Forgot your password?  

Resources for students & teachers

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 275 pages of information about Wanderings in Wessex.

It would appear that these settlers—­Jutes and Saxons—­were either more civilized than their contemporaries, or had a better idea of human rights than had their cousins who invaded the country between Regnum and Anderida to such purpose “that not one Briton remained.”  Or it may be that the majority of the inhabitants of south central Britain, left derelict by their Roman guardians, showed little opposition.  It is difficult for a brave and warlike race to massacre in cold blood a people who make no resistance and are therefore not adversaries but simply chattels to be used or ignored as policy, or need, dictates.  In 520 at Badbury Hill, however, a good fight seems to have been made by a party of Britons led, according to legend, by the great Arthur in person.  The victory was with the defenders and had the effect of holding up Cerdic’s conquest for a short time.  Again some sort of resistance would seem to have been made before those mysterious sanctuaries around Avebury and Stonehenge fell to the Saxon.  It is possible that the old holy places of a half-forgotten faith were again resorted to during the distracting years which followed the withdrawal of the Roman peace that, during its later period, had been combined with Christianity.  Whatever the cause, it is certain that something prevented an immediate Saxon advance across the remote country which eventually became Wiltshire and Dorset.  But the end came with the fall of the great strongholds around Durnovaria (Dorchester) which took place soon after the Saxon victory at Deorham in 577, twenty-five years after Old Sarum had capitulated, thus cutting off from their brothers of the west and north those of the British who still remained in possession of the coast country between the inland waters and savage heathlands of East Dorset and the still wilder country of Exmoor, Dartmoor and Cornwall.

So, by the end of the sixth century, the Kingdom of Wessex was made more or less an entity, and the dark-haired, dark-eyed race who once held the country were in the position of a conquered and vassal people; for the times and the manners of those times well used by their conquerors, especially in the country of the Dorsaetas, where at the worst they were treated as useful slaves, and at the best the masters were but rustic imitators of their forerunners, the Romans.  To the most careless observer a good proportion of the country people of Dorset are unusually swarthy and “Welsh” in appearance, though of the handsomer of the two or three distinct races that go to make up that mixed nation, which has among its divergent types some of the most primitive, both in a physical and mental sense, in Europe.

Follow Us on Facebook