Ancient Towns

Book 2, Chapter 6, The End of the Ninth Century – Ancient Towns and Highways

The archaeologist, not less than the historian, has reason to lament that no remains from the past survive to teach us the local distribution of an Anglo Saxon town. Yet some few hints are nevertheless supplied which enable us to form a faint image of what it may have been. It is probable that the different trades occupied different portions of the area, which portions were named from the occupation of their inhabitants. In the middle ages, these several parts of the city were often fortified and served as strongholds, behind whose defences, or sallying forth from which, the crafts fought the battle of democracy against the burgesses or the neighbouring lords. We have evidence that streets, which afterwards bore, and do yet bear, the names of particular trades or occupations, were equally so designated before the Norman Conquest, in several of our English towns.

 It is thus only that we can account for such names as Fellmonger, Horsemonger, and Fleshmonger, Shoewright and Shieldwright, Tanner and Salter Streets, and the like, which have long ceased to be exclusively tenanted by the industrious pursuers of those several avocations. Place a cathedral and a guildhall with its belfry in the midst of these, surround them with a circuit of walls and gates, and add to them the common names of North, South, East, and West, or Northgate, Southgate, Eastgate, and Westgate Streets, here and there fix the market and its cross, the dwellings of the bishop and his clergy, the houses of the queen and the courtiers, of the principal administrative officers and of the leading burghers,  above all, build a stately fortress, to overawe or to defend the place, to be the residence of the gerefa and his garrison, and the site of the courts of justice, and there will be at least a plausible representation of a principal Anglo-Saxon city.

Much as is to be regretted that we now possess no ancient maps or plans which would throw valuable light upon this subject, yet the guidance here and there supplied by the names of the streets themselves, and the foundations of ancient buildings yet to be traced in them, coupled with fragmentary notices in the chroniclers, do sometimes enable us to catch glimpses of this history of the past. The giant march of commercial prosperity has crumbled into dust almost every trace of what our brave and good forefathers looked upon with pardonable pride, but the principles which animated them, still, in a great degree, regulate the lives of their descendants, and if we exult in the conviction that our free municipal institutions are the safeguard of some of our most cherished liberties, let us remember those to whom we owe them, and study to transmit unimpaired to our posterity an inheritance which we have derived from so remote an ancestry.

Chapter 6, Ancient Towns and Highways

Domestic life of the Anglo-Saxons



Bells and Churches

Ancient Towns


Chapter 6, Internal Fittings of Houses



Chapter 6, Anglo-Saxon Furniture

Anglo-Saxon Furniture

Food and Drink


Furniture and Beds

Household Economy

Treatment of Slaves

The Toilette

Costume and Ornaments

Chapter 6, Anglo Saxon Hunting and Travelling


Travelling and Inns


The Calendar

Chapter 6, Anglo-Saxon Language

Anglo-Saxon Language

Local and District Courts of Justice


Categories: Book 2

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