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named the hill forts and the lowland fastnesses. They are located in the strongest positions, on the top of lofty upland ridges, crags, or rounded heights, in the case of the former; and the latter occupy advantageous sites on escarpments and platforms of the lower grounds, generally flanked by deep ravines and the precipitous banks of the numerous mountain streams in the river basin itself. In one instance, the middle of an inaccessible morass or bog has been chosen near the basalt cliffs at Sewingshields; and at Bridge House, near Wark, another singular site has been selected in the hollow or sinus, shut in on every side, the remains of which are still called the “ Campsteads,” as the oppida, or towns themselves, are commonly termed “camps” by the dalesmen; perhaps from having been used as encampments in the mediæval border forays and conflicts.
One of the finest examples of the hill-fastness of the aboriginal Britons of this district is found on Warden Hill, overlooking the junction of the South with the North Tyne. Its height above the sea, about 600 feet, gives no inadequate idea of the extensive view obtained from this spot, and of its consequent importance as a post of observation. It commands a prospect of many miles of each of the three valleys to the north, west, and east, as they spread out beneath the eye of the spectator like radii from a common centre. The ancient town of Hexham is in the lower foreground. A broad expanse of the undulating uplands on every side can be discerned. No neighbouring eminence commands it. All around the ground slopes gently or abruptly from the apex of the hill on which the fort was built. Its area, including the three concentric ramparts by which it has been defended, is about two acres. Within these outer defences some of the aboriginal dwellings or house-circles may be traced. On the opposite bank of the North Tyne, south of the line of Hadrian's vallum, stands another fortress, built-like most of the settlements which I have noticed in the district-of massive unhewn blocks of the native freestone. If we follow the upland “wastes," the " vastæ" west of the river, which Camden tells us were inhabited in his time, as they were no doubt in the pre-historic period, by a race of nomades, half shepherds and half soldiers, “ militare genus hominum," a few noteworthy forts can be seen, besides two or three situated to the south of the Roman Wall, the principal of which was the strong hill-fastness of Barcombe. At Sewingshields, Lonbrough, the Catlass Ridge, and Roses Bower or Wark's Burn, at Bridge House, the Stone Folds, and Leek Hill, and Hindridge, we meet with these primitive fortifications; vestiges of whose Cyclopean walls, less or
in the pidiers
more perfect, still remain. On the eastern bank of the river, North Tyne, and the banks of the Rede, several of these hill-fastnesses exist; as Errington Hill Head and High Shield Green “Night Folds," wherein, as we may suppose, from this traditional name, the aboriginal herdsmen, like those of Casivellaunus, when threatened by the advance of Cæsar's hostile legions, were wont to secure their flocks and cattle, brought in from these upland pasture grounds (which are still noted in these parts as an excellent "summer feed") and thus protected them from the ravages of wolves and night robbers. A chain of these fortresses again, crown the elevated ridge near Otterburn, one of which was occupied by the Scots in 1538 before the famous battle of Chevy Chase, between Douglas and Percy, was fought.
We may now turn to what I have called the lowland fastnesses of the aboriginal Britons, that is, the towns whose sites are on the declivities of the valley itself.
In former times the margins of the rivers North Tyne and Rede were clothed with abundant vegetation, and many picturesque remains of the primeval woods continue to adorn these valleys in the neighbourhood of Keilder Castle, Heselyside, and Redesmouth. In clearings of the forests the aboriginal inhabitants appear to have had numerous settlements in this district. Near Keilder some very perfect examples may be noticed, where eleven of these towns existed. Amongst these the double fort, popularly known as “ Bran’s Walls” (a name which calls to the mind the famous Celtic chieftain of later days, Bran Galed, or Bran the Hardy) is worthy of inspection. This stronghold occupies the slope of a hill overlooking the sources of the Keilder river, and is situated in the midst of a vast amphitheatre compassed by wild heather-clad mountains, of which Pell Fell, 1,290 feet above the sea level, is the highest. The shape is that of two irregular ellipses, closely connected with projecting works, covering together about an acre of ground. Eleven hut-circles, or dwellings, can be plainly traced within, their average diameter being about twenty-four feet. The Bell's Hunkin fort, in the North Tyne Valley, about one mile west from Keilder Castle, is also in excellent preservation. It occupies a strong defensive position on the brow of a deep ravine, the site being covered with a natural growth of the birch and alder, and mountain ash. A vallum, constructed of large stones, surrounds it, but there is no fosse. The vallum rises in some places to the height of seven feet, and within it I noticed five circular foundations of primitive dwellings, measuring five, six, seven, ten, and eleven paces VOL. I.-NO. III.
across, respectively. This stronghold is erroneously spoken of by the dalesmen as a Druidical circle or temple, of which none now exist in the valley, though Wallis mentions one as having stood near Nunwick, and tradition points to another, where a solitary pillar of basalt stands near the village of Barrasford, to which a wild legend, like the Breton folklore, representing the “Palet de Gargantua," or Gargantua's quoit, is attached. A group of aboriginal fortified towns, equally numerous, exists in the vicinity of Birtley, at the angle formed by the confluence of the North Tyne and Rede. In an area of about twenty square miles I have noticed nearly as many ancient forts, situate on the declivity of the valleys west of the watershed of the Wansbeck river and the line of the Watling Street. Within a radius of two miles from Birtley six aboriginal settlements occur. The chief of these stands on a wedge-like platform, in the Countess Park Woods, strongly defended by two concurrent ravines. The site covers, including the outer ramparts and fosse, more than three acres. It is traditionally the site of a great battle in the “ troublesome times," which, as this popular term implies, have left an indefaceable memory behind them. This fastness is well worthy of inspection. It is the largest and one of the most perfect illustrations of this class of these primitive works to be found in Northumberland. One of the circular huts, perhaps the residence of the chief, is of extraordinary dimensions, being forty-six feet in diameter. The foundations of the inner and outer ramparts—which are several feet high in some places—and of the dwellings within, are plainly visible. In shape it is irregularly rhomboidal—that is four sides in straight lines, well rounded off at each corner. This and the neighbouring strongholds in the valleybasin would originally correspond very closely to Strabo's description, who informs us that “the woods of the Britons are their cities, for when they have enclosed a large circuit with felled trees, they build within it houses for themselves, and hovels for their cattle." This is analogous to the practice of Englishmen of the present day, who find themselves obliged to inhabit the backwoods of Canada, or the bush of the great Australian continent. The materials used in the construction of the lowland fastnesses, as well as of the hill fortresses, so far as I have noticed, are the native freestone. Only in one instance of a series of towns on the southern slope of basalt crags at Gunner. ton, has the whinstone been used. Both are built up into Cyclopean walls of unhewn but massive stones. I have observed in several sites traces of the action of fire, the white freestone having become reddened, a proof of a long occupation by the aborigines. The hutcircles seldom vary in form, generally retaining the round shape of the primitive moveable tents of the nomadic races, of which these are continuations and reminiscences. Probably the foundations only were of stone, and the walls, ten or twelve feet high, with conical roofs, were of wattle work, roughly stuccoed perhaps on the outside, and with the skins of wild beasts, the spoils of hunting, hung within. Bede describes such a dwelling of the Britons of the seventh century, when he tells a story (Eccles. His. chap. 10, p. 125) of a pilgrim returning from King Oswald's grave at Maserfield, who being benighted seeks hospitality therein. The house was of wattle work chiefly; and he tells us that, after much feasting, some spark ignited the roof, where the only opening for the admission of light or the egress of smoke was situated. The British maidens were adepts at twining with their slender fingers the withies that grew by the margin of the streams and ponds into such wattle work. Their basgeds, whence our word basket, were known and valued even in the Imperial city of Rome. Circular and square huts, such as existed in Gaul, are represented on the Antonine Column. The aborigines of the North Tynedale district and the west of Northumberland were evidently somewhat above the condition of savages. They did not wholly depend for subsistence on the casual produce of the chase. At three different places a series of terrace-lines or platforms, raised one above the other, still remain in the vicinity of the ancient towns. Near Falstone, and at Birtley, they can be plainly seen. In the latter district the forts are numerous, two declivities are, as it were, furrowed by these lines of primitive culture. One, near to the Countess Park “ camp," consists of eight terraces. But the largest is on the slopes of the elevated ground above the Cary House fort. The latter is in the form of two sides of a parallelogram, which, if defined on the other sides, would enclose an area of ten or twelve acres. Six terraces face north-west, running about four hundred and fifty yards, and meet the other lines, which are about half this length. Each terrace varies in height and breadth, from ten yards to a few feet broad, and in some places they are ten feet high. Here the corn, to supply the tribe with a store for present or future use, was grown. The querns, or hand-mills, were used to prepare it, of which many specimens have been found of granite and other hard materials, on different sites. Within the memory of very aged men these handmills were still used.
Another noteworthy feature of the district consists in the immense heaps of slag or scoriæ of iron, which I have met with on the slopes
of the vale of the North Tyne. Many hundreds of tons of this refuse from ancient ironstone smelting may be seen in a woodland glade near Birtley, and close to two primitive forts and the last named range of terrace-lines. They are still called the “ Cinder Kiln Hills.”
Iron exists in abundance almost at the surface of the ground. This is proved by the number of chalybeate springs, and the fact that the smaller drainage tiles are soon rendered useless by the speedy incrustation of oxide of iron that gathers on the inner surface, from the water which holds the iron in solution. From these workings, no doubt, the long, pointless swords of the ancient inhabitants were derived, though their manufacture was rude enough, from the excessive waste evident in the process. Iron spear heads have been found on the sites of some of the forts in the Keilder district. But the flint arrow and spear heads, of which a manufactory, as I consider it to have been, was noticed in removing, for purposes of tillage, the stones of a fort near Wark village, seem to have been the usual weapons previous to the Roman-Celtic period. A copper battle-axe, with beautiful scorings, was discovered, however, last year near Corbridge.
The last class of aboriginal remains to be noticed consist of the crugan, barrows or burial mounds. Several mounds of interment have existed either within or at the chief entrance of forts, which are, as usual, facing the east, the cardinal point of the heavens to many primitive races, as the north is to us. Thus at Warden Hill, outside the entrance, is a large tumulus; and in the Carey House fort, near Birtley, a kistvaen, or four upright slabs in the shape of a chest, containing a scored vase, with the ashes of some chieftain whose body had been burnt, was found by some men draining the site a few years since, who at first fancied the vessel contained hidden treasure. On the level platform above the High Shields Green “night folds": are numerous mounds in the midst of the traces of ancient culture, evidently of later date than the mounds themselves. Under each of these, tradition asserts that a warrior sleeps. The largest is called Dan's Cairn, a reminiscence, perhaps, of the terrible era of the Danish incursions into Northumbria. But the most remarkable of these tumuli exists near Gunnerton, in the neighbourhood of the “ Camp Hill," where a fort has stood, noticed by Mr. MacLauchlan. The barrow itself has not been noticed or described. It is a conical mound, thirty feet high, surrounded by a deep fosse and vallum, with covered way leading to the stream on whose precipitous banks it stands. The circumference is about one hundred paces. A wild legend, like those of the Scandinavian Sagas, is connected with it of