Зображення сторінки

great enormity; and, in many instances, was punished by the amputation of the hand and foot, and even by death. In the reign of Ethelstan, a principle was introduced which still prevails, by an enactment that no one should lose his life for stealing less than twelve pence.*

Among the institutions of this period, which have continued to the present time, may be noticed the system of giving securities, or bail, to answer an accusation; which custom appears to have been coeval with the Saxon nation. This system was, indeed, subsequently carried by them to a burthensome and degrading height; not being confined to those who were accused of crime, but extending to the whole community, who thus gave surety to answer anticipated criminality. This object was effected by the division of England into counties, hundreds, and tithings, and by the direction that every man should belong to some tithing or hundred; which divisions were pledged to the preservation of the public peace, and were answerable for the conduct of their inhabitants. The system of placing all the people under borh, or bail, the origin of which is attributed to Alfred, is first clearly enforced in the laws of Edgar.

From this brief review of the laws of our Saxon ancestors, it will appear that, although they partook of that imperfection which is inseparable from all human institutions, and which may be expected peculiarly to characterise the regulatious of an unlettered age, yet that they contained, in many instances, principles which have influenced, in no mean degree, the laws of the present more enlighleued period.


MILITARY ANTIQUITIES OF THE ANGLO-SAXONS.--Previous to any remarks on the prevailing characteristics of such military


Wilkins, p. 70. Turner, Vol. II. p. 252.

structures as are believed to have been raised by the AngloSaxons, it should be observed that Mr. King, in his elaborate work, intituled Munimenta Antiqua, expatiates, at some length, on the probability of several castles of stone, still remaining in this country, being really the work of ages anterior to the Saxon in, vasion. The greater number of such fortresses he


either to have been constructed by “ Phænician settlers, or some other foreigners from the east;" or, otherwise, by Britons situated in such parts as were visited by the Phænicians at a very early date, and who had acquired the plan and art of building conspicuous in such strong holds, by “conversing" with the foreign merchants who visited their coasts.

In support of an opinion so new and bold, Mr. King presents numerous remarks ou the resemblance, which he believes may be ascertained, between these buildings, and those intended for similar purposes of defence and security in Syria, Media, and Persia; and he justly notices their entire disagreement with the plan and customary dimensions of castellated fortresses raised by the Romans, or any subsequent invaders of this island.

Launceston Castle, in Cornwall,* may be mentioned as an instance of the buildings thus supposed by Mr. King to be of ancient British origin, and described by him as being imitative of the eastern manner. This castle is placed on a conical hill, of great height; but the keep is of small dimensions, being, indeed, not more than eighteen feet and an half in diameter, within. This part of the building (its prominent and most important feature) is round; and the walls are, at least, ten feet in thick. ness. The keep is surrounded by three concentric walls of stone; and there was formerly a fourth wall, placed at the foot of the circular rock on which the castle stands. Beyond this fourth wall are still visible the remains of another strong wall, and a great surrounding ditch. But this latter rampart has been repaired at different periods, and, perhaps, did not form part af


This building is described in the Beauties for Cornwall, p. 358-360.

the original design. In its present state it appears to have been finally completed by the Normans, with several towers and a gate, strictly in the Anglo-Norman mode of military architecture.

That this castle, so boldly and laboriously placed on the top of an immense conical hill, and differing in its principal features from any known military work of the various invaders of Britain, was possibly constructed by British inhabitants of the island, may be allowed without any great concession of faith. Its presumed similitude with the modes practised by eastern builders, is a curious subject of speculation, but one that is not likely ever to produce any other than an hypothetical conclusion. And, even if the similitude be ascertained, it will, perhaps, be found to exist only in such general and elementary particulars, as were likely to be common to all nations, at the same stage of society, and practising, in a general way, the same modes of assault and defence.

A second instance of an imitation of eastern architecture, according to the conjecture of Mr. King, may be noticed at Brynllys, or Brunless castle, in Brecknockshire, SOUTH-WALES.* In this instance it is observable that the tower is not placed, as at Launceston, upon a high rocky hill, there being, indeed, none such, naturally formed, near the spot; but has, in its own structure, as is likewise found in some other ancient buildings in this island (and, according to Mr. King, in Syria) the "appearance of a little artificial mount formed of stone; and a little rise of ground beneath."

In both the buildings noticed above, as well as in most of the ancient castellated structures of England and Wales, innovations have been made by occupiers in succeeding ages, which are,


. See this castle noticed, together with critical remarks on the opinion of Mr. King, in the Beauties for South Wales, p. 123, et seq.—The author of that part of the work offers some observations, in opposition to a conjecture of Mr. King respecting indistinct arches in this castle, which are entitled to deliberate attention, as they are founded on an investigation of many build. ings in recluse parts of Wales.

however, easily separated from the work of the original builder, by a due attention to the marked styles prevailing iu subsequent ages.

But the Phrygians, the Medians, and the Phænicians, are not the only builders supposed by Mr. King to have been imi. tated by the Britons, in structures which still remain, although in a ruined condition, to attest their ingenuity and industry. This writer conjectures that works of the Britons, imitative of Roman architecture, are still to be discovered in several parts of the island.

Conspicuous among these is the castle of Carn-breh, in Corrwall, which Dr. Borlase believes to have been in part a British building, and which Mr. King supposes, from many other cir. cumstances “ besides its old arches, and the sort of squareness of its towers, to have been a work of the Britons, constructed in haste, in imitation of Roman works, and, probably, just after the island had been deserted by the Romans.”*

This castle stands on a rocky knoll, and the foundation of the building is laid on an irregular ledge of vast rocks, whose surfaces are very uneven, one part being much higher than the other. “ The rocks are not contiguous; and, in consequence of this circumstance, the architect contrived as many rude arches from rock to rock as would be sufficiout to support the connecting wall above. The whole edifice, consequently, becomes distorted. It consists of two small, ill-joined, towers, intended, indeed, to appear as square, but neither of which in reality is so; and is placed in a most oblique and awkward direction, on account of the irregularity of the rocky foundation. One of the towers, an ancient one, has three stories ;” and, in the same part of the building, is a large square window, at a great height. In other parts, the walls “are pierced with small square holes, or a sort of rude loops, to descry an enemy, and to discharge arrows."'+


• Munimenta Antiqua, Vol. III. p. 140. * Ibid. 139–146.-Carn-breh castle is briefly noticed in the Beauties for


Some remains of fortresses occur in Wales, which Mr. King likewise attributes to a British imitation of the Roman mode of architecture. These principally consist of a structare called Castell Corndochon, or Corndorkon, which is situated on the summit of a high rock, "about a mile from the Dolgellen road, on the way leading up to Snowdon;" and remains of fortification at Caerleon, in ancient Wales.

The opinions of Mr. King, respecting a seeming imitation of the style of various early nations, to be observed in numerous military antiquities of England and Wales, are, probably, no more than fanciful pursuits of an argumeut founded on the similarity to be ascertained in the rude works of nearly all countries. We may, however, with safety, deem it likely that there are still to be seen vestiges of fortified buildings constructed by the Britons, while they preserved their national name and partial in. dependence. We know that the skill of British workmen is much praised by ancient writers; and it is recorded that many were taken to assist in foreign works by Maximus and Honorius.--To wave a consideration of earlier ages, it would appear probable that the princes who obtained sway in different parts of the island, might call into exercise the useful talent so well attested, during their opposition to the progressive encroachments of the Saxons.

It is very certain that the high antiquity of a castle is rather argued than disproved, by the silence of our earliest topographical writers respecting its original. Leland and Camden, cautious in the infancy of their science, appear to have been guided en. tirely by written documents, in an estimate concerning the foundatiou of a structure; and, where a building was beyond the


Cornwall, p. 510.-On a still more elevated part of Carn-breh hill, is a struc. fure denominated the Old castle, which, from its circular form, limited di. mensions, and other circumstances, Mr. King, indulging a favourite hypothesis, supposes to have been erected by the Britons, at a still earlier period, and in attention to the Phænician style of building.

« НазадПродовжити »