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with the more northern mountains, commands, in much probability, a greater extent of surface than any other point of view in the island. It is entirely insulated, standing every way at a considerable distance from lands equally high. The horizon appears to rise almost equally on every side; it is quite an ocean view, from a ship out of sight of land; at least more so than any other landview I have seen. The Midland district is, almost every acre of it, seen lying at its feet. Lincoln cathedral, at the distance of near sixty miles, makes a prominent object from it. With a good glass, the Dunstaple Hills, at little less than eighty miles, may, it is said, be distinctly seen. The Malvern Hills, Mayhill, and the Sugar Loaf in South Wales, are distinctly in view. Enville, the Wrekin, and other mountains of Shropshire and North Wales, are equally distinguishable: and the Derbyshire hills, to the highest Peak, appear at hand. An outline, described from the extremities of the views, would include near one fourth of England and Wales. It may be deemed, without risque, I apprehend, one of the most extraordinary points of view in nature*.”
Drayton, in his Polyolbion, thus descants on the peculiarities of this forest :
“O Charnwood, be thou call’d the choicest of thy kind,
The HUNDREDS of East and West GoscOTE were united, and considered only as one, till the taxation of 1346, when it was divided, and in all civil proceedings relating to the county have ever since that period been distinctly and separately specified. As the county town is included within the hundred of West-Goscote, VOL. IX. Y
* Marshall's Rural Economy, Vol. I. p. 3-12,
this, with its principal towns and places, will be first taken into consideration. The hundred extends from the town of Leicester, to the river Trent, which bounds the county on the north, and is separated from East Goscote by the river Soar. Part of the ancient road, called the Salt-way, already described, may be traced in the forest between Barrow and Bordon-Hall. Besides Leicester, this hundred contains the towns of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Mount-sorel, and Loughborough. Its principal seats are CastleDonington, Staunton-Harold, Garendon, and Bradgate-Park. In this district is also comprehended the forest of Chamwood; and in that part of it which borders on Derbyshire are several coalpits and lime-works.
COMMONLY pronounced Lester, formerly written Lege-cestria, Legeocester, and in the Saxon annals Leger-ceaster, during a part of the Heptarchy, was a city, and has always been the chief town of the county. Without referring it to a British origin, or entering into a frivolous discussion respecting the derivation of its name, and of its civil privileges from King Leir, it will amply satisfy every rational enquirer, to commence its history at that period when the Romans had settled themselves in this island, and held the natives in military subordination. As those conquerors marched gradually from the south east, towards the central and northern parts of the country, they could not have obtained possession of the present district, till the intermediate places between it and the sea were subjugated, and competent garrisons established. Having accomplished this, and overpowered the Coritani, they took possession of the chief town of that people, This town, or strong hold, was the site of the present Leicester, and, at the time of its conquest, was “ denominated Ratæ, in the Itinera of Richard, Antoninus, and Ravennas; Raga, in all the copies nearly of Ptolemy's Geography, and absolutely and only Ragæ in Richard's Roman description of Britain. The real name,
therefore, must be equally Ratæ and Ragæ, the former implying the town to be fixed upon the currents, and the latter importing it to be the capital of the kingdom*.” That the Romans had a permanent station here, is unequivocally manifested by the tessellated pavements, and other remains, that have been discovered at different periods : and, according to Antoninus, Ratæ was one of their stipendary towns. " Antiquaries,” says Mr. Carte, “generally agree that this is the place which is called Caer-Lerion, by Nennius in his catalogue of the 28 cities which are said to have flourished in Britain before the invasion of it by the Romans ; and that the Romans, making it one of their stations, called it Ratæ. Whether the British name proves it to be a city so ancient as some assert, I think doubtful; but no doubt can be made of its being very considerable in the time of the Romans, seeing that so many of their remains have been, and are discovered among us. Mr. Baxter, in his British-Glossary, p. 137–200, is of opinion, that upon a Roman colony being settled at Lindum, Lincoln, Leicester became the chief city, or metropolis of the people, called Coritani; and for that reason, in Ravennas, it is called Rata-Corion, and in the Vatican Rate Coritanorum t." Though there be little reason to doubt the identity of this station, yet Camden and Bishop Gibson were not satisfied with the evidences they obtained, and therefore left their accounts undetermined respecting the name. Horsley, however, is decided in fixing the Rate here, and shews that the distances between this place and Verometum and Vennonæ, correspond with those in Antoninus's Itinerary. The foss-road in its way from Londinio, London, to Lindum, Lincoln, came by Vennone; whence to Ratæ was twelve miles, and thence to Verometum, thirteen miles; and these distances very nearly correspond with those between Claychester, Leicester, and Willoughby. Y 2
* Whitaker's Hist. of Manchester, Vol. I. p. 151, 4to.
+ Carte's MSS. quoted by Nichols, Vol. I. p. 5.
To illustrate the Roman history of this station, it will be necessary to particularize some of the remains that have been found here; but I presume it will neither be necessary nor interesting to discuss each subject in an elaborate and minute dissertation. Dr. Stukeley endeavoured to define and describe the form and extent of the station, but his plan and account have been discredited. That it was formed on the southern bank of the river Soar, that an artificial channel was cut for the water to flow up to, and constitute one boundary of the station, and that the Romans were settled here for some length of time, are circumstances easily proved, as ample evidences remain, and are recorded in support of these inferences. Many tessellated-pavements, coins, urns, and other domestic and military relics of the Romans, have been discovered at different times : some of wbich are still carefully preserved as memorials of ancient art, but many of the most interesting objects must have been destroyed during the ravages of war which Leicester experienced under the Saxons, Danes, and Nor
Of the Mosaic Pavements, that which was found in a cellar nearly opposite the town prison, in the year 1675, is the most curious, as the Tesseræ are disposed to represent two human figures, and a buck or stag. Many conjectural opinions have been published respecting the objects and story here represented; but it is less difficult to prove what it is, than to define its import. The present fragment, only part of a floor, is nearly octangular, of about three feet in diameter, and consists of variegated tesseræ, laid in cement, on a bed of oyster shells. The figures represent a stag, with a naked female resting against it, and before both is a boy with wings, and a bow and arrow; probably intended for Cupid. This group has been described by some antiquaries as a representation of that nonsensically fabulous story of Diana and Actæon, whilst others have hastily supposed it alluded to Cypressus lamenting the death of his favorite stag; but an intelligent writer, who has too much good sense to be captivated by antiquarian reveries, says, that “no story in the whole metamorphoses, can be found bearing the slightest resemblance to the subject before
Mr. Gilpin strangely calls it “a curious piece of Roman sculpture," but is more just in pronouncing it " a piece of miserable workmanship.” That this, and several other similar pavements, are curious and interesting, as samples of ancient art, and as relics of particular customs, is readily admitted; but I cannot so far impeach my judgment as to praise, or even approve of them, as being beautiful in design, or fine in execution. Whatever taste or talents the Romans displayed in their own country, may be pretty well appreciated by the specimens which have descended to our own times; but if they ever executed any truly elegant or meritorious works in this island, such productions have been either entirely destroyed, or are yet reserved for future discovery. It has been generally supposed that these mosaic pavements were principally or only used in the floors of baths, but this opinion is not satisfactorily proved ; and it is more probable that they were in general use in the houses of officers, and the higher classes of the Romans. In some of the ancient mansions in Italy, now in ruins, the whole floors consisted of highly ornamented mosaic pavements.
In the year 1754, three other pieces of Roman Pavements were discovered in that part of the town called the Black-Friars. These consisted of as many square compartments, ornamented with the guilloche border, engrailed fret, &c. "Another fragment of a pavement was found in the year 1782, in a place called the Cherry Orchard. Two or three other fragments of this sort have been uncovered in digging cellars, graves, &c. Most of these were found from four to six feet beneath the surface of the present streets.
The most curious relic of antiquity, and one that has provoked the most copious dissertations, is the MILLIARY, or Roman mile-stone, which was discovered in the year 1771, on the side of the foss-road, at the distance of about two miles north of the town. The stone is circular, resembling part of a shaft of a column, and the letters are roughly and irregularly cut into the
* “ A Walk through Leicester," 1804.