Page:A History of Horncastle from the Earliest Period to the Present Time.djvu/27

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

larger and evidently those of a male. Subsequently fragments of decayed wood and long iron nails and clamps were found, showing that the leaden coffins had originally been enclosed in wooden cases. Both these coffins lay east and west. A description was sent to a well-known antiquarian, the late Mr. John Bellows of Gloucester, and he stated that if the lead had an admixture of tin they were Roman, if no tin, post-Roman. The lead was afterwards analysed by Professor Church, of Kew, and by the analytical chemist of Messrs. Kynoch & Co., of Birmingham, with the result that there was found to be a percentage of 1.65 of tin to 97.08 of lead and 1.3 of oxygen, "the metal slightly oxidised." It was thus proved that the coffins were those of Romans, their "orientation" implying that they were christian. It should be added that three similar coffins were found in the year 1872, when the foundations were being laid of the New Jerusalem Chapel in Croft Street, within some 100 yards of the two already described; and further, as confirmatory of their being Roman, a lead coffin was also found in the churchyard of Baumber, on the restoration of the church there in 1892, this being close to the Roman road (already mentioned) between the old Roman stations Banovallum and Lindum. Lead coffins have also been found in the Roman cemeteries at Colchester, York, and at other places.[1]

As another interesting case of Roman relics found in Horncastle, I give the following:—In 1894 I exhibited, at a meeting of our Archæological Society, some small clay pipes which had recently been dug up along with a copper coin of the Emperor Constantine, just within the western wall of the old castle, near the present Manor House. They were evidently very old and of peculiar make, being short in stem with small bowl set at an obtuse angle. They were said at the time to be Roman, but since tobacco was not introduced till the reign of Elizabeth that idea was rejected. In the year 1904, however, a large quantity of fragments of similar clay pipes were found in the ruins of the Roman fort of Aliso, near Halteren on the river Lippe, in Western Germany, some of rude structure, some decorated with figures and Roman characters. They were lying at a depth of 9 feet below the surface, and had evidently lain undisturbed since the time of the Roman occupation. From the marks upon them it was manifest that they had been used, and it is now known from the statements of the Roman historian Pliny, and the Greek Herodotus, that the use of narcotic fumes was not unknown to the Romans, as well as to other ancient nations; the material used was hemp seed and cypress grass. In the Berlin Ethnological Museum, also, vessels of clay are preserved, which are supposed to have been used for a like purpose. This discovery, then, at Horncastle is very interesting as adding to our Roman remains, and we may picture to ourselves the Roman sentinel taking his beat on the old castle walls and solacing himself, after the manner of his countrymen, with his pipe. (An account of this later discovery is given in a German scientific review for August, 1904, quoted Standard, August 12, 1904).

Of what may be called the close of this early historic period in connection with Horncastle there is little more to be said. The Roman forces withdrew from Britain about A.D. 408. The Britons harried by their northern neighbours, the Picts and Scots, applied for assistance to the Saxons, who, coming at first as friends, but led to stay by the attractions of the country, gradually

  1. Gough, Sepulchral Monuments, Introduction, p. 59, says "coffins of lead and wood are believed to have been used by the Romans in Britain."