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قراءة كتاب Memorials of Old London. Volume I

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‏اللغة: English
Memorials of Old London. Volume I

Memorials of Old London. Volume I

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 5

down, an archipelago of islets extends from what is now Bermondsey westward to Lambeth. The dry ground would be seen dotted here and there, while every tide, every flood, every increase of water from the upper Thames, would make the whole region into a morass. The main stream of the great river, coming eastward round a bend from Westminster, would deepen its channel under the down, leaving the opposite islets in shallow water, and spreading, according to the first author by whom the place is mentioned, "at every tide would form a lake."

Here, then, Dion Cassius, writing in the second century, describes for us the site of Southwark. He furnishes us with what we want—the "lynn" for our "down," the Lon for the Don. We do not know for certain whether this Celtic London was on the double hill or among the islets opposite—whether, that is, the town was on the lynn or on the dun. There is, however, a certain amount of evidence that it was on the lynn. A British road seems to have been already in existence—the road which led from Dover toward Chester. Where did it cross the Thames? If we could make sure of the answer, our three facts would become four. There was no bridge in this Celtic period to carry the road across the Thames. At the same time, we know that a crossing was made; and, if we judge by the course and direction of the road, it must have been at or very near what is now called Westminster. Here the shoal-water, as sailors say, was on both sides of the river. The islets, many of them covered at every high tide, existed where a landing was called by later settlers the Lambhithe. Other landing-places are denoted by such names as Stanegate, Toothill, Merefleet, Pollen Stock, Thorney, Jakeslea and others, all Saxon, which tell us of the condition of both banks of the Thames at a very remote period. From this we may safely argue—first, that the amount of water coming down being approximately the same, it had a much wider district to cover; and, secondly, that it was much more shallow. These names also show that, in crossing, the road from Dover had in Saxon times certain landmarks to follow, while the use of the word Toot, our word "tout," shows that guides existed, who could be called upon to help travellers across. All these items are more or less obscurely mentioned by Dion Cassius, and show that wheresoever Celtic London stood, whether on the left or the right bank, Aulus Plautius chose the easternmost of the double hills for his bridge head; and when the wall was built, a couple of centuries later, it took in the western hill as well, while the bridge rendered the ford at Westminster useless, and the Watling Street was diverted at the Marble Arch along Oxford Street, instead of running straight down Park Lane to the ford at Westminster.

As for facts in the history of Celtic London, we have none. The late General Pitt Rivers recorded the discovery of piles, of origin possibly before the Roman period, in the street called London Wall, and also in Southwark, some nine feet below the present surface. A few articles of Roman make were found mixed with a few bone implements of a ruder type. This, the only authentic discovery of the kind, does not prove more than that some of the Britons lived among the Romans, and the date is quite uncertain. As to their dwellings before the Romans came, we have remains in various places from which we can but gather that, though some ancient race in these islands built up such rude but vast temples as Stonehenge, the dwellings of the people who lived by the Walbrook, or in Southwark, were mere wigwams. A hollow was dug in the ground, and where stones were plentiful, which cannot have been the case on the site of Lynn Dun, a few were used in the flooring. Over the hollow the house was raised—a bank of earth, perhaps roofed with boughs and trunks, and with some means of making a wood fire. Rings of brass and scraps of pottery are often found in the hollows, but of such discoveries in London the records are silent.

Red-glazed Pottery (Roman).Red-glazed Pottery (Roman).

II.—Roman London

With the coming of the Romans, we might expect to find ourselves on firmer ground than in our vain endeavours to learn something about the early Britons in London. But if we date the Latin discovery of Britain with the coming of Julius Cæsar to the southern coast of our island in 55 B.C., it is evident that before the expedition, which was eventually commanded by Aulus Plautius in A.D. 43, nearly a century elapsed, and that during all that time there is no mention at all of London. To use Dr. Guest's cautious words: "The notion entertained by some antiquaries that a British town preceded the Roman camp has no foundation to rest upon." In the chapter on Celtic London I have endeavoured to show that the British town, if there was one, stood, as Ptolemy asserts, on the Cantian side of the river. The Romans seldom or hardly ever chose a Celtic site for a new building, but, to quote Guest again, "generally built their castellum two or three miles from the British oppidum." On this principle, the new building of Aulus would be either a couple of miles from the Celtic town, or separated from it at least by the width of the Thames. If we suppose, as is more than probable, that Lynn Dun was in Southwark, and that some settlement was also among the shallows and islets crossed by the Dover Road and named by the Anglo-Saxons the Watling Street, the Roman general, by building London Bridge and by making a strong fort on the hill at the northern end of it, laid the foundation of Roman London.

The new city, which speedily rose round the bridge head on the northern side of the river, was of considerable dimensions by the time it is first mentioned—namely, in A.D. 64. This is by Tacitus, who describes it as full of merchants and merchandise. At the same time, except for the pretorium at the bridge head, there were no defences. Anything like a walled town must have been among the islets on the southern side; but, from the character of the Roman remains found in Southwark and St George's Fields, it is probable that the British town there was not of any importance, and answered to Julius Cæsar's contemptuous description: "The Britons call a thick wood, enclosed with a rampart and a ditch, a town." The new Roman fort at the northern end of the bridge, with its suburb of merchants' houses along the Walbrook, is the London of history, and the first we hear about it is that—while Camalodunum was a Roman Colonium, and Verulam a Municipium—London was only a Prefectura. This is the opinion of Pennant; but Tacitus, who first names London as being in existence at all and who lived and wrote about A.D. 90, expressly mentions it as abounding in merchants and business. Dr. Guest was of opinion that the Roman fort was made in A.D. 43. It stood above the outfall of the Walbrook, its western wing being where Cannon Street terminus is now, and its eastern extremity reaching to Mincing Lane. These limits were determined in a paper by Arthur Taylor in Archæologia in 1849, and were confirmed during the building of Cannon Street Station. The road from the bridge divided in East Cheap and passed out towards the spot now called from the Marble Arch, where it joined the old road which the Saxons subsequently named the Watling Street, now Park Lane and Edgware Road, as to one branch; and as to the other, the Ermin Street, which led towards Lincoln. The Roman