English Villages
P. H. Ditchfield

Part 2 out of 5

island. Public as well as private structures were overturned; the
priests were everywhere slain before the altars; the prelates and
the people, without any respect of persons, were destroyed with fire
and sword; nor was there any to bury those who had been thus cruelly
slaughtered. Some of the miserable remainder, being taken in the
mountains, were butchered in heaps. Others, spent with hunger, came
forth and submitted themselves to the enemy for food, being destined
to undergo perpetual servitude, if they were not killed even upon the
spot. Some, with sorrowful hearts, fled beyond the seas; others,
continuing in their own country, led a miserable life among the woods,
rocks, and mountains, with scarcely enough food to support life, and
expecting every moment to be their last."

Many antiquaries believe that the extirpation of the Britons was not so
complete as Bede asserts, and that a large number of them remained in
England in a condition of servitude. At any rate, the almost entire
extinction of the language, except as regards the names of a few rivers
and mountains, and of a few household words, seems to point to a fairly
complete expulsion of the Britons rather than to a mingling of them with
the conquering race.

What remains have we in our English villages of our Saxon forefathers,
the makers of England? In the first place we notice that many of the
names of our villages retain the memory of their founders. When the
family, or group of families, formed their settlements, they avoided the
buildings and walled towns, relics of Roman civilisation, made clearings
for themselves in the primeval forests, and established themselves in
village communities. In the names of places the suffix _ing_, meaning
_sons of_, denotes that the village was first occupied by the clan of
some chief, whose name is compounded with this syllable _ing_. Thus the
Uffingas, the children of Offa, formed a settlement at Uffinggaston, or
Uffington; the Redingas, or sons of Rede, settled at Reading; the
Billings at Billinge and Billingham; the Wokings or Hocings, sons of
Hoc, at Woking and Wokingham. The Billings and Wokings first settled at
Billinge and Woking; and then like bees they swarmed, and started
another hive of industry at Billingham and Wokingham.

These family settlements, revealed to us by the patronymic _ing_, are
very numerous. At Ardington, in Berkshire, the Ardings, the royal race
of the Vandals, settled; the Frankish Walsings at Wolsingham; the
Halsings at Helsington; the Brentings at Brentingley; the Danish
Scyldings at Skelding; the Thurings at Thorington; and many other
examples might be quoted.

Many Saxon names of places end in _field_, which denotes a forest
clearing, or _feld_, made by the axes of the settlers in the primeval
woods, where the trees were _felled_. These villages were rudely
fortified, or inclosed by a hedge, wall, or palisade, denoted by the
suffix _ton_, derived from the Anglo-Saxon _tynan_, to hedge; and all
names ending with this syllable point to the existence of a Saxon
settlement hedged in and protected from all intruders. Thus we have
Barton, Preston, Bolton, and many others. The terminations _yard_,
_stoke_, or stockaded place, as in Basingstoke, _worth_ (Anglo-Saxon
_weorthig_), as in Kenilworth, Tamworth, Walworth, have much the same

Perhaps the most common of all the terminations of names denoting the
presence of Anglo-Saxon settlers is the suffix _ham_. When the _a_ is
pronounced short the syllable denotes an inclosure, like _stoke_ or
_ton_; but when the _a_ is long, it means home, and expresses the
reverence with which the Anglo-Saxon regarded his own dwelling. England
is the land of homes, and the natural affection with which we Englishmen
regard our homes is to a great extent peculiar to our race. The
Frenchman, the Spaniard, the Italian, do not have the same respect for
home. Our Saxon forefathers were a very home-loving people, and it is
from them doubtless that we inherit our love for our homes.

We find, then, the Saxon holding the lands. The clan formed settlements;
sections of each clan formed branch settlements; and several members of
each section cut their way through the thick forests, felled the trees,
built homesteads, where they tilled the land and reared their cattle.

In early Saxon times the settlement consisted of a number of families
holding a district, and the land was regularly divided into three
portions. There was the village itself, in which the people lived in
houses built of wood or rude stonework. Around the village were a few
small inclosures, or grass yards, for rearing calves and baiting farm
stock; this was the common farmstead. Around this was the arable land,
where the villagers grew their corn and other vegetables; and around
this lay the common meadows, or pasture land, held by the whole
community, so that each family could turn their cattle into it, subject
to the regulations of an officer elected by the people, whose duty it
was to see that no one trespassed on the rights of his neighbour, or
turned too many cattle into the common pasture.

Cotton MS., _Nero_, c. 4]

Around the whole colony lay the woods and uncultivated land, which
was left in its natural wild state, where the people cut their timber
and fuel, and pastured their pigs in the glades of the forest. The
cultivated land was divided into three large fields, in which the
rotation of crops was strictly enforced, each field lying fallow once
in three years. To each freeman was assigned his own family lot, which
was cultivated by the members of his household. But he was obliged to
sow the same crop as his neighbour, and compelled by law to allow his
lot to lie fallow with the rest every third year. The remains of this
common-field system are still evident in many parts of the country, the
fields being termed "lot meadows," or "Lammas lands." Our commons, too,
many of which remain in spite of numerous inclosures, are evidences of
the communal life of our village forefathers.

How long the Saxon villages remained free democratic institutions, we do
not know. Gradually a change came over them, and we find the manorial
system in vogue. Manors existed in England long before the Normans came,
although "manor" is a Norman word; and in the time of Canute the system
was in full force. The existence of a manor implies a lord of the manor,
who exercised authority over all the villagers, owned the home farm, and
had certain rights over the rest of the land. How all this came about,
we scarcely know. Owing to the Danish invasions, when the rude barbarous
warriors carried fire and sword into many a peaceful town and village,
the villagers found themselves at the mercy of these savage hordes.
Probably they sought the protection of some thane, or _eorl_, with his
band of warriors, who could save their lands from pillage. In return for
their services they acknowledged him as the lord of their village, and
gave him rent, which was paid either in the produce of these fields or
by the work of their hands. Thus the lords of the manor became the
masters of the villagers, although they too were governed by law, and
were obliged to respect the rights of their tenants and servants.

Saxon society was divided into two main divisions, the _eorl_ and the
_ceorl_, the men of noble birth, and those of ignoble origin. The chief
man in the village was the manorial lord, a _thane_, who had his demesne
land, and his _gafol_ land, or _geneat_ land, which was land held in
villeinage, and cultivated by _geneats_, or persons holding by service.
These villein tenants were in two classes, the _geburs_, or villeins
proper, who held the yardlands, and the _cottiers_, who had smaller
holdings. Beneath these two classes there were the _theows_, or slaves,
made up partly of the conquered Britons, partly of captives taken in
war, and partly of freemen who had been condemned to this penalty for
their crimes, or had incurred it by poverty.

There were degrees of rank among Saxon gentlemen, as among those of
to-day. The thanes were divided into three classes: (i.) those of royal
rank (_thani regis_), who served the king in Court or in the management
of State affairs; (ii.) _thani mediocres_, who held the title by
inheritance, and corresponded to the lords of the manor in the later
times; (iii.) _thani minores_, or inferior thanes, to which rank
_ceorls_ or merchants could attain by the acquisition of sufficient
landed property.

We can picture to ourselves the ordinary village life which existed in
Saxon times. The thane's house stood in the centre of the village, not a
very lordly structure, and very unlike the stately Norman castles which
were erected in later times. It was commonly built of wood, which the
neighbouring forests supplied in plenty, and had stone or mud
foundations. The house consisted of an irregular group of low buildings,
almost all of one story. In the centre of the group was the hall, with
doors opening into the court. On one side stood the kitchen; on the
other the chapel when the thane became a Christian and required the
services of the Church for himself and his household. Numerous other
rooms with lean-to roofs were joined on to the hall, and a tower for
purposes of defence in case of an attack. Stables and barns were
scattered about outside the house, and with the cattle and horses lived
the grooms and herdsmen, while villeins and _cottiers_ dwelt in the
humble, low, shedlike buildings, which clustered round the Saxon thane's
dwelling-place. An illustration of such a house appears in an ancient
illumination preserved in the Harleian MSS., No. 603. The lord and lady
of the house are represented as engaged in almsgiving; the lady is thus
earning her true title, that of "loaf-giver," from which her name "lady"
is derived.

[Illustration: HOUSE OF SAXON THANE]

The interior of the hall was the common living-room for both men and
women, who slept on the reed-strewn floor, the ladies' sleeping-place
being separated from the men's by the arras. The walls were hung with
tapestry, woven by the skilled fingers of the ladies of the household. A
peat or log fire burned in the centre of the hall, and the smoke hid the
ceiling and finally found its way out through a hole in the roof. Arms
and armour hung on the walls, and the seats consisted of benches called
"mead-settles," arranged along the sides of the hall, where the Saxon
chiefs sat drinking their favourite beverage, mead, or sweetened beer,
out of the horns presented to them by the waiting damsels. When the hour
for dinner approached, rude tables were laid on trestles, and forthwith
groaned beneath the weight of joints of meat and fat capons which the
Saxon loved dearly. The door of the hall was usually open, and thither
came the bards and gleemen, who used to delight the company with their
songs and stories of the gallant deeds of their ancestors, the weird
legends of their gods Woden and Thor, their Viking lays and Norse sagas,
and the acrobats and dancers astonished them with their strange

Next to the thane ranked the _geburs_, who held land granted to them by
the thane for their own use, sometimes as much as one hundred and twenty
acres, and were required to work for the lord on the home farm two or
three days a week, or pay rent for their holdings. This payment
consisted of the produce of the land. They were also obliged to provide
one or more oxen for the manorial plough team, which consisted of eight

There was also a strong independent body of men called _socmen_, who
were none other than our English yeomen. They were free tenants, who
have by their independence stamped with peculiar features both our
constitution and our national character. Their good name remains;
English yeomen have done good service to their country, and let us hope
that they will long continue to exist amongst us, in spite of the
changed condition of English agriculture and the prolonged depression in
farming affairs, which has tried them severely.

[Illustration: WHEEL PLOUGH
From Bayeux Tapestry]

Besides the _geburs_ and _socmen_ there were the _cottiers_, who had
small allotments of about five acres, kept no oxen, and were required to
work for the thane some days in each week. Below them were the _theows_,
serfs, or slaves, who could be bought and sold in the market, and were
compelled to work on the lord's farm.

Listen to the sad lament of one of this class, recorded in a dialogue of
AElfric of the tenth century:--

"What sayest thou, ploughman? How dost thou do thy work?"

"Oh, my lord, hard do I work. I go out at daybreak, driving the oxen to
field, and I yoke them to the plough. Nor is it ever so hard winter that
I dare loiter at home, for fear of my lord, but the oxen yoked, and the
ploughshare and the coulter fastened to the plough, every day must I
plough a full acre, or more."

"Hast thou any comrade?"

"I have a boy driving the oxen with an iron goad, who also is hoarse
with cold and shouting."

"What more dost thou in the day?"

"Verily then I do more. I must fill the bin of the oxen with hay, and
water them, and carry out the dung. Ha! Ha! hard work it is, hard work
it is! because _I am not free._"

Evidently the ploughman's want of freedom was his great hardship; his
work in ploughing, feeding, and watering his cattle, and in cleansing
their stable, was not harder than that of an ordinary carter in the
present day; but servitude galled his spirit, and made the work
intolerable. Let us hope that his lord was a kind-hearted man, and gave
him some cattle for his own, as well as some land to cultivate, and then
he would not feel the work so hard, or the winter so cold.

Frequently men were thus released from slavery; sometimes also freemen
sold themselves into slavery under the pressure of extreme want. A man
so reduced was required to lay aside his sword and lance, the symbols
of the free, and to take up the bill and the goad, the implements of
slavery, to fall on his knees and place his head, in token of submission,
under the hands of his master.

[Illustration: SMITHY
From the Cotton MS., B 4]

Each trade was represented in the village community. There were the
_faber_, or smith, and the carpenter, who repaired the ironwork and
woodwork of the ploughs and other agricultural implements, and in return
for their work had small holdings among the tenants free from ordinary
services. There was the _punder_, or pound-man, who looked after the
repair of the fences and impounded stray cattle; the _cementarius_, or
stonemason; the _custos apium_, or bee-keeper, an important person, as
much honey was needed to make the sweetened ale, or mead, which the
villagers and their chiefs loved to imbibe; and the steward, or
_prepositus_, who acted on behalf of the lord, looked after the
interests of the tenants, and took care that they rendered their legal
services. The surnames Smith, Baker, Butcher, Carter, and many others,
preserve the remembrance of the various trades which were carried on in
every village, and of the complete self-dependence of the community.

We have inherited many customs and institutions from our Saxon
forefathers, which connect our own age with theirs. In recent years we
have established parish councils in our villages. Formerly the pet
theory of politicians was centralisation; everything had to be done at
one centre, at one central office, and London became the head and centre
of all government. But recently politicians thought that they had
discovered a new plan for carrying on the internal affairs of the
country, and the idea was to leave each district to manage its own
affairs. This is only a return to the original Saxon plan. In every
village there was a moot-hill, or sacred tree, where the freemen met to
make their own laws and arrange their agricultural affairs. Here
disputes were settled, plough lands and meadow lands shared in due lot
among the villagers, and everything arranged according to the custom of
the village.

Our county maps show that the shires are divided into hundreds. This we
have inherited from our Saxon forefathers. In order to protect
themselves from their neighbours, the Saxon colonists arranged
themselves in hundreds of warriors. This little army was composed of
picked champions, the representatives of a hundred families; men who
were ready in case of war to uphold the honour of their house, and to
fight for their hearths and homes. These hundred families recognised a
bond of union with each other and a common inheritance, and ranged
themselves under one name for general purposes, whether for defence,
administration of justice, or other objects.

On a fixed day, three times a year, in some place where they were
accustomed to assemble--under a particular tree,[1] or near some
river-bank--these hundred champions used to meet their chieftain, and
gather around him when he dismounted from his horse. He then placed his
spear in the ground, and each warrior touched it with his own spear in
token of their compact, and pledged himself to mutual support. At this
assembly criminals were tried, disputes settled, bargains of sale
concluded; and in later times many of these transactions were inserted
in the chartularies of abbeys or the registers of bishops, which thus
became a kind of register too sacred to be falsified. A large number of
the hundreds bear the name of some chieftain who once used to call
together his band of bearded, light-haired warriors and administer rude
justice beneath a broad oak's shade.[2] Others are named after some
particular spot, some tree, or ford, or stone, or tumulus, where the
hundred court met.

Our counties or shires were not formed, as is popularly supposed, by
King Alfred or other royal person by the dividing up of the country into
portions, but were the areas occupied by the original Saxon tribes or
kingdoms. Most of our counties retain to this day the boundaries which
were originally formed by the early Saxon settlers. Some of our counties
were old Saxon kingdoms--such as Sussex, Essex, Middlesex--the kingdoms
of the South, East, and Middle Saxons. Surrey is the Sothe-reye, or
south realm; Kent is the land of the Cantii, a Belgic tribe; Devon is
the land of the Damnonii, a Celtic tribe; Cornwall, or Corn-wales, is
the land of the Welsh of the Horn; Worcestershire is the shire of the
Huiccii; Cumberland is the land of the Cymry; Northumberland is the land
north of the Humber, and therefore, as its name implies, used to extend
over all the North of England. Evidently the southern tribes and
kingdoms by conquest reduced the size of this large county and confined
it to its present smaller dimensions. In several cases the name of the
county is derived from that of its chief town, _e.g._ Oxfordshire,
Warwickshire; these were districts which were conquered by some powerful
earl or chieftain, who held his court in the town, and called his newly
acquired property after its name.

We have seen the picture of an ordinary English village in early Saxon
times, the villeins and slaves working in the fields and driving their
oxen, and the thane dressed in his linen tunic and short cloak, his hose
bandaged to the knee with strips of cloth, superintending the farming
operations. We have seen the freemen and thanes taking an active part in
public life, attending the courts of the hundred and shire, as well as
the folk moot or parish council of those times, and the slave mourning
over his lack of freedom. But many other relics of Saxon times remain,
and these will require another chapter for their examination.

[1] Until the eighteenth century there stood a pollard oak in the parish
of Shelford, Berks, where the hundred court used to be held.

[2] Other theories with regard to the origin of the hundred have been
suggested. Some writers maintain that the hundred was a district whence
the hundred warriors were derived, or a group of townships. But the
Bishop of Oxford in his _Constitutional History_ states: "It is very
probable that the colonists of Britain arranged themselves in hundreds
of warriors; it is not probable that the country was carved into equal
districts. The only conclusion that seems reasonable is that under the
name of geographical hundreds we have the variously sized _pagi_, or
districts, in which the hundred warriors settled, the boundaries of
these being determined by other causes."



Peculiarities of Saxon barrows--Their contents--Weapons--Articles
of personal adornment--Cremation--Saxon Cemeteries--Jutes--Saxons--
Angles--Religion of Saxons--British Church in Wales--Conversion
of Saxons--Saxon crosses--Whalley--St. Wilfrid--Ruthwell cross--
Bewcastle cross--Eyam cross--Ilkley cross--Hexham cross--Cross at
St. Andrew's, Bishop Auckland--Cheeping crosses--Pilgrim crosses.

The earth has preserved a vast store of relics of the Saxons, and for
these we must search in the barrows which contain their dead. There are
certain peculiarities which characterise these memorials of the race.
The larger tumuli, whether belonging to Celt or Roman, usually stand
alone, or in groups of not more than two or three, and were the
monuments of distinguished people; whereas the Saxon barrows form a
regular cemetery, each group being the common burying-place of the
people in the district. Another characteristic is the large number of
articles which they contain. Moreover it was the practice of the other
races to lay the body on the ground, and build up the chamber and mound
above it. The Saxons on the other hand laid the body in a deep grave
before they began to construct the barrow.

The body was usually stretched out on its back, but is sometimes found
in a sitting position, as in graves recently discovered on Lord
Wantage's estate, Berks. Coffins of hollowed trunks of trees were
occasionally used, but these were not common. If the dead man was a
warrior, his weapons were buried with him, and we find the head and
spike of his spear, heads of javelins, a long iron broad-sword, a long
knife, occasionally an axe, and over his breast the iron boss of his
shield, the wooden part of which has of course decayed away.

[Illustration: SAXON RELICS
(1) Sword
(2) Top of Sword Handle
(3) Buckle
(4) Spear-head
(5) Plain Fibula]

The articles of personal adornment are very numerous. Fibulae, or
brooches, and buckles, made of bronze, are very beautifully ornamented.
Gold fibulae of circular form are found in the Kentish barrows,
frequently ornamented with real or fictitious gems. Rings, bracelets,
necklaces of beads, pendants for the neck and ears, are very common. The
beads are of glass, or amber, or variegated clay. Hairpins with which
the Saxon ladies bound up their tresses, chatelaines with tweezers for
removing superfluous hairs, toothpicks, scissors, and small knives, are
very frequent, and combs made of bone.

When cremation was used the ashes were deposited in an urn made of rude
earthenware without the help of a lathe. Drinking-vessels of glass of
fine and delicate workmanship, pointed or rounded at the bottom, are
common. From the construction of these cups it is evident that the Saxon
allowed no "heel-taps." Bronze bowls, dishes, and basins are found in
Saxon barrows, and occasionally buckets.

A pair of dice was found in a grave at Kingston Down, which indicates a
favourite pastime of the Saxons. The presence of a large number of Roman
coins shows that they used Roman money long after the legions had left
our shores. Sceattas, or Saxon silver coins, are also frequently

Many Saxon cemeteries have been discovered in various parts of England,
but a vast number have never been examined; and the careful inspection
of the contents of barrows must throw much light upon Saxon settlements
in England. Bede tells us that there were three different branches of
this race. The Jutes settled in Kent and the Isle of Wight. The Saxons
settled in Essex, the country of the East Saxons, Sussex, that of the
South Saxons, and Wessex, of the West Saxons. The Angles settled in East
Anglia. Now an examination of barrows shows that the Angles practised
cremation and urn burial, which was not so common amongst the Jutes and
Saxons, and the fibulae found in the tombs of these tribes differ
considerably in shape and size. The contents of these graves throw much
light on the history of the people, their customs and habits. The action
of the plough has often obliterated the traces of ancient barrows. It is
advisable that the position of all such mounds should be carefully noted
and recorded, and where possible excavations made which may help in
settling many vexed questions, and enable us to understand more fully
the condition of the pagan Saxon, ere the light of Christianity had
dawned upon him.

Our names for the days of the week tell us of the gods of our Saxon
forefathers, whom they worshipped in their pagan and unregenerate state.
Sun-day, Moon-day, Tuisco's-day, Woden's-day, Thor's-day, Frya's-day,
Saeter's-day, link us on to the times when these "whelps from the
kennels of barbarism," as the Britons loved to call their conquerors,
swept away the old British Church, and established their heathen rites
and customs. Their religion resembled that of their Scandinavian
neighbours. Each village had its sacred spot, some clearing in the
forest, a tree, or well, whither the people resorted to pray to their
gods, and practise superstitious rites and customs which lingered long
after the introduction of Christianity, and even still survive. They had
also a few temples whither the freemen came three times a year.

Driven out of England the ancient British Church found a refuge in the
wilds of Wales and Cornwall, where it lived on and flourished
vigorously, allied to the Churches of Ireland and Scotland, sending out
missionaries to the Continent of Europe, having schools and colleges,
monasteries, and numerous churches. Llancarvan, in Glamorganshire, was a
celebrated seat of learning; and all places named Bangor, such as
Bangor-Iscaed, St. Asaph, and many others, possessed schools and
colleges. The village names of numerous places in Wales and Cornwall
record the labours of many earnest, saintly men, who brought
Christianity to the savage folk in these wild regions. There are nearly
five hundred names of these holy men in Wales alone, whose memory is
retained by this simple record; and Cornwall is dotted over with
churches dedicated to men and women whose names are strange, and of whom
we know nothing. History tells us of some of these early saints and
martyrs, of St. Alban, the first British martyr, who was slain 303 A.D.
during the Diocletian persecution in the city which bears his name; of
St. David, a Welsh prince, who followed the active life of John the
Baptist, and preached like him. The memory of early saints is enshrined
in the names, St. Ives, St. Neots, St. Bees, and in St. Edmund's Bury,
named after St. Edmund, who was taken prisoner by Ingvar the Viking, and
having been bound to a tree, was scourged, and served as a target for
the arrows of the Danes, being afterwards beheaded. All these record the
bravery and zeal of the holy men of old who loved their God, and for His
sake feared not to die.

Nothing need be said of the conversion of the English. That is a story
which has been often told. The scene is again changed. The temples of
Woden and Thor at Canterbury and Godmundingham and elsewhere, with their
heathen altars and shrines and idols, have been changed into Christian
churches, and other houses of God have been raised in the various
kingdoms; while Paulinus, Berinus, Aidan, Winfrid, and other preachers,
travelled through the country, exhorting the people to accept the
Christian faith.

Memorials of these early Christian missionaries remain in many a village
churchyard. Often there stands near the village church an old stone
cross, its steps worn away by the rains and frosts of thirteen
centuries; its head has doubtless gone, broken off by the force of the
gales, or by the wild rage of human passion and Puritanical iconoclastic
zeal; but it preserves the memory of the first conversion of the Saxon
villagers to Christianity, and was erected to mark the spot where the
people assembled to hear the new preacher, and to consecrate it for this

In the life of St. Willibald we read that it was the custom of the Saxon
nation, on the estates of some of their nobles or great men, to erect,
not a church, but the sign of the Holy Cross, dedicated to God,
beautifully and honourably adorned, and exalted on high for the common
use of daily prayer. It is recorded also that St. Kentigern used to
erect a cross in any place where he had converted the people, and where
he had been staying for some time. Very probably the Saxon preacher
would make use of the old open-air meeting-place, where the pagan
villagers used to worship Woden; and thus the spots still used for
public worship are in many cases the same which used to echo with the
songs of Thor and the prayers of pagan Saxons.

These crosses were the rallying-points for Christian congregations
before churches arose, and the bells in their turrets summoned the
people to the service of God. In Somersetshire alone there are two
hundred relics of the piety of our forefathers; and the North of England
and Scotland are especially rich in crosses. No two are ever quite
similar. Some are of simple design or character; but many have such
beautiful carving and scrollwork that we are astonished at the skill of
the workmen who, with very simple and rude tools, could produce such
wonderful specimens of art.

The pagan Saxons worshipped stone pillars; so in order to wean them from
their ignorant superstition, the Christian missionaries, such as St.
Wilfrid, erected these stone crosses, and carved upon them the figures
of the Saviour and His Apostles, displaying before the eyes of their
hearers the story of the cross written in stone.

The North of England has very many examples of the zeal of these early
preachers of the faith, and probably most of them were fashioned by the
monks and followers of St. Wilfrid, who was Archbishop of York at the
beginning of the eighth century.

When he travelled about his diocese a large body of monks and workmen
attended him; and amongst these were the cutters in stone who made the
crosses and erected them on the spots which Wilfrid consecrated to the
worship of God.

The Whalley cross is earlier than the time of Wilfrid. It is one of the
crosses of Paulinus, who was one of the priests sent by Pope Gregory to
help Augustine in the work of converting the Saxons, and who became
Archbishop of York. Under the shadow of this very cross Paulinus, who
came to England in 601 A.D., preached nearly thirteen hundred years ago.
Indeed an old monkish writer wished to represent that Augustine himself
came to Whalley and erected the cross, which he calls "St. Augustine's
Cross"; but there is little doubt that Paulinus was the founder. In
Puritan times this and other relics of early faith suffered badly, and
was removed with two others from the churchyard, and used as a gatepost;
but the spoiler repented, and restored it once more to its old

But how did the founders learn to make such beautiful patterns and
designs? St. Wilfrid had travelled much; he had been to Rome and seen
the wonderful examples of Roman skill in the great city. The Romans had
left behind them in England their beautiful pavements, rich in designs,
with splendid borders of fine workmanship. These, doubtless, the monks
copied on parchment in the writing-rooms of their monasteries, and gave
their drawings to the monks in the stone-shed, who reproduced them in
stone. The only tool they had to produce all this fine and delicate work
was the pick, and this increases our wonder at the marvels they were
able to accomplish.

There is a famous cross at Ruthwell, in Dumfriesshire, which for a short
time formed part of the kingdom of Northumbria. Scenes from early
Christian history are portrayed, and these are surrounded by bands with
sentences in Latin describing them. The lowest panel is too defaced for
us to determine the subjects; on the second we see the flight into
Egypt; on the third figures of Paul, the first hermit, and Anthony, the
first monk, are carved; on the fourth is a representation of our Lord
treading under foot the heads of swine; and on the highest there is the
figure of John the Baptist with the Lamb. On the opposite side are the
Annunciation, the Salutation, and other scenes of gospel history. On the
side of the cross is some beautiful scrollwork, which shows a wonderful
development of skill and art.

In addition to the Latin sentences there are five stanzas of an
Anglo-Saxon poem of singular beauty. It is the story of the crucifixion
told in touching words by the cross itself, which narrates its own sad
tale from the time when it was a growing tree by the woodside, until at
length, after the body of the Lord had been taken down--

"The warriors left me there,
Standing defiled with blood."

On the head of the cross are inscribed the words, "Caedmon made me."
This Caedmon was the holy monk, on whom the gift of writing verses was
bestowed by Heaven, who in the year 680 A.D. began to pour forth his
songs in praise of Almighty God, and told in Anglo-Saxon poetry the
story of the creation and the life of our Lord. The Bewcastle cross is
somewhat similar to that at Ruthwell. We see again the figure of our
Lord standing on the heads of swine, but the lower figure is represented
with a hawk, the sign of nobility, and is probably that of a person to
whom the cross is a memorial. The ornamentation on this cross is very
perfect and beautifully executed. The very beautiful cross at Eyam, in
Derbyshire, differs both in style and workmanship from almost any other.
The shaft has evidently been broken. In the panels of the head of the
cross are figures of angels.

Sometimes we find some very strange beasts carved on the old crosses. On
the cross at Ilkley we observe some of these curious animals with their
long tails interlacing. Sometimes the tail is wound round the creature's
body, and the idea of the artist was to represent the animal reduced to
a state of powerlessness. One forepaw is held up in sign of submission.
Above is a figure of our Lord triumphing over the powers of evil, and
these animals represent probably man's lower nature owning the supremacy
of the King of Heaven. On the other side of the cross are figures of the
four evangelists. The upper half of the figures alone appears dressed in
flowing garments; each is carrying a book; circles of glory surround
their heads, which are the symbols of the evangelists. St. Matthew has a
man's head; St. Mark a leopard's; St. Luke's a calf's; and St. John an
eagle's head.

The crosses at Hexham, where Archbishop Wilfrid founded a monastery, are
very ancient. We are able to tell the date of these stones, for they
were placed at the head and feet of the grave of Bishop Acca, who was a
follower of St. Wilfrid, and accompanied him on his missionary journeys.
Acca succeeded Wilfrid as Bishop of Hexham, and according to the old
chronicler Bede, "being a most active man and great in the sight of God
and man, he much adorned and added to his church." Acca died in 738
A.D., and as the monastery of Hexham was soon destroyed, these crosses
must have been erected eleven hundred and sixty-three years ago.

The cross at St. Andrew's, Bishop Auckland, is of much later date, and
the workmanship is not nearly so fine and delicate as in the earlier
crosses. The Saxons had deteriorated as a race just before the Normans
came, and although the cross still appears on the flat stone, the design
on the shaft of the cross merely represents a hunting scene; and a Saxon
bowman is shown shooting at some animals. The religious conceptions of
an earlier and purer time have disappeared. The moustache of the
sportsman also shows that the stone belonged to a period very near the
Norman Conquest, when that fashion of wearing the hair was in vogue.

England is remarkable for these specimens of ancient art. On the
Continent there are very few of these elaborately carved crosses; but
it is noteworthy that wherever the English or Irish missionaries went,
they erected these memorials of their faith. In Switzerland, where
they founded some monasteries, there are some very similar to those
in England.

There are several other kinds of crosses besides those in churchyards.
There are market crosses, called "cheeping" crosses after the
Anglo-Saxon _cheap_, to buy, from which Cheapside, in London, Chippenham
and Chipping Norton derive their names. Some crosses are "pilgrim"
crosses, and were erected along the roads leading to shrines where
pilgrimages were wont to be made, such as the shrine of St. Thomas
a Becket at Canterbury, Glastonbury, Our Lady of Walsingham. Sometimes
they were erected at the places where the corpse rested on its way to
burial, as the Eleanor crosses at Waltham and Charing, in order that
people might pray for the soul of the deceased. Monks also erected
crosses to mark the boundaries of the property of their monastery.

[Illustration: AN OLD MARKET CROSS]

Time has dealt hardly with the old crosses of England. Many of them
were destroyed by the Puritans, who by the Parliamentary decree of
1643, ordered that all altars and tables of stones, all crucifixes,
images and pictures of God and the saints, with all superstitious
inscriptions, should be obliterated and destroyed. In London, St.
Paul's Cross, Charing Cross, and that in Cheapside, were levelled
with the ground, and throughout the country many a beautiful work
of art which had existed hundreds of years shared the same fate.
Place-names sometimes preserve their memory, such as Gerard's Cross,
in Buckinghamshire, Crosby, Crossens, Cross Inn, Croston; these and
many others record the existence in ancient times of a cross, and
probably beneath its shade the first preachers of the gospel stood,
when they turned the hearts of our heathen ancestors, and taught them
the holy lessons of the Cross.



Saxon monasteries--Parish churches--Benedict Biscop--Aldhelm--St.
Andrew's, Hexham--Brixworth Church--Saxon architecture--Norman
architecture--Characteristics of the style--Transition Norman--
Early English style--Decorated style--Perpendicular style.

The early Saxon clergy lived in monasteries, where they had a church
and a school for the education of the sons of thanes. Monastic houses,
centres of piety and evangelistic zeal, sprang up, the abodes of
religion, civilisation, peace, and learning. They were the schools of
culture, sacred and profane, of industry and agriculture; the monks were
the architects, the painters, the sculptors, the goldsmiths of their
time. They formed the first libraries; they taught the young; they
educated women in convents, and by degrees dispersed the shades of
ignorance, idolatry, and barbarism, and reformed England.

To record the number of these monastic houses which were erected in the
seventh and eighth centuries would require much space; and as our chief
concern is with the vestiges that remain in our English villages, and
as most of these Saxon monasteries were plundered and destroyed by the
Danes, or rebuilt on a grander scale by the Normans, we will not now
enumerate them.

After the country had been evangelised by the itinerant monks and
preachers, the next process was to establish a church in every village,
and to provide a pastor to minister therein. Archbishop Theodore
encouraged the thanes to build and endow churches on their estates, and
introduced to this country the parochial system, by means of which all
villages could have the services of a resident pastor.

Then the thane's house was not considered complete without its chapel;
and in the scattered hamlets and village communities churches arose,
rudely built of wood and roofed with thatch, wherein the Saxon _ceorls_
and _cottiers_ loved to worship.

The great Churchmen of the day were not content with such humble
structures. They had travelled to Rome, and seen there some of the fine
buildings dedicated for divine service; so they determined to have the
like in their own country. One of these noble builders was Benedict
Biscop, founder of the twin monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow. When he
built the former, he imported foreign artists from Gaul, who constructed
the monastery after the Roman style, and amongst other things introduced
glazed windows, which had never been seen in England before. Nor was his
new house bare and unadorned. He brought from Rome vast stores of church
furniture, many books, and the "arch-chanter" John, to teach his monks
the music and ritual of Rome.

Aldhelm, Abbot of Malmesbury, and first Bishop of Sherborne, was one of
the foremost church-builders of the time, and the beautiful churches at
Malmesbury, Sherborne, Bradford-on-Avon, Frome, and Wareham, owe their
erection to his instrumentality. Wilfrid also was one of the saintly
architects of the period. Here is a description of the church of St.
Andrew, at Hexham, taken from the writings of Richard, prior of the
monastery there:--

"The foundations of this church St. Wilfrid laid deep in the earth for
the crypts and oratories, and the passages leading to them, which were
then with great exactness contrived and built under ground. The walls,
which were of great length, and raised to an immense height, and divided
into three several stones or tiers, he supported by square and other
kinds of well-polished columns. Also, the walls, the capitals of the
columns which supported them, and the arch of the sanctuary, he
decorated with historical representations, imagery, and various figures
of relief, carved in stone, and painted with a most agreeable variety of
colour. The body of the church he compassed about with pentices and
porticoes, which, both above and below, he divided with great and
inexpressible art, by partition walls and winding stairs. Within the
staircases, and above them, he caused flights of steps and galleries of
stone, and several passages leading from them both ascending and
descending, to be so artfully disposed, that multitudes of people might
be there, and go quite round the church, without being seen by anyone
below in the nave. Moreover in the several divisions of the porticoes or
aisles, he erected many most beautiful and private oratories of
exquisite workmanship; and in them he caused to be placed altars in
honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Michael, St. John the Baptist,
and the holy Apostles, martyrs, confessors, and virgins, with all decent
and proper furniture to each of them, some of which, remaining at this
day, appear like so many turrets and fortified places."


The Danish wars had a disastrous effect on such noble structures raised
by these monastic architects, as well as on many a rustic village
church, which fell a prey to the ruthless invading bands of pagan
warriors. But frequently, as we study the history written in the
stonework of our churches, we find amid the massive Norman walls traces
of the work of Saxon builders, an arch here, a column there, which link
our own times with the distant past when England was divided into eight
kingdoms, or when Danegeld was levied to buy off the marauding

Roman buildings served as a model for our Saxon architects, and Roman
bricks were much used by them. Brixworth Church is perhaps the finest
specimen of our early Saxon churches. It has semicircular arches, made
of Roman bricks, springing from square massive piers with single abaci.


We will try to point out the distinguishing features of Saxon work, in
order that you may be able to detect the evidence of its existence in
your own village and neighbourhood. The walls are chiefly formed of
rubble or rag stone, having "long and short work," _i.e._ long block of
cut stone laid alternately horizontally and vertically, at the corners
of the building and in the jambs of the doors. Often narrow ribs of
masonry run vertically up the walls, and a string-course runs
horizontally. The churches of Barnack and Wittering in Northamptonshire,
St. Michael's, Oxford, and the towers of Earl's Barton are good examples
of this.


Saxon doorways have semicircular arches, and sometimes the head is
shaped in the form of a triangle. The jambs are square-edged, the stone
of the arch is plain, and a hood or arch of ribwork projecting from the
surface of the wall surrounds the doorway. Belfry windows have two
semicircular-headed lights divided by a _baluster_ shaft, _i.e._ a
column resembling a turned-wood pillar. This feature is quite peculiar
to Saxon architecture.

Anglo-Saxon single-light windows have two splays, increasing in width
from the centre of the wall in which the window is placed. Norman
windows have only one splay on the internal side of the building. Saxon
arches separating the nave from the aisles and chancel are plain. There
is no sub-arch as in Norman buildings. They are often very small,
sometimes only five or six feet wide, and stand on square piers.

Built by Benedict Biscop, _circa_ A.D. 674]

Some Saxon churches have crypts, but few of them remain. The crypt made
by St. Wilfrid at Hexham, mentioned above, still exists, and also one at
Ripon Cathedral, in which there is a small window called "Wilfrid's
needle." There is a legend about this which states that if a maid goes
through the "needle," she will be married within the year. Repton Church
has a very perfect specimen of Saxon crypt.

The ground plan of Saxon churches differed. Many were cruciform, and
consisted of nave, transepts, and chancel. The east wall of the chancel
was often semicircular or polygonal, sometimes rectangular. The church
of St. Lawrence, at Bradford-on-Avon, mentioned by William of
Malmesbury, is a fine specimen of a Saxon church, and also the little
church at Escombe, Durham, and that of Deerhurst, Gloucestershire,
recently rescued from being used as a farmstead.

After the close of the thousandth year after the birth of Christ a new
impulse was given to church-building. People imagined that with that
year the millennium would arrive and the Second Advent take place. It
would be vain to build beautiful churches, if they were so soon to
perish in the general destruction of the world, as vain as to heap up
treasure by means of trade. Hence people's minds were unsettled, and the
churches left in ruins. But when the millenary had safely passed away,
they began to restore the fallen shrines, and build new churches, and
the late Saxon or early Norman style came into vogue. Canute was a great
church-builder, and Edward the Confessor rebuilt Westminster Abbey after
the new fashion. Then came William the Conqueror with his Norman
builders, and soon nearly every village had its church, which was
constructed, according to William of Malmesbury, _novo aedificandi

We will now notice the characteristics of early Norman work, traces of
which you may be able to recognise in your own church. The doorways are
very remarkable, profusely adorned with richly carved ornamental
mouldings and sculpture. The archways are round, and are composed of a
succession of receding arches, all elaborately carved. The doorway of
Malmesbury Church has eight arches, recessed one within the other. These
arches are supported by one or more shafts, which are sometimes carved.
Above the door and below the arch is the tympanum, covered with
sculpture, representing scriptural subjects, such as the figure of the
Saviour in allusion to His saying, "I am the door," or the _Agnus Dei_,
or Adam and Eve, or such legendary or symbolical subjects as St. George
and the Dragon, or the Tree of Life.


Porches are not very common in early Norman structures, but several
still exist, notably at Malmesbury, Balderton, and Brixworth. The
windows are usually small and narrow, the jambs being splayed only on
the inside of the church. Three such windows placed together usually
give light over the altar. The walls of Norman buildings are thick and
massive, and are often faced with cut stone. String-courses or mouldings
projecting from the walls, run horizontally along them, and are often
adorned with the zigzag or other Norman patterns of ornament. The tower
often stands between the nave and the chancel, and is usually low and
massive. In the eastern counties are found many round towers made of
flint masonry. Flat buttresses are a sure sign of Norman work, as they
were not used in any of the subsequent styles of architecture.

[Illustration: NORMAN CAPITALS
(1) Crypt, Worcester Cathedral
(2) Winchester Cathedral]

The arches of the Norman builders are easily recognised. The piers in
country churches are nearly always cylindrical; but there are several
examples of massive square or octagonal piers, and also a number
of round columns attached, so as to form one pier. The _cushion_
capital is the most common form used in the Norman style. It is easily
recognisable, but difficult to be described; and perhaps the
accompanying sketch will enable the reader to discover a cushion
capital when he sees it. The early Norman builders loved to bestow
much labour on their capitals; and while preserving the usual cushion
form, enriched them with much elaboration. The _scallop_ frequently
occurs, and also the _volute_, which was copied from the work of Roman
builders, who themselves imitated the Greek sculptures. Sometimes the
capitals are elaborately carved with figures of men, or animals, or

(1) Indented. Stoneleigh, Warwickshire
(2) Zig-zag. Iffley, Oxfordshire
(3) Alternate Billet. Stoneleigh, Warwickshire
(4) Double Cone. Stoneleigh, Warwickshire
(5) Pellet. Stoneleigh, Warwickshire
(6) Lozenge. Essendine, Rutland
(7) Cable. Fritwell, Oxfordshire
(8) Star. Stringham, Norfolk
(9) Medallion. Iffley, Oxfordshire
(10) Beak-Head. Steetley, Derbyshire
(11) Nail-Head. St. Ethelred's, Norwich
(12) Embattled. Lincoln Cathedral]

Norman arches resemble the doorways in having sub-arches recessed within
an outer arch, the intrados often being decorated with mouldings such as
the zigzag or the lozenge. The chancel arch is usually very elaborately
ornamented with various mouldings, which are very numerous and peculiar.
Those illustrated on the previous page are the most common.


The Normans were also much skilled in vaulting with stone, as the crypts
in our churches testify. Over the vaulted roof of the aisles was the
_triforium_, a kind of gallery between this roof and the external roof
of the church. Very few of the wooden roofs of Norman churches remain.
The fonts are large, square or cylindrical in shape, and are decorated
with mouldings or sculpture, often very elaborate but rudely executed.
At Winchester Cathedral the font is carved with a representation of the
baptism of King Cynigils at Dorchester. Other favourite subjects were
the creation of man, the formation of Eve, the expulsion from Paradise,
Christ upon the cross, the Four Evangelists, the baptism of our Lord,
and legendary or symbolical representations.


This style of architecture prevailed until about the middle of the
twelfth century, when the _Transition Norman_ became in vogue. It is
characterised by the introduction of the pointed arch. Many conjectures
as regards its origin have been made. Some suppose that the idea of
making the arch pointed was suggested by the intersection of
semicircular arches in ornamental arcades. Others say that the Crusaders
introduced it on their return from the East, or that it was suggested by
the Norman vaulting, or from the form of the _vesica piscis_, the most
ancient of Christian symbols. The Cistercian monks were the first to
introduce it to this country, and the Cistercian abbeys of Fountains,
Kirkstall, Furness, and Tintern are noble specimens of Transition Norman
work. Religious zeal and enthusiasm are often reflected in the improved
condition of our churches, and the grand buildings of this period are
outward and visible signs of a great religious revival. Semicircular
arches, however, continued to be used for windows and for the triforium;
the capitals of the piers were decorated with foliage somewhat similar
to that used in a subsequent period.

(1) Salisbury Cathedral
(2) Lincoln Cathedral]

Then arose the Early English style of architecture which flourished
from about the year 1175 to 1275, and is characterised by a gradual
abandonment of the heavy and massive features of the Norman style, and
the adoption of lighter and more elegant forms of construction and
decoration. Salisbury Cathedral, erected 1220-1260 A.D., is the most
perfect example of this period. The arches are pointed, and the piers
supporting them are often composed of an insulated cylindrical column
surrounded by slender detached shafts, all uniting together under one
capital, and divided into parts by horizontal bands. In small churches
plain octagonal or circular piers are frequently used, as in the
succeeding style, from which they can only be distinguished by the
mouldings. Mouldings are often the surest guides in helping us to
ascertain the date of a building. We have already studied the Norman
mouldings. In this style they are composed of bold rounds and deep
hollows, usually plain, or ornamented with the dog-tooth.


The lancet window is now introduced, at first of only one light, very
narrow and long, and differing from the Norman window in having a
pointed arch. At the east end of the chancel there are often three
lancet windows, the centre one higher than the rest, with one dripstone
over them. The first idea of window-tracery was the introduction of a
plain lozenge-shaped opening over a double lancet window, the whole
being covered by a single dripstone. From this simple arrangement it
was not difficult to develop the beautiful bar-tracery which came into
vogue in the subsequent period of English architecture. The capitals
of the Early English style are bell-shaped, at first quite plain, but
subsequently these are often covered with beautifully sculptured foliage
of a very graceful character. Circular windows at this period came
into vogue in the gables of churches. They were either plain or
quatre-foiled. Norman towers were sometimes capped with spires in the
thirteenth century. The walls are not so thick or massive as in the
Norman period, and the buttresses are stouter and more numerous, and
project further from the wall. Flying buttresses were also introduced at
this period. We can generally distinguish Early English work from that
of the Norman style by its lightness and elegance, as compared with the
roughness and massiveness of the latter; and its plainness and
simplicity sufficiently distinguish it from that of the Decorated


The Decorated style (1275-1375) which prevailed during the reigns of
the three Edwards was ushered in by a period of Transition, during which
there was gradually developed the most perfect style which English
architectural skill has ever attained. In the thirteenth century our
builders were striving to attain the highest forms of graceful design
and artistic workmanship. In the fourteenth their work reached
perfection, while in the fifteenth there was a marked decline in their
art, which in spite of its elaborate details lacked the beauty of the
Decorated style.


[Illustration: OGEE ARCH]

The arches of this period are usually wider, and are distinguished from
those of the Early English by the character of the mouldings. The
ball-flower, consisting of a ball inclosed by three or four leaves,
somewhat resembling a rosebud, is the favourite ornament, and a
four-leaved flower is often used. Roll mouldings, quarter, half, or
three-quarters round, frequently occur, and produce a very pleasing
effect. The form of the arch is in many instances changed, and the
graceful _ogee_ arch is introduced. The piers are round or octagonal in
village churches, and in large churches are formed by a cluster of
cylindrical shafts, not detached as in the preceding period, but closely
united. The capitals are bell-shaped, and in large churches richly
sculptured. Few of the wooden roofs remain, as they have been superseded
in later times; but the marks of the old roofs may often be seen on the
eastern wall of the tower. The windows are larger than those of the
earlier style, and are filled with geometrical and flowing tracery of
great variety and beauty. Small windows have heads shaped in the ogee or
trefoil forms. Square-headed windows are not uncommon, especially in the
clerestory, and in monastic churches circular windows are frequently met
with. It is characteristic of this style that the carving is not so deep
as in the previous work. We find groups of shallow mouldings separated
by one cut deeper than the others.

[Illustration: CAPITALS
(1) Hanwell
(2) Chacombe Church]

(1) Merton College Chapel
(2) Sandiacre, Derbyshire]

[Illustration: MOULDINGS
(1) Elton, Huntingdonshire
(2) Austrey, Warwickshire]

At length the glories of the Decorated period pass away and are merged
and lost in the _Perpendicular_ which held sway from 1375 to 1540. The
work is now more elaborate and richer, but lacks the majestic beauty of
the Decorated style. It is easy to distinguish Perpendicular windows.
They are larger than any which we have seen before; the mullions are
carried straight up through the head of the window; smaller mullions
spring from the heads of the principal lights, and thus the windows
are broken up into panel-like compartments, very different from the
beautiful curves of the Decorated style. Simple pointed arches are still
in use, but gradually they become flattened; and the arch, commonly
known as the Tudor arch, is a peculiar feature of this style. In village
churches the mouldings of the arch are often continued down the piers
without any capital or shaft.


Piers are commonly formed from a square or parallelogram with the angles
fluted, having on the flat face of each side a semicyclindrical shaft.
The base mouldings are polygonal. The most common doorway is the Tudor
arch having a square head over it. The doors are often richly
ornamented. There are a large number of square-headed windows, and so
proud were these builders of their new style of window that they
frequently inserted Perpendicular windows in walls of a much earlier
date. Hence it is not always safe to determine the age of a church by an
examination of the windows alone. Panel-work tracery on the upper part
of the interior walls is a distinctive feature of this style.



The slope of the roof is much lower than before, and often the former
high-pitched roofs were at this period replaced by the almost flat roofs
prevalent in the fifteenth century. The parapets are often embattled.

The rose, the badge of the houses of York and Lancaster, is often used
as an ornamental detail, and also rows of the Tudor flower, composed of
four petals, frequently occur. One of the most distinctive mouldings is
the _cavetto_, a wide shallow hollow in the centre of a group of
mouldings. Also we find a peculiar wave, and a kind of double ogee
moulding which are characteristic of the style.


Spires of this period are not very common, and usually spring from
within the parapet. The interiors of our churches were enriched at this
time with much elaborate decoration. Richly carved woodwork in screens,
rood-lofts, pulpits, and pews, sculptured sedilia and a noble reredos,
and much exuberance of decorative imagery and panel-work, adorned our
churches at this time, much of which was obliterated or destroyed by
spoliators of the Reformation period, the iconoclastic Puritans of the
seventeenth century, or the "restorers" of the nineteenth. However, we
may be thankful that so much remains to the present day of the work of
our great English church-builders, while we endeavour to trace the
history of each church written in stone, and to appreciate these relics
of antiquity which most of our villages possess.



The coming of the Normans--_Domesday Book_--Its objects--Its contents--
Barkham in _Domesday_--Saxon families--Saxons who retained their
estates--Despoiled landowners--Village officers and artisans--
of Normans--The teaching of _Domesday_.

There was a great stir in our English villages when the news was brought
to them that William of Normandy had landed in England, and intended to
fight for the English Crown. News travelled very slowly in those days.
First the villeins and the cottiers who were not fighting with their
lord heard that a great battle had been fought at Stamford Bridge, in
Yorkshire, in which their gallant King Harold had defeated his own
brother Tostig, aided by the King of Norway, Hardrada, and a large army.
Then the news reached them that William of Normandy had arrived, and
that Harold was marching night and day to meet him. Then they heard of
the fatal battle of Hastings; and when it was told them that their brave
King Harold was slain, and that William, the Norman, was the conqueror
of England and the acknowledged king of the country, all England groaned
to hear the fatal news. And then, after a few years, they found that
their old lord had been deprived of his estates, and a new, haughty,
proud Norman, who talked like a Frenchman, and laughed at their dear old
Saxon language, came and ruled over them. He brought Norman servants
with him, who took the best of the land, and made the Saxons do all the
hard work on the farm, treating them like slaves.

And now we must examine a most valuable document which throws a
wonderfully clear light on the condition of England just before and
after the Conquest. I refer to the _Domesday Book_, or survey of the
country which William caused to be made. The Anglo-Saxon chronicler
tells us that after a great Council at Gloucester the king "sent his men
over all England, into every shire, and caused to be ascertained how
many hundred hides were in the shire, or what land the king himself had,
and cattle within the land, or what dues he ought to have in twelve
months from the shire. Also he caused to be written how much land his
archbishops had, and his suffragan bishops, and abbots, and earls; and
though I may narrate somewhat prolixly, what or how much each man had
who was a holder of land in England, in land, or in cattle, and how much
money it might be worth. So very narrowly he caused it to be traced out,
that there was not one single hide, nor one yard of land, nor even, it
is shame to tell, though it seemed to him no shame to do, an ox, nor a
cow, nor a swine was left that was not set down in his writ. And all the
writings were brought to him afterwards."

The commissioners appointed by the king, among whom were Remigius,
Bishop of Lincoln, and Walter Giffard, Earl of Buckingham, were to
inquire the following details concerning each parish:--

Its name. Who held it in the time of King Edward the Confessor. The
present possessor. Number of hides in the manor, number of ploughs, of
homagers, villeins, cottars, free tenants, tenants in socage; how much
wood, meadow, and pasture; number of mills and fishponds; the value in
the time of the last king; and its present value.

Such a survey was of immense value. Its object, according to the king,
was that every man might know and be satisfied with his rightful
possessions, and not with impunity usurp the property of others. But it
was also of great service to the king, so that he might know who were
his vassals, the amount of taxation which he could draw from them, and
the actual strength of his new kingdom.

The commissioners performed their work with much care and exactness. The
survey is wonderfully complete, and was compiled in a very short time.
It is of great value to the historians of subsequent ages. The writing
of the book is very clear and beautiful, the abbreviations alone
presenting some difficulty to an unaccustomed reader. No illuminations
adorn the text. At the head of each page the name of the county is
written in red ink. The book is preserved in an ancient chest in the
Public Record Office, where it was removed from the Chapter House at

As an example we may take the _Domesday_ description of the parish of
Barkham, which runs as follows:--


"Rex ten in dnio Bercheha. AElmer Tenuit de rege. E. Te 7 m iii hid.
Tra e iii car. In dnio e una, 7 vi uilli 7 iiii bord cu iii car. Ibi
v. ac pti. Silua de XL pore. Valuit iiii lib. T.R.E. 7 m: iii. lib."


"In the hundred of Charlton.

"The king holds Barkham in demesne. AElmer held it of King Edward. Then,
as now, it was rated for three hides. The land is three ploughlands. In
demesne there is one ploughland. There are six villeins, four borderers
with three ploughs. There are five acres of pasture. Wood for the
pasturage of forty hogs. It was worth 4l. in the time of King Edward,
afterwards, and now, 3l."

King Edward here mentioned was Edward the Confessor. A hide, when it is
used as a measure of land, may be taken at about one hundred and twenty
acres. A ploughland was as much land as one plough with oxen could
plough in a year. The villeins were men who tilled their lord's land,
and in return for certain services had holdings under him. The borderers
were cottagers who also worked for their lord and held smaller holdings,
from one to ten acres. In other entries we find the number of serfs
recorded, and also mention of the hall of the lord of the manor, where
the manorial courts were held, the church, the priest's house, the names
of landowners and tenants, the mill, and of the various officers and
artisans who made up the village community.

_Domesday_ tells us of the old Saxon families, many of whom lost their
estates when the Conqueror came, and were supplanted by the favourites
of the new king. Some of them contrived to weather the storm and retain
their lands. Almer, or Almar, the lord of Barkham, who succeeded his
brother Stigand as Bishop of Elmham in 1047, when the latter became
archbishop, was among the number of the dispossessed, and probably found
shelter with many of his compatriots in the cloister. Several of
William's Norman adventurers married the heiresses of the old Saxon
gentry, and thus became possessed of great estates. Thus Robert D'Oili
married the daughter of Wigod, lord of Wallingford, and soon gained
possession of his father-in-law's property.

However, the names of the fortunate Saxons who retained their estates
are few in comparison with those who were dispossessed. We find Edgar
Atheling, real heir to the throne, retaining a small estate; but he was
a feeble prince, and therefore not to be feared by William. His sister
Cristina had also land in Oxfordshire. Bishop Osbern, of Exeter, a
kinsman of the late king, also held his estates; and amongst the list we
find Seward the huntsman, of Oxfordshire; Theodric the goldsmith; Wlwi
the huntsman, of Surrey; Uluric the huntsman, of Hampshire, who were not
deprived of their lands, their occupations being useful to the king.

The list of despoiled landowners is a long one, and need not here be
recorded. One Brictric was very unfortunate. When ambassador to Baldwin
of Flanders he refused to marry the count's daughter Maud. The slighted
lady became the Conqueror's consort, and in revenge for her despised
love caused Brictric to be imprisoned and his estates confiscated, some
of which were given to the queen. The luckless relations and connections
of the late royal house were consistently despoiled, amongst them
Editha, the beautiful queen of King Edward, and daughter of Earl Godwin,
of whom it was written: "_Sicut spina rosam genuit Godwynus Editham_";
and Gida, the mother of Harold; Godric, his son; and Gwith, his brother.
Harold himself--the earl, as he is called, and not the king, who fought
and died at Senlac, if he did not, as the romance states, end his life
as a holy hermit at Chester--had vast estates all over England, which
went to enrich William's hungry followers. Hereward the Wake, the
English hero, also held in pre-Norman days many fat manors. Few of the
Saxon landowners were spared, and it is unnecessary here to record the
names of the Uchtreds, Turgots, Turchils, Siwards, Leurics, who held
lands "in the time of King Edward," but whose place after Domesday knows
them no more.

_Domesday_ tells us also the names of the officers and artisans who
played important parts in the old village communities. The _villani_, or
villeins, corresponding to the Saxon _ceorls_, were the most important
class of tenants in villeinage, and each held about thirty acres in
scattered acre or half-acre strips, each a furlong in length and a perch
or two in breadth, separated by turf balks. The villein thus supported
himself and his family, and in return was bound to render certain
services to the lord of the manor, to work on the home farm, and provide
two or more oxen for the manorial plough-team. He was not a free tenant,
could acquire no property, and his lord's consent was needed for the
marriage of his daughters. But the law protected him from unjust usage;
his holdings were usually regranted to his son. He could obtain freedom
in several ways, and by degrees acquired the rights and privileges of a
free tenant.

Next to the villeins were the _bordarii_, who lived in _bords_ or
cottages, _i.e._ boarded or wooden huts, and ranked as a lower grade of
villeins. They held about five acres, but provided no oxen for the
manorial plough-team. Below them were the _cottarii_, or cottiers, who
were bound to do domestic work and supply the lord's table. They
corresponded to the modern labourer, but lacked his freedom. The lowest
class of all were the _servi_, or serfs, who corresponded to the Saxon
_theows_. In Norman times their condition was greatly improved; they
mingled with the cottiers and household servants, and gradually were
merged with them.

The _sochemanni_, or socmen, our yeomen, who abounded chiefly in the
Danish district of England, were inferior landowners who had special
privileges, and could not be turned out of their holdings, though they
rendered certain services to the lord of the manor, and in this respect
differed little from the villeins. _Domesday Book_ also mentions a class
of men called _burs_ or _geburs_, who were the same as _coliberti_; also
the _commendati_, who received privileges in return for services
rendered to the lord of the manor.

Each village community was self-contained, and had its own officers.
Although _Domesday Book_ was not compiled in order to ascertain the
condition of the Church and its ministers, and frequently the mention of
a parish church is omitted where we know one existed, the _presbyter_,
or priest, is often recorded. Archbishop Egbert's _Excerptiones_
ordained that "to every church shall be allotted one complete holding
(mansa), and that this shall be free from all but ecclesiastical
services." According to the Saxon laws every tenth strip of land was
set aside for the Church, and _Domesday_ shows that in many villages
there was a priest with his portion of land set apart for his support.

Then there was a _prepositus_, bailiff or reeve, who collected the lord's
rents, assisted by a _bedellus_, beadle or under-bailiff. _Bovarii_, or
oxherds, looked after the plough-teams. The _carpentarius_, or carpenter;
the _cementarius_, or bricklayer; the _custos apium_, or beekeeper; the
_faber_, or smith; the _molinarius_, or miller--were all important
officers in the Norman village; and we have mention also of the
_piscatores_ (fishermen), _pistores_ (bakers), _porcarii_ (swineherds),
_viccarii_ (cowmen), who were all employed in the work of the village

_Domesday Book_ enables us to form a fairly complete picture of our
villages in Norman and late Saxon times. It tells us of the various
classes who peopled the village and farmed its fields. It gives us a
complete list of the old Saxon gentry and of the Norman nobles and
adventurers who seized the fair acres of the despoiled Englishmen. Many
of them gave their names to their new possessions. The Mandevilles
settled at Stoke, and called it Stoke-Mandeville; the Vernons at
Minshall, and called it Minshall-Vernon. Hurst-Pierpont, Neville-Holt,
Kingston-Lysle, Hampstead-Norris, and many other names of places
compounded of Saxon and Norman words, record the names of William's
followers, who received the reward of their services at the expense of
the former Saxon owners. _Domesday Book_ tells us how land was measured
in those days, the various tenures and services rendered by the tenants,
the condition of the towns, the numerous foreign monasteries which
thrived on our English lands, and throws much light on the manners and
customs of the people of this country at the time of its compilation.
_Domesday Book_ is a perfect storehouse of knowledge for the historian,
and requires a lifetime to be spent for its full investigation.

[Illustration: DIAGRAM OF A MANOR]



Castle-building--Description of Norman castle--A Norman household--
Edwardian castles--Border castles--Chepstow--Grosmont--Raglan--Central
feature of feudalism--Fourteenth-century castle--Homes of chivalry--
Schools of arms--The making of a knight--Tournaments--Jousts--Tilting
at a ring--Pageants--"Apollo and Daphne"--Pageants at Sudeley Castle
and Kenilworth--Destruction of castles--Castles during Civil War period.

Many an English village can boast of the possession of the ruins of an
ancient castle, a gaunt rectangular or circular keep or donjon, looking
very stern and threatening even in decay, and mightily convincing of the
power of its first occupants. The new masters did not feel very safe in
the midst of a discontented and enraged people; so they built these huge
fortresses with strong walls and gates and moats. Indeed before the
Conquest the Norman knights, to whom the weak King Edward the Confessor
granted many an English estate, brought with them the fashion of
building castles, and many a strong square tower began to crown the
fortified mounds. Thence they could oppress the people in many ways, and
the writers of the time always speak of the building of castles with a
kind of shudder. After the Conquest, especially during the regency of
William's two lieutenants, Bishop Odo and Earl William Fitz-osbern, the
Norman adventurers who were rewarded for their services by the gift of
many an English manor, built castles everywhere. The wretched men of
the land were cruelly oppressed by forced labour in erecting these
strongholds, which were filled "with devils and evil men." Over a
thousand castles were built in nineteen years, and in his own castle
each earl or lord reigned as a small king, coining his own money, making
his own laws, having power of life and death over his dependants, and
often using his power most violently and oppressively.

[Illustration: OLD SARUM]

The original Norman castle consisted of a keep, "four-square to every
wind that blew," standing in a bailey court. It was a mighty place with
walls of great thickness about one hundred and fifty feet high. It
contained several rooms, one above the other. A deep well supplied the
inhabitants with water. Spiral stone steps laid in the thickness of the
wall led to the first floor where the soldiers of the garrison resided.
Above this was the hall, with a chimney and fireplace, where the lord
of the castle and his guests had their meals, and in the thickness of
the wall there were numerous chambers used as sleeping-apartments and
garderobes, and the existence of a piscina in one of these shows that it
was a small chapel or oratory. The upper story was divided by wooden
partitions into small sleeping-rooms; and unlike our modern houses, the
kitchen was at the top of the keep, and opened on the roof.

Descending some stone steps which led from the ground floor in ancient
time we should visit the dungeons, dark, gloomy, and dreadful places,
where deep silence reigns, only broken by the groans of despairing
captives in the miserable cells. In one of these toads and adders were
the companions of the captive. Another poor wretch reposed on a bed of
sharp flints, while the torture-chamber echoed with the cries of the
victims of mediaeval cruelty, who were hanged by their feet and smoked
with foul smoke, or hung up by their thumbs, while burning rings were
placed on their feet. In Peak Castle, Derbyshire, a poor, simple squire,
one Godfrey Rowland, was confined for six days without either food or
drink, and then released from the dungeon with his right hand cut off.
In order to extract a heavy ransom, to obtain lands and estates, to
learn the secrets of hidden treasure, the most ingenious and devilish
tortures were inflicted in these terrible abodes.

[Illustration: A NORMAN CASTLE
(1) The dungeon.
(2) Chapel.
(3) Stable.
(4) Inner bailey.
(5) Outer bailey.
(6) Barbican.
(7) Mount.
(8) Soldiers' lodgings.]

The same style of castle-building continued for a century and a half
after the Norman Conquest. It is possible to distinguish the later keeps
by the improved and fine-jointed ashlar stonework, by the more frequent
use of the stone of the district, instead of that brought from Caen, by
the ribs upon the groins of the vaulting of the galleries and chambers
in the walls, and by the more extensive use of ornaments in the bosses,
windows, doors, and fireplaces. The style of the decoration approaches
the Early English character.

The walls of the keep were not the only protection of the fortress. A
moat surrounds the whole castle, crossed by a drawbridge, protected
on the side remote from the castle by a barbican. High walls with an
embattled parapet surround the lower court, or ballium, which we enter
by a gate defended by strong towers. A portcullis has to be raised, and
a heavy door thrown back, before we can enter; while above in the stone
roof of the archway there are holes through which melted lead and pitch
can be poured upon our heads, if we attempt to enter the castle as
assailants. In the lower court are the stables, and the mound where the
lord dispenses justice, and where criminals and traitors are executed.
Another strong gateway flanked by towers protects the inner court, on
the edge of which stands the keep which frowns down upon us as we enter.

An immense household was supported in every castle. Not only were there
men-at-arms, but also cooks and bakers, brewers and tailors, carpenters,
smiths, masons, and all kinds of craftsmen; and all the crowd of workers
had to be provided with accommodation by the lord of the castle. Hence
a building, in the form of a large hall, was erected sometimes of stone,
usually of wood, in the lower or upper court for these soldiers and
artisans, where they slept and had their meals.

A new type of castle was introduced during the reigns of the three
Edwards. The stern, massive, and high-towering keep was abandoned, and
the fortifications arranged in a concentric fashion. A fine hall with
kitchens occupied the centre of the fortress; a large number of chambers
was added, and the inner and outer courts both defended by walls, as we
have already described, were introduced. The Edwardian castles of
Caernarvon and Beaumaris belong to this type of fortress.

[Illustration: BROUGHTON CASTLE]

The border counties of Wales are remarkable for the number and beauty
of their ancient castles. On the site of British earthworks the Romans
established their camps. The Saxons were obliged to erect their rude
earthen strongholds in order to keep back the rebellious Welsh, and
these were succeeded by Norman keeps. Monmouthshire is famous for its
castles; out of the eleven hundred erected in Norman times twenty-five
were built in that county. There is Chepstow Castle, with its early
Norman gateway spanned by a circular arch flanked by round towers. In
the inner court there are the gardens and ruins of a grand hall, and in
the outer the ruins of a chapel with evidences of beautifully groined
vaulting, and also a winding staircase leading to the battlements. In
the dungeon of the old keep at the south-east corner of the inner court
Roger de Britolio, Earl of Hereford, was imprisoned for rebellion
against the Conqueror, and in later times Henry Martin, the regicide,
lingered as a prisoner for thirty years, employing his enforced leisure
in writing a book in order to prove that it is not right for a man to be
governed by one wife. Then there is Grosmont Castle, the fortified
residence of the Earl of Lancaster; Skenfrith Castle; White Castle, the
_Album Castrum_ of the Latin records, the Landreilo of the Welsh, with
its six towers, portcullis, and drawbridge flanked by massive tower,
barbican, and other outworks; and Raglan Castle, with its splendid
gateway, its Elizabethan banqueting-hall ornamented with rich stone
tracery, its bowling-green, garden terraces, and spacious courts, an
ideal place for knightly tournaments in ancient days. Raglan is
associated with the gallant defence of the castle by the Marquis of
Worcester in the Civil War.

The ancient castles of England were the central feature of feudal
society. They were the outward and visible sign of that system. M.
Guizot in his _History of Civilisation_ says, "It was feudalism which
constructed them; their elevation was, so to speak, the declaration of
its triumph." On the Continent they were very numerous long before
castle-building became the fashion in England, and every suzerain saw
with displeasure his vassal constructing his castle; for the vassal thus
insured for himself a powerful means of independence. The Norman barons
in the troublous times of Stephen lived a life of hunting and pillage;
they were forced to have a fortified retreat where they might shut
themselves up after an expedition, repel the vengeance of their foes,
and resist the authorities who attempted to maintain order in the

Others followed the example of the barons. The townsfolk fortified their
towns, monks their monasteries; and even within the town-walls many
houses had their towers and gates and barriers in order to keep back
troublesome visitors.

Here is a description of a French castle in the fourteenth century:--

"First imagine to yourself a superb position, a steep mountain,
bristling with rocks, furrowed with ravines and precipices; upon the
declivity is the castle. The small houses which surround it set off its
grandeur; the river seems to turn aside with respect; it forms a large
semicircle at its feet. This castle must be seen when, at sunrise, the
outward galleries glimmer with the armour of the sentinels, and the
towers are shown all brilliant with their large new gratings. Those high
buildings must be seen, which fill those who defend them with courage,
and with fear those who should be tempted to attack them.

"The door presents itself covered with heads of boars or wolves, flanked
with turrets and crowned with a high guard-house. Enter, there are three
inclosures, three moats, three drawbridges to pass. You find yourself in
a large square court, where are cisterns, and on the right and left the
stables, hen-houses, pigeon-houses, coach-houses; the cellars, vaults,
and prisons are below; above are the dwelling-apartments; above these
are the magazines, larders, or salting-rooms, and arsenals. All the
roofs are bordered with machicolations, parapets, guard-walks, and
sentry-boxes. In the middle of the court is the donjon, which contains
the archives and the treasure. It is deeply moated all round, and can
only be entered by a bridge, almost always raised. Although the walls,
like those of the castle, are six feet thick, it is surrounded up to
half its height with a chemise, or second wall, of large cut stones.
This castle has just been rebuilt. There is something light, fresh,
laughing about it, not possessed by the heavy massive castles of the
last century."

One would scarcely expect to hear a castle described as "light, fresh,
laughing"; yet so a fourteenth-century castle seemed to eyes accustomed
to the gloomy, stern, and massive structures of the eleventh and twelfth
centuries. In these no beauty or display of art was attempted. Defence
and safety were the only objects sought after in the construction of our
ancient strongholds.

Strange as it may seem, these castles were the birthplaces and homes of
chivalry. Women were raised to an exalted position, and honoured and
reverenced by knights and warriors. A prize won in a tournament was
esteemed of vastly greater value, if it were bestowed upon the
successful combatant by some lady's hand. "Queens of Beauty" presided at
these contests of knightly skill and daring. The statutes and ordinances
for jousts and tournaments made by John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, at
the command of Edward IV., conclude thus: "Reserving always to the
queenes highness and the ladyes there present, the attributing and gift
of the prize after the manner and forme accustomed." If a knight was
guilty of any impropriety of conduct, he was soundly beaten by the other
knights, in order to teach him to respect the honour of the ladies and
the rights of chivalry.

In the days of chivalry a knight vowed in somewhat extravagant language
eternal love to his particular lady fair, wore her glove or her guerdon
on his helmet, and swore to protect it with his life. Family ties and
domestic joys were cultivated. The wife of a knight was often herself a
warrior. Fair ladies have donned armour and followed their lords to the
Crusades; and often during her lord's absence at the wars in France, or
Scotland, or the Holy Land, the wife would defend his fief and castle,
and sometimes was called upon to withstand a siege, when some
neighbouring lord coveted the fair estates of the absent warrior, and
sought to obtain them by force of arms.

The castles also were schools, not of learning, but of arms and
chivalry, where the sons of vassals were trained in all the qualites
that become a knight. The sons of vassals were sent to the castle of the
suzerain to be brought up with his sons. Numerous reasons have been
assigned for the origin of this custom, which we need not now enumerate.
The practice, however, became general, and concerning it an ancient work
entitled _L'ordre de la Chevalerie_ records:--

"It is fitting that the son of the knight, while he is a squire, should
know how to take care of a horse; and it is fitting that he should serve
before and be subject to his lord; for otherwise he will not know the
nobleness of his lordship when he shall be a knight; and to this end
every knight shall put his son in the service of another knight, to the
end that he may learn to carve at table and to serve, and to arm and
apparel a knight in his youth. According as to the man who desires to
learn to be a tailor or a carpenter, it is desirable that he should have
for a master one who is a tailor or a carpenter; it is suitable that
every nobleman who loves the order of chivalry, and wishes to become and
be a good knight, should first have a knight for a master."

When the young squire attained the age of manhood he was admitted to the
honour of knighthood, which was bestowed upon him with much ceremony and
dignity. First he was divested of his garments and put in a bath, a
symbol of purification; then they clothed him in a white tunic, a symbol
of purity, in a red robe, a symbol of the blood which he was bound to
shed in the service of the faith; and then in a close black coat, a
reminder of the death which awaited him. Then he was obliged to observe
a fast for twenty-four hours, and in the evening entered the church and
there passed the night in prayer. On the morrow after confession and the
receiving of Holy Communion, he heard a sermon upon the duties of
knighthood, and then advancing to the altar presented his sword to the
priest, who blessed it. Kneeling before his lord he was asked, "With
what design do you desire to enter into the order? If it is in order to
become rich, to repose yourself, and to be honoured without doing honour
to chivalry, you are unworthy of it, and would be to the order of
chivalry what the simoniacal priest is to the prelacy."

His answers being satisfactory, knights, or ladies, advance and clothe
him with the equipments of his order, spurs, the hauberk or coat of
mail, the cuirass, the vambraces and gauntlets, and lastly his sword.
Then his lord gives him three blows of a sword on his shoulder, saying,
"In the name of God, of Saint Michael, and Saint George I dub thee
knight," adding, "Be brave, adventurous, and loyal." He then mounts his
horse, caracoles about, brandishing his lance, and afterwards in the
courtyard he repeats the performances before the people ever eager to
take part in the spectacle.

[Illustration: TOURNAMENT]

The young knight was now able to take part in the jousts, and all kinds
of chivalric displays, which were common and frequent. Many castles
have, like that at Carisbrooke, a tilting-ground within the walls; but
great and important tournaments were held outside the castle. Richard I.
appointed five special places for the holding of tournaments, namely
between Sarum and Wilton, between Stamford and Wallingford, between
Warwick and Kenilworth, between Brakely and Mixeberg, and between Blie
and Tykehill. There was much pomp and ceremony attached to these
knightly exercises. The lists, as the barriers were called which
inclosed the scene of combat, were superbly decorated, and surrounded by
pavilions belonging to the champions, ornamented with their arms and
banners. The seats reserved for the noble ladies and gentlemen who came
to see the fight were hung with tapestry embroidered with gold and
silver. Everyone was dressed in the most sumptuous manner; the minstrels
and heralds were clothed in the costliest garments; the knights who were
engaged in the sports and their horses were most gorgeously arrayed. The
whole scene was one of great splendour and magnificence, and, when the
fight began, the shouts of the heralds who directed the tournament, the
clashing of arms, the clang of trumpets, the charging of the combatants,
and the shouts of the spectators, must have produced a wonderfully
impressive and exciting effect upon all who witnessed the strange

The regulations and laws of the tournament were very minute. When many
preliminary arrangements had been made with regard to the examination of
arms and helmets and the exhibition of banners, etc., at ten o'clock on
the morning of the appointed day, the champions and their adherents were
required to be in their places. Two cords divided the combatants, who
were armed with a pointless sword and a truncheon hanging from their
saddles. When the word was given by the lord of the tournament, the
cords were removed, and the champions charged and fought until the
heralds sounded the signal to retire. It was considered the greatest
disgrace to be unhorsed. A French earl once tried to unhorse our King
Edward I., when he was returning from Palestine, wearied by the journey.
The earl threw away his sword, cast his arms around the king's neck, and
tried to pull him from his horse. But Edward put spurs to his horse and
drew the earl from the saddle, and then shaking him violently, threw him
to the ground.

The joust (or just) differed from the tournament, because in the former
only lances were used, and only two knights could fight at once. It was
not considered quite so important as the grand feat of arms which I have
just described, but was often practised when the more serious encounter
had finished. Lances, or spears without heads of iron, were commonly
used, and the object of the sport was to ride hard against one's
adversary and strike him with the spear upon the front of the helmet, so
as to beat him backwards from his horse, or break the spear. This kind
of sport was of course rather dangerous, and men sometimes lost their
lives at these encounters. In order to lessen the risk and danger of the
two horses running into each other when the knights charged, a boarded
railing was erected in the midst of the lists, about four or five feet
high. The combatants rode on separate sides of this barrier, and
therefore they could not encounter each other except with their lances.
Sometimes two knights would fight in mortal combat. If one knight
accused the other of crime or dishonour, the latter might challenge him
to fight with swords or lances; and, according to the superstition of
the times, the victor was considered to be the one who spoke the truth.
But this ordeal combat was far removed from the domain of sport.

When jousts and tournaments were abandoned, tilting on horseback at a
ring became a favourite courtly amusement. A ring was suspended on a
level with the eye of the rider; and the sport consisted in riding
towards the ring, and sending the point of a lance through it, and so
bearing it away. Great skill was required to accomplish this surely and
gracefully. Ascham, a writer in the sixteenth century, tells us what
accomplishments were required from the complete English gentleman of the

"To ride comely, to run fair at the tilt or ring, to play at all
weapons, to shoot fair in bow, or surely in gun; to vault lustily, to
run, to leap, to wrestle, to swim, to dance comely, to sing, and play of
instruments cunningly; to hawk, to hunt, to play at tennis, and all
pastimes generally which be joined to labour, containing either some fit
exercises for war, or some pleasant pastime for peace--these be not only
comely and decent, but also very necessary for a courtly gentleman to

In the days of pageants and royal progresses these old castles were the
scenes of very lively exhibitions of rustic histrionic talent. The
stories of Greek and Roman mythology were ransacked to provide scenes
and subjects for the rural pageant. Shepherds and shepherdesses, gods
and goddesses, clowns and mummers, all took part in the rural drama
which kings and queens delighted to honour. When Queen Elizabeth visited
the ancient and historic castle of Sudeley, great preparations were made
for the event, and a fine classical pageant was performed in her
presence, a sketch of which may not be without interest.

The play is founded on the old classical story of Apollo and Daphne. The
sun-god Apollo was charmed by the beauty of the fair Daphne, the
daughter of a river-god, and pursued her with base intent. Just as she
was about to be overtaken, she prayed for aid, and was immediately
changed into a laurel tree, which became the favourite tree of the
disappointed lover. The pageant founded on this old classical legend
commenced with a man who acted the part of Apollo, chasing a woman who
represented Daphne, followed by a young shepherd bewailing his hard
fate. He, too, loved the fair and beautiful Daphne, but Apollo wooed her
with fair words, and threatened him with diverse penalties, saying he
would change him into a wolf, or a cockatrice, or blind his eyes. The
shepherd in a long speech tells how Daphne was changed into a tree, and
then Apollo is seen at the foot of a laurel tree weeping, accompanied by
two minstrels. The repentant god repeats the verse:--

"Sing you, play you; but sing and play my truth;
This tree my lute, these sighs my note of ruth:
The laurel leaf for ever shall be green,
And chastity shall be Apollo's queen.
If gods may die, here shall my tomb be placed,
And this engraven, 'Fond Phoebus, Daphne chaste.'"

A song follows, and then, wonderful to relate, the tree opens, and
Daphne comes forth. Apollo resigns her to the humble shepherd, and then
she runs to Her Majesty the Queen, and with a great deal of flattery
wishes her a long and prosperous reign.

Such was the simple play which delighted the minds of our forefathers,
and helped to raise them from sordid cares and the dull monotony of
continual toil. In our popular amusements the village folk do not take
part, except as spectators, and therefore lose half the pleasure;
whereas in the time of the Virgin Queen the rehearsals, the learning the
speeches by heart, the dresses, the excitement, all contributed to give
them fresh ideas and new thoughts. The acting may not have been very
good; indeed Queen Elizabeth did not always think very highly of the
performances of her subjects at Coventry, and was heard to exclaim,
"What fools ye Coventry folk are!" But I think Her Majesty must have
been pleased at the concluding address of the players at Sudeley. After
the shepherds had acted a piece in which the election of the King and
Queen of the Bean formed a part, they knelt before the real queen, and

"Pardon, dread Sovereign, poor shepherds' pastimes, and bold shepherds'
presumptions. We call ourselves kings and queens to make mirth; but when
we see a king or queen we stand amazed. At chess there are kings and
queens, and they of wood. Shepherds are no more, nor no less, wooden.
In theatres workmen have played emperors; yet the next day forgotten
neither their duties nor occupation. For our boldness in borrowing their
names, and in not seeing Your Majesty for our blindness, we offer these
shepherds' weeds; which, if Your Majesty vouchsafe at any time to wear,
it shall bring to our hearts comfort, and happiness to our labours."

When the queen visited Kenilworth Castle, splendid pageants were
performed in her honour. As she entered the castle the gigantic porter
recited verses to greet Her Majesty, gods and goddesses offered gifts
and compliments on bended knee, and the Lady of the Lake, surrounded
by Tritons and Nereids, came on a floating island to do homage to the
peerless Elizabeth and to welcome her to all the sport the castle could
afford. For an account of the strange conduct of Orion and his dolphin
upon this occasion, we refer our readers to Sir Walter Scott's
_Kenilworth_; and the lover of pageants will find much to interest him
in Gascoigne's _Princely Progress_.

The glories of our ancient castles have passed away; some indeed are
preserved, and serve as museums, or barracks, or the country house of
some noble lord; but most of them are in ruins. All traces of many a
Norman castle have completely vanished. There was once a castle at
Reading, but the only relics of it are the names Castle Hill and Castle
Street. The turbulent barons made such terrible use of their fortresses
during the troublous times of the civil war in Stephen's reign that in
the more settled reign of Henry II. they were deprived of this means of
oppression and their castles destroyed wholesale. The civil war in the
reign of Charles I. was also another great cause of the destruction of
these old fortresses. They were of great service during the progress of
the war to those who were fortunate enough to possess them, and many of
them in spite of Cromwell's cannon were most gallantly held and stoutly
defended. Donnington Castle, Berkshire, was bravely held in spite of a
prolonged siege during all the time that the war lasted by gallant
Colonel Boys, who beat off the flower of the Parliamentary army; and
when in obedience to the King's command he yielded up the castle, he and
his brave garrison marched out with all the honours of war, having
earned the respect of both friend and foe. Many other castles could tell
the story of similar sieges in the days when "the gallants of England
were up for the King."

But these brave sieges were the cause of their destruction. Cromwell
when in power recognised their strength; they were too dangerous, these
castles, and must be destroyed. His cannon-balls had rattled against
their stone walls without much effect during the war; but their fate was
sealed with that of their King, and the gunpowder of Cromwell's soldiers
was soon employed in blowing up the walls that resisted him so long, and
left them battered and smoking ruins.

Since then the ivy has grown over them to hide their nakedness. Forlorn
and lonely the ruined castle stands. Where once loud clarion rang, the
night owls hoot; vulgar crowds picnic where once knights fought in all
the pride and pomp of chivalry. Kine feed in the grass-grown bailey
court; its glory is departed. We need no castles now to protect us from
the foes of our own nation. Civil wars have passed away, we trust, for
ever; and we hope no foreign foeman's foot may ever tread our shores.
But if an enemy threatened to attack England her sons would fight as
valiantly as in the brave days of old, though earthen ramparts have
replaced the ancient castles and iron ships the old wooden walls of



Beautiful surroundings--Benefits conferred by monasteries--Charity--
Learning--Libraries--Monks not unhappy--Netley--Cluny--Alcuin--
Monastic friendships--St. Bernard--Anselm--Monks shed happiness
around them--Desecration--Corruption of monasteries--Chaucer's
prior--Orders of monks--Plan of a monastery--_Piers Ploughman's_
description of a monastery--A day in a monastery--Regulations as
regards blood-letting--The infirmary--Food--Hospitium--Chapter-house.

In the neighbourhood of many of our villages stand the ruins of an old
monastery. Who were the builders of these grand and stately edifices?
What kind of men lived within those walls? What life did they lead? We
will try to picture to ourselves the condition of these noble abbeys, as
they were in the days of their glory, before the ruthless hands of
spoilers and destroyers robbed them of their magnificence.

It has often been remarked that the monks knew well how to choose the
most beautiful spots for their monastic houses, establishing them by the
banks of some charming river, surrounded by beautiful scenery and
fertile fields.

They loved the beauties of nature, and had a keen sense for discovering
them. They had a delicate and profound appreciation of the delights of
the country, and loved to describe the beauties that surrounded their
habitations. Nature in its loveliness and wild picturesqueness was a
reflection of God's beauty, a temple of His light and goodness. Moreover
they built their monasteries amidst forests and wild scenery, far from
the haunts of men, seeking solitude, wherein they could renew their
souls by the sweetness of a life of contemplation, and consecrate their
energies to the service of God. In the days of war and bloodshed, of
oppression and lawlessness, holy men found it very difficult to be "in
the world and yet not of it." Within the monastic walls they found
peace, seclusion, solitude; they prayed, they worked, they wrote and
studied. They were never idle. To worship, to labour, to fight as the
_milites Christi_ with weapons that were not carnal, these were some of
the duties of the monks.

The world owes much to these dwellers in monasteries. They rescued the
people from barbarism, and uplifted the standard of the cross. They
emerged from their cells to direct councils, to preach and teach at the
universities, to build churches and cathedrals, and astonish the world
by their skill and learning. Who can tell what services they rendered to
their nation and to all mankind by pouring forth that ceaseless stream
of intercession day and night for the averting of the judgments of
divine wrath which the crimes and follies of men so richly deserved?
"What the sword is to the huntsman, prayer is to the monk," says St.
Chrysostom; and well did they use this weapon for the spiritual and
material benefit of all.

Another great benefit they conferred upon the world was that of charity.
They were the true nurses of the poor. There were no poor laws, and
union workhouses, and hospitals. The monks managed to supply all the
wants of all who suffered from poverty, privation, and sickness. "The
friendship of the poor constitutes us the friends of kings," says St.
Bernard; "but the love of poverty makes kings of us." They welcomed in
their ranks poor men, who were esteemed as highly as those of noble
birth on entering the cloister. All men were equal who wore the monk's

Amongst other services the monks rendered was the cultivation of
learning and knowledge. With wonderful assiduity they poured forth
works of erudition, of history, of criticism, recorded the annals of
their own times, and stored these priceless records in their libraries,
which have done such good service to the historians of modern times. The
monasteries absorbed nearly all the social and intellectual movement of
the thirteenth century. Men fired with poetical imagination frequently
betook themselves to the cloister, and consecrated their lives to the
ornamentation of a single sacred book destined for the monastery which
gave them in exchange all the necessaries of life. Thus the libraries of
the monastic houses were rich in treasures of beautifully illuminated
manuscripts, which were bound by members of the community. The Abbot of
Spanheim in the fifteenth century gives the following directions to his

"Let that one fasten the leaves together, and bind the book with boards.
You, prepare those boards; you, dress the leather; you, the metal
plates, which are to adorn the binding."


Terrible is it to think of the dreadful destruction of these libraries
at the time of the spoliation of monasteries and of the priceless
treasures which they contained.

We are apt to suppose that the lives of the monks were gloomy, hard,
severe, and that few rays of the sunshine of happiness could have
penetrated the stern walls of the cloister. But this does not appear to
have been the case. The very names of monasteries show that they
rejoiced in their solitude and labour. Netley Abbey was called the
Joyous Place, _loeto loco_; and on the Continent there are many names
which bear witness to the happiness that reigned in the cloister.
Moreover the writings of the monks proclaim the same truth. Cluny is
called by Peter Damien his _hortus deliciarum_ (garden of delights), and
it is recorded that when Peter de Blois left the Abbey of Croyland to
return to France he stopped seven times to look back and contemplate
again the place where he had been so happy. Hear how Alcuin laments on
leaving the cloister for the Court of Charlemagne:--

"O my cell! sweet and well-beloved home, adieu for ever! I shall see no
more the woods which surround thee with their interlacing branches and
aromatic herbs, nor thy streams of fish, nor thy orchards, nor thy
gardens where the lily mingles with the rose. I shall hear no more those
birds who, like ourselves, sing matins and celebrate their Creator, in
their fashion--nor those instructions of sweet and holy wisdom which
sound in the same breath as the praises of the Most High, from lips and
hearts always peaceful. Dear cell! I shall weep thee and regret thee

The life was very peaceful, entirely free from care, and moreover
lighted by the whole-hearted friendships which existed between the
brethren. A chapter might be written on the love of the cloister, which
like that of David for Jonathan, was "wonderful, passing the love of
women." Thus St. Bernard burst out in bitter grief at the loss of a
brother monk:--

"Flow, flow, my tears, so eager to flow! he who prevented your flowing
is here no more! It is not he who is dead, it is I who now live only to
die. Why, oh, why have we loved, and why have we lost each other?"

The letters of Anselm to Lanfranc and Gondulph, his dearest friends,
abound in expressions of the most affectionate regard and deep true
friendship. He writes:--

"How can I forget thee? Can a man forget one who is placed like a seal
upon his heart? In thy silence I know that thou lovest me; and thou
also, when I say nothing, thou knowest that I love thee. What can my
letter tell thee that thou knowest not already, thou who art my second

The monks' lot was not sad and melancholy. They loved God and His
service, and rejoicing in their mutual regard and affection were happy
in their love and work. Orderic Vitalis writes, "I have borne for
forty-two years with happiness the sweet yoke of the Lord." Moreover
they shed happiness on those who dwelt around them, on the crowds of
masons and carpenters, traders and workmen, who dwelt under the shadow
of the monastery or farmed the fields of the monastic estates. No
institution was ever more popular; no masters more beloved. They took a
hearty interest in the welfare of all their tenants, and showed an
active sympathy for all. The extent of their charity was enormous. In a
French abbey, when food was scarce, they fed 1,500 to 2,000 poor in the
course of the year, gave monthly pensions to all the families who were
unable to work, entertained 4,000 guests, and maintained eighty monks--a
wonderful record truly.

The influence of the monastery was felt in all the surrounding
neighbourhood--the daily services, the solemn and majestic chants, the
processions, must have created a deep impression on the minds of people.
Many of the great writers and thinkers of subsequent ages have
appreciated the wonderful labours of the monks. Dr. Johnson wrote:--

"I never read of a hermit, but in imagination I kiss his feet; never of
a monastery, but I fall on my knees and kiss the pavement."

And now these noble buildings, hallowed by a thousand memories, exist
only as dishonoured ruins. Some have been pulled down entirely, and the
site used for gaols or barracks. Convicts labour where once monks
prayed. The renowned abbey of Cluny is a racing stable, and Le Bec, the
home of Anselm, has suffered a like profanation. Factories have invaded
some of these consecrated sites. Many have been used as quarries for
generations. All the carved and wrought stone has been cut off, and used
for making bridges and roads and private houses. Nature has covered the
remains with clinging ivy, and creeping plants, and wild flowers, and
legends cluster round the old stones and tell the story of their
greatness and their ruin. The country folk of western Ireland show the
marks on the stones furrowed by the burning tears of the monks when they
were driven out of their holy home. I am describing the condition of the
monasteries in the days of their glory, when the spirit of the religious
orders was bright and pure and enthusiastic. It cannot be denied that
often the immense wealth which kings and nobles poured into the treasury
of the monks begat luxury and idleness. Boccaccio in Italy, and even
Dante, and our own Chaucer, write vigorously against the corruption of
the monks, their luxury, love of sport, and neglect of their duty. Thus
Chaucer wrote of a fourteenth-century prior:--

"Therefore he was a prickasoure a right:
Greihounds he hadde as swift as foul of flight:
Of pricking and of hunting for the hare
Was all his lust, for no cost wolde he spare.
I saw his sleves purfiled at the hond
With gris, and that the finest in the loud.
And for to fasten his hood under his chinne,
He hadde of gold ywrought a curious pinne:
A love-knotte in the greter end ther was.
His head was balled, and shone as any glas,
And eke his face, as it had been anoint.
He was a lord full fat and in good point
His eye stepe, and rolling in his bed,
That stemed as a forneis of led.
His botes souple, his hors in gret estat,
Now certainly he was a fayre prelat.
He was not pale as a forpined gost.
A fat swan loved he best of any rost.
His palfrey was as broune as is a bery."

Many were the efforts to reform the abuses which crept into the monastic
houses. Holy men grieved over the scandals of the times in which they
lived. Many monasteries remained until the end homes of zeal and
religion, and the unscrupulous tools of Henry VIII. could find naught
to report against them. The only charge they could fabricate against
one monastery was "that the monks would do evil, if they could."

The foundation of the various orders of monks shows the efforts which
were from time to time made by earnest men to revive the zeal and
religious enthusiasm characteristic of the early dwellers in
monasteries. The followers of St. Benedict and St. Columba were the
first monks of the western Church who converted the peoples of England,
Germany, Belgium, and Scandinavia. The Benedictines had many houses in
England in Saxon times. In the tenth and eleventh centuries flourished
a branch of the Benedictines, the order of Cluny, who worked a great
religious revival, which was continued in the twelfth by the order of
the Cistercians, founded at Citeaux in Burgundy. Some of our most
beautiful English abbeys--Fountains, Kirkstall, Rievaulx, Tintern,
Furness, and Byland--all belonged to this order. In the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries the new orders of preaching friars founded by St.
Francis and St. Dominic arose, and exercised an immense influence in
the world. They did not shut themselves up in the cloister, but went
everywhere, preaching in the market-places, and tending the sick, the
lepers, and the outcasts. At first they were immensely popular, but


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