button to main menu  Camden's Britannia, edn 1789

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Page 214:-
  A pipe to convey the alarm.

  alarm pipes

"mile with a strong wall and stout towers, which fortifications the attention and care of the owners of the adjoining lands will erect without charge to the public, keeping watch and ward of country people [y] in them, that the repose of the provinces may remain secure within this circuit as it were of garrisons." The inhabitants say a brass pipe articially set in the the wall run all along between each tower and castle (of which they have occasionally found pieces), that whatever was spoken through it at one tower was conveyed immediately to the next, to the third, and so on to all without interruption, to give notice where the enemy's attack was to be apprehended. Such a wondeful story Xiphilin [z] tells from Dio in the life of Severus about the towers of Byzantium. But the wall being now ruined and no brass pipe left, many persons hold lands and estates hereabouts of our kings by Cornage [a] as out lawyers speak, viz. to give an alarm of invasion to the neighbourhood by sounding a horn, which some suppose derived from the antient Roman practice. "For they were bound to march on the king's order with an army against Scotland," as the records express it, "in the advance guard in going and in the reregarde in returning."
  The track of the wall.
  The Wall, line
But to follow the track of the wall more exactly. It begins at BLATUM BULGIUM or Bulness on the Irish sea, and proceeds along Eden frith by Burgh upon sands to LUGUVALLUM or Carlisle, where it crosses the Ituna or Eden. Thence it runs on above the river Irthing, crossing the little meandering river Cambecke where are great remains of a fort. After crossing the rivers Irthing and Poltrosse it enters Northumberland, and continuing among the chains of mountains along the river called South Tine (except where the river North Tine makes an interruption in it, where was antiently a bridge), advances quite to the German ocean, at (sic) will be shown when we come to Northumberland.

This wonderful structure could not, however, keep off the enemy. But upon the Romans quitting Britain, the Picts and Scots suddenly assaulting the wall, pulled the garrisons out with hooks, broke down the fortifications, and carried their ravages far and wide over Britain, then torn to pieces by intestine broils, and harrassed by a dreadful famine. But let Gildas the Britan, who lived not long after, describe to the reader the calamaties and miseries of those deplora- times. "No sooner were the Romans returned, but there rose up in curraughs [b], which conveyed them across the Stitican [c] vale, black swarms of vermine, cursed troops of Scots and Picts, different in manners, but agreeing in the same thirst of blood, &c. as if the warm sunshine and fine weather invited them out of their narrow holes: and being informed of the departure of our benefactors, and emboldened by their refusal to return, they made themselves masters of all the northern extremity of the country quite up to the wall. On this last was stationed an idle army unfit for fighting, disabled by their fears, and never stirring out of their places by night or day. Weapons armed with hooks were incessantly employed to drag the msierable townspeople off the wall, and dash them against the ground. In this respect this sudden death was an advantage to them, that by such an exit they escaped the approaching miserable ends of their brethren and families. In short, the cities and the high wall were abandoned, and they betook themselves to flight and retreat, dispersed up and down in a more desperate condition than ever. The enemy followed them close with ravages, slaughter, and aggravated cruelties; and the wretched natives were torn to pieces by their enemies as lambs by butchers; their residence in the country was like that of so many wild beasts. For they did not keep their pillaging hands off the small stock of provision that would have supported the miserable inhabitants for a short time, and the calamaties from abroad were increased by discontents at home, so that by these ravages the whole country was deprived of the support of life, except the resource of hunting."
  The prudent contrivance of the wall by the Romans.
  Medicinal plants.

  medicinal plants
It is worthy observation, that as the Romans prudently raised this wall in such a manner that it had within it like a second defence two large rivers the Tine and the Irthing, which are but a very little way asunder; so the cunning of the barbarians first opened their principle inlet between these two rivers, where they had free entrance into this province without the obstruction of any river, as will be presently shewn in Northumberland. I purposely omit the vulgar reports about this wall, but cannot conceal from the reader this circumstance, which I had from persons of credit. A fixed tradition remains in the neighbours, that the Roman garrisons on the borders planted here up and down for their own use, many plants good for curing wounds. Hence some pretenders to surgery [d] in Scotland resort here every summer to collect plants, whose virtues they have learned by some practice, and extoll them as of sovereign efficacy.
[y] vigiliae & agrariae.
[z] lxxiv. fin. Reimar understood it of an echo in these particular seven towers.
[a] Drenge, Sax. a pipe. Hence Drenges and Drengagium. Indices speculatores. Lib. Rub. Scaccar. Gale MS. n. but the idea of Cornage here misleads him; for the [Dreng - Saxon script] is miles, Lye; see also Spelm. in v. See before, p.151.
[b] The highland Scots still call their boats caroches.
[c] The Paris edition has Scythicam, by which probably is meant the Scottish sea. See Mr. Pegge's happy restoration of this passage in Archaeologia, V. P.272.
[d] Empirici chirurgi.

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