Page:VCH Surrey 1.djvu/313

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


ANGLO-SAXON REMAINS ALL that is derived from the usual sources of early Anglo-Saxon history about the region known to-day as Surrey might be expressed in a single paragraph, which would mainly rest on scraps of negative evidence, or on conjectures that are now for the most part incapable of proof or refutation, and would fail in any case to provide a genuine history of Surrey's beginnings in the post- Roman period. The proximity of London, which explains much in the later history of the county, only deepens the darkness in which its pagan days are hidden ; for it must be borne in mind that in the early time the influence of the city was mainly confined to the north bank of the Thames and even there to a limited area. For the present purpose therefore Surrey must be treated apart from the capital, and its early connexions traced if possible along other channels. The advance of primary education and the spread of railways are every day reducing the scientific value of dialectical varieties, and this involves the abolition of one of the few means of grouping or identify- ing the various tribes or bands of settlers that planted themselves in different parts of the country as soon as the Roman power declined. Greater facilities of communication have, to a lesser degree perhaps, impaired the utility of anthropological research just at a time when the value of that branch of science has been brought to recognition. Though physical types are more permanent than peculiarities of language, there is little hope of recovering by this means the characteristics and affinities of the earliest Teutonic occupants of the county after a lapse of four- teen centuries. While it is vain to look for fresh evidence from the early chronicles, which have been for the most part edited in a thoroughly critical manner, and while the physical and dialectical tests are rapidly failing us, there is yet some hope that excavation may in course of time provide further and unexceptionable evidence, the value of which depends, not on the date of its discovery so much as on the skill and accuracy of the investigator. Not to claim too much import- ance for archaeological inquiry it must be confessed that its sphere is limited, and of history in the wider sense the contents of graves can afford but little ; but at least there is a prospect of amplifying and perhaps correcting thereby the meagre records that precede the Domes- day Survey. 255