Primitive Folk Moots

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Title:Primitive Folk-Moots or, Open-Air Assemblies in BritainAuthor: Gomme, George Laurence, 1853-1916Note:London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1880


<p>PRIMITIVE FOLK-MOOTS ;OR,</p> <p>OPEN-AIR ASSEMBLIES IN BRITAIN.</p> <p>G E O R G E L A U R E N C E GOMME, F.S.A.,HONOR4RY SECRETARY T O T H E FOLK-LORE SOCIETY</p> <p>;</p> <p>AUTHOR OR " I N D E X OF DlUNICIPAL OFFICES.''</p> <p>LONDON</p> <p>:</p> <p>SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLE &amp; RIVINGTON,CROWN EUILDINGS, 188, FLEET STREET.</p> <p>1880.</p> <p>1'0</p> <p>WILLIAM JOHN THOMS, ESQ., F.S.A.,TIIE FOUNDER 0 - "NOTES 1</p> <p>AND QUERIES,"</p> <p>AND LONDONST,U,~POR~) STREET</p> <p>:</p> <p>TIII': TOII.ER A T MANY GOOD TI'ORKS,</p> <p>F ~ ~ I N T E nv \ \ ~ ~ L l . l i \ n l cLOWES A N D SONS, L I I I I T E D , D</p> <p>AND C H A R l N G CROSS.</p> <p>&amp;bis Book is BcbicatcbBY T I I E AUTIIOR, I N S l N C l l R E ADMIRATION O F A L l T h R A R Y L I F E , W I I l C l I INSI'IRES I N ALI. 'THE D E E P E S T FEELINGS OP</p> <p>RESI'ECT A N D ESTEEM.</p> <p>PREFACE.a work is laid beforc the public, the author should bc quite satisfied of its ~aisoa d:tvc: he should know exactly upon which shelf and by the side of what existing works in the national library it ought to be placed ; he should, in fact, be always sure of the gap in literature that he proposes to fill up. Of course, he may not cvcntually be able to fill it up worthily, but thc student will not be altogether unthankful or unappreciative if thc dcsideratum be fairly attained. Speaking now of the present work, I would point out that chronologically it holds a place prior to any existing works on English Constitutional History, becausc it treats of a period of history prior to any that has been yet undcrtaken. Mr. Kemble and Mr. Freeman go far enough back to be enabled to look upon the borderland of my subject ; but, then, in .o doing, the one steps on to Swiss ground, and thc othcr on to German. Canon Stubbs commences his great work at a pcriod when all l~rimitiveinstitutions were devcloping into historical institutions. Mr. Coote 1)asses over the primitive pcriod by one magnificent bridge of Roman civilization. I can only hopc, thcrcfore, that thc pridc of place which the subject is</p> <p>vi- . .</p> <p>P?~efnce.</p> <p>--</p> <p>P~rfnce.</p> <p>vii</p> <p>entitled to may not be materially damaged by m y treatment of it. I am quite aware that, according to thc highest canons of historical writing, this book posscsscs many drawbaclts. The author of any morli dealing with archzeological moilumcilts should doubtless havc visited and examined for himself cach object, or a t all events a majority of objects-a reprcscntativc majority. Rut I cannot profess t o havc d o i ~ c this in rcspcct of any of the grcat archzeological remains that I venturc to trcat of. M y sourccs of kno~vlcdgcarc entirely literary; that is t o say, I am dcpcndcnt for the dcscriptions of the places ~nelltionedupon thc published accounts scattered tllroughout English literature, o r upon the accounts kindly f~~rnished fricnds. My by work is therefore in this respect an historical compilation mercly. Again, whcn an historical subjcct is trcatcd for thc first time, I hold it to be superlatively necessary to inalte the record of the facts as clear as possiblc ; not to destroy thc completeness of any itcin of fact for thc purpose of making it fit in 1vit11 ally l~istorical theory. Now, from the long series of installccs of open-air assemblies in Britain, I havc built up an historical theory concerning the Primitive Folk-moots of Britain. This theory is based, I belicvc, upon the strongcst possible foundation ; it is an illduction drawn from a very wide circlc of facts. But in evcry instancc I havc sought to keep iny facts as cotnplctc as possibletopographically, historically, and politically. My firsf care has not bcen the proof of my historical induction, but the collection of all thc known or possiblc instance5 of the open-air assembly in Great Britain which I could</p> <p>V</p> <p>come upon during a long period of research. And if, with these fragments of antiquity, I have endcavoured to build a fabric which, as I submit, gives us an important picture of primitive times ; if my argument tllroughout is that these open-air assemblies arc survivals of primitive open-air assemblies, I air1 depcndcnt for proofs of this argument upon the cvidcncc givcn by the collectcd cxamplcs as they stand in English history or tradition at this present day, instead of the more strictly scientific data afforded by an archxological arrangement of the primitive features only of each example. If, thcrcforc, my conclusions be not so scic~ltifically arranged as they might bc, Ict me plcad my adhcrencc to the necessity of placing on record, very clcarly, thc facts by which thc sLtbjcct may hcrcaftcr bc more fully worked up, and which, inorc than anything else, arc essential to a first study. And if the use to ~ v l ~ i c I havc ventui-cd to put h these fragments of olden timcs bc not acceptable to the purely antiquarian scholar, let him remember that thc fragments tl~cmsclvcsarc quitc visible to him, and are uninjured. Thus, therefore, I trust that thc st~tdcnt primitivc of culture and the antiquary may botli be able to sce some merit in my work as a useful contribution of materials rightly and scicntifically placed for future USE. I find that a few typographical crrors have crept into the test, wl~ichI have notcd in n table of errata : perhaps in mitigation, not in cxcusc, of this default, I may plead that my work has bccn doac after the busy day of official life is over. I must ackno~vlcdge with sincere gratitude thc grcat</p> <p>vlll</p> <p>...</p> <p>--</p> <p>Pffefnce.</p> <p>assistance I have had from inany bind friends, which I have always acknowledged in the text of the book. But I must be invidious enough to specially allude t o Dr. Alexander Laing, Mr. Jamcs Hardy of Oldcambus, Mr. John Fenton, and Tdr. T. Fairinan Ordish, who havc assisted mc by something more tha11 the ordinary means of literary assistance. M r Edward Peacock, F.S.A., has also sent me many useful references, which I have not bcen ablc to acliilowlcdgc in the test. I must also bc permitted to express my obligations to the editors of thc At/zszauvt and N o t e s a d Quevies, for their kindness in publishing my wants from time to timc. And, lastly, to one kind and learned antiquary I owe so much, that I have ventured to still further increase the debt by placing his name on my book in a somewhat morc prominent ,position than at the end of thc preface.</p> <p>CONTENTS.</p> <p>CHAPTER I.</p> <p>INTRODUCTION.Present State of Early English History-Primitive Institu- PAGE tions still traceable from Indigenous Sources-The Place occupied by the Folk-moot-General Characteristics of the Prinlitive Assembly-Its Development in English History-The I'articular Value of the Evidence of Open-air Meetings-Their Connection with other Primitive Features-The Arrangement of the Exanlples to be investigated 11</p> <p>.</p> <p>.</p> <p>EXAMPLES FROM OTHER LANDS. Necessity of obtaining non-British Evidence of the Openair Meetings-Front Afoderrz Snvnge Lz;fe: Iroquois, Araucanians, African Tribes, Negritto Races-The Great Nations o A n t i g ~ ~ i:y f t Hebrews, Hindoos-Ear&amp; European Hzstory : Northern Nations, Iceland, Denmarl;, Saxony, Germany, France-Summary</p> <p>.</p> <p>.</p> <p>20</p> <p>CHAPTER 111. T H E EVIDENCE EARLY OF ENGLISHRECOI~DS. Historical Value of this Evidence-Evidence of I'opular Gatherings Beda Anglo-Saxon Chronicle - Mr. Kemble's Examples-Council on the Banks of the Iiiver Nodder-On the Banks of the Nidd-On the Humber-</p> <p>-</p> <p>-</p> <p>PAGE</p> <p>Other Meetings-King Edgar's Charter to Ely-Welsh Esamples-Cuckamsley Hill-Bridge a t Grantebrucge -1nfra cimitcriuin Eliensis-On the Tyne 49 CHAPTER IV. FORM. THE REVIVAL THE PRI~II'I'IVE OF f Historical Value of the Revival-Evidencc o the &amp;tionad A s s ~ n ~ b lrevivit/,rr its old Open-air Meetings : Mr. y Freeman's Examples, Runymcde- The Locczd Assemb&amp;: Pennendcn Heath, Shire-moot of Berlts, MendipSuinlnary</p> <p>TRADITIUXAL</p> <p>AND</p> <p>CHAPTER VII. PHILOLOGICAL EVIDENCE.I'AGE</p> <p>.</p> <p>-</p> <p>69</p> <p>CHAPTER V. :Sources of Evidence-Historical Value of the SurvivnlTynwald, Isle of Man-Its Initial Importance-GorsedCo~rrts Of Norfolk, Stone : dau of Wales-The Nrrt~d?~d in Somersetshire, Alwiclte ancl Younsincre in Susses, Swanl~oroughin Wilts, of Warwickshire-Liberty of Tynedale-Mnnoriczb Courts : Their Prinlitive OriginAston and Cote, Somerton, I'amber, Rochford, Dunstone, Guernsey, Warnham, Morehall, Combebank, Langsett, Stoneleigh, Kingsborough, ancl others-Forest Co~frts : Heslteth in Cumberland, Belbroughton in Worcestershire, Charnwood, I;.nZ Evilhnce. a</p> <p>223</p> <p>hundred, for Girlestre and Bolesford are now called Birdforth and Bulmer (Plzrvz$to;rz Corresponde7zce, Camden Society, p. I I). One of the lost hundreds in the East Riding, the district round Bridlington, was callcd " Hunton," and there is a small tumulus in a field a mile or so from Bridlingtoll still so called, which was, no doubt, the place of assembly ; but all mcmory, even of the existence of this hundred, has 1o11g since passed away (see Notes a n d Qzreries, 5th Series, xi. p. 413). Then we have the significant hundred names of Osgoldcross, Ewcross, and Staincross, all indicating a place of meeting such as we have met with in historical exan~ples-the parish cross; and neither of these names belonged to a town or other division of the county. Of the counties from which I have not been able t o collect any local evidence, either literary or oral, all of them supply evidence of their own quite sufficient to entitle it to a place here. I shall content myself, however, with enumerating, without any comment, the names of the hundreds evidently connected with our subject. In Bedfordshire there are Wixamtree and Barford. I n Berks-Faircross, Beynhurst, Ganfield, Ock (Oak). I n Bucks-Cottesloe. I n Cambridge-Radfield (Council-field) ; Armingford, Chilford, Whittlesford ; Longstow, Northstow ; Staploe, Thriplow. Derbyshire-Appletree. Essex-Becontree, Winstree ; Dengie (Thingoe) ; Tendring ; Chafford, Chelmsford, Hinckford, Rochford, Uttlesford. Gloucestershire-Crowthorne, Grumbalds Ash, Longtree, Thornbury ; Bledisloe, Botloe ; Brightswell Barrow ; Iludstone, Tibaldstone, Whitstone ; Kiftsgate, Rapsgate. Herts-Edwinstree. Huntingdonshire-Hurst-</p> <p>ingstone, Leightonstone; Norman Cross. Leicestershire-Gartree, Sparkenhoe. Salop-Brimstrec ; Memslow, Purslow, Pimhill, Ford, Bradford. Somcrsetshire - Catsash, Horethorne (boundary thorn) ; Bulstone, Bempstone Stone, Whitstone (as in Gloucestershire) ; Andersfield, Wellow. Suffolk-Blything, Thingoe (Thing)," Lothingland, Thredling ; Carlford, Cosford, Lackford, Mutford, Samford, Wangford ; Loes ; Plomesgate. W e have now dealt with the hundreds of all the counties of England, except Cornwall, Cumberland, Durham, Northumberland, and Westmoreland, which are not divided as the other counties are. When there is no actual survival of the open-air court, therefore, there is traditional survival; and when there is no traditional survival, there are significant names which take us at once to associations with the mecting-places of primitive times. T h e shire-moot and hundred-moot were courts of definite jurisdiction, having to some extent certain geographical limits. They appear among the institutions of the land, not so much in the garb of their primitive Teutonic origin, as shrouded in the mantle of Imperial Rome-in other words, I would say that the shire and the hundred are undoubtedly primitive institutions, and therefore not originated from the civilized polity of Rome: but that when they appearSee Taylor's Words and Places, p. 200. I must note here that Mr. Coote holds strongly the opposite f opinion (see Romans o Britain, pp. 341, 342). I h;ave always bowed to we the great learning of this important work, but I t h ~ n k penetrate the</p> <p>*t</p> <p>police arrangements of Roman times when we come upon the primitive assembly of the hundred. No doubt Roman influence adaptfd the hundred jurisdiction and organization to the Romanized sovereignty of England ; but the adaptation did not disturb the primitive orig~n.</p> <p>224</p> <p>Pvzmitive FoZh-Moots.</p> <p>-</p> <p>TYnrditionnZ and Phz'dodo,~icad Evidezce.</p> <p>225</p> <p>as English institutions, they have unquestionably been influenced by the Roman theory of government ; they have become territorial, instead of patriarchal ; they have bccome subsidiary jurisdictions in a national English polity, instead of remaining primary jurisdictions of a tribal polity. And this welding of petty tribes into one nation, of local assemblies into a national Witan, was not the work of the Anglo-Saxon, because the Anglo-Saxon could not step all a t once from primitive to civilized life. It was really the tvorlc of the great Roman mind. But Rome at this time was tottering on her throne. She might influence, but she could not command. T h e barbarian would take from her, for his own welfare, all the great lessons she had to teach in the wielding of imperial power, and in the reconstruction of the map of Europe into several nationalities. And thus it is that we have, in modern European history, primitive institutions alongside institutions that are the product of a long experience of civilized organization. T h e shire and the hundred are influenced so far by the new state of affairs as to be included in the institutions of a national English government, but they do not all a t once throw away all the forms of their primitive origin. This view of the influence of Rome on English institutions appears to me to be the true "neglected fact of English history," if I may venture to paraphrase the title of a now celebrated work. That Roman influence made itself deeply felt is unquestionable ; indeed, England could not have grown without it. But that it swept away everything in its path, all the ways and customs, all the mythology and faiths, all the primitive institutions, cannot be</p> <p>true so long as it is possible to trace out the remnants of those that remain to us now. Besides, then, the jurisdiction of the shire and the hundred, there are other local jurisdictions which cannot be classified under any generic title, only because they have never appeared in the polity of England, except as survivals of a past history. These local jurisdictions are, as might be expected, scattered throughout the land. They were, no doubt, originally formed by the accidcnts that regulate a first settlement in an uninhabited or a conquered country; and though, therefore, some may be traced to Celtic sources and some to Anglo-Saxon sources, both groups are equally important to the present subject, because both groups belong to a primitive phase of Aryan history, and therefore, comparatively speaking, are contemporaneous. They represent the early settlements of patriarchal or family communities, each community independent of each other, with its own chief, its own laws, its own government, its own household gods. And moreover, in these early times there were other causes operating to multiply the local jurisdictions of justice and legislation than the one primary and archaic cause just mentione...</p>