« PreviousContinue »
it is obvious that the camp must have partaken of the character of a fortified hithe, with the wall landward and the shore open to the river and the ships." He also learned on the spot that when the railway bridge across the Fleet was being made, the remains of several ancient ships, charred by fire, and surrounded by numerous human skeletons, were found in the mud.1 Benfleet must have been a very large camp, as not only was the joint army of Danes housed in it, that from Milton and that from Appledore, but they had with them their wives and children and cattle.
6. SHOEBURY (Fig. 6).—After the storming of the camp at Benfleet by the Saxon forces, the joint armies of the Danes built another geweorc at Shoebury in Essex. We should therefore expect a large camp here, and Mr Spurrell has shown that the area was formerly about a third of a square mile. About half the camp had been washed away by the sea when Mr Spurrell surveyed it in 1879, but enough was left to give a good idea of the whole. It was a roughly square rampart, with a ditch about 40 feet wide, the ditch having a kind of berm on the inner side. The bank also had a slight platform inside, about 3 feet above the general level.2 As Hæsten had lost his ships at Benfleet, there would be no fortified hithe connected with it, and if there had been, the sea would have swept it away. The camp was abandoned almost as soon as it was made, and the Danish army started on that remarkable march across England which the Saxon Chronicle relates. They were overtaken and besieged by Alfred's forces, in a fastness at
7. BUTTINGTON, on the Severn. It has sometimes
1 The Chronicle says that the ships of Hæsten were either broken to pieces, or burnt, or taken to London or Rochester. 894.
2 Essex Naturalist, as above, p. 151. These berms certainly suggest Roman influence.
been contended that this was the Buttington near Chepstow; but as the line of march of the army was "along the Thames till they reached the Severn, then up along the Severn,"1 it is more probable that it was Buttington in Montgomery, west of Shrewsbury.' Here there are remains of a strong bank with a broad deep ditch, which was evidently part of a rectangular earthwork, as it runs at right angles to Offa's Dyke, which forms one side of it. It now encloses both the churchyard and vicarage. Whether the Danes constructed this earthwork, or found it there, we are not told.
8. There appear to be no remains of the geweorc on the river Lea, 20 miles above London, made by the Danes in 896. But 20 miles above London, on the Lea, would land us at Amwell, near Ware. Brayley's Hertfordshire it is stated that at Amwell, “on the hill above the church are traces of a very extensive fortification, the rampart of which is very distinguishable on the side overlooking the vale through which the river Lea flows." 8
9. BRIDGENORTH, or Quatbridge.-The Winchester MS. of the Chronicle says the Danes wrought a geweorc at Quatbridge, in 896, and passed the winter there. There is no such place as Quatbridge now, only Quatford; and seeing there were so few bridges in those days, we are disposed to accept the statement of the Worcester MS., which must have been the best
1 A.-S. C., 894.
2 Montgomery Collections, xxxi., 337; Dymond, On the Site of Buttington. See also Steenstrup, Normannerne, ii., 80.
'Beauties of England and Wales, vii., 246. There is nothing left either at Great or Little Amwell now but fragments of what are supposed to be homestead moats. Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, pp. 95, 142, Herts. vol.
informed about events in the west, that Bridgenorth was the site of their work, especially as the high rock at Bridgenorth offers a natural fortification. The only circumstance that is in favour of Quatford is that it is mentioned as a burgus in Domesday, which shows that it possessed fortifications of the civic kind; and we shall see later on, that such fortifications were often the work of the Danes. But this burgus may more probably have been the work of Roger de Montgomeri, who planted a castle there in the 11th century.
10. TEMPSFORD.-Here the Danes wrought a work in 918.1 There is a small oblong enclosure at Tempsford, still in fair preservation, called Gannock Castle, which is generally supposed to be this Danish work. The ramparts are about 11 or 12 feet above the bottom of the moat, which is about 20 feet wide. There is a small circular mound, about 5 feet high, on top of the rampart, which appears to be so placed as to defend the entrance. This mound is "edged all round by the root of a small bank, which may have been the base of a stockaded tower."2 This curious little enclosure is different altogether from any of the Danish works just enumerated, and it is difficult to see what purpose it could have served. The area enclosed is only half an acre, which would certainly not have accommodated the large army "from Huntingdon and from the East Angles," which built the advanced post at Tempsford as a base for the forcible recovery of the districts which they had lost. Such a small enclosure as this might possibly have been a citadel, but our
1 Florence's date.
2 Victoria History of Bedfordshire, i., 282, from which this description is taken.
3 The Chronicle speaks of Tempsford as a burh, so it must have been a large enclosure.