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Title: Social Life in England Through the Centuries
Author: Hall, H. R. Wilton
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Social Life in England Through the Centuries" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Transcriber's note:
    Minor spelling inconsistencies, mainly hyphenated words, have been
    harmonized. Italic text has been marked with _underscores_.
    Obvious typos have been corrected. A "List of Illustrations and
    Diagrams" has been added so as to include the illustrations and
    diagrams not in the "List of Plates." Please see the end of this
    book for further notes.


  A street in the Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, N.W.]




    Library Curator, Hertfordshire County Museum;
    Sub-Librarian, St. Alban's Cathedral; Author of
    "Hertfordshire: a Reading-book of the County"



In the course of the last ten or twelve years there has been a
very marked development of interest in local history, and with it
a desire not merely to "know more about the past" but a desire to
appreciate intelligently the real value of those things, still to
be seen, which speak of the gradual building up of the social life
of the Nation, which rightly handled will play an important part in
the work of reconstruction pressing upon us now, with its enormous
difficulties and anxieties.

Much has been done in schools of all grades to utilize the
material at hand--the things which can be seen in the locality--as
an educational medium, opening out great possibilities for the
development of curiosity, interest, personality, and power of
initiative on the part of the children which, though it may not
seem to yield any immediate results which can be appraised by
examination methods on the lines of any "Syllabus", are "neither
barren nor unfruitful".

Just now there are a number of schemes in the air for the
institution of "Regional Survey" in schools, and a tendency amongst
enthusiasts to get it put into school time-tables as a Syllabus
Subject. However admirable the intention may be, and is, it is not
as a Subject, but rather as a method in education, that its real
value lies. "Regional Study" embraces so many subjects and they
cannot be enterprised all at once, either by children or by anybody

This little book is intended to be suggestive, to stimulate
interest and an intelligent curiosity, but it may serve as
a foundation for conversational or more formal lessons and
investigations under the teacher's direction, as his personal
predilection, opportunities, taste, and judgment shall determine.

In the work of "Regional Study", where carried on with
discrimination and with a commonsense apprehension of "relative
values" it may be truly said:--

    "Nothing useless is, or low;
      Each thing in its place is best;
    And what seems but idle show,
      Strengthens and supports the rest".

    H. R. W. H.

    ST. ALBAN'S, _September, 1919_.


    CHAP.                                                  Page

          I. INTRODUCTION                                     1

         II. MEN WHO LIVED IN CAVES AND PITS                  3

        III. THE PIT-DWELLERS                                 6

         IV. EARTHWORKS, MOUNDS, BARROWS, &C.                11

          V. IN ROMAN TIMES                                  15

         VI. EARLY SAXON TIMES                               19

        VII. EARLY SAXON VILLAGES                            22

       VIII. ANGLO-SAXON TUNS AND VILLS                      26

         IX. TYTHINGS AND HUNDREDS--SHIRES                   29

          X. THE EARLY ENGLISH TOWN                          33

         XI. IN EARLY CHRISTIAN TIMES                        35

        XII. MONASTERIES                                     37

               THE DANE                                      41

               LATER SAXON TIMES                             46

         XV. LATER SAXON TIMES                               50

        XVI. IN NORMAN TIMES                                 52

       XVII. IN NORMAN TIMES (_continued_)                   54

      XVIII. IN NORMAN TIMES: THE CHURCHES                   56

        XIX. CASTLES                                         58

         XX. CASTLES AND TOWNS                               61

        XXI. IN NORMAN TIMES: THE MONASTERIES                64

       XXII. EARLY HOUSES                                    69

      XXIII. EARLY HOUSES (_continued_)                      72

       XXIV. EARLY TOWN HOUSES                               75


       XXVI. THE GROWING POWER OF THE TOWNS                  85



               CHURCHES (_continued_)                        97

        XXX. CLERKS                                         100

       XXXI. FAIRS                                          104

      XXXII. MARKETS                                        108

     XXXIII. SCHOOLS                                        113

      XXXIV. UNIVERSITIES                                   118

               BLACK DEATH                                  122

      XXXVI. WOOL                                           125

     XXXVII. THE POOR                                       127


               THE NEW BUILDINGS                            135

               ELIZABETH                                    139


       XLII. CHURCHES AFTER THE REFORMATION                 147



        XLV. SCHOOLS AFTER THE REFORMATION                  159

       XLVI. APPRENTICES                                    168

      XLVII. PLAY                                           171

     XLVIII. ROADS                                          175

       XLIX. ROADS--RAILWAYS                                182

          L. GOVERNMENT                                     190

         LI. SOME CHANGES                                   195



       AGES                                                   8

    STONEHENGE                                               13


    THE VILLAGE GREEN, EXTON, RUTLAND                        28


    CHOIR OF CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL                            57

    THE OLD PALACE, HATFIELD                                 72




    WOLLATON HALL, NOTTINGHAMSHIRE                          137

    INTERIOR OF ST. MARY-LE-BOW, LONDON                     157

    A SCHOOL PLAYGROUND SCENE                               164

    CRICKET, 18TH CENTURY                                   172

    THE NEW INN, GLOUCESTER                                 181


    _Chipped Flint Weapons_                                   5

    _Lake-dwelling_                                          10

    _Round Barrow_                                           12

    _Long Barrow_                                            12

    _Dolmen at Plas Newydd, Anglesea. The scene of
       Druidical religious rites_                            14

    _Roman Pottery Kiln found at Castor, Hunts_              18

    _Saxon Brooch found at Abingdon, made of gold
       encrusted with coloured glass_                        23

    _Diagram of a Saxon Village Settlement_                  23

    _Ploughing. From an old Saxon Calendar in the
       British Museum_                                       31

    _Saxon Church at Bradford-on-Avon_                       40

    _Agriculture. From an eleventh-century manuscript
       in the British Museum_                                43

    _Ploughing. From an eleventh-century manuscript in
       the British Museum_                                   45

    _Wooden Church at Greenstead, Essex_                     47

    _Consecration of a Saxon Church_                         49

    _Saxon Doorway, Earl's Barton, Northampton_              51

    _Domesday Book_                                          55

    _Norman Capital, Buckland Church, Berks_                 56

    _Norman Capital, Hanney Church, Berks_                   57

    _Norman Capital, St. Bartholomew's Priory Church,
       London_                                               57

    _Rochester Castle: The Keep_                             59

    _The White Tower, Tower of London_                       60

    _Norman Castle_                                          63

    _Ruins of Furness Abbey_                                 65

    _Foundation of a Minster_                                67

    _Bath Abbey_                                             68

    _The Jew's House, Lincoln_                               71

    _Diagram of the Shape of a House of a Villein_           72

    _Old House, Cleveland, Yorkshire_                        74

    _Shop of the Middle Ages  now standing in Foregate
       Street, Chester_                                      77

    _A Cradle of the Fourteenth Century now in a
       London Museum_                                        78

    _The Shambles, York; a street that preserves its
       narrow, mediæval character_                           81

    _Hospital of St. Cross, Winchester_                      84

    _Seal of Guild Merchant, Gloucester, 1200_               85

    _Court-house of Godmanchester, Hunts_                    88

    _Manor House, Thirteenth Century_                        91

    _Saxon, Norman, and Later Architectural Features_        93

    _Effigy with Crossed Legs in the Temple Church,
       London_                                               96

    _Spire of Norwich Cathedral Fourteenth Century_          98

    _A Scriptorium, from a miniature painted in an old
       manuscript_                                          101

    _Writing before the Norman Conquest_                    103

    _Morris Dancers, Fourteenth Century_                    107

    _Market Cross and Portion of Shelter, Winchester_       109

    _Market Scene in the Middle Ages_                       111

    _A School, Fourteenth Century_                          115

    _Part of Winchester College, built in 1692_             117

    _Gloucester Hall, now Worcester College, Oxford,
       founded 1283_                                        119

    _Gownsman of Fifteenth Century. From an old print
       of Chaucer's Clerk of Oxenford_                      121

    _Labourers felling a Tree, Fourteenth Century_          124

    _Spinning Wheel, Fourteenth Century_                    126

    _Wayfarers, Early Fourteenth Century_                   130

    _The Moat House, Ightham, Kent_                         131

    _Part of the House called Plas Mawr, Conway,
       Wales_                                               134

    _Old Timbered House, at Presleigh, Radnorshire,
       dated 1616_                                          138

    _Moreton Old Hall, Cheshire, built 1550-59_             140

    _Diagram of a Large House_                              142

    _Hall and Staircase, Knole House, Kent, 1570_           143

    _A Room in an Elizabethan House_                        144

    _Blickling Hall, Norfolk, built 1619_                   145

    _Monument in Chelsea Church, London; date about
       1630_                                                148

    _House at Rainham, Essex, built during the reign
       of Queen Anne_                                       150

    _Doorway from a House in Gt. Ormond Street,
       London_                                              152

    _Pews in a Church at Stokesay, Shropshire, rebuilt
       1654_                                                155

    _King Edward VI's School and Alms Houses,
       Stratford-on-Avon_                                   159

    _Charity School, Gravel Lane, London_                   162

    _Bluecoat Boy_                                          164

    _Schoolmaster and Pupils, early Seventeenth
       Century_                                             166

    _Richmond County School. A modern council school_       167

    _Apprentice, Sixteenth Century_                         169

    _Apprentices, Eighteenth Century_                       170

    _The Game of Bob-apple, Fourteenth Century_             171

    _Boys' Sports_                                          173

    _Diagrams of Layouts for a Boy's Game_                  174

    _Cart, Fourteenth Century_                              176

    _A Toll-gate, early Nineteenth Century_                 179

    _Coach, early Nineteenth Century_                       180

    _George Stephenson's Locomotive "The Rocket"_           183

    _Building a Railway in the early Nineteenth
       Century_                                             186

    _Sankey Valley Viaduct_                                 188

    _The Town Hall, Carlisle, built in time of
       Elizabeth_                                           190

    _Police Officer and Jailer, early Nineteenth
       Century_                                             192

    _Hayes Barton Farm, Devonshire_                         197

    _Modern Industry_                                       200




A little boy, who had been born in a log-cabin in the backwoods
of Canada, was taken by his father, when he was about eight years
old, to the nearest settlement, for the first time in his life. The
little fellow had never till then seen any other house than that
in which he had been born, for the settlement was many miles away.
"Father," he said, "what makes all the houses come together?"

Now that sounds a very strange and foolish question to ask; but it
is by no means as foolish a question as it seems. Here, in England,
there are towns and villages dotted about all over the country.
Some of them are near the sea, on some big bay or inlet; others
stand a little farther inland, on the banks of tidal rivers; others
are far away from the sea, in sheltered valleys or on the sunny
slopes of hills; some stand in the midst of broad fertile plains,
while others are on the verge of bleak lonely moorlands. What has
made all the houses in these towns and villages come together in
these particular spots? There must be a reason in every case why a
particular spot should have been chosen in the first instance.

In trying to find an answer to this question with reference to any
town or village in our country we have to go back, far back, into
the past. We may have to go back to ages long before there was any
written history. As we go back step by step into the past we learn
much of the people who have lived before us--of their ways and
their doings, and of the part they played in the life and work of
the country.

The little Canadian boy's question can be asked about every town
and village in the land. There are no two places exactly alike;
each one has its own history, which, however simple it may be, is
quite worth knowing. The busy manufacturing town, with its tens and
hundreds of thousands of people, where all is movement and bustle,
has its history; and the lonely country village, where everybody
knows everybody else, has often a history even more interesting
than that of the big town--if we only knew what to look for, and
where to look for it.

One summer day, years ago, a party of tourists was climbing
Helvellyn. One of the party was an elderly gentleman, who was
particularly active, and anxious to get to the top. After several
hours' stiff climbing the party reached the summit; and there,
spread out before them, was a lovely view of hills and dales,
of mountains and lakes. Most of the party gazed upon this fair
scene in quiet enjoyment; but our old gentleman, as soon as
he had recovered his breath, and mopped his red face with his
pocket-handkerchief, gave one look round, and then said in a
grieved tone: "Is that all? Nothing to see! Wish I hadn't come."

He saw nothing interesting, because he did not know what to look
for, and he might just as well have stopped at the bottom. He came
to see nothing, _and he saw it_.


Men who lived in Caves and Pits

Man is a very ancient creature. It is a curious fact that we have
learned most of what we know about the earliest men from the
rubbish which they have left behind them. Even nowadays, in this
twentieth century, without knowing much about a boy personally, we
can tell a good deal about his habits from the treasures he turns
out of his pockets. Hard-hearted mothers and teachers call these
treasures rubbish, but the contents of a lad's pockets are a pretty
sure indication of the boy's tastes, and in what things he is

The earliest traces of the existence of man in our part of the
world are found in some places which are now many feet above the
level of the sea. There, in the gravel, are the roughly-chipped
stone tools and weapons which those early men used, tools which
they lost or threw away. Almost every other trace has quite
disappeared. Remains belonging to the same period have been noticed
in caves in various parts of the world.

The illustration on p. 5 shows two of these very early stone
weapons. You will find collections of these, and also of later
weapons, in any good museum. These earliest sorts are usually
labelled "Palæolithic Stone Implements". The curator of such a
museum, we may almost certainly say, would be willing to help you
to see the specimens which he has under his care, and you would
learn more about them in that way than by just glancing at a

Here, in Britain, caves have been found where these early men have
left their stone implements and remains of their rubbish. Some of
the best known of such cave-dwellings in Britain are near Denbigh
and St. Asaph in North Wales, at Uphill in Somersetshire, at
King's Car and Victoria Cave near Settle, at Robin Hood's Cave and
Pinhole in Derbyshire, in Pembrokeshire, in King Arthur's Cave in
Monmouthshire, at Durdham Down near Bristol, near Oban, and in the
gravels in the valleys of the Rivers Trent, Nore, and Dove, in the
Irish River Blackwater, near Caithness, and in a good many other

So, you see, the remains of these early men cover a pretty wide
area. In thinking of the life of those early days we must remember
that the aspect of Britain was very different then from what it is
now, for in that far-back time these islands were a part of the
Continent of Europe, and the North Sea and English Channel were
just valleys, with rivers flowing through them, tributaries of the
Rhine. There were no insurmountable obstacles to cross between the
Continent and these regions, and animals and early man gradually
roamed into this part of the world. Geology teaches us a good deal
concerning the changes the surface of the ground has undergone. The
land was very much higher than it is now--Snowdon, for instance,
was at least six hundred feet higher then--and the climate was very
much colder. That race of men, apparently, has quite died out. In
the course of ages rivers and seas have flowed over the places
where these stone tools had been dropped, and, year after year
throughout the ages, the drift brought down by the rivers covered
them inch by inch and foot by foot. Great changes have taken place
in the surface of the land, some suddenly, but most of them very,
very slowly. The land has risen, and sunk again, and long, long
ages of sunshine and storm, of ice and snow, of stormy wind and
tempest, have altered the surface of the country.

Those very ancient men, who lived in the Early Stone Age, are
called Cave-dwellers, because they lived apparently in caves, and
River-drift Men and Lake-dwellers, because the roughly chipped
tools are found in the _drift_ of various rivers and lakes.

The Cave-man's weapons and tools were made of chipped flint, which
he found broken on the surface of the ground, and these he chipped
into shape. They are usually more or less oval, sometimes roughly
in the form of a spear-head. Others are borers, or awls, for
piercing holes in skins. For rougher work he had hammer-stones,
with flat edges, and sharp bits of stone for scrapers. Amongst many
other places where these relics have been found in considerable
numbers is the Thames valley. They are met with in the higher
gravels, on levels now many feet higher than they were in the
Cave-man's day, for the surface has risen considerably; and we
conclude that there must have been a good many of these people in
that neighbourhood.

  [Illustration: _Chipped Flint Weapons_]


The Pit-dwellers

Other remains, not so ancient as these oldest stone implements
but still very ancient, are found nearer the surface than the
remains of the River-drift Men. They are the remains of people
who, like the Drift-men, knew nothing of metals; and they, too,
used stone weapons and tools, but these were now better made. They
had learned to shape and finish their tools by rubbing, grinding,
and polishing them, and they were a much more advanced race of men
than the Cave-or Drift-men. These later men, Neolithic Men, did not
depend upon the broken and chipped flints which they found lying
about on the surface, but discovered that it was better to dig up
whole flints, and to select those which were best suited for their
purpose, grinding them into the shapes which they wanted, and then
polishing them into more shapely and finished weapons.

For the most part we have to go to somewhat desolate parts of
England to find traces of them now. In fact those traces would long
ago have disappeared had they not been in places which were so wild
and difficult to get at that it was not worth any man's while to
cultivate them. The spade and the plough would very soon remove
all traces of them. In fact, the plough _has_ removed many traces
of these ancient men, and most of the specimens of their tools and
weapons, which you can see in museums, were found by men whilst
employed in ploughing and preparing the land for crops.

You must not suppose that we can fix a date when these men first
appeared, as we can fix an exact date for the landing of Julius
Cæsar, or the sealing of Magna Carta. Neither can we say for how
many centuries they occupied land in what we now call Britain. It
was a long period, at any rate, and during that time their manners
and their customs changed very, very slowly.

The lowest forms of savage life seem very much alike all the world
over. Savages are hunters, and do not as a rule cultivate the soil.
Now hunters must follow their prey from place to place, so that
we should expect these early men to have no settled homes. But
even the earliest Pit-men had advanced beyond this lowest stage,
for they had flocks and herds, and dogs. They found out that they
could tame some of the animals which they came across, and that
they could use them in various ways which the earlier men had not
thought of. They need not always go a-hunting for their food, and
they could have a supply at hand if they looked after it. They
discovered that they had a use for the wool and the milk which
these animals yielded, and so they developed into being a pastoral
people, owning flocks and herds. Then, too, they hit upon the art
of making rough pottery from clay, shaping the various vessels
which they wanted by hand, and baking them in a fire to harden
them. It seems that they found out a way to spin thread from the
wool, and also discovered how to weave it into a kind of rough
cloth, although they used skins for garments. No doubt these folk
hunted as well; but they were mainly a pastoral people, and at
first did not till the soil. Races of men who did not till the soil
are called Non-Aryan. They chose for their settlements the tops of
hills, and avoided the narrow valleys and low-lying lands.

The Pit-dwellers are so called from the simple fact that they had
their homes in pits--not, however, dug anywhere and anyhow. The
hole in the ground is the simplest notion of a house. When in your
summer holiday by the sea you see the little boys and girls digging
deep holes in the sand to make "houses", they are doing in play
what the early Pit-dwellers did in real earnest.

The pits were usually some six or eight feet in diameter, and they
probably had cone-shaped roofs, formed by poles tied together
and covered with peat. In the centre of the hut was the hearth,
which was made of flints carefully placed together. The hut would
hold two or three people, and the fire on the hearth was its most
important feature. The hut in the centre of the group belonged to
the head of the family, and other huts were ranged round it.

Surrounding the group was an earthen rampart for further
protection, and these earthworks can still be traced in many parts
of the country. The huts have gone, of course, and all that can
be seen in most cases now is a number of circular patches in the
turf, slightly hollowed. People living in the neighbourhood will
very likely speak of them as "fairy rings". It is from a careful
examination of these hollows that learned men have been able to
gather much information concerning the habits of these Pit-dwellers.

We English folk speak proudly of "hearth and home"; they are the
centre of our social life, and the idea has come down to us through
all these long, long ages. The hearth and the fire upon it was the
centre of the life of these men, and the head of a family was also
its priest.

Some of the best known of these pit-dwellings are found
near Brighthampton, in Oxfordshire; at Worlebury, near
Weston-super-Mare; and along the Cotswolds, looking over the Severn
valley; and at Hurstbourne, in Hampshire.

At this last place "nine of these early habitations were
discovered, some of which were roughly pitched with flint-stones,
and had passages leading into the pit. A few flints irregularly
placed, together with wood ashes, showed the position of the
hearths, where cooking operations had been carried on. The sloping
entrance passages are peculiar and almost unique in England, though
several have been met with in France."[1]

  [1] _English Villages_, P. H. Ditchfield.


  Older Stone Age: 1. Flint pick (Thames). 2. Bone pendant
  (Devon). 3. Scraper (Kent). Later Stone Age: 4. Deer antler
  pick (Norfolk). 5. Arrow-head (Yorkshire). 6. Flint and pyrites
  for striking fire (Yorkshire). 7. Celt in original haft (Solway
  Moss). 8. Bowl (Thames). Bronze Age: 9. Pin (Ireland). 10. Celt.
  11. Drinking-cup (Berkshire). 12. Spear-head (Thames). 13. Pin
  (Thames). Early Iron Age: 14. Iron currency-bars. 15. Brooch
  (Dorset). 16. Hand comb for weaving (Hampshire).]

In the course of time this race seems to have learned something in
the way of cultivating the ground. The hill-tops, where they built
their huts, were only suited for their cattle, and in order to find
soil which they could till they had to go outside their earthwork,
and some distance down the hill-slope. By their way of digging the
ground, they gradually, in the course of many years, carved broad
terraces, one below the other, on the hill-sides. There are some
very marked traces of such terraces still to be seen near Hitchin
and Luton.[2]

  [2] Also between Hitchin and Cambridge, at Clothall, in Herts,
  on the Chiltern Hills, on the steep side of the Sussex Downs, in
  Clun Forest, in Carmarthenshire, and in Wilts.

But Pit-dwellings were not the only habitations. There were
Lake-dwellings. One was found in the year 1892, near Glastonbury,
where sixty circular mounds were noted, each the remains of a
Lake-dwelling, in an area of three acres. There is another at
Hedsor, in Buckinghamshire; and such Lake-dwellings, of much later
periods, have been found in other parts of the world, and are met
with yet in some parts of South America on the big rivers there;
in the Island of Borneo, in the Caroline Islands, and on the Gold
Coast of Africa.

These dwelling-places of the Lake-dwellers were set up on sharpened
stakes, or piles, driven into the bed of the lake or river. On
these piles a platform was laid, upon which a wooden hut of wattle
and daub was built, and a rough kind of bridge connected the
dwelling with the shore.[3]

  [3] See p. 10.

In the course of time--how long ago it is still quite impossible
to say--a race of men, more advanced than these early Pit-dwellers,
found their way to this part of the world. They were more
civilized, and were Aryans; that is, they were cultivators of the
soil. You may be pretty sure that fighting took place between the
two races.

The newer race preferred to make their settlements near running
streams. In the middle of each settlement there would be an open
space, or meeting-ground, usually a small hill or a mound, round
which their huts were built. Beyond this was the garden-ground,
then the ground where the grain was grown, and beyond that the
grazing-lands. These men began cultivating at the bottom of the
hill-sides and valleys, and, as they required more ground, they
would advance higher up the slopes.

Gradually to this race came the knowledge of metals, and at that
point we reach the Bronze Age. Although polished stone implements
were still in use, men had begun to make spear-heads, chisels, and
daggers of bronze, which is an alloy of copper and tin. What a
great discovery that was, and how we should like to know how the
discovery came to be made! It shows a vast advance in intelligence,
power of observation, and perseverance in making experiments. This
advance gradually led them on to the discovery of the tougher
qualities of iron, and how to "get at it", and to make use of it.
Thus we reach the Iron Age.

  [Illustration: _Lake-dwelling_]


Earthworks, Mounds, Barrows, &c.

There are still remaining, in many parts of the country, curious
mounds and stones. We can say very little about them here; for,
though learned men have discovered much, there is still a good
deal to be explained concerning them. Old-world stories put most
of these strange objects down to the work of witches, fairies, or
giants; some ascribe them to the Romans, or to Oliver Cromwell,
others even to the devil. But most of them really belong to this
period of which we are speaking--the very early part of our
history, of which there is no written record.

Earthworks are of many kinds, but the very earliest are usually
found on hill-tops. There are some which enclose considerable
spaces of ground, bounded by an earthen rampart, with a ditch
outside. Sometimes there are two such ramparts. Frequently they
are spoken of as British Towns or British Camps. They appear to
have been enclosures into which the cattle were driven in time of
danger, and in which a whole tribe could take refuge and hold out
against their enemies.

Then there are big mounds or heaps, called Barrows. All over the
world, not only in Europe, but in northern Asia, in India, and in
America, burial-mounds of various sizes have been met with. Some of
these are oval in shape, and are called Long Barrows; others are
round, and are called Round Barrows. The Long Barrows are thought
to be the older kind, and were apparently the burial-places of
great leaders. The Round Barrows were also burial-places, but those
who raised them burned their dead. The great pyramids of Egypt are
barrows, only they are made of stone, not of earth.

At Silbury, in Wilts, there is a huge mound, covering about five
acres of ground and some one hundred and thirty feet in height.

Many interesting things have been brought to light when these many
varieties of barrows have been properly and scientifically explored
by men who have the knowledge and intelligence to "see" what there
is to see, and who do not attack these old earthworks with the idea
of coming upon some long-hidden hoard of gold or silver. Indeed,
much damage has been done by folk who, from time to time, have
rifled these mysterious old earthworks with that one, sordid idea.
There is much yet to be done in the way of scientific exploration,
and much to be learned.

  [Illustration: _Round Barrow_]

  [Illustration: _Long Barrow_]

The circles of stones at Stonehenge and Avebury seem to have been
connected with the worship of these early people.

A writer, who has given much attention and study to the subject,
gives us some idea as to how these huge stones were got into
position at Stonehenge. He thinks that they must have been dragged
thither by enormous numbers of men from the Marlborough Downs.
"Trunks of trees ... pierced with holes for levers would furnish
rollers to propel the stones to very near their destination. Then
it is necessary to suppose the site of Stonehenge occupied by a
mound, artificial or natural, the ascent being by an easy incline
from the quarter whence these stones were brought. On the top of
the mound we must suppose as many holes dug as there were upright
stones to be placed. On the arrival of each stone it would be
dropped into its hole; and, when all were thus placed, there would
only remain the more easy task of laying on the imposts, each end
of which has evidently been mortised on to the perpendiculars. The
earth would then be dug away, leaving the structure complete."[4]

  [4] W. Long, in the _Wilts Arch. Mag._, p. 121.

  [Illustration: STONEHENGE

  [See page 12]]

In 1918 Stonehenge was given to the nation, and we may hope that
what is left of it will be carefully preserved in the time to come.

Avebury appears to have been made up of a vast circle of unhewn
stones enclosing two other separate double circles. They are in
ruins now, and more than six hundred and fifty of these huge stones
have been destroyed. There are now standing upright only fifteen;
sixteen have been overthrown, and eighteen are known to be buried.
It seems that folk, who did not understand or care about these very
ancient stones, broke them up and carried the pieces away to make
boundary walls or to mend roads, and for any other purpose as they
thought fit.

The remains at Avebury are believed to be much older than those at
Stonehenge, dating back a thousand years or so before Christ. Those
at Stonehenge, which covers a very much smaller area, seem to
belong to the Iron Age, some two hundred years before Christ.

There are many single stones, especially in Cornwall and Wales,
which also seem to have been connected with religious rites, but of
this we know nothing for certain. Some are Dolmens--flat stones,
each on four uprights. In later times they have served as boundary

In various parts of England there are deep lanes or cuttings,
which have received curious local names. There are no less than
twenty-two such cuttings in different parts of England all known
as Grim's Ditch. These, no doubt, formed boundaries, separating
various tribes.

The White Horse, cut out of the slope of Uffington Hill, and
several similar objects in Wiltshire, as well as the crosses--also
cut in the turf--at Whiteleaf and Bledlow, may also belong to this
period. Some learned men, however, have thought that they are of a
later date.

From these early men, then, the Ancient Britons appear to have
descended, and they were settled here a good many centuries before
the coming of the Romans. Many of the wild tales and legends still
told in country villages, about giants and fairies, have come down
to us from these early times.

  [Illustration: _Dolmen at Plas Newydd, Anglesea. The scene of
  Druidical religious rites_]


In Roman Times

Here, then, at the time the Romans first came to Britain, were
tribes of Britons who had been established in the country for
centuries, living their lives according to the customs of their
forefathers, and more or less cultivating the land. The Romans
invaded the country, and, in time, subdued the people. They
remained masters here for nearly four hundred years, but they did
not make such a permanent impression on this country as they did on
France and Spain.

We are to-day masters of India, but we have not made India English,
nor are we trying to do so. The natives there go on cultivating the
land according to their custom from time out of mind. They preserve
their own manners, customs, and religions. In places where they
come much in contact with our fellow-countrymen they are influenced
to a certain degree; but in India to-day the English and the
natives lead their own lives, each race quite apart from the others.

So it was with the Romans in Britain. They formed colonies in
various places and built towns all over the land; they had country
villas dotted here and there, some little distance from the chief
towns, and built strong military stations in suitable districts.
These posts were kept in communication by means of good roads.

To trace out the network of Roman roads is a study in itself, and
much has been learned therefrom. Some roads are still quite easy
to trace, as far as their course is concerned, for many of our
great main roads to-day run upon the top of them; and from time to
time, when excavations are being made for sewers, or for laying
water-pipes, or tubes for trunk lines of telephones, the actual
metal and foundations of the Roman tracks are found, many feet
below the present level of the road. It is sometimes stated that
the Roman roads were always straight, and that all obstacles were
cleared to make room for them. Whilst it is quite true that this
"straightness" and directness was one of the characteristics of
these roads, the makers of them were skilled engineers, and they
not infrequently found that some older trackway, not particularly
straight, was better suited for their purpose, as it avoided some
of the natural difficulties of the country. When they used these
older ways they took care to raise the surface and lay the metal on
firm foundations, so that the traffic along them could be as rapid
as along the new, straight roads--and the Romans were great people
for getting about rapidly from point to point. One of the most
frequent deposits of "rubbish" which the Romans have left behind
is "oyster shells", often met with in quantities. They are found
in places many miles away from the river-mouths where the oysters
were cultivated; so that the question arises: "How did these shells
get there?" Either they must have been brought very rapidly from
the coast far inland, or the eaters of them did not mind eating
them when they were very "high". At any rate, there the shells have
been found, showing that distance was no obstacle in the way of
getting, not only the things which they reckoned to be necessaries,
but expensive luxuries as well. Although the main Roman roads are
still in use, there are a great number of cross-roads, which for
centuries have been out of use, and their exact courses can only
be traced with difficulty, passing as they do through what are now
quiet, secluded places, long overgrown by grass and underwood and
cultivated fields.

Many Britons must in the course of time have adopted Roman ways
and Roman civilization; but the bulk of the Britons, living away
from the Roman centres, kept to their own customs, and cultivated
the ground in the way their ancestors had done. They prospered, on
the whole, as the Romans kept the various tribes from quarrelling
with one another.

No doubt, in districts such as that which we now call Hampshire,
and along the Thames valley, where wealthy Romans had their country
villas, Roman methods of farming were in use. The Britons would see
something of Roman ways of doing things, and perhaps tried to copy

But the Romans have not left many marks upon our towns and
villages. It is quite true that a large number of our present
towns and cities are on the _sites_ of, or near, Roman towns;
but, in most cases, we have to dig down into the earth to find
Roman remains. The most important Roman city, Verulam, has quite
disappeared, and the most complete remains of a Roman town,
Silchester, are near to what is now a quiet country village. The
present cities of London, Winchester, Gloucester, Lincoln, Chester,
Carlisle, and the towns of Colchester and Leicester, and several
others, can hardly be said to have sprung from Roman towns, though
they stand on their sites.

Most of the Roman cities were built in districts where the Britons
had been strong, or where they were likely to give trouble.
Carlisle and Gloucester were, for instance, military towns because
they were on the borders of the Roman territory. London and
Winchester were trading cities, and they developed much in Roman

But, when the Roman power was withdrawn, there was, in those
cities at any rate, a British population which had adopted very
extensively Roman customs and ideas. For a time things went on much
as they had done while the Romans were here; in fact, until the
struggles with the Saxons began.

As a matter of fact, the coming of the Saxons began a good while
before the Romans actually left. Various tribes of Saxons attacked
different parts of the coast, and with varying success. Colchester
had to keep a sharp look-out for them on the east coast; and the
Romans built Portchester Castle, in Hampshire, to guard the south

Christianity had found its way to Britain during Roman times, and
that helped in the work of civilizing the Britons. But we do not
know very much of the early British Church. Christianity probably
made more headway among the population in and near the Roman towns
than in the wilder districts. The foundations of an early Christian
church have been found at Silchester.

Silchester was a very important Roman town, although now, as we
have noted, but a small village stands on the spot. Much careful
excavation work has been carried on there, and more is known of
this Roman city than of any other in England. Other sites of Roman
cities are waiting a similar careful exploration, amongst them
Verulam, by the city of St. Alban.

  [Illustration: _Roman Pottery Kiln found at Castor, Hunts_]


Early Saxon Times

The conquest of South Britain by the Saxons took a long
time--considerably over one hundred and fifty years. A great many
people are born, and live their lives, and die, in such a period of
time as that. It was only little by little that the various tribes
of Saxons got a footing in England. They were the stronger and
fiercer race, and the Britons were gradually subdued or driven into
the mountainous regions by them.

Those early tribes of Saxons, who came to Britain, brought with
them, of course, their own special manners and customs. As they
settled down, the face of the country was gradually changed by
them. They disliked and suspected everything Roman, and destroyed
the towns and villas. They hated the idea of walled towns. These,
therefore, were left in ruins, and the great highways, being
neglected in most places, were, in the course of years, overgrown
with brushwood and hidden in thick forests.

In some parts of the country the Saxons seem to have completely
swept the Britons away, and almost all traces of them vanished;
but in other parts there certainly were some of them left, because
we have still their marks upon our language. Although most of the
place-names in use now are Saxon or Danish, there are still a good
many of British, or partly British, origin.

The names of many of our rivers are British or Celtic, such as
Axe, Exe, Stour, Ouse, and Yare. So are many names of hills;
and in some parts of the country the names of the villages are
partly British and partly Saxon. Take, for instance, such a common
name as Ashwell. Some learned men think that it is made up of
two words "Ash" and "Well", both meaning pretty much the same
thing, _ash_ being British for "water", and _well_ being Saxon
for "watering-place". Now, if the Saxons had quite got rid of the
Britons, they would not have known that a particular place was
called "Ash"--they learned to call it "Ash" from the natives, but
they did not know what it meant. They knew that there was a spring
of water there, which they called a "well"; and so, to distinguish
it from other wells in the neighbourhood, they got into the habit
of calling it "Ashwell"--and the name has stuck to the place. In
North America, in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa there
are many instances of English names being grafted on to original
native names, and often you find places with well-known English
names and others with picturesque and descriptive native names
almost side by side.

In some such way as this many other place-names, partly British
and partly Saxon, were formed; and they teach us this--that Saxons
and Britons must have lived near each other closely enough for the
Saxons to take up and use some British names.

There are some English counties in which you will hardly find one
place-name which is not Saxon. This shows us that the Britons
were either killed or completely driven away. That is the case in
Hertfordshire. But in Hampshire, while most of the names are Saxon,
there are many partly Saxon and partly British. The same thing can
be noticed in the county of Gloucester. The Britons, then, must
have been in these districts long enough for the Saxons to pick up
a good many place-names. They did not understand the meaning of
them, and so tacked on to them names which they _did_ understand,
much as British settlers have done in various parts of the world
during these last few centuries.


  [See page 17]]

The place-names of the old towns and villages all had a
meaning, and when we can get to know what that meaning is it
tells us something of the history of the place. But we have to be
very careful in studying place-names not to jump to conclusions
as to what the name means. To get at the truth a knowledge of
the old language and the alterations it has undergone, and also
of the different ways in which the word was spelt, according to
the earliest documents that can be found, is necessary. In days
gone by, before the study of the old forms of the language was
properly grasped, antiquaries often made guesses at the meaning of
place-names which have turned out to be very misleading. So we must
not be in a hurry to jump to conclusions, and should be always on
the look-out for more and better information. We frequently meet
with the syllable _ing_ in a place-name. "Ing", amongst those early
Saxon settlers here, usually meant "the sons of". When they made a
new home in this strange land the little band naturally gave the
place the name of their family. Thus, the sons of a man named Offa
were known as Uffingas, and called the name of the place where they
settled Uffinggaston, or Uffington--and the name stuck to the place
long after the family itself had died out. The sons of Rede settled
at Reading; the sons of Billinge, the Billings, at Billingham; the
sons of Hôc at Woking and Wokingham; the Ardings at Ardington; the
Thurings at Thorington--and so on. You must not, however, conclude
that every name you come across with "ing" in it has the same
meaning; but it will be quite worth while to ask for information
about it from someone who knows, or who can put you in the way of
getting information upon the point.

We cannot go further here into other syllables found in a large
number of place-names, such as _feld_, _yard_, _stock_ or _stoke_,
or _ham_, but it is quite possible for you to find out first of all
what is the meaning of the name of the town or village in which
you live, and what that tells you about its history.

The Saxons made their settlements at first away from the Roman
towns and British villages. In the course of time, in a good many
cases, they made settlements very close to these old sites, and we
know that Saxons lived in such places as Winchester, Gloucester,
and London. We find, especially in Hampshire and Gloucestershire,
that near, or in, certain villages with Saxon names, Roman remains
have from time to time been dug up.


Early Saxon Villages

It is with the coming of the Saxons that the history of our towns
and villages really begins. For, though there are not a few places
which show some connection with Romans, Britons, and Pit-dwellers,
it is mainly from Saxon times that we can follow the history of the
places in which we live, with any certainty.

When the Saxons came to Britain they brought their own ideas with
them, of course. Nowadays, when English folk go to settle in a
distant land, they take their English notions with them. They find,
however, in the course of time, that they have to modify or alter
them somewhat, according to the circumstances in which they are
placed. They may find that roast beef and plum-pudding do not at
all suit them in the new climate. If they are wise, they will see
whether the food-stuffs used by the natives, and folk who have
lived out there for many years, are not more suitable, even though
they may be inclined to despise such food at first.

Now the Saxon tribes which first settled in England in the fifth
century belonged to a race of people bold, strong, fierce, and
free. But they could not make their new homes exactly what their
old ones had been in the land whence they had come.

Like those other Aryan people, who had made their way to Britain
in the Stone Age, they lived together in families. When the family
became too large, some of the members had to turn out, like bees
from a hive, though not in such great numbers, and set out on their
travels to form new settlements, or village communities.

This idea of a village community had come down to them through
many generations. The early Saxon idea of a village community was
something of this sort:--

All the men of the family had equal rights; though there was one
who was head of the family, and who took the lead. The affairs of
the family were discussed and settled at open-air meetings, called
folk-moots. The spot where these were held was regarded as a sacred
place. The tilling of their land, their marriages, their quarrels,
their joining with other villages to make war or peace, were all
settled at the folk-moot. The question whether the younger branches
of the family should leave the village and go out and form another
was fixed by the folk-moot also. In the course of time many such
little swarms left the parent hive, and settled farther away. But
they always looked back upon the old settlement as their home, and
the head of the family as their chief. They were all of one _kin_,
and in the course of time they began to look upon their chief as
their king.

  [Illustration: _Saxon Brooch found at Abingdon, made of gold
  encrusted with coloured glass_]

Now what was the nature of the old Saxon village settlement? In
its general arrangement it was very like the old Pit-dwellers'
settlement. There was the open space where the men of the village
met, the sacred mound where the folk-moot was held. The houses in
which the family dwelt were placed close together, round the hut of
the head of the family.

  [Illustration: _Diagram of a Saxon Village Settlement_]

Outside these was a paling of some sort, so that all the houses
were within the enclosure, or "tun", as it was called; and here
calves and other young stock were reared near the houses. Beyond
the enclosure, or tun, was the open pasture-ground and the arable
land, or land under cultivation. Beyond these would be the
untouched forest-land, or open moorland.

Each man of the tun had a share in these lands; not to do with as
he liked, but to use according to the custom of his family. The
arable land was divided into strips, and shared amongst the men.
However many strips of land a man might have, he could not have
them for all time. The strips were apparently chosen by lot, and
changed from time to time, so that all had an equal chance in
having the best land. In the same way the number of cattle a man
might turn out to graze on the pasture-land was regulated. The
folk-moot, or meeting of the people, was a very important assembly,
and through it the little community was governed.

Such was the mode of life to which the Saxons who came to England
had been used; but they were not nearly as free when they landed
here as their ancestors had been. More and more power had come into
the hands of the chief or king, and to him the people looked for
protection and guidance. In times of war, or when the tribe was
invading new lands, the power of the king increased. By the time,
then, that the Saxon tribes began their settlement in England, they
were very much under the rule of their chiefs or kings. The kings
had rights and powers over their followers which had gradually
grown up by long custom, and none of those followers ventured to
dispute such rights and powers.


Anglo-Saxon Tuns and Vills

A good many Britons no doubt settled down with the Saxons as
slaves, and that probably accounts for so many of the natural
features of the country--the rivers and the hills--keeping their
old British names. The British villages must have had names, but
those villages were apparently destroyed, and the slaves would be
settled near the homesteads which the conquerors set up.

In fixing on a place for a "tun" the Saxons would choose a valley
rather than a hill, usually near a running stream, or a plentiful
supply of water. At the present time nearly all over England we can
find villages which have not been touched by modern improvements
and alterations, and most of these show something even now of their
Saxon origin.

For instance, in the county of Rutland there is a village named
Exton, which has for many centuries kept several features which
show its connection with Saxon days. Its name, Ex-ton, seems to
be compounded of the British word "ex", which means "water", and
the Saxon "ton" or "tun", which means the "enclosure"--"the tun
by the water". There, sure enough, flowing by the village, is a
stream, a tributary of the River Gwash; just such a stream as the
Saxons loved. In the middle of the village is the triangular open
space, or village green. Round it the houses are thickly clustered
together, with hardly any garden ground at the back or in front,
and most of them with none at all. Outside the ring of houses are
small grass fields or closes, where calves and cows feed, and
poultry run. These little fields form a kind of ring round the
village, and the hedges enclosing them represent the old fence
of Saxon days, which formed the "tun". Beyond this are wider
pasture-grounds and big plough-lands, stretching away in several
directions up the gentle slopes.

You will be able to find a good many villages which have some
resemblance to Exton; they answer very closely to the Anglo-Saxon
vill and the Anglo-Saxon town, for town and village were laid out
on the same principle.

Now look at some little sleepy country town, and you will see much
the same arrangement as in the village. The wide open space in the
middle, where the town pump stands, and where the market is held,
answers to the village green. Though this is often spoken of as the
Market Square, it is usually more like a triangle in shape than a

The old houses round the market square are built very closely one
into the other, and with queer narrow alleys leading to houses
behind those in front; much in the same way as the houses are
clustered round the village green. Round the outskirts of the town,
at the back of the houses, are small green closes or paddocks.
Beyond them are the larger meadows and pastures; then the wide
corn-lands and woods; and, not far away, the heath or common.

The Saxon settlements, the "tuns" or "vills", whether they
afterwards became what we now understand as "towns" or "cities", or
remained what we call villages, had all the same chief features.
Just as ordinary schoolrooms and railway stations are all pretty
much alike, because they all have to serve much the same purpose,
so the Saxon settlements were very similar in their general plan.

There was the open place, where people met and the folk-moot was
held, surrounded by the houses of stone or wood in which the people
lived. Around these lay the grass yards or common homestead; and,
beyond them, the wide arable and pasture-lands, with patches of
moorland and forest.

But outside the actual "tun" there would be something connected
with the Saxon settlement which you would be sure to notice. After
you had passed the boundary to the tun, you would see no hedgerows
or walls dividing the land into fields. The arable land was one
huge field. Its position would depend, of course, upon the nature
of the soil and the lie of the land. You would not expect to find
it down in the water-meadows, through which the river flowed; it
would be higher up, out of the reach of floods; perhaps on the

Then you would see the huge field, ploughed in long strips, about
a furlong in length, that is, a "furrow long",[5] and one or two
perches in breadth. Between the ploughed strips would be narrow
unploughed strips, on which, in places, brambles would grow.
The heath-lands and moorlands were uncultivated tracts, where
rough timber and underwood grew, which was cut and lopped by the
people of the vill under certain conditions. There were no formal
spinneys,[6] nor wide stretches of old timber, such as we nowadays
expect to see in a forest. In places the forests contained old
timber, and were thick with undergrowth, and infested with wild
animals, such as wolves and boars. The name forest was often given
to an uncultivated district, not much differing from a rough
common, where sheep, cattle, and swine could pick up a living.

  [5] A furrow, or furlong, was, roughly speaking, the distance the
  plough would travel up or down the field before it was turned.

  [6] Spinneys are plantations of trees growing closely together.


  [See page 26]]


Tythings and Hundreds--Shires

Though the Saxons, as they settled down in England, formed "tuns",
which at first had very little to do with one another, that state
of things probably did not last a very long time. In fighting the
Britons they had to act together; and, for the sake of protection
and help, these separate communities had to combine. Somewhat in
this way ten families in a district would form a tything; and the
heads of the villages would, from time to time, meet together to
consult on various matters in which they were interested.

Then larger areas would need to be covered, as the country became
more settled. Ten tythings would make a hundred; and, from time to
time, men from all the places in the hundred would meet together
and hold hundred courts. The meeting-place for the hundred was
always some well-known spot, selected originally because of its
convenient situation--some particular tree was a favourite place;
and, as the folk met there regularly so many times in the year, the
spot was easily kept in mind from one generation to another. At the
meeting criminals were tried, disputes settled, and in the later
times, when monasteries had become common, some sort of record was
often made of the important matters decided upon, and kept with
the documents belonging to the monastery, as being a safe place in
which to keep them. Scraps of these ancient records have been met
with on old parchments which in later times have been used over
again for another purpose.

Most of the English counties are still divided into hundreds. In
those days the hundreds were not all of the same size, because,
owing to the nature of the soil, some tuns were far apart from one
another, and a tything might cover a wide district, and a hundred
a much larger area. If the hundred was small, that would show that
the tuns were pretty close together, and that the district was
populous. If, on the other hand, the tythings and hundreds were
large, that would show that the district was thinly peopled.

We have seen that new settlements were formed by portions of the
family leaving the old home, and making a new tun in the most
suitable place they could find. It would happen, no doubt, in
favourable districts, that new tuns would spring up not very far
from the mother tun; and, in the course of time, there would be a
good many more tuns in the tything than there were originally. The
fact seems to be, that when once the boundaries had been roughly
agreed upon, they were not often altered. From being a combination
of families, or tuns, the tything got to be a district; and it
kept its name of tything long after the number of tuns in it had

It was much the same with the hundreds. In time they were
represented by certain districts, whose borders were known to the
people living in them. The hundreds all over the country have
not altered their boundaries to any great extent until quite
recently. In Hampshire to-day there are thirty-seven hundreds; in
Hertfordshire there are only eight; and Middlesex has now the same
six hundreds which it had twelve centuries ago when a good part of
the county was forest land.

As to the time when the hundreds became grouped into shires we
cannot speak definitely; the change was brought about gradually
and quite naturally. It is not at all likely that all the various
kingdoms in England came together on some particular occasion and
said: "Now we'll divide all our kingdoms into shires". But the
hundreds did become grouped into shires, doubtless because it was
necessary that they might act together in matters which concerned

  [Illustration: _Ploughing. From an old Saxon Calendar in the
  British Museum_]

There is nothing like a threatened danger from without to draw men
together. We have seen this in a most remarkable way during the
Great War. In the tun, no doubt, the villagers fell out with each
other; however fairly the strips of land were shared somebody was
sure to get what he did not like, and to grumble about it. Some
of his fellow-villagers would take his side, and say it was a
shame; and others would take the opposite side. But if the cattle
belonging to the tun over the hills, or on the other side of the
marsh, had been seen on the wrong side of the mark, or boundary
which separated the lands of the two tuns, the dispute about the
strips in the field would be forgotten, and away the people would
go in a body towards the offending tun "to see about it".

In much the same way, when the boundaries of a tything or hundred
were invaded by another tything or hundred, the differences between
the tuns would be dropped, in order to preserve the rights which
they had in common.

There was strife among the Saxon kingdoms which lasted for many
years, especially between the three great rivals, Wessex, Mercia,
and Northumbria. The lesser kingdoms were under the dominion,
sometimes of one, sometimes of another of these rivals. All this
fighting and settling down put more and more power into the hands
of the kings. Instead of each village fighting for itself, and
leaving all the others to fight for themselves, it was found to
be a much safer and wiser policy to join together for common
protection. Now if people join together, whether in peace or war,
to win a football match or to take a city, somebody must be in
authority to give the necessary orders. Hence the power of the
king, and the officers acting under him, grew up _by custom_, until
the overlordship of the king was so firmly established that no one
dared call it in question.

Apparently from the smaller Saxon kingdoms we get our older shires.
Whether the overlord happened to be the King of Mercia, or the King
of Wessex, the under-king continued to rule over his old kingdom,
or share. When, at length, in the ninth century, the King of
Wessex was acknowledged as the overlord or King of England, Wessex
and Mercia, and a part of Northumbria, were gradually divided
into _shares_, or shires, over each of which the King of England
appointed a reeve to look after his interests--the shire-reeve or
sheriff. The King of England still appoints the high sheriff of
each county. An eorlderman, who, in the case of the older shires,
was at first no doubt a descendant of the old under-king, looked
after the business of the shire itself.

Amongst the older shires we have Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Essex,
Middlesex; while the newer ones were all named after some important
central town, which in each case gave its name to the shire; such
are Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. You can easily pick these out
from a list of the counties of England at the present time.


The Early English Town

At first, as we have seen, the Saxons were an agricultural people,
and each village or tun produced all that it needed for its own
support. But in peaceful times a tun might produce more than it
needed; and by and by something like trade and exchange between
one place and another would begin. There were many places, as for
example London, which in Roman times had been great places for
commerce, to which ships had come bringing various kinds of goods.
In time, as the Saxons settled down, they began to have new wants,
and some of them began to be attracted towards places where there
were more people than in their native tuns. Some men found that
they could make certain articles of common use better than their
neighbours could. Thus certain trades took their rise. Those who
worked at them would gradually give up the agricultural labour
in which everybody else in the tun was employed. We do not know
the causes which led certain of these agricultural tuns to become
trading-places, but it is quite certain that they did gradually
grow to be what we now call towns.

We find Saxon towns springing up near the places where some of
the Roman towns had been, in some cases on the actual site of the
Roman city. In Gloucester and Lincoln, for instance, some of the
streets to-day follow the actual lines of the Roman streets. These
towns are, however, really Saxon towns, not old Roman towns turned
into Saxon towns. The men of these Saxon towns had lands on the
outskirts of the towns, just as the village men had. Even to-day
you will notice that there are many towns which possess lands
called by such names as the Townlands, Townfield, or Lammas Land.

The men in these towns were, from the very first, more inclined to
hold out against an overlord than the men in the villages were. In
the first place, their numbers were greater; and then they had more
varieties of occupation than the villagers, or, as we may say, had
wider interests. In the trading towns, like London and Southampton,
they came in contact with traders from other lands, and trade
brought them more wealth. They, too, had their folk-moots, and they
had more business to transact in them than the country villagers
had. They were very particular to keep a tight hold on their
rights, and were always on the look-out to gain fresh privileges if
they possibly could.

The fence or wall, which surrounded the town, was made much
stronger than that round the village; and men saw the use now of
the thick walls of the old Roman cities which their ancestors had
despised, for they had wealth and goods which needed protection.

We have seen that the power of the king gradually increased; and,
as it did so, the king and the town became more necessary to each
other. The town was wealthy; but it could not stand by itself
against all the rest of the country. The king had the power of the
country at his back, and could protect it if he would. The town had
to give something to the king in return for this protection. But we
shall presently see more of the relations between king and town.


In Early Christian Times

One great and important factor in the making of Saxon England
was Christianity. The first Saxons who came were heathen, and
they wiped out the British Christianity, where they settled, as
completely as they wiped out Roman civilization. Towards the end of
the sixth century Christian missionaries were at work in the north
and in the south of what we now call England, and from that time
onwards the Church played an important part in the making of the

So, side by side with the development and political growth of the
country came the spread of Christianity and the organization of the
Church. We find that the folk in the Saxon kingdoms, following the
lead of their kings, became Christian as a matter of course. Over
and over again we find the kings giving up Christianity and going
back to paganism, and their people following them, also as a matter
of course. The conversion of England took many years to accomplish,
and mixed up with the Christianity was much paganism, which was not
overcome for many centuries. The dioceses[7] of the early Saxon
bishops were, roughly speaking, of the same extent as the early
kingdoms, and the bishops and their clergy travelled about as

  [7] A diocese is the district over which a bishop rules.

As the lords or thanes of the various vills, following the example
of their kings, accepted Christianity, their people followed
their example. In the open places of the tuns and vills, where
the folk-moots were held, Christianity was preached and the cross
set up. That, probably, was the origin of most of the village
and market crosses. Then, in the course of time, in some cases,
a church was built on a part of the old sacred open spaces. You
cannot help noticing to-day how in many towns the chief church is
by the market-place, and in the villages by the village green. In
other cases we find the church and manor-house are outside the
present village. That may be because the thane's or lord's land
was outside the vill or tun, and he built the church on his own
land, not on the common public land in the middle of the tun. It
may have happened, also, that at the time the church was first
built the houses were there also; but, owing to changes many years
afterwards, the people have removed to another spot some distance
away--possibly to the side of a busy main road. Then the original
village has dwindled away; the houses, having fallen into ruin,
have been pulled down, and no trace of them is now left.

A priest would be appointed by the bishop, to work in a tun, and a
portion of land would be set apart in the common fields to maintain
him and to aid in carrying on the services of the church. In course
of time there were certain dues and fees given to him, the paying
of which became a recognized custom. Somewhat in this way glebe
lands and tithes took their rise, and became a part of the land
system of the Saxon people.

Along with the growth of churches in the tuns and vills was the
founding of monasteries. Small bodies of men bound themselves by
simple rules to live and work and worship together. Frequently
they made their settlements in lonely, desolate places, which they
worked to bring under cultivation. So there sprang up settlements,
or convents, of these religious people, living under their own
rules. Work and worship went side by side. It was a new kind of
life, different from the life in the "tun" which the early Saxons
were used to; but in time it had a mighty influence in the land,
and played an important part in the making of England.


  [See page 36]]



The Saxons learned to respect the quiet simple lives of the early
monks. They saw them toiling hard in their fields, bravely facing
many difficulties and hardships, and turning the wilderness into a
garden. At first each monk, from the abbot downwards, had to take
his share in the toil, wherever it was, and the monastery, as well
as the vill, had to produce all that it needed.

Men who were not very good or very religious began to respect the
lives and works of the monks. We find thanes and kings not only
allowing monks to settle on some of their unoccupied land, but
making over to them some of their own land, on condition that
they and their children after them might always have a share in
the prayers of these good men. We see, too, that whole vills came
gradually into the hands of some monasteries; so that the convent
became the lord of the vill instead of a thane or a king.

Some convents made rapid progress, while others never prospered,
but in the course of time disappeared. We have seen that the vill
and the "town" grew up in much the same way, and were formed on
the same plan. There are, however, a good many towns which grew up
round monasteries in the first instance.

For example, King Offa II, at the end of the eighth century,
founded the monastery of St. Alban, giving to it a wide extent of
land round the ruins of the old city of Verulam. The monastery was
built, and much land brought under cultivation. We find the sixth
abbot, Ulsinus, two centuries later, encouraging people to settle
round the walls of the monastery. That monastery lay near one of
the great roads of England; many people were coming and going; so
houses were built and a market was established. Churches, too, were
erected for the use of the people who settled in the town. The
abbot was the lord of this "town", and the people dwelling in it
were his tenants. He, like any other lord of a "tun", or "vill",
was responsible for the keeping of order and good government on his

St. Edmund's Bury, or Bury St. Edmund's, grew up round a monastery
which had been established in a lonely place; and there, also,
arose in time a flourishing town, under the rule of the abbot.

A number of towns, which to-day are cathedral cities, grew up round
the churches where the bishop and his principal clergy had their
homes and chief centres of work.

These things only came about very gradually. The monks who settled
first at Bury, or those whom King Offa settled by the ruins of
Verulam, never dreamed that in the years to come their convents
would be great landowners, with many hundreds of tenants. But
it was so; and the monasteries at length formed one of the most
important classes of landowners in the country; their special
rights and privileges coming to them so gradually, and so
naturally, that no one realized exactly what was taking place.

Those who entered a monastery, or embraced "the religious life",
intended to keep out of the world, and apart from its cares and
worries as much as they could. But the lands left to them had to be
looked after and cultivated. These did not always lie close round
the monastery--very frequently they were tracts of land in distant
counties--and somebody had to look after them. New possessions
bring new responsibilities; and so we we find that the monasteries
had not only to attend to the daily round of worship and work
inside the walls of the monastery, but had to carry on all the
business belonging to great estates as well.

So in time a monastery had to use the services of many men besides
monks; the monks became great employers of labour one way and
another, and this attracted to their towns a good many skilled

The times when the Danes ravaged the greater part of the country
were very trying to the life of English villages and towns. These
sea-rovers came, at first, as plunderers, and the destruction of
towns, churches, and monasteries was very great. Some monasteries,
like Crowland[8], suffered several times, and many were never
rebuilt. But gradually the invaders themselves settled in England.
They did not bring with them an entirely new land system. As they
settled down to farming and village life, we find that land was
held in almost exactly the same manner as under Saxon customs.

  [8] In the Fens.

Of course there were some differences, and those who have studied
the subject closely can indicate a good many points in which the
Saxon and Danish land customs differed from each other. The dangers
to which the Saxons had been exposed by the attacks of the Danes
had put a great deal of power into the hands of the thanes and the
king. Thus, by the time the Danes had settled in England, every
vill and tun had got into the hands of some lord or thane, or was
in the king's hands. In Danish settlements there seems always to
have been an overlord, who led his people in war and ruled in time
of peace; though there was a class of freemen amongst them which
had special rights and privileges. You will remember that when
King Alfred came to terms with the Danes at the Peace of Wedmore,
in the year 880, it was agreed that the part of England east of
the old Roman road, Watling Street, which ran from London to
Chester, should be regarded as Danish territory. In that district
you will find a good many Danish place-names as well as the
older Saxon place-names--names which end in "by", "ey", "ness",
"wic", and "thorpe". A great many will be found in Lincolnshire,
Northamptonshire, and farther north. But some will also be found in
other parts of the country. For instance; there is in Hampshire,
in the valley of the River Meon, quite a little nest of Danish
place-names--a fact which shows that Danes settled in that district
even in the midst of what may be called a Saxon stronghold.

But the Danes were something more than tillers of the soil; they
were traders too, and "tuns" became in many places more like our
"towns" and trading-places than ever they had been before. In time
we find the largest towns in the Danish part of England--Leicester,
Lincoln, Derby, Nottingham, and Stamford--binding themselves
together to protect their trading interests.

  [Illustration: _Saxon Church at Bradford-on-Avon_

  _This little building, one of the earliest stone churches, lay
  hidden for centuries, but was rediscovered in 1857. The monastery
  once attached to it has long since perished._]


Towns and Villages in the Time of Cnut the Dane

Now let us see what an ordinary village was like in the time of
King Cnut, when Saxon and Dane were living pretty comfortably
together, side by side, under good government.

We find that each vill or tun had a lord, an eorl, or thane, who
practically owned the place and everything in it, though he could
not do entirely as he liked. There was the land which belonged to
him, and which was in his own hands, or occupation, as we say;
that was called his demesne. The rest of the land was also his,
but it was let out to people who had lived on the land from time
out of mind--the cheorls or villeins. The lord's house was on his
demesne. The villeins' houses were all together in the tun, with
the grass yards for the cattle close to them, and the open fields
and pasture-lands outside the tun, just as they had been in the
olden days.

There seems to have been two classes of villeins--geburs and

The geburs were the higher class. They appear very frequently to
have held about one hundred and twenty acres of land; they had to
work on the lord's home farm two or three days a week, or pay him
certain produce of the land as a rent; and they had to provide one
or more oxen for the village plough, when there was ploughing to be
done on the lord's farm, or in the common field.

In the Danish part of the country there appears to have been a
class of freeholders, in some places, called socmen, but there
were not very many of them. They, no doubt, had had their rights
granted to them for distinguished service in the Danish wars.

The cottiers held only about five acres of land. They had to work
for the thane or lord on certain days of the week; but, as they had
no oxen, they had no ploughing to do for him.

Below the geburs and the cottiers were the theows, thralls, or
slaves, who could be bought and sold. They were captives taken in
war, or men who, for their crimes, had been doomed to slavery.

We must remember that the overlord might be the king or a bishop, a
monastery or a thane. Their rights over their vills and tuns were
much the same in each case, and their duties to those vills and
tuns were also similar.

A very large number of vills and tuns were under the lordship of
the various bishops and monasteries. It was so with towns like
Winchester, Reading, Bury St. Edmund's, and St. Alban's. The custom
had grown up quite naturally and in the course of many years.

It is pretty clear that the overlord did not always reside in his
vill or tun. The tuns or vills of the bishopric of Winchester,
for instance, were scattered about in the various parts of the
diocese. It was the same with other overlords. But we find in every
place a steward, and in each town the king's reeve or the lord's
reeve. These acted for the overlord, whoever he was, and saw that
the villeins and cottiers did their proper proportion of work at
the right time; they saw that the lord's tolls at the markets,
fairs, and ferries, were properly enforced. The steward was a most
important officer in every town and village, and a great deal of
power was in his hands.

Then in the ordinary country vill there was the faber, or smith;
the mason; the pundar, or man who looked after the fences and
hedges and drove stray cattle into the pound. Then there was the
carpenter, and even the bee-keeper, for honey was an important
ingredient used in the making of the drink of the community. The
simple ordinary trades were found in the country villages then,
as they are now; but the craftsmen, the most skilled workmen, had
become for the most part dwellers in the towns. Even in very early
times we find craftsmen in towns formed into trades' unions or
guilds, to protect their special trades.

  [Illustration: _Agriculture. From an eleventh-century manuscript
  in the British Museum_

  _Below are shown the workers carrying their burdens home at the
  end of the day._]

Now the land was shared amongst the villeins and cottiers in
strips, usually containing an acre or halfacre, in the common
fields of which we have heard before. The villein did not have all
the strips belonging to his holding set out side by side--they
lay in different parts of the great open field. Crops had to be
sown according to the custom of the vill or tun, and according to
a fixed order. Wheat and rye would be sown one year on a part of
the great field; barley, oats, and beans the next year; and the
third year the land must be left fallow. The lord's land had to be
treated in the same way.

On the pasture-land and in the meadows the villein and cottier had
the right to turn out a certain number of cattle, according to the
size of their holdings. The crops, whether of hay or corn, had to
be cleared from the fields by certain fixed days, so that cattle
might be turned out to graze. You will still find, in some towns,
that certain of the freeholders, or burgesses, have the right to
turn a certain number of cattle on certain lands for a part of the
year between fixed dates.

Then, on the rough commons or heaths there were also grazing rights
for the lord and his tenants. The tenants might "top and lop" the
trees growing there at certain times, but they might not cut the
trees down--that was the lord's right. There were also rights of
cutting turf and heather, and the turning of hogs into the forest;
all these rights were ruled by "custom", which bound both the lord
and the tenants.

These "customs", although they were very similar, were not the same
in every place--each community had its own special "customs" which
were clung to most rigidly from generation to generation. However
much inclined the lord or his reeve might be to try to get rid of
the old "customs" in order to get more power into his own hands,
or to make more out of the tenants, he was forced to respect the
"custom" of the place or there would be grievous trouble. And it
was a good thing that both lords and tenants had thus to respect
each the right of the other, for it has helped to foster from the
very early days that spirit which makes for liberty, which we
value so highly, so that a man may live his life in security and

The lord, or steward, or reeve, held courts or meetings at regular
intervals. At first these took place in the open air, like the old
folk-moots; but in time they came to be held in a court-house. The
court was a meeting, presided over by the lord or his steward, to
see that the customs of the place were kept up; to call to account
those tenants who had failed to do their share of the work; to put
new tenants into the places of those who had removed or died; and
to punish offenders.

  [Illustration: _Ploughing. From an eleventh-century manuscript in
  the British Museum_]

This last right, of punishing offenders, was one thought to be of
vast importance. In the early days the men of the tun were bound
together to keep the peace, and to see that it was kept; and they
were strong enough to keep evil-doers in check. In the trading
tuns or towns especially the right was valued very highly; but, at
the time we are now treating of, the right to exercise punishment
was in the hands of the overlord, though the men of the place had
still some voice in the government of their town. The right to have
a gallows was one eagerly sought for, and held very firmly; not
because people particularly wanted to hang one another, but because
the gallows represented to them the highest power of government.
The towns had lost most of their rights in this respect, but they
had never forgotten those they had had, and were always on the
alert to get back any lost right, or to gain a new one which should
help them to obtain the privilege of self-government.


Churches and Monasteries in Danish and Later Saxon Times

In speaking of our towns and villages we are obliged to make
mention frequently of churches and monasteries. At the time when
Cnut was king, each vill or tun had its church and its priest to
minister in it. There were parts of the land, in the common fields
and pasture, mixed up with the villeins' strips, set apart for
the support of the services of the Church, the maintenance of the
priest, and the care of the poor. In time various dues and customs
were also paid to the priest for certain things which he was
expected to do.

There are very few churches still standing which have any parts of
their structure dating from before the time of King Cnut. In the
early days churches were very simple buildings, built mainly of
wood, and in the Danish wars most of them were destroyed.

In the tenth century there was a very general belief that the
world was coming to an end at the end of the thousand years after
the establishment of Christianity; so there was not much actual
church-building going on. But in King Cnut's time a revival of
interest in church-building took place, and there are in a good
many of the old churches of England little bits of work in the
walls, or very rude carvings over the doorways, which belong to
this time. Unless such work is pointed out to you by one who
understands something about these matters, you will not be likely
to discover it for yourself, any more than you are likely to
discover the traces of the pit-dwellings, of which we spoke in an
early chapter.

These parish churches and parish priests were under the control of
the bishop, who had his chief church or cathedral in some important
place in his diocese. Those cathedrals were generally served by
colleges of clergy, called canons.

  [Illustration: _Wooden Church at Greenstead, Essex. Built in 1013
  as a temporary shelter for the body of St. Edmund during its
  removal from London to Bury. The illustration is copied from an
  engraving dated 1748, when the building was entire, though much

These were the public churches. But besides them there were
colleges and monasteries, which were private societies of men
living together. Some of the religious houses were in towns, as we
have seen, and others were in wild desolate places. Every religious
house, whether a monastery for men or a nunnery for women, had its
church, which was the private chapel of the house, and not open to
the public. In the course of years these private chapels were built
as huge churches, much larger than the parish church. Even now you
may see standing close to a big college church a much smaller
parish church; as, for example, St. Margaret's Church, which stands
by the side of Westminster Abbey. As more land came into the
possession of these religious houses, the monks had more business
with the outside world; for, as landlords, they had to see that
their lands were turned to good account, and cultivated according
to the notions of the day.

The monasteries, especially in their early days, were great centres
of good and useful work. Those who founded them, or gave them
lands, did so because they felt they were doing excellent service
for the people, and they wanted to have a share in the work, and to
be remembered in the prayers of the monks. Founders of religious
houses believed that they were getting something worth having in
return for the lands which they gave.

In the wild times of the Danish invasions the monasteries were
looked upon as places of safety for the weak and helpless. But
they were not always safe places. Sometimes, when the country was
in a disturbed state, people would send their valuables to the
nearest monastery. In time the Danes got to know of this, and many
a religious house was attacked and sacked by them on account of the
tales they had heard of the marvellous wealth hidden there.

A story is told of a worthy person living near St. Alban's
monastery at a time when a visit from marauding Danes was expected.
One market-day he sent a number of heavy iron-bound chests, guarded
by armed men, through the market to the monastery. Everybody, of
course, turned to look, and talked about the affair. As a matter of
fact the chests only contained stones; the treasure was carefully
hidden somewhere else, till all danger was thought to be over. That
plan was used to put the Danes "off the scent" as we should say.

All the land that did not go with the tuns and vills in early days
was apparently regarded as belonging to the people, and was called
the folk-land. There was a great deal of this unoccupied land, and
it was not regarded at the time as being of much use to anybody.
The king came to be regarded as the custodian or guardian of these
folk-lands. Little by little they became the property of the king,
until practically he could do what he pleased with them. It was
from these folk-lands--which in early times were probably scraps of
land which nobody thought to be worth very much, since the nearest
vills or tuns had never taken them in--that kings gave land to
bishoprics and monasteries. By and by these rough lands became very
valuable; but in most cases it was the labour, the skill, and the
brains of the monks in the early days which turned the waste lands
into fruitful fields.

  [Illustration: _Consecration of a Saxon Church, from an ancient
  manuscript of Caedmon's Poems_]


Later Saxon Times

Every old town and village has got its oldest house, of course. You
will most likely have heard people trying to be funny about it, and
saying they think it must have been built in the year One. There
is, we may pretty safely say, no house now standing exactly as it
was in the days of King Cnut and the later Saxon times. But even
yet there are some buildings standing, and still in use, which have
certain parts which were erected in those times. These buildings
are mostly churches, and in various parts of the country, indeed in
almost every county, something belonging to this age can be pointed

Churches built of stone in those days had very thick walls with
very small windows. The east end of the chancel was usually
semicircular, forming an apse. The wall between the chancel and
the nave was pierced by a narrow, low, round-headed arch. Most
of the windows had plain, round-headed arches, and in some of
them, dividing the opening into two parts or "lights", were stone
pillars with bulging stems. Some of the doorways had triangular
heads, others had round heads. There are some very curious bits
of sculpture over some of these doorways. The meaning of them was
quite plain, no doubt, to the people who carved them, but they are
very difficult for us to understand. They represent the ideas which
the Saxons had of good and evil, and of the strife continually
going on between them.

King Edward the Confessor had been brought up in Normandy,
where church-building was in advance of anything in England.
He encouraged Norman ideas in building, as well as in other
directions, and so prepared the way for the coming of the Normans.
Some parts of the buildings connected with Westminster Abbey were
built at that time.

We do not know much of Saxon castles, though the Saxons had their
strongholds and fortified places.

  [Illustration: _Saxon Doorway, Earl's Barton, Northampton_]

The houses in which the people lived were most of them in those
days built of wood. There was not much difference, except in size,
between the house of the king, the thane, and the villein. There
was the hearth, on which was the fire; and the room or hall in
which it was placed was the chief building, close to which, very
gradually, other buildings arose. Apparently the buildings had a
framework of timber, filled in with wood wattled together like
hurdles. In the more important buildings stone gradually came into

The monasteries and convents each had the buildings in which the
monks lived grouped round the church. After the Danish wars the
buildings improved, stone taking the place of wood.

Even in the towns wood was chiefly used for the ordinary houses;
though, as we should expect, stone was used in the more important
buildings and in the wall round the town.

What we understand by comfort in a house was absent. There was the
fire on the hearth in the middle of the floor; in this room the
people of the house, from the highest to the lowest, had their
meals; and there, on the floor, most of them slept at night.
Cooking was done almost entirely in the open air.


In Norman Times

When Duke William of Normandy became King of England, the power of
the Crown was greater than it had ever been before. All the old
folk-land had become king's land. Many knights had followed Duke
William from Normandy into England, and expected to be provided
for by their leader. The lands belonging to King Harold, and
those of the Saxon eorls who had died fighting at Senlac, King
William regarded as his own. These he granted to his followers,
on condition that they acknowledged him as their overlord, and
followed him in war when required. This was a stricter condition
than had ever before been required in England. The Normans were
used to it, and it did not seem at all strange to them.

Neither was it so very strange to the Saxon nobles and thanes. Most
of them were allowed to keep their estates if they took the oath of
allegiance to the king as the Normans did. Of course they grumbled:
it was only natural that they should do so; but if they did not
acknowledge the king in this way they were looked upon as rebels,
and lost their lands.

King William was very careful, in the grants which he made, not
to put too much power into the hands of his nobles. The old vills
of Saxon times were now pretty generally called manors. When the
king granted land, it was not given in huge slices--whole counties,
halves, and quarters of counties--to this great follower of his or
to that one. Between the old vills, or manors, there were often
wide stretches of the king's own land, the old folk-land. If he had
granted to a Norman knight a quarter of a county or so, he would
have been giving away much of his own land. Besides that, the king
did not mean his followers to become too powerful. He granted the
land in separate manors. It is quite true that in every county we
can, so to speak, put our finger on some Norman knight who came
over with William I, and say that he got the lion's share of the
manors in that county. Thus in Hampshire there was Hugh de Port,
and in Hertfordshire Eustace de Boulogne. But their manors did not
all lie side by side, nor were they conveniently close together.
Just as a villein's holding was spread out in various fields, so
the manors, or fiefs, which a knight held under King William were
often scattered over various counties.

At the time of the Conquest a very large number of manors belonged
to bishoprics and monasteries. Now the Normans were a Christian
race. The Norman Conquest was not like the Saxon or the Danish
Conquest--a rush of heathen, bent on plunder and bloodshed. Bitter
as the strife was, it was not as bad as those invasions had
been. There was something which the Normans and the later Saxons
both respected, and that was their religion. The Normans were a
particularly religious and devout people, stern and cruel as they
were. The lands of the Church and of the monasteries were not
interfered with to any extent. King William, however, took care
that they were in the hands of people whom he could trust.

The story is told that the Saxon abbot, Frederick of St. Alban's,
who did not love the Normans, once remarked to King William that he
owed his easy conquest of England to the fact that so many of the
manors were held by monks and clergy, who could not and would not
bring out their men to fight.

The king replied that that must be mended; for enemies might again
invade the land, and he must have men whom he could depend upon
to meet the foe. At that time a great tract of land between St.
Albans and London belonged to the Abbey, and the abbot allowed
Saxon outlaws to infest it, who were a great nuisance to the
Normans. As the land had been given by former kings, the king
at once took half of it back again, in order to clear out the
outlaws. Abbot Frederick had said too much. He fled away to the
Camp of Refuge at Ely, and King William would only accept as abbot
a Norman and a friend of his--Paul de Caen. That was a very good
appointment for St. Albans. The great tower of the Abbey Church,
still standing, was built by him--more than eight centuries ago.


In Norman Times (_Cont._)

The king, then, granted manors to his followers, and to such Saxon
eorls and thanes as were willing to hold their lands on the same
conditions as the Normans. If they objected, as from time to time a
good many of them did, they had to go.

Now, though every manor had a lord, where the lord held many manors
it was quite impossible for him to be living in the manor-house of
each of them, and looking after his estate himself. He could, if
he chose, let out some portions of these manors to a man beneath
him in rank, on exactly the same conditions as the king had
granted to him. The man must swear to be his vassal, and appear,
when required, with his proper number of men, to fight his lord's
battles. He, in his turn, might let parts of the lands to others
under him.

By this means the king could command a pretty large army. He would
summon his great vassals, they would summon their vassals, each of
whom would in turn summon his followers; and so from every manor
men would be called to fight. It was something like the old nursery
tale: "The fire began to burn the stick; the stick began to beat
the dog; the dog began to worry the pig; and so the pig began to
get over the stile".

  [Illustration: _Domesday Book. From the original in the Public
  Record Office, London._ (_1/8 original size._)]

If the lord was not living in the manor-house there was someone
there to represent him and to look after his interests. In scores
of manors the people never set eyes on their overlord; but they
felt the grip of his power through the steward of the manor. Now,
though the steward could not go against the customs of the manor
openly, there were many ways in which he could make himself very
disagreeable to the people under his care. He was there to grind
what he could out of the tenants for the lord, and he took care to
grind for himself too. It seems to have been quite an understood
thing that he was to get what he could out of the manor for
himself, so that very often villeins and tenants had anything but
an easy, pleasant life.

The Norman Conquest did not interfere with the customs of the
manors, and the life of an ordinary manor went on very much the
same in King William's reign as it had done under King Edward
the Confessor. About twenty years after King William I had come
to the throne, that great survey, recorded in Domesday Book, was
made. Learned men who have studied the Domesday Book closely have
discovered many things connected with the life of people in England
at this period. We can even see what parts of the country suffered
by opposing King William, and which districts had submitted quietly
to him.


In Norman Times: The Churches

When we speak of Norman times we must bear in mind that they lasted
for over one hundred and thirty years--say from 1066 to 1200. That
period covers a good many years, and consequently a good many
changes took place. Now this period is marked by a particular style
of architecture known as Norman or Twelfth Century.

With the coming of William the Conqueror to England began a great
period of building in this country. There was what we may almost
call a "great rage" for founding or establishing religious houses
and churches, and for building castles. All the religious houses
have gone, and nearly all the castles, but in their ruins we can
see specimens of Norman work. In a large number of old churches we
can see very good examples of this style. In Hampshire especially
there is scarcely one old church, even in the most out-of-the-way
village, which has not some Norman work to show.

  [Illustration: _Norman Capital, Buckland Church, Berks_]

You will expect to find that the style of building altered somewhat
during that long time. In the beginning it was very plain, but
gradually it became more ornamental. At first there were plain,
round-headed arches and heavy stone pillars, with boldly cut caps
to them. But in the time of King Henry II, and later, we find the
mouldings of the arches, and the caps of the pillars, ornamented
more and more with bold carvings. There is a vast difference
between the plain, almost ugly, Norman work, in St. Alban's
Cathedral, which was begun about the year 1077, and the Norman
work which can be seen in Durham Cathedral, or the west door of
Rochester Cathedral. The St. Albans builders had no stone at hand
to speak of, but any amount of Roman tiles from the ruins of
Verulam. They could not build anything very ornamental, but they
could and did build something vast and imposing. In most of the
cathedrals there are still to be seen very fine specimens of later
Norman work.


  The Transition work is to be seen especially in the columns and
  arches on either side of the choir [See page 57]]

  [Illustration: _Norman Capital, Hanney Church, Berks_]

We see, towards the end of the period, from the way in which the
Norman arches were used to intersect each other and form two
pointed arches within a round-headed arch, that a change in style
was showing itself. Towards the end of Norman times, in the reigns
of Richard I and John, we reach what architects call the Transition
Period, when the Norman style was gradually changing into the Early
English or Pointed Style. The choir of Canterbury Cathedral is one
of the best-known specimens of this Transition Period. Just as
changes took place in the style of the buildings, so, too, the life
of the nation changed. All the changes were not improvements; some,
indeed, were changes for the worse.

  [Illustration: _Norman Capital, St. Bartholomew's Priory Church,



The passion for building castles in England had begun before the
Norman Conquest; but during the Norman period a great many castles
(about eleven hundred, it is said) were built in various parts
of the country. They were not all of the same size, strength, or
importance. Some were royal castles, belonging to the king, who
placed each one in charge of a constable or warden. These were
necessary for the defence of the country. We should expect to
find important castles, for instance, at such places as Carlisle,
Ludlow, Gloucester, Dover, and London. We can, too, trace lines of
castles along the Scottish and Welsh borders; and there were no
fewer than twenty-five in the county of Monmouth alone.

Many castles were placed on the sites of Saxon strongholds, and
of strongholds dating from still earlier times. Others were built
where the overlord thought they would be of service to him in
protecting his interests and keeping his tenants in order. So it
often came to pass that the castles were built close to, or in the
very heart of, a town or city. Frequently the castle was at once
the protection and the terror of the neighbourhood.

It is curious to note that some of the greatest castle-builders of
the time were bishops. There was Bishop Gundulph of Rochester, who
built the Keep of Rochester Castle and the White Tower in the Tower
of London. There was Bishop Henry de Blois of Winchester, who built
a number of castles on lands belonging to his bishopric. Strange as
it may seem to us that bishops should be great rulers and leaders
of armies, it did not strike the people of those days as at all
extraordinary or improper. A bishop was as much a ruler as the
king, and had territories to look after and keep in order. In those
days he was quite as able to carry out these duties as the boldest
baron of them all, and could give and take hard knocks with the
best of them.

  [Illustration: _Rochester Castle: The Keep_

  _Rochester Castle was built by Bishop Gundulf between 1077 and
  1108, under the order of William Rufus. The magnificent Keep (70
  feet square and 104 feet high) was added about 1126._]

The great castle-builders had no love for the traders in towns and
cities; indeed they looked down on that class. But they found them
very useful. Towns attracted traders by land and by water; and
every town, every bridge, and every ferry belonged to some lord or
other. No goods could be brought into or taken from a town, or
carried across bridge or ferry, without paying toll and custom to
the overlord. But he had certain duties to perform in return, in
protecting the town and its trade; and the better the protection
the more traders came to pay toll, and the better it was for
everybody concerned.

So we find, near many of our ancient towns and cities, a castle, or
its ruins--or perhaps only the site is left--where the lord of the
town kept a number of men to protect the town and district, even
when he was not there himself.

If there was no love lost between the lord of the castle and the
townsmen, there was still less between the latter and the soldiers.
The soldiers were inclined to take liberties, and to be insolent
and oppressive. As they had it in their power to "make trouble", if
not kept in good-humour, the townsmen put up with much for the sake
of peace and quietness.

  [Illustration: _The White Tower, Tower of London, built by
  Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, 1078. The exterior was restored by
  Wren, but within the Norman work is little altered_]


Castles and Towns

However useful a castle might be in protecting the overlord's
tenants and property, the sense of security was always a great
temptation to quarrel with other lords. With strong kings, like
William I and Henry I, the danger of disorder was not so great, as
these monarchs knew how to keep their great barons in check. But
in the time of King Stephen, during the long years of civil war,
the barons were divided into two parties, and each castle became a
centre of strife.

The baron in his castle had his men to keep. These he did not pay
in regular wages. He fed, clothed, and armed them after a fashion;
and, to give them something to do, would rake up some old grievance
with a neighbouring baron, make an attack upon his property, and
let his men plunder, burn, and kill to their hearts' content. Then
the other baron would retaliate.

It is easy to see that the conditions of life in England were most
unsettled in the reign of King Stephen. There was no safety in town
or village, and the dwellers on the manors must have suffered most
severely. Their own lord would send and gather in all their store
to victual his castle from time to time: his enemy would send _his_
men to seize what they could. It made very little real difference
to the villeins which side won; _they_ suffered, as they were
heavily oppressed by both parties. Their own lord expected his dues
just the same, war or no war, famine or no famine, whether he or
his enemy had carried off the best part of the corn and cattle or
not; and he would take his pick of the men on his manors to fill
the places of his men-at-arms who had been put out of action.

Many of the barons became little better than monsters of cruelty,
and their castles "nests of devils and dens of thieves". One
of the very worst of these was Geoffrey de Mandeville, who had
large estates in Essex and Hertfordshire. His castle of Anstey,
in Hertfordshire, was a den of fearful wickedness. He and his
men neither feared God nor regarded man; nothing was sacred to
them--they spared neither church nor monastery, town nor village.

Dreadful tales are still told of the cruel deeds done in the deep
dungeons of nearly all these old castles by the "bold bad barons"
of the time of King Stephen.

When Henry II became king he put a stop to these disorders, and
large numbers of the castles were pulled down; but the evils they
had caused lived long after, and were the source of much trouble.

It is said that "Everything comes to those who know how to wait",
and the townsmen, under the rule of a great lord, knew how to wait.
Great as the lord of the town was, whether he was baron, bishop, or
the king himself, he could not do without the town--and the town
knew it. People were sometimes short of ready money in those days
just at the very time when they needed it most urgently.

You will remember that the Crusades began in the reign of King
William I. Now and again the crusading "fever" took hold of
some of these Norman barons, and many wanted to go to fight the
Turk--especially when there was not much fighting going on at home.
But crusading was a costly business, and of course there was a good
deal of rivalry between these crusading knights as to who could
raise the best-furnished troop of men. The baron would be glad to
get together as much money as he could. So the chance came to many
a town to advance money to their lord. He, in return, would grant
to the town the right to collect the tolls and customs payable to
him for a term of years; or perhaps on condition that they allowed
him so much every year out of the tolls collected.

Bishops, too, were often in urgent need of money, for there were
many calls upon them. The monasteries were, at this period,
beginning to do so much expensive building, that often they, too,
were glad to get money by granting to the townsmen privileges for
which they were willing to pay.

  [Illustration: _Norman Castle (based on that of Coucy in
  the north of France). Coucy (built between 1230-1242) was a
  magnificent example of a feudal fortress. The "keep" was round
  instead of rectangular._]

Then there were other towns, not depending so closely on a baron
or bishop or monastery, which wanted to gain similar privileges
of levying toll and custom. These would petition the king for the
right to be given to them too, to levy dues, in return for a large
sum of money paid down, or for a yearly payment to the king.

The towns were becoming strong, and they gained considerable rights
during this Norman period. As far back as the time of King Cnut
we find, in some districts, towns banding themselves together
to protect their trade and interests. This was the case with
Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Stamford, and Lincoln.


In Norman Times: The Monasteries

The hundred years after the Norman Conquest was a great period
of building. It was a time for establishing or _founding_ new
religious houses. Something like three hundred and ninety-eight
such houses were opened during this period, so that they played a
very important part in the history of the times. The Normans were
not very much interested in the English religious houses which
they found already established here. In fact, a good many of them,
since the times of the Danish invasion, two hundred years before,
had got into very bad order, and were in need of reform. Little
by little, as Norman bishops and abbots were appointed over these
Saxon religious houses, reforms did take place, but not always very
easily or quietly.

At the time of the Conquest the religious houses in Normandy were
in a far better state than those in England. Their members lived
better lives, did better work, and set a much better example
of godly living and working. There were several new orders or
societies of monks, which had their head-quarters on the continent
of Europe. These interested King William's companions more than the
old English monasteries, because they and their fathers had helped
to establish them.

So we find, as the Normans received lands here in England, and
founded religious houses, most of them were connected with the
monasteries across the sea, and were ruled by abbots who lived
across the sea. Such branch houses were generally called priories,
and the kings and barons who founded them gave them manors and
parts of manors, sometimes taking them from the older Saxon
monasteries and cathedrals.[9]

  [9] The Cistercian houses here in England, however, were always
  known as _abbeys_, though Citeaux, their head-quarters, was in

  [Illustration: _Ruins of Furness Abbey_

  _Built about sixty years after the Norman Conquest. Much of it
  was destroyed in the time of Henry VIII._]

Then, too, there were the old Saxon houses, St. Alban's Abbey,
Westminster Abbey, and Glastonbury Abbey: they were reformed and
improved, and to them, too, lands were given in various parts
of the country, often far away from the mother house. Thus St.
Alban's Monastery had important lands in the neighbourhood of the
River Tyne, and a daughter house was opened there called Tynemouth
Priory. So, you see, there were two kinds of priories in England:
one class attached to English religious houses, and the other to
Norman or foreign religious houses. In time the foreign priories
received the name of alien priories.

In time a good deal of ill-feeling arose towards these alien
priories, as the people in England did not like so much money going
out of the country, especially in war times. King John was the
first king to seize these priories when he fell out with France.
Later, King Edward I, in 1295, seized the property of about one
hundred of the alien priories in various parts of England to help
to pay his war expenses. There were several of these alien houses
in the Isle of Wight, and, thinking that the monks might be aiding
his enemies across the English Channel, the king sent the monks to
other houses on the mainland, a long way away from the coast, to
keep them out of mischief. When the war was over, the property was
restored to these priories, and the monks returned to them. This
kind of thing happened over and over again.

All these religious houses had some interest in the land, and all
of them, to a greater or lesser degree, were landlords. In some
cases the lands given to them were manors which had been managed
and tilled in the same way for hundreds of years. The only change
was that the lord of the manor might be a society or religious
house instead of a baron. Each of the manors had its steward, its
villeins, and so forth, like any other in the land. But a good deal
of the land given to these new religious houses had never been
occupied before.

Though some of the monasteries, like St. Alban's and St. Edmund's
Bury, were in towns, there were others, especially those founded
in these Norman times, far away from towns, in pathless woods or
deep dales, like Rievaulx, in Yorkshire. Others, like Ramsey and
Thorney, were in lonely fens and marshes. Here the monks themselves
set to work, as in the earlier days, and tilled the ground,
keeping up their regular services in their little churches most
carefully--praying and working. Gradually their lands improved;
other lands came to them; more labour was needed; and so, little by
little, tenants took holdings on their lands, and farmed them for
the "house", on much the same conditions as in the older manors.

  [Illustration: _Foundation of a Minster_

  _From a thirteenth-century drawing in the British Museum._]

We find that in many of the monasteries attention was given to
other occupations besides agriculture. Some, especially those in
towns, like St. Alban's, became in this period great seats of
learning. All of them copied the books they used, and some of them
were particularly famed for their writing and illuminating. In
fact, they were the book-producers of the age, and very little of
the work of learned ancient scholars could have come down to us had
it not been for the careful, painstaking work of simple monks quite
unknown to history.

Some of the abbeys in the west of England, like Bath Abbey, had a
good deal to do with opening up the wool trade, which in the Middle
Ages became the staple trade of the south and west of England.
Flaxley Abbey, in Gloucestershire, developed iron-smelting. The
iron mines in Furness were developed there by the monks, and
also in the neighbouring Walney Isle, off the Lancashire coast.
At Rievaulx, in Yorkshire, there were ironworks near the abbey,
and at Malvern Priory there was ornamental tile-making carried
on, specimens of the work done there remaining in a good many
Worcestershire churches still. Monks gave great attention to their
gardens, and were very clever in fish culture; and in many simple,
homely ways they showed men how to develop the natural resources of
the land.

In the monasteries men could quietly think and work, and use the
talents they had, without being called away to fight or do the
unskilled work of the world. In these early times there were no
other places where men could lead quiet, thoughtful lives, and
"think things out", and then put them into practice. The men in
the monasteries were not all equally good or religious or clever,
but the work done in and through these old institutions was most
important and most valuable to the country.

  [Illustration: _Bath Abbey. Founded 676; rebuilt in the
  Perpendicular style, 1499_]


Early Houses

When we go from a big modern manufacturing town into an old town
or village, we cannot help noticing the old buildings, the ancient
churches, the old town hall, the alms-houses, and the old houses
with their plastered fronts, tiled roofs, and huge chimney-stacks.

As years go by, the number of these old houses gets less and less.
In the course of time, many of the smaller ones especially, which
have been neglected and allowed to fall into bad repair, become
dangerous to live in. The sanitary inspector and the medical
officer of health condemn them as unfit for human habitation, and
the houses are shut up. Then, perhaps, they stand empty for some
years; mischievous boys throw stones and break the glass left
in the queer little windows; bill-posters paste notices of all
kinds on the doors, walls, and window-shutters; holes are knocked
in the plaster, bits of the woodwork are torn away, chalk-marks
are scrawled on the walls, and the buildings very shortly look
disgracefully untidy. Then some day the "house-breaker" appears
on the scene, and the houses, which have stood for centuries, are
cleared away, and modern buildings take their places.

Thoughtful people who know something of the history of the town or
village are always sorry to see old buildings disappear; because
there is much to be learned from them, and they help us to recall
many things of great value and importance which we very easily lose
sight of.

But, old as the houses in our streets and villages are, there are
very few of them which date back more than three hundred or three
hundred and fifty years. Most of them only date back to the time
of Queen Elizabeth--the latter part of the sixteenth century.

There are, however, a number of fine old houses which have work in
them of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and some people
can point out to you traces of work in some old houses of an
earlier date than that. There is at Lincoln, for instance, a fine
old stone house called "the Jew's House", which was built late in
the twelfth century. Of course, since it was built, it has, from
time to time, been altered to suit the needs and the fancies of the
various folk who have lived in it. But stone houses for ordinary
people, both in towns and villages, were very rare then--wood was
the common material. Of course in parts of the country where stone
was plentiful, and wood scarce, stone would be very largely used.
For instance, amongst the Cotswolds stone has always been the
handiest material for building walls, and for covering roofs. In
the course of centuries much of this stone has been used over and
over again, and has been "weathered" into a very beautiful tone,
such as only time can give. Such old buildings are much loved and
appreciated by folk who have an eye to see the beauty of colouring.

Nowadays, both in town and country, houses are commonly "bunches of
bricks". The Romans knew how to make bricks or tiles, and in places
near old Roman cities Roman tile is still to be seen, which has
been used up over and over again in the walls of old buildings. The
big tower of St. Alban's Cathedral is built of Roman tiles which
had been used centuries before in the walls of Roman houses in
Verulamium.[10] That tower has been standing as it is now for over
eight hundred years.

  [10] Commonly called Verulam, but Verulamium was its Roman name.

But in Saxon times the _art_ of brick-making was lost, and Saxons
and Normans, it appears, were quite ignorant of it. There is an
old brick house--Little Wenham Hall, in Suffolk--which is believed
to have been built in the latter part of the thirteenth century.
That is the oldest brick house in England. In the fifteenth century
the art of brick-making had been rediscovered, and it seems to have
been imported from Flanders. We find specimens of such brickwork in
places near the east coast, and this old brickwork is more pleasing
to the eye than our modern brick. Here, again, time has done its
work in beautifying. The old palace at Hatfield is one of the
brick buildings of this period; but brick did not come much into
use until quite a century later. In the county of Middlesex, where
there is found clay which is very suitable for brick-making, the
art was not used to any great extent till the time of King James I.
After the Great Fire of London, in the year 1666, there was a great
demand for bricks, and the use of that material has quite changed
the character of the houses in our towns and villages.

  [Illustration: _The Jew's House, Lincoln_]


Early Houses (_Cont._)

For many centuries the houses of the villeins and cottiers did not
alter very much in their general plan. You will remember that in
those old pit-dwellings the hearth and its fire were the centre
of the home. The room, or space round the fire, gradually became
larger, especially in the houses of the thanes and eorls, till we
get the hall, with the hearth in the middle and the hole in the
roof to let out the smoke.

All through the later Saxon and Danish times, and in the Norman
period, the hall was the most important part of the house. As
the years went on, and the style of building altered, the walls,
the windows, and the roof became more beautiful and ornamental,
becoming most magnificent in the fourteenth century, or Decorated
Period. Gradually other buildings were added to the hall for
comfort and convenience.

  [Illustration: _Diagram of the Shape of a Villein's House_]

So far as we know, the house or hut of the villein was a very
simple affair before the time of the Norman Conquest. Two pairs of
poles were set up, sloped, and joined at the top, and connected by
a ridge pole as shown in the illustration. The space between was
then filled in by other poles and wattle-work. This was plastered
with clay, and covered with turf or rough thatch. There seems to
have been a pretty regular length for this building, which was long
enough to take four stalls for oxen. That required about sixteen
feet and was called a "bay". The villein and his oxen were all
housed under one roof at first. When another bay was added, the
size of the house was doubled, and so on. In the course of time the
houses were improved; side walls were raised of wood framing, and
the sides were filled in with wattle and covered with clay.


  [See page 71]]

As the years went on, these houses or huts grew out of date, and
were replaced by others in much the same style, but gradually
improving in comfort and workmanship. In the villages there was
not much alteration down to the fourteenth century. When a house
in a manor or village was pulled down, and was to be rebuilt, the
manor court kept a sharp eye upon the building operations to see
that the new walls did not encroach upon the highway, or upon the
lord's land. No addition could be made to the house without the
consent of the overlord. Customs in the villages changed very, very
slowly, and so it is that, though the houses in out-of-the-way
villages have been rebuilt over and over again, there are many
lath-and-plaster houses standing now round village greens, built
between two and three hundred years ago, on old foundations which
date back to Saxon times.

We gave as an instance on p. 26 the case of Exton, in Rutland.
There the houses even to-day, in spite of the fact that they
have often been rebuilt and somewhat modified in the course of
centuries, occupy the same sites as they did in Saxon times. No
one would dream of laying out a village on those lines to-day, and
in the great changes which we know are greatly needed in housing
all over the country, and which are bound to affect every village
in the land more or less and to change the whole aspect of these
old-world villages, it will be well if some _specimens_, at least,
can be preserved to us, so that those yet to come may be able to
see how our ancestors for many generations were housed. But the
health of the people will have to be safeguarded most carefully,
and much of that which is old will have to give place to that which
is new.

  [Illustration: _Old House, Cleveland, Yorkshire_

  _The remains of a common type of rural dwelling in the Middle
  Ages. The wooden frame which supported the steep-pitched roof can
  be seen._]

So for many hundreds of years an ordinary village house was, to
our way of thinking, a very wretched, comfortless place. Even as
late as the time of Queen Elizabeth a countryman's house is thus

    "Of one bay's breadth, God wot, a silly cote,
    Whose thatchèd spars are furred with sluttish soote
    A whole inch thick, shining like blackmoor's brows
    Through smoke that down the headlesse barrel blows.
    At his bed's feete feaden[11] his stallèd teame,
    His swine beneath, his pullen[12] o'er the beam."

  [11] _feaden_, that is, feed.

  [12] _pullen_, that is, poultry.


Early Town Houses

Houses in towns have been more frequently rebuilt and altered in
various ways than those in the villages. The chief material used in
building was wood, as it was in the villages, and one of the great
dangers in the Middle Ages was that of fire. In the towns this
danger was greater than in the villages, and fires happened more

The leading men in a town had more money to spend, and the increase
of business, or a desire for change, led them to improve their
houses. It was easier for a wealthy townsman to get leave from the
"corporation", or guild which ruled the town, to rebuild his house
than it was for the villein in the village to get the leave of the
manor court.

The thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries all saw a great
growth in architecture; they were the Early English, the Decorated,
and the Perpendicular Periods of architecture. In most of the old
churches, and in many of the old mansions, we have specimens of
all these periods; but not very many of the town houses founded
in the Middle Ages, and still standing, are much earlier than
the fifteenth century. In that age there was a great development
of woodwork, and there is hardly one old town which has not some
woodwork of that time in some of its old houses.

The rich and prosperous townsman rebuilt his house according to
the fashion of his time; but through all the three centuries the
general arrangements of the dwelling-house did not alter very much.

In some parts of London, and in many country towns, you can see
that some of the very old-fashioned shops in the main street are
reached from the pavement by a little flight of steps. Below the
shop there is a big light cellar, and the small boy or girl who
wants to look in at the shop window has to "tiptoe" very much in
order to do so. Now, that arrangement is just a little relic of the
old town house of the Middle Ages.

The house was usually quite narrow, and had a gable facing the
street. It was built over a cellar of stone, often arched and
vaulted very much like a church. There were steps from the street
down to the cellar, and these steps had to be protected, or
accidents were certain to happen to careless foot-passengers. Then,
too, there were steps up to the room over the cellar, which formed
the shop and workroom in one. The front of the shop would be open,
like a stall, and there would probably be a passage through to the
back of the house.

Above the shop would be another room or rooms, over which, in the
open space under the roof, was the great attic running through the
house. This attic was often kept as a store-room, and goods were
hoisted from the street by a crane; but in later times it would be
formed most likely into little sleeping-rooms, very small, very,
dark, and very unhealthy. Very often they led one into the other,
and had no windows or means of proper ventilation.

Most of the work would be done in the shop, where the master, his
workmen, and apprentices all did their share. The apprentices would
sleep in the shop at night, and very probably the workmen as well.
It was quite a usual thing for all the establishment to work and
live and sleep on the premises. The rooms occupied by the master
and his family at first were few in number; separate bedrooms only
came into use very gradually indeed.

The walls of the house above the cellar were usually of wood, and
the front towards the street was often skilfully and beautifully
carved. In some English counties still there are very fine
specimens of these old town houses; those at Chester, Shrewsbury,
and Ludlow, for instance, are famed all over the world.

  [Illustration: _Shop of the Middle Ages now standing in Foregate
  Street, Chester_]

We must not suppose that all the houses were equally splendid, or
equally well built; there was then, no doubt, bad building as well
as good. In fact there must have been some very careless building
in early days, and especially so in Norman times. It is a curious
fact that almost every big Norman church tower tumbled down because
it was badly built, even though Norman work looked very massive and
substantial, and was very imposing.

Merchants and wealthy tradesmen took great pride in their houses,
and the woodwork and furniture in them were splendid. Kings and
nobles were no better housed than these wealthy townsmen, nor did
they have more of the comforts of life.

But the poor! There were always the poor and the outcast in every
town; but they did not exist in the enormous numbers of later
years, or of the present day. Their wretched little hovels were
huddled together in close alleys, and life in them must have been
very cheerless and unwholesome. It was, however, _somebody's_
business to look after them. The religious houses, the churches,
the colleges, all did their part in distributing food at their
gates daily. Many wealthy people, both nobles and citizens, did
likewise, and to give alms to the poor was a work of charity which
no self-respecting citizen thought of shirking. Then, too, the
guild or corporation kept a sharp look-out upon the poor; strangers
were turned out of the town, and the people punished who had taken
them into their houses without having the consent of the town
authorities. In old town records we often come across instances of
people being punished for "harbouring inmates".

  [Illustration: _A Cradle of the Fourteenth Century now in a
  London Museum_]


Life in the Towns of the Middle Ages

Disease was one of the great dangers always lurking in a town.
Plague of some kind or other was never very far away, and it
frequently made its presence felt. People had not realized the
sinfulness of dirt.

The best-drained buildings were the monasteries and colleges. Near
the ruins of every big monastery, from time to time, underground
passages have been discovered, many of them big enough for a man to
walk along upright, and leading nobody knows where. When these were
found, people shook their heads and said: "Ah, those old monks; you
don't know what they were up to! They made these secret passages,
going for miles and miles underground, so that they might get in
and out of the monastery, and be up to all sorts of mischief,
without anyone being the wiser."

Many wonderful tales have been told about these underground
passages; but, as a matter of fact, most, if not all of them,
have turned out to be sewers, which the monks made from their
monasteries to a watercourse some distance away, so that the sewage
might be safely got rid of. The monks were usually in advance of
the townsmen of those days in sanitary matters. No doubt a sanitary
engineer of the present day would be able to point out how much
better the drainage-works could have been carried out; but the
monks set an example in this matter which, bit by bit, the rest of
the nation began to follow.

The chief streets of the town and the market-place were paved with
huge lumps of stone, sloping towards the middle of the street from
the houses on each side of the way, a gutter or "denter" running
down the middle. All sorts of filth were flung into the gutter,
for there were no drains from the houses in early days. When a
heavy shower of rain fell, the water flushed the gutter more or
less. If the street happened to be pretty level, the gutter, or
denter, was just an open sewer all the year round; and it did its
deadly work in poisoning the worthy citizens, though they did not
realize it. Those towns were the best drained which were perched on
a steep slope, so that the contents of the gutter found their way
speedily to the nearest watercourse. By that means they got rid of
_some_ of the filth, but they did not improve the watercourse.

There were no great manufacturing towns in those days. Most of the
ordinary articles used by the townsfolk were manufactured in the
town itself, and much of the work went on in the open air. The
butcher killed his animals in the street, before his shop, and
that added to the horrors and stenches of the gutter. But then all
the butchers in a town were located in one part of it. Even now
most old towns have got a Shambles, or Butchers' Row, or Butchery
Street, or place of similar name, near the market-place. Other
trades had their own parts of the town, where they made and sold
their goods. Cordwinder Street or Shoemakers' Row are still common
street names. The smith and the armourer did much of their work out
in the open street; the joiner put together there any big piece of
woodwork which he had in hand; the wheel-wright "shut" his tyres;
the chandler melted fat and made candles. The streets of the town
must have been very noisy and very "smelly".

There were no footways for passengers. Wagons, drays, and
wheel-barrows there were, but carriages had hardly been invented,
and coaches and light-wheeled vehicles had not been dreamt of.
Travellers mostly went on horses or mules.

  [Illustration: _The Shambles, York; a street that preserves its
  narrow, mediæval character_]

No doubt the tradesmen were expected to clear up the mess they made
in front of their houses, and the apprentices had to sweep up. But
that usually meant only drawing the rubbish together to the great
refuse-heap close to the house, which the fowls and the pigs, to
say nothing of the children, speedily managed to scatter. Now
and then the town authorities would wake up and make a fuss, and
these heaps would be carted away to a spot outside the town; but
usually the street was looked upon as the handiest place into which
to fling any refuse from the houses. However clean the citizens'
houses might be inside, and however richly ornamented the woodwork
and the furniture, plague and pestilence were always very near.

Still, though many persons died, and were buried close by in the
little churchyard, where for hundreds of years the dead had been
buried, people lived, and throve, and did good work. For one thing,
they lived a great deal in the open air, and they were not so much
afraid of draughts in their houses as we are.

The water-supply of a town was a very important matter. Here,
again, the monasteries and colleges frequently led the way, and
showed how water might be brought by pipes from a distant spring.
It was not an uncommon thing for water to be brought in this way
to a "conduit" in the market-place, whence the people fetched it
as they needed. Many a good wealthy citizen has performed the
pious work of providing his town with a supply of water. Parts of
old water-pipes, some of wood and some of lead, laid for such a
purpose, have often been discovered in recent years.

Usually, however, a town had to depend upon wells for its
water-supply, and water drawn from the nearest stream; and with
open gutters running through the town it is very easy to see that
many of these wells supplied water which, at times, could not have
been pure, however bright and clear it may have looked, and it
could never be relied upon as really fit for drinking purposes.

In the villages the dangers arising from want of proper drainage
and from impure water were not quite so great as in the towns. Yet
even now, in this twentieth century, how to drain our villages
properly, and provide them with a good water-supply, is an urgent
problem in many places. For many years people have realized that
the evil exists, but we have been slow to apply the right remedy
because of the expense. And the nation has greatly suffered in
health in consequence. We have seen that the houses in the villages
were usually close together, and men had not realized that dirt
is one of the greatest enemies of mankind. There are a good many
people, even in our time, who see no great harm in having pigsties,
refuse-heaps, and manure-heaps close to their houses.

One of the most loathsome of the diseases common in Norman times
and later was leprosy. The lepers were kept out of the towns, but
at first very little was done for them. The refuse of the markets,
and the food that was so bad that it had to be carted outside the
town, was thought to be good enough for them. Gradually, however,
we find hospitals for lepers established. They were not what we
understand by hospitals, places where sick folk could be doctored
and nursed and cured; they were religious houses which poor lepers
might enter, and in which they might have safe shelter, care, and
attention for the rest of their sad lives. They were always built
outside the walls of the towns.

Other hospitals for poor and suffering people were also
established. They were not large buildings, with wards holding
scores of people. They were little religious houses, each with its
chapel and priests to carry on its services, providing homes for
small numbers--perhaps half a dozen or a dozen. Almost every town
had a number of these hospitals.

Kings, bishops, earls, and citizens all took part in this good
work. Every founder expected that every day "for ever" he and
his family should be prayed for by the inmates. Some hospitals
were "founded" or established as thank-offerings for escape from
some great danger; some to "make up" for some wrong that had been
done and could never be put right, and to show that the founder
was "really sorry"; some were built for good reasons, others for
selfish reasons. Nowadays we arrange fêtes and demonstration, whist
drives, entertainments, bazaars, sales of work, jumble sales,
dances, for our hospital funds, Red Cross funds, and orphan funds,
and we are asked to buy tickets because "it's a good cause". We get
some enjoyment for ourselves and help the hospital; thus, as it
were, doing good and receiving good at the same time. We need not
look down upon our ancestors as being merely selfish creatures.

  [Illustration: _Hospital of St. Cross, Winchester, founded 1136.
  Under the archway beneath the tower the wayfarers "dole" is still


The Growing Power of the Towns

Back in early Saxon times we find that the inhabitants of a town
were banded together to keep the peace, thus forming a society
pledged to each other--the Peace or Frith Guild. It lost nearly all
its _real_ power in later Saxon and Norman times. But it did not
actually die out, and it appears that from this Frith Guild what
we now understand by a corporation took its rise. The guild was a
great power in some of the Saxon towns; only those belonging to it
could trade in the town, and its members were very slow to admit
outsiders to share in their privileges.

We have seen that the free, or nearly free, tuns gradually came
under the power of an overlord--the king, a bishop, a baron, or a
monastery, as the case might be--and very little real power was
left to the guild. The overlord appointed a reeve to look after his
interests, and the government of the place was in his hands. Yet
the old Frith Guild seems to have regulated matters connected with
the _customs_ of the town, which did not interfere with the lord's

  [Illustration: _Seal of Guild Merchant, Gloucester, 1200. The
  city gates are represented in the centre._]

When we reach Norman times we have come to a period during which
the towns improved their position. The Norman Conquest led to
increased trade with the Continent. The great building operations
here attracted skilled workmen and craftsmen to this country.
These men naturally found their way to the towns rather than to
the villages. They were protected and encouraged by the Norman
nobles, who preferred _their_ work to that of the Saxons. Although
they might be foreigners, these strangers had ideas of freedom
and liberty which fitted in very well with the town's ideas of
self-government. Then, too, these craftsmen were bound together in
trade societies or guilds, and that made them strong and worthy of
consideration in the places where they settled.

A charter to a town granted and secured to it certain privileges,
and a town with a charter became a borough town. The king granted a
good many charters to towns during the Norman period. A town which
wished to get a charter had to pay heavily for it. But it was quite
worth while for the town to secure the right which a charter gave
it--the right to manage its own affairs. What a town most desired
was to be free from the authority of the king's officer, to choose
its own port-reeve, who could preside over the court of the town,
so that the town might not have to appear before the hundred court.
By paying an annual rent to the king, however heavy the amount
might be, the town hoped to escape from the many extra fees and
taxes which the king's officers put upon it. It could then settle
its own disputes, raise its own taxes as it needed them, and punish
its own evil-doers.

In many cases bishops, barons, or religious houses were the
overlords of districts containing important towns, and those towns
managed to get charters from their overlords as other towns had
from the king. By so doing they could get out of the power of the
sheriff or shire-reeve. Charter or borough towns have most of them
been very particular to preserve their rights and privileges.

If you live in a small country borough town, or a city, you
will notice that two different benches of magistrates sit in
the town-hall to hear police cases; and there are two different
courts of justice, though held often in the same room. There
are first of all the Borough Sessions, at which the mayor of
the borough presides, and which deal with cases arising in the
borough, whether trifling or serious. Then, on another fixed day
in the week, in the very same building, another body or bench of
magistrates sits. These gentlemen usually come in from country
places outside the town, and the cases brought before them have to
do with the mischief done in the villages and country parishes.
These magistrates have nothing at all to do with offences committed
within the borough. These are the county magistrates, and their
court is called the Petty Sessions, or the County Sessions.

Some offences are too grave for the borough or county magistrates
to settle, and they have to be tried by a higher court of justice,
which has greater powers than the Court of Petty Sessions--the
Court of Quarter Sessions. The bench of this court is made up of
magistrates drawn from all parts of the county, and a jury of
twelve men, householders, from different parts of the county, has
to be sworn to hear the evidence in the cases to be tried. The
jury decides whether the man is proved to be guilty or not, when
they have heard all that can be urged for and against him, and the
magistrates decide what his punishment is to be, according to law.

There are some cases too grave or too complicated for the Court of
Quarter Sessions to decide, and these have to stand over to the
Assizes. These Assizes are held three times a year in the county
town of each county, and every prisoner in the county jail must be
accounted for. The court is presided over by one or more of the
king's judges. These are trained lawyers, and they attend in the
king's place, and are treated with much pomp and ceremony.

The sheriff of the county, properly attended, must meet the judge
or judges upon arrival. Formerly when judges on circuit travelled
by road from one county town to the next county town, the sheriff
of the assize town to which they were travelling met them some
distance from the town with a band of horsemen in quaint, old-time
uniforms, armed with javelins; and in a similar way attended them
for some distance out of the town when the assize was over. In most
places the javelin men have disappeared, or nearly disappeared, and
this guard of honour is supplied by mounted policemen. But there
are a good many quaint old customs and ceremonies still observed in
connection with the holding of the assizes.

  [Illustration: _Court-house of Godmanchester, Hunts_

  _An open court in which law proceedings were conducted in the
  Middle Ages._]


  Part of the accounts of the sheriffs (who acted as the king's
  bailiffs) of London and the various counties for the year 1130-1.
  The portion shown refers to Middlesex, and was photographed from
  the original in the Public Record Office, London

  [See page 92]]


The Villages, Manors, Parishes, and Parks

We have seen that in Norman times the whole country was, so to
speak, the king's. There were the great lords who held "fiefs" or
possessions directly from the king, which consisted of manors in
various parts of the country--sometimes a number of manors pretty
close together, but often with big stretches of unoccupied land
between them over which the king had full control. Out of these
unused districts the king could, and often did make new grants of

As years rolled on, the manors became more valuable, and new manors
were formed. In the earlier days the manor and the parish meant
much the same thing; but in course of time, though the boundaries
of the parish did not alter much, the number of manors increased in
some parishes from one to two or three, or even more.

In many cases the mode of life on these manors went on unchanged
for centuries, the tenants of these different manors going to the
original parish church and the parish priest ministering to the
people in all the manors in his parish. In other cases daughter
churches, or chapels of ease, were built in the newer manors, and
provision was made for the support of a priest to minister to them.
These have in some instances been erected in the course of time
into separate parishes; but many remained as parts of the mother
parish, though they might be several miles away from the parish

All through the Norman times there was a tendency to make new
manors, and this gave rise to so many difficulties that the
practice was stopped in the time of King Edward I.

In all parts of England to-day we have parks belonging to big
mansions; and our big towns and cities have their parks too; but
these are usually recreation-grounds for the people, and most of
them are quite modern, with bandstands and sports' grounds, clumps
of shrubs, flower-beds, and stretches of greensward. A park in
Norman and in Early English times was very different in appearance
from our parks, whether in town or country. Just as the king had
his great forests for hunting wild beasts, so in the later Norman
times the great lords were anxious to enclose pieces of waste and
forest land for the same purpose.

As we have seen, there were in early times vast tracts of wild,
uncultivated, unenclosed land, partly wooded and partly heath land,
between the manors, which belonged to the king. The king alone
could give leave to make a park. In the reign of King Henry III
especially we find many such parks were "empaled". Of course the
nobles had to give something to the king for this privilege.

Many of the old parks in England, now celebrated for their fine
timber and beautiful scenery, date back to this period; but they
were at first much wilder, and the trees then were neither so many
nor so fine as they are now. The deer remaining in some of them
to-day just serve to remind us of the "wild beasts" with which they
were stocked.

The laws for preserving the wild beasts and the game in these
parks and forests and chases were very strict, harsh, and severe.
Many of these new parks took away from the villeins, who lived
in the neighbourhood, certain rights and privileges which their
forefathers had had "time out of mind".

Though the land could not be bought and sold outright, manors
became divided and subdivided, let and underlet, for various terms
of years, and in many curious ways, so that in time the profits,
or the income, of a manor, instead of going straight to the lord
of the manor, might be going to half a dozen different persons and
places. For instance, the half of a manor might be divided amongst
several people for, say, twenty years, or for the lives of three or
four people; but at the end of the twenty years, or on the death
of the last of those persons, it must go back to the lord of the
manor, who could keep it in his hands or let it out in other ways
to quite a different set of people.

  [Illustration: _Manor House, Thirteenth Century_

  _Built by Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath, and Chancellor to
  Edward I at Acton Burnell, Shropshire._]

It is not very difficult to understand that the management of an
estate of many manors, broken up into many small portions, became
very complicated. Records of all these various transactions had to
be made in writing: and carefully kept, and copied and re-copied
time after time. People who understood all the "ins and outs" of
the laws relating to the possession of land became very important
and very busy.

There are immense numbers of documents, some of them dating back
to Norman and even earlier times, still in existence. The Record
Office, in London, has many thousands of documents connected
with the king's business; the borough towns and cities and the
monasteries each had their own records, but most of these latter
records disappeared in the sixteenth century; every old estate
has such documents; and many of the old manors have still records
going back many centuries. Of course thousands more of these old
documents have been lost, some destroyed purposely, and others
through carelessness and ignorance. Some have been burnt in times
of danger, when their owner, knowing that there were documents
amongst them which might get him into trouble and cost him his
head, set fire to bundles of papers and parchments. Others have
been stored away in dark, damp cellars and forgotten for years and
years, and rats and mice have nibbled them away, or mildew and damp
have caused them to rot.

Those that we have left can still be read, and it is surprising to
find in many cases how well they have been preserved all through
the centuries. The letters are very often beautifully formed, and
the whole clear and distinct. They were written in Norman French
and Latin, the latter being the language in which law business was
carried on for many centuries.[13]

  [13] Notice a fine specimen, written before the Conquest, given
  on p. 103, and the illustration facing p. 88.


Traces of Early Times in the Churches

In most villages the church is the chief old building in the place,
and it is a good thing to be able to tell the time to which its
different parts belong. It will help us to fix in our minds the
different periods, or steps, in the history of our country.

A little party of holiday-makers were one day strolling through
a country churchyard in which was a very old church. They were
not much interested until one of the party saw in the wall of the
church a slab to "an honest carpenter", dated 1765. "How very, very
old!" he exclaimed, and called the attention of his companions to
it, and they all wondered and marvelled. Yet in that same wall were
bits of work which belonged to a past age, not just a hundred or so
years back, but a thousand years back. They had not been trained to
read "the signs of the times".

Never be ashamed to ask questions about an old building. It will
be a very strange thing indeed if you cannot find, in every town
and village, _somebody_ who has a keen interest in old buildings
and who will delight in pointing them out to you. Nearly every
local newspaper in the country, from time to time, prints odds and
ends connected with the history of the neighbourhood. If there is
anything about an old building that you want explained, you can
easily write a short letter to the editor of the paper, and there
is sure to be someone who will take the trouble to answer your
question, and help you to understand, and to distinguish between
things "that differ".

  [Illustration: _Saxon, Norman, and Later Architectural Features_]

An old parish church has a good deal to tell us about the history
of the parish and its people, and if you know something of the
history of the place in which you live you will know something
_worth knowing_ of the history of your country, which will help
you to be a good citizen. But this knowledge can only be picked up
little by little, and you cannot learn "all about it" in the course
of a few days.

There are, as we said in a former chapter, some few churches which
have little bits of Saxon work left in their walls and windows.
In a great many more we shall see some Norman work, especially in
pillars and arches and doorways. That Norman Period takes in the
reigns of all the kings from William I to the time of King John,
from the middle of the eleventh century to the end of the twelfth,
down to the time of Magna Carta.

When we come to the time of Magna Carta we are in the thirteenth
century, when pointed arches came into use. Through the reigns of
King Henry III and King Edward I a great deal of building in that
style went on. In almost every parish some alteration was made in
the church in that century; and probably in the chancel there are
one or two old window's which will be pointed out to you as having
been first put in during that century.[14]

  [14] In the "Lancet Windows", shown in the illustration on p. 94,
  you have a specimen of that thirteenth-century or Early-English

You may perhaps find a very old battered figure of a man in chain
armour, the sort of armour in which King Edward I went fighting in
the Third Crusade, in Wales, and in Scotland; in which Simon de
Montfort and Wallace and the Bruce fought. Some of these effigies
have the legs crossed--some at the ankles, some at the knees, and
some at the thighs. It used to be said that these represented
crusaders; but nobody seems really to know what was the meaning of
the cross-legged effigies.

Then there are some flat stones, lying in the pavement, with
inscriptions running round the edge in strange worn letters, with
perhaps an ornamental cross also cut the whole length of the
stones. These are the cover-stones of the graves where some great
baron or landowner was buried, and they belong to the thirteenth
century, and some are even of earlier date. They are called incised

In this same century another kind of cover-stone for a grave came
into use, especially in the southern and eastern parts of England.
Metal was fixed in the incised slabs, and the portrait of the
knight and his lady, the merchant or the lawyer, the bishop or
priest, was engraved on the metal, showing the person in the kind
of dress worn during life. It is said that there are about four
thousand of these brasses still left in England. Some of them
have been sadly damaged and worn. They do not all belong to the
thirteenth century, as this kind of memorial of the dead was used
during several centuries--in fact, well on into Queen Elizabeth's
reign, at the end of the sixteenth century. The oldest brass in
England, showing a man in armour, is in Surrey, in Stoke D'Abernon
church. Brasses are very valuable, as they show us the kinds of
armour and dress worn in particular centuries.

  [Illustration: _Effigy with Crossed Legs in the Temple Church,

  _The feet are placed upon a lion, indicating, it is said, that
  the knight took part in the Crusades and was killed in action._]


Traces of Early Times in the Churches (_Cont._)

The fourteenth century is covered by the reigns of King Edward
II, King Edward III, and King Richard II. The architecture
became much more ornamental, and there is a good deal of fine
stone-carving.[15] Many beautiful window-heads and doorways belong
to this period. A good many aisles were added to the old naves;
many of the old Norman towers were rebuilt and crowned with
graceful spires; but the work is not all equally good.

  [15] See "Fourteenth-century Doorway", on p. 94, for a specimen
  of this style.

It will be noticed that the most beautiful spires are very
frequently met with in districts that are flat and destitute of the
natural beauty which mountains and hills, valleys and woodlands,
give to a landscape; and it looks as if the people in different
parishes had tried to outdo their neighbours in erecting graceful
spires on their church towers.

There are a great many tombs in the churches in various parts of
the country, and much money was spent upon them in this and in
the next century. They are raised some two or three feet from the
ground; the sides are divided into panels and ornamented with rich
carvings and shields of arms, brilliantly coloured and gilded. On
the top of the tombs are to be seen effigies carved in stone of the
man and his wife, lying on their backs, with hands clasped. The men
are usually in armour, and their wives in the dress of the time,
with strange-looking head-dresses. Many of the effigies are much
defaced and battered, but there are others of them well preserved
still. It was in the latter part of the fourteenth century that
great attention began to be paid to shields of arms, and heraldry
became an important science.

But in the middle of the fourteenth century, during the reign of
King Edward III, there came a time of great distress. There were
the long years of war with France, years of famine and the Black
Death. That meant a period of great distress for the country; all
classes suffered, and there was much discontent and disorder. These
bad times left their marks upon the buildings, especially upon the
churches. In some churches work can be pointed out to you which
was begun before the time of the Black Death on a grand scale, but
finished off in a much plainer manner--apparently years after it
was begun. The work had been started, but bad times stopped it, and
it had to wait. Those who had begun it never saw it finished, for
the pestilence carried them away; and, long afterwards, those who
did finish it were not well enough off to carry out the design as
it was at first intended.

Still, all through these centuries much was spent on the churches,
not only by the great nobles, not only in monastery buildings
and the cathedral churches, but on the ordinary town and village
churches as well.

  [Illustration: _Spire of Norwich Cathedral Fourteenth Century_]

The wealthy wool-merchants, especially in the fourteenth century,
spent much on the building and decoration of churches. Some of the
finest churches in the eastern and western counties of England
owe much to them. Then, too, it was quite a common thing for the
various trade guilds in a town to have a little chapel, or an
aisle, or an altar in the parish church, which the guild undertook
to keep up. One guild tried to outdo the others in this matter. All
the craftsmen of those days belonged to a trade guild of some sort,
and much good artistic work was done, which found a place in the

People took a keen interest in their churches, and we find them
leaving money towards their upkeep, towards making a statue, or
doing some carving, or even keeping a light burning. Whatever may
have been their reasons for so doing, the fact that they did so is
very clear.

They used their churches in ways that may seem strange to us; but
they looked upon them as their own, and were evidently in many
cases proud of them. Each parish annually chose its churchwardens,
who had charge of the buildings and the furniture, and these were
responsible to the bishop, as well as to the people of the parish.
Every now and then the bishop visited the parish, or sent someone
to do so in his name. Enquiry was made as to how the priest and the
people carried out their duties towards each other. Complaints were
heard, and attempts made to set matters right. Some of the reports
which were made on such occasions have come down to us, and show
often much disorder, and at times much that was evil. But we must
not forget that good was also being done then, which was not talked
much about.

    "The evil that men do lives after them,
    The good is oft interred with their bones."



Changes took place much more slowly in the Middle Ages than they
do now. First of all, the population was very much smaller, and
hundreds and hundreds of acres now covered by big manufacturing
towns were then unoccupied land.

At the time of the Norman Conquest the whole population of England
only numbered about two million people; and in the time of King
Henry VII it was only four millions; so that in the course of four
hundred years the population had only doubled itself.

The people were not crowded into the towns. For instance, in the
time of King Edward III, Colchester was one of the large towns, yet
it had only three hundred and fifty houses, in which three thousand
people lived, all told. There were only nine larger towns in the
country at that time.

The bulk of the people were living in the villages, in the various
manors, not in the towns. Many things prevented the population from
growing very rapidly--disease, famine, and war kept it down. Death
was the punishment for a very large number of offences, so that it
is not to be wondered at that the population did not increase very

The population was divided into two distinct classes--those who
were clergy, or clerks, and those who were not. By "clergy" we
understand, in these days, "ministers of religion"; but the word
had a very different meaning in the Middle Ages.

In early Saxon times religion and learning were very closely
related. Colleges and monasteries were centres of learning, and
bishops, abbots, priests, and monks took the lead in matters in
which a knowledge of reading and writing was required. Folk who had
a leaning towards learning naturally became connected with colleges
or monasteries. They began as scholars, and then were admitted, or
ordained, to one of the lower orders of the ministry--often when
they were still only boys.

  [Illustration: _A Scriptorium, from a miniature painted in an old
  manuscript (written in 1456) in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It
  depicts a clerk writing._]

There are many thousands of boys to-day who are choir-boys. In
early times those admitted to such an office as that had to be
ordained, or set apart for the purpose, by the bishop. That
ordaining made them clerks or clergy; and they were then under the
authority of the bishop or his officers. If they did wrong, they
were tried and punished in the bishop's court.

In the course of years there grew up, side by side, two different
set of courts of justice, the Church Courts and the King's Courts,
which were each guided by different laws. The laws which ruled the
Church Courts were much more merciful than those which ruled the
civil or King's Courts. Death was the punishment for almost every
offence tried in the King's Courts and in the Manor Courts; but in
the Church Courts the punishments were much less severe, and the
culprit had a much better chance of "turning over a new leaf".

If a man was brought before the King's Court charged with a crime,
he could call for a book. If he could read a few sentences, that
was taken to show that he was a clerk, and he could claim to be
tried by the Church Court. That is, he could claim "benefit of

You can readily see that such a state of things, however good it
may have been at the first, was dreadfully abused in the course
of time. What at first had been merciful and just became in time
mischievous and dangerous. The great struggle between King Henry II
and Archbishop Thomas à Becket had to do with the power of these
two sets of courts, the King's Courts and the Church Courts--it had
to do with government, _not_ with religion and religious matters.

Clerks, or the clergy, were drawn from all classes of society, from
the royal family down to the serfs on the manors. In fact, before
the time of the Black Death, the only way in which a serf could
become a freeman was by buying his freedom or by becoming a clerk.
A serf who wanted his son to rise to a better position than his
own would try to get him made a clerk; for the moment he became a
clerk he was a free man. But to attain his purpose the serf must
first have the permission of his master or overlord. All overlords
were not tyrants by any means. The serf might do his master a good
turn--save his life, for instance--and in return his master would
set him free, or allow his son to be taught by the priest and
ordained; or he might let him join a college or monastery.

Many and many a priest, clerk, or monk rose from being a serf or a
villein in this way; so many, in fact, that a writer in the twelfth
century complains that villeins were attempting "to educate their
ignoble offspring". Later still, Piers Plowman complains that
"bondsmen's bairns could be made bishops".

There was a very sharp line of division between clerks and those
who were not clerks, and the privileges which clerks had, led to
much squabbling and many disorders.

Kings and nobles employed clerks on their business, for the simple
reason that they were able men, and had some "book learning", and
so, in that way, were better educated than most of those who were
not clerks. From the clerks, too, were drawn the men whom we now
call lawyers. We have seen that there was a vast deal of writing to
be done in those days in connection with the towns and the manors.
Among these clerks were good men and bad men: some who loved
learning for its own sake; some who found that it paid better than
anything else; and others who misused their privileges, did much
evil, and brought the name of "clerk" into sad disgrace.

  [Illustration: _Writing before the Norman Conquest. From a
  charter of Cnut (1018) now in the British Museum_]



The word "Fair" calls up to our minds all sorts of wonderful
sights and sounds--the stalls with their wonderful "fairings"
and "goodies"; the shows and the shooting-galleries; the "flying
horses", the "conjurors", the performing dogs, and Punch and Judy;
the wonderful caravans and coco-nuts; the musical instruments of
all sorts, from the mouth-organ and "squeaker" to the steam-organ
of the roundabout.

Many such fairs are still held in every county and they connect the
present day very closely with the life of bygone days. It is "all
the fun of the fair" which draws people to them mostly nowadays,
but in some of them there is still important business done; people
are attracted to them for trade as well as for pleasure.

Some of these fairs are held in big towns, such as Lincoln
and Carlisle. At Barnet a great horse fair is held every year
in September. But some big fairs are held away from any large
town, such as the big sheep fair at Weyhill, in Hampshire. At
Stourbridge, in Cambridgeshire, a fair is still held; it is quite
an ordinary one now, but in the Middle Ages it was one of the
most important fairs, not only in England, but in Europe--a great
gathering, where East and West met to do business with each other.

In some places the business part of the fair has quite died out,
and a few stalls, a roundabout, a shooting-gallery, and swings are
all that can be seen on a fair-day.

The word "fair" comes from an old word which means a "feast" or
festival. There are many villages which still have their annual
village feast, more important to the village than Christmas or
a "Bank Holiday". Houses are turned out and cleaned from top to
bottom; everything must be made fit to be seen "for the feast". It
is a great meeting-time for families, and the boys and girls who
have gone away to work in some big town try to get back for a few
hours to their native village, to "the old house at home".


In the beginning the village feast was connected with the parish
church--it was the festival of the saint after whom the church
was named. That day was a holiday, and all the people went to
church as a matter of course. The church was the gathering-place,
and, in the porch and the churchyard, and on the village green,
friends, neighbours, and relatives met and had a time of

So many people coming together attracted pedlars and hawkers,
who spread out their goods on the green, in the churchyard, and
in the church porch itself. People who met but seldom used the
chance of doing a little business with each other. Little by
little, then, the "feast" became a "fair", and in many cases was
a very important business and trading meeting.

Now it did not suit the ideas of people in those days that
outsiders should come into their village and buy and sell as they
chose. You know how the boys living in one street even nowadays
object to the boys from another street coming to play in their
street--"You go and play in your own street". So in very early
times the lord of the manor began to regulate these things.
Outsiders who brought their goods for sale had to pay a "due" or
"toll" to the lord of the manor to be allowed to trade; and the
right of receiving tolls for fairs became one of an overlord's

The people in the towns, who were more interested in trade than
the people in the villages, saw how very important and profitable
a fair was--that it was something "with money in it"--and the
towns were very anxious to get the right to hold one or more
annual fairs. But the overlord, the king, had a voice in the
matter, because each stall set up, and each bale of goods,
brought in "by right" an income.

The king had the right to grant, almost to whom he pleased, the
privilege of holding a fair; and the privilege was much sought
after. Towns, as we saw in a former chapter, got charters from
the king, which very often gave to them this right. But it was
quite a common thing for the king to make a grant of an annual
fair to a religious house which he wanted to benefit without much
cost to himself, and the profits of the fair went to support the
house. The king's nobles did the same kind of thing in their own

All the shops in the place where the fair was held had to be shut
while the fair was on, and nothing could be bought or sold except
in the fair. The tradesmen of the place had to pay their tolls to
the person or public body to whom the fair had been granted, just
as the strangers coming into the town did.

Fairs lasted in some cases for only one day; in others for two,
three, or more days, and sometimes as long as a fortnight, during
which time, whether the inhabitants liked it or not, all trade
had to be carried on only in the fair. That was one of the things
which caused jealousy between the trading class and the religious
houses, and often led to much ill-feeling and disorder.

Then, too, the king could grant to any person the right to go to
any fair in the country without paying toll and duty. Of course
those persons to whom the king granted this right had to pay him
very heavily for this privilege, but you can see that it was
quite worth their while. Foreign merchants and Jews[16] often had
such privileges granted to them, and that partly accounts for
the great dislike there was to these classes of people.

  [16] The Jews were expelled from England A.D. 1290.

Many of the religious houses had entered into trade too, and very
often the same privilege of putting their goods on the market was
granted to them. Members of a religious house could often travel
from place to place without having to pay any of the tolls and
duties which other folk had to pay. That might be quite right and
reasonable when they were on some religious duty or errand of
mercy, but when it was connected with buying and selling the goods
produced or manufactured on the monastery lands it was "rather
hard", as we should say, on the traders. The grievance grew up
gradually, but it caused very often a bitter feeling between the
towns and the religious houses in them, which over and over again
led to riots and bloodshed.

  [Illustration: _Morris Dancers, Fourteenth Century_

  _From an illuminated manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Oxford._]



One of the pleasantest sights, to a Londoner at any rate, is the
market-place of an old-fashioned country town on a market-day.
In many such towns the weekly market is held, in the open air,
in the same place where it has been held for centuries. Probably
none of the houses round the market-square is as old as the
market, but the buildings, altered and rebuilt as they have been,
take us back several centuries, and speak of days long gone by.

A good many towns have built covered markets. Some of them are
near the old market-place, but in other cases the market is now
held in quite another part of the town. Cattle-markets, which
used to be held in the open street in a busy thoroughfare, are
now often held in places more suitable for that purpose some
distance away from their old quarters.

Corn-markets are held in most market-towns, frequently on the
same day as the general market, and many towns now boast a
corn-exchange. Then, too, in some places there are markets held
in connection with the chief trade of the neighbourhood.

The market-house is often a curious building. You may almost
speak of it as "a big room on legs". There is a large room
standing on stone or wooden arches. The open space underneath
serves to shelter some of the market-stalls, and a staircase
leads up from the street to the room above, where the town
council holds its meetings. On the roof of this building is
a turret containing a clock, and perhaps a fire-bell and a
market-bell. There is such a quaint old market-house still
standing at Amersham, in Buckinghamshire, but so many of these
old buildings have been pulled down to make way for larger
structures, in which the town can carry on its business, and
where the various officers can have their offices, that the town
hall is mostly now a smart modern building.

  [Illustration: _Market Cross and Portion of Shelter, Winchester_]

The stalls set up on the market-day are of the same simple kind
as those which have been used for centuries. It is curious to
notice how the different trades keep to different parts of the
market-place--butchers in one place, greengrocers in another,
and fishmongers in another. Just as the trades had their special
quarters in the town, so they had in the market. Things have
altogether changed as far as the shops are concerned, but the
setting out of the market is almost exactly the same to-day as it
was five hundred years ago.

The market cross still remains in some towns, but the cross
itself has in many cases disappeared long ago. In some places the
steps and the lower part of the cross still remain, but there is
a kind of open shed built round it to form a shelter. Some of
these shelters are very ornamental, like those at Chichester and
Winchester.[17] It is not an uncommon thing for such a cross as
that to be called the Butter Cross,[18] from the fact that around
the cross was held the butter-market. Some of these shelters are
quaint rather than beautiful, and cover the town pump, which is
now carefully locked up. In some places a drinking-fountain stands
where once the cross stood. At the cross a good deal of business
was done. The mayor or his officers would read out public notices
there on the market-day, that everybody might hear. Not far from
the cross was the cage, where folk who had been "taken up" were set
for a time. The stocks, the pillory, and the whipping-post, in the
seventeenth century, were usually here in the market-place, not far
from the cross.

  [17] This was built in the fifteenth century; but of course
  it has been restored since then. At the end of the eighteenth
  century the authorities of the city actually sold it to a
  gentleman who proposed to place it in his own pleasure-ground;
  but the people of the city drove away the workmen who were sent
  to remove it, and so it had to remain in its ancient place.

  [18] Such a Butter Cross is seen in the view of Dunster, facing
  p. 105.

There is much to see in a market-place on a market-day. If the
market-day is Saturday, you will find the place thronged with
people, especially at night; and even quite small towns are then so
crowded that you wonder where the people come from.

Fairs, in the Middle Ages, provided for much of the wholesale trade
of the country, and markets for the retail trade. The two were very
much alike, and the rights to hold an annual fair and a weekly
market mostly went together.

  [Illustration: _Market Scene in the Middle Ages. The market cross
  is taken from an old print of the market cross at Malmesbury_

  (_Note the Pillory, the Whipping-post, and the Stocks._)]

Some places had, and still have, more than one market a week. In
many places the market has quite died out now, but in the early
days one of the first steps of a "tun" towards becoming a "town"
was to obtain the right to hold a market. There are many of our
modern towns which have grown up in manufacturing districts,
near great railway centres, or near docks and railway stations,
which have no market. Nearly all of our old towns have, or at one
time _had_, the right of holding markets.

Nobody can set up a stall in a market as he pleases. On the
market-day you will see the beadle going about from stall to
stall taking the toll from each stall-holder. In many cases he
wears an old-fashioned dress trimmed with gold lace. He reminds
us of the time when no one except a freeman of the town could
trade freely. The stall-holders were "foreigners", and had to pay
to the town a toll for permission to sell in the town. In our day
you can go and settle in any town you please, and open a shop
just as you like, but you cannot so easily take a stall and sell
in the market: you must pay the market toll even now. Such tolls
go towards the expenses of the town.

In the market the town and the country meet. In these days, when
the produce of the country can be quickly sent into the heart of
the largest town, the country provision-markets are not of as
much importance as they once were, but they are very useful and
very popular still.

There are many places where the market beadle rings a hand-bell,
or a bell in the clock-tower, to give notice of the opening and
closing of the market. In former days, if a man dared to sell
anything before the bell was rung in the morning, or after it had
rung in the evening, he was very severely punished. Even now,
goods may not be sold in the market before or after the regular
market hours.

There were proper town officers appointed by the mayor and
corporation to look after the markets, and to see that goods were
sold at the proper market price, and that there was no cheating
in weight and measure, and in the quality of the goods sold.



The earliest schools in England were held in the monasteries,
and were intended for boys and young men who were to be trained
as priests, missionaries, or monks. There were famous schools at
Canterbury, York, and Jarrow in the seventh and eighth centuries.
In King Alfred's time, at the end of the ninth century, great
attention was paid to the teaching of both boys and girls. Later
still, in the tenth century, we find the teaching of the young
attracting great attention.

Latin was taught in these schools, and many of the scholars
became famous students and deep thinkers. In the course of time
others, besides those intending to become monks and priests, were
also taught, and became clerks and found various employments, as
we have seen, in civil business.

Gradually other schools sprang up, outside the monasteries and
cathedrals, which were not meant for monks or priests, though
they were at first connected with monasteries, colleges, and
cathedrals. For instance, in Norman times, not very long after
the Conquest, there were grammar-schools at Derby, St. Alban's,
and Bury St. Edmund's.

When we think of these schools we must not picture to ourselves
great buildings to hold two or three hundred boys, such as
we see now; nor must we suppose that there was a great rush
of pupils to them. Boys did not go to school from nine till
twelve, and from two till four, with plenty of time for cricket,
football, and sports of all descriptions. School work was very
hard, and was regarded as a serious business. There was a great
deal of learning by heart to be done. You see, books were few
and costly, and a man's best reference library was his own
well-stored memory. No doubt this hard work helped to train the
memory, and was good discipline for the scholar.

In the monasteries and colleges, where boys were trained to sing
in the choir, they had to learn their services by heart; for
books were not provided for them--a book was much too valuable in
days when they were all written by hand, and when printing first
came into use they were still far too costly for ordinary monks
and choir-boys to have one apiece, or even enough for several
to "look over". In the ordinary services there were long psalms
and passages of Scripture attached to them which differed for
every day, and the boys had to know these perfectly in Latin. For
hours and hours every day the little fellows were drilled in the
services till they were word-perfect. There were something like
seven services to be learned for each of the three hundred and
sixty-five days of the year.

We talk of Latin nowadays as a dead language, but it was anything
but a dead language in the Middle Ages. School was held all day
long from quite early in the morning; and during school-hours woe
betide the lads if they talked in any other language but Latin.

Choir-boys had to be taught in the song-school as well, how to
sing their services, and the music was just as difficult as the
words and had also to be learned by heart.

In the parish churches the priest and the parish clerk had boys
whom they trained to help in the services. The services were much
simpler and shorter than those in the monasteries; but they were
in Latin, and had to be known by heart.

In the grammar and other schools the boys were drilled in the
works of old Latin scholars in much the same way, and in
some cases in Greek authors as well, with a certain amount of
arithmetic and science.

  [Illustration: _A School, Fourteenth Century_

  _From an illuminated manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Oxford._]

There were no long weeks of holidays to look forward to at
Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, and in the summer; but during
the year there were many holy days kept, which were holidays, on
which neither schoolboys nor villeins did their ordinary work.
Thus, no doubt, schoolboys managed to get a fair amount of play,
and found time for getting into mischief.

For instance, at St. Alban's we read that in the year 1310 the
boys were forbidden to wander or run about the streets and roads
without reasonable cause. If a lad did so, he was to be sought
for and punished by the master "in the accustomed way"; and every
boy knows what that was. Then, too, the scholars must not bear
arms, either in school or out of school. That was to prevent them
from fighting with the townspeople. It is very curious to notice
that even nowadays there is often no love lost between "grammar
boys" and "town boys"; they can get up a quarrel almost as easily
in the twentieth century as they did in the thirteenth. It shows
itself whenever there happens to be a heavy fall of snow, and
sometimes tempers get "lost, or mislaid".

Boys took part in acting the earliest plays that were represented
in England. At first the plays dealt with religious subjects,
and were called "Mysteries" and "Miracles"; and these plays and
shows became very popular in England. Geoffrey de Gorham, in
early Norman days, taught a school at Dunstable, and wrote one of
these plays called St. Catherine. He borrowed vestments from St.
Alban's Abbey, in which to dress some of his characters; but on
the following night his house somehow caught fire, and his books
and the borrowed vestments were destroyed in the flames.

In the cloisters of some of our old cathedral churches and
colleges, such as Gloucester and Westminster, on some of the old
stone benches, there are holes and scratches still to be seen
where schoolboys of long ago played games with marbles and stones.

By the thirteenth century there seem to have been schools in
all the chief towns. Though they may not have held very many
scholars, they were not intended for the sons of well-to-do
people only; they were for poor scholars as well. Thus, at St.
Alban's, provision was made for sixteen poor scholars, and the
same kind of provision was quite common. There was some chance,
even in those days, for a lad with "brains" to get on in the
world. In fact, we know that in those Middle Ages a good many
men rose "from the ranks" to hold high office in the state.
There was, for instance, Thomas à Becket. He was born in London,
and not ashamed to be known as Thomas of London. Then there was
Thomas Scot, who rose to be Archbishop of York and Chancellor
of England in the fifteenth century, who was known as Thomas
of Rotherham, after the place where he was born. William of
Wykeham, that great founder of schools, is still known by the
name of the little out-of-the-way Hampshire village where he
was born--Wykeham. Winchester College, the first of our public
schools, was founded by him. His real surname was Longe, and the
motto he chose--"Manners Makyth Man"--is worth putting up in
every school in the land. We need to live up to that motto as
much in these days as ever.

But there were dunces in those days too, who made little or no
use of their opportunities, and others who turned them to bad
purposes, even as there are in this twentieth century.

  [Illustration: _Part of Winchester College, built in 1692_]



Now, just as the tide flows and ebbs, so in England did interest in
learning rise and fall during the Middle Ages. Schools of all kinds
had their good times and their bad times. Sometimes we find the
thirst for learning being shown in one direction; then it almost
died away for a time, revived again, and took another direction.

At first we see it going in the direction of making monks and
priests and missionaries; then in that of making able men who could
take part in the civil business of the manor, the town, and the
country; and then, in the thirteenth century, it began again to
take a turn towards learning for learning's sake.

As we get near to the thirteenth century, we find the beginnings of
our English universities. A university was a corporation or body of
learned men who bound themselves together to teach, and who got the
sole right of appointing teachers in their districts. A man could
only have leave to teach after his knowledge and ability had been
well tried by them; and when that leave was given he was said to
take his degree.

The opportunity of getting wider knowledge and higher teaching
attracted scholars, lads and young men who had had their early
teaching in the small colleges and grammar-schools. They were
encouraged and in many ways helped to go to the university. Gifts
were left to their old schools to help the likely boys to go to the
university; many of the monasteries and colleges sent their pupils
there, and it was looked upon as a pious work and a work of mercy
to help poor scholars in this way.

Scholars flocked in hundreds to various universities, and we find
Oxford and Cambridge rising as university towns. We cannot say
exactly when this began, but we read that in King John's reign, in
the year 1209, there was a great "town and gown" riot at Oxford.
Three of the gownsmen were hanged as a punishment; so about three
thousand of the rest left Oxford and went to other universities,
and Oxford was deserted for a time. These facts show that by the
beginning of the thirteenth century, just when the Early English
style of architecture was coming into fashion, universities, with
their "higher education", were very important institutions.

  [Illustration: _Gloucester Hall, now Worcester College, Oxford,
  founded 1283_

  _From a drawing made in 1673, when a considerable portion of the
  thirteenth-century building still remained little altered._]

At first it seems that the scholars at the university lived in the
town, where they chose or where they could, attending the various
lecture-halls. Then various people seem to have hit upon the plan
of setting up houses in the town, and letting the rooms to the
scholars, so that a number of them might live together. Thus they
were divided up into different sets. These houses were called
hostels, and we find them at Cambridge in the beginning of the
thirteenth century.

Early, too, in this same century a new religious order found its
way to England--the Friars. The Dominican Friars were a very
learned teaching order, and when they settled at Oxford they
greatly strengthened the work of the university and kept it alive
and active.

A Surrey man, Walter de Merton, Chancellor and Bishop of Rochester,
was the inventor or founder of colleges at the universities such as
we know them to-day. In the hostels the scholars did pretty much as
they pleased, chose their own officers, and made their own rules.
There was much disorder after a while; many quarrels and fights
took place between one hostel and another, as well as with the
townsfolk. Merton spent twelve years in thinking out his plan, and
at last, in the year 1264, he founded or established the first of
the Oxford Colleges.

The old monasteries and colleges in the early times had been
founded to keep up a continual round of worship, work, and
learning; the special work of these new colleges was to promote
learning and fellowship. In many ways they were like the older
convents; but the work of education was the chief object of these
new foundations, and we find teachers and taught, governors and
pupils, living under the same roof, under rule and order.


Merton's idea was soon afterwards followed at Cambridge, where
Peterhouse was opened in the year 1284. During this century, too,
we find a rival university springing up at Stamford; in fact in
the year 1333 a number of masters and scholars left Oxford for
Stamford; but, owing to the opposition of Oxford and Cambridge,
it was gradually snuffed out, though there are still standing
some interesting buildings which were connected with it. College
after college, at both Oxford and Cambridge, has been founded since
then; each one has its own special laws and government, which have
been altered from time to time. For many centuries now Oxford and
Cambridge have been cities of colleges, and these "ancient seats of
learning" are quite unlike any other places in the country.

  [Illustration: _Gownsman of Fifteenth Century. From an old print
  of Chaucer's Clerk of Oxenford_]

Many old customs are kept up still at Oxford and Cambridge; the
scholars and officials of the colleges and universities go about in
their gowns, as they have done for centuries, and each university
has still rights and privileges in the government of the town which
have naturally come to it in the course of time. The town and the
townsfolk have their special interests and government; so that
there are two authorities, side by side, responsible for law and
order. The gown and the town depend upon each other; and in days
gone by they have, times without number, misunderstood each other,
and quarrelled, and fought.

In the reign of King Edward III Oxford was the most famous seat of
learning in Europe. Many of its students were foreigners, but, as
everyone could talk Latin as well as he could his native language,
they had no real difficulty in making themselves understood.

Within the last hundred years, in order to meet modern
requirements, universities have been founded at Durham, London,
Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, and Bristol.


Changes Brought About by the Black Death

In the middle of the fourteenth century, in the reign of King
Edward III, came the Black Death. It carried off half the
population of the country at least, and all classes of society felt
its effects.

We have said that in some of the old parish churches you can
see, by some of the work done just after this time, that the
builders were very much poorer than they had been, and had to
finish off in a very plain fashion work begun on a grand scale.
You must remember, too, that there were several different kinds
of landowners or overlords--the king, the great lords, bishops,
colleges, and monasteries. The manors, of which these estates were
made up, in the course of centuries were divided and subdivided
in many ways as the land became more valuable. Many people might
thus have an interest in one manor which a couple of hundred years
before had been in the hands of one person only. That made law
business very complicated when these little parcels of land changed

Though manors could not be bought and sold outright, little by
little money was paid to have bits of manors and the various
rights in manors let out, or leased, for a term of years. This
was especially the case with property in towns, and with lands
belonging to corporations, like colleges and monasteries, which
were often scattered about in various parts of the country.

On the manors in the country districts the same thing was going
on, though perhaps more slowly than in the towns. It became much
more convenient for the villeins and cottiers, and other tenants of
a manor, to pay a rent to the lord instead of actually working on
the lord's land. At first this rent was paid in the produce of the
land--a few hens or eggs, a calf or a lamb, or so much corn, till
by and by we find actual payments in money as rent.

Then, too, a class of labourers had gradually sprung up on the
manors. As the tenants and villeins began to pay to the lord a
quit-rent, instead of working so many days a week on the land,
the lord of the manor had to employ persons to do the work on his
home-farm. These would naturally be the cottiers and serfs on
the manor--the "landless men"--who thus became what we know as

All these had to be accounted for in the manor court, which was
held regularly every few weeks. If a labourer was missing he was
sought for, and brought back to the manor, which he might not leave
without his lord's permission. It is quite true that if he could
only remain unclaimed in some borough town for a year and a day he
was no longer bound to the lord of his native manor; but the towns
did not encourage strangers, as we have seen. If, however, labour
happened to be wanted in the town, no doubt his being there would
be "winked at" and no notice would be taken of his "harbouring"
there; and in this way numbers managed to get their freedom.

But it was not an easy matter for a labourer to get away from his
native manor. After the Black Death, labour became very scarce,
for on some of the manors almost every tenant and labourer died.
All over the country land-workers were wanted badly; and tenants
and landlords, when they were so hard pushed, were glad to employ
almost any man who appeared, and they did not trouble to ask whose
"man he was" or whence he came.

The wages of the labourers, of course, went up; but before very
long the landlords saw that that would not do; it made their
farming so much more expensive, and so their incomes tended to grow
less and less. Law after law was passed to get the labourers back
to their native manors, and to keep down the price of labour.

  [Illustration: _Labourers felling a Tree, Fourteenth Century.
  From a manuscript in the British Museum_]

All classes of overlords, and especially the colleges and
monasteries, had much difficulty in working their lands, and so the
custom of letting them out in farms increased a good deal after the
Black Death.

At first the owners let out these farms with a certain amount of
stock on them. They were let for so many years, or for so many
lives. At the end of the time the farm had to be given up and the
stock replaced as it had been at the first. The land belonging
to the farm was mixed up with the land of other tenants in the
manor, in the big unenclosed fields, and had to be farmed still
according to the old customs of the manor. Some of the very oldest
farms existing to this day began in this kind of way, and there
are possibly a few of the very oldest farm-houses which were first
built early in the fifteenth century.



The two great industries of England in the Middle Ages were
agriculture and wool-raising. The wool was the finest grown in
Europe, and attracted hither merchants from the Continent. They
travelled through England--in the Cotswold and Hampshire districts,
for instance--and bought wool largely. But in pretty early days
England began to manufacture cloth of various kinds; and that,
too, became an important article of export. This manufacture was
especially strong in the eastern and western parts of the country.

Weavers from Flanders were encouraged to settle in various parts of
England, by several of the Norman kings, soon after the Conquest.
This was the case in Gloucestershire, for example; but the
manufacture declined in the reigns of King John and King Henry III.
In the reign of King Edward III it was again introduced.

As the country began to recover from the effects of the Black
Death, the cloth trade became a very flourishing industry,
and English wool-merchants became a very wealthy and powerful
body. These have left their mark on the churches of the land
pretty plainly. At the end of the fourteenth century, and in the
fifteenth, some of the finest Decorated and Perpendicular work
was done, and a large number of churches, especially in Suffolk,
Gloucestershire, and Somersetshire, have magnificent towers, which
were built at this period. It is pretty safe to say that where
to-day you find a little village with a big church--very much
larger than the place now needs--with a good deal of work belonging
to the Decorated and early Perpendicular periods, that those
places were once engaged in some branch or other of the wool and
cloth trades.

Many of the fine brasses of which we spoke in a former chapter
cover the graves of merchants "of the staple", as these great wool
and cloth traders were called. Then, too, some of the very finest
timbered houses, with their richly carved fronts, as in Chester and
Shrewsbury, were built at this same time.

We have spoken before of the trade guilds. These, too, after the
Black Death period, increased in power and wealth. Each guild
looked well after the interests of its own craft. It regulated
the number of apprentices which a craftsman might have, the hours
of work, the rate of pay; it made provision for helping its
members in sickness and need; and it saw to burying them decently
when they died. Guilds took a lively interest in their parish
churches, helped sometimes in forming new schools, hospitals,
and alms-houses, and had regular times for meeting together for
business and for feasting. They were good to their members, but
very hard on those who were not of their number.

  [Illustration: _Spinning Wheel, Fourteenth Century_]

From the members of these trade guilds in a town the town guild, or
corporation, was formed to rule the town according to its ancient
customs and charters, and to obtain for the town as many new rights
and privileges as possible. There is much in the corporation of a
great city like London, with its many companies, or guilds, which
is connected with city life and work of the Middle Ages.


The Poor

From early Christian times in England to relieve the poor was
looked upon as a Christian duty, and every church and religious
house took its part in the work as a matter of course. You will
remember that in early days there was not much moving about of
people from one manor to another, so that it was not at first
difficult to know the sick and the needy in each place, whether in
town or country. Many religious houses or hospitals were founded
for the purposes of relief. They were not on a large scale,
but there were a good many of them. In the fourteenth century
pilgrimages were very popular, and many pilgrims were always to be
found on the road.

We must remember that there was another side to a pilgrimage
besides the religious one. A pilgrimage was one way of travelling
and seeing the world. Indeed it was almost the only means by which
a poor man could travel and have change of scene. Permission was
given for that purpose because it was regarded as a religious act.
It is not at all surprising that folk who wanted to see the world
often took advantage of a pilgrimage from no very religious motive.
Pilgrims could always find food and lodging at a religious house
on their way, and there were scores of places in England to which
pilgrimages might be made, to say nothing of a journey to the Holy
Land, or to the shrine of St. James of Compostello, which were two
grand pilgrimages.

In time pilgrimages became somewhat of a nuisance, for many of the
people taking part in them were anything but pious; and, towards
the end of the fourteenth century, strict measures were taken to
prevent beggars and servants from wandering from one hundred to
another on pretence of going on a pilgrimage. Each had to have a
letter, properly signed by an officer of the hundred, giving him

But beggars and wanderers increased. We find some towns, in Tudor
times, taking steps to put down beggars. In the early part of the
sixteenth century vagabonds found in London were to be "tayled[19]
at a cart's tayle", and collections were made for the poor weekly,
and distributed at the church door. In the year 1536 there were
fifteen hospitals and four lazar-houses in the city of London. At
the dissolution of the religious houses all these were seized, but
the city managed to save St. Mary Spital, St. Thomas's Hospital,
and St. Bartholomew's Hospital. The city found that it could not
get enough money to keep even one of these going, so a tax was
levied for the purpose. Bishop Ridley and others tried to draw up a
scheme for finding work for the poor, teaching them to make caps,
feather-bed ticks, nails, and ironwork.

  [19] That is, whipped at a cart's tail.

Other towns tried the same plan, and the king and Parliament issued
many orders about the treatment of the poor and vagabonds. But
it was much easier to issue these orders than to carry them out,
and the beggars increased in numbers and in impudence in spite of
all. In 1547 it was ordained that a sturdy beggar might be made a
slave for two years, and, if he ran away, then he was to remain a
slave for life. The sons of vagabonds were to be apprenticed till
they were twenty-four years old, and their daughters till they
were twenty years of age, and, if they rebelled, they were sent to
slavery. The idea was to train them to work.

In all this the difficulty was, how to find the money to carry out
these schemes. The king had swept away all the goods and gifts
which had been made to monasteries, churches, and hospitals; the
free-will offerings of many generations had gone into the pockets
of the king; the institutions which had been founded to help the
poor had become the private property of the king's favourites. It
was not likely that people would be very keen to offer their money
for the relief of the poor, and though urged to give what they
could, they were very backward in doing so. Later on, in Queen
Elizabeth's reign, the dwellers in each parish were urged to find
work for the labourers in their parish; but the beggars still
wandered and the poor still abounded.

In the year 1572 some very severe laws were made concerning
vagabonds. A man who was convicted a third time of being a vagabond
was to be punished with death. Habitations were to be found for all
the poor belonging to a parish; no strangers were to be allowed to
settle in a parish; and each parish was to be taxed for the relief
of the poor. At the same time, every parish was to find something
to do for all the poor who were able to work. Usually a stock of
wool, hemp, and flax was bought, and the poor were supposed to
be taught to spin. Each county was also to provide a House of
Correction, where those who would not work should be forced to do

To keep down the number of poor people in a parish, order was given
that only one family might live in one house, and no new house
might be built in the country unless it had four acres of ground
attached to it. In the cities of London and Westminster, and for
three miles round them, no houses were to be built except for
persons worth a specified amount. Houses might not be divided into
tenements, nor might lodgers be taken in.

All this was to keep people as much as possible in the places where
they belonged. The churchwardens and overseers had to attend to the
relief of the poor. There are, belonging to a good many parishes
in England, old account-books, showing how these officers raised
and spent money on the relief of the poor. Some of these books go
right back to this time, though most of them begin a good deal
later. These officers had to keep a very sharp look-out. Of course
they did not want the poor-rate to be any higher than they could
help, so strangers coming into the parish were quickly tracked and
hindered from gaining a settlement there. Vagabonds and strolling
players were hurried out of the parish, and in some cases whipped.
The stocks, the whipping-post, and the cage were set up near the
churchyard gate, and they were in pretty constant use.

  [Illustration: _Wayfarers, Early Fourteenth Century. From a
  manuscript in the British Museum._]

The officers were very anxious, too, to prevent any travellers
from falling ill in their parish. Those who were sick, and could
possibly be moved, they shifted on to the next parish, lest they
should become chargeable to the parish. Some parishes spent a good
deal of money, and the officers much time, in conveying people out
of their bounds. That led, we may imagine, to many disputes between
parishes, and gave the court of Quarter Sessions a lot of work
to do; for amongst the many things which Quarter Sessions had to
attend to was the carrying out of the Poor Laws.

Parishes had to look after and to support their own poor in much
the same way right down to the early part of the nineteenth
century, less than a hundred years ago.

  [Illustration: _The Moat House, Ightham, Kent. An example of a
  fortified manor house of feudal times. A large portion appears to
  be work of the fourteenth century_

  (_From an engraving published in 1845_)]


Changes in Houses and House-building

In the time of King Edward III, that is, in the fourteenth
century, there was a great change in the arrangement of castles
and castle-building. We cannot say much about it here, it would
take too long; but the changes made show that there was a desire to
make the castle not merely a strong defence against an enemy, but
also a dwelling-place for the baron, his family, his servants, and
men-at-arms. Many buildings were added for comfort and convenience.
In fact, a castle became a kind of little town.

William of Wykeham, that great master-builder, was not only a
builder of churches and colleges, but a castle-builder as well.
The great Round Tower at Windsor Castle, and other parts of that
building still in use, are his work; but in later times it has
been much restored. The general arrangement of the Tower of London
will give us an idea of the sort of habitation a castle of the
fourteenth century was intended to be. In fact, we may say that
every old castle, which is still inhabited, has considerable
indications of work done in this and the following centuries, to
fit it to be a comfortable dwelling-place as well as a fortress.

A good many houses, too, were protected by walls, and sometimes
even called "castles", though they were not what we usually
understand by the term. Many of these were moated houses, the moat
forming the first line of protection. Then came the battlemented
wall, within which the house proper was built.

The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were stirring war times,
and the nobles kept up bands of armed men, who lived close to, and
even in, their strong houses and castles. In the fifteenth century,
during the long period of the Wars of the Roses, there was much
work for these "men-at-arms to do". This constant warfare weakened
at length the power of the barons. Sometimes the Yorkist king,
sometimes the Lancastrian king, was in power; and whichever side
got the upper hand the king seized the property of the nobles on
the other side.

As a matter of fact the nobles killed each other off, and when
Henry Tudor, a Lancastrian, became king, there was an enormous
amount of power in his hands; and he used it so as to keep a closer
grip of it.

The towns and the traders had no liking for war, and they were
quite satisfied to see the government of the country in the hands
of a strong king. The new nobles, whom King Henry VII made, had
most of them sprung from the merchant and trading class.

These new men, and even the king's own friends and supporters, were
not allowed to keep bands of armed servants or retainers, able to
turn the scale of a battle against the king. The Earl of Warwick,
the "Kingmaker", had played that game several times; and it was
through Lord Stanley bringing his men over from King Richard III's
side to the side of Henry in this way that he had won the Battle of
Bosworth, and placed the English crown on Henry's head.

After becoming king, Henry VII determined that these bands of armed
men, who would follow the whistle of their lord, must be put down.
He therefore set to work cautiously, but he had his way. The nobles
might no longer keep hosts of servants in livery as they pleased.
The king cut down the numbers, so that he might be in a position to
say to any of his nobles that his good word he did not want, and
his bad word he cared nothing at all about.

You will remember the story of King Henry VII and the Earl of
Oxford. The king went to pay the earl a visit, and his host, to
show him honour, had two long lines of stout retainers, all armed
and dressed in his livery, drawn up to meet him. He did all in his
power to show honour to the king. When the visit was over, the king
said to the earl:

"I thank you, my lord, for your good cheer, but I may not endure to
have my laws broken in my sight; my attorney must speak with you."

Then there was "trouble"; and the earl thought himself very
fortunate in getting out of the "scrape" by paying a small fine of
ten thousand pounds. It was very awkward for a man to be a noble
in Tudor times. He never knew exactly where he was. The king might
be making a great fuss with him one day, clapping him in the Tower
a few days after, and then chopping off his head and ornamenting
London Bridge with it.

Well, this did away with the necessity for big fortified houses
which might contain barracks for soldiers, and so we find that the
new houses, built in Tudor times, were less like fortresses than
they had been before. More attention was now paid to the size and
convenience of the rooms. This sixteenth century was a great time
for the building of large houses; indeed, the new nobles had better
ideas of what a comfortable house was than the older barons had.

  [Illustration: _Part of the House called Plas Mawr, Conway, Wales_

  _It illustrates the architectural change from the mediæval
  fortress to the Tudor mansion which took place in the sixteenth


The Ruins of the Monasteries and the New Buildings

In early Tudor times our towns were much more picturesque than they
are to-day. That was chiefly owing to the fact that there were in
every town so many religious houses, colleges, and hospitals. These
buildings all had grounds of their own in the town, some more, some
less; but these open spaces and garden grounds, though they were
not open to the public, all helped to make the town airy, and to
give variety to the view.

The buildings themselves were all different, and many of them were
hundreds of years old. Towers, spires, turrets, gables, gateways,
and archways in all styles of architecture abounded. There were, of
course, many things in the towns which we should not have liked,
but they had a pleasant variety and picturesque appearance which
our modern towns have not. Thousands of streets in our towns are
just rows and rows of houses--brick boxes with slate lids--all
alike, all ugly, and very dull and dreary to look at and to live in.

In the reign of King Henry VIII all the religious houses were
suppressed, and given up into the king's hands. The life that had
gone on in them for centuries came to an end. Both in town and
country districts there were many people besides those who actually
lived in them to whom this made a great difference--people who,
in one way or another, got their living out of the monasteries.
Shutting up the monasteries threw all these people, so to speak,
out of work, and created what we call a "very difficult problem".
That meant a great deal of suffering.

Nowadays, if a factory which has employed a number of people
is suddenly closed, it means suffering for those who have been
employed there and for their families. Now, though the monasteries
did not employ people in the way in which a factory does, it did
affect in many ways those who lived and worked and depended on them.

In these days, if people are thrown out of employment in one place
they are free to go and seek it in another; but that was not the
case in the reign of Henry VIII. If they wandered from their native
towns and villages they were treated as vagabonds. It is true
that the new persons, to whom the monastery lands were granted,
were supposed to do for the people on the land--the poor and the
sick--what the monasteries had done for them. But what they were
_supposed_ to do and what they _did do_ were very different things.


  An Elizabethan mansion, built 1590-1. The Italian style is here
  pervaded by a Gothic influence

  [See page 142]]

It is pretty easy to see how things worked. A wealthy man managed
to get a grant of the property of several monasteries at a very
cheap rate. He did not want these places to live in; he wanted to
make money out of them. The first thing that he did was to strip
the buildings of everything which would fetch any money. The lead
was usually the most valuable part of what the king had left. The
roofs would be stripped, the graves broken open to get at the
leaden coffins, and the windows smashed for the sake of the lead.
Then the building was left standing a ruin. The poor people of
the district had been used to receive food daily at the monastery
gate, and no doubt had grumbled at the quality and quantity of the
food often enough. But now it was no use going to the monastery
gate, for the place was a ruin. They could not go to the new lord's
house, for that might be miles away. Even if they did find him,
he might be the owner of three or four such ruined monasteries.
How could he be quite sure that they were the poor he was bound to
relieve? And so the poor folk lost the daily food on which they had

Then as regards the land. The new landlord, perhaps, might farm his
fields; in which case the rents, instead of going to the monastery,
went into his pocket. But he was not always on the spot, and very
frequently the land was let out to tenants; an agent or steward
collected the rents, and the tenants never saw their landlord. But
many of these new owners found that the management of the estates
caused them a lot of trouble; and, naturally enough, from their
point of view, they wanted to get as much money out of the property
as they could at the least cost to themselves.

Now there was in this sixteenth century still a great demand for
wool, and many of these landlords found it would save trouble to
turn these monastery lands into sheep-runs. A very few men could
look after a great many sheep, and there would be no bother about
keeping up buildings and barns. If the people were got off the
land, there would be no poor to bother about relieving. So it
came to pass that much land, which had been cultivated for many
centuries, went out of cultivation, and the people were turned
adrift. It was a hard state of affairs. The rights which they had
had to relief from the religious houses were taken from them, and
the means of getting their living also taken away; they were robbed
of their employment, and punished for wandering, for not working,
and for begging.

There were, of course, many instances in which the new landlord
came and lived near the old monastery. In some cases the old
buildings were altered and turned into a dwelling-house; in others
the building material was used for building a brand-new house close
by. When this was the case the old custom of relieving the poor
who came to the gate did not quickly die out.

  [Illustration: _Old Timbered House, at Presleigh, Radnorshire,
  dated 1616_]

For instance, at Standon in Hertfordshire, there was a house
belonging to the Knights Hospitallers. When the house was
dissolved, much of the property at Standon went to Sir Ralph
Sadleir, who had been secretary to Thomas Cromwell, the "hammer of
the monks". He owned Standon Lordship, and when the poor were no
longer relieved at the Hospitallers' House in the village, they
trooped from Standon up to Standon Lordship, about fifty of them,
every day. That custom of relieving the poor was kept up there for
many years.


The New Houses of the Time of Queen Elizabeth

There were, in the days of Queen Elizabeth, in all parts of
the country, hundreds of bare, gaunt ruins where once had been
flourishing houses and centres of life and work. It may seem
strange to us that the materials left were not sold and cleared
away, and the sites made tidy. We must remember, however, that
people could not build houses either in town or country as they
chose. In Queen Elizabeth's reign the laws against building new
houses were very strict indeed, so that there was not a very great
demand for building material. Then, too, the quantity of such stone
and wood in all these many buildings, in every town and almost
every village, was enormous, so that the material was not worth
much. The ruins were left, a sad and sorry sight, for many a long

In the towns some of the buildings were turned by their new owners
into private houses, and the parts of the monastery were put to
strange uses. Nobody seemed to mind; the spirit of destruction
seemed to be in the air. Then, as years went on, and buildings
needed repair, or roads wanted mending, the old ruins were the
handiest places from which to get a load of stone; and so, with
leave or without, many loads of stone were carted away from them.

We said just now that there was no encouragement given to the
building of new houses in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and yet
most of the most picturesque old houses in our towns and villages
still standing were built at that time. These, however, were not
new houses; they were rebuilt on old sites, _improved_ according to
the ideas of the time.

  [Illustration: _Moreton Old Hall, Cheshire, built 1550-59.
  An example of the half-timbered, Elizabethan house for which
  Cheshire and Shropshire are specially famous_]

You will notice in country places a great many houses built
somewhat after this style. Many of them are now cottages, but they
were not built for cottages; they were the ordinary houses in which
yeomen lived in the sixteenth century.

There was the hall or house-place--an oblong room in the centre--on
to which other rooms were built, forming a wing at one end, or
often a wing at each end, with gables towards the street, and
projecting upper stories. A great deal might be said about this
kind of house, but there is only space for a very short account of

The house was built upon a foundation of stone or brick, so that
the wooden sill should be above the ground-level. Into this wooden
sill strong upright posts of timber, quite rough, some eight or
nine inches square, were set. The posts at the angles were larger,
often being butts of trees placed roots upwards, so that the upper
story might project. Then on the main posts beams were laid, the
ends projecting, upon which the framing of the upper story was set.
It was just a timber skeleton, into which other timbers were set
eight or nine inches apart. In later times these timbers were wider
apart, and curved or diagonal braces were often used, but at first
the uprights were pretty closely set.

The spaces between the uprights were then filled in with lath and
plaster, flush with the woodwork. In some parts of the country
brick was used instead, set in herring-bone fashion. In later
times, when the lath and plaster had decayed, the spaces were often
filled in with brickwork laid in the ordinary way. Then again, in
other cases the woodwork of the house shrank and left gaps between
the lath and plaster and the wood, so the whole of the outside has
been covered with plaster, or weatherboarded and painted or tarred,
or hung over with tiles.

The windows were small, and sometimes in the upper story one was
built out, forming an oriel. The roofs were high pitched, in many
cases tiled, but more often thatched. In these old houses the
chimney-stack is a great feature outside, and the huge fireplace,
with its wide chimney-corners, takes up half the house-place
inside. From most of these nowadays the old hearth is gone, and a
small chimney-breast has been bricked up to take a modern range;
but the old chimney-corner, with its funny little window, can
usually still be traced.

There are quite a large number of village inns of this kind. Very
often these are the oldest and most picturesque buildings left in a
village, except the church. It is these old-fashioned houses which
make village scenery so pleasing to the eye after the dreary rows
of bunches of brick, with holes in them for windows, covered in
with slate, which fill the streets of our towns, all alike, and all


Larger Elizabethan and Jacobean Houses

We have said that the Tudor period was a time of building of big
houses and mansions. Every county in England has some such houses
to show. Many of them were built of stone, some partly of brick and
stone. Their style shows that the English or old fashion of Gothic
building was dying out. Italian ideas and Italian ornament were
coming into favour. No doubt one reason why so much of the old work
was ruthlessly destroyed was because it was out of fashion. It is
astonishing, even in these days, how much good work is destroyed
just because it has gone out of date. Among the most famous of
these houses we may mention Burleigh House "by Stamford Town",
Haddon Hall, and Knebworth; and, belonging to a rather later date,
Hatfield House.

For a big house the idea was to build it round a quadrangle.
Smaller houses were in plan very like the half-timbered houses of
the yeomen, only on a larger scale, and more richly ornamented. The
hall and its wings were extended considerably, and, with a handsome
porch, formed in plan a big capital E, thus:--

  [Illustration: _Diagram of a Large House_]

Some people have thought that this plan was chosen in honour of
Queen Elizabeth, but the truth is that it was the most convenient
form, and fitted in best with the ideas of the time. It had grown
up quite naturally, in the course of many generations, from the
simple hall with the hearth in the middle, the beginnings of which
we saw in the huts of the pit-dwellers.

  [Illustration: _Hall and Staircase, Knole House, Kent, 1570. The
  broad heavily-carved staircase of oak was a special feature of
  Elizabethan houses_]

Quite early in the fourteenth century brick had begun to come into
use for building, but the first bricks were probably imported from
Flanders. Hull, which had been founded by King Edward I, had many
buildings of brick, and by about the year 1320 it had brick-yards
of its own. Flemish weavers were encouraged to settle in England by
King Edward III, and they used brick in buildings which they set
up. There are a good many houses in the eastern counties and in
Kent still standing, which show Flemish and Dutch ideas.

  [Illustration: _A Room in an Elizabethan House. A reconstruction,
  in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, of panelling and
  furniture removed from a house at Bromley by Bow, London_]

Cardinal Wolsey's palace at Hampton Court is a good specimen of the
brickwork of his time; and all through the reign of King Henry VIII
the chief material used was brick, terra-cotta[20] being employed
for mouldings and ornament. This was chiefly the work of Italian
artists, and they produced also some very beautiful ceilings in
plaster-work[21] for many of their fine houses.

  [20] _Terra-cotta_ is a compound of pure clay, fine sand, or
  powdered flint.

  [21] See the picture on p. 144.

After King Henry VIII's quarrel with Rome fewer Italians were
employed, and English artists were left to work out these new ideas
in their own way. From about the middle of the sixteenth century
the use of terra-cotta dropped out, and moulded and shaped bricks
began to be used, though stone was used for the more ornamental

When we reach the reign of King James I, we find that the leading
architect was Inigo Jones. We do not hear very much of architects
during the Middle Ages. The man employed to do the actual work
was allowed to select his own materials and carry out his own
ideas pretty much in his own way. But in the sixteenth century
the architect became a more important person than the craftsman,
and the craftsman had to work according to the pattern and design
provided for him.

The Jacobean[22] houses show that the old English styles of
building were being left behind, and a newer type of house, plainer
and heavier, was taking its place. The Civil War was a very bad
time for architects and craftsmen, but after the Restoration a
better time came to them again.

  [22] _Jacobean_ means of the time of James I and on to James II.

The Great Fire of London, which swept away almost every mediæval
building in the city, gave a great _impetus_, or push forward, to
building. You can quite understand that, with so much building
going on, the work would be somewhat hurried and very much plainer
than it had been. So London became a city of bricks and mortar.
Middlesex has large quantities of good brick-earth; and though
bricks were made in that county long before the Great Fire, the
Great Fire developed the industry greatly. There was a worthy old
Royalist knight of Hammersmith, Sir Nicholas Crispe, who, after
the execution of King Charles I, went over to Holland, as so many
other Royalists did. There he watched very closely bricks and
brick-making, and when he came back to England he introduced many
improvements in the art of brick-making along the Thames valley.

  [Illustration: _Blickling Hall, Norfolk, built 1619. Illustrates
  the typical features of a Jacobean Mansion_]


Churches after the Reformation

Not very long after the dissolution of the monasteries the churches
had a very bad time to go through. It is perfectly marvellous
how rapidly some people, who were in power, discovered that the
valuable ornaments and fittings in them were so very wicked and
superstitious, that the only thing to do was to seize them for
the use of the king as his private property. No attempt was made
to apply the money taken for the benefit of the parishes; it was
shamefully and shamelessly squandered. The buildings were very
badly treated, and everything in some of them that could be defaced
and destroyed was so treated. The changes made in religion under
the Tudor kings and queens were so many, and so violent, that
ordinary everyday people could not understand them, and deeply
religious people were driven in opposite directions. There was
bitter persecution for all who did not fall in with the will of the
Tudor sovereign, whether Catholic or Protestant, and good men had
to suffer and to die on both sides for their faith.

All who did not attend their parish church, and take part in the
services which those in authority considered to be most fitting,
were regarded as bad citizens, and treated as such. We cannot
wonder that the parish churches were allowed to go to decay.
English people had spent much money on their churches right up to
the time of the Reformation. Then they saw the gifts they and their
forefathers had made abused or stolen. People were not disposed to
do much for their churches after that. In some cases, especially
in country places where the leading people were Catholics or
Puritans, it seems as if they purposely let the parish church, to
which they were compelled to go by law, get so thoroughly out of
order that they might be able to say there was no church to go to.

  [Illustration: _Monument in Chelsea Church, London; date about

Many of the houses built during Tudor times had secret chambers and
hiding-places, which were known only to a very few persons. And
such hiding-places were much used, in the times of Queen Elizabeth
and King James I, by priests, who ministered in secret to those who
clung to the old faith.

But though the churches were much out of repair, in some of them
stately and costly monuments were erected in the sixteenth and
early part of the seventeenth centuries. They were different from
the monuments set up before the Reformation, and were usually
built against a wall. They were of various coloured marbles, the
effigies lying under circular-headed canopies, supported by columns
in the Italian style. The effigies of man and wife were usually
represented clad in robes of state, coloured, their children
kneeling round the tomb in various attitudes.

By and by, instead of the effigies being represented as lying on
their backs, with hands clasped, they were shown lying on one
side, supporting their heads on their hands. There are many such
monuments, for instance, in Westminster Abbey, and in almost every
old town church one or more can be seen.

It became a very common practice for one of the old chapels, built
on to the parish church in mediæval times, to be set apart as the
private burial-place of a great landowner. Many new chapels were
built for this special purpose. In them we may see specimens of the
different fashions in monuments from Tudor days, or earlier, right
down to the present time.


Building after the Restoration: Houses

The most notable architect after the Great Fire of London was Sir
Christopher Wren, and his masterpiece is, of course, St. Paul's
Cathedral. He designed, too, most of the city churches. The style
was adopted in various parts of the country by various noblemen for
building great houses. Brick was regarded as too mean a material
for such very grand houses, and stone was used for facing them.

In the houses which Wren built brick was very largely used. He
introduced rubbed bricks, and had them laid with very close joints.
We have some very fine examples of such brickwork in gables of
various forms in the early part of the eighteenth century--the
reign of Queen Anne.

  [Illustration: _House at Rainham, Essex, built during the reign
  of Queen Anne_]

Designs for houses did not improve in beauty as the eighteenth
century went on. Many of the houses were very substantially built,
and were arranged with an eye to comfort and convenience. The hall,
which had been the centre of the old English home, became smaller
and smaller; the kitchens were placed below the ground-level, and
in towns were often reached by a flight of steps down from the
street to the area, which is still so common in London streets.

The front door of the house became the great ornamental feature of
the building, approached by a flight of steps often protected by
very handsome iron railings. Attached to many of the railings still
are light upright posts for carrying an old-fashioned oil-lamp.
Just a few of these lamp-carriers have extinguishers, which were
for the use of the link-boys, when on dark nights they had safely
lighted the master of the house through the dangers of the streets
to his own front door.

The brickwork of these houses had become very plain, and less and
less stone was used for ornament--a little over the principal
windows, and the boldly cut quoins at the angles of the house. Most
of the windows were merely oblong openings in the blank wall.

The great point aimed at was to get a handsome doorway. Sometimes
a portico was built out, supported by stone pillars having
richly-carved capitals. In other cases a canopy, supported by
half-columns, or by brackets, was placed over the doorway. Stone
was sometimes used for these canopies, but wood was more common.
These wooden canopies and brackets are often very fine pieces of
joinery and wood-carving. The canopy sometimes takes the form of a
kind of big shell, the ornaments and pattern being finely moulded,
and the cornice being deeply and boldly cut. These canopies were
painted, and the tops covered with lead to protect them from the
weather. As you walk along streets of an old town, which has not
been too much modernized, you will be almost sure to see some
specimens of this kind of work.

The thick panelled doors of these houses are often grand pieces
of work, which would rejoice the heart of a joiner who loves his
craft. So many boys now are taught something of joinery at school
that there must be a good many of them who know enough to see the
beauty there is in a good piece of work, even though it may be
quite plain.

Another feature in these doorways is the window over the door,
intended to give light to the hall. We call it the fan-light,
because it was usually made somewhat in the shape of an open fan,
and you will find in fan-lights some very pretty designs cleverly
put together.

About the middle of the eighteenth century stucco came into
fashion. It was easy to handle, and ornamental patterns could be
readily produced. The ornamental stone and woodwork was imitated
in plaster. Like all mere imitations of good work, it soon became
poor, and showed itself to be a sham; but it was very fashionable.
There was such a rage for it that the brickwork of a house was
often covered with a smooth coat of it, and the whole painted
white, or cream colour. Some of the old houses of good sound brick
were covered in this way, and it was often used to cover up very
poor bricks and brickwork. Good plaster-work, no doubt, often
served a purpose in keeping out damp, but it was very formal, and
not very beautiful.

  [Illustration: _Doorway from a House in Gt. Ormond Street,
  London, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London_]

In the middle of the same century a fancy for Gothic architecture
revived, and many brick buildings were built with pointed arches,
doorways, and windows, with turrets and pinnacles, all covered with
plaster-work and cement, imitating Gothic mouldings and carvings;
but it was only sham Gothic, and not at all satisfactory.

Indeed, we may say that, as the century went on, houses did not
become more beautiful. As the population increased in the town,
streets of houses sprang up, some large, some small, built in
rows and crescents and terraces, in which all the houses were
alike; and very dull and drab and mean-looking many of them have
become. When they were built they were made to look neat, or even
smart, in front, but little care was taken about the appearance
and convenience of their backs. They were not arranged in such a
way that each might have a proper amount of light, and that a free
current of air could pass through them and around them.

In some respects we have improved our houses, but we have much
to learn yet. We have, for instance, yet to see that _all_ our
houses, however small, shall have a proper number of bedrooms,
large, light, and airy--for we spend one-third of our lives in
them. We have also to see that both beauty and fitness shall be
properly considered in building a house. Too often no care is taken
to provide proper places where food and clothing can be kept, and
where that very necessary but unpleasant process of washing and
drying of clothes can be carried on without spoiling the comfort
and health of the household. Every house needs a bathroom of some
sort, as much as a grate; for where dirt is there is disease,
suffering, and death. We are thinking very much in these days about
the absolute need for better housing of the people; indeed, that is
one of the "big problems" which we have to tackle.


Building after the Restoration: Churches

After the Reformation the churches, as we have said, were much
neglected for a long time. They were used in a different way from
what they had been in the Middle Ages--a great deal more was
thought of preaching and hearing sermons. People grew to be very
particular as to where they sat in church, and to have a seat in
accordance with their dignity and importance. Pews became very
important things. Churches were not heated in those days, though
the services were very long, for sermons often lasted for an hour
or two. No doubt one reason for making pews so high was to keep off
draughts. The great people of the parish seemed to try to outdo
each other in the height of their pews. Some of the grand pews
had canopies to them, like old-fashioned four-post bedsteads, and
they were hung round with curtains. In later times they even had
fireplaces, with "poker, tongs, and shovel" all complete.

Gradually the whole floor-space got filled up with pews with high
wooden walls, some square, some oblong, all shut in with doors, and
with seats running round them. A little girl who was once taken to
a church which was fitted with these "horse-box" pews, when she
came home told her mother: "We went into a cupboard and sat on a
shelf!" The fashion of having pews shut in with doors lasted for
several centuries; indeed you may see them still in some churches,
though they are not nearly as high as they once were.

The churches needed repairs from time to time in the seventeenth
century, and a few, a very few, new ones were built. But money was
not spent upon them as it had been in the Middle Ages. They were
patched up and mended for the most part as cheaply as possible. In
very few cases was any attempt made to make them as beautiful as
the houses which were being built at the time.

  [Illustration: _Pews in a Church at Stokesay, Shropshire, rebuilt

After the Restoration there arose a great interest in bells and
bell-ringing. At the end of the seventeenth century a great many
rings of bells were hung in the old steeples and belfries, which
had to be altered to receive them.

The monuments set up in the churches in the reign of King Charles
II were somewhat smaller than they had been. They were often
tablets on the walls, ornamented with curious carvings of skulls
and cross-bones, cherubs' heads, curtains, and festoons of flowers
and fruits, often finely carved. You will not find in churchyards
many grave-stones or tombs of an earlier date than 1660. The
head-stones were then very small, and had little on them except
"Here lyeth the body of" so-and-so, and the date.

A great many churches were built in London after the Fire. They
were furnished with high pews, usually all of the same height, and
having doors. The woodwork, especially of the pulpit, reading-desk,
and organ-case, in these churches is mostly very fine. A celebrated
carver of this period was Grinling Gibbons, and he and his pupils
did a great deal of such work, both in churches and houses.

In other parts of the country Wren's work was imitated in some of
the new churches then built, and in some of the old ones which were
altered or rearranged. One of the best specimens of work done at
this time is to be seen in Whitchurch, in Middlesex.

Not very many new churches, however, were built until the beginning
of the nineteenth century, except in some of the towns which had
grown up from country villages. In and round London most of the
villages increased so much in size that the little old parish
church was much too small for the population. Galleries were put up
in them in all sorts of queer places, to provide more seats. More
room still being wanted, many churches were pulled down, and larger
buildings set up.

The new churches of the latter part of the eighteenth and the early
years of the nineteenth centuries were simply big oblong rooms.
The outsides were often copies of parts of Grecian temples. They
were crowned with towers and spires somewhat like those on Wren's
churches, but not nearly so handsome.


  Although not considered one of Wren's best interiors, it gives
  a good idea of the classical detail and carving employed by the
  architect. The position of the pulpit, organ, and seats have been
  altered since Wren's time]

Inside, the church was fitted up with a gallery running along
two sides and across one end. In the end gallery a big organ was
placed, and on either side of it, high up, near the ceiling,
were smaller galleries, one for the charity-school boys, the other
for the charity-school girls of the parish. The galleries and floor
of the church were filled with high pews. On the floor opposite the
organ were three huge boxes, rising one above the other. The lowest
box was for the parish clerk, the middle one was the reading-desk,
and the highest was the pulpit, which was often provided with a
sounding-board, not unlike an umbrella. The altar was in a little
niche behind the pulpit. Chapels were fitted up in much the same

Under all these churches and chapels were vaults, in which people
were buried, but not in the earth. The coffins were placed on
shelves, one above the other, round the vault. On the walls of the
church above were often tablets to the memory of people lying in
the vaults below. These, by the nineteenth century, were for the
most part simply slabs of white marble, with black or grey borders.
There was hardly any carving at all on them; only inscriptions or
epitaphs, and texts.

The churchyards were used for burials, and by the middle of the
nineteenth century most of them were crowded with tombstones. In
London nearly all are now laid out in open spaces; many of the
grave-stones have quite disappeared, and those which remain are
rapidly perishing.

When we remember that the churchyards of the old churches had
been used as burial-places in many cases since the early days of
Christianity, and even before that, we can easily grasp the fact
that the earth had been used over and over again for burials.
About the middle of the nineteenth century the nation came to the
conclusion that burials in churches and crowded town churchyards
should no longer be allowed. The practice was dangerous to the
living. So cemeteries were opened in districts away from the towns
and homes of the people. Towns have grown so fast that many of
these cemeteries are now surrounded by houses, and in the midst of
big populations.

About the year 1840 interest began to be taken in the old English
styles of building, and a taste for Gothic architecture arose
again. Since that time places of worship of all descriptions have
for the most part been built in some sort of Gothic. When you read
that such and such a church or building is in the fourteenth-or
fifteenth-century style, you must understand that it is not a
copy of a church built in the fourteenth or fifteenth century,
but that its window-heads, doorways, arches, and fittings are _in
the style_ of the fourteenth or fifteenth century. Most of these
modern buildings are of brick, only faced or dressed with stone. It
is pretty safe to say that there is no old church standing which
was built entirely in the fourteenth century, and has remained
unaltered from that day to this. Nearly all the old churches have
been restored, a good many of them several times during the last
sixty or seventy years. Unfortunately, through ignorance, a good
many interesting features in the old buildings were swept away
during these "restorations". An old building needs very careful
handling when we set about repairing it.

In our towns almost every tower and spire which we see is a modern
building, though the _styles_ may vary from Norman to Perpendicular
and seventeenth century. Modern buildings, churches, halls, public
offices, and private houses are mostly imitations of the work
of past ages. There is no nineteenth-century style of English
architecture. Some day, perhaps, England may develop a new style
of architecture, such as the world has never yet seen, but at the
present time we seem to be only able to copy and adapt the work of
those who have gone before us.

  [Illustration: _King Edward VI's School and Alms Houses,


Schools after the Reformation

A little of the property which had belonged to the religious houses
was saved and turned to useful purposes. Just a very few of the old
alms-houses were allowed to continue their work, like St. Cross at
Winchester, and some schools and colleges were founded.

There are quite a number of such schools which bear the name of
King Edward the Sixth. But Edward VI was only a lad of sixteen when
he died, and he had practically nothing to do with either the good
or the evil which was done in his name. In other towns besides
London, good men set to work and managed to get grants of some
small parts of the property of old religious houses, and adapted
them for school work. In some instances they were allowed to
have part of an old ruin, which they patched up and turned into a
schoolroom, and some of these queer old rooms continued in use for
many generations. At St. Alban's the lady chapel at the east end of
the Abbey Church was walled off from the main building in the time
of Edward VI, and from that time it was used as the Grammar School
until about a third of a century ago.

It is quite true to say that a good number of our present
grammar-schools rose out of the ashes of the monasteries. But
they were not great buildings intended for hundreds of scholars.
Many of them were founded for ten or a dozen scholars drawn from
a particular town or district. The sum set apart for the upkeep
of the schools was usually very small, and not always readily
forthcoming. The master was always a man who had taken a degree at
one of the universities, but his salary was so small that he had to
engage in other work as well in order to make a living. If he was
an enthusiastic teacher, in some cases he attracted scholars from
outside, who were not on the foundation, from whom he got fees, and
in this way he increased his income, and was able to make a living.
Some schools had an usher as well as the master; and at times when
the number of scholars was very small they were left to the usher,
the master devoting his time to other work, and only drawing the
salary due to him. In such cases the school fell to a low ebb, the
number of scholars dwindled, and the buildings were allowed to fall
to decay. All of them had their ups and downs; at times doing good
work, at others doing very little at all. That went on for many
years. However, most of them are alive and active to-day, and many
of them have histories of which they may be proud, and a past which
should help them to excel in the future.

Children were often taught in the church and church porch in
country places. John Evelyn was so taught in the early part of the
seventeenth century, and many more people could read and write than
we sometimes imagine; but knowledge was not within the reach of all.

The condition of the poor occupied a good deal of attention,
and the poor laws were used to improve matters in many ways. At
Norwich, for instance, in the year 1632, a children's hospital was
provided for boys between the ages of ten and fourteen. They were
to be taught useful trades, and fed and clothed. For dinner they
were to have six ounces of bread, one pint of beer, and, on three
days of the week, one pint of pottage and six ounces of beef; on
the four other days, one ounce of butter and two ounces of cheese.
For supper they were to have six ounces of bread, one pint of beer,
one ounce of butter, and two ounces of cheese. For breakfast every
day they had three ounces of bread, half an ounce of butter, and a
half-pint of beer.

About the year 1686 the Middlesex magistrates established what they
called a "College for Infants". This is what they said about their

"The Justices, having observed great inconveniences from the loose
upbringing of parish children whereby very few of them come to
good. Order made that a great part of the Corporation House is
fitted up for that purpose, and excellent rules and methods are
therein taken for their education in true religion and virtue.
Order made for the parishes to send fifty children in all."

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, and in the early part
of the eighteenth century, we find another sort of school coming
into existence--the charity-schools. These were intended to give
a simpler sort of education than that which the grammar-schools
were supposed to give. They were intended for what was called the
poorer classes. Now in the grammar-schools it was essential that
the master should be a man of some learning and standing--he
must have taken a degree at one of the universities. But in these
charity-schools it was not thought to be essential that the teacher
should have both learning and the ability to teach. They were
managed by governors, who drew up rules and regulations as to what
was to be done in the schools, and it was the teacher's business
just to carry out these regulations as best he could. So there was
much learning by rote. There was reading, in which the Bible was
the chief, sometimes the only, reading-book, a certain amount of
writing, and a little arithmetic. Where the master happened to be
a person of ability, some good work was done. Writing was often
very carefully and thoroughly taught, and the handwriting was far
in advance of most of the abominable stuff which we scribble in
these days and make do duty for writing. The girls were taught
needlework, and had to spend long hours every day at the task. It
is very interesting to read through the old order-books kept by
the governors of these old-fashioned schools, and to glean from
them something of the daily life in these humble schools. The rules
and regulations made from time to time seem to us very strange
and even ridiculous, and it is a very easy matter to make fun out
of them. But we must remember that at the time they were drawn
up the worthy governors had very good reasons for what they did,
and we cannot but honour them for doing their best according to
their lights. There were charity-schools in almost every town and
in a good many villages; some founded by bodies of men, others by
private individuals. The buildings varied according to the amount
of money which the governors had to spend upon them. Some are very
picturesque buildings. For instance, there is the Dewhurst School
at Cheshunt, founded in 1640, and Mrs. Lucie Fuller's School at
Watford, founded in 1704.

  [Illustration: _Charity School, Gravel Lane, London. From a print
  published in 1819. The school was opened in 1687_]

The scholars of these schools attended daily, on Sundays as well
as workdays. On Sundays and some other days they were all marched
off to church, where they sat in dreadful little galleries built
mostly high up in dark corners on either side of the organ. These
charity-schools were carried on in much the same way right down
to the middle of the nineteenth century. The scholars were mostly
dressed in the costume of the period at which the school was
founded; and very quaint and curious they looked. Almost the last
link now left of such dress is that in which a "Bluecoat Boy" may
still be seen. That dress is a relic of the dress worn in the
middle of the sixteenth century. The little charity-school boys
wore leather breeches--which in later times were altered mostly
to corduroy--coloured stockings; coats of a quaint cut with funny
little tails at the back, of brown or green or grey or black cloth,
and round, flat caps in colours to match their coats; pewter or
brass badges on their breasts, bearing the name or device or the
arms of the school, and two little pieces of fine linen fluttering
under their chins, called "bands". This was the ordinary boys'
dress in the eighteenth century, and the charity-school boys
continued to wear it long after it had gone out of fashion. The
charity-school girls had frocks and cloaks of a wonderful cut, in
colours corresponding with the boys' coats; white tippets, aprons,
and "such mob caps". In church they led the singing, what little
there was, and their hours in school were long, very long, but they
found time to get in a fair amount of play, and had plenty of time
for getting into mischief as the order-books of the governors bear

  [Illustration: _Bluecoat Boy_]

People often laugh at these old-fashioned charity-schools and speak
of them with contempt. That is absolutely a wrong thing to do,
because they were founded many years before Parliament troubled
itself about the education of the people. We cannot too greatly
honour those worthy old-fashioned men and women who did what they
could to provide some teaching and training for poor boys and
girls, and to put them in the way of earning their own living.

By the end of the eighteenth century people were beginning to
be concerned at the ignorance of the great masses of the people
in this country, and we find that in a good many places little
schools were being kept, taught by the parish clerk or by some
old lady; and here and there we find attempts being made to
form parish schools. These were for the most part on the same lines
as the older charity-schools, but maintained by subscriptions from
private persons.

In the first year of the nineteenth century, Joseph Lancaster, a
member of the Society of Friends, took over a big disused barn in
the Borough Road, London, and set up this inscription over the

"All who wish may send their children and have them educated
freely; and those who do not wish to have their education for
nothing may pay for it if they please."

He tried to teach, and keep in order, several hundred children at
the same time. He had them arranged in little classes of seven
or eight children spelling out verses from the Bible, printed
on large cards, under the guidance of an older child. Groups of
these little classes were under the charge of an older child
still, called a superintendent. Writing was taught in little
classes, the children tracing the forms of the letters in sand,
strewn on flat benches. Everything was regulated by rule, and
done at words of command, given by the head teacher.


  From the painting,
  "The Fight Interrupted" (1815), by William Mulready, R.A., in the
  Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, London]

A few years later, a churchman, Dr. Bell, started a somewhat
similar method of instruction, by means of monitors, which he had
tried in Madras some thirty years before.

  [Illustration: _Schoolmaster and Pupils, early Seventeenth
  Century. From a woodcut published in 1631_]

Those were the beginnings of the primary schools of to-day. From
Lancaster's work there sprang a society, called the "British and
Foreign School Society", and from Bell's work another, known as
the "National Society". These two societies set to work vigorously
to see what they could do to improve education and to promote the
building of schools. They very soon found that the great need was
for teachers, trained for this special work--folk who not only
had knowledge as to _what_ to teach, but also who had been trained
_how_ to teach. That was the beginning of a new order of teachers,
and Training Colleges for Teachers was the outcome of their
efforts. These private societies led the way in the face of much
opposition; for there were hosts of people who "didn't see why"
there should be all this fuss about the education of the masses
of the people. At last, after much difficulty, in the year 1833,
Parliament made a grant of twenty thousand pounds to these two
societies, to be used by them in the work of building schools. That
was the beginning of State Grants for Education.

Then in various parts of the country people were stirred to build
schools, aided by grants and advice of these societies; and that
was the beginning of our modern schoolrooms. In 1839 Parliament
really took in hand the work of Education, and Inspectors of
Schools were appointed, and the Education Department set up to
look after the work of Education in the country. Much was left
for private individuals to do; but, from that time, the work has
gone forward slowly, and the State has taken a greater part in the
work. In 1870 a great step forward was taken, and again and again
since then things have moved onward; and at last, in 1918, another
Education Act was passed which aims at making the Education of the
Nation more than it has ever yet been one of the very first duties
of the State.

The school buildings which the two societies set on foot in the
course of time have become unsuitable for the work to be done in
them, and changes have had to take place. Since 1870 a very large
number of new school buildings have been erected; but changing
times already call for many alterations to suit them for the fresh
methods of carrying on the work in the best interests of those who
have to be taught in them. So many things have to be considered now
of which we knew but very little in the days gone by, and we can
never sit down and say that the work is complete, and that no more
improvements can be made.

  [Illustration: _Richmond County School. A modern council school
  under the supervision of the Board of Education_]



From many of these old-fashioned schools boys and girls were
apprenticed. Connected with old parishes there are still funds for
placing out boys and girls to trades and crafts. All through the
Middle Ages, and right on into modern times, children were set to
work when quite young, and it was a common custom to send them away
from home for this purpose. The children of the upper classes, the
boys especially, were trained in the households of other nobles and
squires. The idea was to bring them up "hardy", though to us it
seems a somewhat unnatural way of doing it. An Italian, who visited
England about the year 1500, was much struck by this English
custom, and he did not at all approve of such young children being
given over to the bringing up by strangers. Both boys and girls
from quite well-to-do homes were very often thus sent out, when
they were between seven and nine years of age, and apprenticed for
seven or nine years, not only to learn some trade or craft, but to
private houses where they were set to do menial and drudging work
of all sorts. The idea was "that they might learn better manners"
than they would do at home. In many wealthy homes it is still the
practice to send boys to boarding-school when they reach ten years
of age for the greater part of each year, away from home and home
influence, before they are sent on to a public school and, later,
to a university.

All through the Middle Ages the only way by which a man could
become a craftsman was by being first of all an apprentice, and the
rules by which a lad was bound to a master were very strict. Things
did not alter much in this respect in the sixteenth, seventeenth,
and eighteenth centuries. An apprentice was always bound for seven
years in the presence of magistrates. The master had to find his
apprentice in food, clothing, lodging, and to instruct him in his
art, or "mystery" as it was called. The apprentice lived in his
master's house, and was bound to serve him.

  [Illustration: _Apprentice, Sixteenth Century. From a
  contemporary woodcut_]

His master could chastise him if he was idle or "saucy", and even
have him sent to the house of correction for further punishment.
Both masters and apprentices could complain of each other to
the magistrates at the Quarter Sessions, and the hearing of the
complaints often took up a lot of time. According to many of the
complaints, of which records still exist, some of the apprentices
must have had rather a hard time--"seven years, hard". Some
complained of having to eat mouldy cheese and rotten meat; others,
of their ragged clothes; others, that their masters beat them with
pokers, hammers, pint-pots, to say nothing of whips and sticks;
prevented them from going to church; and others, that their masters
turned them out of doors, or ran away and left them. The masters,
on their side, often complain that their apprentices are idle, that
they rob them, that they stop out at night and keep company with
bad characters, and so on. So it seems they did not always get on
well together.

But then there were the others--those who made the best of it.
Where the master did his duty, and the apprentice took pains to
learn, they got on pretty well together. It was not an easy life
for the apprentice, but it made him a craftsman.

The children of those who belonged to the poorer classes were
apprenticed to unskilled occupations in a similar way, and if the
parents neglected to do this the parish authorities interfered and
found places and masters for them.

In some parts of the country there were little schools where
children were taught straw-plait and lace-making. Some of these
lasted right down to days which people still living can remember,
in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

  [Illustration: _Apprentices, Eighteenth Century. Two apprentices
  at the looms of their master, a silk-weaver of Spitalfields,
  London. A striking contrast in industry and idleness. After an
  engraving by Hogarth published in 1787_]



In all the many centuries of our history there have been boys and
girls; and, whatever has been going on in the world around them,
they have found time to play. In the Great War our soldiers could
not but be struck by the way in which the children in places under
bombardment took advantage of any lull in the firing to come out of
their hiding places, and go on with their games, in spite of the
ruin and desolation and danger all round them.

Many of our English games go back so far in the history of man that
their origin is forgotten. Yet there are games which children play
now just as they did in the days of Queen Elizabeth; and those
queer rhymes, which you know so well, and understand nothing about,
have been repeated, some of them, since England began to be England.

There is plenty to say about games, but not enough space to say it
all here. There are some games which come and go as regularly as
the seasons. The queer part of it all is: Who starts the game? As
sure as the early spring evenings arrive you will find boys playing
at marbles. Town or country, it does not matter, all at once
"marbles are _in_". Nobody says it is "marble season"; nobody ever
yet found the boy who brings out the first marble of the season.
Somehow a _something_ inside a boy tells him it is "marble" time,
and the marbles appear in his pocket.

  [Illustration: _The Game of Bob-apple, Fourteenth Century._
  _From an illustration in a manuscript in the British Museum_]

It is just the same with "tops"; they come and they go with
absolute regularity. They come as if by magic, and by magic they
disappear. When the errand-boy, who has left school a month or two,
stops, basket on arm, to watch the game, you may be sure that it
is the height of the season. When the ground is occupied by the
little chaps who have just come up from the infant school, and
the errand-boy passes whistling by on the other side, it is quite
certain that the season is over and gone.

These are games that want no clubs, associations, nor
subscriptions. Yet they are governed by time-honoured rules, which
have never been written down, but must be strictly observed, or
there is much talking and wrangling over the game.

Sports have an important place in the life of towns and villages
nowadays; but, though cricket and football are old games really,
they have not always been as popular as they are now. Cricket, in
some form or other, was played in the thirteenth century when it
was played with a crooked or clubbed stick called a "cryc". Indeed
all games where a ball is used are more or less ancient. It seems
to have been played at Guildford as early as 1598, but modern
cricket only dates from the middle of the eighteenth century. Kent
seems to have led the way, and Hampshire was the home of the game
in 1774.


  After a painting made in 1745 by Francis Hayman, R.A.]

Tennis, or "fives" was a favourite game for many centuries, and
it was quite a common thing in some places for it to be played
against the church tower, which was a very convenient place for
the game. Complaints were frequently made of the damage done to
and around the churches by the playing of unlawful and disordered
games of many kinds. At times attempts were made to put down the
playing of tennis. But by the time of Queen Elizabeth it had come
into favour, and the privilege of keeping tennis-courts was eagerly
sought for, and the game became very popular indeed later on; but
it went out of fashion again towards the end of the eighteenth
century, only to be revived again in our own times.

  [Illustration: _Boys' Sports. From a woodcut published in 1659_

  _1, Bowling stones. 2, Throwing a bowl at nine pins, 3. 4,
  Striking a ball through a ring, 5, with a bandy. 6, Scourging a
  top with a whip, 7. 8, Shooting with a "trunck" or a bow, 9. 10,
  Going on stilts. 11, Tossing and swinging on a "merry-totten"._]

It is only within the last forty years that football has become
popular. Football of some kind has been played for many centuries,
especially in the streets of towns. Kingston, Chester, and Dorking,
amongst other places, have a custom of playing football on Shrove
Tuesday. The story as to how the custom arose is the same in most
of these places.

Far back in the ninth century a party of Danes ravaged the district
and attacked the town. The townsmen made a brave stand against them
till help came. Then the Danes were defeated, their leader slain,
his head struck off, and kicked about the streets in triumph. That
is said to have given rise to the custom; but it was a very ghastly

  [Illustration: _Diagrams of Layouts for a Boy's Game_]

Football was not always regarded with favour. Folk often wanted to
play football when their lords and masters wanted them to practise
shooting with their bows and arrows; but they were frequently
told what a dangerous game it was, and over and over again it was
forbidden. Football was always apparently a game over which the
players fell out, much as they do now. Nearly four hundred years
ago a worthy gentleman wrote of the game:--

"It is nothyng but beastely fury and extreme violence, whereby
procedeth hurte, and consequently rancour and malice do remayne
with thym that be wounded".

There are some places where the schoolboys of long, long ago
have left their marks. In the cloisters at Westminster Abbey, at
Canterbury, at Norwich, at Salisbury and at Gloucester Cathedral,
for instance, are some roughly cut marks in the old benches,
forming the "tables" or "boards" on which they played some almost
forgotten games with stones.

Then, too, there is "hop-scotch" which at some seasons of the year
makes the sidewalks of many bye-streets so untidy with its rudely
chalked courts; rounders and "tip-cat"; battledore and shuttlecock,
to say nothing of skipping and many another game--all old, old
games, which are ever new, and never out of date.



All roads lead to London and have done so for many a century, and
so we find, as we should expect to do, that roads from all parts of
the country converge towards it like the spokes of a wheel to its
centre. The same sort of thing is seen in all towns of any size.
Cross roads connect these main roads, and the nearer we are to the
town the greater is the number of these, and they are often as busy
and as important as the old main roads. But as we get away from the
towns into the more rural districts, the lesser roads which connect
the villages and hamlets with each other become fewer, more winding
and straggling. There are also green lanes and field paths, and it
is by following these, rather than the high roads, that the real
beauties of the country can be seen. A person dashing along the
main road in a motor-car, on a motor-cycle or a bicycle misses much
which a man on foot, who is not in a tremendous hurry, is able to
see and enjoy.

Not very long after the Romans left Britain, and the raids of
Saxon tribes began to be felt, the roads, which during the Roman
times had been kept in good repair, were neglected. Some of them
gradually dropped out of use, and in the course of time grass,
brushwood, and trees grew close up to the track and in places
covered it, and it became in time a "lost" road. The roads which
remained in use, through neglect grew worse and worse, and all
through the Middle Ages very little was done to mend them.
Travellers for the most part journeyed on horseback, and trains
of mules and packhorses transported goods. Later on heavy wagons,
drawn by teams of eight, ten, or a dozen horses were used, and
frequently extra teams had to be hitched on at places where they
got into difficulties and came to grief owing to the badness of
the road. Often these long trains of wagons had to be "convoyed"
by bands of armed men on horseback. To repair "foul and noyous
highways" was regarded as a work of mercy, and we often find
good people in the Middle Ages leaving money in their wills to
be bestowed on the repair of a part of a highway. The religious
houses in many cases were expected to keep up good roads in their
own neighbourhood. There was once a hermit, who lived at Highgate,
near London. He, at his own cost, had gravel dug from the top of
Highgate Hill, and with it made a causeway down in the "hollow
way" between Highgate and Islington. In the fourteenth century
the Bishop of London made a way through his park at Highgate Hill
across Finchley Common to Whetstone, near Barnet, because the
highway was in such a dreadful condition. Those who used this road
had to pay a toll.

  [Illustration: _Cart, Fourteenth Century_

  _From an illuminated manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Oxford_]

After the dissolution of the monasteries the various parishes were
expected to look after the parts of the great roads which ran
through them, the landlords and tenants being required, according
to the size of their holdings, to furnish men and horses, wagons
and barrows, to work on the highways for so many days in each year.
But for some centuries the work was done in a very shiftless,
casual manner. The people in the parishes grumbled and did as
little as they could, for, as they said, it was not they who
wore out the roads, but the travellers from a distance who came
backwards and forwards with all their heavy loads.

Traffic increased as the time went on, and it became necessary to
provide for the wants of the many travellers along the roads. The
old villages in very many cases stood away from the highways, and
so we find new hamlets springing up on the main roads, and some of
the new towns, like Uxbridge, Brentford, and Edgware in Middlesex,
and Buntingford in Hertfordshire, had their origin in this way.
Similar instance will be found in most other counties.

In Queen Elizabeth's reign the roads all over the country were bad;
in some parts, owing to the nature of the soil, particularly bad.
In the south, in the Weald district, the iron workers were ordered
to mend their roads with the cinders from their furnaces, as the
stone found in that neighbourhood was too soft for the purpose. But
the roads did not greatly improve although the amount of traffic
upon them increased.

Coaches came into use for long-distance travelling in the reign of
Charles II. One began to run regularly between London and Bath in
1667--a three-days' journey if no accidents happened--and another
started running from London to Portsmouth in the following year.
About the middle of the eighteenth century every week there passed
through the Borough from London on the way south, a hundred and
forty-three stage-coaches, a hundred and twenty-one wagons, and
a hundred and ninety-six carts and caravans. That was only the
out-going traffic, there was quite as much traffic returning to the

It was about the year 1754 that a great improvement of roads began
through the passing of the Turnpike Acts. The idea was that those
people who actually used the roads should bear the cost of their
upkeep, and companies, or "trusts", were formed to look after
certain roads, have them properly made, and kept in repair. At
certain distances along the road, a few miles apart, gates were
set across the road with a little house by each, in which the
toll-gate keeper lived, whose duty it was to open and close the
gate to travellers and take the specified toll. Different kinds of
vehicles had to pay different sums as toll, and so had flocks of
sheep and droves of cattle when being moved from one part of the
country to another. People actually living in the neighbourhood had
certain rights to use the way toll free. The toll-gate keeper was
usually a "crusty" person--a sort of spider lying in wait to catch
flies--and very often when a traveller drove up to the gate in a
hurry, anxious to get through, the toll-man would be particularly
slow in opening the gates and in giving change.

  [Illustration: _A Toll-gate, early Nineteenth Century. From a
  contemporary painting_]

Most of the main roads were thus improved, but not all of them. As
late as the year 1797 the turnpike road through Uxbridge, which
carried a very large traffic, was very bad indeed. There was
only one track which could be used in winter and that was eight
inches deep in slush and mud. Still, on the whole, the roads were
improving and coaches were able to travel more quickly.

Mail-coaches were put on the road in 1785, and they increased
in speed and in numbers as the years went on, until just before
the advent of railways. Over ninety coaches a day passed through
Whetstone Turnpike, near Barnet; and in 1821 there were coaches
which did the seventy-two miles between London and Portsmouth in
ten hours. It was the same on all the great roads, and the coaches
were only one part of the traffic.

In the "good old coaching days", noblemen and great folk travelled
the long distances in their family coaches in great state, attended
by servants; some riding before and after on horseback, and some
hanging on behind the coach. Other wealthy people used to travel
"post", and the carriages used were called "post-chaises". These
were drawn by four or six horses, with a "post-boy" or postilion
to each pair of horses. No matter how old he might be he was
always called a post-boy. A great many old-established inns all
over the country are still called "posting-houses". At these
inns such carriages and horses to draw them, and post-boys to
drive them, could be hired. These houses were about ten miles
apart, and that distance was called a "stage"; and in posting the
horses were changed at each "house" along the road. Nowadays, by
the name posting-house we understand an inn where vehicles and
horses can be hired; but probably not one of them could turn out
a post-chaise, four horses and a couple of post-boys, at five
minutes' notice.

  [Illustration: _Coach, early Nineteenth Century_]

The railways gradually drove the coaches and the post-chaises off
the roads, but the introduction of cycles in the last quarter of
the nineteenth century, and the motor-car at the beginning of the
twentieth century have revived the use of the highways for traffic,
and there is a great time for the old roads just ahead of us to-day.

There were many varieties of inns, often quite close together, from
the big posting-houses down to the obscure little ale-house. These
houses accommodated various classes of traffic. Even now, if you
live near to one of the big main roads you will notice that some
wagons draw up at particular houses on the road for "refreshment
of man and beast"--the hay-carts have their own special stopping
places, and so, too, have other sorts of heavy traffic; and they
have kept to the custom of the road from one generation to another.

  [Illustration: THE NEW INN, GLOUCESTER From an engraving
  published in 1830. This building is still in use.]

The old inns are often very picturesque buildings and there are
some famous ones in every county. The curious names by which they
are known is a study in itself, and quite an interesting one.

Many of the old inns fell on evil days as the introduction of
railways gradually absorbed most of the road traffic, and many
of them were closed or turned into private houses. In the last
quarter of the nineteenth century life on the ancient highways
began to revive through the introduction of cycling as a means
of locomotion. Cycling became very common, and, by specially
catering for cyclists a good number of these old inns came again to
prosperous times. With the dawn of the twentieth century motor-cars
came on the road, and still further brought the highways into use.
But these raised "clouds of dust" and tore up the roads, and it
became a great problem how to make the roads suitable for this new
sort of traffic, and a good deal was done which improved their
surface greatly. Then came the Great War, and a continuous stream
of heavier motor-traffic had to be put upon the roads throughout
the country to supply the huge camps at home and overseas, and the
many new towns which have sprung up in districts which, a few years
ago, were quiet, unfrequented places. There is an enormous amount
of work to be done now in re-making the present roads and tracks,
and to provide for many new ones as well. We now realize that rapid
means of transit for both people and goods will have to be provided
on a far larger scale than we have hitherto attempted, if the
resources of the country are to be properly developed. Roads, more
roads, better roads are an urgent necessity.



In speaking of the roads in the last chapter, we have come right
down to the present day and its needs; but we must go back a bit,
as far as time is concerned, to say something about one special
class of road which has played an important part in the making of
England. The story of the roads began before the dawn of written
history--ages and ages before. The story of the railways belongs,
as we may say, only to yesterday.

When we speak of a railway in these days we picture to our minds
a trackway, laid with parallel steel rails, along which long
trains of carriages and trucks are drawn by a locomotive engine.
The engine, indeed, is the first thing that a boy thinks of in
connection with a railway; and no wonder, for the "iron horse" is a
marvellous and interesting piece of machinery. But in the history
of our modern railways the _trackway_, or the _rail-way_ proper,
comes first. There were railways long before there were locomotive
engines; indeed, we shall not be far out if we say that there were
railways in England a few centuries before steam-engines of any
sort came into use.

It was up in the North, in the colliery districts by the Tyne, that
the idea of tramways, along which trains of trucks, drawn by horses
or mules, seem to have first come into use; and they can certainly
be traced there as far back as the time of King Charles I (about
the year 1630). The first railway which Parliament allowed to be
laid in the South of England was the "Surrey Iron Railway". This
connected Croydon with Wandsworth, and, later on, it was extended
to Merstham. That was about the year 1801, and was intended to
convey merchandise, not passengers. For a time it was of great
service to mills and factories on the River Wandle. That was the
first railway in that part of the country, and the trucks were
drawn by donkeys!

  [Illustration: _George Stephenson's Locomotive "The Rocket",
  which at its trial trip in 1830 ran 29 miles an hour_]

A writer of that time, who thought that he was a very wise,
far-seeing man, gave it as his opinion "that it was not probable
that railways would ever come into general use!" Well, it is never
very wise to prophesy until you really know.

Nearly every new invention has been scoffed at at first. Even in
this present century, when the early experiments in the use of
air-craft were being made, thousands of persons gravely shook
their heads in disapproval, declaring that man was never intended
to "fly". The Great War time has seen wonderful developments in
air-craft, and so many "impossible" things have been achieved that
we can realize, just a little bit, that air-craft has "a great
future" before it, greater than we can as yet grasp.

It would be impossible to give here even a bare outline of the
story of the English Railways, but the making of these railways and
their use and development brought about rapidly many marvellous
changes which have affected the life of the nation.

Seventy and eighty years ago, when railways were first being made,
they excited a great deal more attention and interest than they do
to-day. Railways were so new then, for one thing, and there were
so many of them being made about the same time for another thing.
There are hundreds of miles of railway going through quiet country
districts, which were made many years ago, and there are thousands
of people living in those districts who have been born since the
railways were made. To them the railway is as much an everyday
thing as the old parish church, the town pump, or the river. So far
as _they_ are concerned, the line has been always there--they never
saw the country-side before the railway came. But in the years--say
between 1830 and 1860--the work was watched with much interest, and
it excited much talk, both wise and foolish.

What did the people who lived in a country village see? Long before
the navvies came, for years in fact, the coming railway was talked
about. The surveyor, with his attendants, carrying theodolite and
measuring-chain, as he went about his work "taking levels", was
very narrowly watched, and his sayings and doings were noted and
discussed, time after time. In fact, not unfrequently the surveyor
and his men had some very lively experiences, for there were lots
of places in which they were regarded with suspicion, and all sorts
of tricks were played upon them. Stephenson, when out surveying,
was threatened with more than one ducking in a horse-pond; guns
were fired at him, and he had to get through his work at all
sorts of odd times. There was one surveyor who took a professional
prize-fighter with him as his assistant, and he found work for
him to do besides merely helping him in land-surveying. Bulls
were sometimes turned loose in the fields in which surveyors were
busy, and they had to leave in a hurry. Surveyors were quite used
to meeting with all sorts of abuse, and being faced by angry men,
armed with brickbats and pitchforks.

Then, when the road was staked out, and carts and men began to
arrive, and a whole town of huts for the workers on the railway
was set up on the broad hill-side, where the villagers and their
fathers before them, time out of mind, had ploughed, and sowed, and
harrowed, and reaped, and gleaned--tongues would wag still more,
and curiosity would be intensified. When the huts were finished the
navvies arrived. Strange folk they were to the villagers, speaking
a language of their own, and living by themselves--strong, powerful
men, doing great deeds of strength, capable of working hard, and
very often of drinking hard, and of fighting hard. The quiet little
inns and ale-houses became noisy and busy. The navvies brought
change and excitement with them; and also, at times, mischief,
strife, confusion, and drunkenness. For miles round the farmers
would complain that they could get no labour for farm-work. Young
men, attracted by the novelty, the higher wages, and the greater
numbers, turned navvies, "learned their works" and left the old
agricultural life of their forefathers for ever. Then, when the
navvies set to work, the villagers saw them busy, like ants upon
the hill-side, cutting a great cleft through it, many feet in
depth. As they came along, yard by yard, they saw a rough tramway
laid, along which long trains of trucks, drawn by a noisy, fussy
little engine, were being drawn, some full of earth and gravel or
stone which had been cut away.

  [Illustration: _Building a Railway in the early Nineteenth

Then, after many months' work, the men advanced out on to the open
plain. For weeks and months trains of trucks were constantly coming
laden with earth, which was tipped on to the lower ground, forming
an embankment, which gradually came nearer and nearer the river
bank. Down by the river bank, on the far side, and on the near side
as well, were men digging for weeks at a time. Then, these made
way for an army of brick layers and masons, and loads and loads of
brick and stone were brought along the line, or dragged by horses
through the old country lanes to the waterside. There, on each
side of the stream, what looked like big towers were erected, as
tall as the church tower, or taller perhaps, and still the earth
day by day was being brought along the way and tipped, adding to
the embankment yard by yard. Such earth, too; clay, perhaps, or
earth of such kind as the oldest man in the parish had never seen
in those parts before, because it had been brought from a place or
places many miles away.

Then, when the brickwork on each side of the river was in position,
there was the building of a bridge to watch. There were several
huge arches of brick, or perhaps of stone, brought from far-off
quarries. But what were those queer, lattice-work things, looking
something like spiders' webs, which were brought down to the
waterside? There was nothing like that ever seen in the village
before. What did it mean? They saw these great iron lattice-work
sections hoisted in the air by steam cranes and swung slowly up
and round till they were placed in position, resting on the piers
of masonry. It must have been a wonderful sight to watch the river
being spanned by a huge bridge or by these girders, and to see the
different sections being fitted and fastened together.

You may be sure that there was much shaking of heads and many
prophecies that this sort of thing was a flying in the face of
Providence--just as in our own time there has been over cycles,
motor-cars, and air-craft. How could those great trains and heavy
engines pass safely over such a flimsy-looking bridge as that?
It would be sure to snap in the middle. And when an accident
happened--and sad accidents did happen--many declared that it was
the Almighty's judgment upon men for thinking that they knew better
than their fathers before them.

  [Illustration: _Sankey Valley Viaduct, constructed by George
  Stephenson on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (1826-9).
  After a contemporary painting. By permission of the London and
  North-Western Railway Company_]

So the work went on, and in time the railway became an accomplished
fact and was no longer a wonder, and a race grew up to whom
railways became part and parcel of everyday life.

But the railways brought many other changes. Those loads of earth
brought from distant parts of the line not only altered the
appearance of the country where they were deposited, but caused
other alterations as well. Grass soon grew on the slopes of
these embankments, but with the grass came up also strange weeds
and plants. These seeded, the wind scattered the seeds, and, in
the fields on either side of the line, these new weeds showed
themselves the next season. For a year or two, probably, nobody
noticed this very particularly; but, before very long, whole
districts might be overrun with varieties of weeds never seen in
that district before.

In some places marshes had to be drained, and, in consequence, many
broad, shallow stretches of water disappeared. Such "sedgy pools"
in quiet districts were once the haunt of many varieties of wild
fowl. As the pools have disappeared the wild fowl which made these
their haunt disappeared also, and with them the wild flowers and
water-plants belonging thereto have died out as well. In much the
same way insects have been imported in the loads of earth and found
a home in a new district where they have, so to speak, "settled",
and have done in some cases good, and in other cases harm, to the

Many cuttings through the beds of gravel and rocks have taught us
something of the changes which have taken place in the earth's
crust. It has been possible to examine the structure of the soil of
many parts of England more thoroughly in the deep railway cuttings
and tunnels than could have been done in any other way. Geologists
have gathered much most valuable information from the soil and rock
dug out in railway excavations.

  [Illustration: _The Town Hall, Carlisle, built in time of
  Elizabeth. From a drawing made in 1780_]



There was not much change for many centuries in the way in which
towns and villages were governed.

The borough towns, which gained their charters back in the days of
King John, or King Henry III, had them confirmed by various kings
in later times; but the powers of the towns were not much altered.
The corporation of a borough was usually made up of men chosen by
the freemen; but, if the freemen did not admit many persons to the
freedom of the borough, the power of electing, in the course of
years, fell into the hands of a very few people.

This was what actually happened in a very large number of cases,
and at the end of the eighteenth century there were many old
boroughs which were governed by "close corporations"--the bulk of
the people living in the borough having no voice in the management
of the affairs of the town. All that was altered in the early part
of the nineteenth century. Many of the old boroughs lost their
privileges, as they had become such small unimportant places. All
other boroughs now have regular elections of town councillors by
the inhabitants each first of November. The councils elect the
mayor on each 9th of November.

The mayor, and some of the inhabitants of the borough, are also
magistrates and attend to police cases; while the town council
looks after matters connected with sewers, lighting, paving, and
cleansing the streets of the town. It has now also charge of
educational affairs in many of the big towns, a committee of each
county council being the educational authority in all other parts
of the country.

In London and large towns, where there is much police court
business, there are special magistrates, trained lawyers, who
attend to nothing else.

In country places, for centuries, the manor court governed the
manor; but gradually, and by Tudor times, most of the power of the
manor court, or court leet as it was sometimes called, had passed
into the hands of the Vestry. This consisted of the parish officers
and rate-payers in the whole parish. It was called the vestry
because its meeting-place was the vestry of the parish church, or
even the church itself.

  [Illustration: _Police Officer and Jailer, early Nineteenth
  Century. A scene from "Oliver Twist" (Charles Dickens)_]

The relief of the poor and the care of the highways provided the
vestry with most of its business. The churchwardens had special
care of the property of the church, but in Tudor times they were
also charged with the relief of the poor. To help them in this
work two overseers, at least, in each parish, were chosen every
year. All the rate-payers were liable to serve in turn if elected,
unless they could show a good reason for not serving. The elections
took place about Lady Day. The vestry fixed what rates were to be
made, and the overseers collected them. But the overseers had to be
admitted to their office, and all rates allowed, by two justices of
the peace, before they were legal.

It became necessary, as the poor law business increased, to have
constables to help the overseers in keeping an eye on strangers,
vagrants and beggars who came into the parish. These, too, had to
serve for one year. In big parishes they were assisted by a beadle,
and had, with the help of all the inhabitants in turn, to keep
watch and ward at night. Very unpleasant work they had to do in
towns and places just outside towns. In London, and in many other
towns also, to help the "watch" there were special officers called
"watchmen", whose duty it was to parade the streets at night at
regular intervals, and "call the hour"--"Past two o'clock, and a
frosty morning". One of their duties was to arrest any disorderly
characters whom they might come across on their rounds. But as
each watchman carried a lighted lantern that, together with the
noise he made, gave ample warning to that sort of people, who could
usually, without much difficulty, get out of the watchman's way.
When he did come upon the track of any of these gentry he would
"sound his rattle" as a signal for the "watch" to come to his
assistance, and, if they could, arrest the offenders. This duty of
watching and warding had to be carried out until towards the middle
of the nineteenth century, when our present system of police was
established. Beadles and constables had to see to the whippings,
which were so common, and to setting people in the stocks and the
cage; to moving sick and diseased wretches on to the next parish,
and other unpleasant duties.

The surveyors of the highways had to see that each person who was
liable did his share of the work of the highways, or paid for
having it done. But by far the most important business was that of
the churchwardens and overseers. They had to settle in what houses
the poor folk were to live, who were to look after them, what
allowance was to be made for them. The poor usually had their money
paid to them at church, monthly. Then the overseers had to see that
every able-bodied man was at work, often having to provide the
work, to place out apprentices, and to supply flax or wool for the
women and children to spin. Sometimes the poor were boarded out;
some of them lived in cottages, or in the poors' house which the
parish built. Then, too, these officers had to relieve beggars, and
persons passing through the parish.

This work of providing for the poor was very difficult and very
anxious, especially at the end of the eighteenth and in the early
part of the nineteenth century. It was quite a common practice for
big parishes to "farm out" the care of the poor to the highest
bidder. That is, a man would contract with the parish authorities
to look after the relief of the poor in that parish for a certain
sum of money per annum, for so many years.

Then poor law unions were formed, and union workhouses built, in
which the helpless poor might be better cared for, and vagrants and
wanderers find a night's lodging. These were looked after by Boards
of Guardians, especially elected for that purpose. We have not a
perfect plan yet, by any means, but much care and thought is being
given to this question, and many changes, which we hope will be
improvements in the administration of the Poor Law, are being taken
in hand. The difficulties of how to deal with the poor who, through
no fault of their own, cannot help themselves, and how to deal with
those who are lazy and will not work, are very great.

The work of the old vestries has now passed to the parish councils,
the district councils, and the county councils. The work is
important, and has much to do with the welfare of our towns and
villages. We must not expect that these bodies can do everything at
once, or that they will make no mistakes. More people now than ever
have a direct voice in the work of these various councils, and it
is the duty of everyone to take a real interest in their work, and
to strive to improve it in every possible way. If we know something
of the past history of our towns and villages it will help us to
form a right judgment concerning difficulties which have to be met
in the present, and so to act that those who come after us may be
able to go on building upon our work, that there may be nothing
to undo, nothing to blame, but that future years may say of our

"They knew how to work, and they worked on right principles." "Do
justly, love mercy, walk humbly."


Some Changes

There was not much alteration in the outward appearance of the
villages and the "look" of the country round them for many
centuries. Indeed even now many of the villages themselves are not
greatly altered in their general arrangement. Down to the times of
the Tudor kings the old land and manor customs had gone on since
Saxon days, changing but very slowly. Many of the class which had
been villeins in the Middle Ages had become yeomen; some had got
lands of their own, and some land on the old manors, which they
rented. But they did not alter very much the old way of treating
the land, and it was only gradually that farm-houses sprang up away
from the villages.

In some parts of the country these lonely farm-houses are more
common than in others. There are, for instance, a good many in the
Weald of Sussex which sprang up first as huts in forest clearings,
and afterwards became houses with farm-buildings attached to them.

On the borders of great lonely heaths and commons we can often see
very old and very small cottages, with walls of clay, or wood,
or stone, according to the district in which they happen to be.
Long ago some squatter built his little hut here, and out of pity,
perhaps, or through carelessness, the lord of the manor took no
notice. There he remained, year after year, until custom allowed
him to look upon it as his own; and in time it actually became
his private property. Such squatters in lonely places were often
looked upon more or less with fear by the timid folk living in the
distant village. They did not care to do or say anything to upset
the stranger, fearing for the safety of their sheep, cattle, and
poultry. Many little holdings and small farms began in this way.

Many of the farms, though they were separate holdings, still had
strips in the big fields of the parish. The crops were sown and
gathered according to the ancient customs, and the cattle turned
into them and out on the waste lands at certain seasons, just as
they had been in the Middle Ages.

But about the beginning of the eighteenth century there was a
pretty general movement towards breaking up these big fields
into separate parts, and letting each farmer have his portion to
himself, so that he might know exactly what land was his and what
belonged to his neighbour. So it came to pass that Enclosure Acts
were passed for parish after parish. The old common arable fields
were divided among those who had rights in them. Then many of the
old wastes, heaths, commons, and marshes were treated in the same

That caused a great change in the appearance of the parish. Instead
of the fields in long, straight strips, with unploughed balks
between them, the strips belonging to each farmer were thrown into
one, and hedgerows planted. In time they became smooth fields,
separated from each other by hedges, in which grew here and there
timber trees. The old cart-tracks, winding across and round the
common fields, in time became lanes bounded by high hedges. The
trackways across many of the old wastes and commons in a similar
way were turned into lanes, and the waste broken up into fields.
Still, a good deal of the waste land was left, and has never yet
been enclosed. So far as we can see now, this is not likely to
happen, because we feel more and more every year that, for the
sake of the health and recreation of the people, it is absolutely
necessary to preserve as many open spaces as possible. Some of
these wastes and uncultivated, or only partially cultivated,
lands have been brought under the spade and the plough during the
war-time, and all over the country people have heartily set to work
to increase our "homegrown" food supply.

  [Illustration: _Hayes Barton Farm, Devonshire, the reputed
  birthplace of Sir Walter Raleigh (1552). It is in the picturesque
  Elizabethan style, with thatched and gabled roof, mullioned
  windows, and gabled porch_]

The fields, the hedgerows, and the lanes which delight us so much
in the country are, most of them, some two hundred years old.

When the farm had its own separate fields allotted to it, it became
convenient for the farmer to live in the midst of his land. So
we find the farm-house and its buildings, with a few labourers'
cottages, a long way out of the village, and away from the church.
If you take notice you will find that from this outlying farm-house
there is usually a pretty straight field-path to the parish church.

A good deal could be said about our forests and woodlands--their
importance, and the part they have played in the making of England.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries especially, there was
great attention paid to the cultivation of trees, and many of the
owners of private park-lands did excellent work in promoting the
growth of timber. But in the nineteenth century there seems to have
been a considerable falling-off in this respect, and far-seeing men
at times warned us that we needed to pay more attention to trees
and forests and to the growth of timber. The terrible blizzard
which swept over the country in March, 1916, brought down thousands
and thousands of fine old trees, and the needs of our army and navy
during the war-time has made sad havoc in parks and plantations,
so that one of the urgent needs of the days in front of us is
systematic attention to "afforestation", in order to "make good"
the terrible wastage.

Hamlets have grown up away from the old village green, its church,
and its manor-house. The roads were often so bad that horses
frequently cast their shoes, tires came off wheels, and wheels came
off carts and coaches; so under many "a spreading chestnut-tree" a
little smithy and wheel-wright's shop arose. A smithy is always a
centre of life and news, as everybody knows. You can see to-day,
along many of our roads, sheds and shops being opened, where
broken-down cycles and motor-cars can be repaired and supplied with
odds and ends which they may happen to need. Round these hamlets
have in time sprung up, and in scores of places the hamlet has
become of more importance than the old village, and has grown into
a little town, with new churches and chapels and public buildings.

In these war-years large numbers of quite new townships of enormous
size have sprung up in connection with the making of munitions,
and the provision of hospitals and camps, and as yet we know very
little about them as a whole. Some are only temporary, but others
have "come to stay", and in them new industries on a big scale will
probably be developed. All this means change--change of appearance,
change of ideas, change of methods.

Then there are the districts where new industries and manufactures
have been planted. That is too large a subject to deal with here,
but think of the great changes these have wrought on the face of
the country in the coal and mineral districts of England in the
last two hundred years!

Again, there are the railways. Notice how little townships have
grown up round the railway stations, especially on the main lines
in districts near a big town. Houses spring up for the hosts of
people who, like streams of human ants, hurry to the station to
catch the early morning trains, and, as the afternoon wears into
evening, come again from the station to snatch a few hours' rest at

We have said nothing of

    "The beauty and mystery of ships,
    And the magic of the sea",

and the part they have had in the making of our towns and villages.
This subject would require not only one but many books, and then
we shall only just have begun to think about it, and to find out
how little we know. Our wonderful Navy, our Merchant Sailors, our
Fishermen--what do we _not_ owe to them for what they have done for
us in the terribly anxious times through which we have passed and
are still passing! It is good, in spite of all the awful suffering,
to have lived through these years, and to have seen something of
what can be done by sacrifice of self, co-operation, and just
"sticking to duty"--on land, on sea, under the sea, and in the
air, in busy towns, and in quiet country places.

Yes, the life of our towns and villages is a very interesting
subject. Nature and Man each works for and with the other; both
are full of mystery, life, beauty, and high inspiration, if we
could only use our eyes to see, our intelligence to understand, our
hearts to sympathize, and our hands to work, for the things that
are true, and lovely, and pure.

  [Illustration: _Modern Industry_]

Transcriber's note:
    There are four illustrations that were marked as [Illustration}.
      They have each been given a caption.

    Page 72 [Illustration] is now [Illustration: _Diagram of the Shape
      of a Villein's House_]
    Page 142 [Illustration] is now [Illustration: _Diagram of a Large
    Page 174 [Illustration] is now [Illustration: _Diagrams of Layouts
      for a Boy's Game_]
    Page 200 [Illustration] is now [Illustration: _Modern Industry_].

    A paragraph break has been inserted on Page 143 after
      [Illustration: _Diagram of a Large House_].

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Social Life in England Through the Centuries" ***

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