Lambert, parish priest of Ardres, describes in his chronicle how, about A.D. 1200, Arnold II, Count of Guisnes and Ardres, fortified the latter town for fear of his enemy the Count of Boulogne. The accompanying illustration shows clearly the state of these earthworks in the early seven­teenth century.

(M.G.H. vol. XXIV, p. 640.)

At the advice of his father, and of the peers and burgesses of the Town (for it was in the very navel and midst of the land of Guisnes, and was already waxing richer than the other towns and cities of the said territory, wherefore it was more obnoxious to his furious adversaries, and he himself was the more carefully bent on its defence) the Count shut it in, and surrounded it himself with a most mighty moat after the fashion of the moat at St Omer, such as no hand had conceived hitherto in the land of Guisnes, nor no eye had seen. Wherefore no small multitude of workmen came together to make and dig this moat aforesaid; who, howsoever vexed by the hardships of the season and pinched by the great famine and afflicted by the labour and heat of the day, yet chattered together and lightened their labour oftentimes with merry words, whereby their hunger was appeased. Moreover, many oftentimes came together to see these great earthworks; for such poor folk as were not hired labourers forgot their penury in the joy of beholding this work; while the rich, both knights and burgesses and oftentimes priests or monks, came not daily only, but again and again every day, to refresh their bodies and see so marvellous a sight. For who but a man stupefied and deadened by age or cares, could have failed to rejoice in the sight of that Master Simon the Dyker, so learned in geometrical work, pacing with rod in hand, and with all a master's dignity, and setting out hither and thither, not so much with that actual rod as with the spiritual rod of his mind, the work which in imagination he had already conceived? - tearing down houses and granges, hewing to the ground orchards and trees covered with flowers or fruit, seeing to it with the utmost zeal and care that the streets should be cleared, on workdays even more than on holidays, for all convenience of traffic, digging up kitchen-gardens with their crops of potherbs or of flax, treading down and destroying the crops to make straight the ways, even though some groaned in the indignation of their heart, and cursed him under their breath? Here the peasant folk with their marl-waggons and dung-carts, dragging loads of pebbles to be laid upon the road, cheered each other to the work with strokes and hearty blows on the shoulders. There, again, laboured the ditchers with their shovels, the hoe-men with their hoes, the pickers with their pick-axes, the beaters with their wooden mallets, the shavers with their shaving-irons, and the stone-layers and wallers and rammers and paviours with their proper and necessary gear and tools, the load-men and hod-men with their hods, and the turfers with their oblong sheets of turf, cut and torn at the master's bidding from all the meadows around; the catchpolls1 too, with their rods and knotted clubs, rousing the labourers and busily urging them to their work; and ever in the forefront the masters of the work, weighing all that was done in the scales of their geometrical plan; moreover, all these labourers were driven and constrained to this work through a continual time of travail and grief, of fear and pain.

1 Officers, constables.

(Coulton II, p.35)

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Copyright: McMaster University, 2000