Page:VCH Warwickshire 1.djvu/408

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


A HISTORY OF WARWICKSHIRE been many variations in the form and design of these works during this long period of time, some of the great prehistoric hill fortresses of the Stone and Bronze Ages quite startlingly resemble in outward appearance the above mentioned military defences of the present day. Speaking in general terms a defensive earthwork was originally formed by the excavation of a ditch or fosse round a given area, the earth being piled up inside to form a raised bank, rampart or vallum. This bank was often increased and strengthened by turf sods or rough stones, and along its top a strong fence was erected, usually made of horizontal logs of timber or of upright wooden stakes interlaced with wattle work. Sometimes stones were used for the fence instead of wood, if they happened to be more abundant than trees in the vicinity. Of course all vestiges of the perishable timber work have long ago dis- appeared from our ancient earthworks, and stones, in the majority of cases, have been removed for the making of field walls in later days. Such an entrenched enclosure was usually placed on some point of vantage, varying according to the particular ideas of its makers ; it was often at the top of a high hill, or else upon a slight elevation protected from attack by water and swampy marsh ; sometimes it was but in a hollow for the sake of shelter, different races and peoples having a predilection for very different situations. In the majority of instances the dwellings of the makers of the stronghold were collected within its interior, but occasionally, as in the case of the larger prehistoric ' camps ' on the ex- posed tops of steep hills, their circular huts were clustered in some sheltered hollow hard by. These early hill strongholds had much in common with the lately extinct pa of the Maories in New Zealand, while the forts on lower ground were not unlike the fenced villages still to be seen among savage tribes in various parts of the world. Warwickshire has numerous remains of ancient defensive earth- works. Some are well preserved and of sufficiently imposing dimensions to attract the notice of every passer by ; very many however are mere worn and damaged remnants of former considerable entrenchments, relics of the past which require the eye of an archaeologist to discover them, or at any rate to distinguish them with certainty from mere natural features of the ground. Time has a very destructive effect upon these remains. Rain and frost are continually at work disintegrating the material of artificial mounds and ramparts, gradually making them lower and smaller. 1 Ditches again are continually becoming wider and shallower through the same agencies ; not only do they tend to get filled up with the soil washed down from the banks above, but dead vegetation accu- mulates in their hollows and raises the levels within for many feet,* as has been shown by excavation. Instead of ramparts and ditches round a camp we sometimes now find a series of terraces, as for ex- ample at Brownsover and at Gredenton Hill, which would aid rather than hinder its assailants ; this of course was no part of the original 1 See under Seckington, p. 390. * See Chesterton p. 366. 346