Page:A History of Horncastle from the Earliest Period to the Present Time.djvu/21

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HISTORY OF HORNCASTLE.

them by name before anything else. Thus the remark of an eloquent writer is generally true, who says "our mountains and rivers still murmur the voices of races long extirpated." "There is hardly (says Dr. Taylor[1]) throughout the whole of England a river name which is not Celtic," i.e. British.

As the Briton here looked from the hill-side, down upon the valley beneath him, two of the chief objects to catch his eye would be the streams which watered it, and which there, as they do still, united their forces. They would then also, probably, form a larger feature in the prospect than they do at the present day, for the local beds of gravel deposit would seem to indicate that these streams were formerly of considerably greater volume, watering a wider area, and probably having ramifications which formed shoals and islands.[2] The particular names by which the Briton designated the two main streams confirm this supposition. In the one coming from the more distant wolds, he saw a stream bright and clear, meandering through the meadows which it fertilized, and this he named the "Bain,"[3] that word being Celtic for "bright" or "clear," a characteristic which still belongs to its waters, as the brewers of Horncastle assure us. In the other stream, which runs a shorter and more rapid course, he saw a more turbid current, and to it he gave the name "Waring,"[4] which is the Celtic "garw" or "gerwin," meaning "rough." Each of these names, then, we may regard as what the poet Horace calls "nomen præsente nota productum,"[5] they are as good as coin stamped in the mint of a Cunobelin, or a Caradoc, bearing his "image and superscription," and after some 17 centuries of change, they are in circulation still. So long as Horncastle is watered by the Bain and the Waring she will bear the brand of the British sway, once paramount in her valley.

These river names, however, are not the only relics of the Britons found in Horncastle. Two British urns were unearthed about 50 years ago, where is now the garden of the present vicarage, and another was found in the parish of Thornton, about a mile from the town, when the railway was being made in 1856. The latter the present writer has seen, although it is now unfortunately lost.[6]

These Britons were a pastoral race, as Caesar, their conqueror, tells us,[7] not cultivating much corn, but having large flocks and herds, living on the milk and flesh of their live stock, and clad in the skins of these, or of other animals taken in the chase. The well-watered pastures of the Bain valley would afford excellent grazing for their cattle, while the extensive forests[8] of
  1. Words and Places, p. 130.
  2. The meadow which now lies in the angle formed by the junction of the Bain and Waring at Horncastle is still called "The Holms," which is Danish for "islands."
  3. The name Bain, slightly varied, is not uncommon. There is the Bannon, or Ban-avon ("avon" also meaning "river"), in Pembrokeshire; the Ban in Co. Wexford, Bana in Co. Down, Banney (i.e. brightly running river Lochy in Argyleshire; and, as meaning "white," a fair-haired boy or girl is called in Gaelic "Bhana."
  4. The name Waring (G commonly representing the modern W) is found in the Yarrow, and Garry in Scotland, the Geirw, a rough mountain stream at Pont-y-Glyn, in North Wales, and in Garonne in France
  5. Arts Poetica, 1 59.
  6. An account of this urn is given by the late Bishop Trollope, with an engraving of it, in the Architectural Society's Journal, vol. iv, p. 200.
  7. De Bello Gatlico, bk. v, ch. 12-14.
  8. Some idea of the extent of these forests, even in later times, may be formed from the account given by De la Prime (Philosophical Transactions, No. 75, p. 980) who says "round about the skirts of the wolds are found infinite millions of the roots and bodies of trees of great size." Pliney tell us that the Britons