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On the 16th of September, 1824, whilst the work-people of Mr. Harrison, engineer of this town, were digging for a foundation of a wall upon the green adjoining Little Chester, the greater part of the bones of a male skeleton were discovered, lying in a straight horizontal position, fifteen inches below the surface, with the head towards the north. The workmen destroyed the skull before they were aware of the existence of the skeleton, and the softer bones of the hands and feet had nearly mouldered away. From admeasurement of the bones which remained, the man must have stood upwards of five feet ten inches.
Iron rivets, much corroded, were found near various parts of the body and limbs, and thin strata of an ochre yellow, surrounding the trunk and extremities, situate an inch and a half from the bones; the colour of these strata was similar to that of the rivets, which, together with their situation, can leave but little doubt that the remains were those of a warrior buried in armour.
It has been thought by some not conversant with the subject, that the state of preservation of the bones prove them not to be of great antiquity. These ideas are decidedly incorrect. It may be well to give the opinions of the best antiquarians on this point, which are, that there are many instances on record where the skeleton of the ancients has been found preserving its primitive form, although not protected by any envelope. We may also allude to the antediluvian organic remains, a beautiful and well known instance of which lately appeared at Hopton, in this county, where the bones of the rhinoceros and other animals were found imbedded at a considerable depth in a moist earth.
Whether this was a warrior buried hastily, or interred with funeral rites, is a point difficult to decide; but there is a very interesting remark in Mr. Douglas's work, stating that the burial places of the Romans in this kingdom are very rarely discovered, owing to their custom of interring the dead at no great distance from their stations, by the side of the public road. This observation is given to show that the congregated inhumation of bodies was not by any means universal among the Romans, and it is no proof to the contrary even where a number of bodies have been found together under a barrow, as various works on the funeral tumuli of the Romans show, where Roman insignia have been found, the cairn or barrow was the sepulture of British warriors in the Roman service, as the barrow was not of Roman usage; but it must be recollected, when the Romans buried their dead with funeral obsequies, it was usually their custom to place sculptured devices or sepulchral inscriptions over the remains. As nothing of the sort was found, it favours the opinion of a man having been hastily interred in military accoutrements. With regard to the position, Sir R. Colt Hoare states, that the most ancient form of burial was with the head towards the north, which would probably be adhered to in ecclesiastical as well as military rites. Although this skeleton was surrounded by a clay very impervious to wet, which tended greatly to its preservation, still on exposure to the atmosphere, it was evident that the bones, which were fractured in many parts, would soon crumble away. An accurate cast was taken in plaster of Paris on the spot, whilst the specimen remained partially imbedded in the clay, by Mr. Douglas Fox, surgeon. The affixed plate is a diminished representation of the cast, and of one of the rivets, in its full size.
Roman coins have frequently been found in different parts of this county. In 1740, an urn, filled with denarii, was dug up at a place called Green-haigh lane, in the parish of Alfreton. In 1748, fifteen or sixteen hundred denarii, chiefly of Trajan, Hadrian, the Antonines, and Sept. Severus, were found in a close, on a farm called New Grounds, in the same parish. In 1761, many small copper coins, of the lower empire, were found upon Crich Cliff, in the foùndation of a small building of unhewn gritstone, ten feet square. ' About the year 1770, a great number of denarii were found in a place called Stuffins wood, in Pleasley. In 1778, an urn filled with coins of Diocletian, Constantine, &c. was dug up in Culland park.* In 1784, about seventy Roman coins, chiefly of Hadrian, Severus, and Constantine the younger, were found at Burton wood, about four miles from Ashbourn.t In 1788, an earthen pot full of Roman copper coins, was found upon Edge moor, in Crich common. I
“Another Roman town was at Brough, in the parish of Hope. It stood in some fields called the Halsteads, in an angle formed by the junction of two brooks, Bradwell and the Noe, a situation which the Romans seem always to have chosen if they could possibly obtain it. It is of the shape also to which they gave a preference, an oblong of three hundred and ten feet by two hundred and seventy; three of the sides being still nearly perfect. Only one or two coins have been found: but urns, bricks, stone columns, foundations, one of a temple or other large building, and a tile with the remains of an inscription, COH. undoubtedly for Cohors, have been discovered ; and two decided roads, as we have seen, certainly met there. The name is unknown, but the town is undoubtedly Roman.
In the township of Gamesley, north of Charlesworth, are vestiges of an ancient station, called Melandra Castle, which, from its appearance, and an inscription found there, seems to have been Roman; though no writer, previous to the late Rev. Mr. Watson, has ever mentioned it as made by that people. The following is an extract from that gentleman's description, inserted in the third volume of the Archæologia.
“ It is situated, like many Roman stations, on moderately elevated ground, within the confluence of two rivers, and was well supplied with good water. Very fortunately the plough has not defaced it, so that the form cannot be mistaken: the ramparts, which have considerable quantities of hewn stones in them, seem to be about three yards broad. On two of the sides were ditches, of which part remains; the rest is filled up: on the other sides there are such declivities that there was no occasion for this kind of defence. On the north-east side, between the station and the water, great numbers of stones lie promiscuously, both above and under ground: there is also a subterraneous stream of water here, and a large bank of earth, which runs from the station to the river. It seems very plain, that on this and the north-west side have been many buildings; and these are the only places where they could safely stand, because of the declivity between them and the two rivers. The extent of this station is about one hundred and twentytwo yards by one hundred and twelve. The four gates or openings into it are exceedingly visible; as is also the foundation of a building within the area, about twenty-five yards square, which, in all probability, was the prætorium.”
This fort was an oblong square, the angles facing the points of the compass, and the north-west and north-east sides having the river Mersey flowing within one or two furlongs of the walls. The wall encompassing the area was about three yards in thickness; that which bounded the prætorium, about one yard and a half. Within the area, pieces of broken swords have been found; and very near the east angle, a stone about sixteen inches long and twelve broad (now in the wall of a farm-house) was discovered, with an inscription on it in Roman characters, partly abbreviated. This Mr. Watson reads thus: Cohortis primæ Frisianorum Centuria Valerius Vitalis : and concludes, that Melandra was a sister fort to that at Manchester, which, he observes, was garrisoned by another part of the Frisian cohort. Eleven square pieces of enclosed ground, adjoining to this fort, are called the Castle-carrs.
On the top of a high round hill, one mile from Glossop, called Mouselow castle, there probably was formerly a castle or station, being a spot well calculated for such a purpose, as it commands a most extensive prospect over the surrounding country. This hill, forty-seven years ago, was pastured to the top, on which it was plain to be seen a building had stood, there being deep holes and a quantity of stones. The top occupies a large space of ground. The whole of the hill
"J. Reynolds's Collections.
of Gent.'s Mag. for 1784. Part II. page 791.
Archæologia, Vol. X.
, as well as the top, is now planted with firs of about forty-seven years standing, and the late Hon. Barnard Howard gave it the name of Castle hill.
“ The last of our certain Roman stations was at Buxton, a spot known probably from very early antiquity for its warm springs; and evidently inhabited on this account by the Romans, several of whose baths have been discovered here, and one indeed so lately as 1781, in digging the foundations of the present Crescent. The station itself is supposed by Watson to have been on the hill above the hall, which is known by the name of the Stene or Stane cliffs. Major Rooke also, in 1787, found remains which he conjectured to be those of a Roman temple. From these circumstances, and still more from the meeting of at least three of their roads at the same point, there is little doubt of a Roman town having existed in this spot; and there is some foundation for supposing the name of it to have been Aquæ, not only as Aquæ Sextiæ in Provence, and Aquæ Solis or Sulis in Somersetshire, were names given by the Romans to places distinguished like this by their warm springs ; but because in Ravennas (who observes an awkward sort of order in his geographical enumeration of our British towns) the Roman station of Aquæ appears not far from Lindum (Lincoln) on one side, and Camulodurrum (Slack in Yorkshire) on the other; a situation which agrees perfectly well with this of Buxton.
“ The abovementioned places have all of them, I believe, good claim to be considered as Roman; but there are two others, whose pretensions are of a more uncertain nature. The first of these is at Parwich, between Buxton and Ashbourn. The camp, which is Roman in its shape, lies about half a mile from the village, at a spot called Lombard's green. Roman coins too have been found there, but in an urn, not scattered upon the surface, which last circumstance would have been decisive in its favour. Foundations of walls have been dug up, and a bank, whether a prætentura or a road is uncertain, runs straight from it to the Ashbourn road on one side, and to a pool of water on the other. It must be owned that the names Lombard's green and Parwich (Parvus Vicus) might warrant the conjecture; and the distance, which is about half way from Buxton to Little Chester, would suit well for an intermediate station. But, with all these advantages, the distance of two miles and a half from the Roman road, and an apparent want of connexion with it, is an objection not to be got over. If, indeed, a way from Buxton to Rocester should be found in the direction of the present Ashbourn turnpike road, Parwich, being then in the space between two Roman roads, might have some right to be considered as a station to accommodate both; but until such a discovery is made, an antiquary of any experience must be inclined to suspend his opinion.
“ Another camp with a claim of the same nature is at Pentrich, on the Rykneld street, between Little Chester and Chesterfield: its figure also is Roman, being square with a double vallum. It lies close to the road ; one coin at least has been found in it; and the distance suits well for a mansio between these two stations, being eleven or twelve miles from each. Indeed, the situation does not at all agree with Richard's present numbers; and this seems to have misled Mr. Pegge, who does not even notice its pretensions, but supposes the intermediate station would be found at Higham or Linbury, at the latter of which places, as I observed, foundations of old buildings have been discovered. But the numerals in Richard's iters, which are never remarkably accurate, are less so than usual in these roads, which he alone describes ; being unchecked by those in Antonine, and only guessed at in his rude times by ignorant monks whom he states as his informers. And in this particular iter it is impossible to reconcile them either with one another or with truth; one station being inserted without name or numbers, and another with a number impossible to be right, being sixteen miles from Chesterfield, and more than that from Derventio. See Pegge, in Bib. Topog. No. 24. who quotes Bertram's edition of Richard's Iters.
“ Now if we suppose the number left vacant to be as small as possible, for instance VII., the distance from Little Chester to Chesterfield, according to Pegge, would be thirty-nine miles, but by actual measurement it is only twenty-three. It is, therefore, far more rational, as Mr. Leman and Whitaker have agreed, to strike out the vacant fifth station, and alter the XVI on each side to XII, which in the first place would agree to the whole distance between Little Chester and Chesterfield, and in the second to the particular distance of Pentrich from both of them; though this last circumstance seems to have escaped Whitaker's notice. The iter would then stand thus:
“I should, therefore, without much hesitation, be inclined to rank the camp at Pentrich among the Derbyshire stations, as noticed by Richard in his 18th Iter.
“As to the Roman camp in the gardens of the village, which Pegge states as so plainly to be seen from the hill above Castleton in the Peak, it may have been either a summer camp for the garrison of Brough, or constructed here as a check to the old works on Mam Tor, which King and others call Roman, but which I should rather suppose British, as we find circumstances exactly similar at Burrinswark in Scotland, and at the foot of the great British camp on Boroughhill near Daventry.
“The camp on Comb's-Moss, four miles from Buxton, which Major Rooke is said to have discovered, may in like manner have been a summer, or an exploratory camp to that station ; but this antiquary was too apt to suppose all the camps he saw, however irregular in their shape, to be Roman, and he has not left us the slightest description of it to form our opinion on the subject."
At the distance of two miles, south-east of Chapel-en-le-Frith, are some works of a military appearance, near the northern extremity of a mountain called Combe's-Moss. On the level of the mountain are two deep trenches, which run parallel to each other to the extent of about two hundred yards. That which lies nearest to the edge of the hill is carried down the declivity by two traverses. This part of the intrenchment is much wider than the other, and is about a quarter of a mile long. We are not able even to form a conjecture respecting the people by whom these intrenchments were formed.
Near the site of the ancient manor house, which stood in Risley park, a large silver dish or salver, of antique basso relievo, and of Roman workmanship, was found in the year 1729. Dr. Stukeley, by whom an account of it was read before the Society of Antiquaries, observes, that it was twenty inches long and fifteen broad, and weighed seven pounds, Upon the face were a variety of figures, representing rural sports, employments and religious rites. It stood upon a square basis or foot; and round the bottom and on the outside, this inscription was rudely cut, with a pointed instrument, in Roman characters of the fourth century;
EXSVPERIVS EPISCOPVS ECCLSIÆ BOGIENSI DEDIT,
intimating, that it was "given by Exsuperius, who was Bishop of Bayeux and Toulouse in the year 405, to the church of Bouges;” near which a battle was fought in 1421, between the Scots, under the Duke d’Alençon, who were quartered in the church, and the English, under Thomas, duke of Clarence, brother to Henry the Fifth, who was slain there. At this time it is supposed to have been brought from the church as a trophy, and given to Dale Abbey.*
The Rev. Henry Peach, of Langley hall, has a good collection of Roman and British coins, and several gentlemen have Roman remains in their possession. Charles Hurt, jun. esq. of Wirksworth has a valuable collection of coins, fossils, &c. Philip Gell, esq. of Hopton has several Roman spear heads, &c. The brass trident, found at Middleton in 1822, and the Roman fibula, found at the same village in 1821, represented in the engravings, are in the rare and valuable collection of antiquities of William Bateman, esq. F. A. S. of Middleton.
Trident. - Half the size of the original.
Fibula.— The size of the original.
There are many Saxon camps in this county: these are easily distinguished from those of the Romans. The Romans always took care to have a good supply of water, and placed their camps near a road, that the men might always be in readiness to march; but the Saxons generally fixed upon high hills, with a steep precipice in front, preferring security to convenience: the former generally chose a square spot of ground, the latter gave themselves no trouble about the form, but had recourse to ditches.
The Saxons brought into this island a kind of fortification which they called a castle: this was placed on a high hill, rendered difficult of approach, and was sometimes surrounded by a moat or ditch: it served as a residence for the chief, and a constant garrison being kept, such places were considered, before the use of gunpowder, a good security to their occupiers. Saxon coins have been found in the county. Mr. Swanwick of Derby has one in a high state of preservation.
Ancient Church Architecture.
Saxon.-Of the ecclesiastical edifices of Derbyshire, the crypt under the parish church of Repton claims the first notice; there being good reason to suppose, that it was a part of the conventual church, destroyed by the Danes, who wintered here at this place in the year 874; at which time Eadburga, daughter of Adulph, king of the East Angles, was abbess of Repton. There have been three entrances to this crypt by flights of steps, one on the north side, now open; and two on the west, which appear to have communicated with the church. It is nearly a square of seventeen feet, the roof being vaulted with circular arches, supported by four columns of less massy proportions than those of the later Saxon architecture, the capitals are very plain and square, the bases round, without any mouldings: the shafts are wreathed in different directions.t
Melbourn church is a very perfect specimen of the massy style of architecture which prevailed in the eleventh century; a plan and sections of this church were published by the Society of
Stukeley's Dissertations. + See plate, given in the Parochial History, under the head of Repton.