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Like its modern growth, to southerners accustomed to see our towns grow up only as the slow work of wages, and not with the magic-like rapidity which has distinguished many industrial centres in the northern and midland counties, the ancient history of Southampton is of rare interest. Amid the mists of antiquity, the traces of its earliest experiences are to be read but dimly and with much uncertainty, and to add to these difficulties the domestic records previous to the 15th century have perished, but since 1432 they are recorded in English in books belonging to the Corporation with exceptional regularity. Roman and Romano-British remains of a character not to be mistaken have, however, been found in the neighbourhood; and by reason of its proximity to Winchester— the Caer Gwent or White City of the Ancient Britons and the Venta Bulgarum of the Romans—it no doubt possessed some importance from a remote period of England's history. Roman coins, dating from the first to the middle of the seventh decade of the fourth century, have been found close to the towrn, on the site, it is believed, of the Roman station of Clausentum—now known as Bitteme manor—and whether or not Calshot, five miles down the Southampton Water, marks the place of landing of Cerdic, the founder of the kingdom of the West Saxons, with his son A.D., 495, pennies of the Saxon Kings have been comparatively common among the discoveries of archeeologians within the boundaries of the town, giving colour to the statement that two mints were established here as early as the time of Athelstan.
One of the earliest notices of Southampton bearing traces of authenticity relates to its being pillaged in 837 by the terrible sea-kings of the north, who later laid Hampshire waste, and wintered in the town. Then it was that the impost known as the Dane-gelt was first levied, Ethelred, surnamed the Unready, with a handsome present of silver bribing these sea rovers to leave England. During Canute's dispute with Edmund Ironside, it was here in 1016 that he summoned an assembly of bishops, abbots, and nobles to swear fealty to him, he, in his turn, reciprocating their confidence by binding himself to them. Wessex thus came under his immediate personal rule, and it was on the shores of our river—his capital being Winchester and its port Southampton—that the. oft-quoted incident is said, on the authority of Henry of Huntingdon, to have occurred of the king rebuking his courtiers by ordering the waves to retire. The remains of his reputed palace are still to be seen, though now converted into a cowshed, in the narrow thoroughfare
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