17. Antiquities.

Long before man could write he could make. Hundreds of generations who spent their lives in this district around us left no written record. All that can be known about them must therefore be learned by the study of their handiwork.

Church Hole Cave, Cresswell Crags.
Church Hole Cave, Cresswell Crags.

Perhaps it will be most instructive to start with the remains found at Creswell Crags. Here a small tributary of the Poulter forms two miles of the county boundary, which at one point passes through a picturesque ravine in a range of Magnesian Limestone hills. In the cliff on either side there are several caves, of which an important one, the Church Hole Cave, is in Nottinghamshire.

The first inspection of this cave showed that it had been used as a stable within quite recent times. Further digging in the earth covering the floor near the mouth revealed a bronze brooch, a bone awl, and ware made by Britons who had learnt the art from the Romans and had made their home here. Below this earth were several distinct layers, the uppermost of which contained charcoal—always a sure sign of man’s presence—flint implements, a bone needle and an awl. The last two indicate that the original owners clothed themselves in skins which they pierced by means of the awl and then sewed together with the aid of the needle. In the middle layers less perfectly worked flint and bone implements were found together with others of a rougher type made from the quartzite pebbles which are so common in the Bunter. In the lower layers only implements of the last type were found. Side by side with these implements were found the bones of animals which became extinct ages ago in these islands, viz, the mammoth, reindeer, woolly rhinoceros, bear, lion, and hyaena.

The history of man in this county, as far back as we are at present able to read it, begins with those rough quartzite implements in the lower layers. These, together with the animal remains, show that he lived during the Old Stone or Palaeolithic age. Within the period of time represented by the middle and upper layers he learnt to use flint and bone, and became a much more accomplished workman. He even showed some rudiments of art, and in a cave across the Poulter was found a bone with the drawing of a horse’s head roughly scratched upon it.

Implements of the Stone and Bronze Ages.
Implements of the Stone and Bronze Ages.

From the time when the cave was occupied by Palaeolithic man to the time when it was used as a home by post-Roman Britons a vast period elapsed, during which another race hunted in the woods and on the open wolds, or herded their cattle and tilled the soil. This was Neolithic man, whose more perfect stone implements, many of them smoothed and polished, have been found chiefly in the south of the county. Recently some were discovered in the base of the alluvium of the Cocker Beck.

The Neolithic race was in its turn, as we have seen, gradually conquered and displaced by another, which continued for a time to use stone but had learnt how to use bronze. Their earliest bronze implements were merely imitations of the rudely-shaped stone ones; but in time they gave place to beautiful axe-heads, spearheads, and swords. A good collection of these was found in 1860 in some excavations in Great Freeman Street, Nottingham. When the Romans came, not so much to colonise as to exploit the mineral wealth of this country, this was the race which occupied the land.

To the Romans Nottinghamshire seems to have offered very few attractions, consequently their remains are comparatively few. Roman pottery and coins and portions of houses have been found at Brough, Margidunum (East Bridgford) and Mansfield Woodhouse; and the foundations of a bridge across the Trent at Cromwell.

A pavement on the bed of the river at Littleborough still marks the point at which the Roman road from Lincoln to Doncaster and York crossed the Trent. Portions of other roads exist here and there, but the most enduring monument of Roman skill and industry is the Fosseway.

The departure of the Romans was followed by a series of Anglian invasions. Here again written history has been supplemented by the discovery of handiwork. In 1842 the site of an Anglian burial ground was found at Holme Pierrepont. Two years later a similar site with urns containing the ashes of cremated dead was found at Kingston-on-Soar. In 1893 the grave of a warrior with sword and spear was discovered at Aslockton. Several brooches of a type peculiar to this part of England have also been dug up.

Hemlock Stone
Hemlock Stone.

No prehistoric stone monuments occur in the county. The nearest approach to anything of the kind are the Hemlock Stone near Bramcote and similar stones at Blidworth. These, however, were formed by natural processes. They resisted the destroying action of the rain and frost more effectively than the surrounding soil and rock, and whilst these have been worn away they have remained. They impress men even now, and there are indications that they were held in reverence by early man.

Mounds or tumuli which were probably ancient burial places occur at Blyth, Blidworth, and Oxton.

"Cramner's Mound," Aslockton.
"Cramner's Mound," Aslockton.

Practically all the other earthworks of the county were originally used for military purposes. At Oxton the encampment known as Oldox is roughly oval in shape. It has several tiers of ramparts and a circuitous entrance, both of which features are characteristic of Celtic handiwork. Rectangular encampments, probably made by Rornans, exist west of Oldox and on Cockpit Hill. Near to Laxton there is a well-preserved hill fortress with a mount and two courts. This is almost certainly of early Norman origin. Similar works occur at Annesley, Aslockton, and Egmanton, and formed the original castle at Nottingham. The Sconce hills and other earthworks around Newark were made during the Civil War.