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the improvements that have been made in Norfolk since 1844, and after-


wards he gave a full account of Norfolk farming in " White's Norfolk/'
published in 1864. Ample information may he found in these useful

Mr. Copland, " the old Norfolk farmer/' in his work on agriculture,
says : " The nature of the claim or right by which landed property was
held in England previous to the E-oman conquest of the island is involved
in great obscurity. Agriculture had been introduced by the Gauls, who
had crossed over from Calais and other points of their coast nearest to
that of Albion, and taking quiet possession of unoccupied lands, cultivated
them successfully, and thus instructed the native Britons in the art.
This, according to Cassar, was about 100 years before he arrived in the
country. The Romans, who were well-skilled in husbandry, introduced
their system, and effected great improvements, so that large quantities of
both corn and wool were exported annually to the Continent. It is
evident from this circumstance that they did not dispossess the natives of
their lands, but rather by taking possession of unoccupied tracts, and
cultivating them according to their own methods, conferred a benefit
upon them. The smallness of the population, compared with the extent
of the country, rendered land of little value ; and it is probable that the
cultivation of a portion for a certain time gave the occupiers a title to it.
Nor did the Romans annul the laws by which, under the Druidical system,
the Britons were governed ; these were the code of Bunwallo Molmutius,
which was enacted about 400 years before the birth of Christ ; and the
Romans, instead of cancelling, engrafted many of their own upon it,
according to their usual custom. The Britons, therefore, were governed
by that code until the year 408 of the Christian era, when Constantinu s
the reigning Emperor, finding that the troubles of the empire at home
rendered it impossible for him any longer to govern so distant a province,
drew together a vast mixed army of Romans and Britons, and with them
abandoned the island." {'' Agriculture Ancient and Modern," p. 7).

About eighteen centuries ago, this island was a wilderness of woods,
water and waste, swamps and bogs. There was scarcely a trace of the
culturing hand of man over the whole country. The London of the
present day was then a cluster of reed-roofed cabins by the river side ;
and whilst men shared with the wolf and the wild boar and the stag the
primaeval desolation, they were worshipping at their Druidical altars,
falling down to the stock of a tree, and offering up hecatombs of human
beings to the flames in wicker images.

With such a picture before us, may we not ask in wonder whether this
is indeed a true representation of the commencement of British civilisa-
tion ? and if such was ever the condition of people who now hold half
the world as their own, and who have so long held a prominent position


in the councils of nations ? Yes^ so it appears^ and there would have
been no progress but for the advent of a civilising power. The occupa-
tion of this island by the Romans for the first four centuries, introduced
the arts of peace and the systematic cultivation of the soil.

Agriculture made considerable progress on the southern coast, and as a
proof corn was even exported annually. A.D. 359, the Eomans sent over
a large fleet of ships, and took away much corn, but we do not read of
any supplies from the eastern or other counties. The Eomans opened up
portions of the country by constructing roads, and there is one instance
on the old Roman road, traces of which are still visible from Bury to
Dunwich. There are traces of other Roman roads in the eastern
counties, and indeed all the great lines of roads were originally of Roman

After the departure of the Romans, the progress of agriculture was
retarded by perpetual wars, and the invasions of the northern tribes, who
spread desolation over the country. The Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and
Danes, after long struggles, settled themselves in the island, but intro-
duced no improvements. They lived in a semi-barbarous state, socially
nnd mentally; but as time rolled on, we observe the habits and usages
of the people gradually improved, and we come step by step, with each
successive period nearer to our own standard, but at the same time, with
a progress so imperceptible that the sturdy oak seems to be a fit emblem
of our civilization.

" The old Norfolk farmer," Mr. Copland, says of the Saxons, " The
invaders having exterminated the Britons, and taken possession of and
divided their lands, found themselves on the point of starvation. Hating
agriculture and the other arts of pence, they were nevertheless compelled
to have recourse to it, but they enacted laws to prevent its being-
followed by any except women and slaves. The princes and great men
amongst them who had received the largest shares, are said to have
divided their estates into two parts, which were called inlands and
outlands ; the former, being those which lay contiguous to the mansion
house of the owner, he kept in his own occupation and cultivated them
by his slaves, under the direction of a bailiff, for the purpose of raising
provisions for his family and numerous vassals.'^

The most remarkable arrangement of the land of England was made
under the reign of Alfred the Great, towards the close of the ninth
century. Upon the expulsion of the Danes by that King, he divided the
whole of the country into small sections, called tithings. The towns
constituted several jurisdictions, and were distinguished by the name of
town tithings, whilst the others were called rural tithings. The manage-
ment of each tithing was vested in all the inhabitants paying " scot and


lot," and these also annually elected the magistrates and other ofl&cers.
The chief officer of a tithing was charged with the executive authority,
but the legislative power was committed to a local council. So excellent,
and complete, and efficient was the system of internal policy established
by this wise and great prince, that it is said, " if a gold bracelet were
hung up in a place were four ways met, no man dared to touch it.^^

" The next arrangement was the union of a number of tithings for
military defence ; this was called a wapentake, or weapontake. This body
in the ruder period of the feudal system, under the Anglo-Saxon govern-
ment, was voluntary service ; but under the Norman Conqueror, William,
when the system of feudalism assumed its full development, it was
exchanged for the tenure of knight service."

" The third and final division of the land consisted of a certain number
of weapontakes j and was called a shire (or scyre), or one complete shire,
which united all the tithings in each shire into one compact body, subject
to the laws and regulations made by the scyre-gemot, or shire-parliament.
This was composed of the chief magistrates of the tithings, who repre-
sented the respective districts in all matters in which they were concerned.
Towards the close of the sixth century, when the Anglo-Saxons had fully
established themselves in the kingdom, there arose another power, an
imp&rimn in im/perio, which profited and strengthened itself by every
change, civil or political, that took place from time to time, to the pre-
judice of every other class of society. Under the ancient order of things,
the Druids held unbounded influence over the people. When the Romans
came, the Druidical system yielded partially to that of the less gloomy
influence of the thousand deities of that enterprising but superstitious
people. But neither of these, although they claimed a large share in the
management of state affairs, appear to have attempted to appropriate to
themselves, as a sacerdotal order, the lands of their devotees. It was
otherwise when the monk Augustine, at the command of Pope Gregory I.,
at the close of the sixth century, came into Britain to establish the Papal
system. Received courteously by Ethelred, King of Kings, his mission
was successful, and from that period the Church of Rome never relaxed
its encroachment upon the landed property of the kingdom. Strengthening
their power and influence by usurping a right, in virtue of their office,
to a share in the legislature, they passed laws which forbade the alienation
of the smallest portion of their property, under pain of the ban of the
church here, and eternal damnation hereafter."

" It is not denied that the immense landed property formerly held
by the Church of Rome was in general let to the people on easy terms,
or that the monks were better landlords than many barons, who cruelly
oppressed their dependents. The lands, too, held by the monks in their


own occupation were more productive than those held by the laity. But
that the system was injurious to the material interests of the kingdom at
the same time that it was made instrumental in fettering both body and
mind, and thus placing barriers to the progress of enlightenment and
knowledge, Avill not admit of a question/'

"The conquest of England by the Danes in 1013 made but little change
in the laws of the country. A part of their own laws, which were
engrafted, like those of the Romans, upon the existing code, was
submitted to^ and adopted by, the national council. The difference, how-
ever, between the Anglo-Saxon and Danish codes consisted rather in the
scales of mulcts and penalties for infraction of the laws themselves ; nor
was any great change in the form of government attempted. In fact,
the Danes had but little time allowed them for establishing extensive
alterations ; for in 1 066, upon the death of Edward the Confessor, the
Norman William prevailed upon the Pope to confirm a supposed promise
of the deceased King Edward to make him heir to the crown. Armed
with this then formidable sanction, he fitted out a large fleet, and putting
on board a numerous and well appointed army, he crossed the channel
and landed at Hastings, where he defeated and slew Harold, who had been
elected to the sovereignty by tlie wittenagemotte, or great national

" Whatever forbearance the Danes might have shown in not forcing their
laws upon the British, no such weakness was shown by William. The
lands of the Barons who opposed him were wrested from them, and given
to his Norman followers ; and this Was carried to a still greater extent
when, shortly after his accession, they revolted against him. Having
overcome them, he put all the leaders to death, and confiscated their
estates, which were also bestowed upon his warriors. Earl Morton thus
became possessed of 793 manors ; Hugh d'Albrinsis obtained the whole
palatinate of Chester ; Allen, Earl of Brittany, 442 manors ; Odo, Bishop
of Bayeux, 493 ; William, Earl Warren, 228, besides twenty-eight towns
or hamlets in Yorkshire ; and the large county of Norfolk was divided
among only sixty-six proprietors. The owners of these large properties
resided almost entirely upon them, except when engaged in war, and
usually held the land in their own occupation. The elder Spencer, in a
petition to Parliament about the year 1580, complaining of outrage upon
his property, states his moveable effects to be 28,000 sheep, 1,000 oxen,
1,000 cows, 500 cart horses, 2,000 hogs, 600 bacons, 80 carcases of beef,
and 600 sheep in the larder, 10 tons of cider, and arms for 200 men.
This will afford a good idea of the households kept up in the baronial
halls, and the large tracts of land necessary to support them."

The practice of sub-infeudation was greatly extended, and gave rise to


the manorial system. The term manerius^ or manerium^ is derived from
the Latin word manire and the French manoir, and denotes a large man-
sion or dwelling. In the Exchequer Domesday Book it is called manerium,
and in that of Exeter a maniso^ both being equivalent to the Anglo-Saxon
or French term used by the officers who made the survey. It is, however,
to be observed that the characteristics of the English manor were never
prevalent enough in France to demand a specij&c designation. A manor
is commonly composed of demenses and services. The demenses are
those lands within the manor, of which the lord is seized or possessed, i.e.,
of which he has the freehold, whether they are in his own occupation, or
that of his tenants at will or tenants at year ; the services of a manor are
the quit rents and other services due from freehold tenants holding of the
manor. These services are annexed with or appendent to, the seigniory
over the lands holden by such freehold tenants. These lands, however,
although thus far holden of the manor, are not within or parcel of it,
though within the lord^s fee or manorial seigniory. At the present time,
a manor rather signifies a jurisdiction or royalty incorporeal, than the
land and suit ; for a man may now have a manor in gross, that is, the
right and interior of such a court baron, with its perquisities, whilst
others possess and enjoy every foot of the land belonging to it.

At the commencement of the eleventh century, the towns in the eastern
counties appear to have been of very small size. The larger towns were
Norwich, Ipswich, Dunwich, Yarmouth, Colchester, Bury St. Edmund's,
Lynn, Thetford, Attleborough, Wymondham, Dereham, Fakenham,
Swaffham, Downham, Diss, Harleston, not one of them having 10,000
inhabitants. In all the eastern counties the rural villages were only
clusters of huts containing few residents, whose chief employment was
the rearing of cattle and sheep, and who lived on the coarsest fare. Most
of the land consisted of open heaths and moors, swamps and bogs.

Enormous quantities of swine roamed in the woods and fed on the oak
and beech mast. The various cereals, oats, rye, barley, and wheat, were
grown in small crops, and some of the barley was malted and brewed
into ale. The lands belonging to the monasteries were the best cultivated,
and the monks themselves worked on the land for their own subsistence.
They grew apples, pears, grapes, and other fruits in their gardens. In
the seventh and eighth centuries and probably later, the ordinary price
of an acre of the best land in Cambridgeshire was sixteen Saxon pennies
or about four shillings of our money.

For centuries after the Anglo-Saxon settlement, the houses in East
Anglia were built of wood or mud, with a thatched roof, and rarely com-
prised more than one roojn, in the middle of which the fire was kindled ;
nor does it appear that any improvements were made during the whole


period, though stoue structures were occasionally built. The furniture
was of rude manufacture, though the materials were sometimes costly.
In various documents we read of benches, seats, beds, silver cups, horns,
and other articles ; but the use of the more expensive was very limited.

The people partook of different kinds of animal food, such as the flesh
of oxen, sheep, and especially of swine. They also liked the flesh of
deer, goats, hares and fowls. Fish was eaten and eels were used as much
as swine. But animal diet was confined chiefly to the richer classes, and
the same remark apphes to wheaten bread. Barley and oat bread formed
the staple diet of the peasantry. The chief beverages were ale and mead,
the latter of which was made of honey. Drunkenness was one of the
characteristic vices of the people, and it has always been so to the
present day.

Mr. Thomas Wright, in his '^ History of the Manners and Cnstoms in
England in Early Periods," says, in reference to Saxon feasts : —

When the repast was concluded, and the hands of the guests were Avashed,
the tables appear to have been withdrawn from the hall, and the party commenced
drinking. From the earliest times, this was the occupation of the afterpart of the
day, when no Avarlike expedition or pressing business hindered it. Thelo d and
his chief guests sat at the high seat, wliile the others sat round on benches. An
old clnonicler, speaking of a Saxon dinner party, says, " after dinner they Avent to
their cups, to Avliich the English Avere very much ' accustomed.' This was the
case even with the clergy, as Ave learn from many of the ecclesiastical laAvs. In
the Eamsey History, printed by Gale, Ave are told of a Saxon Bishop Avho invited
a Dane to his house in order to obtain some land from him, and to drive a
better bargain, he deternnned to make him drimk. He therefore pressed him to
stay to dinner, and ' Avhen they had all eaten enough, the tables Avere taken away,
and they passed the rest of the day, till evening, drinking. He Avho held the
office of cup-bearer, managed that the Dane's turn at the cup came roimd oftener
than the other, as the Bishop had dhected him.' We knoAV by the story of Dun-
stan and King EdAvy, that it Avas considered a great mark of disrespect to the
guests, even m a King, to leave the drinking early after dinner."

If the clergy were gi\'en to Avine, the Avomen seem to have been only
cupbearers. Mr. Wright gives a very pleasing picture of the Saxon dame, and
represents her as looking well to the Avays of her household.

She Avas the attentive houseAvife, the tender companion, the comforter and con-
soler of her husband and family, the virtuous and noble matron. Home Avas her
especial place ; for Ave are told in a poem in the Exeter Book that " it beseems a
damsel to be at her board (table) ; a rambling Avoman scatters Avords, she is often
charged Avith faults, a man thinks of her Avith contempt, oft her cheek smites."
In all ranks, from the Queen to the peasant, we find the lady of the household
attending to her domestic duties. In 686, John of Beverley performed a supposed
miracidous cm-e on the lady of a Yorkshire Earl ; and the man Avho narrated the


miracle to Becle the historian, and who diued with John of Beverley at the Earl*s
house after the cure, said, " She presented the cup to the Bishop (John) and to
me, and continued serving us with drink as she had begun, till dinner was over."
Domestic duties of this kind were never considered as degrading, and fiey were
performed with a simplicity peculiarly characteristic of the age. Bede relates
another story of a miraculous cure performed on an earl's wife by St. Cuthlort,
in the sequel of which we find the lady going forth from her house to meet her
husband's visitor, holding the reins while he dismounts, and conducting him. The
wicked and ambitious Queen Elfthrida, when her step-son King Edward
approached her residence, went out in person to attend upon him, and invite him
to enter, and on his refusal, she served him with the cup herself, and it was while
stooping to take it that he was treacherously stabbed by one of her attendants.
In theii- chamber, besides spinning and weaving, the ladies were employed in
needlework and embroidery, and the Saxon ladies were so skilled in this art, that
their work, under the name of English work (opus Anglicum) was celebrated on

the continent Editha, the Queen of Edward the Confessor, was well

known as a skilful needle-woman, and as extensively versed in literature. Ingulfs
story of his school-boy days, if it be true (for there is considerable doubt of
the authenticity of " Ingulfs History,") and of his interviews with Queen Edith,
gives us a curious picture of the simplicity of an Anglo-Saxon Court, even
at the latest period of their monarchy. " I often met her," he says, " as I came
from school, and then she questioned me about my studies and my verses ; and
willingly passing from grammar to logic, she would catch me in the subtleties of
argument. She always gave me two or three pieces of money, which were counted
to me by her handmaiden, and then sent me to the royal larder to refresh myself."
Far different Avere women after the Norman Conquest, and doAvn to Ecformation
times. They neglected their household duties, frequented taverns, loved bear-
baitings, and hated their husbands, Avhom they defied or cajoled according to their
several gifts. In the " Stories of the Middle Ages," says Mr. "Wright,

Not only are the manners of the ladies dissolute, but their language and con-
versation are loose beyond anything that those who have not read these interesting
records of mediaeval life can easily conceive, which has a common failing with both
sexes. The author of " Menagier de Paris," in recommending to his daughters some
degree of modesty on this point, makes use of words which his modern editor, although
printing a text in obsolete language, thought it advisable to suppress. It might
be argued that the use of such language is evidence rather of the coarseness than
of the immorality of the age, but unfortunately the latter interpretation is sup-
ported by the whole tenour of contemporary literature and anecdote, which leave
no doubt that mediaeval society was profoundly immoral and licentious. On the
other hand, the gallantry and refinement of feeling which the gentleman is made
to show towards the other sex, is but a conventional politeness ; for the ladies are
too often treated with great brutality. Men beating their wives, and even women
with whom they quarrel who are not their wives is a common incident in the tales
and romances. The Chevalier de la Tour — Laudry — tells his daughters the story
of a woman who was in the habit of contradicting her husband in public, and


replying to liiin ungraciously, for which, after the husband had expostulated in
vain, lie one day raised his fist and knocked her down, kicked her in the face
Avhile she was down, and broke her nose, " And so," says the knightly instructor,
" she was disfigured for life, and thus, through lier ill behaviour and bad temper,
she had her nose spoiled, which was a great misfortune to her. It would have
been better for her to be silent and submissive, for it is only right that words of
authority should belong to the lord and the wife's honour requires that she should
listen in peace and obedience." The good '^ chevalier" makes no remark on the
husband's brutality as though it were by no means an uuusual occurrence.

The tavern was the resort of w^oinen chiefly of the middle and lower orders,
who assembled there to drink and to gossip.

These meetings form the subject of many of the popular songs of the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries, both in England and France. It appears that these
meetings were the first examples of Avhat we now call a pic-nic, for each woman
took with her some provisions, and with these the Avhole party made a feast in
common. A song of perhaps the middle of the fifteenth century, printed in my
collection of " Songs and Carols," edited for the Percy Society, gives us rather a
picturesque description of one of these gossip-meetings. The women having met
accidentally, the question is put where the best wine was to be had, and one of
them replies that she knows Avhere could be procured the best drink in the town,
but that she did not wish her husband to be accpiainted -with it : —

" I know a di*awght of meny-go-downe,

The best it is in all thys towne ;
But yet wold I not, for my gowne,
My husband it wyst, ye may me trust.

The place of meeting having thus been fixed, they are represented as proceed-
ing thither, tAvo and two, not to attract observation, lest their husbands might
hear of their meeting. " God might send me a stripe of two," said one, " if my
husband should see me here." ^' Nay," said Alice, another, " she that is afraid
had better go home ; I dread no man." Each Avas to carry with her some goose,
or pork, or the wing of a capon, or pigeon pie, or some similar article —

" And icli (each) of them wyll sumwhat bryug,
Goose, pygge, or capon's wing,
Pastes of pigeons, or smu other tlijnig.""

Accordingly, on arriving at the tavern, they call for wine " of the best," and


" Ech of them brought forth their dysch ;
Sum brought tiesh, and sumc fish."

Their conversation runs first on the goodness of the wines, and next on the
behaviour of their liusbands, with whom they are all dissatisfied. In one copy of
the song a harper makes his appearance, whom they hire, and dance to his music.



^HE Norman Conquest of England and the reigns of William I. and
^; William II. are included in this period, the most momentous in our
history. William I. who was born at Falaise in 1027;, was the illeg-itimate
son of Robert, sixth Duke of Normandy. William claimed the crown on

Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 52 of 70)