A tour through the whole island of Great Britain, by Daniel Defoe

Letter IX

Eastern Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland

SIR— I began my first circuit at the bank of Trent, namely, at Nottingham Bridge, and keeping the middle of the island, travelled due north into the West Riding of Yorkshire, and to the farthest part of the county to the bank of Tees, as you have seen.

I am now come back, as the French say, sur mes pas, to the same bank of the Trent, though lower down, towards the east, and shall gather up some fragments of Nottinghamshire and the West Riding of Yorkshire, as I go, and then hasten to the sea side, where we have not cast our eye yet.

Passing Newark Bridge, we went through the lower side of Nottinghamshire, keeping within the River Idle. Here we saw Tuxford in the Clays, that is to say, Tuxford in the Dirt, and a little dirty market town it is, suitable to its name.

Then we saw Rhetford, a pretty little borough town of good trade, situate on the River Idle; the mayor treated us like gentlemen, though himself but a tradesman; he gave us a dish of fish from the River Idle, and another from the Trent, which I only note, to intimate that the salmon of the Trent is very valuable in this country, and is oftentimes brought to London, exceeding large and fine; at Newark they have it very large, and like wise at Nottingham.

From Rhetford, the country on the right or east lies low and marshy, till, by the confluence of the Rivers Trent, Idle, and Don, they are formed into large islands, of which the first is called the Isle of Axholm, where the lands are very rich, and feed great store of cattle: But travelling into those parts being difficult, and sometimes dangerous, especially for strangers, we contented our selves with having the country described to us, as above, and with being assured that there were no towns of note, or any thing to be call’d curious, except that they dig old fir trees out of the ground in the Isle of Axholm, which they tell us have lain there ever since the Deluge; but, as I shall meet with the like more eminently in many other places, I shall content my self with speaking of it once for all, when we come into Lancashire.

There are some few market towns in these low parts between this place and the Humber, though none of great consideration, such as Thorne upon the Don, Snathe upon the Aire, Selby upon the Ouse, and Howdon near the same river; the two last are towns of good trade, the first being seated where the Ouse is navigable for large vessels, has a good share in the shipping of the river, and some merchants live and thrive here; the latter is one of the towns in England, where their annual fairs preserve the name of a mart, the other Lyn, Boston, Ganesborough, Beverley, tho’ of late they begin to lose the word. The fair or mart held here is very considerable for inland trade, and several wholesale tradesman come to it from London. But I take this town to be more famous for the birth of one of our antient historians, (viz.) Roger of Hovedon or Howdon; Mr. Cambden’s continuator is much in the wrong to say this town stands upon the Derwent; whereas it is above three mile east of the Derwent, and no river of any note near it but the Humber.

Having found nothing in this low part of the country but a wonderful conflux of great rivers, all pouring down into the Humber, which receiving the Aire, the Ouse, the Don and the Trent, becomes rather a sea than a river, we left it on the right; and knowing we should necessarily visit its shores again, we turned up into the post road, where, as I said, I left it before near Brotherton, and went on for Tadcaster.

On this road we pass’d over Towton, that famous field where the most cruel and bloody battle was fought between the two Houses of Lancaster and York, in the reign of Edward IV. I call it most cruel and bloody, because the animosity of the parties was so great, that tho’ they were countrymen and Englishmen, neighbours, nay, as history says, relations; for here fathers kill’d their sons, and sons their fathers; yet for some time they fought with such obstinacy and such rancour, that, void of all pity and compassion, they gave no quarter, and I call it the most bloody, because ’tis certain no such numbers were ever slain in one battle in England, since the great battle between King Harold and William of Normandy, call’d the Conqueror, at Battle in Sussex; for here, at Towton, fell six and thirty thousand men on both sides, besides the wounded and prisoners (if they took any).

Tradition guided the country people, and they us, to the very spot; but we had only the story in speculation; for there remains no marks, no monument, no remembrance of the action, only that the ploughmen say, that sometimes they plough up arrow-heads and spear-heads, and broken javelins, and helmets, and the like; for we cou’d only give a short sigh to the memory of the dead, and move forward.

Tadcaster has nothing that we could see to testify the antiquity it boasts of, but some old Roman coins, which our landlord the post master shewed us, among which was one of Domitian, the same kind, I believe, with that Mr. Cambden gives an account of, but so very much defaced with age, that we could read but D O, and A V, at a distance. Here is the hospital and school, still remaining, founded by Dr. Oglethorp, Bishop of Carlisle, who, for want of a Protestant archbishop, set the crown on the head of Queen Elizabeth.

Here also we saw plainly the Roman highway, which I have mentioned, as seen at Aberforth; and, as antient writers tell us, of a stately stone bridge here, I may tell you, here was no bridge at all; but perhaps no writer after me will ever be able to say the like; for the case was this, the antient famous bridge, which, I suppose, had stood several hundred years, being defective, was just pull’d down, and the foundation of a new bridge, was laid, or rather begun to be laid, or was laying; and we were obliged to go over the river in a ferry boat; but coming that way since, I saw the new bridge finished, and very magnificent indeed it is.

Mr. Cambden gives us a little distich of a learned passenger upon this river, and the old bridge, at Tadcaster; I suppose he pass’d it in a dry summer, as the Frenchman did the bridge at Madrid, which I mentioned before.

Nil Tadcaster habes muris vel carmine dignum,

Præter magnifice structum sine flumine pontem.

But I can assure the reader of this account, that altho’ I pass’d this place in the middle of summer, we found water enough in the river, so that there was no passing it without a boat.

From Tadcaster it is but twelve miles to York; the country is rich, fruitful and populous, but not like the western parts about Leeds, Wakefield, Hallifax, &c. which I described above; it bears good corn, and the city of York being so near, and having the navigation of so many rivers also to carry it to Hull, they never want a good market for it.

The antiquity of York, though it was not the particular enquiry I proposed to make, yet shewed it self so visibly at a distance, that we could not but observe it before we came quite up to the city, I mean the mount and high hills, where the antient castle stood, which, when you come to the city, you scarcely see, at least not so as to judge of its antiquity.

The cathedral, or the minster, as they call it, is a fine building, but not so antient as some of the other churches in the city seem to be: That mount I mentioned above, and which, at a distance, I say was a mark of antiquity, is called the old Bale, which was some ages ago fortified and made very strong; but time has eaten through not the timber and plank only, which they say it was first built with, but even the stones and mortar; for not the least footstep of it remains but the hill.

York is indeed a pleasant and beautiful city, and not at all the less beautiful for the works and lines about it being demolished, and the city, as it may be said, being laid open, for the beauty of peace is seen in the rubbish; the lines and bastions and demolished fortifications, have a reserved secret pleasantness in them from the contemplation of the publick tranquility, that outshines all the beauty of advanced bastions, batteries, cavaliers, and all the hard named works of the engineers about a city.

I shall not entertain you either with a plan of the city, or a draught of its history; I shall only say in general, the first would take up a great deal of time, and the last a great deal of paper; it is enough to tell you, that as it has been always a strong place, so it has been much contended for, been the seat of war, the rendezvous of armies, and of the greatest generals several times.

It boasts of being the seat of some of the Roman emperors, and the station of their forces for the north of Britain, being it self a Roman colony, and the like, all which I leave as I find it; it may be examined critically in Mr. Cambden, and his continuator, where it is learnedly debated. However, this I must not omit, namely, that Severus and Constantius Chlorus, father to Constantine the Great, both kept their Courts here, and both died here. Here Constantine the Great took upon him the purple, and began the first Christian empire in the world; and this is truly and really an honour to the city of York; and this is all I shall say of her antiquity.

But now things infinitely modern, compared to those, are become marks of antiquity; for even the castle of York, built by William the Conqueror, anno 1069. almost eight hundred years since Constantine, is not only become antient and decayed, but even sunk into time, and almost lost and forgotten; fires, sieges, plunderings and devastations, have often been the fate of York; so that one should wonder there should be any thing of a city left.

But ’tis risen again, and all we see now is modern; the bridge is vastly strong, and has one arch which, they tell me, was near 70 foot in diameter; it is, without exception, the greatest in England, some say it’s as large as the Rialto at Venice, though I think not.

The cathedral too is modern; it was begun to be built but in the time of Edward the First, anno 1313. or thereabouts, by one John Roman, who was treasurer for the undertaking; the foundation being laid, and the whole building designed by the charitable benevolence of the gentry, and especially, as a noted antiquary there assured me, by the particular application of two eminent families in the north, namely, the Piercys and Vavasors, as is testified by their arms and portraits cut in the stone work; the first with a piece of timber, and the last with a hew’d stone in their hands; the first having given a large wood, and the latter a quarry of stone, for encouraging the work.

It was building during the lives of three archbishops, all of the Christian name of John, whereof the last, (viz.) John Thoresby, lived to see it finished, and himself consecrated it.

It is a Gothick building, but with all the most modern addenda that order of building can admit; and with much more ornament of a singular kind, than we see any thing of that way of building grac’d with. I see nothing indeed of that kind of structure in England go beyond it, except it be the building we call King Henry VIIth’s Chapel, additional to the abbey church of Westminster, and that is not to be named with this, because it is but a chapel, and that but a small one neither.

The royal chapel at Windsor, and King’s College Chapel, at Cambridge, are indeed very gay things, but neither of them can come up to the minster of York on many accounts; also the great tower of the cathedral church at Canterbury is named to match with this at York; but this is but a piece of a large work, the rest of the same building being mean and gross, compared with this at York.

The only deficiency I find at York Minster, is the lowness of the great tower, or its want of a fine spire upon it, which, doubtless, was designed by the builders; he that lately writing a description of this church, and that at Doncaster, placed high fine spires upon them both, took a great deal of pains to tell us he was describing a place where he had never been, and that he took his intelligence grossly upon trust.

As then this church was so compleatly finished, and that so lately that it is not yet four hundred years old, it is the less to be wondered that the work continues so firm and fine, that it is now the beautifullest church of the old building that is in Britain. In a word, the west end is a picture, and so is the building, the outsides of the quire especially, are not to be equall’d.

The choir of the church, and the proper spaces round and behind it, are full of noble and magnificent monuments, too many to enter upon the description of them here, some in marble, and others in the old manner in brass, and the windows are finely painted; but I could find no body learned enough in the designs that could read the histories to us that were delineated there.

The Chapter-House is a beauty indeed, and it has been always esteemed so, witness the Latin verse which is written upon it in letters of gold.

Ur Rosa flos florum, sic est Domus ista Domorum.

But, allowing this to be a little too much of a boast, it must be own’d to be an excellent piece of work, and indeed so is the whole minster; nor does it want any thing, as I can suppose, but, as I said before, a fine spire upon the tower, such a one as is at Grantham, or at Newark. The dimensions of this church shall conclude my description of it.

Feet.
It is in length, exclusive of the buttresses 524½
Breadth at the east end - - - 105
At the west end - - - - 109
In the cross - - - - - 222
Heighth of the nave of the roof - - 99
The lanthorn to the vault - - - 188
To the top leads - - - - 213
Of the chapter-house to the canopy - 86½
Breadth of the chapter-house - - 58¾

But to return to the city it self; there is abundance of good company here, and abundance of good families live here, for the sake of the good company and cheap living; a man converses here with all the world as effectually as at London; the keeping up assemblies among the younger gentry was first set up here, a thing other writers recommend mightily as the character of a good country, and of a pleasant place; but which I look upon with a different view, and esteem it as a plan laid for the ruin of the nation’s morals, and which, in time, threatens us with too much success that way.

However, to do the ladies of Yorkshire justice, I found they did not gain any great share of the just reproach which in some other places has been due to their sex; nor has there been so many young fortunes carried off here by half-pay men, as has been said to be in other towns, of merry fame, westward and southward.

The government of the city is that of a regular corporation, by mayor, aldermen and common-council; the mayor has the honour here, by antient prescription, of being called My Lord; it is a county within its self, and has a jurisdiction extended over a small tract of land on the west suburb, called the Liberty of Ansty, which I could get no uniform account of, one pretending one thing, one another. The city is old but well built; and the clergy, I mean such as serve in, and depend upon the cathedral, have very good houses, or little palaces rather here, adjoining the cymeterie, or churchyard of the minster; the bishop’s is indeed called a palace, and is really so; the deanery is a large, convenient and spacious house; and among these dwellings of the clergy is the assembly house. Whence I would infer, the conduct of it is under the better government, or should be so.

No city in England is better furnished with provisions of every kind, nor any so cheap, in proportion to the goodness of things; the river being so navigable, and so near the sea, the merchants here trade directly to what part of the world they will; for ships of any burthen come up within thirty mile of the city, and small craft from sixty to eighty ton, and under, come up to the very city.

With these they carry on a considerable trade; they import their own wines from France and Portugal, and likewise their own deals and timber from Norway; and indeed what they please almost from where they please; they did also bring their own coals from Newcastle and Sunderland, but now have them down the Aire and Calder from Wakefield, and from Leeds, as I have said already.

The publick buildings erected here are very considerable, such as halls for their merchants and trades, a large town-house or guild-hall, and the prison, which is spacious, and takes up all the ground within the walls of the old castle, and, in a building newly erected there, the assizes for the county are kept. The old walls are standing, and the gates and posterns; but the old additional works which were cast up in the late rebellion, are slighted; so that York is not now defensible as it was then: But things lie so too, that a little time, and many hands, would put those works into their former condition, and make the city able to stand out a small siege. But as the ground seems capable by situation, so an ingenious head, in our company, taking a stricter view of it, told us, he would undertake to make it as strong as Tourney in Flanders, or as Namure, allowing him to add a citadel at that end next the river. But this is a speculation; and ’tis much better that we should have no need of fortified towns than that we should seek out good situations to make them.

While we were at York, we took one day’s time to see the fatal field called Marston Moor, where Prince Rupert, a third time, by his excess of valour, and defect of conduct, lost the royal army, and had a victory wrung out of his hands, after he had all the advantage in his own hands that he could desire: Certain it is, that charging at the head of the right wing of horse with that intrepid courage that he always shewed, he bore down all before him in the very beginning of the battle, and not only put the enemies cavalry into confusion, but drove them quite out of the field.

Could he have bridled his temper, and, like an old soldier, or rather an experienced general, have contented himself with the glory of that part, sending but one brigade of his troops on in the pursuit, which had been sufficient to have finished the work, and have kept the enemies from rallying, and then with the rest of his cavalry, wheeled to the left, and fallen in upon the croup of the right wing of the enemies cavalry, he had made a day of it, and gained the most glorious victory of that age; for he had a gallant army. But he followed the chace clear off, and out of the field of battle; and when he began to return, he had the misfortune to see that his left wing of horse was defeated by Fairfax and Cromwell, and to meet his friends flying for their lives; so that he had nothing to do but to fly with them, and leave his infantry, and the Duke, then Marquis of Newcastle’s, old veteran soldiers to be cut in pieces by the enemy.

I had one gentleman with me, an old soldier too, who, though he was not in the fight, yet gave us a compleat account of the action from his father’s relation, who, he said, had served in it, and who had often shew’d him upon the very post every part of the engagement where every distinct body was drawn up, how far the lines extended, how the infantry were flank’d by the cavalry, and the cavalry by the woods, where the artillery were planted, and which way they pointed; and he accordingly described it in so lively a manner to me, that I thought it was as if I had just now seen the two armies engaging.

His relation of Prince Rupert’s ill conduct, put me in mind of the quite different conduct of old General Tilly, who commanded the imperial army at the great Battle of Leipsick in Germany, against that glorious Prince Gustavus Adolphus.

Upon the first charge, the cavalry of the right wing of Tilly’s army, commanded by the Count of Furstemburgh, fell on with such fury, and in such excellent order, being all old troops, and most of them cuirassers, upon the Saxon troops, which had the left of the Swedish army, and made twenty two thousand men, that, in short, they put them into confusion, and drove them upon their infantry of the main battle, so that all went off together except General Arnheim, who commanded the Saxon right wing, and was drawn up next to the Swedes.

The Saxons being thus put into confusion, the Imperialists cried Victoria, the enemy fly, and their general officers cry’d out to Tilly to let them follow. No, says Tilly, let ’em go, let ’em go; but let us beat the Swedes too, or we do nothing; and immediately he ordered the cavalry that had performed so well, should face to the left, and charge the rest of the army in flank. But the King of Sweden, who saw the disorder, and was ready at all places to encourage and direct his troops, ordered six thousand Scots, under Sir John Hepburn, who made his line of reserve, to make a front to the left, and face the victorious troops of the Imperialists, while, in the mean time, with a fury not to be resisted, he charg’d, in person, upon the Imperial left wing, and bore down all before him.

Then it appeared that Count Tilly was in the right; for though he had not let his right wing pursue the Saxons, who, notwithstanding being new men, never rallied, yet with his whole army he was not able to beat the rest; but the King of Sweden gained the most glorious victory that ever a Protestant army had till then obtain’d in the world over a Popish. This was 1632.

I came back extremely well pleased with the view of Marston Moor, and the account my friend had given of the battle; ’twas none of our business to concern our passions in the cause, or regret the misfortunes of that day; the thing was over beyond our ken; time had levelled the victors with the vanquished, and the royal family being restored, there was no room to say one thing or other to what was pass’d; so we returned to York the same night.

York, as I have said, is a spacious city, it stands upon a great deal of ground, perhaps more than any city in England out of Middlesex, except Norwich; but then the buildings are not close and throng’d as at Bristol, or as at Durham, nor is York so populous as either Bristol or Norwich. But as York is full of gentry and persons of distinction, so they live at large, and have houses proportioned to their quality; and this makes the city lie so far extended on both sides the river. It is also very magnificent, and, as we say, makes a good figure every way in its appearance, even at a distance; for the cathedral is so noble and so august a pile, that ’tis a glory to all the rest.

There are very neat churches here besides the cathedral, and were not the minster standing, like the Capitol in the middle of the city of Rome, some of these would pass for extraordinary, as the churches of St. Mary’s and Allhallows, and the steeples of Christ-Church, St. Mary’s, St. Pegs, and Allhallows.

There are also two fine market-houses, with the town-hall upon the bridge, and abundance of other publick edifices, all which together makes this city, as I said, more stately and magnificent, though not more populous and wealthy, than any other city in the king’s dominions, London and Dublin excepted. The reason of the difference is evidently for the want of trade.

Here is no trade indeed, except such as depends upon the confluence of the gentry: But the city, as to lodgings, good houses, and plenty of provisions, is able to receive the King, Lords and Commons, with the whole Court, if there was occasion; and once they did entertain King Charles I. with his whole Court, and with the assembly of Peers, besides a vast confluence of the gentry from all parts to the king, and at the same time a great part of his army.

We went out in a double excursion from this city, first to see the Duke of Leeds’s house, and then the Earl of Carlisle’s, and the Earl of Burlington’s in the East Riding; Carlisle House is by far the finest design, but it is not finished, and may not, perhaps, in our time; they say his lordship sometimes observes noblemen should only design, and begin great palaces, and leave posterity to finish them gradually, as their estates will allow them; it is called Castle Howard. The Earl of Burlington’s is an old built house, but stands deliciously, and has a noble prospect towards the Humber, as also towards the Woulds.

At Hambledon Down, near this city, are once a year very great races, appointed for the entertainment of the gentry, and they are the more frequented, because the king’s plate of a hundred guineas is always run for there once a year; a gift designed to encourage the gentlemen to breed good horses.

Yorkshire is throng’d with curiosities, and two or three constantly attend these races, namely, First, That (as all horse matches do) it brings together abundance of noblemen and gentlemen of distinction, and a proportion of ladies; and, I assure you, the last make a very noble appearance here, and, if I may speak my thoughts without flattery, take the like number where you will, yet, in spite of the pretended reproach of country breeding, the ladies of the north are as handsome and as well dress’d as are to be seen either at the Court or the Ball.

From York we did not jump at once over the whole country, and, like a late author, without taking notice of any thing, come out again sixty or seventy miles off, like an apparition, without being seen by the way. The first thing we did, we took a view of the suburb of York over the river, opposite to the city, and then entring the East Riding, took our audience de conge in form, and so stood over that division towards Hull.

In our road we had a clear view of the Earl of Burlington’s noble and magnificent house, mentioned just now, soon after our passing the River Derwent, on a very high rising ground, very advantageously situated.

The River Derwent, contrary to the course of all the rivers in Yorkshire, (as I have observed) runs north and south, rising in that part of the country called Cleveland, and running through, or hard by, several market towns, as Pickering, Pocklington, North Malton, and others, and is, by the course, a good guide to those who would take a view of the whole country.

I observed the middle of this riding or division of Yorkshire is very thin of towns, and consequently of people, being over-spread with Woulds, that is to say, plains and downs, like those of Salisbury; on which they feed great numbers of sheep, and breed also a great many black cattle and horses; especially in the northern part, which runs more mountainous, and makes part of the North Riding of York. But the east and west part is populous and rich, and full of towns, the one lying on the sea coast, and the other upon the River Derwent, as above; the sea coast or west side, is call’d Holderness.

After passing the Derwent we saw little of moment, but keeping under the woulds or hills mentioned above, we came to your old acquaintance John a Beverley, I mean the famous monastery at that town.

It is a large and populous town, though I find no considerable manufacture carried on there. The great collegiate church is the main thing which ever did, and still does, make the town known in the world. The famous story of John of Beverley, is, in short, this: That one John, Archbishop of York, a learned and devout man, out of meer pious zeal for religion, and contempt of the world, quitted or renounced his honours and superiority in the Church, and, laying aside the pall, and the mitre, retired to Beverley, and liv’d here all the rest of his time a recluse.

This story will prompt you to enquire how long ago ’twas, for you know as well as I, and will naturally observe, that very few such bishops are to be found now; it was indeed a long time ago, for it is this very year just five year above a thousand year ago that this happened; for the good man died Anno Dom. 721. you may soon cast up the rest to 1726.

The memory of this extraordinary man has been much honoured; and had they gone no farther, I should have join’d with them most heartily. But as to sainting him, and praying to him, and offering at his shrine, and such things, that we Protestants must ask their leave to have nothing to say to.

However, King Athelstan, after making a vow to him if he got the victory over the Danes, made him his tutelar saint, and gave great gifts and immunities to this place on his account; among the rest, the king granted his peace to it, as was the word in those days; that is to say, made it a sanctuary, as he did much about the same time to the church at Rippon; and I shall here give you the copy of his grant in the old English rhimes, as I did of the other.

As to this privilege of sanctuary, Mr. Cambden gives us the description of a stone chair, with a Latin inscription upon it in capital letters, which he Englishes also.

Here on the I3th of September, anno 1664, upon opening a grave they met with a vault of square free stone fifteen foot long, and two foot broad; within it was a sheet of lead four foot long, and in that the ashes, six beads (whereof three crumbled to dust with a touch; of the three remaining two were supposed to be Cornelian) with three great brass pins, and four large iron nails. Upon the sheet laid a leaden plate, with this inscription:

ANNO AB INCARNATIONE DOMINI MCLXXXVIII. COMBUSTA FUIT ECCLESIA IN MENSE SEPTEMBRI, IN SEQUENTI NOCTE POST FESTUM SANCTI MATHI APOSTOLI. ET IN ANNO MCXCVII. SEXTO IDUS MARTII, PACTA FUIT INQUISITIO RELIQUIARUM BEATI JOHANNIS, IN HOC LOCO, ET INVENTA SUNT HJEC OSSA IN ORIENTALI PARTE SEPULCHRI ET HIC RECONDITA, ET PULVIS CEMENTO MIXTUS IBIDEM INVENTUS EST ET RECONDITUS.

Cross over this there lay a box of lead about seven inches long, six broad, and five high, wherein were several pieces of bones mixed with a little dust, and yielding a sweet smell. All these things were carefully re-interred in the middle alley of the body of the minster, where they were taken up: This circumstance does not by any means agree with what Bishop Godwin has left us about this saint, namely, that he was buried in the church porch; for though what is mentioned in the inscription was only a reinterment upon the inquisition made; yet it looks a little odd they should not lay the relicks in the same place where they found them, unless one should solve it this way, that but part of the church was then standing, and they might lay him there with a design to remove him when it should be rebuilt, but afterwards either neglected or forgot it.

The minster here is a very fair and neat structure; the roof is an arch of stone, in it there are several monuments of the Piercy’s, Earls of Northumberland, who have added a little chapel to the choir, in the windows of which are the pictures of several of that family drawn in the glass at the upper end of the choir. On the right side of the altar-place stands the freed stool, mentioned by our author, made of one entire stone, and said to have been removed from Dunbar in Scotland, with a well of water behind it. At the upper end of the body of the church, next the choir, hangs an antient table with the picture of St. John (from whom the church is named) and of King Athelstan the founder of it, and between them this distich:

Ais free make I thee,

As heart can wish, or egh can see.

Hence the inhabitants of Beverley pay no toll or custom in any port or town in England; to which immunity (I suppose) they owe, in great measure, their riches and flourishing condition; for indeed, one is surprised to find so large and handsome a town within six miles of Hull: In the body of the church stands an antient monument, which they call the Virgins Tomb, because two virgin sisters lay buried there who gave the town a piece of land, into which any freeman may put three milch kine from Ladyday to Michaelmas. At the lower end of the body of the church, stands a fair, large font of agat stone.

Near the minster, on the south side of it, is a place nam’d Hall Garth, wherein they keep a court of record, called the Provost’s Court. In this may be try’d causes for any sum arising within its liberties; (which are very large, having about a hundred towns and parts of towns in Holderness, and other places of the East Riding belonging to it). It is said to have also a power in criminal matters, though at present that is not used.

But to come to the present condition of the town, it is above a mile in length, being of late much improv’d in its buildings, and has pleasant springs running quite through its streets. It is more especially beautified with two stately churches, and has a free-school that is improved by two fellowships, six scholarships, and three exhibitions in St. John’s College, in Cambridge, belonging to it; besides six alms-houses, the largest whereof was built lately by the executors of Michael Warton, Esq; who, by his last will, left one thousand pounds for that use; the mayor and aldermen having sometimes been deceived in their choice, admit none into their alms-houses but such as will give bond to leave their effects to the poor when they die; a good example to other places.

The principal trade of the town is making malt, oatmeal, and tann’d leather; but the poor people mostly support themselves by working bone-lace, which of late has met with particular encouragement, the children being maintain’d at school to learn to read, and to work this sort of lace. The cloathing trade was formerly follow’d in this town, but Leland tells us, that even in his time it was very much decay’d.

They have several fairs, but one more especially remarkable, called the Mart, beginning about nine days before Ascension Day, and kept in a street leading to the Minster Garth, called Londoners Street, for then the Londoners bring down their wares, and furnish the country tradesmen by wholesale.

About a mile from Beverly to the east, in a pasture belonging to the town, is a kind of spaw, though they say it cannot be judg’d by the taste whether or no it comes from any mineral; yet taken inwardly it is a great drier, and wash’d in, dries scorbutick scurf, and all sorts of scabs, and also very much helps the king’s evil.

It is easie to conceive how Beverley became a town from this very article, namely, that all the thieves, murtherers, house-breakers and bankrupts, fled hither for protection; and here they obtained safety from the law whatever their crimes might be.

After some time, the town growing bigger and bigger, the church was also enlarged; and though it fell into the king’s hands, King Henry VIII. having done by this as he did by others; and the monks of Beverley were suppress’d, yet the town continues a large, populous town; and the River Hull is made navigable to it for the convenience of trade.

I remember, soon after the Revolution, when the late King William hired six thousand Danish auxiliaries to assist him in his wars in Ireland, they landed at Hull, and, marching from thence for West-Chester, in order to embark for Carrickfergus, they came thro’ this town, and halted here a few days for refreshment. Here two of their foot soldiers quarrelled and fought a duel, in which one of them was kill’d. The other being taken, was immediately tried and sentenced to a court marshal of their own officers, and by the rules of war, such as were in force among them, was sentenced and put to death, and was then buried in the same grave with the man he had kill’d; and upon their grave is set up a stone with an English inscription thus: Under this stone two Danish soldiers lie.

There are other lines mentioning the story, as above, but I do not remember them, it being some years since I made this observation. But to return to St. John of Beverley, and King Athelstan’s merry grant, which I shall make speak English as well as I can; it is as follows:

The Charter of Privileges granted by King Athelstan to St. John of Beverley, in the Year of Our Lord 925

Yat witen alle yat ever been,
Yat yis Charter heren and seen,
Yat j ye King Adelstan,
Has yaten and given to Seint John
Of Beverlike; yat sai know
Tol and theam, yet wit ye now,
Sok and sake over all yat land
Yat is given into his hand:
On ever ilks kinges gai,
Be it all free yon and ay.
Be it almousend, be all free
Wit ilke man, and ekke wit mee.
Yat will j (be him yat me scop)
Bot till an ercebiscop,
And til ye seven minstre prestes,
Yat serves God ther Saint John restevs
Yat give j God and Saint John,
Her before you ever ilkan,
All my herst corn in eldeel,
To uphold his minstre weel;
Ya four threve (be Heven kinge)
Of ilka plough of Estriding.

If it swa betid or swa gaas,
Yat ani man her again taas,
Be he baron, be he erle,
Clare, prest, parson, or cherel;
Na, be he na yet ilke gome,
I will forsaye yat he come:
(Yat wit ye weel, (or and or)
Tul Saint John minstre dor.
And yar i will (swa Christ me red)
Yat he bet his misdeed,
Or he be cursed for on on.
Wit at yat ser vis Saint John.

Yit hit swa betid and swa es,
Yat ye man in mansing es,
J say, you over fourty daghes,
Swilke yan be Saint John laghes,
Yat the Chapitel of Beverlike
Till ye Scirif of Everwike.
Send yair writ son anon,
Yat yis man sed man becan.
Ye the scirif yan say I ye,
Witout en any writ one me,
Sal minen him (swa Christ me red)
And into my prison lede
And hald him, (yat is my will)
Till he bet his misgilt.

If men rise new laghes
In any oyer kinges daghes,
Be yay framed, be yay yemed,
Wit yham of the mynstree demed,
Ye mercy of the misdeed,
Gif j Saint John (swa Crist me red)
Yif man be cald of limes or lif,
Or men challenges land in strife,
Wit my bodlack wit writ of right,
Y will Saint John have ye might,
Yat man yer for nought fight in feeld,
Now yet wit staf no with sheeld;
Bot twelve men will j yat it telle,
Swo sail it be, swo her ibelle.
And he yat him swo werne may
Overcomen be he ever and ay,
Als he in feeld war overcomen.
Ye cravantise of him be nomen,
Yat yat j God, and Saint John;
Her before iow ever ilkon.
If men be founden than I drunkened,
Sterved on Saint John, rike his agmen men.
Without en swike his akkend bailife make ye sight,
Nad oyer coroner have ye might:
Swa milkel freedom give I ye,
Swa hert may think, or eghe see,
Yat have j thought and forbiseen,
Y will yat yar ever been,
Samenyng, and mynstre life.
Last follike witout en strife.
God helpe alie that ilk men
Yat helpes to ye thowen. Amen.

The same in modern English:

Let all men know that e’er have been,
That this Charter have heard and seen;
That I, King Athelstan,
Have taken and given to Saint John
Of Beverley, I say again (or now)
Toll and team, that know ye too,
Sok and sake o’er all that land
That is given into his hand;
As ever as any kings whatever,
It shall be all free then and for ever
As my alms are all free;
Witness every man, and witness me.
I will also (in spite of any that shall hinder me),
That as well an archbishop
As seven ministers of priests orders,
Shall serve God there where Saint John lies;
And that I give to God, and to Saint John,
Here, in all your presence ever one,
All my last crop of corn in Erdale,
To maintain his ministers very well,
And four trave1 (by the King of Heaven)
Of every plough land in the East Riding.2

If it shall happen, or so fall out,
That any man with-holds it, or takes it away,
Be he lord, or be he earl,
Clerk, priest, parson, or layman;
Nay, be he never so great a person,
I will forbid that he shall touch it:
(That pray observe over and over)
Till St. John’s ministers have their due:
And moreover I will (so Christ hear me)
That he shall pay for the trespass,
Or be he curs’d from son to son;
Know ye this all that serve St. John,
(Witness all you servants of St. John).

If it should so happen, or so is,
That any man is secured in or fled to a house,
I command, that in forty days,
According to St. John’s laws,
That the Chapter of Beverley
Shall send out his writ with all speed
To the Sheriff of Everwick,
That the man may be apprehended:
And to the sheriff I hereby say,
Without any farther warrant from me,
Shall carry him (so Christ me bless)
Into my prison directly;
And shall keep him there, such is my will,
Till he make satisfaction for the trespass.

If other men make other laws,
In any other king’s reign;
Be they made or intended to be made,
Witness those then in trust,
The amends or fines of every such trespass
I give St. John (as Christ me help).
If any man be accused for life or limb,
Or titles of land be disputed at law,
Taken in execution or legal process;
I will, that St. John shall have the decision;
And no man shall combat for any cause whatever
Neither with weapon, or with armour,
But twelve men shall decide the cause,
That so it shall be well and fairly tried;
And he that is cast by their sentence
Shall be so for ever,
As much as if he were overcome in fight:
And the estate shall be called his
As if ’twas given him by Me, God, and St. John,
In presence of you every one.
If any man be found kill’d, or dead with drink,
Or starv’d with hunger, or cold in St. John’s bounds,
His next doers shall be told thereof;
Ye shall have no other coroner to judge.
As much freedom give I to you,
As heart can think, or eye can see.
That I have thought or have foreseen;
I will also that there shall always be,
Peaceable and quiet living among ye,
To the last, without any strife.
And God help every man
That gives to you his help. Amen.

From Beverley I came to Hull, distance six miles. If you would expect me to give an account of the city of Hamburgh or Dantzick, or Rotterdam, or any of the second rate cities abroad, which are fam’d for their commerce, the town of Hull may be a specimen. The place is indeed not so large as those; but, in proportion to the dimensions of it, I believe there is more business done in Hull than in any town of its bigness in Europe; Leverpool indeed of late comes after it apace; but then Leverpool has not the London trade to add to it.

In the late war, the fleets from Hull to London were frequently a hundred sail, sometimes including the other creeks in the Humber, a hundred and fifty to a hundred and sixty sail at a time; and to Holland their trade is so considerable, that the Dutch always employ’d two men of war to fetch and carry, that is, to convoy the trade, as they call’d it, to and from Hull, which was as many as they did to London.

In a word, all the trade at Leeds, Wakefield and Hallifax, of which I have spoken so justly and so largely, is transacted here, and the goods are ship’d here by the merchants of Hull; all the lead trade of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, from Bautry Wharf, the butter of the East and North Riding, brought down the Ouse to York: The cheese brought down the Trent from Stafford, Warwick and Cheshire, and the corn from all the counties adjacent, are brought down and shipp’d off here.

Again, they supply all these countries in return with foreign goods of all kinds, for which they trade to all parts of the known world; nor have the merchants of any port in Britain a fairer credit, or fairer character, than the merchants of Hull, as well for the justice of their dealings as the greatness of their substance or funds for trade. They drive a great trade here to Norway, and to the Baltick, and an important trade to Dantzick, Riga, Narva and Petersburgh; from whence they make large returns in iron, copper, hemp, flax, canvas, pot-ashes, Muscovy linnen and yarn, and other things; all which they get vent for in the country to an exceeding quantity. They have also a great importation of wine, linen, oil, fruit, &c. trading to Holland, France and Spain; the trade of tobacco and sugars from the West-Indies, they chiefly manage by the way of London. But besides all this, their export of corn, as well to London as to Holland and France, exceeds all of the kind, that is or can be done at any port in England, London excepted.

Their shipping is a great article in which they outdo all the towns and ports on the coast except Yarmouth, only that their shipping consists chiefly in smaller vessels than the coal trade is supplied with, tho’ they have a great many large vessels too, which are employed in their foreign trade.

The town is situated at the mouth of the River Hull, where it falls into the Humber, and where the Humber opens into the German Ocean, so that one side of their town lies upon the sea, the other upon the land. This makes the situation naturally very strong; and, were there any occasion, it is capable of being made impregnable, by reason of the low situation of the grounds round it.

King Charles II. on occasion of the frequent Dutch wars in that reign, had once resolved to appoint a station for a squadron of men of war here; with a yard and dock, for building men of war (ships) in the Humber; and, on this occasion, resolved to make the place strong, in proportion to the necessity of those affairs; upon which a large citadel was marked out on the other side the river; but it was never finished.

The greatest imperfection, as to the strength of Hull in case of a war, is, that, lying open to the sea, it is liable to a bombardment; which can only be prevented by being masters at sea, and while we are so, there’s no need of fortifications at all; and so there’s an end of argument upon that subject.

The town is exceeding close built, and should a fire ever be its fate, it might suffer deeply on that account; ’tis extraordinary populous, even to an inconvenience, having really no room to extend it self by buildings. There are but two churches, but one of them is very large, and there are two or three very large meeting-houses, and a market stored with an infinite plenty of all sorts of provision.

They shew us still in their town-hall the figure of a northern fisherman, supposed to be of Greenland, that is to say, the real Greenland, being the continent of America to the north of those we call the north west passages; not of Spiltbergen, where our ships go a whale fishing, and which is, by mistake, called Greenland. He was taken up at sea in a leather boat, which he sate in, and was covered with skins, which drew together about his waste, so that the boat could not fill, and he could not sink; the creature would never feed nor speak, and so died.

They have a very handsome exchange here, where the merchants meet as at London, and, I assure you, it is wonderfully filled, and that with a confluence of real merchants, and many foreigners, and several from the country; for the navigation of all the great rivers which fall into the Humber centers here, such as the Trent, the Idle, the Don, the Aire and Calder, and the Ouse; and consequently the commerce of all the great towns on those rivers is managed here, from Gainsborough and Nottingham on the Trent, York and Selby on the Ouse, and so of the rest.

There is also a fine free-school, over which is the merchant’s hall. But the Trinity-House here is the glory of the town: It is a corporation of itself, made up of a society of merchants: It was begun by voluntary contribution for relief of distressed and aged seamen, and their wives or widows; but was afterwards approved by the government, and incorporated: They have a very good revenue, which encreases every day by charities, and bounties of pious minded people.

They maintain thirty sisters now actually in the house, widows of seamen; they have a government by twelve eider brethren and six assistants; out of the twelve they chuse annually two wardens, but the whole eighteen vote in electing them, and two stewards. These have a power to decide disputes between masters of ships and their crews, in matters relating to the sea affairs only; and with this limitation, that their judgment be not contrary to the laws of the land; and, even in trials at law, in such affairs they are often called to give their opinions.

They have a noble stone bridge here over the River Hull, consisting of fourteen arches. They had once set up a Greenland fishery, and it went on with success for a time; but it decayed in the time when the Dutch wars were so frequent, and the house built by the Greenland merchants is now turned into granaries for corn, and warehouses for other goods.

The old hospital, call’d GOD’S House, stands near it, with a chapel rebuilt since the late war, and the arms of Michael de la Pole, the first founder, set up again; so that the foundation is restored, the building is nobly enlarged, and an entire new hospital built as an addition to the old one. The story of this De la Pole may not be unwelcome, because, though it be a piece of antiquity, ’tis a piece of honour both to the merchants of Hull, and to the town it self. Sir Michael de la Pole was a merchant of Hull, but first at a place called Raven’s Rood in Brabant, where, growing rich, he advanced to King Richard II. several thousand pounds in gold for his urgent occasions in his wars; upon which the king invited him to come and live in England, which he did; here the king knighted him, made his son, Michael de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, and gave him several lordships in Holderness; and Mr. Cambden observes, he is stiled by the king in those grants, William de la Pole, Dilectus Valectus & Mercator Noster, so that he was called the King’s Merchant.

This De la Pole founded a monastery of Carthusians, and an hospital, which, when that was suppress’d, remain’d; and this they call GOD’S House.

Farther east from Hull there is a little pleasant town call’d Headon, handsome, well built, and having a little haven from the sea, which threatens Hull, that it will in time grow up to be a great place, for it indeed increases daily; but I fear for them, that their haven will do nothing considerable for them, unless they can do something very considerable for that.

They tell us at Headon, that the sea encroaches upon the land on all that shore, and that there are many large fields quite eaten up; that several towns were formerly known to be there, which are now lost; from whence they may suppose, that as the sea by encroachment had damnified their harbour, so if it grows upon them a little more they shall stand open to the sea, and so need no harbour at all, or make a mole, as ’tis called abroad, and have a good road without it. But this is a view something remote.

The Spurn Head, a long promontory thrusting out into the sea, and making the north point of Humber, is a remarkable thing. But I leave that to the description of the sea coasts, which is none of my work; the most that I find remarkable here, is, that there is nothing remarkable upon this side for above thirty miles together; not a port, not a gentleman’s seat, not a town of note; Bridlington or Burlington is the only place, and that is of no note, only for a bay or road for shipping, which is of use to the colliers on this coast to defend them, in case of extremity of weather.

The country people told us a long story here of gipsies whicl visit them often in a surprising manner. We were strangely amused with their discourses at first, forming our ideas from the word, which, in ordinary import with us, signifies a sort of strolling, fortune-telling, hen-roost-robbing, pocket-picking vagabonds, called by that name. But we were soon made to understand the people, as they understood themselves here, namely, that at some certain seasons, for none knows when it will happen, several streams of water gush out of the earth with great violence, spouting up a huge heighth, being really natural jette d’eaus or fountains; that they make a great noise, and, joining together, form little rivers, and so hasten to the sea. I had not time to examine into the particulars; and as the irruption was not just then to be seen, we could say little to it: That which was most observable to us, was, that the country people have a notion that whenever those gipsies, or, as some call ’em, vipseys, break out, there will certainly ensue either famine or plague. This put me in mind, that the very same thing is said to happen at Smitham Bottom in Surrey, beyond Croydon, and that the water gushing out of the chalky hills about eight miles from Croydon, on the road to Ryegate, fills the whole bottom, and makes a large river running just to the towns end of Croydon; and then turning to the left runs into the river which rises in the town, and runs to Cashalton; and I name it, because the country people here have exactly the same notion, that this water never breaks out but against a famine; and as I am sure it has not now broken out for more than fifty years, it may, for ought I know, be true.

Scarborough next presents it self, a place formerly famous for the strong castle, situate on a rock, as it were hanging over the sea, but now demolish’d, being ruined in the last wars. The town is well built, populous and pleasant, and we found a great deal of good company here drinking the waters, who came not only from all the north of England, but even from Scotland. It is hard to describe the taste of the waters; they are apparently ting’d with a collection of mineral salts, as of vitriol, allom, iron, and perhaps sulphur, and taste evidently of the allom. Here is such a plenty of all sorts of fish, that I have hardly seen the like, and, in particular, here we saw turbets of three quarters of a hundred weight, and yet their flesh eat exceeding fine when taken new.

To describe the herring, the mackrel, the cod, the whiting, is only to repeat what is said in other places, and what we shall have occasion to repeat more than once, now we begin to go far north.

At the entrance of a little nameless river, scarce indeed worth a name, stands Whitby, which, however, is an excellent harbour, and where they build very good ships for the coal trade, and many of them too, which makes the town rich.

From hence the North Riding holds on to the bank of Tees, the northern bounds of Yorkshire, and where there are two good towns, (viz.) Stockton and Yarum, towns of no great note; but what they obtain by the river and adjacent sea, but are greatly encreased of late years, especially the first, by being the chiefest place in the North Riding of York, or in the county of Cumberland, for the shipping off lead, and butter for London.

I began now to consider the long journey I had to go, and that I must not stop at small matters: We went from Stockton to Durham. North Allerton, a town on the post road, is remarkable for the vast quantity of black cattle sold there, there being a fair once every fortnight for some months, where a prodigious quantity are sold.

I have not concern’d this work at all in the debate among us in England, as to Whig and Tory. But I must observe of this town, that, except a few Quakers, they boasted that they had not one Dissenter here, and yet at the same time not one Tory, which is what, I believe, cannot be said of any other town in Great Britain.

I must now leave Yorkshire, which indeed I might more fully have described, if I had had time; for there are abundance of rarities in nature spoken of in this North Riding, which I had not leisure to enquire into; as the allom mines or pits near Moultgrave or Musgrave, from whence the Lord Musgrave now Duke of Buckinghamshire, has his title, as he has also a great part of his estate from the allom works not far off. Next here are the snake stones, of which nothing can be said but as one observes of them, to see how nature sports her self to amuse us, as if snakes could grow in those stones. Then the glates or gargates, that is, in short jett, a black smooth stone found in Cleveland; also a piece of ground, which, if the wild geese attempt to fly over, they fall down dead. But I cannot dwell any longer here.

Darlington, a post town, has nothing remarkable but dirt, and a high stone bridge over little or no water, the town is eminent for good bleaching of linen, so that I have known cloth brought from Scotland to be bleached here. As to the Hell Kettles, so much talked up for a wonder, which are to be seen as we ride from the Tees to Darlington, I had already seen so little of wonder in such country tales, that I was not hastily deluded again. ’Tis evident, they are nothing but old coal pits filled with water by the River Tees.

Durham is next, a little compact neatly contriv’d city, surrounded almost with the River Wear, which with the castle standing on an eminence, encloses the city in the middle of it; as the castle does also the cathedral, the bishop’s palace, and the fine houses of the clergy, where they live in all the magnificence and splendour imaginable.

I need not tell you, that the Bishop of Durham is a temporal prince, that he keeps a court of equity, and also courts of justice in ordinary causes within himself. The county of Durham, like the country about Rome, is called St. Cuthbert’s Patrimony. This church, they tell us, was founded by David, King of Scots; and afterward Zouch, the valiant bishop, fought the Scots army at Nevil’s Cross, where the Scots were terribly cut in pieces, and their king taken prisoner.

But what do I dip into antiquity for, here, which I have avoided as much as possible every where else? The church of Durham is eminent for its wealth; the bishoprick is esteemed the best in England; and the prebends and other church livings, in the gift of the bishop, are the richest in England. They told me there, that the bishop had thirteen livings in his gift, from five hundred pounds a year to thirteen hundred pounds a year; and the living of the little town of Sedgfield, a few miles south of the city, is said to be worth twelve hundred pounds a year, beside the small tithes, which maintain a curate, or might do so.

Going to see the church of Durham, they shewed us the old Popish vestments of the clergy before the Reformation, and which, on high days, some of the residents put on still. They are so rich with embroidery and emboss’d work of silver, that indeed it was a kind of a load to stand under them.

The town is well built but old, full of Roman Catholicks, who live peaceably and disturb no body, and no body them; for we being there on a holiday, saw them going as publickly to mass as the Dissenters did on other days to their meeting-house.

From hence we kept the common road to Chester in the Street, an old, dirty, thorowfare town, empty of all remains of the greatness which antiquaries say it once had, when it was a Roman colony. Here is a stone bridge, but instead of riding over it we rode under it, and riding up the stream pass’d under or through one of the arches, not being over the horse hoofs in water; yet, on enquiry, we found, that some times they have use enough for a bridge.

Here we had an account of a melancholy accident, and in it self strange also, which happened in or near Lumley Park, not long before we pass’d through the town. A new coal pit being dug or digging, the workmen workt on in the vein of coals till they came to a cavity, which, as was supposed, had formerly been dug from some other pit; but be it what it will, as soon as upon the breaking into the hollow part, the pent up air got vent, it blew .up like a mine of a thousand barrels of powder, and; getting vent at the shaft of the pit, burst out with such a terrible noise, as made the very earth tremble for some miles round, and terrify’d the whole country. There were near three-score poor people lost their lives in the pit, and one or two, as we were told, who were at the bottom of the shaft, were blown quite out, though sixty fathom deep, and were found dead upon the ground.

Lumley Castle is just on the side of the road as you pass between Durham and Chester, pleasantly seated in a fine park, and on the bank of the River Were. The park, besides the pleasantness of it, has this much better thing to recommend it, namely, that it is full of excellent veins of the best coal in the country, (for the Lumley coal are known for their goodness at London, as well as there). This, with the navigable river just at hand, by which the coals are carried down to Sunderland to the ships, makes Lumley Park an inexhaustible treasure to the family.

They tell us, that King James the First lodg’d in this castle, at his entrance into England to take possession of the crown, and seeing a fine picture of the antient pedigree of the family, which carried it very far beyond what his majesty thought credible, turn’d this good jest upon it to the Bishop of Durham, who shewed it him, viz. That indeed he did not know that Adam’s sirname was Lumley before.

From hence the road to Newcastle gives a view of the in-exhausted store of coals and coal pits, from whence not London only, but all the south part of England is continually supplied; and whereas when we are at London, and see the prodigious fleets of ships which come constantly in with coals for this encreasing city, we are apt to wonder whence they come, and that they do not bring the whole country away; so, on the contrary, when in this country we see the prodigious heaps, I might say mountains, of coals, which are dug up at every pit, and how many of those pits there are; we are filled with equal wonder to consider where the people should live that can consume them.

Newcastle is a spacious, extended, infinitely populous place; ’tis seated upon the River Tyne, which is here a noble, large and deep river, and ships of any reasonable burthen may come safely up to the very town. As the town lies on both sides the river, the parts are join’d by a very strong and stately stone bridge of seven very great arches, rather larger than the arches of London Bridge; and the bridge is built into a street of houses also, as London Bridge is.

The town it self, or liberty, as it is a Corporation, extends but to part of the bridge, where there is a noble gate built all of stone, not much unlike that upon London Bridge, which so lately was a safeguard to the whole bridge, by stopping a terrible fire which otherwise had endangered burning the whole street of houses on the city side of the bridge, as it did those beyond it.

There is also a very noble building here, called the Exchange: And as the wall of the town runs parallel from it with the river, leaving a spacious piece of ground before it between the water and the wall, that ground, being well wharf’d up, and fac’d with free-stone, makes the longest and largest key for landing and lading goods that is to be seen in England, except that at Yarmouth in Norfolk, and much longer than that at Bristol.

Here is a large hospital built by contribution of the keel men, by way of friendly society, for the maintenance of the poor of their fraternity, and which, had it not met with discouragements from those who ought rather to have assisted so good a work, might have been a noble provision for that numerous and laborious people. The keel men are those who manage the lighters, which they call keels; by which the coals are taken from the steaths or wharfs, and carryed on board the ships, to load them for London.

Here are several large publick buildings also, as particularly a house of state for the mayor of the town (for the time being) to remove to, and dwell in during his year: Also here is a hall for the surgeons, where they meet, where they have two skeletons of humane bodies, one a man and the other a woman, and some other rarities.

The situation of the town to the landward is exceeding unpleasant, and the buildings very close and old, standing on the declivity of two exceeding high hills, which, together with the smoke of the coals, makes it not the pleasantest place in the world to live in; but it is made amends abundantly by the goodness of the river, which runs between the two hills, and which, as I said, bringing ships up to the very keys, and fetching the coals down from the country, makes it a place of very great business. Here are also two articles of trade which are particularly occasioned by the coals, and these are glass-houses and salt pans; the first are at the town it self, the last are at Shields, seven miles below the town; but their coals are brought chiefly from the town. It is a prodigious quantity of coals which those salt works consume; and the fires make such a smoke, that we saw it ascend in clouds over the hills, four miles before we came to Durham, which is at least sixteen miles from the place.

Here I met with a remark which was quite new to me, and will be so, I suppose, to those that hear it. You well know, we receive at London every year a great quantity of salmon pickled or cured, and sent up in the pickle in kits or tubs, which we call Newcastle salmon; now when I came to Newcastle, I expected to see a mighty plenty of salmon there, but was surprized to find, on the contrary, that there was no great quantity, and that a good large fresh salmon was not to be had under five or six shillings. Upon enquiry I found, that really this salmon, that we call Newcastle salmon, is taken as far off as the Tweed, which is three-score miles, and is brought by land on horses to Shields, where it is cur’d, pickl’d, and sent to London, as above; so that it ought to be called Berwick salmon, not Newcastle.

There are five or six churches in Newcastle, I mean on the town side, being north by Tine, besides meeting-houses, of which, I was told, there are also five or six, (including the Quakers) some of which are throng’d with multitudes of people, the place, as has been said, being exceeding populous. It is not only enriched by the coal trade; but there are also very considerable merchants in it, who carry on foreign trade to divers parts of the world, especially to Holland, Hamburgh, Norway, and the Baltick.

They build ships here to perfection, I mean as to strength, and firmness, and to bear the sea; and as the coal trade occasions a demand for such strong ships, a great many are built here. This gives an addition to the merchants business, in requiring a supply of all sorts of naval stores to fit out those ships.

Here is also a considerable manufacture of hard ware, or wrought iron, lately erected after the manner of Sheffield, which is very helpful for employing the poor, of which this town has always a prodigious number.

West of this town lies the town of Hexham, a pass upon the Tine, famous, or indeed infamous, for having the first blood drawn at it, in the war against their prince by the Scots in King Charles the First’s time, and where a strong detachment of English, tho’ advantageously posted, were scandalously defeated by the Scots. Whether the commanders were in fault, or the men, I know not, but they gave way to an inferior number of Scots, who gain’d the pass, fought through the river, and killed about four hundred men, the rest basely running away; after which, the town of Newcastle was as easily quitted also, without striking a stroke; the country round this town is vulgarly call’d Hexamshire.

I was tempted greatly here to trace the famous Picts Wall, built by the Romans, or rather rebuilt by them, from hence to Carlisle; of the particulars of which, and the remains of antiquity seen upon it, all our histories are so full; and I did go to several places in the fields thro’ which it passed, where I saw the remains of it, some almost lost, some plain to be seen. But antiquity not being my business in this work, I omitted the journey, and went on for the north.

Northumberland is a long coasting county, lying chiefly on the sea to the east, and bounded by the mountains of Stainmore and Cheviot on the west, which are in some places inaccessible in many unpassable. Here is abundant business for an antiquary every place shews you ruin’d castles, Roman altars, inscriptions monuments of battles, of heroes killed, and armies routed, and the like: The towns of Morpeth, Alnwick, Warkworth, Tickill and many others, shew their old castles, and some of them still in tolerable repair, as Alnwick in particular, and Warkworth; others, as Bambrough, Norham, Chillingham, Horton, Dunstar, Wark, and innumerable more, are sunk in their own ruins, by the meer length of time.

We had Cheviot Hills so plain in view, that we could not but enquire of the good old women every where, whether they had heard of the fight at Chevy Chace: They not only told us they had heard of it, but had all the account of it at their fingers end; and, taking a guide at Wooller to shew us the road, he pointed out distinctly to us the very spot where the engagement was, here, he said Earl Piercy was killed, and there Earl Douglas, here Sir William Withington fought upon his stumps, here the Englishmen that were slain were buried, and there the Scots.

A little way off of this, north, he shewed us the field of battle, called Flodden Field, upon the banks of the Till, where James IV. King of Scotland, desperately fighting, was killed, and his whole army overthrown by the English, under the noble and gallant Earl of Surrey, in the reign of King Henry VIII. upon their perfidiously invading England, while the king was absent on his wars in France.

I must not quit Northumberland without taking notice, that the natives of this country, of the antient original race or families, are distinguished by a shibboleth upon their tongues, namely, a difficulty in pronouncing the letter r, which they cannot deliver from their tongues without a hollow jarring in the throat, by which they are plainly known, as a foreigner is, in pronouncing the th: This they call the Northumbrian r, and the natives value themselves upon that imperfection, because, forsooth, it shews the antiquity of their blood.

From hence lay a road into Scotland, by the town of Kelso, which I after pass’d thro’, but at present not willing to omit seeing Berwick upon Tweed, we turn’d to the east, and visited that old frontier, where indeed there is one thing very fine, and that is, the bridge over the Tweed, built by Queen Elizabeth, a noble, stately work, consisting of sixteen arches, and joining, as may be said, the two kingdoms. As for the town it self, it is old, decay’d, and neither populous nor rich; the chief trade I found here was in corn and salmon.

I am now on the borders of Scotland, and must either enter upon it now, and so mix it with other parts of England, or take up short, and call to mind that I have not yet taken the western coast of England in my way, I mean, the three north west counties of Lancaster, Westmoreland and Cumberland.

I cannot but say, that since I entred upon the view of these northern counties, I have many times repented that I so early resolved to decline the delightful view of antiquity, here being so great and so surprizing a variety, and every day more and more discovered; and abundance since the tour which the learned Mr. Cambden made this way, nay, many since his learned continuator; for as the trophies, the buildings, the religious, as well as military remains, as well of the Britains, as of the Romans, Saxons, and Normans, are but, as we may say, like wounds hastily healed up, the calous spread over them being remov’d, they appear presently; and though the earth, which naturally eats into the strongest stones, metals, or whatever substance, simple or compound, is or can be by art or nature prepared to endure it, has defaced the surface, the figures and inscriptions upon most of these things, yet they are beautiful, even in their decay, and the venerable face of antiquity has some thing so pleasing, so surprizing, so satisfactory in it, especially to those who have with any attention read the histories of pass’d ages, that I know nothing renders travelling more pleasant and more agreeable.

But I have condemn’d my self (unhappily) to silence upon this head, and therefore, resolving however to pay this homage to the dust of gallant men and glorious nations, I say therefore, I must submit and go on; and as I resolve once more to travel through all these northern countries upon this very errand, and to please, nay, satiate my self with a strict search into every thing that is curious in nature and antiquity. I mortify my self now with the more case, in hopes of letting the world see, some time or other, that I have not spent those hours in a vain and barren search, or come back without a sufficient reward to all the labours of a diligent enquirer; but of this by the way, I must, for the present, make this circuit shorter than usual, and leave the description of the other three counties to my next.

I am, &c.

1 A trave is a shock, or twelve sheaves of corn in the car.

2 Beverley is in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/defoe/daniel/britain/letter9.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 11:43