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II.—Some Account of Ancient Oaken Coffins discovered on the lands adjoining Featherstone Castle, near Haltwhistle, Northumberland

  • Thomas William Snagge

In the year 1825 some labourers who were employed in draining a swampy field upon a farm belonging to the Featherstone Castle estate came upon what seemed to be part of the trunk of an oak-tree. Finding that it impeded the progress of their work they endeavoured to cut it out with an axe, when to their surprise they discovered that the trunk was hollowed and contained some human bones, which, however, speedily became dust when exposed to the air. Proceeding with their work they found the remains of four more coffins of the same kind, in one of which was part of a skull.

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page 8 note a Afterwards Lord Wallace, Master of the Mint.

page 8 note b Both letters will be found printed in Archæologia Æliana, ii. 177. The discovery is also noticed in Hodgson's History of Northumberland, iii. 350.

page 9 note a It lay nearly east and west, but several others lay in different directions.

page 11 note a For want of a better expression I am obliged to borrow a word describing part of a canoe or boat, which indeed the halves much resembled.

page 12 note a The pegs which fastened the lid of the coffin were merely bits of the smaller branches of the tree which the workmen doubtless found conveniently rounded. The pegs fastening the patch were probably of the same kind but smaller, and the finer quality of their fibre would account for their earlier decay.

page 13 note a August, 1857, vol. iii. New Series, p. 114; also previously, with an engraving, by Mr. William Williamson, in the Gentleman's Magazine for Dec. 1834.

page 14 note a Crania Britannica. Description of plate lii.

page 14 note b Crania Britannica, ubi supra, and plate xlv. page 2. See also Hutchins's Dorset, ed 1774, vol. i. p. 25; edit. 1861, vol. i. p. 100.

page 14 note c Mantell's Wonders of Geology, page 47, paragraph 34, Third edition, 1839. The author mentions that for the skull and bones alluded to he is indebted to Warren Lee, Esq. of Lewes.

page 14 note d Second edition (1863), pp. 160–164.

page 15 note a Primæval Antiquities of Denmark.

page 15 note b Archæologia, xxxvi. 129, et seq. where a very full account of the Oberflacht discoveries is given by W. M. Wylie, Esq. F.S.A. The author observes that it is not improbable that this mode of burial was tolerably general among the Teutonic tribes of the continent at a very early period, especially in the wooded districts. He seems however to have considered the Gristhorpe discovery to be the only one of the kind in England, as he refers to it as the “sole example of a Todten-baum in our own country.” He notices instances of similar modes of burial among the Laplanders, mentioned by Scheffer, Lapponia, c. xxvii. p. 314, ed. Franc. 1673 ; and among the Circassians, as described by an old French writer of the sixteenth century, “Funerailles et diverses manières d'ensevelir, descrites par Charles Guichard. Lyon, 1583, livre iii. pp. 408–9.”

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The Antiquaries Journal
  • ISSN: 0261-3409
  • EISSN: 2051-3186
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