Page images
PDF
EPUB

MAIN FEATURES OF CLASS E

5

of course had also their timber stockades, the remains of which have sometimes been found on excavation.1

2

8

These are the main features of the earthworks in question. Some variations may be noticed. The ditch is not invariably carried all round the hillock, occasionally it is not continued between the hillock and the court. Sometimes the length of the ditch separating the hillock from the court is at a higher level than the main ditch. Often the ditches were evidently dry from the first, but not infrequently they are wet, and sometimes vestiges of the arrangements for feeding them are still apparent. The hillock is not invariably artificial; often it is a natural hill scarped into a conical shape; sometimes an isolated rock is made use of to serve as a citadel, which saved much spade-work. The shape of the court is very variable: it may be square or oblong, with greatly rounded corners, or it may be oval, or semilunar, or triangular; a very common form is the bean-shaped. The area covered by these fortifications. is much more uniform; one of the features contrasting them most strongly with the great prehistoric "camps of southern England is their comparatively small size. We know of only one (Skipsea) in which the bailey covers as much as eight acres; in by far the greater number the whole area included in the hillock, court, and ditches does not exceed three acres, and often it is not more than one and a half."

Now this type of fort will tell us a good deal about

1 See Fig. I.

2 For instance, at Berkeley, Ewias Harold, Yelden, and Tomen y Roddwy.

3 As at Rayleigh and Downpatrick.

4 In some of these castles there is no gap in the bailey banks for an entrance. They must have been entered by a movable wooden stair, such as horses can be taught to climb. See the plan of Topcliffe Castle, Yorks (Fig. 1).

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." 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 fortifica1 Vor Oldtid, p. 629. 2 Entwickelung des Kriegswesens, iii., 379.

2

WHAT THESE FEATURES INDICATE

7

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,' 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 Mediaval 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.2 And Mr George Neilson, in his essay on "The Motes in Norman Scotland "8 (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.

« PreviousContinue »