Page:VCH Warwickshire 1.djvu/276

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

A HISTORY OF WARWICKSHIRE remains discovered in the county, we might expect to meet the features which we have sketched in the preceding paragraphs. To some extent our expectation will not be disappointed. There certainly existed in the district which is now Warwickshire a Romano-British civilization of the normal type. But it was not at all normal in amount. Towns and villages were few and very small, and most of them hardly deserve such names at all. Villas were even less abundant. Industries were wholly absent. Roads, though prominent and important, merely crossed the district and do not affect its character. In general, the Roman remains of the county are scanty and disappointing. Some allowance must no doubt be made for the absence of exploration and excavation. The spade has seldom been used for archaeological purposes in Warwick- shire, and even the results of sporadic discoveries have been less systematically recorded than in most of our counties. Some distinc- tion must be drawn, too, between different portions of the county. The south and east, the more open and fertile districts, were better settled, apparently, than the west and north, which include the woodlands of Arden. But on the whole we must admit that the county has to be classed as one of the thinner spaces (if we may use the phrase) in Roman Britain. Probably we may find the reason for this in the general character of the English midlands during the Roman period. The Romano-British civilization of the midlands differed markedly from that of the surrounding districts. In the latter we meet with striking embodiments of Romano-British life, such as the country towns of Verulamium in Hertfordshire, Chesterford in western Essex, Castor on the edge of Huntingdonshire and Northamptonshire, Wroxeter in Shropshire, Gloucester, Cirencester, Silchester, each in its degree a place of note. The midland area contained no such elements. Except Leicester, its towns were far too small to be matched with any of those just named ; indeed, they are hardly towns at all, and the whole Romano-British life of the region was simple, plain and devoid of character and salient features. The reason for this may perhaps be found in physical facts. The midlands, though often described by geographers as the central plain of our island, do not in reality form a plain in the ordinary sense of that word. They form a complex dis- trict which is especially notable for the low scale and small size of its various physical features. Little of it is flat, but it has no high hills or distinct ranges. Woods abound, but there are no continuous tracts of forest. Rivers rise within it, but they reach no size till they have passed its borders ; their valleys are small and shallow, and even their watersheds are faint and ill-defined. It is a pleasant land, alike to those that dwell in it and those that wander through it ; but, in the main, it is not fertile, or suited to corn or sheep, and thus it contains very little to aid the growth of towns or of a large agricultural population. Its mineral wealth attracts a dense throng of inhabitants to one part of it to-day, but that wealth was unknown in the Roman period. Then too the woods, both those of Arden and others, were doubtless thicker 228