Page:A History of Horncastle from the Earliest Period to the Present Time.djvu/22

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3
HISTORY OF HORNCASTLE.

the district around would provide them with the recreations of the chase, which also helped to make them the skilled warriors which the Romans found them to be.[1] Much of these forests remained even down to comparatively recent times, and very large trees have been dug up, black with age, in fields within four or five miles of Horncastle, within very recent years, which the present writer has seen.

Such were some of the earlier inhabitants of this locality, leaving their undoubted traces behind them, but no "local habitation" with a name; for that we are first indebted to the Romans, who, after finding the Briton a foe not unworthy of his steel, ultimately subjugated him and found him not an inapt pupil in Roman arts and civilization. Of the aptitude of the Briton to learn from his conquerors we have evidence in the fact, mentioned by the Roman writer Eumenius, that when the Emperor Constantius wished to rebuild the town Augustodunum (now Antun) in Gaul, about the end of the 3rd century, he employed workmen chiefly from Britain, such was the change effected in our "rude forefathers" in 250 years.

We may sum up our remarks on the Britons by saying that in them we have ancestors of whom we have no occasion to be ashamed. They had a christian church more than 300 years before St. Augustine visited our shores. They yet survive in the sturdy fisher folk of Brittany; in those stout miners of Cornwall, who in the famed Botallack mine have bored under the ocean bed, the name Cornwall itself being Welsh (i.e. British) for corner land; in the people who occupy the fastnesses of the Welsh mountains, as well as in the Gaels of the Scottish Highlands and the Erse of Ireland. Their very speech is blended with our own. Does the country labourer go to the Horncastle tailor to buy coat and breeches? His British forefather, though clad chiefly in skins, called his upper garment his "cotta," his nether covering his "brages," scotice "breeks." Brewer, Introduction to Beauties of England, p. 42.


Part II—The Dimly Historic Period.

The headquarters of the Roman forces in our own part of Britain were at York, where more than one Roman Emperor lived and died, but Lindum, now Lincoln, was an important station. About A.D. 71 Petillius Cerealis was appointed governor of the province by the Emperor Vespasian, he was succeeded by Julius Frontinus, both being able generals. From A.D. 78 to 85 that admirable soldier and administrator, Julius Agricola, over-ran the whole


had "powerful mastiffs" for hunting the wild boar, and Manwood in an old Treatise on Forest Laws (circa 1680) states (p. 60) that the finest mastiffs were bred in Lincolnshire. Fuller, in his Worthies of England (p. 150) mentions that a Dutchman (circa 1660) coming to England for sport, spent a whole season in pursuit of wild game "in Lincolniensi montium tractu," by which doubtless were intended the wolds. A writer in the Archæological Journal (June, 1846 says "the whole country of the Coritani (i.e. Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, &c.) was then, and long after, a dense forest," The name "Coritani," or more properly Coitani, is the Roman adaptation of the British "Coed," a wood, which still survives in Wales in such place-names as "Coed Coch," the red wood, "Bettws y Coed," the chapel in the wood, &c. This was their distinguishing characteristic to the Roman, they were wood-men.

  1. To the skill and bravery in war of the Britons Cæsar bears testimony. He says, "They drive their chariots in all directions, throwing their spears, and by the fear of their horses and the noise of their wheels they disturb the ranks of their enemies; when they have forced their way among the troops they leap down and fight on foot. By constant practice they acquire such skill that they can stop, turn, and guide their horses when at full speed and in the most difficult ground. They can run along the chariot pole, sit on the collar and return with rapidity into the chariot, by which novel mode (he says) his men were much disturbed." ("Novitate pugnæ perturbati." De Bello Gallico, lib. iv, c, 33, 34.