James Conway Walter.

Records of Woodhall Spa and neighbourhood; historical, anecdotal, physiographical, and archæological, with other matter online

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shire," vol. i., p. 302), say that several Roman
coins have been found, butt they do not specify
what they were. There were two so-called
"Roman camps" in what is called Tattershall
Park, this being supposed to be the Roman
station Durobrivis. But, alas! "Jam seges eat,
ubi Troja fuit" : the plough has eliminated the
camps from the field of view. Roman coins
would be a natural result of a Roman station.
It should not, however, be forgotten that Gough,
Camden, and other authorities pronounce these
camps to have been of British origin. The
earlier Britons used mainly a brass coinage, or
iron bars (utuntur aut aere, aut taleis ferreis,
says Caesar, Bell. Gall., v. 12) ; so that there
should not be much difficulty in deciding whether
the coins were those of British or Roman occu-
pants. Taught by the Romans, the later Britons
probably coined considerably. The oldest

* " Proc. Soc. Antiq." 1849, 1st series, 57. The finding of the
Horncastle coffins is described in "The Reliquary and Illustrated
Archaeologist," April, 1897.


specimens known to be coined at Lincoln bear
the name of King Arthur. Camden and Speed
give several. At Horncastle, the oldest coin
found was British, having on one side, amid
mystic circles, the figure of a "horse rampant,"
indicative of the reverence in which the horse
was held by the Druids.* Stufceley says, in his
Diary, "a coign I got of Carausius found at
Hornecastle. It had been silvered over. The
legend of the reverse is obscure. It seems to be
a figure, sitting on a coat of armour, or trophy,
with a garland in her left hand, and (legend)
Victorii Aug. "t Silver coins of Vespasian,
Lucius Septimius Severus, Alexander Severus,
and Volusianus, a large brass coin of Trajan,
middle brass of Caligula, Claudius, Nero,
Trajan, Hadrian, Domitian, Antoninus Pius,
Faustina the elder, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus,
Lucius Veru, and Faustina the vounger, and
several more.t In December, 1898, a coin was
found by a son of Mr. W. K. Morton, bookseller,
while playing in the garden at Onslow House,
which proved to be one of the Emperor

In deepening the bed of the river Bain to form
the canal, in 1802, an ornamental brass spur,
part of a brass crucifix, and a dagger, were
found together, at a short distance from the
north basin of the canal ; and the writer once
found, some quarter of a mile out of Horncastle,
on Langton hill, the row ell of a spur, with very
long spikes, probably at one time belonging to
a cavalier at the battle of Winceby. He has also
in his possession a pair of brass spurs, found not
far from Winceby, massive and heavy, the spikes
of the rowell being an inch in length.

Let us now return to Woodhall Spa ; and on
the wav pause for a moment on the moor. We
have already mentioned a curious character, by
name Dawson, but more commonly called "Tab-
shag," who, within the memory of the writer
and many more, lived as a kind of squatter, in
his sod-built hut, close to The Tower. " A sort
of living fossil was this individual, short in
stature, dark in complexion, and with a piercing,
almost uncanny, eye ; roughly clad, and looking
as though he were something of a stranger to
soap and water. "What's in a name T" said

* In Norwich one of the principal thoroughfares is named
" Rampant Horse Street." To this same superstition also we
owe the huge figures of the white horse cut in the turf at
Bratton Castle and at Oldbury Damp, both in W iltshire. Tacitus
speaks of " immolati diis abscissum equi caput."

t Quoted, " Surtees Society Publications," rol. Ixxvi

J Weir's "History of Horncastle," p. 27.


love-sick Juliet. Yet the name which clung to
this eccentric person probably had its signifi-
cance. In one of the ".Magic Songs " of the
Finns (given in "Folklore," vol. i,, No. iii., p.
827) a sort of demon is described as "Old
Shaggy," "the horror of the land," "reared on
a heather clump," "living on the lee side of a
stone," corresponding much to the home and
haunts of our Tab-shag. Brogden * says " Shag-
foal" means "a hobgoblin supposed to haunt
certain places," and a writer in the "Archaeo-
logical Review" (for January, 1890) says that
"Shag " is an old term for an elf, or Brownie,
or "goblin dwarf." He adds, "The Hog-boy,
or Howe-boy, of the Orkneys, in Lincolnshire is
pronounced Shag-boy." An old lady, born at
the beginning of the eighteenth century, is
quoted, in "The Cornhili Magazine" (August,
1882) as saying she had often heard of fairies
and shag boys, but had never seen one herself,
"though lasses were often skeart {i.e., scared,
frightened) at them." And the weird-looking
figure of Tab-shag, living in the peculiar way he
did, in a kind of "brock," or "how," of his
own construction, was not altogether unlike that
of one of the "How folk," the "little people,"
believed in by our superstitious forefathers, and
whose memory is perpetuated in the Folk's glove
(digitalis) of our heath ; as he squatted on his
" f aerie-knowe " on the lee aide of the old Tower,
or roamed over the dreary moor at nightfall to
startle the belated wayfarer.

What may have been the meaning of the other
element in his soubriquet is not so easy to say.
There is a Cornish (and probably British) word
"Tab," which means turf ("Archaeol. Journ."
vol. ii., No. 3, p. 199), and that would suit this
dweller on the heath ; but it is more likely that
"Tab" had a reference to the eat, "Tabby"
being the term for a brindled cat. And Bishop
Harsnet, in his curious book on "The Super-
stitions of the Day" (1605), says a witch, or elf,
"can take the form of hare, mouse, or cat."

Tabby is really a corruption of Tibby, and
that is from Tybalt, the name of puss in the old
Beast Epic of the middle ages. Ben Johnson
uses "tiberts " for cats; and Mercutio, in
"Borneo and Juliet" (Act. iii., -sc. 1) addresses
Tybalt, when wishing to annoy him, as "Tybalt,
you rat catcher . . . King of oats" (Folk-
etymology) .

This prowler on the heath might well be
likened to pussy prowling after mice, or higher

* " Provincial Words of Lincolnshire."


game.* But elfs and bogies have now vanished
from our sylvan glades, as the will o' the wisp
has from the fens and marshes, where the
present writer has seen it. Drainage, and
schools, and newspapers have banished alike
such phenomena, and the belief in them ; and
Tab-shag, like many another equally harmless,
and equally perhaps misunderstood!, creature,
will soon be forgotten.

One more antiquarian discovery may here be
noticed. Much interest was excited by an
ancient canoe which was unearthed near Brigg,
in North Lincolnshire, in the year 1886, while
some excavators were working on the east side
of the river Ancholme. It was constructed out
of a single tree, which must have been a very
large oak. It was 48ft. in length ; its width 5ft.
at the widest part, and 4ft. at the narrowest. It
had three transverse stays, also cut out of the
solid. It was distant from the present river
about 40 yards, lying due east and west, on what
must have been a sloping beach. It was com-
pletely buried in a bed of alluvial clay ; one end
being 5ft. below the surface, and the other 9ft.
below. It is fully described in an article,
written by T. Tindall Wildridge, in "Bygone
Lincolnshire " (1st series). The writer gives
other instances of similar discoveries in the
Medway in 1720, in the Rother (Kent) in 1822,
on the Clyde, etc. ; various such boats, indeed,
have been found on the Clyde, and, in one case,
what is further interesting, the boat had within
it a beautifully-finished stone celt, thus connect-
ing it with the race of, probably, the later stone
period. Several finds of this kind have occurred
in our own river, the Witham, or near it.

In digging for the foundations of a house in
the upper part of the High Street, Lincoln,
some 80 or 90 years ago, a boat was discovered
fastened by a chain to a post,t the spot being
several yards higher than the present level of
the Witham ; thus showing that, when the
Witham was a tidal river, it rose at times con-
siderably higher than it does now.

* An old Lincolnshire term for a male elf is " Tom-
tut," which may be a corruption of Tom-cat. A person
in a rage is said to be " quite a Tom-tut," or spitfire, like
a cat spitting. In connection with " shag," we may add
that there is a sea bird frequenting some of our coasts
called a "Black-shag." Another explanation of Tab-
shag, which has been suggested is that " Tab " is
another word for turf sods, and sods used to be cut on
the moor for fuel.

t" Facts and Remarks relative to the Witham, <fec." by
W. Chapman, p. 18. A large anchor was also dug up at
a considerable depth, indicating that large vessels also
ascended the river to Lincoln.


In 1816 an ancient canoe wa found,* some
8 feet below the surface, in cutting a drain,
parallel to the Witham, about two miles below
Lincoln. This, like the Brigg boat, was
hollowed out of a single oak, 38ft. long, and 3ft.
at the widest part. Another was found in 1818,
in cutting a drain not far from the last, but was
unfortunately destroyed by the workmen before
they knew what it was. Its length was about
the same as that of the previous boat, but it was
4ft. wide. Two more similar canoes "dug-
outs," as they were technically termed were
found about the same time in drain-cutting,
in the same vicinity ; and one of these was
presented to the British Museum. t The Fen
men used to call their boats "shouts," from the
Dutch "schuyt, " a wherry. They propelled
them along the drains by a long pole, called a
"poy. " It would be too much to say that all
these vessels belonged to pre-historic man,
because of the presence in one case of a flint
implement, connecting it with the neolithic
period. Such boats have probably been used by
all nations, at early stages of their existence.
The Greek writer Hippocrates, about 400 B.C.,
mentions the "monoxyle," or one-tree boat;
one has been found in the Tunhovd Fyord in
Norway. The Russians of the 9th century, in
the neighbourhood of Novgorod, used them,
laden with slaves for the market. The Goths of
the 3rd century, as stated by Strabo, swept the
Black Sea with them ; and Professor High says
that they have been used until comparatively
modern times in Scandinavia ; but at any rate
these found in our fens belong to a period,
apparently, when the fens were not yet formed,
or, at most, were forming. Article on the Brigg
Boat in "Byegone Lincolnshire."

We .now come to a case nearer home. The
visitor who takes a stroll from the cross roads
by St. Andrew's Church, along the Tattershall
road, shortly after crossing the pellucid sewer,
will see a large pond on his right, close to a
farm yard ; and on the other side, eastward, are
two ponds, about 80 yards from the road. All
these ponds are pits dug for clay, which was
put on the somewhat light land to strengthen
it. The present course of the sewer, now
running in a straight line due east and west,
from Kirkby lane to the Witham, is artificial.
It formerly pursued a tortuous course, and, on

* Thompson's " Boston," p. 126.

t Letter from Sir Joseph Banks to the Editor of the
" Journal of Science and Art," No. ii., p. 224.


reaching the Tattershall road, flowed southward
along the west side of that road, past what is
now the Abbey Lodge public-house, dividing
into 'more than one channel on its way to the
Witham. This change was made soon after the
Kirkstead estate passed, by purchase, from the
Ellison family to that of the present proprietor,
in the year 1839, when great improvements were
made in the farms ; the woods,* which then
reached from the Moor ground to the Tattershall
road, were cleared away, and much land brought
into cultivation which had hitherto .been waste,
or forest. In digging for clay some 150 yards
eastward from the road, and about the same
distance, or a little more, south of the present
course of the sewer, the labourers came upon
the skeleton of a boat several feet below the
surface. I am not able to discover whether it
was a so-called "dug-out," formed from one
trunk, or constructed, as modern boats are, of
several planks. Probably it would be the latter.
But its position several feet below the surface
would seem to imply considerable antiquity ;
while its mere existence would seem to indicate
that either the sewer was formerly a larger
stream than it is now, to float such a boat, or
that the waters of the Witham, when unconfined
by such a bank as the present, extended to this
point inland. A circumstance which confirms the
supposition of the sewer being larger is the fact
that about this same place it is known that there
was a mill-dam, and doubtless the stream turned
the mill-wheel. The boat in question may not,
therefore, like some of those previously men-
tioned, have belonged to pre-historic man ; and
yet it might well lay claim to an antiquity
sufficiently hoar to make it a relic of some
interest. But, though so long preserved beneath
the surface, once above ground, it .soon perished,
and even the memory of it only remains with
a few.

The visitor to Woodhall, who has antiquarian
proclivities, may well spend an enjoyable day at
Lincoln, not only for the sake of seeing the

There was a wood called Synker Wood, which
extended from within 100 yards of Kirkby lane, west-
ward to the Tattershall road skirting the boundary
between the parishes of Kirkstead and Thornton,
having at the east end of it Synker Wood House. South
of this wood, near the Tattershall road, was a lee, or
strip of grass laud: and south of that again, and
opposite the present larger farm house, there was
another smaller wood called the Bynker Pool Wood. Of
this there is one solitary oak left still standing, about 20
yards from the road ; and it was some yards eastward of
this tree that the boat was found.


Cathedral, which is unsurpassed by any in the
kingdom, or, rather, as has been said by no less
an authority than Ruskin, "worth any two
others"; or of visiting the Castle, founded by
the Conqueror ; but there are many other
objects of much interest. One of the most im-
portant discoveries of recent years is the remains
of a Eoman basilica, found beneath the house of
Mr. Allis, builder, in Bailgate, where a small
fee is charged for admission. This has been
pronounced by an authority, the late Precentor
Venables, to have been "the finest Roman
building in the kingdom." Its length was 250
feet, width 70 feet, and it had stately pillars
rising to a height of 30 feet. Beyond this is the
fine old Newport Arch, the only Roman city gate
in the kingdom. "The noblest remnant of this
sort in Britain," says Iceland. He will do well
to furnish himself with the "Pocket Guide to
Lincoln," by the late Sir Charles Anderson, one
of our greatest authorities, and "A Walk
through Lincoln," by the late learned Precentor
Venables, a compendium rich in historic lore.
Either of these will prove a valuable Va-de
mecum, but the former, perhaps, more for the
study, to be perused before his visit ; the latter
a manual for the street

It may 'be added that, within quite recent
years, the visitor to Lincoln found himself at
once, on landing from the train, in an atmo-
sphere of antiquity, for, on emerging from the
station of the G. N. Railway, he would see over
the door of a shop, full of modern utensils, facing
the gate of the station yard, the name "Burrus, "
Cooper, a genuine Roman patronymic, the
bearer of which we may well suppose to have
been a lineal descendant of some early Roman
colonist, settled at Lindum Colonia, "a citizen
of no mean city," for Precentor Venables
reminds us ("A Walk through Lincoln," p. 9)
it is one (with Colchester and Cologne) of the
only three cities which still preserve, embedded
in their names, the traces of their ancient
distinction as Roman colonies.

By way of whetting the appetite for further
enquiry, I give here a succinct catena of historic
items, shewing the many interesting memories
which cluster round our ancient cathedral city.
Lincoln was the British Caer-Lind-coit, the
" Fortress (or City) of River and Wood," these
being the chief features of the position ; the
river, a sacred British stream, which carved
out for itself its channel through " the Lincoln
Gap " ; and the woods (Welsh, or British,
'coed,' a wood) which stretched far away for


miles around it ; of the remains of which De la
Prime says, " infinite millions of roots and
bodies of trees have been found, of 30 yards
length and above, and have been sold to make
masts and keels for ships ... as black as
ebony, and very durable."* Then, as the city
took the last element of its name from its woods
(coeds), so the people who dwelt around were
called Coitani, or woodmen t ; corresponding to
the name giveoi to the dwellers in the fens,
Gir-vii, or men of the cars. Lincoln was the
royal city of the Coitani.

During the Roman occupation the Britons
were christianized. After the Romans left the
country, the people having, through the long
period of peace, almost lost the art of war, the
British chief Vprtigern called in the Saxons
from the continent to aid him against the
inroads of the Picts and Scots ; and Hengist
and Horsa, Saxon chiefs, came with a large
following and settled in the country (circa A.D.
450). Vortigern, with their assistance, repelled
those northern marauders, and himself married
Rowena, daughter of Hengist, giving to Hengist,
in return for his aid, considerable lands
" multos agros," says Matthew of Westminster^
in Lindsey.

But these so-called friends soon proved to be
enemies, and, in 462, seized London, York, and
Lincoln. Vortimer, son of Vortigern, died and
was buried at Lincoln. Vortigern himself
retired into Wales, and was burnt in his castle
there, in 485.

Matthew of Westminster records that King
Arthur of "the round table" pursued a Saxon
army as far as Lincoln, having defeated them,
with a loss of 6,000 men, in a wood near Barlings.

The Saxons, being ultimately victorious, re-
introduced Paganism, the names of their gods
still surviving in our day-names, Tuesday
(Tuisco), Wednesday (Woden), Thursday (Thor),
Friday (Friga), Saturday (Seater).

Among the kingdoms of the Saxon Heptarchy,
Mercia was the largest and most important
division, founded by the chief Crida in A.D. 584,
and Lincoln is said to have been its capital city.

* Account of trees found under ground \ in Hatfleld
chase. " Philosoph, Transactions," No. 275, p. 980

t Richard of Cirencester (circa A.r>. 1380) says of them,
Coitani in tractu sylvis obsito (habit-antes). Some
writers, following Ptolemy, call them Coritani, others
Coricen i, but the learned Dr. Pegge prefers Coitani, as a
name in harmony with the " circumambient woods,"
Coed being still Welsh for wood.

f'Flores Historiarum," A.D. 1377.

J Brooke's " Lincoln," p. 14.


Paulinus preached Christianity among the
Saxons (circa A.D. 630), and converted Blecca,
the governor of Lincoln, where a stone church
was built, said by some to have been the first
stone church in the kingdom,* that at. Glaston-
bury being made of wattles. The Venerable
Bede says it was of excellent workmanship. t
Two churches in Lincoln have claimed to
represent this ancient fabric.

At a later period the Humber formed a high-
way for the marauding Danes, who overran the
country, and, if in nothing else, have left their
traces in every village-name ending in "by." In
their time Lincoln was the first city of the Penta-
polis, or Quinque Burgi, of Fifburg, a league
of the five confederate towns, Lincoln, Notting-
ham, Derby, Leicester, and Stamford. Before
the Norman Conquest Lincoln was the fourth
city in the kingdom, and during the llth and
12th centuries it was one of the greatest trading
towns in the kingdom. The castle was founded
by the Conqueror, A.D. 1086, being one of four
which he erected at York, Nottingham, Hastings
and here; and 166 "mansions" were destroyed
to provide space for it.J

The Empress Maud, in 1140, took up her
residence in Lincoln, and strongly fortified the
castle. It was besieged by Stephen, who was
defeated and made prisoner at the battle of
Lincoln. A prophecy had long been current to
this effect,

" The first crowned head that enters Lincoln's walls,
His reign proves stormy, and his kingdom falls."

On Stephen's restoration he visited Lincoln in
triumph, wearing his crown ; but subsequent
events verified the prediction.

At Lincoln, in 1200, William the Lion, of
Scotland, did homage to King John of England.

On the death of Queen Eleanor, the beloved
wife of Edward I., at Harby, a small hamlet of
North Clifton, Notts, the embalmed body was
taken to Westminster for burial, but the viscera
were brought to Lincoln and interred in the
Cathedral, A.D. 1290.

In 1301 Edward I. held a Parliament in
Lincoln, to decide on sending letters to Rome
to Pope Boniface VTIL, asserting England's
independence of the Pope.

Brooke, Ibid. But the earliest record of a stone
church in the British Isles is that built by St. Ninian.
first Bishop of Scotland. A.D. 488. at Witherne, in Gallo-
way. Bede, " Eccles. Hist.," book iii., ch. iv. ^

t " Egregii opperis," Bede, " Eccles. Hist.," book i. p. J

t Weir's " Hist. Lincolnshire," vol i., p. 32. ' '


In 1805 Edward I. kept his court in Lincoln a
whole winter, and held another Parliament, in
which he confirmed the Magma Charta of Kino;

A Parliament was also held in Lincoln by
Edward II., and another, in his first year, by
Edward III.

In 1352 the staple of wool was removed from
Flanders to England; and Lincoln, with West-
minster, Chichester, Canterbury, Bristol, and
Hull, was made a staple town t for that com-

John of Gaunt, fourth son of Edward III.,
resided in Lincoln Castle. His son, "Henry of
Bolin^broke, " afterwards Henry IV., was the
only king born in this county. John of Gaunt
married Catherine Swynford, sister of Chaucer
the poet. She and a daughter were interred
in the Cathedral, on the south side of the altar
steps. The royalty of Lincoln Castle was shewn
by a shield over a doorway, bearing the arms of
England and France, quarterly, which were
shewn in Buck's engraving, date 1727.

In the year 1386 Richard II. visited Lincoln
and held a Court in the Episcopal Palace. He
granted to the Mayor and his successors the
privilege of having a sword carried before them
in civic processions.

Henrv VI. visited Lincoln and held a Court
at the Bishop's Palace in 1440.

Henry VII. visited Lincoln in 1486, and was
right royally entertained.

On the dissolution of monasteries t by Henry
VIII., Lincoln became the headquarters of
60,000 insurgents, who, by the subsequent
"Pilgrimage of Grace," made their protest
against the spoliation, A.D. 1536.

In 1541 Henry VIII. made a progress to York,
and, although he had called Lincolnshire one of

* A fine copy of Magna Charta is still preserved among
the Archives of the Cathedral.

t In the preamble to a Charter granted to the city (4
Charles I.) Lincoln is called " one of the chiefest seats
of our kingdom of England for the staple and public
market of wool-sellers and merchant strangers, &c."
There came into the writer's possession a few years ago a
curious relic, consisting of a terra cotta cnbe, light red in
colour, each of the six sides being If inches square, and
having each a, different, deeply-cut, pattern ; crosses of
different kinds, squares, or serpentine lines. It was
found in a private garden in Lincoln, and was pro-
nonnced to be a stamp for bales of wool. I exhibited it
before the Line. Architectural Society, the Society of
Antiquaries, &c. ; and ultimately presented it to the
British Museum.

J The number of monasteries closed by Henry VIII. was 645,
containing some 20.000 religious persons.


4- the most brute and beastly shires in the
realm," he, on his way, visited Lincoln in great
state. It is recorded that he found in the
Cathedral Treasury 2,621 ozs. of gold and 4,28o
ozs. of silver, besides jewels of great value.

On the commencement of the Civil Wars
between Charles I. and his Parliament, the
King came to Lincoln, where he received
assurances of support from the Corporation and
principal inhabitants. He convened there a
meeting of the nobles, knights, gentry, and free-
holders of the county. Lincoln Castle was taken
by the troops of Cromwell, under the Earl of
Manchester, in the year 1644.

James I. visited Lincoln A.D. 1617, hunted
wild deer on Lincoln Heath, touched 50 persons
for "the King's evil," attended service in the

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Online LibraryJames Conway WalterRecords of Woodhall Spa and neighbourhood; historical, anecdotal, physiographical, and archæological, with other matter → online text (page 12 of 28)