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"Combatants were carried off for treatment, to live or die, their blood soaking into the earth where people now walk their dogs."

After the establishment of Durnovaria by the Romans in the 1st century AD, the banks were enlarged and seating built into them and the interior was levelled, probably for use as a training ground (ludus) for soldiers. It may also have been for entertainments such as combats. This carried on into the mediaeval period, with jousting and other events taking place. The banks would have rung to the clashing of metal on metal, music, dance and drinking against a background of shouts, grunts and screams of pain as combatants were carried off for treatment, to live or die, their blood soaking into the earth where people now walk their dogs. During the English Civil War, the Parliamentary garrison saw Maumbury Rings as an ideal fortification against an attack by the Royalists, who would have come from the Weymouth direction, so they built a ramp on the south-west side for the installation of heavy guns. An internal terrace was dug into the bank as a firing platform for the soldiers. As you stand on the banks today it is easy to imagine the soldiers looking in nervous dread for the advancing enemy. 160 lead bullets were found in an excavated well, probably made on-site by the blacksmith, ready to be used but discarded for some unknown reason. The monarchy was restored with Charles II whose Catholic brother, James II, eventually inherited the throne, only to be challenged by Charles’ illegitimate son, the Protestant Duke of Monmouth, in 1685. When the Duke was defeated at Sedgemoor, 80 of his rebel army were hanged at Maumbury Rings on the order of Judge Jeffreys; they were probably tried and condemned in a building in Dorchester where tea and cakes are now served. Public executions continued to be carried out here into the 18th century, the banks full of people sitting to watch the last moments of the unfortunates brought to this place of execution, a ring of faces the last thing they would see as the rope was put around their necks. One such was Mary Channing, only 19 years of age, who was garrotted and burnt for poisoning her husband in 1705. In the 19th century Thomas Hardy wrote The Mock Wife centred round this sorry tale. Who can say now what drove her to kill at such a young age? Was she more victim than villain, perhaps? Standing in the centre of this green oval the air is still and quiet, at last. Until the next festival that is. dorsetdiggers.blogspot.com bridporttimes.co.uk | 43

Profile for Sherborne & Bridport Times

Bridport Times March 2019  

Featuring Kim and David Squirrell of Ink on Page + What's On, Arts & Culture, History, Wild Dorset, Outdoors, Archaeology, Food & Drink, Bod...

Bridport Times March 2019  

Featuring Kim and David Squirrell of Ink on Page + What's On, Arts & Culture, History, Wild Dorset, Outdoors, Archaeology, Food & Drink, Bod...