From the book "Celt, Druid
Isabel Hill Elder
LAWS AND ROADS
That Britain had an indigenous system of law centuries before the
Christian era is abundantly clear from ancient histories of our
The lawgiver, Molmutius, 450 B.C.(1) based his laws on the code
of Brutus, 1100 B.C. He was the son of Cloton, Duke of Cornwall
(which was and continued to be a royal dukedom) and is referred
to in ancient documents as Dyfn-val-meol-meod, and because of his
wisdom has been called the 'Solomon' of Britain. 'Centuries
before the Romans gained a footing in this country the
inhabitants were a polished and intellectual people, with a
system of jurisprudence of their own, superior even to the laws
of Rome, and the Romans acknowledged this.'(2)
We have it from the great law authorities and from the legal
writers, Fortescue and Coke, that the Brutus and Molmutine laws
have always been regarded as the foundation and bulwark of
British liberties, and are distinguished for their clearness,
brevity, justice and humanity.(3)
'The original laws of this land were composed of such elements as
Brutus first selected from the ancient Greek and Trojan
A Trojan law mentioned by E.O.Gordon, decreed that the sceptre
might pass to a queen as well as to a king; this law was embodied
by King Molmutius in his code and remains an outstanding feature
of the rulership of these islands.(5)
The liberty of the subject, so marked a feature of British
government today, runs from those remote times like a gold thread
through all the laws and institutions in this country.
King Alfred, it is recorded, employed his scribe, Asser, a
learned Welsh monk from St. David's (whom he afterwards made
abbot of Amesbury and Bishop of Sherborne), to translate the
Molmutine laws from the Celtic tongue into Latin, in order
that he might incorporate them into his own Anglo-Saxon code.(6)
'The Manorial system had its beginning in Celtic Britain and was
so deeply rooted in the soil that when the Romans came they were
wise enough in their experience as colonists not to attempt the
redistribution of the old shires and hundreds.'(7)
King Alfred's ideas of rulership maintained the earlier and
sometimes unwritten laws of Britain in these words: 'A king's raw
material and instruments of rule are well-peopled land, and he
must also have men of prayer, men of war and men of work.'
From the earliest Code of Laws known as the Molmutine, the
following are appended as examples:
'There ate three tests of civil liberty; equality of rights;
equality of taxation; freedom to come and go.
'Three things are indispensable to a true union of nations;
sameness of laws, rights and language.
'There are three things free to all Britons; the forest, the
unworked mine, the right of hunting.
'There three property birthrights of every Briton; five British
acres of land for a home, the right of suffrage in the enacting
of the laws, the male at twenty-one, the female on her marriage.
'There are three things which every Briton may legally be
compelled to attend; the worship of God, military service, the
courts of law.
'There are three things free to every man, Briton or foreigner,
the refusal of which no law will justify; water from spring,
river or well; firing from a decayed tree, a block of stone not
'There are three classes which are exempt from bearing arms;
bards, judges, graduates in law or religion. These represent God
and His peace, and no weapon must ever be found in their hands.
'There are three persons who have a right of public maintenance;
the old, the babe, the foreigner who can not speak the British
From time immemorial the laws and customs differed from those of
other nations, and that the Romans effected no change in this
respect is very plainly set forth by Henry de Bracton, a
thirteenth-century English judge of great experience. 'He was
thoroughly acquainted with the practice of the law. His "Note-
Book" is our earliest and most treasured of law reports.'(9)
Judge de Bracton states, 'Whereas in almost all countries they
use laws and written right, England alone uses within her
boundaries unwritten right and custom. In England, indeed, right
is derived from what is unwritten which usage has approved. There
are also in England several and divers customs according to the
diversity of places, for the English have many things by custom
which they have not by written law, as in divers countries,
cities, boroughs and vills where it will always have to be
enquired what is the custom of the place and in what manner they
who allege the custom observe the custom.'(10)
Another point on which Britain differs from other countries is
that she has ever maintained the Common Law which holds a person
under trial innocent until proved guilty, whereas the Continental
nations maintain the Civil Law which holds him guilty until
Molmutius, the first king in these islands to wear a crown of
gold,(11) is said to have founded the city of Bristol, which he
called Caer Odor, 'the city of the Chasm'. His son Belinus, who
succeeded him, built a city where London now stands which he
called Caer Troia, and also the first Thames Embankment. He
constructed a sort of quay or port made of poles and planks, and
erected a water-gate. That age, the only gate admitting into
London on the south side, became Belinus Gate or Belins Gate.
Belinus lived to the age of eighty. When he died his body was
burned (they did not call it cremation in those days) and his
ashes were enclosed in a brazen urn, which was placed on top of
the gate; henceforth it was Belin's Gate and it requires no undue
stretch of imagination to see that Belin's Gate became
Bellingsgate enjoys the proud distinction of being the first Port
of London, the only Port of London at that time, and thus the men
of Billingsgate became the first Port of London Authority.
Cambria Formosa, daughter of Belinus, 373 B.C. greatly promoted
the building of cities. She is said to have taught the women of
Britain to sow flax and hemp and weave it into cloth. Her brother
Gwrgan first built the city of Cambridge which he called Caer
In these early times Britain was a wealthy country, with fine
cities, a well organized national life, and an educated and
The so-called Roman roads in Britain were constructed centuries
BEFORE the Romans came to these islands. The dover to Holyhead
causeway, called Sarn Wydellin or Irish Road, later became
corrupted into Watling Street; the Sarn Ikin, later Icknield
street, led from London northwards through the eastern district,
and Sarn Achmaen from London to Menevia (St. David's).
These were causeways or raised roads (not mere trackways as
sometimes erroneously stated), except where raised road were
impossible, and this accounts for the term 'Holloway' in some
parts of the country.
Our roads were begun by Molmutius (c.450 B.C.) and completed by
his son Belinus. On their completion a law was enacted throwing
open these roads to all nations and foreigners: 'There are three
things free to a country and its borders; the roads, the rivers
and the places of worship. These are under the protection of God
and His peace.' In this law originated the term 'The King's
Writers who maintain that the British roads were simply unmade
trackways seem unaware of the fact that the British were skilled
charioteer this fact, without other evidence, should go a long
way to prove that the roads of ancient Britain were hard and well
made. Charioteering is not brought to perfection on soft, boggy
trackways, nor are chariots built without wheelwrights and other
mechanics skilled in the working of iron and wood.
Only once before, in the war with Antiochus, 192 B.C., the Romans
met with similar chariots, but never in any European country. The
British chariot was built after the Eastern pattern, adorned with
carved figures and armed with hooks and scythes. British chariots
were prized possessions of the Romans.
Diodorus Siculus, 60 B.C., states, 'The Britons live in the same
manner that the ancients did; they fight in chariots as the
ancient heroes of Greece are said to have done in the Trojan
wars.....They are plain and upright in their dealings, and far
from the craft and subtlety of our countrymen.... The island is
very populous.... The Celts never shut the doors of their houses;
they invite strangers to their feasts, and when all is over ask
who they are and what is their business.(15)
Britain, long before the Roman invasion, was famous for its breed
of horses and the daring and accomplishment of its charioteers;
and after the arrival of the Romans the large space given by
their historians to the wars in Britain, demonstrate the interest
felt in them by the whole empire. Juvenal could suggest no news
which would have(16) been hailed by the Roman people with more
satisfaction than the fall of the British king Arviragus
(Caractacus), a direct descendant of King Molmutius.
'Hath our great enemy, Arviragus, the car-borne British
king, Dropped from his battle-throne?'
1. Ancient Laws of Cambria (British Museum, 5805, A.A. 4). Myv.
Arch., Vol. II, Brut Tysillo.
2. Yeatman, Early English History, p.9.
3. De Laudibus Legum Angliae. Coke Preface, third volume of
Pleadings. Fortescue Brit. Laws, published with notes by
Selden, Ch.17, pp.38,39.
5. Prehistoric London, p.115.
6. Summarized by Edmund Spenser, Faerie Queen, Bk.II, Stanza
XXXIX (ed. Morris).
7. A Manor through four Centuries, by A.R.Cook.
8. Triads of Dynvall Moelmud, ap. Walter p. 315 Myv Arch., Vol.
III. Ancient Laws of Cambria, ap. Palgrave and Lappenberg.
9. Gilbert Stone, England from Earliest Times, p.385.
10.Legibus et Consuet, pp.4,5.
11.Holinshed, Chronicles, Ch. XXII, p.117. Geoffrey of Monmouth,
12.E. O. Gordon, Prehistoric London, p.146.
13.Lewis, Hist. of Britain, p.52. See Baker's MSS. in the
University Library, Cambridge,XXIV,249.
14.Ancient Laws of Cambriae (British Museum,A.A.4). Stukely,
15.Dio.Sic., Bk.V,Chap.X. Senchus Mor., IV,237.
16.Juvenal lived through the reigns of Caligula, Claudius, Nero,
Vespasian, Domitian and Trojan, in whose reign he died at the
age of eighty.
TO BE CONTINUED
In the next chapter Isabel Hill Elder expounds on the Commerce
and Dress of the ancient British....more very revealing facts.