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by Helena, born before the solemnization of the nuptials.

Helena was divorced, and having become a Christian, undertook a
pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where the legend says she discovered the cross
of Christ, and hence the appearance of the cross on the arms of Colchester.
She is said to have founded in the town the Church which bears her name.
Certain it is that under Constantine Christianity was widely extended in
Britain. Sees were established in twenty-seven towns; and in 314 we
find Adolphius, Bishop of Colon (or Colchester) attending a Council at
Aries. There are records of many Britons who suffered martyrdom in
the persecution of Diocletian ; and in 465, at a Councilium held to consider
the deposition of Vortigern, it is stated " the clergy gave their votes in
this Council." Thus Christianity had been widely adopted, and a regular
ministry established at this time in Essex, perhaps from the events related,
more generally than elsewhere ; but its voice was hushed, its altars thrown
down, and its lights extinguished by the flood of barbaric Paganism that
soon after broke in and overwhelmed the land.



This Eastern district is more rich in Roman remains than any other
part of the island. These remains consist chiefly of ancient trackways,
roads, forts, camps, urns, utensils, weapons, ornaments, coins, and even
sculptures. From these we may glean some particulars respecting the
Roman occupation of East Anglia. The Romans were the great road
makers of the world. Wherever they went they made roads and built
camps for military purposes. Proceeding from the south to the north,
they made roads as they advanced through Kent, Sussex, Cambridgeshire,
Suff'olk and Norfolk.

The Romans thoroughly explored the whole extent of the territory
now called Essex. One great road traversed the whole length of it,
another skirted its border, and many vicinal ways crossed it in different
directions. The first Roman colony in Britain was established in it, and
there were several other stations and towns in different parts ; those
mentioned in the Itinerary of Antoninus are Ad Ansam, of uncertain
locality ; Camulodunum, at Colchester ; Canonium, at Coggeshall ; Cffisar ;
omagus, at Chelmsford ; and Durositum, below Brentwood ; but there
are few remains of any of these. The principal Roman relics have been
found at Colchester.

When the Romans advanced out of Essex into Suflblk and Norfolk,
their generals established a number of military stations or camps from the
south to the north in their newly-acquired territory, in order to keep t^e
natives in subjection in a hostile country. The stations appear to have
been built near the coast, along which the Roman galleys sailed, to supply
men, arms, or provisions, or to afibrd ready means of transport for the
troops. The legions, as they proceeded from the south to the north, made
roads between the stations near Dunwich, Yarmouth, Norwich, Brancaster
and other places. The first roads were probably near the coast, and after-
wards from the coast into the country. A great Roman road connected
the south-eastern and the north-western parts of the country, and another
road formed a similar communication between the north-eastern and
south-western extremities. This road, commencing near Yarmouth, at the
camp named Gariannonum, passed Caistor camp near Norwich, and is still
conspicuous near Downham. Crossing the river Ouse, it passed through
the fens into Cambridgeshire, and in the fens it was discovered to be
sixty feet wide and three feet deep, and formed of compact gravel.

Caistor has been the subject of much disquisition among antiquaries,
some contending that it was the Venta Icenormn. Among them may be
mentioned Camden and Horsley, whose arguments are not very conclusive.


In favour of NorTv^cli we have Colonel Leake, Sir Francis Palgrave,
Sir Henry Spelman, and the late Hudson Gurney, Esq. The latter stated
the arguments 2^j-o and con. in a letter addressed to the late Dawson
Turner, Esq., and afterwards reprinted in the Norwich volume of the
proceedings of the Archagological Institute in 1847.

The Eev. Charles Parkin, in his continuation of " Blomefield^s Norfolk,^'
says respecting the camp at Caistor, it was " The ancient Castrum, or
one of the chief camps of defence, when the Somans possessed this
country. I take it that after Claudius C^sar entered this land, which
was about the forty-sixth year after Christ, and Ostorius, his proprastor
or lieutenant, had vanquished the Iceni, the old inhabitants of these parts,
who openly opposed them and defended their country to the very utmost
of their power ; that then they first settled here, raised camps, appointed
colonies, and fixed stations, in order to keep the newly-conquered country
in subjection, and to fortify themselves against any future attempts of the
natives, that in case of any turn of adverse fortune they might not be
destitute of strong camps and large fortifications to retire to till they
could either turn the scales themselves or gain time to send to their allies
to come to their assistance; and that in case of necessity such help should
not be hindered (like a wise and warlike people), they always took care so
to fix their camps and stations in all places where the situation and course
of rivers would permit, that they might have a free passage by them to
the ocean, either to have assistance by men or provisions whenever they
wanted them, or, if they could not keep their ground, a safe retreat at
least for their persons or effects.

Thus landing at the Gariensis Ostium, or mouth of the Yare, where
Yare-mouth now is, ihey fixed a strong castle on the south side, placed a
garrison of the Stablesian horse there, named it Garianonum, froln its
situation on the Gariensis or Yare, and so made it a guard as well as an
entry into that part of the country which is now called Sufiblk, the
remains of which still are very perfect, the town that belonged to it
assuming the Saxon name Burgh from this fortification, at this day called
Burgh Castle, where abundance of coins, fibulas, and other Roman
antiquities are now found. Opposite to this, on the northern side of the
water, is an inlet into and guard of that country which is now called
Norfolk, they made another camp, and called it Castru.m, and the village
in which it was (situated) is now called Castor. And following the river
up into the country, till the course of it divided into two streams, they
turned with that on the southern side, and at the first straighl, where it
was easy to command the passage over, fixed the camp, which for its
dimensions and strength was named Castrum, or the Camp, by way of
eminence, and it is still called Castor. It was certainly their most con-


sidcmblo fortiticatiuii in tlicsc parts, as appears from its dimensions;
which remain very conspicuous to this day.'''

While the Roman armies marched over the land from south to nortli
their marines appear to have followed in the same direction in their ships.
The llomans appear to have sailed at difterent times to different points
along the Norfolk coast where they landed. They may have easily landed
at Cromer, or at Sherringham, or Weybourne. The water is so deep at
high tide, and the shingle beach in some places so abrupt and shelving
that the larger ships of the Romans could come close in shore, whilst the
smaller galleys could be rowed up to the beach, where the soldiers could
come to blows hand to hand with the enemy. We may suppose that th(>
Romans after landing encamped near old Cromer, where the beach is all
level and smooth up to the edge of the cliffs. If we followed the coast
line from Cromer to Gore point we shall be convinced that we stand on
the ground where the Romans stood, and Avhere the natives fought and
fell. All round the neighbourhood there are traces of Roman camps and
Roman remains ; coins, urns, and pottery.

The Roman camp at Brancaster, with the fosse clearly marked, enclosed
a space of eight acres. There was another Roman camp at Holme, now
almost surrounded by the sea. Then there was another at Holkham,
enclosing twelve acres in its area. The different gates are yet to be
traced on the ramparts. There is a raised causeway, both towards land
through the marshes and seaward through the " sand dunes," or hills,
which would afford protection to Roman galleys. All these camps prove
that the Romans occupied a great part of nortli Norfolk for a long time.

There is a mound called " Green BarroAV Hill," situated between Wey-
bourne and Salthouse, and opposite there is an old Roman causeway
I'unning down to it from Kelling", with a track direct through the marshes
to the hill. Here Roman culinary and drinking utensils have been found
in great abundance, and many of them were in the possession of Mr.
Bolding, a gentleman resident at Weybourne, who collected and pre-
served in his studio many treasures indicative of Roman occupation. He
had in his collection Roman pottery in great quantities, chiefly for culinary
use ; mortars and drinking cups, Samian ware, and many other articles.

A Roman burial place was found at Elmham in a close called Broom
Close, about half a-mile from the town, lying on the west side of the road
from Elmham to Beetley, of a dry sandy soil on a rising ground, a river
running in the valley. In the same place were found many urns of a
coarse earth, the work rough and uneven, but generally well burnt ; some
of them indented and some plain, some of a blue and some of a yellow
colour, without any covers ; the size various, some holding a quart, some
two or three quarts or a gallon,



^UE information is largely increased when we come to the period
^ which interests us more closely, the settlement of our own Anglo-
Saxon race into the occupation and ultimate possession of these Eastern
Counties. We cannot imagine a more interesting field of inquiry than
the history of the original colonisation of East Anglia. The tribes of the
Angles and Saxons almost deserted their own bleak country, came over
the sea in great bodies and spread themselves all over the country between
the Stour and the Wash of Lincoln.

During this long period the whole of the Eastern district was covered
by forests, heaths, commons, bogs, and swamps. All Essex was one vast
forest very thinly inhabited. Broad arms of the sea flowed up the valleys
of the Stour, the Orwell, the Waveney, and the Yare, and covered all the
present marshes. There was no town of any size in the whole Eastern
district, only deserted military stations at Thetford, Caistor, near Norwich,
and Burgh Castle, near Yarmouth.

The northern tribes, who during the 150 years subsequent to the
departure of the Romans, overran and subdued nearly all Britain south
of the Firth, consisted principally of four tribes, the Angles, the Saxons
proper, the Jutes and Frisians. Their native seat was the sea coast, from
the delta of the Rhine to the river Weser, including the peninsula of

In consequence of the long residence of the ancient Britons and
Romans in this island for 400 years, they had so far assimilated or
amalgamated as to become like one people, the Britons having adopted
the costume as well as the manners and customs of the Romans. When,
therefore, the Roman forces were recalled from this remote province,
many of the natives accompanied them to Italy and never returned. This
island then presented an inviting field of plunder to those northern tribes


who were roving about various parts of Europe in search of mihtary

These invaders, though indiscriminately called Saxons, were then
composed of three kindred tribes of Germanic origin, called Angles,
Jutes, and Saxons. The Angles got possession of this Eastern district,
which was called East Anglia, and they had the singular honour of giving
their name to all England, at first called Angle land, or in French " Angle
terre.^' The Angles became the predominating tribe, and got possession
of the eastern, the midland, and the northern districts of England.
Subsequently they obtained a footing in some adjacent parts of Scotland.

The author of " The Celt, the Roman, and the Saxon " (p. 394), says :
" The great extent of ground which the Angles occupied in Britain is
quite sufficient to explain the statement of the old historians, that they
had completely evacuated their native land, and left it almost uninhabited.
From them, as the earliest settlers and the most numerous, the island
became known among foreign nations by the names of Anglia and
Anglorum Terra, and among the Saxons themselves it was usually called
Engleland, and the language of its inhabitants Englisc.'^

Whether the Angles, Saxons, or Jutes preponderated most in some
parts of this island, it is certain that in the seventh century the Angles
occupied the whole of this Eastern district. At the end of the sixth
century, there was a general migration hither from the opposite shores.
The Angles, in two great divisions, called the Northfolk and the Southfolk,
rushed in between the rivers Stour and Great Ouse, and gave a permanent
denomination to the two counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. The territory
thus seized by the Angles was almost insulated on its western side by
bogs, meres, and broad lakes, more or less connected by numerous streams.
Where these natural defences ended, the East Angles dug a deep ditch,
and cast up a lofty rampart of earth. In the middle ages, this was called
the Giant's Dyke ; a name afterwards changed to the Devil's Dyke. The
marshes upon which it leaned have been drained, but the mound is still
very perfect.

Successive hordes of the northern tribes, in the lapse of years, invaded
different parts of the coast, and ultimately eight kingdoms were formed,
called the Anglo-Saxon Octarchy : вАФ 1, Kent, founded by Hengist, a.d.
457 ; 2, Sussex, by Ella, 490 ; 3, Wessex, by Cerdic, 519 ; 4, Essex, by
Erkenwin, 527; 5, Bernicia, on the north-eastern side of the island, from
the river Tyne to the Forth, by Ella, 560 ; 6, Deira, on the eastern side
of England from the river Humber to Tees, called Northumbria, by Ella,
616 ; 7, East Anglia, by Uffa in 571 ; 8, Mercia or Central England, by
Crida, 586.

Some historians following Bede in his " Ecclesiastical History,^' state


tliat seveu of the Augio-Saxou Kings jiad a superiority over tlie others,
aud held the title of Bretwalda. Ethelbert of Kent was one of them,
and his reign stands conspicuous for the introduction of Christianity.
This sovereign had married Bertha (daughter of Caribert, King of Paris)
who had been educated in the Christian faith ; and when Pope Gregory
sent Augustine with forty monks to spread Christianity among* the Saxons
(597) by her influence, the missionaries were favourably received and the
King himself became a convert.

This history includes only the king'doms of Essex and East AngHa,
comprising the Eastern Counties. Rapin observes that of all the records
of the Octai'chy he found none so imperfect as that of Essex. About 527,
the kingdom of Essex was founded by Erkenwin, who seems to have
been a governor of it under the King of Kent, of whose dominions it had
formed a part. London was selected as the capital of the new kingdom,
aud thus Colchester was deprived of much of the importance it had
retained for nearly four centuries under the Eoman dominion.

Erkenwin died in 587, and was succeeded by his son Sledda, of whom
there is nothing recorded, and he was succeeded by Soebyrht or Sabaret
in whose time the light of Christianity began to shine through the Pagan
gloom. Augustine, who had landed in Kent and made much progress in
his mission to convert the idolaters, sent Mellitus as a missionary into
Essex. This King Soebyrht first built the church or abbey of Thorney
or Westminster, and brought the county of Essex into the diocese of
London. He was famed for his piety and zeal in the cause of religion
till his death.

Saxred, Siward, and Sigebert I., who ruled the kingdom in succession,
fell back into Paganism and banished the new religion from their territory.
They were slain, however, and a whole Essex army was destroyed in an
unequal contest with the powerful Kings of Wessex Avho ultimately pre-
vailed. Sigebert II. the Little came next and passed away leaving nothing
but his name. He was followed by Sigebert the Good, who restored the
Christian religion in his realm and procured from his relative the King of
Northumberland two priests to teach its tenets to the people. These men
laboured successively in the county under kingly patronage. Large con-
gregations were gathered together ; and Cedd having become bishop of
the East Saxons, or Essex, churches were built, priests were ordained,
and Christianity was restored and extended in the county, from which its
holy and healing light never afterwards departed. Sigebert fell by the
hand of assassins for having supported the bishop against some relatives
who had been excommunicated. The other Kings of Essex were Swith-
elm, Sibbi, and Sighere ; Sigehard and Senfi'ed ; Offa, Selred, and
Swithred. Their history is a blank. All we know is that Sibbi and


Offa resigned tlieir crowns anil turned monks. It might almost be sus-
pected from tli(> circumstances that the latter was beguiled by the skilful
tact which belonged to womanhood in olden times as now.

" "What is it woman cannot do I
.Shij'll make a .statesman (juite Ibrgot his cimuing."

Oh'a had been smitten by the charms of Ciniswiutha, a princess of
Mercia. He breathed his love into her ear in pure old Saxon, but it
seems to have moved her not ; she had no ambition to become Queen of
Ijssex. Now it was rather a serious matter for a maideu'to refuse a King
in those days. If the royal lover failed to kindle a Hamc in the lady's
heart, he usually did so in her father's castle, slaughtering besides a few
hundred of her kinsmen as proofs of the strength of his attachment.
Ciniswintha therefore replied to his proposal of marriage by "persuasions
to turn monk. She succeeded. Offa proceeded to Eome ; and any
danger that might have lurked in the refusal was effectually extinguished
under the cowl.


Grecca, according to some chroniclers, was the first king of East Anglia,
and in his reign his dominion was bounded by the German Ocean on the
east and north ; the river Stour, on the south, divided it from Essex ; it
bordered ou Mercia on the west ; and was defended by several entrench-
ments, one of v/hich was the Devil's Ditch, running seven miles in a
direct line from Ely to Newmarket.

Gi'ecca must have ruled East Anglia for some time, but there is no
account of his reign. In his time the Angles came over the sea in such
large numbers that they quite depopulated their own country, overspread
Norfolk and Suffolk, settled themselves along the coast, then penetrated
into the interior, giving names to the localities which they occupied. The
Eoman Sitomagus, afterwards named Dunwich, appears to have been the
first seat of government in East Anglia, but when it was founded is un-
certain. It is said to have been a Eoman station, from the circumstance
of some of their coins being found in that place. It was called Domoc in
the Saxon annals or Dynwyc, from Don* a hilly down, and Wye a fort.
Its Anglo-Norman name appears to have been Donewyc, and it is so
mentioned in old evidences. Gardner, to whom we are indebted for some
interesting memorials of the once important city, observes that "wc
cannot from any record justly determine when or by whom it was
founded." In the course of time it was swept away by the sea.

Uffa, one of the chiefs of the Angles, first united Norfolk, Sufiblk,
and Cambridgeshire into one kingdom, and took the government thereof
and settled at Sitomagus, the prosperity of which city is allowed by all


authors to be owing to the Anglo-Saxon Kings making it the metropolis
of their kingdom of the East Angles, and residing there. From this time
the royal city increased in greatness continually, though still under the
dark clouds of Paganism. Uffa reigned seven years, and his people were
called Uffings for many ages after him. He died in 1581.

Uffa was succeeded by his son Titul or Tytilus, who reigned eleven
years, and died about 599. Of him there is nothing on record. He was
succeeded by his son Redwald, who was the fourth of the Bretwaldas or
commanders-in-chief of the allied Anglo-Saxon forces in 593. Eedwald,
being persuaded by Ethelbert, embraced the Christian religion, but
meeting with great opposition from his wife and people, he compromised
the difficulty by setting up the statue of Woden and the altar to the
Christian God side by side in the same temple. Redwald generally
resided at Rendlesham in Suffolk, and he is said to have built the first
castle at Framlingham in that county. A town arose round that castle,
and it soon became an important place. We need scarcely add that the
original structure was demolished long ago, and a Norman stronghold was
erected on its site after the Norman conquest.

Redwald was celebrated for the generous aid which he afforded to
Edwin, Prince of Northumbria, when he was a fugitive in the land, driven
from his inheritance. At this time Ethelfrith, the grandson of Ida, was
the most powerful of the northern Kings, and marrying the daughter of
Ella, the founder of Deira, united that kingdom to his own on the death
of his father-in-law. Edwin, the infant son of Ella, found protection in
North Wales. The hospitality of the British prince brought the King of
Northumbria against him. Chester was taken and the monastery of
Bangor destroyed in 607. Edwin fled, and after long wandering found
an asylum in the court of Redwald, who then resided at Rendlesham in
Suffolk. Ethelfrith demanded that Edwin should be given up to him, but
the East Anglian King refused to commit such an act of base treachery,
marched an army towards the territory of Bernicia, met his enemy on the
banks of the river Idel, defeated him, and the Northumbrian King was
slain. Redwald restored his young friend to the throne of Deira, and
enabled him to annex Bernicia. Then the East Anglian King returned
in triumph to his own dominions. He died in 864.

Erpenwald, the younger son of Redwald, succeeded in the kingdom of
the East Angles, and was the first King of this Eastern province who
openly professed the Christian faith, which he did on the friendly exhor-
tation of Edwin, King of Northumberland. This so enraged the East
Anglians that they employed a Pagan ruffian named Richibert or
Rochbert, to murder him. Thus he fell a martyr to the Christian faith,
after he had reigned twelve years. Leaving no issue, he was succeeded


by Sigebert, the son of Kedwald^s second wife, and half-brother to the
deceased king.

Sigebert, finding that the popularity which he had acquired by his
amiable quahties and accomplishments had excited the jealousy of his
step-father, retired to France, where he applied himself to study, and
became a proficient in the literature of his age, and a zealous professor of
the Christian faith. From this voluntary exile he was recalled on the
death of his half-brother, for the purpose of being placed on the vacant
throne. He brought over with him Felix, a learned and pious Burgun-
dian priest, whom he appointed Bishop of Dunwich, then an important
town on the coast of Suffolk.

By the exertions of this learned prelate, the inhabitants of East Anglia
were converted to the Christian faith and then a new era dawned on this
benighted part of the island. Churches and monasteries were soon built
at Dunwich, Thetford, and all the towns in the diocese. Sigebert founded
a monastery in a place afterwards called Bury St. Edmund's, which he
dedicated to the blessed Virgin. He also established a school at Thetford
according to some authorities, no doubt in imitation of the schools he had
seen in France. After a reign of seven years, motives of mistaken piety
impelled this prince to become a monk in his own convent, and to resign
his crown to his kinsman Egrick.

After a short reign of four years, Egrick became a monk in Cumbers-
burgh Abbey, which he had founded, and there he lived till Penda the
wicked King of Mercia invaded East Anglia. Then the inhabitants
besought Sigebert to encourage the soldiers by his appearing to his army

Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 47 of 70)