Keith Hunt - Ancient London #6 - Page Six   Restitution of All Things

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Ancient London #6

Ancient Kings and Others #4


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brated upon the summit of the Penton, in which British kings have
played their part; the presence of the sovereign appears to have
been usual on these occasions of national rejoicing. We gather
from the traditions and "Usages" of the Druidic order, that after
the sacrifices had been offered by the priests within the
precincts of the Circle, the Gorsedd procession was formed, and
preceded by "Bards and Trumpeters," and escorted by the Druids,
the "Ministers of the Sanctuary," the Monarch in his chariot,
accompanied by his "Riders in Council," proceeded to the Llandin,
the Great Seat or throne of the Monarch, where the Gorsedd was
solemnized in all the dignity of its symbolic ritual on the "Hill
of Conference," familiar to us as Parliament Hill.
     The memory of the old road by which the procession wended
its way to the "Place of Assembly," survives in the name of
"Maiden Lane," a railway station not far from Penton, probably on
the site of the ancient way, which, under various names (for
example, Kings Road), has been traced running in a north-easterly
direction towards Highgate. In this name we have an interesting
link with the first wave of Aryan settlers, "Maiden" being a
corruption of the Sanskrit and Arabic word Maidan, signifying,
Professor Margoliouth informs us, an open place of public
meeting, like the "Maidan" of Calcutta and the "Maidan" of Cairo.
Nor is this the only example of a Maiden Lane in London. Running
parallel with the Strand is a "Maiden Lane" that opens out nearly
opposite to the National Portrait Gallery, which less than two
centuries ago was, like Trafalgar Square, an open space in the
country, famous for its springs bubbling up in the grass near by
(hence the origin of the name of Spring Gardens). The Keltic
title for this green spot was the Bryn Vryn (gently rising
bosom), from time immemorial a recognized "place of assembly"
(like many such another in and around London) where the "Right oś
the People" to "Free Speech" cannot legally be interfered with.
The preliminary proceedings of the Gorsedd or Eisteddfod probably
were conducted here, as they would be in the market-place of a
country town to-day by the members of the Order assembling and
according to their official rank marshalled in procession and by
way of Whitehall (the White or Holy Hill or Hall) proceeded to
the Circle on Thorney and the "Place of National Assembly," the
     At Canterbury, we find another example of the name Whitehall
in the road leading direct to the Gorsedd of the Dane John.
The ancient sites of the Maiden Lanes of London have been so
completely obscured by buildings and streets that it is
satisfactory to find the descriptive meaning of the name
confirmed by comparative antiquity at Colchester, where
Maidenburgh Lane leads direct from the upper part of the town to
the meadows beside the Colne at the foot of the Gorsedd Mound, on
which King Coel's castle stands. Remains of the Roman Forum have
been recently discovered on this spot, the site of the
prehistoric "Place of Assembly." Another example is "Maiden
Castle," a magnificent prehistoric earthwork near Dorchester; the
inner area of which is 14 miles around and the ramparts in places
60 feet high, the probable place of national assembly for all the
tribes of the district.

     Having dealt with the two national Gorsedds of the Llandin
and the Penton we now turn to the better known royal Gorsedds of
the Bryn Gwyn and Tothill on the foreshore of the Thames. We
distinguish them as royal because of their age-long connexion
with British kings. We hear first about the Bryn Gwyn, or White
Mound, as the burial place of Brutus and Imogene in about 1100
B.C., according to the generally accepted chronology. The next
event connected with royalty of which we have any record is the
burial of Dunwal Molmutius on the White Mount by his own request.
Under the double aspect of a road-maker and a law-giver we must
devote a few words to this important character. 
     In the chronological records of Wales, Dunwal Molmutius is
called "One of the Three Wise Kings of Britain, and he
established national municipal government." Shakespeare refers to
Molmutius as the great Lawgiver and first King: " . . . Molmutius
made our laws: Who was the first of Britain which did put his
brows within a golden crown and called himself a King . . ."
(Cymbeline, Act III. Se. 1). The fact of Molmutius being styled
the first King of Britain is explained by Hollinshed, who informs
us that his predecessors were called "Chiefs" and "Rulers," and
these dignitaries, Harding states, wore only diadems.

"The first he was, as Chroniclers exprime,
That in this isle of Brittaine had crowne of golde, 
For all afore coper and gilte was to beholde."

     Molmutius' name and fame is more especially associated with
the traditions of Winton (Winchester), the southern capital where
his merits have been publicly recognized. As a roadmaker we have
his work in the seven converging roads like the spokes of a wheel
in the old White City; three of these roads centred in London.
For that Londinium was only second in importance is exemplified
by Winton and London being the only places shown on an
Anglo-Saxon map of the world preserved among the muniments of
Hereford Cathedral. The Sarn Wyddelin was the high road from
Dover to Holyhead, and Wyddelin or Gyddelin being the British
term for Irish, the corruption into Watling Street is not great.
The Sarn Ikin (Ickneild Street) led from Londinium northwards,
through the Eastern districts and Sarn Achmaen, from Londinium to
Menevia (St. David's). Sarn Achmaen, as it led to St. David's,
probably derives its name, meaning a "rocking stone," from the
great stone of Ceti in Gower, mentioned in the Triads as one of
the "three mighty achievements of the island of Britain."
     But it is as a lawgiver that Molmutius is best known. We
have it on the authority of the great legal writers, Fortescue
and Coke, 1  that the Molmutine Laws have been always regarded as
the foundation and bulwark of British liberties, and have
remained from his time the common, unwritten or native laws of
the Island, as distinguished from the Roman, the canon and other
codes of foreign introduction. A glance at the selection we
append will show how many of these still remain in force. The
Druidic Civil Laws, now for the first time systematized and
reduced to a written code, are eminently distinguished for their
clearness, brevity, justice and humanity. One of their strongest
recommendations is that they are so

1 De Laudibus Legum Anglioe; Coke, Preface to third volume of
Pleadings; Origin of the Common Law of England.

simple as to be intelligible to all degrees of men and minds.
King Alfred, it is recorded, employed his scribe Asser, a learned
Welsh monk from Menevia (St. David's) (whom he afterwards made
Abbot of Amesbury and Bishop of Sherborne), to translate the
Molmutine Laws from the Keltic tongue into Latin, in order that
he might incorporate them into his own Anglo-Saxon Code.

"There are three tests of Civil Liberty: equality of rights - 
equality of taxation - freedom to come and go.
"There are three causes which ruin a State: inordinate privileges
- corruption of justice - national apathy.
"There are three things which cannot be considered solid longer
than their foundations are solid: peace, property, and law.
"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 wild creatures.
"There are three things that require the unanimous vote of the
nation to effect: deposition of the sovereign - introduction of
novelties in religion - suspension of law.
"There are three civil birthrights of every Briton: the right to
go wherever he pleases - the right, wherever he is, to protection
from his land and sovereign - the right of equal privileges and
equal restrictions.
"There are three property birthrights of every Briton: five
(British) acres of land for a home - the right of armorial
bearings, the right of suffrage in the enacting of the laws, the
male at twenty-one, the female on her marriage.
"There are three guarantees of society: security for life and
limb - security for property - security of the rights of nature.
"There are three things the safety of which depends on that of
the others: the sovereignty - national courage - just
administration of the laws.
"There are three things which every Briton may legally be
compelled to attend: the worship of God - military service - and
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 in use. 
"There are three orders who are exempt from bearing arms:
the bard - the judge - the graduate in law or religion. These
represent God and His peace, and no weapon must ever be found in
their hand.
"There are three whose power is kingly in law: the sovereign
paramount of Britain over all Britain and its isles - the princes
palatine in their princedoms - the heads of the clans in their
"There are three sacred things by which the conscience binds
itself to truth: the name of God - the rod of him who offers up
prayers to God - the joined right hand.
"There are three persons who have a right to public maintenance:
the old - the babe - the foreigner who cannot speak the British


     These laws of Molmutius are briefly summarized by Spenser:

"Then made he lawes; which some men say 
Were unto him revealed in vision,
By which he freed the Traveller's highway, 
The Churches' part, the Ploughman's portion; 
Restraining stealth, and strong extortion, 
The gracious Numa of great Britanny,
For till his dayes, the chief dominion 
By strength was wielded without policy. 
Therefore he first wore crown of gold for dignity."

     After a memorable reign of forty years Molmutius died, and
was interred on the White Mound in Caer Troia. His eldest son,
Belinus, succeeded him, and completed the roads his father began.
A law was made throwing open these roads to all nations and
foreigners, and placing them on the same footing of security as
the river and the sanctuaries. "There are three things free to a
country and its borders - the rivers, the roads, and the place of
worship. These are under the protection of God and His peace.
Whoever on or within them draws weapons against any one is a
criminal." In this law originated the term "the King's Highway."
Within the precincts of the Bryn Gwyn, Belinus erected a royal
residence or castle with "many towers, one of wondrous height."
He caused a stupendous embankment on the Thames to be
constructed, and a quay for the ships of the "forth." Belinus
died at the age of eighty. His body was burnt, and the ashes
deposited in a golden urn on the top of the highest tower of his
palace. The tradition survives in the familiar name of
"Billingsgate," "Belin's Gate."
     In the Welsh Mabinogion, "Bendigeid Vran, the son of Llyr,"
is referred to as "a crowned king of this island, exalted from
the crown of London." Wounded in the foot by a poisoned arrow
fighting against the Irish, Bendigeid commanded his followers to
cut off his head and bear it even unto the White Mount in London
and bury it there with its face towards France. . . ." "And they
buried the head in the White Mount, and when it was buried this
was the third Goodly concealment; and it was the third ill-fated
disclosure when it was disinterred, inasmuch as no invasion from
across the sea came to this island while the head was in that
concealment." The name of this king is not mentioned in the
genealogies, but he may possibly appear under another title.

     Belin Mawr in 100 B.C., the descendant and successor of
Belin I, is the next British king whose name we find associated
with the traditions of the Bryn Gwyn. Belin Mawr is said to have
resided here, presumably in the castle of "many towers," built by
his ancestor within the precincts of the royal demesne. No single
instance can be found of a Keltic king erecting any kind of
building upon the site of a sacred mound. At Windsor, Caerleon,
and Old Sarum, the castle, and royal residences stand round about
the foot of the Mound. At Camulodunum the remains of King Coel's
Castle are to be seen at Lexden, now a suburb of Colchester, a
mile or so from the grand old Gorsedd upon which the Emperor
Claudius erected the present (so-called) King Coel's Castle as a
sign of "Eternal Dominion." It was the seizure of the Druidical
emoluments for the worship of the gods and the deified Claudius
upon this sacred mound, according to Tacitus, that led to the
national rising under Boadicea. The only time London has been
rifled and destroyed has not been by a foreign enemy but by a
British queen and a British army visiting it with condign
punishment for its collusion with a foreign invader.

     It is generally thought the Britons of this period were
savages, clothed in skins. Quite the contrary was the case, as
we learn from Strabo, a contemporary of King Cunobeline, who has
left us a most vivid description of the dress of the Britons at
this period, which removes the false impression that the
inhabitants of our island were a race of semi-civilized
barbarians as regards their personal appearance and weapons. The
Greek geographer writes:

"He came, not clad in skins like a Scythian, but with a bow in
his hand, a quiver hanging on his shoulders, a plaid wrapped
about his body, a gilded belt encircling his loins, and trousers
reaching from the waist down to the soles of his feet. He was
easy in his address; agreeable in his conversation; active in his
despatch, and secret in his management of great affairs; quick in
judging of present accuracies; and ready to take his part in any
sudden emergency: provident withal in guarding against futurity:
diligent in the quest of wisdom: fond of friendship: trusting
very little to fortune, yet having the entire confidence of
others, and trusted with everything for his prudence. He spoke
Greek with a fluency, that you would have thought he had been
bred up in the Lyceum, and conversed all his life with the
Academy of Athens."


     Heli or Beli 11 reigned forty years and had three sons,
Llud, Caswallon (Cassivellaunus) and Nennius. Lludd succeeded
him. From the testimony of many old writers, whose accounts of
him all tally in a most remarkable way, Lludd appears to have
inherited a love of building from his ancestor, Belin 1, and a
similar desire to hand down his name to posterity as a benefactor
of Caer Troia. He is best known as the founder of Ludgate, the
western gate of the city (66 B.C.), and was buried in a vault
under this gate. Holinshed states:

"Lludd began to reign in 72 B.C., seventeen years before the
Romans came. He made a strong wall of lime and stone and
fortified it with divers fair towers, and in the west part of the
same wall he erected a strong gate, which he commanded to be
called after his name 'Ludgate,' and so unto this day, it is
called Ludgate.... He caused buildings to be made between London
stone and Ludgate and builded for himself not far from the said
gate a fair palace which is the Bishop of London's palace, beside
Paules at this day as some think; yet Harrison supposes it to
have been Baynard's Castle, where the Black Friars now standeth."

     Lludd's attempt to beautify the city is thus described in
the ancient Welsh MSS. of the Mabinogion preserved in Jesus
College, Oxford, translated by Lady Charlotte Guest.

"Lludd ruled prosperously and rebuilt the walls of London and
encompassed it about with numberless towers. After that he bade
the citizens build houses therein, such as no houses in the
kingdom could equal. Moreover he was a mighty warrior and
generous and liberal in giving meat and drink to all who sought
them, and though he had many castles and cities, this one loved
he more than any. And he dwelt therein most part of the year and
therefore it was called Caer Lludd and afterwards Caer London."

     From the same source we learn that Lludd caused the Isle of
Britain to be measured in its length and in its breadth, and in
Oxford he found the central point. This is confirmed by Mr.
Stanford, the great authority on all topographical matters at the
present time. That Oxford was an important centre in early
British times is proved by the existence, as we have seen, of a
fine prehistoric, artificial circular mound, within the precincts
of the ancient royal castle.
     It is further recorded that Lludd issued an edict commanding
the city to be henceforth called Llud-din instead of Caer Troia.
Gildas, the British historian, writing in the sixth century,
mentions that the people, headed by Nennius, threatened to rise
and depose Lludd if the edict was carried out. He was compelled
to give way. This contention seems to suggest that the old herioc
name of Troynovant, bestowed by Brutus on the Porth of the Tain,
had never completely superseded the yet older and more popular
Kymric title of the Llan-din, from remote antiquity the "seat" of
government in the great capital of commerce. If the mounds had
not been already there, the resemblance to the historic Troy
would not have impressed Brutus. As the sacred name of the Winton
survives to this day the official title of the southern capital,
in like manner (we venture to think) do the traditions of the
Llandin survive in the titles of the Bishop and the Diocese, the
Mavor and Corporation of the city of London.
     Lludd's two sons were too young to rule, so that by the
"voice of the people" Cassivellaunus was crowned king and made
military dictator under the title of Pendragon. The city of
Trinovantum, with the Duchy of Kent, was given to Androgeus, the
Duchy of Cornwall to Tenuantius. 

     In 55 B.C. Caesar landed in Britain. With four thousand
chariots Cassivellaunus opposed him. Nennius attacked the 10th
Legion. Caesar was assailed by Nennius in person. The sword of
the great Roman buried itself in the shield of the British
prince, and before he could extricate it, the tide of battle
separated the combatants, leaving the weapon a trophy to be long
afterwards exhibited to the inhabitants of Caer Troia. Nennius
died from the effect of the wound inflicted by the famous "Mors
Crocea" and was buried in the Bryn Gwyn.
     Androgeus, or Avarwy, Lludd's elder son, had made a secret
treaty, undertaking to open the gates of London to Caesar. The
plot, however, was unsuccessful. This act of treachery procured
for him among the mass of the people the opprobrious name of
"Mandubrad," the Black Traitor, perpetuated, in Caesar's
Commentaries, in the form of Manubratius. This man was consigned
to eternal infamy in the Triads of his country as the first of
the "three capital traitors of the island of Britain." Avarwy and
many of his partisans took refuge from the storm of national
execration on board the Roman fleet and returned to Rome with
Caesar after his fifty-five days campaign. The Black Traitor,
Avarwy, died prior to the assassination of Caesar in Rome.
In the following lines Spenser gives us the history of the events
of the next few years:

"He left two sons, too young to rule aright. Ahdrorogeus and
Tenantius, pictures of his might."
"Whilst they were young, Cassibalane their cute (uncle) Was by
the people chosen in their sted,
Who on him tooke the royal diademe, 
And goodly well long time it governed;

1 According to tradition, Constantine the Great carried away this
famous sword of the "yellow death" to Constantinople, but we have
been unable to trace it.

"Till the proved Romans him disquieted,
And warlike Caesar, tempted with the name 
Of this sweet island, never conquered,
And envying the Briton's blazed fame. 
(O hideous hunger of dominion) hither came.

"Yet twise they were repulsed backe againe, 
And twise renforst back to their ships did fly 
The whilst with blood they all the Shore did staine, 
And the gray ocean into purple dy:

"Ne had they footing found at last perdie, 
Had not Androgeus, false to native soyle, 
And envious of uncles soveraintie, 
Betrayd his countrey unto forreine spoyle, 
Nought els but treason from the first this land did foyle.

"So by him Caesar got the victory,
Through great bloudshed, and many a sad assay, 
In which him selfe was charged heavily
Of hardy Nennius, whom he yet did slay, 
But lost his sword, yet to be scene this day. 
Thenceforth this land was tributarie made 
T'ambitious Rome, and did their rule obey, 
Till Arthur all that reckoning defrayd;
Yet oft the Briton kings against them strongly swayd.

"Next him Tenantius reigned. . .

(Faerie Queene, Book II, canto x.)

     In the reign of King John we hear of Lludd's Gate, when in
1215 the Barons came to London to compel the King to sign the
Magna Charta. While waiting for the King's consent, riots broke
out. They stormed the Jews' Quarter in the neighbourhood of
Ludgate and used the materials thus obtained in repairing the
damage done to the wall and gate. Evidence of the fact was found
some years later, when stones, inscribed with Hebrew characters,
were found embedded in the masonry of the gate. In 1260, during
the reign of Henry 111, the gate was again repaired and adorned
with figures of Lludd and his two sons, Androgeus and Tenuantius.

To be continued

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