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1087: What England was like at the Conqueror's death?

 

Episode two discusses what England looked like more than 900 years ago.   Some flowers, trees, wild life we take for granted did not exist in Britain.   Medicine was appalling and a small cut in your straw house could easily kill you because infection wasn't understood.   Hardly anyone lived beyond the age of 40 and most probably didn't know how old they were.   More than half of all born children were dead before they were 10.

 

Written and presented by Robert Smith, Chairman of the Manorial Society of Great Britain - www.msgb.co.uk

 

 

 

Credits:

 

Written and presented by

Robert Smith

 

Voice over

Barney Powell

Rebecca Cooper

 

Music production &

Original music

Simon Roberts

(Lyric media group)

 

Original film footage

Ian Phillips

 

Picture editor

Roberto Ekholm

 

Asst picture editor

Guilfre Jordan

 

Associate Producer

Ian Phillips

 

Producer

Antonio Parente

 

Picture sources:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candle

 

Bartolomé Bermejo, Christ Leading the Patriarchs to Paradise, c. 1480. In this depiction of the Harrowing of Hell, Methuselah is portrayed as leading the procession of the righteous behind Christ, along with Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, and Adam and Eve - Institute of Hispanic Art, Barcelona: http://www.kfki.hu/~arthp/html/b/bermejo/index.html

 

The Anno Domini calendar of Dionysius Exiguus, copy made c 1126

 

A statue of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, The Glypotek, Copenhagen. Wiki

 

Contemplation - Source unknown:  http://rcspiritualdirection.com/

 

The Capitoline She-Wolf with the boys Romulus and Remus; Museo Nuovo in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romulus_and_Remus

 

Augustus of Prima Porta, statue of the Emperor Augustus in Museo Chiaramonti, Vatican, Rome.  Photograph: Original by Andreas Wahra, new version by Till Niermann. Wiki.

 

Fountains Abbey  Looking east along the Skell to the Guest Houses (left) and Brothers' Infirmary (behind the bridge).

 

Errol  Flynn.

 

Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon (1675-1755), author of one of the finest memoirs written, about his time at Versailles from c 1690 to his withdrawal from Court in 1724 -  http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/actualites/celebrations2005/saintsimon.htm   Wiki.

 

Doktor Schnabel von Rom ('Dr Beak from Rome') engraving, Rome 1656; Physician's attire for protection from bubonic plague or Black Death, endemic in Europe until well into the 18th century - from the book, History of Medicine, by Paul Fuerst

 

Statue of William the Conqueror on horseback, Falaise, Normandy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_the_Conqueror

 

A page from Domesday Book (Bedfordshire), National Archives, Kew, England:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Domesday_Book_Bedfordshire.djvu

 

Turdus merula, a male common blackbird in Manchester, England; there were no blackbirds in England in 1086, Wiki

 

Delphinium flower, Latina: Delphinium officinale - Wiki

 

Laburnum, photo by Wiki User: Jeff Delonge, France, May 2004 - Wiki

 

There was no lavender in England before the Normans: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavandula

 

Muhammad ibn Zakariya, lived 854-925, one of the most important medieval physicians; b Teheran, lived Baghdad; wrote more than 200 books on chemistry, medicine, and philosophy, and on numerous diseases and ailments, inc smallpox, blindness, and chicken pox when the the Church in the West thought more of the Afterlife than the Here and Now; eventually made an enormous impression on Western medicine:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_ibn_Zakariya_al-Razi

 

St Benedict, c480-550, founded Monte Cassino, whose Rule remains the basis of Western monasticism - Franz Hals Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_Saint_Benedict

 

Contemplation. Source unknown: http://rcspiritualdirection.com/

 

Hermits' cave at Dale Abbey, Derbyshire, England - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hermits_Cave_(The_Hermitage),_Hermits_Wood,_Dale_Abbey,_Derbyshire_-_East_Midlands_of_England.jpg

 

12th century Hermitage St Eugène dans le Bois, Ardèche, France: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hermitage-rear.jpg

 

The Plague of Ashod, Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), French, 1630, oil on canvas, 148 x 198 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/file:plague_in_ashod.jpg

 

Representation of St Sebastian interceding to save victims of the plague: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Josse_Lieferinxe_-_Saint_Sebastian_Interceding_for_the_Plague_Stricken_-_Walters_371995.jpg

 

Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon - details above

 

A surgeon making short work of a limb amputation.   Speed was of the essence so that a catheta could be applied, or the patient would die of a massive haemorrhage or the shock of pain.   Surgical instruments were seldom cleaned after use as infection was unknown.   King Louis XIV (r 1742-1715) was successfully relieved of an anal fistula (Saint Simon).   There were no anaesthetics:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hans_von_Gersdorff_-_amputation.jpg

 

Kitchen of a wealthy medieval household, picture known as The Merry Farmer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_cuisine#mediaviewer/File:9-alimenti,_formaggi,Taccuino_Sanitatis,_Casanatense_4182.jpg

 

The sack of Rome by Alaric and his Goths:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sack_of_Rome_(410)#mediaviewer/File:Eroberung_roms_410.jpg

 

Bartolomé Bermejo, Christ Leading the Patriarchs to Paradise, details given above

 

Statue of King Alfred at Winchester, capital of his kingdom of Wessex:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great

 

Children until well into the 17th century were dressed like adults so the bride on the left looks older than she was; her groom is the bearded man on the right:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_marriage

 

An Acme camera, made by Watson of London in 1889 until about 1940:  http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Acme

 

Queen Victoria meets Shah Zadah Nasrullah Khan of Afghanistan, 1895; from about this period newspapers and magazines were able to print pictures cheaply, using process blocks, London Illustrated News: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Illustrated_London_News_-_June_1_1895_-_Queen_Victoria_meets_Shahzada_Nasrullah_Khan.jpg

 

 

An early BBC Television interview (1946) with the actress Elizabeth Scott; viewers could now hear people who were not reading from a script.   Thirteen years later, an interview, led by the late, redoubtable Robin Day, on ITV, with the Japanese Industry Minister ushered in the end of deference to persons in authority by television reporters.   The Minister complained to the Macmillan government of Britain, but the probing, not always polite, interview had come to stay in democracies:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picture_Page

 

Queen Elizabeth I (r 1558-1603) established at the end of her reign the Poor Law, a rudimentary system of relief in England, later Britain, that lasted until the Attlee government of 1945-51 which introduced the Welfare State.   Referring to the caption above, no one was ever foolish enough to criticize Queen Elizabeth, whose idea of criticism was probably unqualified praise.  Portrait at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, painter unknown:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_I_of_England

 

Voting in the mid-18th century was very limited and wide open to corruption, as suggested in this painting by William Hogarth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/secret_ballot

 

A polling station in the City of New York by secret ballot; the secret ballot was introduced in Britain in 1872 and in most Western (limited) democracies about this time; of course, women were excluded - in Britain until 1918 (when they had to be 30 years old) becoming equal with men (age 21) in 1928; in France, women did not get the vote until 1947; and in certain cantons of Switzerland, they did not get the vote until the 1990s: link immediately as above

 

Voters in Hackney, London, during the general election of May 2010:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Voting_in_Hackney.jpg

 

An early car assembly line:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assembly_line/mediaviewer/File:A-line1913.jpg

 

Female lamp workers clocking on at the Duralite factory in Spennymoor, Co Durham, England.  ©2000 Credit:Topham Picturepoint

 

The Anno Domini calendar of Dionysius Exiguus, details above

 

Romulus and Remus, legendary founders of Rome: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romulus_and_Remus

 

Julius Caesar after whom July is named:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1st_century_BC

 

Augustus of Prima Porta, statue of the Emperor Augustus, details above

 

Church bells still summon the religious in many countries: the belfry at St Peter's. Howden, East Riding, Yorks, England:  http://www.cccbr.org.uk

 

Sundial:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sundial_2r.jpg

 

So long as a candle is kept out of the draft, numbers still denote the hours: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Candle-calendar.jpg

 

What Anglo-Saxon dress might have looked like: http://www.wikigallery.org/wiki/painting_204057/Albert-Kretschmer/Anglo-Saxon-Dress

 

St Augustine of Hippo (AD354-430), the founder of Church (Canon) Law:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo

 

Common Era and Before Common Era:  http://billcreasy.com/2013/04/01/whats-with-b-c-b-c-e/

 

Anno Domini BC/AD – graphic by Antonio Parente

 

St Bede, until his recent canonization known as the Venerable Bede, 'invented' the dating system BC (Before Christ), which is open-ended into the past.   It was not until James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh (1581-1656), calculated that the Creation occurred in 4004BC that BC became finite.   This idea did not long survive Charles Darwin's Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871) (and earlier writers from the 18th century) who realized that the world was many millions (in fact, billions) of years old:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bede

 

BCE / CE – Definition

 

Jesus Christ and Anno Domini: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_Jesus

 

Wood Stanway, Gloucestershire - a village where the Open Field System has been preserved in England.   This system is ancient and crops rotated, with one field always fallow (unused to regain its 'strength') each year; by the 18th century in England, led by reforming landowners, such as Lord Townshend, in Norfolk, the third field was planted with legumes, such as turnips and other root vegetables; and clover, which could be used for silage - these plants used the fallow field, but also enriched the soil.  'Fallowfield' is a place name throughout England and is - perhaps of all unexpected places - an inner suburb of Manchester.   Place names can tell us much about what activities went before.   Lord Townshend, after a successful career in government, repaired to his estate at Rainham (where the family still live), and managed his farms in this way and wrote about it, publicizing this much more efficient system of farming; he was known as 'Turnip Townshend' as he still is to historians, and these innovations led in Britain to what is known as the Agricultural Revolution.   Even King George III took it up on the Crown Estates and is known as 'Farmer George':  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_field_system

 

A modern representation of Anglo-Saxon ploughmen: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anglo-Saxon_ploughmen.png

 

Some Anglo-Saxon dress, details above

 

Saxon, Angle, and Jutish kings or chieftains gave rings to their leading supporters, usually made of some precious metal, which were worn on the bicept as a signal mark of favour; this silver ring was found in the River Thames, London:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BLW_Silver_Anglo-Saxon_ring.jpg

 

A gold belt-buckle found at the 7th century hoard in Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, in 1939.   This was manufactured in England - how 'dark' were the so-called Dark Ages?   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niello

 

A goat: Breeding animals for meat and cross-fertilising corn for  higher production was surely discovered very slowly, and inadvertently, over centuries, and Anglo-Saxon animals were scrawny and ears of corn thin compared with today.   It was not until the 18th century that early scientific method came to bear in Europe, especially in Britain, see Wood Stanway caption five paragraphs above: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goat

 

John Macadam (1756-1836) invented tarmac, the use of broken stones bound together in heated asphalt or tar to create a mettled road surface: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Macadam.jpg

 

Drawing of London Bridge from a 1682 London Map, Surveyed by William Morgan, d. 1690; first built in the reign of King John (1199-1216) and demolished, with its shops and houses, in 1755.   The reason Britain drives on the left is because the old bridge became so congested with traffic that a Lord Mayor of London ordered all traffic to use the left side of the bridge north and south.   It stuck.  Besides Britain, most of its former imperial possessions, except Canada, drive on the left, together with Japan and Thailand.   Sweden switched from left to right in the 1970s.   French railways used to travel on the left from the reign of Emperor Napoleon III (r 1852-70) because the British built most French railways.   Damage caused to northern France by the Royal and US Air Forces, in preparation for D-Day (6 June 1944), devastated French tracks and marshalling yards, and French railways were rebuilt and locomotives now drive on the right.   Drawing published by the London Topographical Society, 1904: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/file:London-bridge-1682.jpg

 

Modern London Bridge from the South bank of the River Thames. Photographer Oyxman

 

One of Britain many remaining fords:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_(crossing)

 

Burton Agnes Manor House, probably built on the site of earlier houses, including a Anglo-Saxon hall:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burton_Agnes_Manor_House

 

The Time Team logo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_Team

 

A re-creation of an Anglo-Saxon village at West Stow, about five miles north-west of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk - well worth a visit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Stow_Anglo-Saxon_village

 

Computer reconstruction of the Hall and other wooden buildings at Yeavering, Northumberland, one of the palaces of the Kings of Northumbria: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeavering

 

Peterborough Cathedral as it is today in the East Midlands of England.   It may have been partly a stone building from its beginning: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Peterborough_Cathedral_March_2010.jpg

 

Parts of the crypt at Durham Cathedral are of stone, and the mortal remains of St Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, finally came to rest here in 995.   The present cathedral was built in the Norman age: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_architecture

 

Fountains Abbey, in North Yorkshire © Sacred Destinations, http://www.sacred-destinations.com

 

Drawing of London Bridge from a 1682, details above

 

John Macadam, details above

 

Romulus and Remus: silver didrachm (6.44g). c269-266 BC, anonymous (Rome).  Reverse: Wolf & Twins, ROMANO in Exergue; Crawford 20/1

 

Fountains Abbey Inside the east guest house, looking north; © Sacred Destinations http://www.sacred-destinations.com

 

 

Episode transcript:

 

We continue the scene-setting in this Second Episode of At the Edge of the World.

 

Last week, we noted that, in 1086, England's first Norman king, William the Conqueror - who had reigned twenty years since his victory at the Battle of Hastings - had made a survey of his kingdom of England, called Domesday Book, which was intended to tell him everything about his people - their number, wealth, agriculture, business, name of the lord of the manor - down to the smallest village, the last pig, the last eel.  

We also discovered from the work of Mrs Jane Cox at the National Archives, that some species of flora and fauna, that we take for granted, were absent in Norman England.  

 

Here are some more absentees: there were no blackbirds, delphiniums, marigolds, laburnum - those gorgeous, voluptuous effulgences of yellow flowers that tell us that spring has really arrived.   There was no lavender or rosemary.  

Tobacco and drugs, including recreational drugs, like marijuana and cocaine, were not available in Europe until the sixteenth century.   There was alcohol.

 

There was little conception of medicine and medical practice after the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West in the fifth century AD, and the revival of Graeco-Roman medical knowledge by the Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain from the eighth century

was either unknown or ignored in Western Europe, even thought wrong by some men in the Church who saw physical afflications as divine punishment or as a test of their faith.  

 

Indeed, the whole of earthly life was a trial in preparation for the Afterlife, and the brickbats of the Here and Now were to be borne with equanimity.  

Priests, monks, and nuns sometimes wore hair shirts, undertook self-flagellation, or became hermits living 'in the wild' on acorns, by one account, their lives given to contemplation, prayer, and the mortiftion of the flesh.  

Some hermits came together in groups, from which a religious foundation might evolve, and this is where we get the word 'hermitage.'  

 

I wonder whether the folk who today own, or stay in, hotels and restaurants called the 'Something Hermitage' - a swanky sort of name - know just what they are harking back to?  

Perhaps they do: teasmaids in the bedroom and amateur, inattentive, acne-faced waiters in the dining-room are the less attractive modern equivalents of the hermit's cauldron of long-simmered soup made from root vegetables he or she had collected.

 

People knew that diseases, especially diseases like plague, spread, but they had little idea of how to deal with it other than to try to keep out of an area and burn the bodies after death.  

There was no conception of infection from water, unless it smelt and looked particularly unpleasant; or from cuts: really quite small cuts could, and usually did, kill you.  

 

The idea of boiling water or sterilizing knives in scalding water was only realized in the early nineteenth century.   In his Memoires, the Duc de Saint Simon, writing about the Court of Louis XIV at Versailles, that centre of Western civility in the later seventeenth century, mentions that surgeons cleaned their instruments once a month.   We might wonder why they bothered at all.

 

It is very hard to know what life expectancy was in Britain in these centuries.   The 'common people' - as the masses were routinely described by chroniclers - were of no interest other than as the number of men in an army, say, or the bodies of the dead when a city was sacked, or stricken with plague.  

The Bible speaks of 'three-score years and ten,' but this must have seemed as mythical as the 969 years ascribed to Methuselah in the Book of Genesis.   We know a bit more about the age of kings and clergymen, but not much.  

 

Those who survived battle or the treatment of their wounds by doctors might reach fifty, like King Alfred the Great.   Some high clergy made it to seventy - not many.  

Consequently, people married much earlier and, though there was no formal age of consent, twelve seems to have been the age at which a marriage might be consumated, though it could be contracted much earlier.  

Indeed, the age of consent set at sixteen in Britain was not, I think, established by law until 1885.   Knowledge about the mass of the people is not gathered until the later eighteenth century.   This intensified in the West as the political events of the century, and its successor the twentieth century, unfolded.  

 

In the early years, among the elite, a growing knowledge of the nameless masses was due to the work of private individuals and charitable organizations, mostly based on religious tenets.  

Opposition to the lucrative slave trade also emerged at this time.   The camera and then the newsreel made an immediate impact.   Newspapers in Britain started printing pictures in the 1890s and television made the greatest impression of all after the Second World War.  

 

There was also a growing sense among the privileged - never completely absent in times past - that all human life was important.  

The Poor Law, initiated in the late years of the First Queen Elizabeth - although hardly intended - went some way to replacing the medieval pastoral care of the Catholic Church, nationalized in th 1530s by King Henry VIII, whose officials dissolved the monasteries.   

 

We the people made our biggest impact through the extension of the right to vote for parliaments and assemblies of leading Western countries: Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Italy.  

By the early twentieth century, government needed to know more and more about us common people because, as voters, we made demands on the State, to which rulers had to respond or lose the next election.   

Governments also needed to know about the masses because many people, unconsidered hitherto, became income tax and ratepayers for the first time during the last years of the nineteenth century, as we remain, supplying most of the financial needs of government.   Now the masses cannot be ignored.

 

Time only started to be important in daily affairs for most people towards the end of the eighteenth century with the introduction of the division of labour in industrial practices - the production line - and the shift system, which required punctuality and 'clocking-on.'  

By the 1850s, the need for railway timetables completed the time-keeping straitjacket.

 

If our ancient ancestors could not count the years of their own birthdays, was there any conception of Time in the much broader context?  

The Roman Empire took its year dates from the legendary foundation of Rome by Romulus and Remus in the eighth century BC, but the years were probably of little interest outside aristocratic and educated circles.  

The annual calendar became important because it marked festivals and feasts, when there might be free food, wine, games.   For the political minority it was crucial to know the length of terms of office for appointees of the State.  

Two of our months are still named after Roman rulers: July commemorating Julius Caesar, and August the Emperor Augustus.

 

The Church required to know the hours of the day because the Offices had to be called, usually by the tolling of a bell for the different religious services.   The tradition is maintained in many Anglican churches whose bell-ringers still summon the faithful to prayer or mark the sacrament of marriage.  

The Church had sundials, but candle-clocks in our period were the most useful.   A candle was marked off by the hour as it burned down and, provided it was protected from draughts, it was fairly efficient.

 

A conception of time, learnt naturally by everyone in any agrarian society, would have been the seasons of the year, an intuitive knowledge that must surely go back to the mists of prehistory.   Most people probably did not know how old they were.   #The idea that a year had a number was not thought of even in the writings of some of the educated in Britain, such as the early priestly chroniclers, or other writers in the centuries after the the Fall of Rome in what we know as the fifth century.  

 

The only reason we call it the fifth century and our present century the twenty-first is because of some little-known Greek theologian, Dionysius Exiguus, in what we call the sixth century.  

He devised a method of dating the years and centuries from the Birth of Jesus Christ, which he called anno domini - the Year of Our Lord - the first year being Year One, of course, then two, three, 500, and so on.  

We shorten this to AD and use AD before the numbers to differentiate them from BC, before Christ, devised by St Bede at a monastery in Northumbria.  

 

Recently, some educated folk, strident atheists perhaps, secularists, the politically correct, ignoring familiarity and habit, now call AD CE, meaning Common Era.   BC, by this reckoning, is now called BCE, Before Common Era.  

The Islamic year is 1432, used on many coins in Muslim countries, based on the date that the Prophet Muhammad fled Mecca.   There are other dating systems.  

 

In practice, the rest of the world now uses the AD-BC dating system contingently.   In fact, Dionysius Exiguus, got it wrong, it is now generally agreed, and Christ was born in 4BC.  

But whether he got it wrong or not, Year One CE is still seen as the birth of Christ by people of every religion or no religion at all.   Whichever way I look at it, it is just plain daft to change terms we all take for granted - at least for now.   No doubt I shall receive emails about this.

 

We left Domesday Book in the last episode when, if not a 'landscape plotted and pieced - fold, fallow, and plough,' as described in a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, the English countryside was ordered, calculated, Mrs Cox tells us, not in feet and yards - much less in metres and centimetres (for which we may thank or excoriate Napoleon Bonaparte who introduced metric measurement) - but in ploughlands, units of land that could be ploughed by a team of oxen in a season.   Woodland was often measured in the number of pigs it could support.  

 

Rents could be paid in money, but more likely in kind.   Mrs Cox mentions a rental of 'a bundle of eels on Palm Sunday,' but the rents varied from place to place, depending on what was grown or reared and whether cash was available.  

You will see in the illustrations we are using how a plough and other farm implements looked and how people dressed: no tights, like Errol Flynn in Hollywood historical epics, but thick leggings and heavy over-garments.   The peasantry would have appeared very grey or brown, sombre.  

 

The early Anglo-Saxon warlords would have worn some form of armour on their bodies and heads, mostly made of leather.   Later, we shall see some of the bodily accoutrements from gold and silver hordes, and hear of the magnificence of kings.  

You will also note from the pictures we shall be looking at how scrawny the animals and poultry were.   Ears of corn were similarly thin since cross-fertilization of cereals and the breeding of animals were unknown scientifically until the eighteenth century, though evidently inadvertently practised long before.  

 

There were wind- and watermills.   Outside the remaining Roman roads, the local roads were as dry as dust in summer and became swamps in winter.   This did not begin to change until the nineteenth century with the application of Tarmacadam -  'tarmac' - invented by John McAdam, a Scotsman.

 

In rural areas today, the actual layout of the roads and the land, and some buildings, is not very different from more than a thousand years ago.  

Tracks or lanes might well have been established in the prehistoric period, and followed - except for their main roads - by Romans, Anglo-Saxons, and everyone else since, including local highway authorities which have tended to lay down mettled surfaces on previously unmade tracks.  

Roads were, as they still are, determined by terrain: rivers and streams, by sharp escarpments.  

Many medieval bridges remain and were wooden in Anglo-Saxon times before they were built in stone - most famously London Bridge which was not built on stone piers until the reign of King John at the beginning of the thirteenth century.  

If water were shallow enough, a river or stream bed might serve as a ford.   Many fords survive.

 

Even if only made of wood for most of the Anglo-Saxon period, village churches were gradually replaced by stone ones by the  Norman or Plantagenet lord of the manor as his contribution to the Church and the redemption of his own and his family's souls.  

Kings, great churchmen, and noblemen, of course, built cathedrals and abbeys of stone or beautifed existing ones.   The Anglo-Saxon hall of wood often became the Norman manor house, many of which were later built of brick or stone as the country became richer.  

They frequently stand on the same spot as, or very close to, the Anglo-Saxon dwelling, as Tony Robinson's Time Team archaeology programme has shown us.  

Manorial and parish boundaries into this twenty-first century are mostly much more ancient than people realize, and have been determined by manorial boundaries, watercourses, terrain, and locally important buildings for hundreds of years.   We are enmeshed in the history of geography.

 

Most houses - even many castles, palaces, and churches - were built of wood under the Anglo-Saxon monarchies, although the Normans would change that with their cathedral- and castle-building ambitions.  

Our heritage of church buildings, the length and breadth of Britain, is wondrous, a testament not only to the wealth of England in particular, but to the devotion to Christianity and its promise of Redemption among all ranks of folk from the king down.  

We also have the ruins of monasteries and other foundations, despoiled by the religious Reformation in England and Wales, and then Scotland in the sixteenth century, when popes were sacked in this island at the edge of the world.   Is there any ruin more heart-breakingly beautiful than Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire?

 

This is the end of the second episode.   In the next, I shall be setting the scene for the Roman Empire, of which the province of Britannia was part for nearly three hundred and fifty years.   The impact of Rome on our society today still resonates.

 

Copyright Robert Smith, Manorial Society of Great Britain

 

 

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