Ancient Earthworks of Middlesex

Although earthworks are the most durable of all man's handiwork when exposed to Nature alone, they cannot withstand the encroachments of the builder.

With the continual spread of habitations for the workers of commercial London, and the surrounding cultivation of the land for the vegetable supply of so great a host, there is little cause for wonder that the few works which are known to have existed in the county of Middlesex have been all but obliterated. When we consider the exceptionally small size of Middlesex as a county, that it contains the two cities of London and Westminster, and the amazing extension of their borders, the marvel is that any ancient works remain.


The natural features of the county lent themselves to no mighty defensive works; it was no locality for habitations, seeing that it was generally of a marshy nature and subject to great inundations, it was itself a defence for more inland territories. Guest remarks, 'I have little doubt that between Brockley Hill (fn. 1) and the Thames all was wilderness from the Lea to the Brent.' Prehistoric and Roman camps were apparently few; the Roman stations at Staines (Pontes) on the Thames, and Brockley Hill (Sullonicae) near Elstree, have no earthworks to indicate their former sites; while the fosse formerly surrounding the walls of London now no longer remains.

One great dyke in part remains to record the boundary line between British tribes or Saxon provinces; but the only type of earthwork much in evidence in the county is that of Homestead Moats, and those are fast disappearing beneath the foundations of houses.

Moats are more thickly clustered on the north of London than elsewhere; they surround the sites of manor houses and farmsteads in close proximity to the neighbourhood of Barnet. When it is remembered that this was the scene of two engagements during the Wars of the Roses, that two other battles were fought within a short distance at St. Albans, and how marauding bands were the certain accompaniment of fighting forces in those days, it will be seen how necessary a precaution it was for people of substance to safeguard their property by the best means then known.

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Author: William Page

Article and Image Source: www.british-history.ac.uk

William Page

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