Archaeological Journal/Volume 1/Notices of New Publications: The History and Antiquities of Cleveland

The History and Antiquities of Cleveland. By J. Walker Ord, Esq. 4to. Parts I. to VI. London, Simpkin, Marshall, and Co.

Mr. Ord has entered upon a laborious and praiseworthy undertaking with the zeal of an amateur and the industry of a practised antiquary. It is advertised to be completed in twelve Parts, of which we already possess six. The earlier pages consist of a general account of the history and antiquities of the district, which, in parts, is to our taste a little too diffuse,—there is too much of general matters which have little or no connection with the locality, and which, by repetition in every local history, are repeated ad nauseam—but in excuse for this it may be said that it is a work, the chief circulation of which will be in the locality and among readers who cannot so easily gain access to the mass of materials and observations on early history and antiquities here presented to them. The writer is evidently a man of talent, and his book gains upon us as we advance, by the agreeable style in which it is written, and by the quantity of interesting and novel local information which it offers. The first Part contains the history of Britain, rather than of Cleveland, under the aborigines or original inhabitants, under the Romans, under the Saxons, and under the Danes. In the second Part, under the title of "The Norman Conquest," the history becomes more local. After this we have a succession of interesting and ably-written chapters on the geology of Cleveland and its agricultural condition, and on its monuments of antiquity, primeval and medieval. In the fifth Part we have the detailed history of Gisborough priory, followed in No. VI., by that of the town and parish. It appears to us to be deserving of the high patronage under which it is put forth, and we hope that its extended sale will repay with interest the labours of its author. It is an extremely good specimen of provincial typography, is illustrated with numerous woodcuts inserted in the text, and by many large lithographed and copper-plate engravings.

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It is in our power, by the kindness of the author, to give a specimen or two of the woodcuts which illustrate his work, and we select as the first, a figure of a curious carved stone, found near a stone coffin taken up in Newton church in 1827. We believe Mr. Ord is not right in supposing it to be Saxon: it is evidently not older than the twelfth century, and the style bears some resemblance to the Coningsborough tombstone given in the present number of our Journal. Mr. Ord has given a very interesting account of the opening of some barrows in 1843, on Bernaldby Moor, near Erton Nab, and of other British and Roman antiquities in this neighbourhood. Of one of these barrows he says:—"Brown or black loamy earth, fine and powdery, mixed with masses of pure charcoal in dense layers, seemingly of oak, small red burnt stones, and portions of human bones, were alternately thrown up by the workmen, and in this manner our labours progressed till dusk. In this case the men reversed their mode of proceeding, digging a tunnel-shaped passage direct east and west through the centre of the tumulus. We had now (half-past four) gone beyond the middle line, and were about to relinquish the task in despair, when a lad, who was plying vigorously with his spade, cried out, 'Dom it, here's a bit o' carved stean!' and was on the point of aiming a final et tu Brute blow at the precious relic when the narrator leaped down, and arrested the fatal stroke. On examining the place, I found the outline of a noble urn-shaped vessel (see sketch, fig. 2), standing upright, covered with a large shield-shaped stone (fig. 1),

Fig. 1

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Fig. 3

Fig. 2

Fig. 4

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curiously carved in the interior with some metallic instrument, representing, as I conceived, either a rude armorial bearing, or a religious device. . . . With great care and some difficulty (for it was nearly dark) I worked round the urn with a knife, detaching it gradually from the adjacent mould, and having at length fairly disengaged it from the surrounding mass, held it aloft to the delighted assemblage, who hailed the long-expected sarcophagus with acclamations. The largest circumference of the urn (now in my possession) is 40 inches, the circumference of the top 36 inches, height from the base to the rim 13 inches, from the rim to the top 31/2 inches, total height 161/2 inches. The composition is of fine clay, burnt almost black in the interior, moulded apparently by the hand. The upper portion above the rim is marked with fine zig-zag lines, and the whole dotted with some pointed instrument. Inside we found a quantity of white calcined bones, comprising portions of the frontal, temporal, and parietal bones, several zygomatic processes, lumbar vertebræ, and portions of the tibia very complete, the femoral articulations of different individuals, numerous ribs, finger joints, and bones of the feet, besides a great many teeth in a remarkable state of preservation. The bones were evidently those of several persons mingled together, as they had been collected from the funeral pile, some of them evidently adult, others, from their size and form, of a tender age—not more than ten or twelve years old." It was a bell-shaped barrow, and Mr. Ord considers it to have been a British interment. He adds, "Fig. 3 is a small urn, preserved entire, in the possession of Dr. Young, of Whitby, discovered a few years ago at Upleatham, within a larger urn. It contained ashes similar to the exterior urn. Fig. 4 represents a stone found near Court Green, in one of the tumuli which I opened by the kind permission of Sir John Lowther, Bart." t. w.