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General History of Derbyshire.
It is difficult to separate the history of a county from that of the kingdom to which it belongs, and yet it is the business of the Topographer to select those events which have some bearing, either directly or indirectly, upon the district which he has undertaken to describe. In pursuing this course, he cannot but find matter particularly interesting from the very locality of the circumstances related; and if his narrative should sometimes want those connecting links that give a continuity to the records of national history, yet the facts of which he will have to speak must themselves be closely united with the surrounding scenery, and the agents in them may be frequently traced among the ancestry of the surrounding families. Throughout the following sketch, it has been the endeavour of the Editor to confine himself strictly to the History of Derbyshire, and to speak of the affairs of the kingdom at large, only when they or their immediate consequences may have had some influence on those of this county.
We shall not presume to enter into any of the learned enquiries respecting the aboriginal inhabitants of this county, which, according to the earliest mention of it that can be traced, formed part of a district inhabited by the Coritani; a people, who, wheresoever they had their origin, had possessed themselves of that part of Britain which now comprises the counties of Derby, Nottingham, Lincoln, Rutland, Leicester and Northampton. In the Welsh or ancient British Triades, the Coranied is spoken of as the first of "the three usurping tribes that came into the island of Britain and never departed out of it." They are also said to have come from "the land of Pools," which various authors have understood to mean the coasts of Belgium. These invaders established themselves chiefly about the banks of the Humber, but it is not probable that they were ever completely masters of the mountainous tracks of Derbyshire, where it is manifest that the druidism of the still earlier inhabitants of Britain long continued to flourish. It is true that the same rites were common to the Gauls, Germans and Britains, but the Bards and Druids of Britain were held in the greatest honour, and the youths of the other nations were sent hither for instruction. The Arbor-low or Arbelows, situate in the township of Middleton, and already described in our sixth chapter, is one of the existing monuments of this extraordinary priesthood, who undoubtedly taught the existence of a Supreme Being, intermingling their theology with much of the sciences of astronomy and astrology, while, at the same time, they exercised a powerful theocratic sway over the rude inhabitants of the land. There are similar druidical remains in other parts of Derbyshire, though none in such excellent preservation as that near Middleton. These are supposed by many learned antiquarians, to have been places of council and courts of justice. "Here," says Mr. Pilkington, "the original inhabitants of the county met to deliberate upon the great concerns of the nation, in times of war and peace. Here were likewise their seats of judgment for the trial and punishment of criminals."
The Romans first invaded Britain in the fifty-fifth year before the Christian era, but the inhabitants were far from being subdued until one hundred and thirty-four years afterwards, when the illustrious general Julius Agricola, by his repeated victories, finally established the dominion of Rome in Britain.
When the Romans first divided their conquest into provinces, the county of Derby was comprehended in that which was denominated Britannia Prima; and, subsequently, when a new division was made by Severus, in A. D. 207, the whole district which included the Coritani, formed the eastern part of the province, called Flavia Cæsariensis.
The successes of the Romans facilitated the introduction of Christianity into Britain, and some Monkish writers, of suspicious authority, have asserted that Joseph of Arimathea, preached at Glastonbury, during the first century, with considerable success. At the period of the Dioclesian persecution, which occurred about the year 303, it is certain that Christianity had made very great progress, and that the blood of martyrs flowed copiously in this island. What was the religious condition of this district is not known, but as the Romans had previously discovered the mineral wealth of our northern hills and valleys, and had made it an important article of export, there can be little doubt that many of the people of this neighbourhood had become acquainted with the doctrines of Christianity.
A commercial and friendly intercourse between the Britains and the Gauls had subsisted before the invasion of this island by Julius Cæsar, but the vessels of the natives were built with light timber and covered with hides, and, therefore, incapable of being used for the conveyance of heavy goods. This was speedily remedied under the government of the Romans, and Strabo asserts, that the exports of Britain were, at this time, corn, cattle and hides; gold, silver, tin, lead and iron; a variety of toys made of fish bone, resembling ivory; beads and pearls; slaves made captives by different tribes or by the Romans; and dogs which are said to have been of a remarkable species. We have mentioned the proofs discovered of the lead mines having been worked by the Romans." Coins were made of the British metals, and many of these have been discovered in this county. Two hundred copper coins, principally of the Lower Empire, were discovered in a perforated rock, called Scarthen nick, near Cromford. Several of them are in good preservation, and are now in the possession of Charles Hurt, jun. esq. of Wirksworth. At Lombard's Green, the station near Parwich, about fifty years ago, a miner, searching for lead, found about eighty coins; some of which were as high as the Triumvirate of Octavius, Marc Anthony, and Lepidus, and others as low as the Emperor Aurelius. At Little Chester a variety of coinst have been discovered; as it is probable (as this was the capital of the province Flavia Cæsariensis) that the Romans had a mint in this place. The Romans drew their revenues from taxes on commerce, and on the mines: from duties on legacies and houses; and from a capitation-tax. In order to obtain money by these imposts, the natives were taught the art of coining money, and thus the treasury of Rome was often replenished through the industry of the Britons.
A succession of ages had almost identified the Britons with the Romans, when the latter emperors, pressed by difficulties at home, and weakened by the continual rebellions in the provinces, began to recall their troops from this island. The inhabitants, who had seen their sons and all the effective portion of the population drawn off for distant wars, implored the legions to remain in order to protect them from the incursions of the Picts and Scots. The wall of Severus, which stretched across the island, from the Tyne on the east to Solway-Frith in the west, a distance of eighty miles, though built of solid stone, twelve feet high and eight feet thick, was no longer a sufficient barrier against the irruptions of these barbarians. The Romans departed, and the Britons invited over the Saxons to aid them against their invaders.
It does not enter into our plan to fill up our pages unnecessarily with the history of the various settlements of the Saxons in Britain, and of the formation of their seven kingdoms, which have been called the Heptarchy. The events which converted this portion of the Roman empire into so many Saxon monarchies, under different leaders, are sufficiently known to the general reader; and it is our business to confine our attention to that of Mercia alone, of which the county of Derby constituted one of the most important districts. It may here be proper to intimate, that when the Saxons arrived in this island, they were all pagans and idolaters. It was not until they had been established in their separate states for more than a hundred years that they began to be instructed in the Christian religion. About the year 597, Austin, a Benedictine Monk, was sent by Pope Gregory I. to convert the Saxons of Kent. In 653, the doctrine of the cross was taught in Mercia, by some Monks who had been protected and encouraged by the king of Northumberland. The kingdom of Mercia (says Rapin) was bounded on the north by the Humber, by which it See page 58. + See page 250.
was separated from Northumberland: on the west by the Severn, beyond which were the Britons or Welsh: on the south by the Thames, by which it was separated from the kingdoms of Kent, Sussex and Wessex: and on the east by the kingdoms of Essex and East Anglia. Thus Mercia was guarded on three sides, by three large rivers, that ran into the sea, and served for a boundary to all the other kingdoms. Hence the name of Mercia, from the Saxon word Merc, which signifies a bound, and not, as some fancy, from an imaginary river, named Mercia. The inhabitants of this kingdom are sometimes termed by historians, Mediterranei Angli, or the Midland English; and sometimes South-Humbrians, as being south of the Humber: but the most common name is that of Mercians. The principal cities of Mercia were Lincoln, Nottingham, Warwick, Leicester, Coventry, Lichfield, Northampton, Worcester, Gloucester, Derby, Chester, Shrewsbury, Stafford, Oxford, Bristol.* Of all the kingdoms of the Heptarchy, this was the finest and most considerable. Its length was a hundred and sixty miles, and its greatest breadth about one hundred.† Crida was the first king of Mercia. He was the tenth in descent from Whethelgeat, the third son of Woden. He landed in England in 584, and was crowned in the same or the following year. He was an illustrious prince, and reigned thirty-three years.
After the death of Crida, an interregnum took place. Ethelbert, king of Kent, made himself master of Mercia, which he subsequently restored to Wibba the son of Crida, but reserved to himself some rights of sovereignty.-Wibba died in 615. He left a son called Penda, but Ethelbert placed Ceorl or Ceorlus, the cousin or nephew of Wibba, upon the throne.
On the death of Ethelbert, Ceorl delivered Mercia from the dominion of the Kentish monarchs. He died in 624, and was succeeded by Penda, the heroic son of Wibba. Before we proceed to the events of the reign of Penda, it will be proper to state that Edwin, afterwards king of Deira and Northumberland, espoused the daughter of Ceorl, by whom he had two sons, Offrid and Edfrid. It was probably during the banishment of Edwin from his native dominions, having been expelled by Adelfrid, that he resided at the town of Derby, and that the following incident occurred, as mentioned by the venerable Bede. "While Edwyn lay at this place, Cuichelme, the king of the West Sax. sent a ruffian to kill him, hopinge by the trouble that should have ensued his death, to have formed himself a dore into his kingdome. This fellowe came with a venomed weapon to doe his office, and as he strake at the kinge, a nobleman espyinge it, caste himselfe yn danger to save his prince, and receyvinge the blowe through his bodye, was slaine forthwithe, and the kinge also somewhat hurte. It happened that Pauline, the byshopp, was then present, to whom for revenge the kinge promised that if God would give victorie against Cuichelme, that he would become a Christian man, which afterwards came to pass in th'one and th'other, as Beda reporteth it."§-The principal protector of Edwin while he was a wanderer, was Redowald, king of the East Angles; who was naturally generous, but fearful of irritating the monarch of Northumberland, came to the resolution of delivering up his guest, in order to avoid the consequences of war. The queen of Redowald favoured Edwin, and informed him of the determination of her husband. Edwin, upon this melancholy news from the queen, went and walked in the palace garden during the night, to consider of his affairs. Whilst he was deeply buried in thought, he saw a man, in a very strange dress, coming towards him, who asked him "What kept him thus awake, when all the world was asleep?" the prince answered, "He was surprised to see a stranger so inquisitive about the affairs of one that was unknown to him." -"Think not," replied the stranger, "that I am ignorant of what employs your thoughts: I know all that has befallen you to this hour, and am come to bring you consolation in your misfortunes. What now will you give to him that shall assure you of, one day, mounting the throne, and becoming the most powerful and glorious king that ever reigned in England?”-“If ever
'Rependun, now Repton, and nothing more than a small market town of Derbyshire, was the capital of the kingdom of Mercia and the burial place of its kings. +Rapin, Vol. I. page 181.
The Saxon annals state that he died in 593; and place the date of his arrival in 560.
§ This is thus given by the Rev. R. Simpson, from Lumbarde's Topog. and Histor. Dictionary of England. Southey, in his History of the Church, gives this occurrence a later date.
that happens," answered Edwin, "I will liberally reward all that shall have done me any service, as well as the person that foretells my good fortune."-" He, who is able and willing to raise you to this height of grandeur," continued the stranger, "requires nothing of you but to embrace his doctrine and obey his precepts."—" I should be a wretch indeed,” replied Edwin, "should I refuse to be ruled by so true a friend."-Then the stranger, laying his hand on the prince's head, told him, "Remember what I am now doing, and when the like shall happen to you, think then of performing your promise without delay." Upon these words, the stranger disappeared in an extraordinary manner, to convince Edwin that there was something supernatural in this adventure.* The surprise of Edwin was increased by the arrival of a messenger from the queen, who informed him that Redowald had altered his mind. An army was raised, and the command of the first division was given to Reyner, the son of the king of the East Angles. The impetuosity of this youth greatly hazarded the success of the enterprise, and he was slain at the head of his troops. The other divisions advanced under the command of Redowald and Edwin, and the latter was shortly put in possession of Deïra and Bernicia, the two sovereign provinces of the kingdom of Northumberland. On the death of Redowald, in 624, Edwin openly aspired to the monarchy of the seven kingdoms, and his claims were disputed only by Cinigisil and Cuichelm, the joint monarchs of the West Saxons, who had recently obtained a signal victory over the Welsh ; and battles were fought with various success in the mountainous tracts of Derbyshire, where the Mercian monarch aided the foes of Edwin; who ultimately obtained the object of his ambition, and was acknowledged to be the paramount prince of the Heptarchy. He then exerted an arbitrary power but he testified considerable regard for Eabald, king of Kent, whose sister Ethelburga he desired to make his second wife. This princess united to great personal charms, talents and piety. She was a christian, and it was stipulated that she and her household should be allowed the free exercise of her religion. Edwin declared, that if, upon examination, christianity should be found more worthy of the Deity than the worship of the Pagan gods whom he and his forefathers had revered, he would embrace it. Paulinus, a missionary from Rome, who had previously visited Northumbria, accompanied the queen. The figure of Paulinus brought to the recollection of Edwin, the mysterious visitor who had laid his hand upon his head in the palace garden of Redowald; and one day when Edwin had retired alone, Paulinus entered the room, and placing his hand on the brows of the monarch, he asked him, in a solemn voice, if he remembered that token? Edwin started at this appeal, and fell at the feet of his sacred monitor. "Behold," said Paulinus, raising him up, “thou hast, through God's favour, escaped from thy enemies! Behold, through God's favour, thou hast recovered thy kingdom, and obtained the pre-eminence that was promised thee! Remember now thy own promise and perform it; so that He who hath elevated thee to this temporal kingdom, may deliver thee also from eternal misery, and take thee to live and reign with himself eternally in heaven!" Edwin hesitated no longer: he called his chiefs to council, that if they could be persuaded to think and believe as he did, they might be baptized at the same time. The chiefs consented, and it was proposed by Coifi, the chief priest of Northumbria, that Paulinus should fully explain to them the nature of the new religion they were called upon to receive. Paulinus preached to them, and on the conclusion of his discourse, the chief priest declared that he had long been aware of the vanity of the Pagan mode of worship, and proposed that the altars and temples of their idols, with the sacred enclosures in which they stood, should be cast down and consumed by fire. He, instantly, demanded of the king, a horse and arms. Thus caparisoned he rode forth to the astonishment of the people, because in mounting a horse and bearing arms, he broke at once the ordinances of the sacerdotal office. He rode towards the principal temple, and desecrated it by throwing a lance within the enclosure. His companions, as he exhorted them, set fire to it. The scene of this memorable event was at a short distance east of York, upon the river Derwent, where stood a place sanctified by the pagan priesthood, and then called Godmundingaham, "the home of the protection of the gods." The village which stands upon the site is now called Godmundam. An oratory was straightway erected at
Bede, as quoted by Rapin.
York, upon the spot where now the minster stands, and there the king and his chiefs were baptized on Easter-day, A. D. 627.
Penda, the fourth king of Mercia, had been set aside on the death of his father Wibba, by Ethelbert, the monarch of Kent, who pretended that as the descendant of Hengist, the first Saxon settler in this island, he had a right to regulate the succession in the other states of the Heptarchy. Penda was a turbulent and an aspiring prince, but Eadbald, the successor of Ethelbert, had lost the supremacy claimed and exercised by his father, and Penda succeeded peaceably to the throne of Mercia on the death of his cousin Ceorl. But peace was never long enjoyed by any of the Saxon monarchies, and Penda is represented, in the monkish chronicles, as a restless disturber of his neighbours. One of his earliest expeditions was against Edwin, the king of Northumberland, at whose supremacy over the whole Heptarchy, the Mercian king was indignant. To strengthen himself, he formed an alliance with Cadwaller, king of Wales. The forces of the confederates advanced to Hatfield, in the West-Riding of Yorkshire, where they were met by an army under the command of the Northumbrian monarch, which was inferior in numbers to the invaders, but, being animated by the valour and conduct of Edwin, fought with a determination that for some time rendered the victory doubtful. A fatal incident deprived the king of Northumbria of his prudence. His eldest son, Offrid, while contending at his side was slain by an arrow, and the parent to revenge his death rushed instantly upon the troop of archers, and fell pierced with many wounds. With his life the Northumbrians lost the battle, and their country was left open to the ravages of the conquerors. Penda, and his ally are said to have committed terrible devastations. Edfrid, the son of the ill-fated Edwin, dreading the greater barbarity of the Welsh sovereign, or hoping for mercy from a prince to whom on his mother's side he was closely related, surrendered himself to Penda. At first he was received with apparent kindness, but even his descent from the daughter of Ceorl, the predecessor of Penda, instigated his jealousy, and the young prince was put to death in the presence of Penda himself, by his command.
After remaining some time in Northumberland, Penda returned to Mercia, leaving Cadwaller in possession of the conquered territory. The Welsh chieftain continued long to devastate the country, until at length the Northumbrians, aroused to resistance under the command of Oswald, one of the sons of Adelfrid, the predecessor of Edwin, assembled in great force, and obtained a complete victory over Cadwaller, who was slain in the battle. But, as Oswald, after delivering his country from the barbarous dominion of its invaders, began to aspire to the dignity enjoyed by Edwin as supreme sovereign of the Anglo-Saxons, the rage of Penda was again excited, and he once more turned his arms against Northumbria. Oswald, eager to subdue the pride of the Mercian monarch, and probably to intercept any aid which Penda might expect from his Welsh allies, marched into the western part of Mercia as far as Oswestry, where Penda encountered him with a very superior army and obtained a signal victory. Oswald was slain, and his body being found on the field of battle was inhumanly ordered by his barbarous conqueror to be quartered and hung upon stakes. Penda after his victory entered Northumbria, and besieged Bamborough, but meeting with more resistance than he expected, and hearing of the unsettled state of East Anglia, he suddenly withdrew his troops from the north.
The kingdom of East Anglia contained the two counties, now called Norfolk and Suffolk, with part of Cambridgeshire. After the death of Redowald, who was the most illustrious of the East Anglian sovereigns, the monarchy became unsettled, and Sigebert, the son of Redowald, having been banished by his brother, was converted to Christianity in France. On his accession to the throne, he zealously laboured at the promulgation of the christian doctrine among his subjects, but wearied with their obstinacy and their commotions, he retired into a monastery, leaving the crown to his cousin Egric, who was scarcely crowned when he was attacked by Penda, the powerful king of Mercia. To resist this sanguinary invader an army was speedily assembled, and Sigebert was entreated to quit his retirement and lead it to victory. Under a strong persuasion that he had obtained the favour of heaven, in which he was encouraged by the priests around him, he joined Egric, bearing in his hand a sanctified wand instead of a spear, and clothed in his monastic habit in place of armour. The battle commenced with enthusiasm on the part of the