Vanishing England eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 374 pages of information about Vanishing England.

Not long ago the Edwardian wall of Berwick-on-Tweed was threatened with demolition at the hands of those who ought to be its guardians—­the Corporation of the town.  An official from the Office of Works, when he saw the begrimed, neglected appearance of the two fragments of this wall near the Bell Tower, with a stagnant pool in the fosse, bestrewed with broken pitchers and rubbish, reported that the Elizabethan walls of the town which were under the direction of the War Department were in excellent condition, whereas the Edwardian masonry was utterly neglected.  And why was this relic of the town’s former greatness to be pulled down?  Simply to clear the site for the erection of modern dwelling-houses.  A very strong protest was made against this act of municipal barbarism by learned societies, the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings, and others, and we hope that the hand of the destroyer has been stayed.

Most of the principal towns in England were protected by walls, and the citizens regarded it as a duty to build them and keep them in repair.  When we look at some of these fortifications, their strength, their height, their thickness, we are struck by the fact that they were very great achievements, and that they must have been raised with immense labour and gigantic cost.  In turbulent and warlike times they were absolutely necessary.  Look at some of these triumphs of medieval engineering skill, so strong, so massive, able to defy the attacks of lance and arrow, ram or catapult, and to withstand ages of neglect and the storms of a tempestuous clime.  Towers and bastions stood at intervals against the wall at convenient distances, in order that bowmen stationed in them could shoot down any who attempted to scale the wall with ladders anywhere within the distance between the towers.  All along the wall there was a protected pathway for the defenders to stand, and machicolations through which boiling oil or lead, or heated sand could be poured on the heads of the attacking force.  The gateways were carefully constructed, flanked by defending towers with a portcullis, and a guard-room overhead with holes in the vaulted roof of the gateway for pouring down inconvenient substances upon the heads of the besiegers.  There were several gates, the usual number being four; but Coventry had twelve, Canterbury six, and Newcastle-on-Tyne seven, besides posterns.

[Illustration:  Old Houses built on the Town Wall, Rye]

Berwick-upon-Tweed, York, Chester, and Conway have maintained their walls in good condition.  Berwick has three out of its four gates still standing.  They are called Scotchgate, Shoregate, and Cowgate, and in the last two still remain the original massive wooden gates with their bolts and hinges.  The remaining fourth gate, named Bridgate, has vanished.  We have alluded to the neglect of the Edwardian wall and its threatened destruction.  Conway has a wall a mile and a quarter in length, with twenty-one

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Vanishing England from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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