The Hall of Waltheof/Chapter XXXII
ABOUT quarter of a mile to the north-east of Shirecliffe Hall, Pitsmoor, is a wood known as Great Roe Wood. Near its western edge is a nameless earthwork, hitherto little noticed, but once or twice described as a "camp." This earthwork originally consisted of one large circular mound and an outer ditch. It is not nearly so well preserved as the earthwork at the top of Wincobank wood, for only portions of the mound and ditch now remain. It is upon a hill side which slopes to the east, not upon the summit of the hill, and there is no ancient road near.
With the help of the Rev. W. S. Sykes I examined and measured this earthwork in November, 1893. There are three distinct portions of the mound and ditch now remaining, the most perfect of these being on the east side. Here the mound and ditch are in their original form, and they exaclly resemble the larger and inner mound and ditch of the earthwork in Wincobank wood. The other portions are on the south-east and south-west sides. These are only small pieces, but by their help, and by the help of the fainter traces of the enclosed space still existing, it is possible to make out the original plan. The enclosed area is flat. We took the following measurements:
- Diameter of the enclosed area measured from north to south - 200 feet
- Diameter of the enclosed area measured from east to west - 190 feet
- Inside height of the mound on the east side - - - - 5 feet
- Perpendicular depth of ditch - - - - - - - 6 feet
- Width of ditch measured from margin to margin in the three places where it is preserved - 30 feet
It will thus be seen that the ditch corresponds in width and depth to the larger ditch of the camp at Wincobank, and to that of the ridgeway.
Mr. Winder tells me that, according to plans in the Duke of Norfolk's office, there has been no alteration in the size or shape of Great Roe Wood for the last hundred years, and he says that the largest oak tree he ever saw was felled in it. The six-inch Ordnance map of 1850 marks a spring on the site of the earthwork, though this seems to have been carried away by draining; at all events it is not there now.
There can be no doubt as to the antiquity of this earthwork, which seems to have been the site of a protected clan homestead of some old Germanic, or rather Cimbric or Celtic family. Tacitus, as is well known, describes the old Germans not as dwelling in towns, but as inhabiting dwellings scattered here and there in the fields and woods. "Every man," he says, "surrounds his house with a spatium"—whatever that may mean. The names of places in England ending in tún, wurð, etc., show that the enclosed or protected homestead was common here, and what protection could have been better, when stone buildings and castles were not, than an encircling mound of earth and a big ditch?
It seems to be almost an instinct in an Englishman to surround himself, if not with a great earth mound, at all events with a big garden wall. The children who make mounds and ditches for their houses on the sea shore are perhaps, unconsciously and by instinct, repeating what their forefathers did ages ago, and what their fathers still do when they build great walls round their parks and gardens, not to shut out their enemies or beasts of prey, but for reasons best known to themselves.
- Germ. 16. As to the word spatium see ante p. 246.