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Walter Williams, Esq., West Bromwich
HISTORY OF WEDNESBURY.
town of Wednesbury is situated near the head of the river Tame, in the southern division of the hundred of Offlow, and in the county of Stafford, and diocese of Lichfield;—distant from Stafford nineteen miles, from Lichfield twelve miles, and from Birmingham eight miles ;—being bounded on the north by Walsall, the west by Bilston, the south-west by Sedgley and Tipton, the northwest by Darlaston, and on the south by West Bromwich.
In the time of the Ancient Britons, it was, doubtless, a station of some importance. Its natural position, as well as its vicinity to the residence of the Druid-priests at Barr, and many other similar adjacent sites, would recommend it, in an especial manner, as a place of resort. A hill, such as the one on which the town of Wednesbury stands, —midway between the beacons of Barr and Sedgley, occupying, as it does, a most commanding situation in the
midst of an open country, and abounding in the sacred oak,—would cause it to be highly venerated by the Druids and their followers, by reason of an idea which then obtained, that the tops of hills made a nearer approach to the heavens, from whence the Deity could more perfectly hear their prayers, and the more readily comply with their wants; hence the most mountainous tracts in Britain were universally selected by the aborigines for places of habitation, and thereby became thickly peopled in comparison with other parts, so that in process of time every solitary hill formed the abode of a colony of native Britons.
The early history of Britain is probably involved in greater obscurity than that of any other nation. Divers causes may be assigned for this fact—any one of which would in itself be sufficient to account for the paucity of materials that exists. The exclusive character of the Druidical religion—the jealousy that existed of foreign interference— the custom of using mystic characters and signs—as also the incessant disquietude that marked the period now referred to,—a disquietude arising from internal feuds and external invasions,—all combined to bury in oblivion the traditions connected with the country, and to destroy whatever histories might at one time be extant relating to it. If then the difficulties and disadvantages are so great in obtaining information concerning a country as a whole, they must be even greater with respect to a component part of that country.
This must be considered as a sufficient excuse for not giving any information, except in general terms, of the period to which we are now referring, or even until some centuries after the commencement of the Christian era; but should the reader wish to become acquainted with an account of the Druids,—and of the religion of the ancient inhabitants of Wednesbury,—he is directed to consult "Caesar's Commentaries," " Tacitus' Annals," and the writings of Ptolemy of Alexandria—of Diodorus Siculus; as also the Pharsalia of Lucan. We would briefly mention here, however, that these authors relate "that this island was the stronghold of Druidism—a system of religion which bound together, in a marvellous manner, the various kingdoms, tribes, and families, which were swayed by its tenets; that the chief object of worship was the oak tree, from whence they derive their name—' tguf in Greek, and ' Drui' in Celtic, signifying tree;* that fire and water, the sun, moon, and stars, received Divine honours; and that the serpent was an especial object of veneration, insomuch that the serpent's egg or anguinwm is mentioned by Pliny as having been worn by the arch-Druid as the badge of office."! They likewise inform us, that the Druids believed in the transmigration of the soul, and that this doctrine was carefully instilled into the young in order to make them regardless of death, and, therefore courageous in the time of battle. Diogenes Laertius acquaints us that the substance of their system of faith and practice was comprised in three precepts, viz.: to worship the gods, to do no evil, and to behave courageously. But the simplest, truest, and most ancient form of worship of the Druids appears to have been the worship of the celestial luminaries and of fire. "Under every green tree, and on every high hill" were the altars of the sun and moon reared, and, as the fire consumed the victim, the
* Here, then, we find that the "Dryades" of the Ancient Greeks is but another name for the " Druidhe" of the Ancient Britons—the former having the appellation of the sylvan nymphs, the latter of the sylvan priests.
+ The prevalence of this superstition throughout many nations evinces its derivation from the most ancient tradition of the human race—a tradition which took its rise at the fall of man,—See History of England.