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Devon was called Dunan by the Cornish Britons; Deuffneynt by the Welsh; and Devnascyre by the Anglo-Saxons. It is supposed that it was inhabited at a very remote period, and that its inhabitants had commercial transactions in tin, &c., with the Phoenicians and Greeks. Polwhele says that its aborigines were the Danmonii; but Whitaker supposes the latter were the Belgic invaders, and that the first inhabitants were the Cimbri, some of whom, after the invasion of the Belgae from Gaul, emigrated to Ireland, and others continued in the north-west parts of Devonshire. Caesar tells us that when he landed in Britain, he found the Belgae occupying the sea coast; but Richard of Cirencester says the Cimbri were on the north, and the Danmonii on the south coast of Devon.
The county was included with Cornwall, under the name of Danmonium, which is supposed to be derived from the Phoenician words dan or dun, a hill; and moina, mines; or from Welsh words signifying deep valleys. Under the Roman domination, Devon was included in that large and important division of the island called Britannia Prima; and by the Saxons it was made art of the kingdom of Wessex, and so continued till the incorporation of the seven Saxon Kingdoms into one monarchy, in the time of Egbert; as will be seen at pages 52 to 59, where most of the momentous events relating to the general history of Devon, are necessarily incorporated with the history of the city of Exeter. There has been nothing peculiar in the government of Devonshire, except that of the Stannary Laws, which have been in force from a very early period in the mining districts.
The "STANNARY PARLIAMENTS" were anciently held in the open air, on an elevated spot called Crockentor, in Dartmoor. Polwhele, who wrote about 1795, says that the president's chair, the jurors' seats, &c., cut in the rude stone, remained entire nearly till that period, though it had been customary for a very long time only to open the commission and swear in the jury on the site of the ancient court, and then to adjourn to the court house of one of the stannary towns, viz., Ashburton, Chagford, Plympton, and Tavistock. The stannary prison was a miserable dungeon at Lidford Castle. The custom of opening the court at Crockerntor, has been many years disused.
Until the invasion of Julius Caesar, 55 years before the birth of Christ, the history of Britain is almost a blank, though the Phoenicians of Cadiz are supposed to have traded with Devon and Cornwall for tin, some centuries before the Christian era. The Ancient Britons, in the south of England, had made some little progress towards civilization when Caesar invaded the island. They were divided into various tribes and nations, and their religion, which formed part of their free monarchical government, was druidical. The British Druids exercised their utmost authority in opposing the usurpation of the Roman invaders, who, fired with equal resentment, determined to secure themselves by exterminating the Druidic Order. In ancient times, Devonshire produced greater quantities of tin than Cornwall, and the method of mining was then of the simplest description, by "shoding and streaming". There are numerous stream works on Dartmoor and its vicinity, which have been forsaken for ages. In the parishes of Monaton, Kingsteignton, and Teigngrace, are many old tin works of this kind. That the Druids abounded in Devonshire, and were conversant particularly with Dartmoor Forest and its neighbourhood, is evident from the cromlechs, logan-stones, rock basins, stone Pillars, circles, cairns, rocking stones, rude bridges, &c., still to be seen in the wild solitudes of the forest, and in the surrounding parishes of Drewsteignton, Manaton, Okehampton.