Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

proper period, and place, in the style to which it belongs. To all interested in such matters it may be said, whenever you find rich leafage or excess of interlacing ornament proceeding from dragons or other animals, such work may safely be placed in the last, and not the first, age of such treatment.

Since the above notes were written, some more fragments of the above mentioned windows have come to light, as well as part of a moulded string or cornice (for a figure of which see previous page) containing interlacing ornament,-a class of moderately late Norman work abundantly spread over the whole West Riding of Yorkshire, and at present erroneously called Saxon, though but a very small portion of it is so.

YORK AS AN EARLY BRITISH AND ENGLISH

CENTRE OF LIFE AND LEARNING.

BY J. W. EASTWOOD, M.D., MEMBER OF THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL

INSTITUTE

The members of the Association have been engaged, during the week, in visiting ancient objects of interest not only in this city, but also in the surrounding neighbourhood. Scarcely any place in England exceeds York in historical importance, whether civil or ecclesiastical. My object is to gather up the fragments which have been seen and heard about, so that there may be a connected whole made out and conveyed to the mind.

Like many other cities, including London, Paris, Vienna, and Rome, the city of York owes its origin to the river on which it is built. Its site was the centre of a great inland sea, with a portion of the Cleveland Hills forming an island on the eastern side, and portions of the great Pennine Range, or backbone of England, on the western side. The traces of this inland sea, both on the east and on the west, can be seen to this day. Then came the ice period, when further changes took place in the relations of land and sea, so that not only the plain of York, but also that of Westmorland, was filled up with ice, and fragments of granite, whinstone, and other rocks were strewed about the country in various places. Some of these fragments can be clearly traced to Shap Fell and its district, showing that they had passed over the great western range at a height above the level of the present sea of at least 1,400 feet. At this time there is no trace of man, when he was making his early appearance on the banks of the Thames. The later prehistoric period slowly commenced when sufficient land was formed for man to occupy, and the present river-system was established.

The river now called the Ouse was a much larger stream than it is to-day. This fact was clearly proved when, in 1868, some cutting through the land had to be made near the railway. Neolithic axes and other articles

were found 26 ft. above the present level of the river, and 396 yards from it, showing that a larger and broader river had existed in the later prehistoric period. I shall not enter upon the ethnological question as to who were the ancient people first known to be living on the banks of this great river. It is sufficient to note the fact that here was land which had recently risen above the bed of the stream, navigable for ages for the largest vessels which were built. The junction of the small river Foss with the Quse formed, no doubt, the most likely position for a town and fortification. A similar site we see in the position of ancient London, between the Thames, the Fleet, and the Lea, where much of the surrounding country was under water.

The origin of the place and name of York was clearly a river one, and the Ouse was a later name. The western hills and valleys are drained by large rivers, of which the Swale, Ure, and Nidd join above York, and the Wharfe and Aire below York. The Swale and the Ure join to form the Ouse, but a city called Isurium by the Romans (now Aldborough) was probably more ancient than York itself.

The earliest historical people we know of were the Brigantes; a people, no doubt, of Keltic origin, and their early capital was on the Ure, just before the junction with the Swale. That the Ure (locally pronounced Yore) was the origin of the name of York there can be no doubt. It is not uncommon as an early Keltic form for rivers. There are Ebura and Eure in Gaul, and Ebro in Spain, as similar names. Ebora is also an early name of a river, and hence Eborācon or Eborācum, the latter part of the name being a not uncommon addition to the original name. Probably one of these forms was British, and the other Roman. The Eure or Yore is, therefore, the real origin of the name of York. When the Angles came the river was Eofor or Efor, and the town became Eoforwic or Eforvic; so that the meaning is the town on the Yore, or Yore-wic, contracted into York.

The Romans did not come north until many years after their first landing and conquest of the south of Britain. Adrian came in the year 134, and both Isurium and Eborācum became important cities. This city was made the capital of the province of Maxima Cæsariensis, and also of all Roman Britain. It was admirably situated for the purpose, on a large navigable river, capable of being defended, and in a fertile district, richer than the valley of the Thames, and more extensive. It was also central for Britain, and connected with the sea by water and roads in all directions; but the Romans found the Brigantes a brave, hardy, and adventurous people, who did not submit until about the year 80. Eborācum became the centre of Roman life and sovereignty, and a colonia. There were only two coloniæ besides in Britain, London and Verulam, and the inhabitants of these three cities had privileges equal to those of any city of the empire, having the right to say “Civis Romanus sum”, like St. Paul of Tarsus.

The regular jurisdiction of the Romans extended to the Picts' Wall, between the Forth and the Clyde, and what is now South Scotland was the province of Valentia. These two provinces, Maxima Caesariensis and Valentia, became afterwards the English kingdom of Northumberland, between the Humber and the Forth. So important was Eborācum considered that celebrated generals and emperors lived at this city, and Severus died in it. Constantius resided here, and married Helena, supposed to be the daughter of a British king; and Constantine, who afterwards became the first Christian Emperor, is believed to have been born here, though it is uncertain, about the year 272.

During the period when the early British Christians were not persecuted as they were in the reign of Diocletian, York was important as an ecclesiastical centre, having a bishop or archbishop, who was one of three bishops present at the Council of Arles, in the south of Gaul, in the year 314.

Constantine, called the Great, having succeeded his father as Emperor of the West, became afterwards sole Emperor of Rome, and having fixed his seat at Constantinople, presided at the Council of Nicæa in the year 325. It was on the departure of this Emperor that York attained the height of its glory as a great city and seat of empire.

Many proofs of this exist to this day. The system of great roads, all leading to York, prove also the importance of the place. The Watling Street went from the shores of Kent to London, thence to Chester and York, and was continued northward over the River Tees, at Piercebridge, to the important city of Vinovia, and thence to the River Tyne, and forward to Scotland. But there was a more direct road from London, which was rapidly becoming an important commercial city, passing north to Lincoln, called the Ermine Street, and thence to Doncaster, where it met the Rykenild Street, and so to York. This Rykenild Street has been very little described, but it can be traced from Gloucester, through Worcestershire, Staffordshire, and the whole length of Derbyshire, as shown by the names Little Chester and Chesterfield, to Doncaster and York, whence it was continued to the mouth of the Tyne. Other roads connected York with all parts of Yorkshire, some of which remain in use at the present day. About the year 420 the Romans finally left Britain, and the city and province soon became a prey to the incursions of the Picts, who had been found to be formidable enemies when amongst their native Grampian Mountains. From this time both the city and the province become of less importance in the history of Britain, and little indeed is known of them until another conquering people makes its appearance across the sea.

Less than thirty years elapsed, in 449 and afterwards, when mixed Jutes and Saxons came to the southern shores of Britain, and founded kingdoms. It was much later when another people, the Angles, under Ida, in 547, founded the kingdom of Bernicia at Bamborough. In 559 followed Ella, to found the small kingdom of Deira. In 593 Ethelfrith united the two kingdoms as the kingdom of Northumberland, and the capital was removed from the stronghold of Bamborough to the Romano-British City of York, which henceforth was to play its own great part in the union and civilisation of England. From 617 to 659, during the reigns of three powerful kings, Edwin, Oswald, and Oswy, the kingdom became very powerful, and York was still the most important city, London was not then of great political importance, and less so than either Canterbury or Winchester, as the capitals of Kent and the West Saxons. The strife between the two northern kingdoms having been ended, all

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »