« PreviousContinue »
Out of this list of the burhs of Ethelfleda and
Edward, thirteen are mentioned as boroughs in Domesday Book; and as we ought to subtract five from the list as unidentified, and also to reckon as one the boroughs built on two sides of the river, the whole number should be reduced to twenty-two. So that more than half the boroughs built by the children of Alfred continued to maintain their existence during the succeeding centuries, and in fact until the present day. But the others, for some reason or other, did not take root. Professor Maitland remarked that many of the boroughs of Edward's day became rotten boroughs before they were ripe; and it is a proof of the difficulty of the task which the royal brethren undertook that, with the exception of Chester, none of the boroughs which they built in the north-western districts survived
1 Worcester, Chester, Tamworth, Stafford, Warwick, Hertford, Buckingham, Bedford, Maldon, Huntingdon, Colchester, Stamford, and Nottingham.
2 Domesday Book and Beyond, 216.
till Domesday. In all their boroughs, except Bakewell, the purpose of defending the great Roman roads and the main waterways is very apparent.
Our list is very far from being a complete list of all the Anglo-Saxon boroughs existing in Edward's day. In the document known as the "Burghal Hidage" we have another quite different list of thirty-two boroughs,' which, according to Professor Maitland, "sets forth certain arrangements made early in the 10th century for the defence of Wessex against the Danish inroads."* Five at least on the list are Roman chesters; twenty are mentioned as boroughs in Domesday Book. There are two among them which are of special interest, because there is reason to believe that the earthen ramparts which still surround them are of Saxon origin: Wallingford and Wareham. Both these fortifications are after the Roman pattern, the earthen banks forming a square with rounded corners. See Fig. 3.
To complete our knowledge of Anglo-Saxon fortification, we ought to examine the places mentioned in Anglo-Saxon charters as royal seats, where possibly defensive works of some kind may have existed. Unfortunately we are unable to learn that there are any such works, except at one place, Bensington in Oxfordshire, where about a hundred years ago "a bank and trench, which seem to have been of a square form," were to be seen.*
In the following chapter we shall deal in detail with such archæological remains as still exist of the boroughs
1 1 Buckingham is the only place which is included in both lists. See Appendix E.
2 Domesday Book and Beyond, 188. See Appendix E. Southwark, one of the names, which is not called a borough in Domesday, retains its name of The Borough to the present day.
3 No Roman remains have been found in either place.
• Beauties of England and Wales, Oxfordshire.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
of Edward and Ethelfleda, but here we will briefly summarise by anticipation the results to which that chapter will lead. We see that sites defensible by nature were often seized upon for fortification, as at Bamborough, Bridgenorth, and Eddisbury; but that this was by no means always the case, as a weak site, such as Witham, for example, was sometimes rendered defensible by works which appear to have fulfilled their purpose. In only one case (Witham) do we find an inner enclosure; and as it is of large size (9 acres) it is more probable that the outer enclosure was for cattle, than that the inner one was designed solely for the protection of the king and his court. We are not told
of stone walls more than once (at Towcester); but the use of the word timbrian, which does not exclusively mean to build in wood,' does not preclude walls of stone in important places. In the square or oblong form, with rounded corners, we see the influence which Roman models exercised on eyes which still beheld them existing.
We see that the main idea of the borough was the same as that of the prehistoric or British "camp of refuge," in that it was intended for the defence of society and not of the individual. It was intended to be a place of refuge for the whole countryside. But it was also something much more than this, something which belongs to a much more advanced state of society than the hill-fort. It was a town, a place
1 See Skeat's Dictionary, "Timber."
2 Excavation has recently shown that many of the great hill-forts were permanently inhabited, and it is now considered improbable that they were originally built as camps of refuge. It seems more likely that this use, of which there are undoubted instances in historic times (see Cæsar, Bello Gallico, vi., 10, and v., 21), belonged to a more advanced stage of development, when population had moved down into the lower and cultivatable lands, but still used their old forts in cases of emergency.