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The wild solitudes of Dartmoor are the great store-houses of Druidical and other British remains in Devon, and it is even conjectured that the ancient oaks of Wistman's or Wiseman's wood, near Bairdown, or the hill of Bards, amidst the gigantic tors and the rude British remains of Dartmoor Forest, are the "posterity" of a Druidical grove. This extensive forest was no doubt one of the last retreats of the Druids of Danmonia, and it was always their favourite place of resort. Ancient British Roads ran from Exmouth to Woodbury, and thence to Taunton in Somersetshire; from Exeter to Molland, from Crediton to Haldon, from Exeter to Okehampton, and from Seaton to Molland. In the ancient tin streams in and near Dartmoor, various celts and Roman coins, rings, brooches, &c., have been found. Antique bronze wristlets were found some years ago, on the wrists of a skeleton, dug up in the earthwork near Lower St. Columb; and near the remains of the Phoenician smelting houses was found a block of Jew's tin, much corroded, and betraying marks of such great antiquity, that it is supposed to be the most ancient in existence.
The Romans had their chief station in this county at Exeter, from which they had roads diverging mostly in the lines of the British track ways. The principal of these passed through the whole length of Devonshire from northeast to southwest, and was called Ikeneld street. It entered this county from Dorsetshire, a little east of Axminster, whence it proceeded by Shute hill, Dalwood-down, Honiton, etc, to the large entrenchment at Hembury Fort. From the latter it passed by Colestock, Talewater, Tallaton Common, and Larkbeare to Stretwayhead, where it is still known by the name of the Old Taunton road. It crossed the river at Exeter, a little below Exe Bridge, and went over Haldon hill, near Ugbrooke, where there is a strong British camp. Below Newton Abbot it crossed the Teign by a ford still called Hacknieldway. After leaving another British camp on its left, it passed over Ford common to Totnes, which was a station of the ancient Britons. This ancient road was joined at Streetway-head by that from Exmouth, which passed through the great camp at Woodbury. Owing to local circumstances, antiquarians have found much difficulty in tracing the Roman roads, and fixing the sites of the stations in this county; and their opinions are so much at variance, that we shall dismiss the subject by referring the reader to the histories of those towns and parishes where there are remains or traces of them.
Though vestiges of numerous fortifications and encampments shew that Devon was a seat of warfare at a very early period, the earliest military transaction on record is the defeat of the Britons, in 614, by Cynegils, King of the West Saxons. The Danes having made frequent descents upon the coast, at last settled themselves in Exeter, but were besieged by Alfred the Great, and compelled to a truce. In the ensuing year they landed on the northern coast, and were defeated, with the loss of their favourite standard the raven. In 894, they attempted to besiege Exeter, but withdrew on the approach of Alfred. In 1001 they were equally unsuccessful in their attack upon that city, but pillaged the surrounding country and retired with the spoil. Subsequently, however, they gained possession, and nearly destroyed it. In 1067, Exeter stood a regular siege before it surrendered to William the Conqueror. On the accession of Wm. Rufus, it was laid waste by the partizans of Robert, Duke of Normandy. During the civil wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, Devonshire was much disturbed; though no battle was fought within its limits.