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THE ANTIQUITIES OF SELBORNE.
T is reasonable to suppose that in remote ages this woody and mountainous district was inhabited only by bears and wolves. Whether the Britons ever thought it worthy their
attention, is not in our power to determine: 1 but we may safely conclude, from circumstances, that it was not unknown to the Romans. Old people remember to have heard their fathers and grandfathers say that, in dry summers and in windy weather, pieces of money were sometimes found round the verge of Wolmer Pond; and tradition had inspired the foresters with a notion that the bottom of that lake contained great stores of treasure. During the spring and summer of 1740 there was little rain ; and the following summer also, 1741, was so uncommonly dry, that many springs and ponds failed, and this lake in particular, whose bed became as dusty as the surrounding heaths and wastes. This favourable juncture induced some of the forest cottagers to begin a search, which was attended with such success, that all the labourers in the neighbourhood flocked to the spot, and with spades and hoes turned up
i Several ancient “barrows" in Wolmer Forest, which have been opened from time to time, have been found to contain fragments of human bones and pottery, and in at least one instance an urn of unburnt clay containing fragments of bones, tending to prove that the barrows in question were of British origin in Roman times.-ED.
great part of that large area. Instead of pots of coins, as they expected, they found great heaps, the one lying on the other, as if shot out of a bag, many of which were in good preservation. Silver and gold these inquirers expected to find; but their discoveries consisted solely of many hundreds of Roman copper coins, and some medallions, all of the lower empire. There was not much virtù stirring at that time in this neighbourhood; however, some of the gentry and clergy around bought what pleased them best, and some dozens fell to the share of the author.
The owners at first held their commodity at a high price; but finding that they were not likely to meet with dealers at such a rate, they soon lowered their terms, and sold the fairest as they could. The coins that were rejected became current, and passed for farthings at the petty shops. Of those that we saw, the greater part were of Marcus Aurelius, and the Empress Faustina, his wife, the father and mother of Commodus. Some of Faustina were in high relief, and exhibited a very agreeable set of features, which probably resembled that lady, who was more celebrated for her beauty than for her virtues. The medallions in general were of a paler colour than the coins. To pretend to account for the means of their coming to this place would be spending time in conjecture. The spot, I think, could not be a Roman camp, because it is commanded by hills on two sides ; nor does it show the least traces of intrenchments; nor can I suppose that it was a Roman town, because I have too good an opinion of the taste and judgment of those polished conquerors to imagine that they would settle on so barren and dreary a waste.
HAT Selborne was a place of some distinction
and note in the time of the Saxons, we can give most undoubted proofs. But, as there are few, if any, accounts of villages before
Domesday, it will be best to begin with that venerable record. “Ipse rex tenet Selesburne.
* Eddid regina tenuit, et nunquam geldavit. De isto manerio dono dedit rex Radfredo presbytero dimidiam hidam cum ecclesia. Tempore regis Edwardi et post, valuit duodecim solidos et sex denarios; modo octo solidos et quatuor denarios.” Here we see that Selborne was a royal manor; and that Editha, the queen of Edward the Confessor, had been lady of that manor; and was succeeded in it by the Conqueror; and that it had a church. Beside these, many circumstances concur to prove it to have been a Saxon village ; such as the name of the place itself,' the names of many fields, and some families, with a variety of words in husbandry and common life, still subsisting among the country people.
What probably first drew the attention of the Saxons to
1 Selesburne, Seleburne, Selburn, Selbourn, Selborne, and Selborn, as it has been variously spelt at different periods, is of Saxon derivation ; for Sel signifies great, and burn torrens, a brook or rivulet : 80 that the name seems to be derived from the great perennial stream that breaks out at the upper end of the village. Sel also signifies “bonus, item, fæcundus, fertilis. Sel-gens-tun, fæcunda graminis clausura ; fertile pascuum. Abiit tamen apud nonnullos in nomen proprium. Inde pratum quoddam apud Godelming in agro Surriensi hodie vocatur Sal-gars-ton." Lye's Saxon Dictionary, in the Supplement, by Mr. Manning.-G. W.
2 Thus the name of Aldred signifies all-reverend, and that of Kemp means a soldier. Thus we have a church-litton, or enclosure for dead bodies, and not a church-yard : there is also a Culver-croft near the Grange-farm, being the enclosure where the priory pigeon-house stood, from culver, a pigeon Again there are three steep pastures in this parish called the Lithe, from Hlithe, clivus. The wicker-work that binds this spot was the beautiful spring or fountain called Wellhead," which induced them to build by the banks of that perennial current ; for ancient settlers loved to reside by brooks and rivulets, where they could dip for their water without the trouble and expense of digging wells and of drawing
It remains still unsettled among the antiquaries at what time tracts of land were first appropriated to the chase alone for the amusement of the sovereign. Whether our Saxon monarchs had any royal forests does not, I believe, appear on record; but the Constitutiones de Foresta of Canute, the Dane, are come down to us. We shall not therefore pretend to say whether Wolmer Forest existed as a royal domain before the Conquest. If it did not, we may suppose it was laid out by some of our earliest Norman kings, who were exceedingly attached to the pleasures of the chase, and resided much at Winchester, which lies at a moderate distance from this district. The Plantagenet princes seem to have been pleased with Wolmer; for tradition says that King John resided just upon the verge, at Ward-le-ham, on a regular and remarkable mount, still called King John's Hill, and Lodge Hill; and Edward III.
and fastens down a hedge on the top is called ether, from ether a hedge. When the good women call their hogs they cry sic, sic, * not knowing that sic is Saxon, or rather Celtic, for a hog. Coppice or brushwood our countrymen call rise, from hris, frondes; and talk of a load of rise. Within the author's memory the Saxon plurals, housen and peason, were in common use. But it would be endless to instance in every circumstance : he that wishes for more specimens must frequent a farmer's kitchen. I have therefore selected some words to show how familiar the Saxon dialect was to this district, since in more than seven hundred years it is far from being obliterated.-G. W,
1 Well-head signifies spring-head, and pot a deep pit from whence we draw water.For particulars about which see Letter 1. to Mr. Pennant.-G. W.
* “Elka, porcus, apud Lacones ; un pourceau chez les Lacédémoniens • ce mot a sans doute esté pris des Celtes, qui disoient sic, pour marquer un pourceau. Encore aujourd'huy quand les Bretons chassent ces animaux, ils ne disent point autrement, que sic, sic, "PEZRON, Antiquité de la Nation et de la Langue des Celtes.
had a chapel in his park, or enclosure, at Kingsley.' Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and Richard, Duke of York, say my evidences, were both, in their turns, wardens of Wolmer Forest; which seems to have served for an appointment for the younger princes of the royal family, as it may again.
I have intentionally mentioned Edward III. and the Dukes Humphrey and Richard, before King Edward II. because I have reserved, for the entertainment of my readers, a pleasant anecdote respecting that prince, with which I shall close this letter.
As Edward II, was hunting in Wolmer Forest, Morris Ken, of the kitchen, fell from his horse several times; at which accidents the king laughed immoderately: and, when the chase was over, ordered him twenty shillings;' an enormous sum for those days! Proper allowances ought to be made for the youth of this monarch, whose spirits also, we may suppose, were much exhilarated by the sport of the day; but, at the same time, it is reasonable to remark that, whatever might be the occasion of Ken's first fall, the subsequent ones seem to have been designed. The scullion appears to have been an artful fellow, and to have seen the king's foible; which furnishes an early specimen of that his easy softness and facility of temper, of which the infamous Gaveston took such advantages, as brought innumerable calamities on the nation, and involved the prince at last in misfortunes and sufferings too deplorable to be mentioned without horror and amazement.
1 The parish of Kingsley lies between, and divides Wolmer Forest from Ayles Holt Forest. --See Letter IX. to Mr, Pennant.-G. W.
The church at Kingsley is a very humble structure, with a tower not unlike a dovecot. Indeed the whole edifice strikingly bears out the assertion of Gilbert White, that some of the Hampshire places of worship make little better appearances than dovecots.—ED.
3 “ Item, paid at the lodge at Wolmer, when the king was stag-hunting there, to Morris Ken, of the kitchen, because he rode before the king and often fell from his horse, at which the king laughed exceedingly-a gift, by command, of twenty shillings."--A MS, in possession of Thomas Astle, Esq., containing the private expenses of Edward II.--G, W.