Warwickshire was known to Shakespeare's contem-poraries as the Central County or heart of England. It was the middle shire of the Midlands, where the two great Roman roads crossing the island from east to west and west to east met,-forming at their point of junction the centre of an irregular St Andrew's cross, of 'which the arms extended from Dover to Chester on the one side and from Totnes to Lincoln and the north on the other. The centre in which this roads-Watling Street and the Fosse Way -thus met was early known from this circumstance as the High Cross. Being the most important Midland position during the Roman occupation of the country, several Roman stations were formed in the neighborhood of this venerable Quatre Bras. Of these Camden specifies the ancient and flourishing city of Clychester, represented in part by the modern Clybrook, and Manduessidum, the memory of which is probably retained in the modern Man-cettar. Important Roman remains have also been found within a few miles of Stratford, at Alcester, a central station on the third great Roman road, Ricknild Street, which runs from south to north across the western side of the county. In later times, when means of communication were multiplied, the great roads to the north-west still passed through the county, and one of them, the mail road from London through Oxford to Birmingham, Stafford, and Chester, was the "streete" or public way that crossed the Avon at the celebrated ford spanned in 1483 by Sir Hugh Clopton's magnificent bridge of fourteen arches. Immediately beyond the bridge rose the homely gables and wide thoroughfares of Shakespeare's native place.
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