burgus, and he shows that he had a correct idea of Edward's work when he that at

at Buckingham Edward "fecit vallum ex utraque parte aquæ”—where vallum is a translation of burh. The difference between a burh and a castle is very clearly expressed by the Chronicle in 1092, when

, it says concerning the restoration of Carlisle on its conquest by William Rufus, “He repaired the borough (burh) and ordered the castle to be built.”

" 3

says that

1 Codex Diplomaticus, i., 138. 2 History of Rochester, 1772, p. 21. 3 Stevenson's edition of Asser, 331. See Appendix D. 4 Asser, c. xlix.

The following is a table of the thirty boroughs built by Ethelfleda and Edward, arranged chronologically, which will show that we never find a motte, that is a moated mound, on the site of one of these boroughs unless a Norman castle-builder has been at work there subsequently. The weak point in Mr Clark's argument was that when he found a motte on a site which had once been Saxon, he did not stop to inquire what any subsequent builders might have done there, but at once assumed that the motte was Saxon. Of course, if we invariably found a motte at every place where Edward or Ethelfleda are said to have built a burh, it would raise a strong presumption that mottes and burhs were the same thing. But out of the twenty-five burhs which can be identified, in only ten is there a motte on the same site; and in every case where a motte is found, except at Bakewell and Towcester, there is recorded proof of the existence of a Norman castle. In this list, the burhs on both sides of the river at Hertford, Buckingham, and Nottingham are counted as two, because the very precise indications given in the AngloSaxon Chronicle show that each burh was a separate construction.

Burhs of Ethelfleda.






873-899 A motte and a Norman castle. Chester

908 A motte and a Norman castle. Bremesburh

· 911 Unidentified. Scærgate

· 913 Unidentified. Bridgenorth

913 No motte, but a Norman stone keep. Tamworth.

914 A motte and a Norman castle. Stafford, N. of Sowe. . 914 No motte and no Norman castle. Eddisbury

· 915 No motte and no Norman castle. Warwick

. 915 A motte and a Norman castle. Cyricbyrig (Monk's Kirby) 916 No motte and no Norman castle. Weardbyrig

· 916 Unidentified. Runcorn

· 916 No motte ; a mediæval castle (?).

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »