Page:VCH Warwickshire 1.djvu/282

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A HISTORY OF WARWICKSHIRE (&) HIGH CROSS High Cross is a small hamlet, in which the parishes of Claybrooke, Wibtoft, Copston and Wigston converge, on the edge of Warwickshire and Leicestershire. It stands on comparatively elevated ground, with a wide prospect towards the north-east. Here Fosse and Watling Street cross, and this fact has given the spot an unsubstantial reputation as being (in Stukeley's phrase) the centre of England. No traces of Roman occupation are at present visible, but the writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries testify to considerable remains. Camden states that foundations of hewn stone lay under the furrows on both sides of the road and coins were frequently found. Burton in 1622 mentions 'many ancient Roman coynes, great square stones and brickes and other rubble of ancient building,' and describes the coins as ranging from Caligula (A.D. 40) to Constantine the Great. Dugdale speaks of ' large stones, Roman brick, with ovens and wells, coins of silver and brass,' and adds that the earth of the site was darker and richer than elsewhere. Elias Ashmole in 1657 saw a foundation measuring 12 by 18 feet, which he took to be a temple. But later writers add very little except a few coins a denarius of Mark Antony, another of Domitian, and copper of the late third and the fourth century down to Gratian and it does not seem possible now to decide the precise position or the size or the character of the Roman settlement. 1 We can only say that our evidence indicates permanent inhabitation of some sort perhaps a posting station, or perhaps a village. The situation of the place, at the crossing of Fosse and Watling Street, might suggest, at first sight, the probability of a large settlement. This argument has not much weight however by itself, and other cases might be quoted of Roman roads crossing with even less of a settlement at the Four Cross Roads than we seem able to trace at High Cross. In Hampshire, for instance, the road which runs south-west from Silchester intersects near Andover that which runs north-west from Winchester ; and though the neighbourhood was well populated in Roman days, no definite traces of Roman inhabitation have been noted at the actual crossing. Whatever its character, its name at least is known. The Antonine Itinerary * places Venonae at the point where Fosse and Watling Street cross, and it also assigns to Venonae distances from other places known 1 Camden, ii. 297 (in Cough's ed. of 1806) ; Wm. Burton's Leicestershire, p. 72 ; Dugdale, i. 71 ; Elias Ashmole in Nichols' Leicestershire, i. p. cli. and Bibl. Topogr. Britann. vii. 287. For later writers see Stukeley, I tin. Curiosum, p. no, ed. z ; Horsley, Britannia Romano, pp. 385, 420 ; Nichols* Leicester- shire, iv. 125. Mr. Goodacre of Ullesthorpe has a denarius of Domitian and a late (? fifth century) coin from High Cross. Gough (Add. to Camden, ii. 303) and some later writers, mistaking Stukeley, have transferred to High Cross some burial urns which were really found at Monks Kirby (p. 238). I have omitted Camden's assertion that the site was once called Cleycester, because (as Dugdale observes) Camden is the sole authority for it : it occurs apparently in no documents or charter, and is probably Camden's own invention.

  • Itin. Ant. 470, 4 ; 477, 3 ; 479, 4. The name occurs only in the oblique case Venonis : I

have followed common usage in assuming a nominative Venonae though, for all we can tell, it may have been Venoni or Venona. The orthography Venonis seems preferable to Vennonis : Bennones, Benonis are certainly corrupt forms. Some writers have evolved a tribe of Vennones, for which in Britain there is no kind of authority. 232