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where people were expected to live permanently and do their daily work. It provided a fostering seat for trade and manufactures, two of the chief factors in the history of civilisation. The men who kept watch and ward on the ramparts, or who sallied forth in their bands to fight the Danes, were the men who were slowly building up the prosperity of the stricken land of England. By studding the great highways of England with fortified towns, Alfred and his children were not only saving the kernel of the British Empire, they were laying the sure foundations of its future progress in the arts and habits of civilised life.
The bare list which we have given of the boroughs of Edward and Ethelfleda calls for some explanatory remarks. Let us take first the boroughs of Ethelfleda.
WORCESTER.—We have already noticed the charter of Ethelred and Ethelfeda which tells of the building of the burh at Worcester. There appears to have been a small Roman settlement at Worcester, but there is no evidence that it was a fortified place. This case lends some support to the conjecture of Dr Christison, that the Saxons gave the name of chester to towns which they had themselves fortified. The mediæval walls of Worcester were probably more extensive than Ethelfleda's borough, of which no trace remains.
Chester is spoken of by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 894 as “a waste chester in Wirral.” It had undoubtedly been a Roman city, and therefore the work of Ethelred and Ethelfleda here was solely one of restoration. Brompton, who wrote at the close of the 13th century “a poor compilation of little authority, was the first writer to
state that the walls of
Ante, p. 21.
Haverfield, in V. C. H. Worcester, Romano-British Worcester, i.
Early Fortifications in Scotland, p. 105. . Gairdner and Mullinger, Introduction to the Study of English History, 268.
Chester were enlarged by Ethelfeda so as to take in the castle, which he fancied to be Roman ;and this statement, being repeated by Leland, has acquired considerable vogue. It is very unlikely that any extension of the walls was made by the Mercian pair, seeing that the city was deserted at the time when it was occupied by the Danes, only fourteen years before. But it is quite certain that the Norman castle of Chester lay outside the city walls, as the manor of Gloverstone, which was not within the jurisdiction of the city, lay between the city and the castle. A charter of Henry VII. shows that the civic boundary did not extend to the present south wall in his reign. Ethelfleda's borough probably followed the lines of the old Roman castrum.
BREMESBYRIG.–This place has not yet been identified. Bromborough on the Mersey has been suggested, and is not impossible, for the loss of the s sometimes occurs in place-names; thus Melbury, in Wilts, was Melsburie in Domesday. Bremesbyrig was the first place restored after Chester, and as the estuary of the Dee had been secured by the repair of Chester, so an advance on Bromborough would have for its aim to secure the estuary of the Mersey. It was outside the Danish frontier of Watling Street, and could thus be fortified without breach of the
There is a large moated work at Bromborough, enclosing an area of 10 acres, in the midst of which stands the courthouse of the manor of Bromborough. But this manor was given by the Earl of Chester to the monks of St
1 The tower called Cæsar's Tower is really a mural tower of the 13th century. E. W. Cox, “Chester Castle,” in Chester Hist. and Archæol. Soc., V., 239.
? Cox, as above. See also Shrubsole, “The Age of the City Walls of Chester," Arch. Journ., xliv., 1887. The present wall, which includes the castle, is an extension probably not earlier than James I.'s reign.
BREMESBYRIG, SCERGEAT, BRIDGENORTH
Werburgh about 1152, and it is possible that the monks fortified it, as they did their manor of Irby in Wirral, against the incursions of the Welsh. One of the conditions of the Earl's grant was that the manor is to be maintained in a state of security and convenience for the holding of the courts appertaining to Chester Abbey. Thus the fortification appears to be of manorial use, though this does not preclude the possibility of an earlier origin. On the other hand, if Bromborough is the same as Brunanburh, where Athelstan's great battle was fought (and there is much in favour of this), it cannot possibly have been Bremesbyrig in the days of Edward. Another site has been suggested by the Rev. C. S. Taylor, in a paper on The Danes in Gloucestershire, Bromsberrow in S. Gloucestershire, one of the last spurs of the Malvern Hills. Here the top of a small hill has been encircled with a ditch ; but the ditch is so narrow that it does not suggest a defensive work, and it is remote from any Roman road or navigable river.
SCERGEAT has not yet been identified. Mr Kerslake argued with some probability that Shrewsbury is the place;' but the etymological considerations are adverse, and it is more likely that such an important place as Shrewsbury was fortified before Edward's time. Leland calls it Scorgate, and says it is “about Severn side. It should probably be sought within the frontier of Watling Street, which Ethelfleda does not appear to have yet
crossed in 911. BRIDGENORTH is undoubtedly the Bricge of the Anglo - Saxon Chronicle, as Florence of Worcester identifies it with the Bridgenorth which Robert Belesme
1 The charter is given in Ormerod's History of Cheshire, ii., 405.
3 Itin., ii., 2.
fortified against Henry I. in 1101. Bridgenorth is on a natural fortification of steep rock, which would only require a stout wall to make it secure against all the military resources of the roth century. We may therefore be quite certain that it was here Ethelfeda planted her borough, and not (as Mr Eyton unfortunately conjectured) on the mound outside the city, in the parish of Oldbury. This mound was far more probably the site of the siege castle (no doubt of wood) which was erected by Henry I. when he besieged the city.
TAMWORTH was an ancient city of the Mercian kings, and therefore may have been fortified before its walls were rebuilt by Ethelfleda. The line of the ancient town-wall can still be traced in parts, though it is rapidly disappearing. Dugdale says the town ditch was 45 feet broad. Tamworth was a borough at the time of Domesday.
STAFFORD has a motte on which stood a Norman castle; but this is not mentioned in the table, because it stands a mile and a half from the town on the southern side of the river Sowe, while we are expressly told by Florence that Ethelfleda's borough was on the northern side, as the town is now. Stafford was a Domesday
1 “Arcem quam in occidentali Sabrinæ fluminis plaga, in loco qui Bricge dicitur lingua Saxonica, Ægelfleda Merciorum domina quondam construerat, fratre suo Edwardo seniore regnante, Comes Rodbertus contra regem Henricum, muro lato et alto, summoque restaurare cæpit.”
2 A good deal has been made of the name Oldbury, as pointing to the old burn; but Oldbury is the name of the manor, not of the hillock, which bears the singular name of Pampudding Hill. Tradition says that the Parliamentary forces used it for their guns in 1646. Eyton's Shropshire, i., 132.
3 “Bricge cum exercitu pene totius Angliæ obsedit, machinas quoque ibi construere et castellum firmare præcepit.” Florence, 1102.
4 Florence in fact says urbem restauravit.