The Hall of Waltheof/Chapter XXIII

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The Hall of Waltheof by Sidney Oldall Addy
XXIII. "Ibi Habuit Wallef Comes Aulam"

IN Hallun, says the Doomsday Book, "the earl Waltheof had a hall." The aula of the Doomsday Book translates the höll or hall of the Norseman—a word which was always applied to a king's, or an earl's, palace, and not to a private dwelling. The hall of the Norseman was always built of wood. As the word Hallun or Hallum may mean "hall," Hallamshire may be the "hall shire" or "hall district." The modern Hallam is a late spelling of Hallum, the old dative plural, for I have noticed Hallum and Hallumschire in many early documents. As Baden in Germany is the dative plural of the Old High German bad, a bath, so Hallum, Hallun, Hallen, or Hallam in this south corner of Yorkshire may be the dative plural of the Old Norse höll, or of the cognate Old English heall. Even though the derivation of the word were, on phonetic or philological grounds, uncertain, yet the mention of the aula in Doomsday Book points strongly to the conclusion that Hallum is simply the dative plural of heall or höll, hall. The hall may have existed long before the Doomsday Book was written, nor probably would the Norman scribe know that hallum meant hall.

Förstemann under the word hal, meaning "hall," mentions a place called Hallum in a German document of the year 889. In Old English the form would be æt heallum, which I would venture to translate "the pillared roof." Palsgrave in his dictionary, dated 1530, gives "hall a long tent in a felde, tente."

It is possible, of course, though not likely, that the aula of the Doomsday Book, instead of referring to a great wooden palace built either by Germanic or Scandinavian settlers, may refer to a Roman villa used or occupied by them. And if this be the case we must look for the villa on the opposite hill side in Stannington, a place-name which, as will be maintained in the sequel, means "stone villa," the g being a comparatively modern innovation.

Mr. William Morris, in his story called "A Tale of the House of the Wolfings," has described the great "roof" or hall of an old Gothic or German clan.

"As for the Roof of the Wolfings," says the tale, "it was a great hall and goodly, after the fashion of their folk and their day; not built of stone and lime, but framed of the goodliest trees of the wild-wood squared with the adze, and betwixt the framing filled with clay wattled with reeds As to the house within, two rows of pillars went down it endlong, fashioned of the mightiest trees that might be found, and each one fairly wrought with base and chapiter, and wreaths and knots, and fighting men and dragons; so that it was like a church of later days that has a nave and aisles: windows there were above the aisles, and a passage underneath the said windows in their roofs. In the aisles were the sleeping-places of the Folk, and down the nave under the crown of the roof were three hearths for the fires, and above each hearth a luffer or smoke-bearer to draw the smoke up when the fires were lighted. Forsooth on a bright winter afternoon it was strange to see the three columns of smoke going wavering up to the dimness of the mighty roof, and one maybe smitten athwart by the sunbeams. As for the timber of the roof itself and its framing, so exceeding great and high it was, that the tale tells how that none might see the fashion of it from the hall-floor unless he were to raise aloft a blazing faggot on a long pole: since no lack of timber there was among the men of the mark."[1]

Mr. Morris seems to have drawn this sketch of an old Germanic house from descriptions of halls and buildings in the Norse Sagas. These great buildings were of wood, and were splendidly carved and ornamented. A few specimens of the woodwork of the Norsemen have been preserved in the carved doorways of churches and in old furniture. How splendid the workmanship was may be seen from these examples, some of which contain runes and representations of mythological subjects.[2] It is interesting to compare the carved work of these old wooden doorways with what is called Norman architecture in England, such as, for example, the ornamentations at Steetley chapel in Derbyshire.

If ever such a hall as that described by Mr. Morris existed in Hallamshire there was timber enough to build it. "There are," says William Harrison, "within this mannor very stately tymber, especially in Haw parke, which for both straightnesse and bigness there is not the like in any place that I can heare of, beeinge of length aboute 60 foote before you come to a knott or bowe, and many of these are two fathomes and some two fathomes and a halfe about, and they growe out of such a rocher of stone that you would hardly thinke there were earth enoughe to nourish the roots of the said trees." He remarks that "it hath been said by travellers that they have not scene such tymber in Christendome."

As appears from a few survivors which remained within living memory the trees were pines, which love a rocky soil. They are all gone now, and the steep hill sides look green and bare, save that they are covered to the very top with a vast network of stone walls. Revel, Rivelin, Rivelin Firth, and Rivelin Water are the chief local names of the valley, and they well describe the place as it was long ago. Revel is the Swedish refvel, a sand-bank or piece of rocky ground, and from that word, once used amongst us, there must have been formed an adjective refvelen, revelen,—like gold-en from gold—meaning rocky or stony. So that Rivelin Firth is the rocky enclosed wood, or the rocky deer-park. Either Waltheof[3] lived in Hallamshire himself or had a great house there, where possibly his father, Sivard, or Sigeward, or Siwerd, the great Danish earl had lived before him. Waltheof had been put to death for misprision of treason by order of William the Conqueror, before the date of the Doomsday Book. Worsaae[4] describes him as the "innocent and murdered martyr of freedom;" and it is said that miracles were performed at his shrine in Croyland Abbey, to which his remains were removed. The charge against him was that he had aided his countrymen the Danish settlers in England against the attacks of the Normans. For this William took a terrible revenge. He harried and laid waste the Danish settlements in the north, and Hallamshire felt the weight of his hand. Hunter mentions "a tradition that the vill of Hallam was destroyed in an act of fury in the incensed conqueror," and he also quotes an old charter, dated 1161, of the monks of St. Wandrille, who had a settlement in Ecclesfield, which accidentally speaks of the hedges "as they were before the burning."[5]

The Doomsday Book speaks of Hallun with its sixteen berewicks, and the same authority informs us that the whole manor, including the berewicks, contained twenty-nine carcucates or plough-lands. The acreage of the carcucate varied according to the system of tillage; it may have been as much as 180, or as little as 80, acres. In round figures, therefore, there were at the date of the survey between 2,000 and 5,000 acres of land which was ploughed within this manor. The berewick was a demesne farm, and the large number of these dependencies speaks eloquently of the size and importance of the manorial house to which they were subject.

The precise situation of the great hall in Hallamshire is not known, but assuming that Hallam means "hall" it must have been in one of the places called Upper and Lower Hallam. And I think that it must have stood not far from the Roman road which will be described in the sequel, it being well known that the Teutonic settlers adopted and made use of such roads. The Roman road, known till lately as the Long Causey,[6] which just touches the south end of the village of Crookes, is known there as Hallam Gate, that is Hallam road, or road to Hallam. Following this road from the south end of Crookes through Lydgate and Sandygate we shall notice on the south or left hand side and nearly opposite Burnt Stones, Hallam Head, a place which on the smaller and earlier Ordnance maps is marked simply Hallam. If Hallam were the actual name of the place to the south of Burnt Stones there could be no doubt as to the site of the old hall of the lords of Hallamshire, if we assume that the word Hallam means "hall" and was not applied to a Roman villa. Quite near to Hallam Head is a house which on the Ordnance Map is marked as "Hall Carr House." A few old buildings, a pinfold, a triangular piece of ground surrounded by roads, give an appearance of age to this place, and we may, with some show of probability, take it to be the site of the old palace of the lords of Hallamshire. I thought that the title deeds of landowners might disclose some information of value on this point, and I accordingly applied to Mr. Duncan Gilmour, who has lately built a house at Hallam Head. Mr. Gilmour says: "Looking over the deeds referring to the field between me and Burnt Stones I find that in 1715 a close of land known as 'The Hallam Meadow' was part of it." Mr. Gilmour also tells me that his land, together with adjoining land, was bought from the Duke of Norfolk, whose predecessors have been lords of the manor for many centuries. I see no reason why The Hallam Meadow should not mean the hall meadow, just as the Roman road to Buxton is still known as Bathum gate, meaning Bath road, or road to Buxton.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. p. 4.
  2. See numerous engravings in Du Chaillu's "The Viking Age," c. 15.
  3. The name is found in Old Norse as Val-þjófr. It means foreign thief.
  4. The Danes and Norwegians in England, p. 132.
  5. Hallamshire, p. 20.
  6. Now altered into the meaningless "Lodge Moor Road." The word "causey" means paved road, via calciata.