OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Landmarks of the Normans page 2


Pages: 1 <2>

So many specimens of Norman work may be found in churches in all parts of the country that only a few typical examples can be mentioned - such as Hemel Hempstead, in Hertfordshire, Old Shoreham, in Sussex, and Burton Latimer, in Northamptonshire.

Sport, especially hunting and hawking, was the great and consuming passion of the Norman nobles - their chief, and in many cases their only, relaxation; and, consequently, everything connected with the chase was most studiously cultivated and very jealously guarded. It was this love of sport that led to the savage forest laws and the ruthlessness with which vast areas were afforested. Whole districts were depopulated - houses and even churches being demolished by the score - to provide a forest, chase or preserve in which the deer could roam at liberty until the owner of the land chose to hunt and to slay them; and terrible punishments, including blinding, the amputation of a hand, and other forms of mutilation - even death - were inflicted upon the luckless peasant who was caught in the act of killing the beasts of the chase.

By far the best known of the royal hunting grounds was the New Forest, which is 91,000 acres in area. This vast enclosure was conveniently situated for the amusement of the king when he held his court, at Winchester. It was said that the spot was accursed, partly because churches had been pulled down when it was being planted, and partly because an old woman had cursed the race that had destroyed her home. It was also said that, on dark and stormy nights, the Prince of Darkness might be seen galloping through the forest glades on his coal-black, fire-snorting horse, as, with demoniac cries, he urged on his baying hell-hounds to the chase.

Whatever may be thought about the veracity of these legends and traditions, there can be no doubt that the New Forest was a place of ill portent to the Norman ruling house - a fatal spot; for on three separate occasions a prince of the house died a miserable death within its boundaries. The first to perish was Richard, who was the second son of Robert, duke of Normandy, the eldest son of William the Conqueror; for this unfortunate prince was gored to death in the year 1081 by an infuriated stag that he was hunting. Richard, an illegitimate son of the same Duke Robert, was killed by a stray arrow in May, 1100; and on August 2, in the same year, King William II was slain, either intentionally or by accident, by an arrow while he was hunting there with a party of friends. The fatal shaft, it is supposed, was sped at a departing deer, but found its mark in the heart of the king; and it is generally believed that it was shot by Walter Tyrrell, who was hunting with the ill-fated king in the Minstead district of the forest. What the truth may be can never be known; for Tyrrell, who was a famous marksman and bow-bearer to the king, immediately fled to the Continent, and no inquiry was held. But it is undoubtedly a fact that the body of the dead king was found by a charcoal-burner named Purkess, who bore it in his little cart to Winchester, where, without any religious ceremony, William Rufus was interred within the cathedral, under a plain black marble slab.

According to local tradition, the family of Purkess that still lives in the New Forest can trace descent from the charcoal-burner who took William II to Winchester; and it is added, so runs the legend, that no member of the family has ever been richer or poorer than his historical ancestor. Moreover, there stands in a dell in the Minstead district of the forest - not far from Malwood Lodge, which preserves the name of Malwood Keep, where William II had a hunting-box - a stone monument, known as the Rufus stone, marking the site of the oak tree from which the fatal arrow glanced.

What has been said about the systematic repressions of the Conqueror will suffice to show that the hands of the Normans lay heavily upon the Saxon inhabitants; and yet the virile Norman methods, cruel and unjust as they often were, helped to mould the English character, and gave birth to an irrepressible spirit of patriotism, a love of country, which eventually gathered strength and threw off the hateful yoke. Meanwhile, the country was thoroughly subdued, and the large number of ancient families, titled and untitled, who trace their descent from the Norman invaders need only be cited in order to show that the term Norman Conquest was not an empty phrase. Every part of England was systematically subdued, and peopled by a new race that very slowly amalgamated with the Saxon inhabitants; and when that task had been completed the conquerors turned their attention to Wales, to Scotland, and to Ireland.

Some of the greatest of the defenders of Scotland against the later English attacks; - such as Robert de Bruce and John de Baliol - were of Norman origin; and these stalwart champions of Scottish independence were well supported by other Scotto-Norman families when the Plantagenet kings were fighting for the crown of Scotland. Bruce was a descendant of Robert de Bruce, de Bruis, or de Brus - sometimes called le Bruce - who fought in the army of William the Conqueror at Senlac; while John de Baliol was a descendant of Guy de Bailleul or Baliol, another Norman who accompanied William to England in the year 1066,

In Wales, parts of such castles as Conway, Carnarvon and Pembroke were built by trusty Normans, upon whom the hated conquerors could depend in the hour of need; while in Ireland, where ruins of Norman strongholds still exist in Dublin, in Drogheda, in Waterford, and elsewhere, may still be found reminders of the Normans and their power.

How profoundly and how permanently the Norman Conquest affected the whole course of English history may be shown by citing just a few of the many instances of the survival throughout the centuries of Norman customs, manners and usages.

The curfew bell, for example, was a Norman institution, ordained by William the Conqueror; and William was also responsible for the wonderful survey of the country known as the Domesday Book, in which full particulars of every holding of land, together with the name of its owner, are recorded. This priceless possession - which is the most important historical document of the kind in existence - is carefully preserved in the Public Records Office, in Chancery Lane, London; and there it may be seen by everyone.

Again, any good English dictionary will be found a rich field for the exploration of Norman landmarks; for it will be discovered that a large number of everyday words are derived from Norman-French originals.

What is historically known as the Norman period began in the year 1066, with the accession to the English throne of William I, and ended with the death of Stephen in the year 1154 - a period of only eighty-eight years; but, in effect, definitely Norman influence began in the year 1002, and ended in 1216 with the death of King John.

<<< Previous page <<<
Pages: 1 <2>

Pictures for Landmarks of the Normans page 2

NORMAN ARCHES OF KENILWORTH'S RUINED KEEP
NORMAN ARCHES OF KENILWORTH'S RUINED KEEP >>>>
SENLAC, THE SUSSEX HILL WHERE THE LAND OF ENGLAND CHANGED HANDS
SENLAC, THE SUSSEX HILL WHERE THE LAND OF ENGLAND CHANGED HANDS >>>>
HOW NORMAN DESIGNERS REVELLED IN STONE AT KILPECK AND PATRIXBOURNE
HOW NORMAN DESIGNERS REVELLED IN STONE AT KILPECK AND PATRIXBOURNE >>>>
IFFLEY'S WEST DOOR AND A PORTAL OF OLD DUNFERMLINE ABBEY
IFFLEY'S WEST DOOR AND A PORTAL OF OLD DUNFERMLINE ABBEY >>>>
THE HAND OF THE NORMAN CRAFTSMAN IN THE CATHEDRALS OF SOUTHWELL AND S. DAVID'S
THE HAND OF THE NORMAN CRAFTSMAN IN THE CATHEDRALS OF SOUTHWELL AND S. DAVID'S >>>>
LONDON'S NORMAN KEEP: THE WHITE TOWER AND ITS CHAPEL
LONDON'S NORMAN KEEP: THE WHITE TOWER AND ITS CHAPEL >>>>
S. GEORGE'S TOWER, OXFORD CASTLE
S. GEORGE'S TOWER, OXFORD CASTLE >>>>
NORMAN TOWER OF THE CHURCH AT CLUMPING IN SUSSEX
NORMAN TOWER OF THE CHURCH AT CLUMPING IN SUSSEX >>>>
SOME FINE NORMAN REMAINS IN LINCOLNSHIRE YORKSHIRE AND HAMPSHIRE
SOME FINE NORMAN REMAINS IN LINCOLNSHIRE YORKSHIRE AND HAMPSHIRE >>>>
CHEPSTOW CASTLE AND CANTERBURY'S PRIORY AND THE CHURCHES OF BRAMBER AND NEW SHOREHAM
CHEPSTOW CASTLE AND CANTERBURY'S PRIORY AND THE CHURCHES OF BRAMBER AND NEW SHOREHAM >>>>
NORTH AISLE OF ROMSEY
NORTH AISLE OF ROMSEY >>>>
WESTMINSTER HALL, ENGLAND'S LAW COURT FOR SEVEN HUNDRED YEARS
WESTMINSTER HALL, ENGLAND'S LAW COURT FOR SEVEN HUNDRED YEARS >>>>
INSIDE THE NORMAN KEEP OF ROCHESTER'S GRAND OLD CASTLE
INSIDE THE NORMAN KEEP OF ROCHESTER'S GRAND OLD CASTLE >>>>
IMPROVEMENTS GRAFTED ON TO SOUTHAMPTON'S NORMAN WALLS
IMPROVEMENTS GRAFTED ON TO SOUTHAMPTON'S NORMAN WALLS >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About