Book 2, Chapter 6, The End of the Ninth Century – Ancient Towns and Highways
The Anglo Saxons adopted the Roman roads and bridges in every part of the island. To the former, as Mr. Wright explains (” Celt, Ro-man, and Saxon,” 456) “they gave the name of streets (street), a word no doubt derived from the Latin word strata, by which probably they heard them designated among the Roman population. We may still trace their course, by the continued recurrence of names of places in which the Saxon word, under such forms as stret, strat, street, occurs in composition, as Stretton, Stratford, Streatham, &c. A glance at the map will show that the great Roman military roads resolved themselves into a few grand lines which traversed the island in different directions.
Of these there were four principal lines, of which perhaps the most important was that which ran from Richborough or Dover, through Canterbury and London, across the island to Chester. The Saxons, who planted their own local traditions wherever they settled, connected this wonderful work with one of their own mythic traditions, and called it Waetlinga-street, the road of the Waetlings, or sons of Waetla, and it was celebrated down to recent times as the Watling-street, a name still retained by the portion of it which runs through London.
To the road which ran direct from Pevensey and Regnum through London, and by Lincoln and the great Yorkshire towns to the south-east of Scotland, they gave the name of Eormen-street, the street of Eormen, who was one of the chief Anglo-Saxon divinities, and whose name was often compounded in those of persons and things which were regarded as great or wonderful. The name at a later period was corrupted to Ermyn-street.
Two other great roads which crossed the island, one from the coast of Norfolk, by Cambridge, Old Sarum, and Exeter, to the extremity of Cornwall, the other, from the mouth of the Tyne to Gloucester, and thence to St. David’s, were named the Iknield-street and the Ryknield-street, but the origin of these names is very doubtful. Other roads of less importance received also their distinctive appellations. Two, originating at the great saltworks at Droitwich, and proceeding, one eastwardly to the coast of Lincolnshire, the other southwardly to the Hampshire coast, have been designated the Salt-ways, and another, leading from the east to Cirencester, was known as the Akeman-street, it is supposed, because it was the way by which invalids travelled to Bath, one of the Saxon names of which was Akemannes-ceaster, or the city of invalids.”
Chapter 6, Ancient Towns and Highways
Chapter 6, Internal Fittings of Houses
Chapter 6, Anglo-Saxon Furniture
Chapter 6, Anglo Saxon Hunting and Travelling
Chapter 6, Anglo-Saxon Language
Categories: Book 2