Front Matter Early Times The Druids The Britons Caesar in Britain Queen Boadicea The Great Walls The Great Irish Saint The Anglo-Saxons Brave King Arthur The Laws of the Saxons The Story of St Augustine Three Great Men The Danish Pirates King Alfred and the Cakes Alfred conquers the Danes A King's Narrow Escape The King and the Outlaw The Monasteries An Unlucky Couple St Dunstan King Canute and the Waves A Saxon Nobleman Lady Godiva's Ride The Battle of Hastings The Conquest Lords and Vassals Death of William The Brothers' Quarrels Arms and Armour The "White Ship" Matilda's Narrow Escapes Story of Fair Rosamond Thomas a Becket Murder of Thomas a Becket Richard's Adventures Richard and the Saracens The Faithful Minstrel Death of Richard The Murder of Arthur The Great Charter The Rule of Henry III A Race Persecution of the Jews The Conquest of Wales A Quarrel with France The Coronation Stone The Insolent Favourite Bruce and the Spider Death of Edward II The Murderers punished The Battle of Crecy The Siege of Calais The Age of Chivalry The Battle of Poitiers The Peasants' Revolt Richard's Presence of Mind A Tiny Queen Henry's Troubles Madcap Harry A Glorious Reign The Maid of Orleans The War of the Roses The Queen and the Brigand The Triumph of the Yorks The Princes in the Tower Richard's Punishment Two Pretenders A Grasping King Field of the Cloth of Gold The New Opinions Death of Wolsey Henry's Wives The King and the Painter A Boy King Lady Jane Grey The Death of Cranmer A Clever Queen Elizabeth's Lovers Mary, Queen of Scots Captivity of Mary Stuart Wreck of the Spanish Armada The Elizabethan Age Death of Elizabeth A Scotch King The Gunpowder Plot Sir Walter Raleigh King and Parliament Cavaliers and Roundheads "Remember" The Royal Oak The Commonwealth The Restoration Plague and Fire The Merry Monarch James driven out of England A Terrible Massacre William's Wars The Duke of Marlborough The Taking of Gibraltar The South Sea Bubble Bonny Prince Charlie Black Hole of Calcutta Loss of the Colonies The Battle of the Nile Nelson's Last Signal The Battle of Waterloo First Gentleman of Europe Childhood of Queen Victoria The Queen's Marriage Wars in Victoria's Reign The Jubilee

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Great Walls

To protect the northern part of Britain from the raids of the Picts and Scots, the Romans built three walls all across the island at its narrowest point. These walls, which are more than seventy miles long, are known by the names of the emperors by whose order they were built, and are hence called the walls of Hadrian, of Antoninus, and of Severus.

As the Romans were noted for their solid masonry, their walls stood firm for many long years, and even now, nearly seventeen centuries after the last wall was finished, there are some parts of it still standing. Along the walls, at certain intervals, were towers where the Roman soldiers stood on guard night and day, so that the Picts and Scots could not force their way into the cultivated lands.

Nearly five hundred years after the Romans first set foot in Britain, and when the country was quite used to their rule, Rome was threatened by a terrible invasion of barbarians. The legions were all needed to protect the frontier nearer home, so an order was sent to Britain recalling all the troops.

building a wall


The Britons were in despair, for those who were now left on the island did not know how to fight, and all the people were afraid of the Scots and Picts. But the Roman legions could not stay; so they gave the Britons weapons, taught them how to fight, and bade them keep watch on the walls and drive back their enemies whenever they came down from Caledonia, as Scotland was then called.

As soon as the Romans had left the country, the Picts and Scots marched southward. When they came near the great walls, they were surprised to see men on guard there, and hesitated for a little while; but they soon took courage, and, rushing forward, they climbed over the walls and drove away the Britons, who dared not resist.

There was nothing now to stop these marauders, who overran the whole country, destroying all that they could not carry away, and killing the inhabitants, or leading them off to sell them as slaves. Encouraged by success, the Picts and Scots came into Britain again and again. Each time they went a little farther south, and the inhabitants fled at their approach. The Britons could not protect themselves against the inroads of these barbarians, who were not much more civilized than the Britons had been at the time of Caesar's invasion; so they wrote a pitiful letter to the Roman general in Gaul, begging him to come over and help them. This letter was entitled "The Groans of the Britons," and ran thus: "The barbarians drive us into the sea; the sea throws us back upon the swords of the barbarians: and we have only the hard choice of perishing by the sword or by the waves."

This letter reached the Roman general safely, but he could not help the Britons, because he had to defend Gaul against Attila, the "Scourge of God," the terrible king of the Huns, who was sweeping all over Europe with his hordes of barbarians. As Rome itself was threatened, the Romans could not spare any troops to help the Britons, who, as you will soon see, were thus driven to seek help elsewhere.