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crooks. Farmer's wife and squire's daughter travelled to church or to the distant market on a pillion. “A frivolous excuse, indeed, my friends," said the vicar of a moorland parish, when, commenting on the parable of the supper, and on the excuses of those invited, he arrived at that of the man who had married a wife," a frivolous excuse indeed. Why he might have brought her behind him on a pillion."
The Forest of Dartmoor, with the adjoining wastes, contains about 130,000 acres; and each of its very irregular sides forms a distinct line, rising above the cultivated districts, for a distance of between fifteen and twenty miles. All within is a mass of granite crested “tors," as the hills are here called (the word is British, signifying a rocky summit); of heathery moorland, rising into long, rounded “ backs” and ridges, and often strewn with blocks of splintered rock; of low-lying, black peat bogs, or “lakes," as they are sometimes called, over which the cotton grass flutters, and which are made specially “ eerie” by the shrill cries of peewits and curlews, that love to haunt such kelpie's land; and of numberless "waters” and rivers (all the Devonshire rivers, except the Exe and its tributaries, have their springs on Dartmoor, and flow north and south from the main watershed near Cawsand)—“troutful streams," as old Drayton calls them, dashing onward among great shafts of granite, and through glens and passes of thoroughly Highland character. Dartmoor is now pierced by roads in at least four directions; but it is easy to see how strong a natural fastness it must have been, and how easily its main approaches might have been defended, when such means of access were either entirely unprovided or were no better than the rough cattle track, half path, half stream bed, which every here and there climbs upward to the moors. Accordingly on the moor itself there is no trace of an ancient camp; and (with one exception) none of any strongly protected settlement: the whole forest was one great strong. hold; but all round, close on its borders, and exactly at those places where the pass into the highland is most easy or most natural, the hills are crowned with very strong camps and “castles,” the form and construction of which show at once that although they may
have been turned to account by Roman occupants, they were the work of a ruder people. Such are the very remarkable camps on either side of the Teign, below Drewsteignton, commanding a narrow gorge
of the hills through which the river winds under hanging oak copses and “clatters” of grey rock. It was here, amid the wildest and most picturesque scenery, that, as Mr. Merivale inclines to think, the Britons of Deufneynt made their last stand against the legions
of Rome under Vespasian and Titus ; and, however that may be (it must be confessed that the camps themselves are voiceless in the
(1) “Ilistory of Rome under the Empire,” vol. vi.
matter), it is clear that this pass of the river was guarded with extreme care and jealousy. Both against Rome, and later against Saxon invaders, Dartmoor was strongly defended, not only as a vast “dinas,” to use the old British word for a fortified camp, up to which the cattle might be driven from the low country in time of danger, but also as the great mining district from which tin in great quantities was despatched to the emporium at Caer IscExeter. For it is certain that the tin of the Devonshire moorlands was worked at a very early period; and coins of great antiquityGreek of Marseilles, Syracuse, and Alexandria—of Zeugma, and other colonies on the Tigris and Euphrates—found at great depths and in considerable numbers within the walls of the ancient Isca, show that merchants must have found their way into the Exe long before the appearance of the first Roman soldiers. The long deep trenches with which the sides of many of the Dartmoor hills are scored, called “gulphs” or “goyles” (the word seems to be the
( same as the north country “gill ”), by the moormen, are remains of very ancient stream works, in which the more superficial ore was carefully washed and collected. Always in close connection with these works are the foundations of circular huts, grouped for the most part in large clusters or “ villages,” overgrown with fern and heather, but far more distinct and traceable than the British pits of the Yorkshire moors or the hut circles of Cheviot, since they are formed by blocks of granite piled together, and have often an upright entrance post still remaining, and a hollow sunk for a central hearth. Of all these villages (and they are found in every part of the moor, generally near water) the most remarkable is Grimspound, lying under Hooknor Tor, and close to the line of an ancient boundary which once ran completely across Dartmoor, and divided it, in moorman's phrase, into the “north” and “south” country. Grimspound is enclosed by a nearly circular wall of rough granite, about ten feet thick, but nowhere higher than six feet at present. Within the area are twenty-five hut circles. A stream of water runs through it; and it evidently formed a defensive position of considerable strength. Seen from the hill which commands it-(no objection to the strength of its position, as Sir Gardner Wilkinson has pointed out; —the city of Mycenæ is overlooked just as completely)—with the pale lights chasing each other along the desolate moorland, seamed and scarred by old stream works and by black peat haggs, Grimspound has a certain “eerie " look, which may account for its appropriation by “ Grima” one of the Saxon names for the evil one-if this is indeed its true etymology. A very old Dartmoor tradition asserts that the stone monuments of all descriptions were raised here when
(1) Sir G. Wilkinson's excellent papers on the British remains on Dartmoor will be found in the Journal of the Archæological Association, vol. xviii. ]
the hills were infested by winged serpents and the valleys by wolves. Such a tradition, like the name of Grimspound, is almost sufficient to prove that these remains were as strange to the first Saxon settlers as they are to us. That the hut foundations belong to a very early period is also clear from the sepulchral remains found attached to them, and evidently of the same date. Circles of upright stones, containing “kistvaens,” or rude stone coffins, and long parallel rows of stones, also opening at intervals into circles, or terminating in them, are the most remarkable of these. The latter are especially curious; since, although they resemble on a small scale the extraordinary monument at Carnac in Brittany, they have really no exact parallels in England or in Wales. They are probably sepulchral; but sacred rites and ceremonies may not impossibly have been connected with them. Less certainly of religious character are the rock basins—deep, large, and regularly shaped hollows in the granite which are found on the highest points of many of the tors. The largest of these is on Kestor rock—“ a mortal place for ravens," say its neighbours)—so deep and wide, that when full of rain water it was dangerous to the “ moorning” sheep, and was accordingly, as an old moorman told Mr. Ormerod, filled with bog moss about one hundred years ago. The rock basins on most of the tors have been carefully examined by Mr. Ormerod,' an excellent geologist, who thinks that in all cases they have resulted from the natural disintegration of the stone. Not so Sir Gardner Wilkinson, who looks on many as artificial, and produces numerous examples of their occurrence elsewhere, and in other rocks than granite. There is one within the British fort of Old Berwick, in Northumberland, called the "bloody trough," from a tradition that human sacrifices were made over it by the Druids. This is in sandstone. So called “ Druidical ” theories have of course been brought to bear on the rock basins of Dartmoor; and it has been convincingly shown, as elicited from the inner consciousness of many savans,
pure water required for the lustrations of the old British priests was collected by them in these granite troughs.
No iron tool or weapon has as yet been found in any of the Dartmoor tombs,—a proof apparently of their great antiquity; and no remains whatever were found beneath the great cromlech at Drewsteignton—the only cromlech in Devonshire-when the ground was examined in 1862. Bronze celts and palstaves have been discovered from time to time on the moor and its borders. Flint weapons, such as are so frequent on the Yorkshire moors, are very rare on Dart
The tin first worked by these early settlers on Dartmoor continued for many ages a source of great profit to the Crown and the Dukes
(1) See his paper in the Journal of the Geological Soc., Feb. 1859.
of Cornwall. Dartmoor, with its royalties, was granted by Henry III. to his brother Richard, already Earl of Cornwall. The tin from the Dartmoor mines at this time (A.D. 1238) exceeded in quantity that produced by the whole of Cornwall ; and much of the enormous wealth which Richard afterwards (1257) expended in procuring for himself the barren honour of King of the Romans, was the "gathered store" from these Devonshire mines. Jews, it is said, were farmers of the mines here at an early period, as they no doubt were in Cornwall. It is more certain that the abbots of Tavistock, whose great Benedictine house rose immediately under the heights of Dartmoor, were for some time lessees of the tin works; looking forward, perhaps, like Sir Epicure Mammon in Jonson's play
“To buy up Devonshire and Cornwall
And make them perfect Indies,” since they are traditionally said to have been no strangers to the mysteries of the Green Dragon or the Tree of Hermes. But the farmers of the mines, whoever they may have been, were bound by the very ancient laws and customs of the Stannaries, as declared by the “Stannators ” of Devon, who met at first, conjointly with those of Cornwall, on the summit of Hengstone down beyond the Tamar, but, after the reign of Edward I., on Crockern Tor on Dartmoor, where their rude granite seats remained until the beginning of the present century. There, " in the face of the sun and in the eye of day," they feared, says Westcote, “ no hellish malice of undermining gunpowder moles ; ” but they did come at last to fear the rough mountain wind and storm; and the Court was accordingly removed to the Castle of Lidford. The customs declared in these Stannary "parliaments were no doubt of extreme antiquity and of proportionate rudeness. Although the tinners are said to have had no power in cases which touched “life or limb,” they punished an adulterator of the purified metal by pouring three spoonfuls of melted tin down his throat.
But Dartmoor is a royal forest ; and whilst the tinners were free to search for their metal within its bounds, woe to them if they touched the king's deer, or hunted wolf or wild cat over its heaths without license from keeper and verdurer. A forest, however (with permission of M. le Baron Meurice, who, misled by the name, proposed to cut gabions and fascines for his siege of Plymouth from the " forêt de Dartmoor”) does not necessarily imply the presence of trees. It was in early times, as it still is in the Highlands of Scotland, the general title for any great wild tract where the “ beasts of the chase” might wander free ; which should be protected by the stern forest laws; and which, as Manwood tells us, “was not for meane men of meane calling or condition, but onlie for kings and great worthie parsonages.” Such was Dartmoor: and as such the
foresta,” together with Lidford Castle, which was regarded as its head (it is sometimes called the “Castle of Dartmoor :” the whole of the forest is in the parish of Lidford), was granted by the Crown to such “great worthie parsonages” as it delighted to honour; until, in the reign of Edward III., it was attached indissolubly to the Duchy of Cornwall. The “Forest” has its own boundaries, recognised from time to time by due perambulation : but, with its purlieus, it extends over all the hill country of Dartmoor. Except Wishman's Wood, overhanging the stream of the East Dart, a patch of dwarfed and stunted oaks, of unknown age, spreading their gnarled, mosshung branches over blocks of splintered granite, and named, in all probability, from Woden, the master of the “wish ” hounds, there is no "vert” within the forest of Dartmoor; but in the long deep hollows, lined with fern and heather, and by the river sides among beds of tall rushes and bog myrtle, there is excellent“ lying” for red deer; and in many an old manor house on the borders of the moor—most of all, “if they have writ their annals true,” in the cloisters of Benedictine and Cistercian—there must have been frequent occasion for calling to mind the old forest rhyme
“Non est inquirendum unde venit venison,
Nam si forte furtum sit, sola fides sufficit."
The red deer has been extinct on Dartmoor for nearly a century. It is now confined, in the West and (almost in England, feræ naturæ), to the far less picturesque hills and valleys of Exmoor.
Offenders against the forest law, and those convicted by judgment of the stannators, were imprisoned in Lidford Castle,-at present a square
black shell, in which Jeffries, says tradition, sat as judge for the last time, and now haunts the ruin in the appropriate shape of a black pig. It is to the summary punishments of both forest and stannary law that we owe the ill repute of Lidford justice, equivalent, as it seems to have been held, to “ Jeddart justice,” beyond the Tweed, or to “Lynch law,” in America. The earliest known reference to Lidford law occurs in a contemporary poem on the deposition of Richard II., written, most probably, by a monk of Bristol. 6 Now by the lawe of Lydfford,” exclaims the poet, who is discoursing on the marvellous dress of the young lords
“ Thilke lewde ladde ougte evyll to thryve
That hangeth on his hippis more than he wynneth.” It is clear that the saying was then well known; and it was not less so in the days of James I., when William Browne, the author of “Britannia's Pastorals," visited Lidford, and commemorated his visit in verse :