The "Pennine" mountains

Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

January 25th, 2010, 3:13 pm #1

The central section of Hadrian's Wall sits just north of the famous "North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty." The Pennine range of hills, high moors, and upland pastures runs from central England to the South Tyne valley, just a mile or so south of Vindolanda. Something of its lonely majesty can be found in a car ride from Haltwhistle to Alston.

It's also a majestic name, recalling the Italian Apennines. Surely the name 'Pennines' must have come from deep in the mists of time?

A remarkably influential work titled De Situ Britanniae surfaced in England in 1749, and seemed to seal the deal. It was said to be a manuscript by the 14th Century Richard of Cirencester, who had cobbled together lost ancient documents. It described the landscape of ancient Britain, and included 18 "iters," or journeys, taken by a Roman commander, with the names of forts & regions visited along the way. The work was introduced to the world of antiquarians by none other than William Stukeley, a giant of the age. He had received copies of it from one Charles Bertram, an Englishman then living in Copenhagen. Its pages fired the imaginations of nearly every historian following Stukeley for generations. After all, here was a Holy Grail -- a lost history, a record of more than 60 Roman forts that were then unknown; a listing of tribes and peoples inhabiting the far distant stretches of Britain in ancient times.

And tucked away in its pages, one can find the following:

This province is divided into two equal parts by a chain of mountains called the Pennine Alps, which rising on the confines of the Iceni and Carnabii, near the river Trivona [modern Trent - ed], extend towards the north in a continued series of fifty miles.

There's just one problem. De Situ Britanniae is a fake. A good one. One that fooled Stukeley, the rest of the Royal Society, the librarian to the King of Denmark, the keeper of the Cotton Library, and -- nearly a century later -- the manuscript department of the British Museum. It was only finally debunked in 1845 by a German scholar. British antiquaries took several more years before finally, sheepishly, accepting that they had been fooled.

And the history of the name of the Pennine mountains? Before 1749, it has no history. The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that thousands of people enjoy every summer day? Named by a fraud.

So if you're reading through a British history book of the late 18th - mid 19th Centuries, be skeptical. Be very skeptical!

Reference: Accessed 25 January, 2010.
Last edited by SacoHarry on January 25th, 2010, 3:20 pm, edited 4 times in total.