PEVENSEY, IN SUSSEX, AND THE FORTS OF THE “SAXON SHORE”
In this chapter I am going to speak particularly of the Roman fortress at Pevensey, near Eastbourne; but as this was one of a series of forts all built the same time to meet the same danger, I must say something, first of all, about the whole system.
The defences based on the Forts of the Litus Saxonicum, or Saxon Shore, as they were called, extended from the north coast of Norfolk, at the mouth of the Wash, right round the seashore of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, and Sussex, to the east side of Hampshire, behind the Isle of Wight. They were constructed sometime after 300 A.D., for the purpose of stopping the raids of those Saxon pirates, described by a Latin poet as “sea-wolves who live on the pillage of the world,” whose habit it was to come across the sea from the German coast, and to push inland along the many waterways and inlets which have now silted up, plundering the countryside and even attacking the cities many miles/kms back from the coast. The Vikings did the self same thing in the 9th Century when the started to attack England and beyond.
A high Roman military officer, called the Comes Litorus Saxonica, “The Count, or Governor, of the Saxon Shore,” was in charge of these defences; and under him were the governors of the fortresses, each commanding a powerful force. Richborough Castle, the ancient Rutupiae, near Sandwich in Kent, was the headquarters of the Comes; and here, in the Fourth Century A.D., the Second Legion, withdrawn from Caerleon in South Wales, was stationed. At the other forts auxiliary, not legionary, troops were garrisoned; and we find the same astonishing mixture of nationalities in the forces employed in this chain of forts as we noticed in the case of the forts along Hadrian`s Wall in the north of England.
The chain began with Branodunum, the modern Brancaster, at the mouth of the Wash, where a regiment of Dalmatian Horse, from the Adriatic, was stationed; but little of the fort now remains. Then came Gariannonum, now called Burgh Castle, near Yarmouth, which I described in a previous chapter. The walls of this stronghold still stand, enclosing an area now under cultivation, which was once the home of the Stablesian Horse, a regiment known to have had battalions at Pelusium on the eastern frontier of Egypt, in Scythia, and in Moesia.
Next comes Walton Castle, near Felixstowe, the ancient name is not known. The ruins of this fortress have now disappeared into the encroaching sea, but they were still visible on the beach in 1766, when a drawing of them was made. Then we have Othona, which is to be identified with the fragmentary ruins at Bradwell-juxta-Mare, once called Ythan-ceaster, a remote spot in Essex, where a body of Forttensian troops was stationed; and after that was Regulbium, now called Reculvers, at the north end of the waterway which separated the Isle of Thanet from the mainland of Kent, this fortress being garrisoned by the First Vetasian Cohort, recruited at Brabant.
At the other end of the waterway was Rutupiae (Richborough Castle); and then came the fortress of Dubrae now buried beneath the modern Dover, where a regiment of Tungrians from Belgic Gaul was stationed. The next fortress was Portus Lemanis, now called Lympne, garrisoned by a force of Turnacensians, from Tournai in Belgium; but little is now to be seen of the ruins. Then came Anderida or Andriada, the Pevensey of today, which I am about to describe; and lastly there was Portus Adurna, now Porchester Castle, behind Portsmouth, where a force of Exploratores, or Scouts, was stationed. As in the case of Pevensey, a castle was built here in Norman times, but the Roman walls may still be seen.
Such was the great chain of forts of the Saxon Shore, built to stop the raids which ultimately turned “Britain” into “England”; and with the exception of Richborough Castle, of which I have written in a previous chapter, I suppose the most interesting of them to the visitor of today is Pevensey Castle. The ruins now stand a mile/1.6km back from the sea, but in Roman times there was here an inlet in which the various humps of higher ground rising above the flats were then islands at high tide. The names of these mounds – Rickney, Horseye, Mankseye, Chilley, Pevensey and so forth – indicate that they were once surrounded by water; for ey or eye means “island,” Mankseye being originally “Monks Ey,” for instance, and Pevensey “Peven`s Ey,” Peven being perhaps a forgotten Saxon chieftain. The Roman name Anderida or Andriada comes from that of the great forest of Andred which then covered the ground between the North and South Downs.
The fortress now has the village of Westham on its west side, and that of Pevensey on its east and between these two places the main road runs just outside the north wall, so that, travelling along it, you will follow the line of the mighty rampart, and with astonishment you will se it rising still to a height of nearly 30 feet/9.1m – higher than the houses on the other side of the road. Few people seem to think of it as Roman at all; they suppose it to be mediaeval; yet, actually, it was already over 700 years old when the Duke of Normandy landed in Pevensey Bay.
There it stands, almost as high today as it was when it defended the honour of the Roman Empire, and there it will stand for thousands of years to come, for it belongs now to the nation, and steps are being taken to preserve it. In 1650 an effort was made to destroy it, a certain John Warr having bought it cheap from the Commonwealth on the understanding that he should pull it down, so as to increase the agricultural value of the land; but he soon gave up the task as hopeless, being completely defeated by the tough Roman cement.
The wall encloses an oval space of about ten acres/4ha, in one corner of which is the castle built in Norman times, where, by the way, excavations are at present in progress; but the rest of the enclosure is covered with grass, and under it the foundations of the buildings of the Roman fortress are still hidden, awaiting the spade of the excavator when the money is available. Originally there were fifteen great bastions around the wall, and of these there are still twelve to be seen; while of the main gateway on the west side, flanked by towers, enough remains to provide today an imposing entrance to this historic site.
A certain amount of excavation on this side was carried out many years ago, and a tile was then discovered bearing the name of the Emperor Honorius (395 A.D.) and another had upon it the letters CL-BR, standing for Classis Britannicae, “the British Navy,” of Roman times, indicating that the British warships rode at anchor close under the walls of the fort, where now lie fields from which the sea has departed.
The end of this fortress was terrible. After the Roman army had been withdrawn to fight the battles of rival emperors on the Continent, the British civilians, who themselves were as much “Roman” as the troops, were left to defend themselves as best they could against the marauding “sea-wolves.” In 491 A.D., however, a great Saxon invasion took place; this fortress of Anderida was besieged and captured; and every living soul within the walls was put to death.
SILCHESTER AND THE ROAD THITHER FROM LONDON
Few English people of today have ever heard of Calleva, “the City of the Forest,” once the capital of the tribe of the Atrebates, whose kings rules a large part of Berkshire, Hampshire, Sussex, and Surrey; and few have ever visited the spot where this great metropolis once stood in the heart of the forest of Spinae, a name still preserved in that of the village of Speen, now a suburb of Newbury. The ruins, now called Silchester, are about equidistant between Reading and Basingstoke, the little railway station of Mortimer being about three miles/4.8km distant.
From Londinium (London) there was once a great Roman road leading to Calleva, parts of which can still be traced. In Berkshire it is called the Devil`s Highway, the people of a few hundred years ago having so named it because they thought that only the Prince of Darkness could have built that straight and wide causeway of which they could discern short sections passing mysteriously through their fields and heading into their woods, losing itself here and there in the undergrowth, and coming out again to merge into an existing road now crossing a low-lying marsh in the form of an embankment, and now topping a hill like the furrow of a fabulous plough.
From the Forum of Londinium this high road followed the line of Holburn, Oxford Street, and the Bayswater Road, and curving slightly at Notting Hill, headed straight for Staines, the Roman Pontes, where the Thames was crossed a little to the south of the present bridge. Then it made for Sunningdale and entered Berkshire near Bagshot, being still visible here and there among the heather and the firs. It ran just south of the old British and Roman fortification at Easthampstead, now called Caesar`s Camp, to the village of Crowthorne, whence, passing Wellington College, it mounted the splendid stretch of high ground now known as Finchampstead Ridges, and so came into that beautiful region of woods and fields amid which it is now almost lost, except in so far as it forms for several miles/kms the boundary between Berkshire and Hampshire. At last, through once dense forests, it arrived at the walled city of Calleva and passed by the East Gate into the busy streets now buried beneath the fields.
The city walls, a mile and half/2.4km in circumference and originally some 20 feet/6m high, still stand, being in places as much as 12 feet/3.6m in height; but now they are covered with moss and flowers, while bushes and trees rise on either side, and the 80-foot/24.3m moat outside is full of brambles, long-grass, and nettles. The hundred acres/40ha thus enclosed became deserted waste at the time of the Saxon invasion when the inhabitants of the city found that the water-supply was failing, and soon the grass had grown over the foundations of the buildings; but between 1864 and 1910 the whole area was excavated and planned, piece by piece, the earth being thrown back over each section as the investigation was completed, so that now the cows graze above the hidden streets and buildings where, 1,500 years ago, our Roman and British ancestors lived their forgotten lives.
These excavations showed that the city was laid out on the gridiron plan, the straight streets running at right angles north to south and east to west, thus forming square blocks of buildings. Entering through the arches of the east gate, with its great towers on either side, the high road passed right through the city to the west gate, and in the middle of the enclosed area it was crossed by another main street running from the north gate to the south. If one turned to the left, or south, just where these thoroughfares crossed, and walked a few yards/metres along the street, a big building was to be seen on the left hand. This was the basilica, corresponding roughly to the town hall, and consisting of a great hall, 230 feet/70m long by 58 feet/17.6m wide, with a row of Corinthian columns on either side, and a curved recess, or tribune, at either end; and along the side facing the street there were six rooms, used as offices and council chambers.
Behind the Basilica was the Forum, an open square, some 450 feet/137m across, enclosed by a red-roofed colonnade, behind which were shops. It was entered by a handsome arched gateway at the far end, through which one could look across the square to the facade of the Basilica. A little way down the street was the cattle market, and beyond this a temple, a beautiful little circular building like that of Vesta at Tivola, standing on a platform 65 feet/19.8m in diameter, and surrounded by a circular colonnade.
Beyond this again was the chief hotel of the place close to the south gate. The buildings formed three sides of a square; and with their red brick and timber walls, their red tiled roofs, and their bottle-glas windowpanes, they must have looked very much like an ordinary “antique“ bungalow in a modern city garden.
Between the back of this hotel and the east gate were the public baths, which were entered through a colonnaded courtyard whence one passed on to the dressing-rooms and so to the swimming bath and to the tepid-room, the hot-room and the massage-room. Near the baths there was another temple, and close to the eastgate two more temples were to be seen, making four in all within the city walls.
In the later part of the Roman epoch there seems to have been a Christian church here, but the ruins do not prove this with certainty.
Altogether over 100 seperate buildings were excavated, including many houses, some of considerable size and one containing thirty rooms. Just outside the east gate was the amphitheatre, of which the circular bank of earth which formed the basis of the raised tiers of seats around the arena can still be seen. But except for this, and the ruined walls, with their turrets every 200 feet/60.9m, nothing of all these splendid structures now remains visible.
Near the east gate there now stands a little church, itself most ancient, and an old farm-house; and from this point a rough road cuts across the enclosure to Silchester Common, on the west side, so that the visitor is able to get some idea at any rate of the extent and the lie of Calleva. It is not, however, the ruins of a cty that he sees today. The city and its wealth have gone, and it is a piece of the England we know which remains, a tract of field and meadow so peaceful, so remote from any industrial centre, so beautiful in its rural riches, so full of the bird songs of the birds and lowing of the cattle, that one might term it the heart of rural England.
Here on the Roman walls all the English flowers seem to be growing – brown and yellow wallflowers, wild dog-roses, and when I was there, primroses and violets. Here, too, are all the trees of England rising out of the dust that was Rome – elm, beech, ash, fir, holly, and oaks innumerable; and the scent of the hawthorn filled the air when I stood looking across the green grass and the hedgerows which hid such secrets from my eyes.
The city was built on rising ground, and between the trees there are far views over well-timbered lands where once grew thick forests to the blue hills in the distance. From the south gate a road, now nearly lost, led to Winchester, the Roman Venta, twenty-five miles/40.2km away; from the north gate another road ran to Alchester and thence to the north; and from the west gate the highway to Speen and on to Wales is to be traced. Here, three miles/4.8km west of Calleva, a milestone was found, popularly called the “Imp Stone,” owing to the fact that the first letters of the word Imperator, or Emperor, could once be traced upon it. It is a solitary and eloquent memorial of those days when the legionaries of Rome, from whom we are descended, marched to and fro upon these great imperial roads which formed a network all over Britain.
Many of the objects found in the excavation at Silchester are now to be seen in the Reading museum. Here there are fragments of inscriptions, and broken statuary; two hoards of tools and implements, including nearly 100 articles; charming little bronze onbjects, and a bronze figure, and a bronze eagle; and, amongst a host of other articles, the remains of much pottery and glass. Fruit, nuts, vegetables, trees, flowers, and plants of the Roman age, had left traces behind, and these have been able to be classified.
It would be quite possible, as the excavator, Mr. James Thomson, has said, to rebuild Silchester more or less as it was, reconstructing the temples and the supposed church on their original foundations, erecting a representative house in its Roman style, and opening up the streets once more. But until the money for this is forthcoming the city must remain buried under the fields.
OLD SARUM, WINCHESTER, DORCHESTER, AND OTHER SITES IN HAMPSHIRE AND DORSET
In the previous chapter I spoke of the great military road which went out of London by Oxford Street and the Bayswater Road, and, crossing the Thames at Staines, ran past Bagshot and over Finchampstead Ridges to Silchester, the ancient Calleva, “the City in the Forest,” between Reading and Basingstoke. This road left the busy streets of Silchester by the west gate and, passing through Pamber Forest and Foscot, crossed Salisbury Plain to Old Sarum, the parent city of Salisbury, thirty-six miles/57.9km from Silchester. Many traces of the highway are still to be seen, but much has been destroyed, as, for example, at St. Mary Bourne, where in 1879 the farmers found a paved section of it, some 27 feet/8.2m wide, just under the soil, and in the interest of agriculture tore up a quarter of a mile/.4km of the stonework.
Old Sarum is a landmark for miles/kms around. It is now a deserted mound, grass-covered and partly shaded by great trees, overlooking the beautiful valley of the Avon, about a couple of miles/kms north of Salisbury; and perhaps as much as two thousand years before Salisbury was founded it was already a British fortress. Centuries before Christ the inner circle of those mighty earthworks which still exist on the mound was thrown up with infinite toil by the forgotten men who lived when Stonehenge, eight or nine miles/12.5 or 14.4km to the north, was already an ancient seat of their worship.
Then, when the Romans came and Stonehenge was in ruins, this fortified mound of Old Sarum was converted into a citadel, in and around which the town of Sorbiodunum grew up; and the road from Silchester, so far as it can be traced, is directed straight to its gates, as are the other roads which converge upon this important centre. For over four centuries it remained a Roman town, though less important than Venta Belgarum (Winchester), just over twenty miles/32.1km away, or Calleva (Silchester); and from its wind-swept battlements the Romanised inhabitants, and the legions from across the seas, gazed south, and east, and west to the wooded hills which formed the distant horizon, or north over the rolling landscape of Salisbury Plain. Within the circle of the turfed earthworks there may have been houses, temples, baths, and other buildings, but what remains of these seems to be buried beneath the grass over which the modern visitor wanders, seeing but the later Norman walls, the stately English trees here and there, and the wide expanse of the sky above him.
When the Romans left, the Saxons took possession of the place, adding an outer circle of earthworks, and before the arrival of the Normans thay had begun to build here a splendid cathedral, which was just completed in time to pass into the hands of the Duke of Normandy. In the year 1220, however, a new cathedral was founded, two miles/3.2km away, was built up around this second cathedral, and Old Sarum was deserted. Soon the ancient buildings were pulled down in order to obtain materials for the erection of the new city, and at last Master Dodd, the host of the tavern now called the Old Castle Inn, was the only man left on the spot. The grass and the trees grew up over the denuded foundations; and the uninhabitanted mound, left to the birds and the rabbits, became famous, or rather infamous, as a constituency which returned two members to Parliament on behalf of an electorate which did not exist.
The site has been partially excavate in modern times, and now you may pay your sixpence/2 ½ new pence at its gate and may enter an area of neatly kept lawns and fields amid which the Norman walls rise up clean and grey, surrounded by the British earthworks and the great ditch, or fosse, outside them, but not a trace of the Roman is to be seen.
These excavations have so far brought to light a certain number of object of the British age and a few of the Saxon period; but of the days of the Roman occupation only a handful of coins, a fragment or two of mosaic pavements, and some odds and ends have been discovered.
The spade of the antiquarian has not yet dug deep enough or over a wide enough area; but one day, when the money is available, the foundations of the buildings of Sorbiodunum will be revealed and we shall learn more of this city, once so famous as a resting place for travellers and soldiers on the great road from London to the south-west.
From Old Sarum a road went eastwards to Winchester, the ancient Venta Belgarum, or “Market town of the Belgae,” the tribe who lived in these parts. There is hardly anything Roman to be seen at Winchester, but the city, nevertheless, was of much importance in that epoch, and British coins have been found there which indicate that its history extend back into pre-Roman times. The walls of the city are now lost, but the mediaeval ramparts follow the same line; and several mosaic pavements have been unearthed in different modern streets. One inscription which has been discovered records a dedication “to the Italian, German, Gallic, and British Mother-goddesses,” made by a soldier.
The city was 110 miles/16km from Clausentum, the modern Bittern, where remains have been found; and this was its nearest port. At Winchester there are some remains of Roman work in the walls of Wolvesey Castle, in the foundations of the City Bridge, and elsewhere; and traces of the amphitheatre, now called the Devil`s Punch Bowl, are to be seen just outside the east gate.
Winchester does not seem to have been destroyed by the Saxons, and it retained its old name “Venta,” which survives in the first syllable of its present name. The invaders merely look possession of it, and in 643, not more than sixty years after the final defeat of the British, the foundations of the old minster were laid.
I may mention that at Lymington in Hampshire, a hoard of 200 pounds weight of Roman copper coins was found; and from Weyhill, near Winchester, comes a fine service of pewter plate now in the British Museum.
The other road went on from Old Sarum by Vindogladia (perhaps Woodyates) to Durnovaria, the Dorchester of today, where an astonishing mass of Roman remains has been found. Durnovaria seems to have been a very elegent little place, perhaps favoured on account of its mild climate by those of the Romans who happened to come from Italy or the Riviera or some such warm country; and the modern workmen are constantly digging up bits of its ancient glory. For instance, a beautiful mosaic floor was unearthed in Durngate Street, and in Olga Road another splendid floor was found, both these now being in the local museum. In a garden in South Street a bronze statuette of Mercury came to light; four charming silver spoons and some fifty silver coins were found at Somerleigh Gate; while in the garden of Fordington vicarage a whole graveyard was dug up, in which several pretty things were discovered, such as delicate glass pins for the hair and a necklace of glass beads. Here, too, a Roman coin was found between the crumbling jaws of a skull, the mouth being the customary place to put the dead parsonage`s fare for Charon`s ferry across the Styx. These and multitudes of other objects – coins, ornaments, jewellery, brooches, rings, buckles, bits of harness, keys,locks, tools, nails, and so forth – are to be seen in the museum. Only one short section of the city walls now remains, but their line is marked by those gracious avenues called The Walks, which almost surround the modern city.
Just near the Southern Railway station is a huge oval mound of grass which was a British fort before the coming of the Romans, but was converted by the latter into an amphitheatre and is now the best preserved construction of that kind in the British Isles, with the exception of Caerleon. Excavations before the war showed that the arena, measuring 192 feet/58.8m by 158 feet/18.8m, had been levelled out of the solid chalk, the floor being some twelve feet/3.6m below the surface of the ground. It was surrounded by a double palisade with a pathway between, such as is to be seen in a Spanish bull-ring, and outside this the seats rose in tiers, where now only the slope of the grass is to be seen, though the position of the “royal box” and the passages up to it are quite clear.
At one end of the oval is the main entrance, and at the other a rectangular enclosure was found which seems to have been the den where the wild animals were kept before they were prodded and coaxed into the arena, around which some 12,000 people were able to be accommodated. Unfortunately the authorities who allowed the excavations to be made here insisted that the turf should be replaced at the end of the work, and thus this great relic of our Roman ancestors is not particularly impressive today; but if the grass were again removed form the arena and the main features exposed the place would be one of the great national sights.
About two miles/3.2km from Dorchester there is a huge British hill-fortress once called Mai Dun, which is Celtic for “the Great Hill,” and now corrupted to Maiden Castle. Here there is such a labyrinth of great embankments and ditches surrounding an area of 120 acres/48.5ha that it is easily the most important monument to ancient British skill in this sort of work in the country. On the wide table land thus enclosed the sheep now graze; and walking here in the everlasting breeze you may see around you a glorious panorama of typical English country so lovely that it almost takes from you the little breath left by your climb up to these historic heights.
Some British landowner of the Roman period built himself a fine house here in the deserted fortress, and fragments of its mosaic floors and painted palster walls are now in the Dorchester museum, together with coins, parts of a bronze statue, and a beautiful bronze plate. But today the foundations of the walls are covered by the grass again and the sheep stand staring at you where once a British landlord greeted his visitors in the Latin tongue and offered them a Roman welcome.
From this point of vantage you may see where the great highway left Dorchester on its way to Exeter, but at the latter city the road ends and little that is Roman now remains. Devon was a peaceful corner of the Empire, and there was no need to carry the military road from London farther into the south-west. In that county Roman remains have been found at Uplyme, near Exminster, and elsewhere; and at Exeter itself a certain amount has come to light, though there is practically nothing for the visitor to see there.
BOSHAM, CHICHESTER, BIGNOR, AND THE STANE STREET
The flat lands south of the Sussex Downs, in the neighbourhood of Chichester and Selsey Bill, formed one of the most prosperous area of Britain of pre-Roman days; and it seems that it was to this part of the country that the expeditionary army of the Emperor Claudius made its was in the great and successful invasion of 43 A. D. The legions then marched on London, and thence to Colchester, by a British road which was probably more or less identical with the stone highway later constructed by the newcomers, and afterwards known to the Saxons as “Stane Street,” that is to say, the “Stone Road.”
This famous highroad began at the water`s edge in one of those inlets there are wide expanses of wet mud, but at high tide the sea laps the walls of the houses and reflects the overhanging foliage of the trees. The exact point is now lost, but it was probably somewhere near West Wittering or Itchenor, whence the road passed across Birdham Common to the south gate of the city of Chichester. Various Roman remains have been found in this neighbourhood. At Selsey coins are constantly turning up; at Dell Quay two heads of statues have been discovered; and at the old-world village of Bosham the traces of a large Roman building were found on the site of the church, while the bases of the columns of the channel arch are thought to be Roman.
The people of Bosham have a tradition that a palace of Vespasion stood there, and the story may well be true, for Vespasian as a young man was a military commander in the expedition of 43 A. D., which seems to have landed in this neighbourhood. Here, too, and the villagers will tell you how the Danes carried off its bells, and how these, having gone down with the ship which was taking them away, are still to be heard sometimes on a quiet Sunday evening, chiming under the water like an echo of the bells of the village church.
Although the southern end of Stane Street, thus, is lost, it certainly passed through the city of Chichester, which was an important place in Roman times, and, during the Roman period, was called Regnum, the inhabitants of this region being known as the Regni. The Roman walls of the city have been so largely rebuilt in the Middle Ages that little of the orginal construction is to be found, though the line of their circuit is marked by these mediaeval ramparts, of which much still remains. Inside the walls the plan of the streets betrays their Roman origin, for there is still the main street from the north to the south gate, and another crossing it at right angles from the east to the west gate, in the good old Roman fashion. The forum and Basilica probably stood in the middle of the town, close to the cross-roads, perhaps on the site of the cathedral.
In North Street, at the spot where now stands the Council House, there was a temple dedicated to Neptune and Minerva, for an important inscription was found here, which is to be seen built into the front wall of this house, stating that the site of the temple was presented by a certain Pudens in the reign of the British King Cogidubnus, an ally of the Romans at the time of their invasion. In South Street two sepulchral stones and various other objects were found, and coins and small articles are constantly being turned up.
Many of these relics, each telling its story of the days of the city`s lost splendour, used to be exhibited in the museum belongings to a local society; but a few years ago the collection was broken up, and the objects were sold to the Worthing museum, although the city of their origin might have received them as a gift – its rejection of the offer providing a sorry instance of a modern corporation`s indifference to its great history. That enterprising modern civic spirit which exploits the past for the commercial and educational benefit of the present and future appears to have been entirely absent here; and thus these antiquities were allowed to leave Chichester, which ought to be a centre for the collection of all the Roman remains in this historic neighbourhood.
Stane Street left the city by the east gate, and for some miles/kms it is identical with the modern road. It then rises on to the Downs, and descends again on the other side, where it is clearly to be seen running obliquely down into the valley by Bignor Hill, and heading straight for Pulborough. Facing it at the point of its descent, on the opposite slope, near the village of Bignor, there once stood a great Roman mansion which, with its outbuildings, covered an area of 650 by 350 feet/198.1 by 106.6m. Generations of Roman or British landlords must have lived here on this estate, where the first owner had erected the house in sheltered and ideal surroundings, half a mile/.80km back from the great highway, at a point some ten miles/16km from Chichester.
Local tradition had always declared that there had been a Roman settlement on this spot, and in 1811 the ruins were accidently found by a farmer, who, after causing them to be excavated and planned, erected stout stone sheds roofed with thatch to protect the splendid mosaic floors which had been laid bare, but allowed the rest of the remains to be covered once more.
Today you approach the site from the road by a track across the field, and, after payment of a fee you are escorted into these sheds by the caretaker; and there before you lie the mosaics, in part as fresh as when they were made. In the first room there is a stone cistern let into the floor, where once a fountain played, and the beautiful mosaic designs show figure of dancing nymphs, and Ganymede being carried off by the eagle. In the next room you see a series of figures of cupids fighting as gladiators, and there is here a very fine head of Juno, and beside it her peacocks.
In a passage near by, leading to a well-preserved bath, there seem to have been symbolic heads of the four seasons, but only the melancholy face of Winter, backed by a leafless tree, now survives. As a matter of fact the winters were hardly to be dreaded in this sheltered vale; for the rooms of the mansion were heated in the Roman manner by hot air circulating under the floors, and passing up the walls through flues still to be seen in position.
It requires some imagination to reconstruct the orginal building out of these few mosaic floors each in its separate shed, and it is a pity that the whole area is not exposed, so that one`s eye could grasp the general plan; but enough is here to be seen to set one dreaming of those treasures that are hidden all over the country under the drowsy fields and mysterious woodlands of our romatic English landscapes.
At Pulborough, Stane Street crossed the River Arun, and here many Roman remains have been found, including four blocks, or “pigs” of lead. Thence for fifteen miles/24.1km to Rowhook the modern road follows the line of the Roman highway, through Billinghurst and Slinford; and so it comes to Oakley, Holmwood, Dorking, Ewell, and at last to London Bridge. In many cases its track is clearly to be seen, and here and there its actual stone surface has been accidently uncovered just below the present ground-level. But if you would see this most ancient highway at its best, go to that ruined mansion at Bignor and follow the track of it as, like the path of an old dream, it climbs the Downs on its silent and ghostly way southwards to the sea.
BRADING, NEWPORT, AND OTHER SITES IN THE ISLSE OF WIGHT
At the great invasion of Britain in 43 A. D., the Romans seem to have landed at Hayling Island, between Selsey and Portsmouth; and their base for those first years of conquest may have been Chichester, the ancient Regnum. The Isle of Wight, therefore, being just across the water, was speedily occupied, and from that time almost until its conquest by the Saxons in 530 A. D., it remained a very peaceful and prosperous little corner of the Roman world.
It was called Vectis or Victis in those days; and if we remove this word the termination – is, which the Greek geographers had tacked on to it, we get the name Vict, which was probably pronounced very much like the “Wight” of the present day.
There are some thirty different places on the island at which Roman remains have come to light. At Wroxall, near Ventnor, a hoard of 5,000 coins was found in an urn; at Shanklin another hoard of 600 coins was discovered; and at Farringford, near the Needles, 250 coins were dug up.
The market town seems to have been at Carisbrooke, the Roman Meda, in the middle of the island, and here there are traces of the ancient wall to be seen on the site of the later castle, while in the grounds of the vicarage the ruins of a villa were discovered many years ago, but not much of it is now left to be seen.
The remains of some private baths have recently been unearthed at Newport, close to Carisbrooke, at the back of a garage in Cypress Road, a prim little street of small modern villas running down a hill on the outskirts of the town and ending in open fields. While levelling the yard of the garage the workmen exposed a piece of mosaic pavement, and soon a small sunken bath was found, about ten feet/3.0m long and two feet/.6m deep, having a step by which to descend into it, and a drain-pipe to let out the water. Beyond this are two rooms, the Tepidarium, or tepid room, and the Caldarium, or hot room, and one can see the underground system of air passages and flues for heating these rooms from the furnace. The site of the mansion to which these baths belonged probably lies buried under the street; and it seems likely that the baths, too, will soon be filled in again and buried.
One of the most important of all the Roman ruins in Britain was discovered in 1880, six miles/9.6km from this, near the village of Yarbridge, close to Brading, on the road from Ryde to Sandown. Here a great part of the ground floor of a large mansion was unearthed; and, judging by the coins found on the spot, which cover almost the whole Roman period, the house must have been occupied for some 400 years or more, like many a later manor.
The situation chosen was ideal. The house stood sheltered at the southern foot of Brading Downs, where the short turf grows above the limestone rock, and a few patches of golden gorse gleam in the sunshine. It was built on three sides of an open courtyard facing towards the east, but screened from the wind and the sea by the heights of the Foreland which rises between Bembridge and White Cliif Bay. Southwards, the blue stretch of the sea from Culver Cliff to Sandown was visible from the windows on that side of the house; but westwards the hills again shut in the view. The warm and sheltered valleys below the house must have been then, as now, rich in trees; and here, too, were the fields and pastures of the estate.
The splendid beach of Sandown Bay was about a mile/1.6km away, but each high tide brought the water into the old harbour of Brading, now silted up, which was close to the house, and where the owner of the mansion could moor the vessel which took him to and from the port of Chichester on the mainland. The market town at Carisbrooke was some nine miles/14.4km distant; and there were, no doubt, many villas dotted about the neighbourhood, whose owners exchanged visits with the master of this mansion by the sea.
Today the outlines of the rooms of the west or middle part of the building are exposed, and the magnificent mosaic floors lie bared to view. To protect them an unsightly but business-like shed has been built – a great drill-hall of a place, constructed of matchwood boarding, corrugated iron, and iron girders, around which the wind from the sea moans as though the ghosts of the past were bewailing the disappearance of the original walls and roof. Within this shed the vacant spaces where the mosaics have not been preserved are filled with show-cases containing the objects found in the excavations; and here one may see the trivial and pathetic remains of the life of those far-off days
Here there are some marbles with which a forgotten child once played, and there a bronze safety-pin, absurb in its modernity, a pair of tweezers, a solitary spoon, and a little locket designed to contain perfume. Here is the big lock and key of the front door, and there the iron hook which held the gate open. In another case there is a modern-looking boat-hook, and near it a gimlet which might have come from a carpenter`s shop of today. Hundreds of mails of all sizes are to be seen, and near them are the hinges and handles of the doors.
Somepieces of coal, looking as though they had come straight from a modern scuttle, indicate the kind of fuel used; and at one end of the shed the underground heating arrangements are visible, and one can see how the hot air circulated beneath the mosaic floors and passed up behind the plastered surface of the walls in pottery flues. Fragments of the glass window-panes are to be seen, and tiles from the roof lie stacked in heaps. Many oyster-shells, snail-shells, and bones of joints of meat are the remnants of forgotten banquets; and there are cases full of broken bottles; pots, and pans.
But one`s eyes always come back to those wonderful mosaic floors, with their rich patterns and varied figures. Here is Orpheus playing upon his lyre, while a little English fox listens enchanted; here are mermaids riding upon their scaly backs; and here the comic figure of a fighting-cock dressed in tunic and trousers guards the door of the henhouse.
This west side of the mansion consisted of a hall 50 feet/15.2m long, having some twelve rooms leading from it. But, leaving the shed, one may see the outline of the rooms of the north wing now exposed in the sunlight; for here the mosaic floors have been lost, and nothing remains to be protected except a portion of the heating arrangements of a bathroom; the well a hundred feet/30.4m deep, still providing clear, cold drinking-water in abundance; and a little grotto where once was an ornamental fountain.
The chambers of the south wing have entirely disappeared, and a cabbage-patch has taken their place; while of the central courtyard no sign remains, and a hedge grows where once stood the front gateway. But in one`s imagination, in spite of the unassistng corrugated iron of the shed, the original mansion can easily be reconstructed, and out of the cabbage-patch the lost wing can be made to rise once more, with its walls of brick and stone, and its red-tiled roof, its sheltering colonnade, and its row of green-glassed windows.
And, at any rate, the lie of the hand around remains the same. The same green hills, the same blue sea, the same English trees and English fields are now to be seen as were seen by the men who built this mansion nearly two thousand years ago; and high above the ruins the same note of the lark is to be heard, rising into the same soft English air. The glory that was Rome is departed, but the peace of the countryside which is England remains forever.
GLASTONBURY IN SOMERSET
I suppose there is no part of the English countryside that is more typically the fair and peaceful England of our tradition than the area around Glastonbury, and at no season do these Somersetshire landscapes present themselves in such teeming luxuriance as at the close of May and in early June, the time of year when last I visited that benign and happy region. I went down there on this occasion to study the days when the men of Somerset were imperial Romans, but at first I found it difficult to guide my thoughts back through the maze of wonderous tales which the monks of the Middle Ages have handed down to us, and which rest like enchantment upon this gracious locality.
The country hereabouts seemed to me to lie sleeping in the hot sunshine, dreamimg of the past, but itd dream was ecclesiastical, not imperial. The ruined abbey, the richest store of mediaeval legends in all England, had laid a holy spell upon the land, and I could not get back behind it. In the deep fields of buttercups, in the orchards, or by the meandering streams, I could picture monks and abbots lost in meditation upon the wonderous ways of God; I could see enraptured knights, in quest of the Holy Grail, reining in their chargers under the laden branches of the hawthorn; my fancy could create the picture of mediaeval ladies sauntering through the bluebells in the shade of the enchanted woodlands; but it seemed almost vain to attempt, in this typical English setting, to visualise the energetic Romans or to feel that they, too, had their place in the dream these fat and drowsy lands were dreaming.
Yet the local museums are full of relics of the Roman epoch, and in the neighbourhood of Glastonbury there are traces of the lake dwellings of the British tribes of an earlier age, whose wattle huts, standing on piles above the marshy waters, were already deserted before the Eternal City had heard of our land. in Glastonbury itself, though nothing Roman is now to be seen, Roman coins have turned up within the abbey and at the foot of the neighbouring Tor Hill, and there is such a tale of Rome to be pieced together that if the mediaeval atmosphere of the place can but be penetrated, there is a vision of Imperial days to be attained which can hardly fail to excite the emotion of every Englishman.
It is the vision of the days when Christianity was first preached to the men of Somerset, at a time when, if tradition is at all to be believed, the personality of the Master was fresh in the minds of His followers; and, maybe, the Gospel story was told in these fair lands, amid the bluebells and the buttercups, by these who had actually seen the to face their Lord and their God, and had felt the touch of His hands.
The monks of the Middle Ages devoutly believed – and their beliefs have survived in some of the villages round about – that Joseph of Arimathea, who was a tin merchant, came to Britain (which certainly was the source of the tin used by the Romans) and visited this neighbourhood, bringing with him for campany a little boy who was none other than Jesus. They believed that a few years after the cruxificton, in those years when Rome was at the height of her glory and Britain had just been brought under her sway, this same Joseph sailed up the mouth of the Severn and came by now forgotten waterways across the lakes and marshes to the Fortunate Isle, the Isle of Avalon, where now stands Glastonbury, and was allowed by the British King Arviragus to establish a mission there, and to build a little church of wattle and rough woodwork.
There, they said, he planted a thorn-tree which had the peculiar character of blossoming in December at the time of the birth of our Lord. There he buried the Holy Grail which he had brought with him – that sacred cup made of a ruby, they declared, which, falling from heaven into the sea, was fashioned by mermen into a chalice, and so came into the possession of Soloman, who handed it on to his descendants, until, after it had been used by Jesus at the last Supper, it was given to Joseph, who caught in it the blood of the slain Christ.
There beside the church, they said, Joseph was himself buried at length; and afterwards a little band of anchorites maintained his mission until, in the Second Century A.D., they were joined by other early Christian saints, who kept the faith alive here amidst the orchards on thr Isle of Avalon for the next two hundred years. In the Fifth Century, said the monks, St. Patrick retired to Glastonbury, after his labours in Ireland, and founded the monastery which Henry the Second certainly described as “the source and origin of all religion in England.”
In the Sixth Century King Arthur, one of the last great figures of the Roman epoch in Britain, came here to die and was buried in this hallowed ground with Queen Guinivere; and the monks stated that in 1177 Henry the Second found their coffins and saw with his own eyes Arthur`s mighty bones and a lock of Guinivere`s golden hair. Meanwhile, the Saxon King Ina, in 780 A.D., had allowed a new church to be built here of wattle; and on the site of this church the great abbey, which still exists in ruins, was erected by the son of King Stephen`s chamberlain, who, in 1126, was abbot of Glastonbury.
In these later phases of the legends, the stories merge into history, and we know how the abbey grew in wealth and power until Henry the Eighth dispossessed the monks, hanged their abbot, and left the deserted buildings to fall into ruins and become a mere quarry for masons` stone. In 1907 the site was acquired by the Church of England, and, during recent years, a certain amount of excavations has been carried out, some of the discoveries adding to the mystery of the place by reason of the fact that the spots at which the excavators dug were indicated to them, with seeming accuracy, through the medium of automatic writing.
Today you may pay your sixpence at the gate and may pass from the main street of the modern town into a beautiful nd dreamlike area of lawns and orchards from which the affairs of the modern world seem to be shut out; and there you may behold the vast and stately ruins – all that is left of the cradle of Christianity in our land. There stands the shell of the chapel on the site of the wattle church of Roman days; and you may still see an offshoot of the original thorn-tree, and it is s fact that it does blossom at Christmastide, being of a gunus having that peculiarity which comes from Palestine.
It may be that future excavations will reveal the forgotten burial-place of Joseph; and here may be re-discovered the bones of Arthur and his queen. Perhaps even the supposed Holy Grail may be found, and there may come to light also the vast treasure of the monastery which the last abbot his from King Harry, the secret of its whereabouts having died with him when he was hanged on the neighbouring hill. Local tradition says that this immense treasure includes a pair of gates wrought of pure gold. . . .
The reader wil perhaps interrupt me to say that I am indeed wandering in a mediaeval dream and have not carried the story with any substantiality into Roman times. But the trouble is that modern scholarship has shown the legends to be based on no certain knowledge, and previous to the seventh or eighth century we really know very little of Glastonbury that there was a Christian community living here its holy life of seclusion amid these beautiful English meadows and orchards in the days of Imperial Rome; and nobody is in a position to deny positively that there is a basis of fact in the traditions linking this fair Isle of Avalon in the Province of Britain with those missionaries from the Provinces of Palestine who had heard the words of the Master from His own lips and had gone forth at His behest to preach the Gospel to every creature.
BATH, IN SOMERSET
The most famous Roman ruins in England are those of the great bathing establishment at Bath, in Somerset, which curiously enough, were discovered less than fifty years(in 1878) ago and were unknown to the ladies and gentlemen who congregated here under the leadership of Beau Nash in the early years of the eighteen century. In 1755 and 1790 the first traces of the Roman baths were brought to light, but it was not till 1878 that the main features of the buildings were exposed and their importance fully recognised, and large areas of the ruins now on show were only unearthed in 1928.
Beau Nash and his friends thought that the hot springs which well up in the almost crater-like valley of the Avon, wherein the city stands, were first put to practical use by an ancient British king named Bladud, and thought it was vaguely known that the Roman had drunk the waters here and had bathed in them it was only within the lifetime of our own generation that the real facts were discovered, and indeed, there is still a great part of the Roman establishment remaining to be excavated when money is available.
I have pointed out in a previous article that the British were not only highly civilised but were already to some extent Romanised at the time when the Emperor Claudius conquered the country in 43 A. D.; and nothing better illustrates this fact than the rapidity with which then newcomers were able to settle down to a comfortable and luxurious existence in Britain immediately after their invasion. The great bathing establishment at Bath seems to have been founded within ten years of the arrival of the legions, and this means to say that the Romans at once went to see these wonderful hot springs, already much used by the elegent British, and, immediately realising their possibilities, erected their splendid buildings and laid down new highways of approach with a cool confidence which shows that there was no danger to be faced nor hostility to be expected from the peaceful men of Somerset.
The baths they erected were as fine as any outside Rome. The main feature was a large rectangular open-air swimming pool, 6ft/1.8m. deep, having stone steps down to it on all sides and a flagged terrace around it, protected by a roofed colonnade. The bottom of this bath was paved with sheets of lead welded together, and the water from the steaming hot springs which issue from the ground at nearly 120 deg Fahrenheit /48c Centigrade was passed into it along a culvert, its temperature in this culvert being now about 90 deg Fahrenheit/32.2c Centigrade, but only about 62 deg/16.6c. as it lies in the bath.
Later on this swimming pool was roofed over by a vault of concrete and hollow tiles, supported on mighty pillars, and a fountain was added, the water being conducted to it through lead piping. Beyond the colonnade at the west end there was a smaller circular bath, perhaps for the ladies, and behind this again were at least two other baths of lesser size and a whole series of hot rooms, such as would now be called Turkish bath.
At the opposite end of the swimmimg pool there were again other baths and hot rooms, heated by furnaces, the hot air circulating through hollow spaces under the mosaic of the floors and passing up behind the plaster of the walls on pottery flues.
There were great ducts, cased in lead, to carry off the water from the different baths; there was a deep reservoir at the head of the spring; there were dressing-rooms and alcoves in which the bathers could rest; there were paved courts and outer colonnades; there was a dipping-place from which the water could be drunk; there were statues of stone and bronze; and, indeed, there was everything here to make the establishment a place of world-wide renown.
When the Romans came they found that the patron deity of the springs was a British goddess called Sul, a name which may be connected with that of the sun, for in the Celtic religion the sun was deemed to be feminine. On the other hand, she is not known elsewhere in Britain and therefore may have been but a local water-nymph. The Romans identified her with Minerva and built a fine temple in her honour at the north-west corner of the baths; and a certain writer of the third century named Caius Julius Solinus, in his book on the curiosities of the world, states that in this temple “there is a perpetual fire which never whitens into ash but turns into rocky lumps as the flame fades.” These lumps, no doubt, were cinders, and the writer was describing a fire made of coal which is found around Bath and was used in Britain, but was something of a curiosity in other lands.
People from all over Britain and Gaul came to take the waters at Bath, which, in honour of the goddess, the Romans named Aquae Sulis, and many inscriptions have been found recording the names both of those who died here and those benefited by the waters. I may mention, for instance, the gravestone of a certain L. V. Tancinus, a native of Caurium, in Spain, who was an officer of the Vettonesian auxiliary cavalry and who died here in the 46th year of his age and the 26th of his military service; the altar dedicated to the goddess Sul on behalf of a centurion of the 6th Legion, which was stationed at York; and the tombstone of Julius Vitalis, a Belgium armourer of the 20th Legion, who died in his 29th year of his age and the 9th of his service and was carried to burial by the Armourer`s Guild. Other inscriptions record the names of men from Metz, Trier on the Mosel, Chartres, and Frejus on the Riviera, a town councillor from Gloucester, aged 80, a sculptor from Cirencester, a priest of Sul, aged 75, and so on.
In the pool at the spring-head coins and gems were found, these being offerings made to the goddess of the mysterious waters; and here too was found a curse written on a piece of lead reading: “May the person who has carried off (the heart of) Vilbia waste away like that dumb water . . . it may be Vinna, or Exsuperius, or Verianus, or Severianus, or Augustalis, or Comitianus, or Catusminianus, or Germanilla or Iovina” – and this list of nine “possible” speaks volumes as to the morals of Miss Vilbia.
Around the baths and the temples a large town grew up, but little of it has yet been found, though its walls can be traced and parts of the principal cemetery have been discovered beside the London road. An enormous quantity of Roman remains has been found in the neighbourhood, including rich hoards of coins, including one of 2,000 coins, and another of 1,500 silver pieces found in a pewter vessel; and the ruins of no fewer than sixty villas, that is to say, country houses, have been discovered in Somerset, and I may mention that the remains of several houses have recently been found at Yeovil.
When the legions left Britain in the early party of the fifth century Bath fell upon evil days, but it maintained its existence and survived the Anglo-Saxon invasion of about 582. A monastery was founded here in 676, and thus ecclesiastically, if not civilly, the influence of Rome was hardly interrupted. But the great baths fell into ruins and in time were buried deep beneath the Eighteenth Century pump room and the surrounding houses, so that now you see them far below the ground level, extending away into dark cavities and tunnels under the buildings, the floors of which are shored up with iron girders.
Only the main swimming pool is open to the sunlight, and in the quiet water you may see the gold fish moving among the piles of cement and tiles which fell into it when the roof collapsed. But the other baths and hot-rooms lie in the half-light of the cavernous excavations under the new buildings, where you may wander, staring around at the fragments of a lost splendour and listening to the bubble of the water as it runs through the ancient culverts like the echo of an old, old dream.
THE LEAD MINES ON THE MENDIP HILLS AND ELSEWHERE
The tin-mines of Britain had been famous for at least a thousand years before the Romans came to our shores, but when the country was opened up in the First Century A. D., the new prospectors seem to have been disappointed to find that there was little gold or silver to be got. Lead, however, was discovered in several districts, and this was worked extensively, the Romans finding many uses for that metal. For example, the floor of the great swimming bath at Bath is covered with sheets of lead, and much lead piping is there to be seen. Lead pipes, cisterns, funerary urns and coffins were used; sealings were aften stamped in lead, especially in the case of those used for military stores; and pewter, which is an alloy of four parts of tin and one of lead, was largely employed in the manufacture of cups, plates, and dishes.
Remains of Roman lead-mines have been found on the moors of south-western Yorkshire; at Holywell and Halkyn in Flintshire, within sight of the sands of Dee; amongst the hills near Matlock in Derbyshire; in the bleak and wild country at the foot of the Stipperstones, near Shelve in Shropshire; and on the Mendip Hills in Somerset; and an indication of the great output from these mines is provided by the fact that over fifty pigs (i.e. oblong blocks) of lead, each weighing between one hundred and two hundred pounds/45.3 and 90.7kgs, have been found in Britain, these having been dropped or mislaid by the Roman workmen apparently withot any notice being taken of their loss.
By Roman law all minerals belonged to the State and therefore these pigs generally bear the names of the Emperors moulded upon them; and by the occurrence of the name of Claudius one can see that some of the mines were worked as early as 49 A. D., that is to say, six years after the conquest of the country. The Derbyshire mines, however, seem to have been leased to private persons of Greek nationality, and the pigs from this district bear their names instead of those of the Emperors. Apart from single discoveries, eleven pigs have been found in Derbyshire, twenty-two in Flintshire, five in Shropshire, four in Sussex, and twelve in the Mendips.
These mines in the Mendips, which had been worked by the pre-Roman British, were the most important, and seem to have been the first to be opened up by the invaders. The main site lies near the lonely little hamlet of Charterhouse in the midst of the wide and rolling uplands; and you will come upon it if you follow the road which passes up into the hills through the famous chasm at Cheddar, or if you ascend by the Burrington gorge, or go up from Shipham past Black Down. In each case a journey of a few miles/kms across the windswept heights will bring you to the Blackmoor valley wherein the two or three houses of Charterhouse are grouped; and near by the grassy slopes are pitted and humped and scarred with black looking patches, where the mining was carried on, while not far away are faint traces of a settlement which seems to have been fortified when first our Roman forefathers lived here, nearly 1,900 years ago.
Some very profitable excavations were conducted on this site a few years since, and many of the objects discovered are now to be seen in the museums at Taunton and Bristol. All sorts of gems, cameos, trinkets, and ornamental pieces, reveal the fact that the miners or their overseers were a prosperous lot. The spoons and forks used at their meals have come to light, together with much fragmentary glass and pottery; and many dice and hundreds of coins suggest the manner in which their leisure hours was spent. For their better amusement a small amphitheatre was constructed near the top of the hill opposite the workings; and you may still see the circular earthwork which served as the basis for the tiers of seats around a small arena of 75 feet/22.8m diameter. A narrow grass-covered lane runs up to it between age-old grey walls of stone, half hidden by brambles; and this. I fancy, must be the selfsame approach used by the Romans.
When I visited the spot a thin rain was beating up from the west, and the grey expanse of the low sky was dishevelled with quick-moving tatters of darker cloud. The moors and fields were misty and indistinct, and though much of the ground has now passed under cultivation and is fair enough to the eye, the whole landscape, as seen that day through the curtain of the sleet, assumed its ancient aspect, and was once more a wilderness. The miners must have found it a desolate place in the best of weather, but on rainy days their hearts, like their produce, may well have been of lead. The excavations, however, have shown that their houses had good solid walls, well made drains, and stout window-glass; and, after all, the luxuries of the hotels and bathing establishments of Bath were only twenty miles/32.1km distant.
I went afterwards some miles/kms along the wet highway across these bleak uplands to the lonely inn at the cross roads, queerly named Castle Comfort; and in a field behind this ancient tavern there are traces still to be seen of the fifteen foot/4.5m wide Roman road which led from the mines to Old Sarum, where it joined the great highway to London. The lead, however, was as often carried in the opposite direction, down to the sea by Shipham, Banwell, and Hutton, and so to the harbour now called Uphill, at the mouth of the river Axe, a couple of miles/kms south of Weston-super-Mare, amd a dozen fom Charterhouse.
It was there shipped to the Continent, and an indication of its subsequent route was afforded by the discovery of one of these pigs of Somerset lead at St. Valery-sur-Somme, near the mouth of that river. This particular block by the way, was stamped with the name of Nero and with that the legionaries were employed on the mines for a while, it being the Roman custom to turn the soldiers on to any job that needed to be done.
The lead mines in Flintshire in North Wales were worked immediately after the annexation of that wild country in 78 A. D., for a pig inscribed with the name of Vespasian has been found in the silted-up harbour at Chester, where it was evidently dropped when being loaded on a ship for transport overseas, and the name of the district from which the lead came is given as that of the Deceangli, the modern Tegeingle. There are traces of these Welsh mines still to be seen in the Halkyn hills behind Flint, overlooking the sands of the Dee. A length of lead piping was found in Chester, not far away, stamped with the names of Vespasian and the great Agricola, who was governor of Britain from 78 to 85 A. D.,
At Pulborough in Sussex four pigs have been dug up, the inscriptions on them stating that they came from the Derbyshire mines, apparently in the reign of Claudius. So many pigs have been found in various parts of the country, however, and such extensive traces of old workings are known, that I need not give these specific details.
At Llanymynech, near Oswestry in Shropshire, there is a legend of a blind fiddler, who had wandered over to a neighbouring hill, walked straight into it and never was seen again; but sometimes, they say, you may hear him fiddling away underground. Probably he fell into one of these old workings; for in 1761 somebody penetrated into a hole in the hillside, and there found several skeletons of Roman miners, their mining tools beside them, and coins of the reign of the Emperor Antoninus on the ground around them.