Page:VCH Warwickshire 1.djvu/323

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ANGLO-SAXON REMAINS In 1812 the discovery of two urns in a piece of ground called ' Black Lands ' near Alcester was reported to the Society of Antiquaries. 1 At a little distance from the smaller of the two was found the skeleton of a man ' measuring nearly 7 feet.' By his left side had been placed a long straight sword, which upon being moved broke into fragments. It is said that human skeletons had been frequently met with in digging for gravel, and were generally about 3 feet below the surface. Roman copper coins were of common occurrence in the fields adjoining the town, and it is not at all certain that the urns mentioned above as well as similar specimens unfortunately destroyed by the workmen were not of Roman date and manufacture. In any case this is very slender evidence that both methods of disposing of the dead were adopted by the Teutonic settlers of the district, and it is now impossible to deter- mine whether the urns were of the smaller kind commonly found in unburnt burials of the Anglo-Saxon period, as no measurements or other details appear in the account of the discovery. Such are the discoveries that show a certain light on the post- Roman occupation of the tract of country now known as Warwickshire, or at least of the southern part of it which was watered by the Avon and its tributaries and served by two Roman roads. Here are found traces of a people that must have been in close contact with the Teutonic conquerors of the southern midlands, from the lower Severn to the Chiltern hills, and also of another tribe, more or less connected in blood but probably advancing from the north-east coast, who burnt their dead and foreshadowed the southern expansion of Mercia. But an exception to the general rule has now to be noticed. In a prehistoric barrow excavated in 1824 at Oldbury near Ather- stone was found a secondary interment, which may without doubt be referred to the Anglo-Saxon period. It was on the east side of the barrow, which at the time of exploration was about 20 feet in diameter at the base, rising in the centre to a height of about 15 feet ; and the iron spearhead and shield-boss 8 which determine the character of the grave were found with human bones 2 feet from the surface. This is the usual depth for pagan burials of the Anglo-Saxon period, but the mounds raised over them were seldom more than a foot or two above the ground. In the first place, this locality is isolated from what were undoubtedly the main seats of the Teutonic conquerors of the county and appears to have a northern connection. According to one historian, 3 the Forest of Arden was bounded by an imaginary line from High Cross to Burton-on-Trent, and Oldbury would thus be on the fringe of a difficult district right in the path of an invader from the valley of the Trent or Soar. That the interment in question is of a distinct origin is further suggested by a feature that has been frequently observed in 1 Arch&ologia, xvii. 33*. 8 These are figured in Roach Smith's Collectanea Anfiqua, vol. i. pi. xiv. figs. ;, 6 (see also pp. 33, 38) ; Bloxam, Monumenta Sepukhrafta, p. 22, where the discovery is said to have been in 1835. s Wm. Smith, History of Warwickshire, p. 2. 267