Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 210 pages of information about Early Britain.
by Thorpe and Kemble, supply us with names some of which are assuredly not Teutonic, while others are demonstrably Celtic; and these names are borne by people occupying high positions at the court of English kings.  Names of this class occur even in Kent itself; while others are borne by members of the royal family of Wessex.  The local dialect of the West Riding of Yorkshire still contains many Celtic words; and the shepherds of Northumberland and the Lothians still reckon their sheep by what is known as “the rhyming score,” which is really a corrupt form of the Welsh numerals from one to twenty.  The laws of Northumbria mention the Welshmen who pay rent to the king.  Indeed, it is clear that even in the east itself the English were from the first a body of rural colonists and landowners, holding in subjection a class of native serfs, with whom they did not intermingle, but who gradually became Anglicised, and finally coalesced with their former masters, under the stress of the Danish and Norman supremacies.

 [3] Kemble “On Anglo-Saxon Names.”  Proc.  Arch.  Inst., 1845.

In the west, however, the English occupation took even less the form of a regular colonisation.  The laws of Ine, a West Saxon king, show us that in his territories, bordering on yet unconquered British lands, the Welshman often occupied the position of a rent-paying inferior, as well as that of a slave.  The so-called Nennius tells us that Elmet in Yorkshire, long an intrusive Welsh principality, was not subdued by the English till the reign of Eadwine of Northumbria; when, we learn, the Northumbrian prince “seized Elmet, and expelled Cerdic its king:”  but nothing is said as to any extermination of its people.  As Baeda incidentally mentions this Cerdic, “king of the Britons,” Nennius may probably be trusted upon the point.  As late as the beginning of the tenth century, King AElfred in his will describes the people of Devon, Dorset, Somerset, and Wilts, as “Welsh kin.”  The physical appearance of the peasantry in the Severn valley, and especially in Shropshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and Herefordshire, indicates that the western parts of Mercia were equally Celtic in blood.  The dialect of Lancashire contains a large Celtic infusion.  Similarly, the English clan-villages decrease gradually in numbers as we move westward, till they almost disappear beyond the central dividing ridge.  We learn from Domesday Book that at the date of the Norman conquest the number of serfs was greater from east to west, and largest on the Welsh border.  Mr. Isaac Taylor points out that a similar argument may be derived from the area of the hundreds in various counties.  The hundred was originally a body of one hundred English families (more or less), bound together by mutual pledge, and answerable for one another’s conduct.  In Sussex, the average number of square miles in each hundred is only twenty-three; in Kent, twenty-four; in Surrey, fifty-eight; and in Herts, seventy-nine:  but in Gloucester it

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Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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