Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][merged small]

BURH AND URBS

19

2

fourteen days after Rogations, and that no market shall be held outside the town. In the laws of Edgar's time not only the borough-moot and the borough-reeve are spoken of, but the burh-waru or burgesses.” Burh is contrasted with wapentake as town with country.'

If we wish to multiply proofs that a burh was the same thing as a borough, we can turn to the AngloSaxon illustrated manuscripts, and we shall find that they give us many pictures of burhs, and that in all cases they are fortified towns. Finally, Florence of Worcester, *

, one of the most careful of our early chroniclers, who lived when Anglo-Saxon was still a living language, and who must have known what a burh meant, translates it by urbs in nineteen cases out of twenty-six. His authority alone is sufficient to settle this question, and we need no longer have any doubt that a burh was the same thing which in mediæval Latin is called a burgus, that is a fortified town, and that our word borough is lawfully descended from it.

It would not have been necessary to spend so much time on the history of the word burh if this unfortunate word had not been made the subject of one of the strangest delusions which ever was imposed on the archæological world. We refer of course to the theory of the late Mr G. T. Clark, who contended in his

1

»

3

Schmid, 138. “Butan porte” is the Saxon expression, port being another word for town ; see Schmid, 643. · Schmid, Edgar III., 5; Ethelred II., 6. * Edgar IV., 2.

The writer was first led to doubt the correctness of the late Mr G. T. Clark's theory of burhs by examining the A.-S. illustrated MSS. in the British Museum. On p. 29 of the MS. of Prudentius (Cleopatra, c. viii.), there is an excellent drawing of a four-sided enclosure, with towers at the angles, and battlemented walls of masonry. The title of the picture is “Virtutes urbem ingrediuntur," and urbem is rendered in the A.-S. gloss as burh. See Fig. 2.

5 Florence translates burh as urbs nineteen times, as arx four times, as murum once, as munitio once, as civitas once.

Mediæval Military Architecture that the moated mound of class (e), which we have described in our first chapter, was what the Anglo-Saxons called a burh. In other words, he maintained that the burhs were Saxon castles. It is one of the most extraordinary and inexplicable things in the history of English archæology that a man who was not in any sense an Anglo-Saxon scholar was allowed to affix an entirely new meaning to a very common Anglo-Saxon word, and that this meaning was at once accepted without question by historians who had made Anglo-Saxon history their special study! The present writer makes no pretensions to be an Anglo-Saxon scholar, but it is easy to pick out the word burh in the Chronicle and the Anglo-Saxon Laws, and to find out how the word is translated in the Latin chronicles ; and this little exercise is sufficient in itself to prove the futility of Mr Clark's contention.

Sentiment perhaps had something to do with Mr Clark's remarkable success. There is an almost utter lack of tangible monuments of our national heroes; and therefore people who justly esteemed the labours of Alfred and his house were pleased when they were told that the mounds at Tamworth, Warwick, and elsewhere were the work of Ethelfleda, and that other mounds were the work of Edward the Elder. It did not occur to them that they were doing a great wrong to the memory of the children of Alfred in supposing them capable of building these little earthen and timber castles for their personal defence and that of their nobles, and leaving the mass of their people at the mercy of the Danes. Far other was the thought of Ethelfleda, when

1 Published in 1884, but comprising a number of papers read to various archæological societies through many previous years, during which Mr Clark's reputation as an archæologist appears to have been made.

THE PRIVATE CASTLE UNKNOWN

21

she and her husband built the borough of Worcester. As they expressed it in their memorable charter, it was not only for the defence of the bishop and the churches of Worcester, but "To SHELTER ALL THE FOLK."] And we may be sure that the same idea lay at the founding of all the boroughs which were built by Alfred and by Edward and Ethelfeda. They were to be places where the whole countryside could take refuge during a Danish raid. The Chronicle tells us in 894 how Alfred divided his forces into three parts, the duty of one part being to defend the boroughs; and from this time forth we constantly find the men of the boroughs doing good service against the Danes. It was by defending and

” thus developing the boroughs of England that Alfred and his descendants saved England from the Danes.

Thus far we have seen that all the fortifications which we know to have been built by the Anglo-Saxons were the fortifications of society and not of the individual. We have heard nothing whatever of the private castle as an institution in Saxon times; and although this evidence is only negative, it appears to us to be entitled to much more weight than has hitherto been given to it. Some writers seem to think that the private castle was a modest little thing which was content to blush unseen. This is wholly to mistake the position of the private castle in history. Such a castle is not merely a social arrangement, it is a political institution of the highest importance. Where such castles exist, we are certain to hear of some of them, sooner or later, in the pages of history.

1 “Eallum them folc to gebeorge.” Birch's Cartolanum, ii, 222.

? Professor Maitland has claimed that the origin of the boroughs was largely military, the duty of maintaining the walls of the county borough being incumbent on the magnates of the shire. Domesday Book and Beyond, 189. See Appendix C.

« PreviousContinue »