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Lydford Teachers Kit

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A guide for teachers planning a visit to Lydford, Devon. The defensive earthworks and street plan of the Early Medieval town (9th century AD) can be visited, along with the remains of a Norman fort (11th century AD) and so-called castle - a medieval courthouse and prison.
  Saxon & Norman Lydford TEACHER’S KIT BOOKING AND SITE INFORMATION The Engine House, Fire Fly Avenue, Swindon, SN2 2EH E    W  Page 1 Lydford is a rare example of a planned Saxon town from the time of King Alfred (871-899 AD). You can visit the massive earthwork that was built to defend the town, and you can explore the street plan. This was an important town that played a key role in the defence of the Kingdom of Wessex. There was even a mint where early pennies were struck. You can also visit important structures from Norman period (after the conquest of 1066). Behind the beautiful medieval church, on the west side of the promon-tory lies a small Norman fort where excavations have revealed the foundations of grain stores. Dominating the centre of Lydford is the so-called castle. It was really a court-house and prison and it had a terrible reputation. It was an administrative centre for the regulation of the mining of tin on Dartmoor. HISTORY  Planned 9th century town lying on spur, defended on NE side by ramparts  Site of important 10th century mint  Early Norman earthwork castle in western corner  Prison and courthouse for the Stannary Court 12th-18th century    Saxon & Norman Lydford TEACHER’S KIT BOOKING AND SITE INFORMATION The Engine House, Fire Fly Avenue, Swindon, SN2 2EH E    W  Page 2 HISTORY During the reign of Alfred the Great (AD 871-99) it is believed that Hlidan, the town now known as Lydford, was chosen to form a unit in the scheme of na-tional defence of Wessex. The town occupied a position of great natural strength, a triangular promontory protected on two sides by deep river valleys. The third side was defended by an earthen rampart. These strong defences may have been the reason that an attack by the Vikings in 997 AD was repelled. You can walk along the ramparts by going through marked gates near the Village Hall. A document called the Burghal Hidage lists 33 burhs that were built around the Kingdom of Wessex. Taxes to support the defence of each burh were based on the land, measured in ‘hides’, held by local landowners. Hlidan (Lydford) was assessed at 140 hides, equating with 577 feet. The town’s streets were laid out in a grid pattern still evident in the village to-day, where modern hedges and footpaths fossilise the courses of earlier streets. By the 10th century the town had its own mint, and its prosperity, from the tin trade, is evident from the fact that it paid The Saxon Burh  Established probably by King Alfred (871-899 AD)  Part of a system of defences around the Kingdom of Wessex  A town laid out with high street and side streets  On a promontory with earthwork defences on the north-east   The Wessex Burhs: order of citation in the manuscript.  After David Hill, 1981 An  Atlas of Anglo-Saxon England Blackwell, Oxford; and http:// Silver long cross penny of  Aethelred II (978-1016),  Minted at Lydford c.997-1003 by Goda.  Saxon & Norman Lydford TEACHER’S KIT BOOKING AND SITE INFORMATION The Engine House, Fire Fly Avenue, Swindon, SN2 2EH E    W  Page 3 HISTORY as much in taxes to the king as Totnes or Barnstaple. Soon after the siege and capture of Exeter by William the Conqueror in 1068, a small defensive earthwork was built on the extreme south-west tip of the prom-ontory at Lydford. Excavations have revealed the re-mains of five wooden buildings pro-tected behind a crescent-shaped earth and timber rampart with a deep ditch. The buildings appear to have been for the storage of grain. This rare early Norman castle, now owned by the National Trust, is a fascinating site and well worth visit-ing. The early castle was probably aban-doned fairly quickly. Meanwhile, Lyd-ford had become the administrative centre of the forest of Dartmoor, a royal jurisdiction with important and lu-crative rights. The Norman Castle  A defensive earthwork on the south-west of the Lydford spur  Built soon after William the Conqueror’s capture of Exeter in 1068  Five buildings revealed by excavations    Saxon & Norman Lydford TEACHER’S KIT BOOKING AND SITE INFORMATION The Engine House, Fire Fly Avenue, Swindon, SN2 2EH E    W  Page 4 HISTORY Although it looks like a Norman castle with its stone tower on top of an earth motte, with a bailey stretching out to the north-west, it is really a courthouse and gaol. By 1195, Lydford had become the judicial centre for the whole of the Dartmoor tin-mining or ‘stannary’ district, which had its own laws. In 1194 King John authorised the building of a new tower east of the church, to house offenders against both the forest and stannary laws. Such was the im-portance of the tin industry in Devon and Cornwall that a special legal and taxa-tion system had evolved to govern it, and the stannaries, or tin districts of Dev-on, were administered from Lydford. In 1239 Henry III granted Lydford to his brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall, as part of a princely endowment. On the death of Earl Richard’s son, Edmund, in 1300 the estate reverted to the Crown and since 1337 Dartmoor and Lydford Castle have formed part of the possessions of the Duchy of Cornwall. Offenders against the stannary laws were incarcerated here throughout the Mid-dle Ages and fitfully until the 18th century. The best-known was Richard Strode, MP for Plymouth, himself a tinner, who was thrown in the gaol in 1510 after hav-ing the temerity to complain that mining debris in the moorland rivers was silting The stannary court’s evil repu-tation for rough justice, though possibly unfounded, was long remembered. Even in the heat of summer, the bare walls and  gloomy interior of Lydford Cas-tle seem to bear witness to the words of the Devon poet Wil-liam Browne (1590–1645). Lydford Castle  A gaol and courthouse rather than a castle  The judicial centre of Dartmoor  A fearful reputation for rough justice  
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