Page images
PDF

position towards Sir Stephen Scrope as does Mr. Simon Scrope of Danby towards Sir Stephen's elder brother Sir Roger, being directly descended from him in continuous male line. Genealogists will allow it to be a rare, perhaps almost an unexampled occurrence, that two separate branches of the same stem should have thus continued in parallel male lines, son succeeding to father, for some eighteen or twenty generations, through a period of nearly five centuries, as has bappened in the case of the Yorkshire and Wiltshire branches of the ancient family of Scrope. Our old Wiltshire gossip, Aubrey, in his “Fatalities of Families” writing about the year 1680, sets it down as a very remarkable circumstance that “the Scropes of Castle Combe had continued there ever since the time of King Richard the Second and enjoy the old land, and the estate neither augmented nor diminished all this time, neither doth the family spred.” How much more notable he would have looked upon the fact that the same family was continued in precisely the same circumstances for nearly two centuries longer, while another parallel branch of the same stem, the Scropes of Yorkshire, equally continued through the same long period to exhibit the same remarkable fatality.

The last male representative of the former (the Castle Combe line) the late Mr. William Scrope, died in 1852. The representative of the latter survives in the present claimant to the Earldom of Wiltes. As Wiltshiremen then, we may be permitted to wish him success. And the more heartily since the collateral branch of his ancient race which has so long held an honourable position in this county is likely before long to pass away altogether from amongst us.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic]
[ocr errors][merged small]

13 FIELD at the north-eastern extremity of the Parish of North-Wraxhall in this county has long been known by the

residents in the neighbourhood as the site of a Roman Station or Villa. It has had the name of the Coffin-ground since the beginning of the century, about which time a Stone Sarcophagus was dug up in it. This for many years afterwards remained above ground in the middle of the field, till the farmer finding it in his way, broke it up. It contained when found a skeleton at full length, and had a stone cover, but neither sculpture nor inscription, being rudely hewn out of the freestone of the neighbourhood.

A surface of this field, measuring some three acres in area, and forming the brow of a steep wooded slope adjacent to the parish of Castle Combe on the north, is strewn over with fragments of stonetile, burnt-tile, black, red, and blue pottery, and other infallible indications of the former existence there of buildings belonging to the Roman Era. In the course of the last autumn the farm, which is the property of Lord Methuen, passed into the hands of a new Tenant, who finding the stones in the way of his plough, employed labourers to remove them. In this way several walls, evidently belonging to the chambers of a building, were exposed, and a little further exploration brought to light the rooms marked A and B on the plan.

Mr. Poulett Scrope, who had watched these proceedings with interest, communicated with Lord Methuen, and was requested by his Lordship to undertake the direction of further excavations. Four men were set to work and in the course of a few weeks had uncovered the foundation walls of one continuous oblong building, measuring about 180 feet by 36, and containing some sixteen or more different rooms or inclosures. (See Plan).

The five small rooms which occupy the western extremity of this range of building are its most interesting portion. They all possessed hypocausts or hot air flues beneath their floors, and together evidently formed a suite of hot Bath-rooms or Thermat. The rooms at the other, or eastern end of the range, were not provided with any such apparatus, although from the superior character of their masonry and the remains of tessellated pavements found in them they would seem to have been some of the principal chambers of the house. The intermediate part of the building was composed of a long corridor on the south side, and on the north of a series of rooms of different sizes; some, which might have been small open courts, containing smaller chambers within them.

The walls of the whole building are of good masonry, formed of the oolitic limestone dug on the spot, for the most part well squared and faced with the chises. They are from two to three feet in thickness. The portion of wall remaining measures generally from two to four feet in height above the floors, even in the case of those rooms whose floors are “suspended” over hypocausts. And the quantity of loose stone and rubbish lying on either side seems to shew that the stone walls of the building were everywhere carried up several feet above their present level, that is, to the height of one story at least.

When discovered the suspended floors of the bath-room suite were not all entire; and there were appearances as if parts of them had been rudely relaid after having been once broken up and the hypocaust beneath filled with rubbish. But in some of the rooms, particularly the two smaller ones A and B, the floors were entire, and the hypocausts beneath empty and uninjured. The pillars supporting these floors were (as is usually the case in such build

ings) entirely composed of burnt tiles mostly about eight inches.

square, with a layer of mortar between them, the upper and undermost tiles, however, being larger, some even as much as eighteen inches square. All were of superior well kneaded and baked clay.

These supports were not quite symmetrically arranged, and being wider at top than at bottom, gave the form of rude arches to the intervals between them, of about eighteen inches or

« PreviousContinue »