SIR — As in my first journey I went over the eastern counties of ENGLAND, viz. ESSEX, SUFFOLK, NORFOLK, and CAMBRIDGE, and took my course on that side the river Thames, to view the sea-coasts, harbours, &c. so being now to traverse the southern counties, I begin with the other side of the Thames, and shall surround the sea-coast of KENT, as I did that of NORFOLK and SUFFOLK, and perhaps it is as fruitful of instructing and diverting observations as any of the other.
I took boat at Tower-Wharf, sending my horses round by land to meet me at Greenwich, that I might begin my journey at the beginning of the county, and here I had the advantage of making my first step into the county of Kent, at a place which is the most delightful spot of ground in Great-Britain; pleasant by situation, those pleasures encreas’d by art, and all made compleatly agreeable by the accident of fine buildings, the continual passing of fleets of ships up and down the most beautiful river in Europe; the best air, best prospect, and the best conversation in England.
The Royal Hospital for Seamen, though not yet finished; the park, the queen’s house, the Observatory on the hill, commonly call’d Flamstead-House, are all things so well known, they need no particular description.
The ground, part of this hospital now stands upon, and is to stand upon, is the same on which formerly stood the royal palace of our kings. Here Henry VIII. held his royal feasts with justs and tournaments, and the ground which was call’d the Tilt-yard, is the spot on which the easternmost wing of the hospital is built; the park, (for it was even then a park also) was enlarged, wall’d about, and planted with beautiful rows, or walks of trees by King Charles II. soon after the Restoration; and the design or plan of a royal palace was then lay’d out, one wing of which was finished and covered in a most magnificent manner, and makes now the first wing of the hospital as you come to it from London: The building is regular, the lower part a strong Dorick, the middle part a most beautiful Corinthian, with an Attick above all, to compleat the height; the front to the water-side is extreamly magnificent and graceful; embellished with rich carv’d work and fine devices, such as will hardly be outdone in this, or any age for beauty or art.
They must be very ignorant of our English affairs, who have published very lately that Queen Elizabeth built the royal palace of Greenwich; whereas it is evident, that it was the palace of King Henry VIII. her father, before she was born; and this is prov’d beyond contradiction by this particular circumstance, that her majesty was born in this very palace which she is there said to have built.
But the beauty of Greenwich is owing to the lustre of its inhabitants, where there is a kind of collection of gentlemen, rather than citizens, and of persons of quality and fashion, different from most, if not all, the villages in this part of England.
Here several of the most active and useful gentlemen of the late armies, after having grown old in the service of their country, and cover’d with the honours of the field, are retired to enjoy the remainder of their time, and reflect with pleasure upon the dangers they have gone thro’, and the faithful services they have performed both abroad and at home.
Several generals, and several of the inferior officers, I say, having thus chosen this calm retreat, live here in as much honour and delight as this world can give.
Other gentlemen still in service, as in the navy ordnance, docks, yards, &c. as well while in business, as after laying down their employments, have here planted themselves, insomuch, that the town of Greenwich begins to out-swell its bounds, and extends itself not only on this side the park to the top of the heath, by the way call’d Crum-Hill, but now stretches out on the east-side, where Sir John Vanburg has built a house castle-wise, and where in a little time ’tis probable, several streets of like buildings will be erected, to the enlarging and beautifying the town, and encreasing the inhabitants; who, as I have said, are already the chief beauty and ornament of the place: We are told also that leave will be obtained to build a new church on that side; the parish church, tho’ new rebuilt, and very large and beautiful, not being sufficient to receive the inhabitants, much less will it be so, if the buildings go on to encrease, as they have done, and as they now seem to do.
The river of Thames is here very broad, and the channel deep, and the water at some very high spring-tides is salt; but in ordinary tides, is very sweet and fresh, especially at the tide of ebb.
The country behind Greenwich adds to the pleasure of the place: Black-Heath, both for beauty of situation, and an excellent air, is not out-done by any spot of ground so near the river and so near land in England.
On the east-side stands an hospital very particular for Its foundation or design, tho’ thro’ the misfortunes of the times, the generous design of the founder has been much straiten3 d, and in great part, defeated.
It was built by Sir John Morden a Turkey merchant of London, but who liv’d in a great house at the going off from the heath, a little south of the hospital on the road to Eltham; his first design, as I had it from his own mouth the year before lie began to build, was to make apartments for forty decayed merchants, to whom he resolv’d to allow 4ol. per annum, each; with coals, a gown, (and servants to look after their apartments) and many other conveniences so as to make their lives as comfortable as possible, and that, as they had liv’d like gentlemen, they might dye so.
Sir John Morden and his lady lye bury’d in a vault in the chancel of the chapel of this hospital: The chapel is a very neat building facing the entrance into the court; the lodgings for the merchants, are on either side; two apartments in each stair case, with cellars for their conveniences, coals, beer, 8cc. and each apartment consists of a bed-chamber, and a study, or large closet, for their retreat, and to divert themselves in with books, &c.
They have a publick kitchen, a hall to dine in, and over the hall is a large room for the trustees (who manage the whole) to meet in; there is also a very good apartment for the chaplain, whose sallery is 50l. a year; there are also dwellings for the cooks, buttlers, porter, the women and other servants, and reasonable salaries allow’d them: And behind the chapel is a handsome burying ground wall’d in; there are also very good gardens; In a word, it is the noblest foundation, and most considerable single piece of charity that has been erected in England since Sutton’s Hospital in London: I call it single, because it has been built and endow’d by one single hand; the situation is very pleasant, and the air very healthy and good.
There is erected over the gate, since Sir John’s death, his statue in stone, set up by his lady, and since her death, her own is set up near it, by the trustees, she having been a benefactress to the foundation many ways since his decease.
There is a velvet pall given, by her ladyship in particular, to be laid up in the chapel for the use of the gentlemen; as also a large quantity of communion-plate; and the chaplain is obliged to read prayers twice every day, viz. at eleven a clock, and at three; at which all the pensioners are oblig’d to attend.
On the other side of the heath, north, is Charleton, a village famous, or rather infamous for the yearly collected rabble of mad-people, at Horn-Fair; the rudeness of which I cannot but think, is such as ought to be suppressed, and indeed in a civiliz’d well govern’d nation, it may well be said to be unsufferable. The mob indeed at that time take all kinds of liberties, and the women are especially impudent for that day; as if it was a day that justify’d the giving themselves a loose to all manner of indecency and immodesty, without any reproach, or without suffering the censure which such behaviour would deserve at another time.
The introduction of this rude assembly, or the occasion of it, I can meet with very little account of, in antiquity; and I rather recommend it to the publick justice to be suppress’d, as a nusance and offence to all sober people, than to spend any time to enquire into its original.
There are some very good houses lately built in this town, and abating the rabble and hurry of the 19th of October, as above, ’tis indeed a very pleasant village; standing on the top of a high hill, yet sheltered on one side by Shooter’s -Hill, which is much higher, and on the other side, over-looking the marshes and the river Thames, on which it has a very agreeable prospect from London almost to Gravesend .
Thro’ this town lies the road to Woolwich, a town on the bank of the same river, wholly taken up by, and in a manner rais’d from, the yards, and publick works, erected there for the publick service; here, when the business of the royal navy encreased, and Queen Elizabeth built larger and greater ships of war than were usually employ’d before, new docks, and launches were erected, and places prepared for the building and repairing ships of the largest size; because, as here was a greater depth of water and a freer chanel, than at Deptford, (where the chief yard in the river of Thames was before) so there was less hazard in the great ships going up and down; the croud of merchant-ships at Deptford, being always such, as that it could not be so safe to come up thither, as to put in at Woolwich.
At this dock the Royal-Sovereign was built, once the largest ship in the whole royal navy, and in particular esteem’d, for so large a ship, the best sailor in the world. Here also was rebuilt the Royal Prince, now call’d the Queen, a first rate, carrying a hundred guns, and several others: Close under the south-shore from the west-end of Woolwich, the Thames is very deep, and the men of war lye there moor’d, and as we call it, laid up; their topmasts, and all their small rigging taken down and laid in ware-houses; this reaches as high as the point over-against Bow-River and is call’d Bugby’s -Hole.
The docks, yards, and all the buildings belonging to it, are encompassed with a high wall, and are exceeding spacious and convenient; and are also prodigious full of all manner of stores of timber, plank, masts, pitch, tar, and all manner of naval provisions to such a degree, as is scarce to be calculated.
Besides the building-yards, here is a large rope-walk where the biggest cables are made for the men of war; and on the east or lower part of the town is the gun-yard, or place set a part for the great guns belonging to the ships, commonly call’d the Park, or the Gun-Park; where is a prodigious quantity of all manner of ordnance-stores, such as are fit for sea-service, that is to say, cannon of all sorts for the ships of war, every ship’s guns by themselves; heavy cannon for batteries, and mortars of all sorts and sizes; insomuch, that, as I was inform’d, here has been sometimes laid up at one time between seven and eight thousand pieces of ordnance, besides mortars and shells without number.
Here also is the house where the firemen and engineers prepare their fireworks, charge bombs, carcasses, and grenades for the publick service, in time of war; and here (if I remember right, it was in the time of a Dutch war) by mischance, the fire in the laboratory took hold of some combustibles, which spreading fir’d first a bomb or shell, and the bursting of that shell blew up all the works with such a terrible blast and noise, as shook and shattered the whole town of Woolwich almost in pieces, and terrify’d the people to the last degree, but kill’d no person as I heard of, except about eleven men who were in or near the fireworking house, where it first took hold.
In this park, close on the south bank of the river, a large battery of forty pieces of heavy cannon was rais’d, to have saluted the Dutch, if they had thought fit to have ventured up the river in 1667, as was given out they would when they burnt our ships at Chatham; and large furnaces and forges were erected to have furnish’d the gunners with red hot bullets for that service; but the Dutch had no design that way and did their business with far less hazard, and as much to our disgrace in another place.
Here is usually a guardship riding, especially in time of service; also here is a large hulk made of the carcass of an old man of war, sufficiently large for setting the masts of the biggest ships in the navy. The Thames is here at high water near a mile over, and the water salt upon the flood; and as the chanel lyes strait east and west for about three miles, the tide runs very strong; ’tis entirely free from shoals and sands, and has seven or eight fathom water, so that the biggest ships, and a great many of them, might ride here with safety even at low water.
From this town there is little remarkable upon the river, till we come to Gravesend, the whole shore being low, and spread with marshes and unhealthy grounds, except with small intervals, where the land bends inward as at Erith, Greenwhich, North-Fleet, &c. in which places the chalk hills come close to the river, and from thence the city of London, the adjacent countries, and even Holland and Flanders, are supply’d with lime, for their building, or chalk to make lime, and for other uses.
From these chalky cliffs on the river side, the rubbish of the chalk, which crumbles away when they dig the larger chalk for lime, or (as we might call it) the chips of the chalk, and which they must be at the charge of removing to be out of their way, is bought and fetch’d away by lighters and hoys, and carry’d to all the ports and creeks in the opposite county of Essex, and even to Suffolk and Norfolk, and sold there to the country farmers to lay upon their land, and that in prodigious quantities; and so is it valued by the farmers of those countries, that they not only give from two shillings and six pence, to four shillings a load for it, according to the distance the place is from the said chalk-cliff, but they fetch it by land-carriage ten miles, nay fifteen miles, up into the country.
This is the practice in all the creeks and rivers in Essex, even to Malden, Colchester, the Nase, and into Harwich Harbour up to Maningtree, and to Ipswich; as also in Suffolk, to Albro’, Orford, Dunwich, Swold, and as high as Yarmouth in Norfolk.
Thus the barren soil of Kent, for such the chalky grounds are esteem’d, make the Essex lands rich and fruitful, and the mixture of earth forms a composition, which out of two barren extreams, makes one prolifick medium; the strong clay of Essex and Suffolk is made fruitful by the soft meliorating melting chalk of Kent, which fattens and enriches it.
On the back-side of these marshy grounds in Kent at a small distance, lies the road from London to Dover, and on that highway, or near it, several good towns; for example, Eltham, formerly a royal palace when the Court was kept at Greenwich; and Queen Elizabeth, who (as before) was born at Greenwich, was often carry’d, as they say, to Eltham by her nurses to suck in the wholesome air of that agreeable place; but at present there are few or no signs of the old palace to be seen.
It is now a pleasant town, very handsomely built, full of good houses, and many families of rich citizens inhabit here: (As I observed of the villages adjacent to London in other counties) So it is here, they bring a great deal of good company with them: Also abundance of ladies of very good fortunes dwell here, and one sees at the church such an appearance of the sex, as is surprising; but ’tis complain’d of that the youths of these families where those beauties grow, are so generally or almost universally bred abroad, either in Turkey, Italy, or Spain, as merchants, or in the army or court as gentlemen; that for the ladies to live at Eltham, is, as it were, to live recluse and out of sight; since to be kept where the gentlemen do not come, is all one as to be kept where they cannot come. This they say threatens Eltham with a fatal turn, unless the scene alters in a few years, and they tell us, that all the ladies will abandon the place.
In the neighbourhood of this place at LVSVM, Sir John Lethulier, a Turkey merchant, liv’d for many years, and to a great age, and has establish’d his family in the separate houses of three or four several sons, to all which he has left plentiful estates in this country, but especially in Essex, where his eldest son has a very noble seat, and estate near Barking.
From this side of the country all pleasant and gay, we go over Shooter’s Hill, where the face of the world seems quite alter’d; for here we have but a chalky soil, and indifferently fruitful, far from rich; much overgrown with wood, especially coppice-wood, which is cut for faggots and bavins, and sent up by water to London. Here they make those faggots which the wood-mongers call ostrey wood, and here in particular those small light bavins which are used in taverns in London to light their faggots, and are call’d in the taverns a brush, the woodmen call them pimps; ’tis incredible what vast quantities of these are lay’d up at Woolwich, Erith, and Dartford; but since the taverns in London are come to make coal fires in their upper rooms, that cheat of a trade declines; and tho’ that article would seem to be trifling hi it self, ’tis not trifling to observe what an alteration it makes in the value of those woods in Kent, and how many more of them than usual are yearly stubbed up, and the land made fit for the plow.
As I passed, I saw Gravesend from the hills, but having been often in the town, I know enough to be able to say, that there is nothing considerable in it; except first that it is the town where the great ferry (as they call it) is kept up between London and East-Kent, it is hardly credible what numbers of people pass here every tide, as well by night as by day, between this town and London: Almost all the people of East-Kent, when they go for London, go no farther by land than this town; and then for six-pence in the tilt-boat, or one shilling in a small boat or wherry, are carry’d to London by water.
About 25 years ago one of these tilt-boats was cast away, occasioned by the desperate obstinacy and rudeness of the steersman or master, as they call him, who would tack again and stand over upon a wind, in the reach call’d Long-Reach, contrary to the advice and intreaties not of the passengers only but of his own rowers, who told him it blew a storm and she would founder; but he call’d them fools, bid the wind blow-devil, (a rude sailor’s proverb) the more wind the better boat, till coming into the chanel where the sea ran very high, he took in a wave, or a sea, as they call it, which run her down, and founder’d her, as was foretold; and himself and three and fifty passengers were all drown’d, only about five escaping by swimming.
The other thing for which this town is worth notice, is, that all the ships which go to sea from London, take, as we say, their departure from hence; for here all outward-bound ships must stop, come to an anchor, and suffer what they call a second clearing, (viz.) here a searcher of the customs comes on board, looks over all the coquets or entries of the cargo, and may, if he pleases, rummage the whole loading, to see if there are no more goods than are enter’d; which however they seldom do, tho’ they forget not to take a compliment for their civility, and besides being well treated on board, have generally three or five guns fir’d in honour to them when they go off.
The method of causing all ships to stop here before they go, is worth observing, and is as follows:
When a merchant-ship comes down from London, (if they have the tide of ebb under foot, or a fresh gale of wind from the west, so that they have, what they call fresh-way, and the ships come down apace) they generally hand some of their sails, haul up a fore-sail or main-sail, or lower the fore-top sail; so to slaken her way, as soon as they come to the Old Man’s Head; when they open the reach, which they call Gravesend Reach, which begins about a mile and half above the town, they do the like, to signify that they intend to bring too, as the sailors call it, and come to an anchor.
As soon as they come among the ships that are riding in the road, (as there are always a great many) the centinel at the block-house, as they call it, on Gravesend side fires his musquet, which is to tell the pilot he must bring too; if he comes on, as soon as the ship passes broad side with the block-house, the centinel fires again, which is as much as to say, Why don’t you bring too? if he drives a little farther, he fires a third time, and the language of that is, Bring too immediately, and let go your anchor, or we will make you.
If the ship continues to drive down, and does not let go her anchor, the gunner of the fort is fetch’d, and he fires a piece of cannon tho’ without ball; and that is still a threat, tho’ with some patience, and is to say, Will you come to an anchor or won’t you? If he still ventures to go on, by which he gives them to understand he intends to run for it; then the gunner fires again, and with a shot, and that shot is a signal to the fortress over the river, (viz.) Tilbury Fort, (which I describ’d in my account of Essex) and they immediately let fly at the ship from the guns on the east bastion and after from all the guns they can bring to bear upon her; it is very seldom that a ship will venture their shot, because they can reach her all the way unto the Hope, and round the Hope-Point almost to Hole-Haven.
Yet I happen’d once to be upon the shore just by Tilbury-Fort, when a ship ventur’d to run off in spight of all those fireings; and it being just at the first shoot of the ebb, and when a great fleet of light colliers and other ships were under sail too; by that time, the ship escaping came round the Hope-Point, she was so hid among the other ships, that the gunners on the bastion hardly knew who to shoot at; upon which they mann’d out several boats with soldiers, in hopes to overtake her or to make signals to some men of war at the Nore, to man out their boats, and stop her, but she laugh’d at them all; for as it blew a fresh gale of wind at south-west, and a tide of ebb strong under her foot, she went three foot for their one, and by that time the boats got down to Hole Haven, the ship was beyond the Nore, and as it grew dark, they soon lost sight of her, nor could they ever hear to this day what ship it was, or on what account she ventured to run such a risque.
Another time I was with some merchants in a large yatch, bound to France; they had a great quantity of block-tin on board, and other goods, which had not been enter’d at the custom-house; and the master or captain told us, he did not doubt but he would pass by Gravesend without coming to an anchor; he lay, when this thought came into his head, at an anchor in Gray’s Reach just above the Old Man’s Head, mention’d above, which is a point or head of land on the Essex shore, which makes the bottom of Gray’s Reach and the upper end of Gravesend Reach: He observ’d that the mornings were likely to be exceeding foggy; particularly on the morning next after his resolution of trying there was so thick a fog, that it was scarce possible to see from the main-mast to the bow-sprit, even of a hoy; it being high water, he resolv’d to weigh and drive, as he call’d it, and so he did: When he came among the other ships and over against the town, his greatest danger was running foul of them, to prevent which he kept a man lying on his belly at the bow-sprit end, to look out, and so, tho’ not without some danger too, he went clear: As for Gravesend or Tilbury-Fort, they could see no more of us than they could of London-Bridge; and we drove in this fog undiscern’d by the forts of the custom-house men, as low as Hole-Haven, and went afterwards clear away to Caen in Normandy without being visited.
But such attempts as these, are what would very hardly be brought to pass again now, nor is the risque worth any body’s running if the value be considerable that may be lost; and therefore one may venture to say, that all the ships which go out of the river from London, are first clear’d here, even the empty colliers and coasters go on shore, and give an account who they are, and take a signal from the customs-house office, and pay six-pence, and then pass on: As for ships coming in, they all go by here without any notice taken of them, unless it be to put waiters on board them, if they are not supply’d before.
From Gravesend we see nothing remarkable on the road but GAD’S-HILL, a noted place for robbing of sea-mem after they have received their pay at Chatham. Here it was that famous robbery was commited in the year 1676 or thereabouts; it was about four a clock in the morning when a gentleman was robb’d by one Nicks on a bay mare, just on the declining part of the hill, on the west-side, for he swore to the spot and to the man; Mr. Nicks who robb’d him, came away to Gravesend, immediately ferry’d over, and, as he said, was stopp’d by the difficulty of the boat, and of the passage, near an hour; which was a great discouragement to him, but was a kind of bait to his horse: From thence he rode cross the county of Essex, thro’ Tilbury, Hornden, and Bilerecay to Chelmsford: Here he stopp’d about half an hour to refresh his horse, and gave him some balls; from thence to Braintre, Bocking, Wethersfield; then over the downs to Cambridge, and from thence keeping still the cross roads, he went by Fenny Stanton to Godmanchester, and Huntington, where he baited himself and his mare about an hour; and, as he said himself, slept about half an hour, then holding on the North Road, and keeping a full larger gallop most of the way, he came to York the same afternoon, put off his boots and riding cloaths, and went dress’d as if he had been an inhabitant of the place, not a traveller, to the bowling-green, where, among other gentlemen, was the lord mayor of the city; he singling out his lordship, study’d to do something particular that the mayor might remember him by, and accordingly lays some odd bett with him concerning the bowls then running, which should cause the mayor to remember it the more particularly; and then takes occasion to ask his lordship what a, clock it was; who, pulling out his watch, told him the hour, which was a quarter before, or a quarter after eight at night.
Some other circumstances, it seems, he carefully brought into their discourse, which should make the lord mayor remember the day of the month exactly, as well as the hour of the day.
Upon a prosecution which happen’d afterwards for this robbery, the whole merit of the case turn’d upon this single point: The person robb’d swore as above to the man, to the place, and to the time, in which the fact was committed: Namely, that he was robb’d on Gad’s -Hill in Kent, on such a day, and at such a time of the day, and on such a part of the hill, and that the prisoner at the bar was the man that robb’d; him: Nicks, the prisoner, deny’d the fact, call’d several persons to his reputation, alledg’d that he was as far off as Yorkshire at that time, and that particularly the day whereon the prosecutor swore he was robb’d, he was at bowles on the publick green in the city of York; and to support this, he produced the Lord Mayor of York to testify that he was so, and that the mayor acted so and so with him there as above.
This was so positive, and so well attested, that the jury acquitted him on a bare supposition, that it was impossible the man could be at two places so remote on one and the same day. There are more particulars related of this story, such as I do not take upon me to affirm; namely, That King Charles II. prevailed on him on assurance of pardon, and that he should not be brought into any farther trouble about it, to confess the truth to him privately, and that he own’d to his majesty that he commited the robbery, and how he rode the journey after it, and that upon this the king gave him the name or title of Swift Nicks, instead of Nicks; but these things, I say, I do not relate as certain: I return to the business in hand.
From Gad’s -Hill we come to Rochester Bridge, the largest, highest, and the strongest built of all the bridges in England, except London-Bridge; some indeed say, the bridge of Newcastle upon Tyne, exceeds all the bridges in England for strength; and it is indeed very firm and wide, and has a street of houses upon it like London-Bridge, and a gate in the middle as large as a little castle, of which in its place; but then it is neither so high nor so long as this bridge at Rochester.
Rochester, Stroud, and Chatham, are three distinct places, but contiguous, except the interval of the river between the two first, and a very small marsh or vacancy between Rochester and Chatham.
There’s little remarkable in Rochester, except the ruins of a very old castle, and an antient but not extraordinary cathedral; but the river, and its appendices are the most considerable of the kind in the world. This being the chief arsenal of the royal navy of Great-Britain. The buildings here are indeed like the ships themselves, surprisingly large, and in their several kinds beautiful: The ware-houses, or rather streets of ware-houses, and store-houses for laying up the naval treasure are the largest in dimension, and the most in number, that are any where to be seen in the world: The rope-walk for making cables, and the forges for anchors and other iron-work, bear a proportion to the rest; as also the wet-dock for keeping masts, and yards of the greatest size, where they lye sunk in the water to preserve them, the boat-yard, the anchor yard; all like the whole, monstrously great and extensive, and are not easily describ’d.
We come next to the stores themselves, for which all this provision is made; and first, to begin with the ships that are laid up there: The sails, the rigging, the ammunition, guns, great and small-shot, small-arms, swords, cutlasses, half pikes, with all the other furniture belonging to the ships that ride at their moorings in the river Medway: These take up one part of the place, having separate buildings, and store-houses appropriated to them, where the furniture of every ship lies in particular ware-houses by themselves, and may be taken out on the most hasty occasion without confusion, fire excepted.
N.B. The powder is generally carry’d away to particular magazines to avoid disaster.
Besides these, there are store-houses for laying up the furniture, and stores for ships; but which are not appropriated, or do not belong (as it is expressed by the officers) to any particular ship; but lye ready to be delivered out for the furnishing other ships to be built, or for repairing and supplying the ships already there, as occasion may require.
For this purpose there are separate and respective magazines of pitch, tarr, hemp, flax, tow, rosin, oyl, tallow; also of sail cloth, canvas, anchors, cables, standing and running rigging, ready fitted, and cordage not fitted; with all kinds of ship-chandlery necessaries, such as blocks, tackles, runners, &c. with the cooks, boatswains, and gunners stores, and also anchors of all sizes, grapnells, chains, bolts, and spikes, wrought and unwrought iron, cast-iron work, such as potts, caldrons, furnaces, &c. also boats, spare-masts and yards; with a great quantity of lead and nails, and other necessaries, (too many to be enumerated) whose store looks as if it were inexhaustible.
To observe these things deliberately, one wou’d almost wonder what ships they were, and where they should be found, which cou’d either for building, or repairing, fiting, or refiting, call for such a quantity of all those things; but when, on the other hand, one sees the ships, and considers their dimension, and consequently the dimension of all things which belong to them; how large, how strong every thing must be; how much, of the materials must go to the making every thing proportionable to the occasion, the wonder would change its prospect, and one would be as much amaz’d to think how and where they should be supply’d.
The particular government of these yards, as they are call’d, is very remarkable, the commissioners, clerks, accomptants, &c. within doors, the store-keepers, yard-keepers, dock-keepers, watchmen, and all other officers without doors, with the subordination of all officers one to another respectively, as their degree and offices require, is admirable. The watchmen are set duly every night at stated and certain places, within the several yards, with every one a bell over his head, which they ring or toll every hour, giving so many strokes as the hour reckons, and then one taking it from another through every part of the yard, and of all the yards, makes the watching part be performed in a very exact and regular manner. In the river there is a guard-boat, which, as the main guard in a garrison, goes the grand-rounds at certain times, to see that every centinel does his duty on board the ships; these go by every ship in the river, and see that the people on board are at their post: If the ship does not challenge, that is to say, If the man plac’d to look out does not call, Who comes there? the guard-boat boards them immediately, to examine who is deficient in their duty.
They told us an odd story of a guard-boat which having not been challeng’d by the person who ought to have been walking on the forecastle of the ship, boarded them on the bow, and as the boat’s crew was entering the ship by the fore-chains they found a man fallen over board, but the lap of his coat catching in a block, was drawn so hard in by the running of the rope in the block, that it held the man fast; but he was fallen so low, that his head and arms hung in the water, and he was almost drown’d: However it seems he was not quite dead; so that catching hold of him, and pulling him out of the water, they saved his life: But they added, as the main part of the story, that the man could never give any account of his disaster, or how he came to fall over-board, only said that it must be the Devil that threw him over-board, for nothing else could do it. How true this passage may be, I do not undertake to enter upon the debate of.
The expedition that has been sometimes used here in fitting out men of war, is very great, and as the workmen relate it, ’tis indeed incredible; particularly, they told us, That the Royal Sovereign, a first rate of 106 guns, was riding at her moorings, entirely unrigg’d, and nothing but her three masts standing, as is usual when a ship is lay’d up, and that she was completely rigg’d, all her masts up, her yards put too, her sails bent, anchors and cables on board, and the ship sailed down to Black-Stakes in three days, Sir Cloudesly Shovell being then her captain.
I do not vouch the thing, but when I consider, first, that every thing lay ready in her store-houses, and wanted nothing but to be fetch’d out and carry’d on board; a thousand or fifteen hundred men to be employ’d in it and more if they were wanted; and every man, knowing his business perfectly well, boats, carriages, pullies, tacklers, cranes, and hulk all ready, I do not know, but it might be done in one day if it was try’d; certain it is, the dexterity of the English sailors in those things is not to be match’d by the world.
The building-yards, docks, timber-yard, deal-yard, mast-yard, gun-yard, rope-walks; and all the other yards and places, set apart for the works belonging to the navy, are like a well ordered city; and tho’ you see the whole place as it were in the utmost hurry, yet you see no confusion, every man knows his own business; the master builders appoint the working, or converting, as they call it, of every piece of timber; and give to the other head workmen, or foremen their moulds for the squaring and cutting out of every piece, and placing it in its proper byrth (so they call it) in the ship that is in building, and every hand is busy in pursuing those directions, and so in all the other works.
It is about sixteen or eighteen miles from Rochester Bridge to Sheerness Fort by water on the river Medway, of this it is about fourteen miles to Black-Stakes, the channel is so deep all the way, the banks soft, and the reaches of the river so short, that in a word, ’tis the safest and best harbour in the world; and we saw two ships of eighty guns, each riding a float at low water within musquet-shot of Rochester Bridge. The ships ride as in a mill-pond, or a wet-dock, except that being moor’d at the chains, they swing up and down with the tide; but as there is room enough, so they are moor’d in such manner, that they cannot swing foul of one another; ’tis as safe (I say) as in a wet-dock, nor did I ever hear of any accident that befel any of the king’s ships here, I mean by storms and weather; except in that dreadful tempest in 1703, when one ship, (viz.) the Royal Catherine was driven on shoar, and receiving some damage sunk, and the ship also being old, could not be weigh’d again; but this was such a storm as never was known before, and ’tis hoped the like may never be known again.
There are two castles on the shore of this river, the one at Upnore, where there is a good platform of guns, and which guards two reaches of the river, and is supposed to defend all the ships which ride above, between that and the bridge; also on the other shore is Gillingham Castle, form’d for the same purpose, and well furnish’d with guns which command the river, besides which there is a fort or platform of guns at a place call’d the swamp and another at Cockham Wood. But all these are added, or at least additions made to them, since the time that the Dutch made that memorable attempt upon the royal navy in this river (viz.) on the 22d of June, in the year 1667; for at that time all was left unguarded, and as it were, secure; there were but four guns that could be used at Upnore, and scarce so many at Gillingham, the carriages being rotten and broke; and in a word, every thing concurring to invite the enemy. There were about twelve guns at the Isle of Shepey, where since, Sheerness Fort is built; but the Dutch soon beat them from those guns, and made the place too hot for them, dismounting also most of the guns, after which they went boldly up to Black-Stakes with their whole squadron; and after that seven of their biggest men of war went up as high as Upnore, where they did what mischief they could, and went away again, carrying off the Royal Charles, a first rate ship of 100 guns, and burning the London, and several others, besides the damaging most of the ships which were within their reach; and all things consider’d, it was a victory, that they went away without ruining all the rest of the navy that was in that river.
But as this is a dull story in it self, so it is none of my present business farther than to introduce what follows; namely, That this allarm gave England such a sense of the consequence of the river Medway, and of the docks and yards at Chatham, and of the danger the royal navy lay exposed to there, that all these doors which were open then, are lock’d up and sufficiently barr’d since that time; and ’tis not now in the power of any nation under heaven, no, tho’ they should be masters at sea, unless they were masters at land too at the same time, to give us such another affront; for besides all the castles, lines of guns, and platforms on each side the river Medway, as we go up, as above; there is now a royal fort built at the point of the Isle of Shepey, call’d Sheerness, which guards that entrance into the river: This is a regular, and so compleat a fortification, and has such a line of heavy cannon commanding the mouth of the river, that no man of war, or fleet of men of war, would attempt to pass by as the Dutch did; or at least cou’d not effect it without hazard of being torn to pieces by those batteries.
SHEERNESS is not only a fortress, but a kind of town, with several streets in it, and inhabitants of several sorts; but chiefly such whose business obliges them to reside here: The officers of the ordnance have here apartments, and an office, they being often oblig’d to be here many days together; especially in time of war, when the rendezvous of the fleet is at the Nore, to see to the furnishing every ship with military stores as need requires, and to cheque the officers of the ships in their demands of those stores, and the like.
Here is also a yard for building ships, with a dock; the reason of which, is to repair any ship speedily that may meet with any accident, either riding at the Nore, or in any service at sea near the river. But then ’tis to be observ’d, that those are but fifth and sixth rate ships, small frigats, yatches, and such vessels; at biggest, nothing above a fourth rate can come in here. The Sheerness galley, as I am told, was built here, and had her name on that occasion. This yard is a late thing also, and built many years since the fort.
This fort commands only the entrance into the Medway, or that branch of the Medway, properly, which they call West-Swale: The East-Swale, not navigable by ships of force, goes in by the town of Queenborough, passes east, makes the Isle of Shepey, parting it on the south side, and opens to the sea, near Feversham, and Swale-Cliff, and is therefore of small consequence. As for the expression of a certain author, that Sheerness divides the mouth of the two rivers, Thames and Medway, ’tis not said for want of ignorance, and cannot be true in fact; the mouth of the Medway opening into the Thames, and the mouth of the Thames, not being within twenty miles of it, (viz.) from the Nase and North-Foreland.
At the south-west point of the Isle of Shepey, where the East-Swale parts from the West, and passes on, as above, stands a town memorable for nothing, but that which is rather a dishonour to our country than otherwise: Namely, Queenborough, a miserable, dirty, decay’d, poor, pitiful, fishing town; yet vested with corporation priviledges, has a mayor, aldermen, &c. and his worship the mayor has his mace carry’d before him to church, and attended in as much state and ceremony as the mayor of a town twenty times as good: I remember when I was there, Mr. Mayor was a butcher, and brought us a shoulder of mutton to our inn himself in person, which we bespoke for our dinner, and afterwards he sat down and drank a bottle of wine with us.
But that which is still worse, and which I meant in what I said before, is, that this town sends two burgesses to Parliament, as many as the borough of Southwark, or the city of Westminster: Tho’ it may be presumed all the inhabitants are not possessed of estates answerable to the rent of one good house in either of those places I last mentioned: The chief business of this town, as I could understand, consists in ale-houses, and oyster-catchers.
Here we took boat, and went up the East-Swale to a town, which lies, as it were hid, in the country, and among the creeks; for ’tis out of the way, and almost out of sight, as well by water as by land, I mean Milton; it lyes up so many creeks and windings of the water, that nobody sees it by water, but they who go on purpose out of the way to it; and as to the road, it lyes also about a mile on the left-hand of the great road, as we pass thro’ Sittingbourn, so that no body sees it on that side neither, unless they go on purpose out of the road to it; and yet it is a large town, has a considerable market, and especially for corn, and fruit and provisions, which they send to London by water.
From hence following the coast, and the great road together, for they are still within view of one another, we come to Feversham, a large populous, and as some say, a rich town: Tho’ here is no particular remarkable trade, either for manufacture or navigation; the principal business we found among them, was fishing for oysters, which the Dutch fetch hence in such extraordinary quantities, that when I was there, we found twelve large Dutch hoys and doggers lying there to load oysters; and some times, as they told us, there are many more: This is greatly to the advantage of the place, as it employs abundance of men and boats in drudging for the oysters, which they catch in great plenty, in the mouth of the East-Swale; which, as I said above, enters in this part of the country into the sea, and opens very wide.
It was at the mouth of this Swale, namely, at Shell-Ness, so call’d from the abundance of oyster-shells always lying there, that the smack in which the late King James II. was embark’d for his escape into France, ran on shoar, and being boarded by the fishermen, the king was taken prisoner; and I must mention it to the reproach of the people of Feversham, let the conduct of that unfortunate prince be what it will, that the fishermen and rabble can never be excus’d, who treated the king, even after they were told who he was, with the utmost indecency, using his majesty; (for he was then their sovereign, even in the acknowledged sense of his enemies) I say, using him with such indignity in his person, such insolence in their behaviour, and giving him such opprobrious and abusive language, and searching him in the rudest and most indecent manner, and indeed rifling him; that the king himself said, he was never more apprehensive of his life than at that time. He was afterwards carry’d by them up to the town, where he was not much better treated for some time, till some neighbouring gentlemen hi the county came in, who understood their duty better, by whom he was at least preserv’d from farther violence, till coaches and a guard came from London, by the Prince of Orange’s order, to bring him with safety and freedom to London; where he was at least for the present much better received, as in the history of those times is to be seen.
While I was near this town some years ago, a most surprising accident happen’d, namely, the blowing up of a powder-mill, which stood upon the river, close to the town; the blast was not only frightful, but it shatter’d the whole town, broke the windows, blew down chimneys, and gable-ends not a few; also several people were kill’d at the powder-house it self, tho’ not any, as I remember, in the town: but what was most remarkable in it all, was, that the eldest son of the master of the powder-mill, a youth of about fifteen years of age, who was not in the mill, or near it, when it blew up; but in a boat upon the river, rowing cross for his diversion, was kill’d by a piece of the building of the mill, which blew up into the air by the force of the powder, and fell down upon him in the boat: I know nothing else this town is remarkable for, except the most notorious smuggling trade, carry’d on partly by the assistance of the Dutch, in their oyster-boats, and partly by other arts, in which they say, the people hereabouts are arriv’d to such a proficiency, that they are grown monstrous rich by that wicked trade; nay, even the owling trade (so they call the clandestine exporting of wool) has seem’d to be transposed from Rumney Marsh to this coast, and a great deal of it had been carry’d on between the mouth of the East-Swale and the North-Foreland.
As to the landing goods here from Holland and France, such as wine and brandy from the latter, and pepper, tea, coffee, callicoes, tobacco, and such goods, (the duties of which being very high in England, had first been drawn back by debentures) that black trade has not only been carry’d on here, as I was informed, but on both sides the river, on the Essex as well as the Kentish shores, of which I shall speak again in its place.
From this East Swale, and particularly from these last three towns, Queenborough, Milton, and Feversham, the fish-market at Billingsgate is supply’d with several sorts of fish; but particularly with the best and largest oysters, such as they call stewing oysters: which are generally call’d also Milton Oysters; some of which are exceeding large, as also with a very great quantity of others of a lesser size, as they are from the Essex side, with a smaller and greener sort, call’d Wallfleot; so that the whole city of London is chiefly supplied with oysters from this part of the Thames.
From hence also are sent by water to London very great quantities of fruit; that is to say, apples and cherries; which are produc’d in this county, more than hi any county in England, especially cherries; and this leads me to cross the hills from Milton to Maidstone, a town on the river Medway, about ten miles distant.
This is a considerable town, very populous, and the inhabitants generally wealthy; ’tis the county town, and the river Medway is navigable to it by large hoys, of fifty to sixty tuns burthen, the tide flowing quite up to the town; round this town are the largest cherry orchards, and the most of them that are in any part of England; and the gross of the quantity of cherries, and the best of them which supply the whole city of London come from hence, and are therefore call’d Kentish cherries.
Here likewise, and in the country adjacent, are great quantities of hops planted, and this is call’d the Mother of Hop Grounds in England; being the first place in England where hops were planted in any quantity, and long before any were planted at Canterbury, tho’ that be now supposed to be the chief place in England, as shall be observ’d in its place: These were the hops, I suppose, which were planted at the beginning of the Reformation, and which gave occasion to that old distich:
Hops, Reformation, bays, and beer,
Came into England all in a year.
Maidstone is eminent for the plenty of provisions, and richness of lands in the country all round it, and for the best market in the county, not Rochester, no not Canterbury excepted.
From this town, and the neighbouring parts, London is supplied with more particulars than from any single market town in England, which I mention in pursuance of my first resolution of observing, how every part of England furnishes something to the city of London.
From the wild of Kent, which begins but about six miles off, and particularly from that part which lyes this way; they bring the large Kentish bullocks, fam’d for being generally all red, and with their horns crooked inward, the two points standing one directly against the other, they are counted the largest breed in England.
From the same country are brought great quantities of the largest timber for supply of the king’s yards at Chattham, and often to London; most of which comes by land carriage to Maidstone.
From the country adjoining to Maidstone also, is a very great quantity of corn brought up to London, besides hops and cherries, as above.
Also a kind of paving stone, about eight to ten inches square, so durable that it scarce ever wears out; ’tis used to pave court-yards, and passages to gentlemens houses, being the same the Royal Exchange at London is pav’d with, which has never yet wanted the least repair.
Also fine white sand for the glass-houses, esteem’d the best in England for melting into flint-glass, and looking glass-plates; and for the stationer’s use also, vulgarly call’d writing-sand.
Also very great quantities of fruit, such as Kentish pipins, runetts, &c. which come up as the cherries do, whole hoy-loads at a time to the wharf, call’d the Three Cranes, in London; which is the greatest pipin market perhaps in the world.
At Maidstone you begin to converse with gentlemen, and persons of rank of both sexes, and some of quality: All that side of the county which I have mentioned already, as it is marshy, and unhealthy, by its situation among the waters; so it is embarass’d with business, and inhabited chiefly by men of business, such as ship-builders, fisher-men, seafaring-men, and husband-men, or such as depend upon them, and very few families of note are found among them. But as soon as we come down Boxley Hill from Rochester, or Hollingbourn-Hill, from Milton, and descend from the poor chalky downs, and deep foggy marshes, to the wholesome rich soil, the well wooded, and well water’d plain on the banks of the Medway, we find the country every where spangl’d with populous villages, and delicious seats of the nobility and gentry; and especially on the north-side of the river, beginning at Aylesford, on the Medway, and looking east towards the sea: This Aylesford was formerly the seat of Sir John Banks, and since descended, by his daughter, to Heneage Lord Finch, brother to the Earl of Nottingham, and created Earl of Aylesford, which estate he came to in right of his said lady: the country this way, I say, is full of gentlemens houses, reckoning from this Aylesford, below Maidstone, on the Medway to Eastwell, near Ashford, the seat of the Earl of Winchelsea; another noble family of the name of Finch also; tho’ not nearly ally’d to the Nottingham house.
Among these are the antient families of Fane, Colepeper, Deerham, Honywood, Wotton, Roberts, Hales, and others, with some good families extinct and gone, whose names however remain in memory.
This neighbourhood of persons of figure and quality, makes Maidstone a very agreeable place to live in, and where a man of letters, and of manners, will always find suitable society, both to divert and improve himself; so that here is, what is not often found, namely, a town of very great business and trade, and yet full of gentry, of mirth, and of good company.
It is to be recorded here for the honour of the gentry in this part of England; that tho’ they are as sociable and entertaining as any people are, or can be desir’d to be, and as much fam’d for good manners, and good humour; yet the new mode of forming assemblies so much, and so fatally now in vogue, in other parts of England, could never prevail here; and that tho’ there was an attempt made by some loose persons, and the gentlemen, and ladies, did for a little while appear there; yet they generally dislik’d the practice, soon declin’d to give their company, as to a thing scandalous, and so it drop’d of course.
There is not much manufacturing in this county; what is left, is chiefly at Canterbury, and in this town of Maidstone, and the neighbourhood; the manufacture of this town is principally in thread, that is to say, linnen thread, which they make to pretty good perfection, tho’ not extraordinary fine. At Cranbrook, Tenterden, Goudhurst, and other villages thereabout, which are also in the neighbourhood of this part, on the other side the Medway, there was once a very considerable cloathing trade carry’d on, and the yeomen of Kent, of which so much has been fam’d, were generally the inhabitants on that side, and who were much enrich’d by that clothing trade; but that trade is now quite decay’d, and scarce ten clothiers left in all the county.
These clothiers and farmers, and the remains of them, upon the general elections of members of parliament for the county, show themselves still there, being ordinarily 14 or 1500 freeholders brought from this side of the county; and who for the plainness of their appearance, are call’d the gray coats of Kent; but are so considerable, that who ever they vote for is always sure to carry it, and therefore the gentlemen are very careful to preserve their interest among them.
This town of Maidstone is a peculiar of the Archbishoprick of Canterbury, and the Archbishop for the time being, is the proper incumbent, or parson of the parish, and puts in a curate to officiate for him. Here is the county gaol also, and generally the assizes, and always the elections are held here: Here was a hot action in the time of the Civil Wars, between a party of gentlemen who took arms for the king, and who being defeated here, march’d boldly towards London, as if they had intended to go directly thither; but turn’d short, and to their enemies surprise, unexpectedly cross’d the Thames, and joining some Essex gentlemen of the same party, went to Colchester, where they suffered a furious siege and blockade; and defended the town to the last extremity, as you have seen hi my account of that place.
In prosecution of my journey east, I went from hence to Canterbury; of which town and its antiquities so much has been said, and so accurately, that I need do no more than mention it by recapitulation; for, as I have said, the antiquities, and histories of particular places is not my business here, so much as the present state of them. However I observe here.
That the first Christian bishop, if not the first Christian preacher, that ever came to England, (for I know not what to say to the story of Joseph of Arimathea, and his holy thorn at Glassenbury) landed in this country, and settled in this place; I mean St. Augustin, sent over by Gregory, Bishop of Rome. This Gregory it seems was a true primitive Christian Bishop of Rome; not such as since are called so; long before they assum’d the title of popes, or that usurp’d honour of Universal Bishop.
That, seven Bishops of Canterbury, from St. Augustine, inclusive of himself, lye bury’d here in one vault.
That Thomas Becket, or Thomas a Becket, as some call him, arch-bishop of this see, and several arch-bishops before him, plagued, insulted, and tyranniz’d over the Kings of England, their soveraigns, in an unsufferable manner.
That the first of these, having made himself intolerable to King Henry II, by his obstinacy, pride and rebellion, was here murther’d by the connivance, and as some say, by the express order of the king, and that they shew his blood upon the pavement to this day.
That he was afterwards canoniz’d, and his shrine made the greatest idol of the world; and they show the stone-steps ascending to his shrine, worn away to a slope, by the knees of the pilgrims, and ignorant people who came thither to pray to him, and to desire him to pray for them.
That the bodies of King Henry IV and of Edward the Black Prince are buried here, and the magnificent effigies of the latter very curiously carv’d and engrav’d, lyes on his tomb, or monument; also that King Stephen should have lain here, but on some scruple of the monks, the corpse was stopt short on the road, and was afterwards buried at Feversham, about seven miles off. What the monks objected, or whether they had no money offered them, is not recorded with the rest of the story.
That the immense wealth offer’d by votaries, and pilgrims, for several ages to the altar, or shrine of this mock saint, Thomas Becket, was such, that Erasmus Roterdamus, who was in the repository and saw it, relates of it, That the whole place glitter’d and shone with gold and diamonds.
That all this immense treasure, with the lands and revenues of the whole monastery were seiz’d upon, and taken away by King Henry VIII, at the general suppression of religious houses, except such as are annex’d to the Dean and Chapter, and to the revenue of the arch-bishoprick, which are not large.
The church is a noble pile of building indeed, and looks venerable and majestick at a distance, as well as when we come nearer to it. The old monastery of all, with the church there, dedicated to St. Augustine, and in the porch of which St. Augustine himself, with the six bishops above mention’d lye buried, stands at, or rather stood at a distance, and the ruins of it shew the place sufficiently; what remains of the old buildings about Christ-Church, or the cathedral, are principally the cloyster, and the bishop’s palace, which however is rather to be call’d a building raised from the old house, than a part of it.
Under the church is a large Protestant French church, given first by Queen Elizabeth to the Walloons, who fled hither from the persecution of the Duke D’Alva, and the King of France; and whose number has been since very much encreased by the particular cruelty of Louis XIV.
The close or circumvallation, where the houses of the prebendaries, and other persons belonging to the cathedral stand, is very spacious and fair, and a great many very good houses are built in it, and some with good gardens; where those gentlemen live at large, and among whom a very good neighbourhood is kept up; as for the town, its antiquity seems to be its greatest beauty: The houses are truly antient, and the many ruins of churches, chapels, oratories, and smaller cells of religious people, makes the place look like a general ruin a little recovered.
The city will scarce bear being call’d populous, were it not for two or three thousand French Protestants, which, including men, women and children, they say there are in it, and yet they tell me the number of these decreases daily.
The employment of those refugees was chiefly broad silk weaving; but that trade was so decay’d before the first Act for Prohibiting the Wearing of East India Silks pass’d, that there were not twenty broad looms left in the city, of near three hundred, that had formerly been there; upon the passing that Act, the trade reviv’d again and the number of master workmen encreased, and the masters encreased; and the masters which were there before, encreasing their works also, the town fill’d again, and a great many looms were employ’d; but after this by the encroaching of the printed callicoes, chints, &c. and the prevailing of the smuggling trade as above, the silk trade decay’d a second time. But now the use and wear of printed callicoes and chints, being by Act of Parliament severely prohibited, ’tis expected the silk trade at Canterbury will revive a third time, and the inhabitants promise themselves much from it.
But the great wealth and encrease of the city of Canterbury, is from the surprizing encrease of the hop-grounds all round the place; it is within the memory of many of the inhabitants now living, and that none of the oldest neither, that there was not an acre of ground planted with hops in the whole neighbourhood, or so few as not to be worth naming; whereas I was assured that there are at this time near six thousand acres of ground so planted, within a very few miles of the city; I do not vouch the number, and I confess it seems incredible, but I deliver it as I received it.
It is observed that the ground round this city proves more particularly fruitful for the growth of hops than of any other production, which was not at first known; but which, upon its being discover’d, set all the world, speaking in the language of a neighbourhood, a digging up their grounds and planting; so that now they may say without boasting, there is at Canterbury the greatest plantation of hops in the whole island.
The river Stour was made navigable to this city, by virtue of an Act of Parliament in the reign of King Henry VIII, but the person who undertook it, not meeting with encouragement, and failing in the carrying it on, the locks and sluices are all run to decay, and the citizens are oblig’d to fetch all their heavy goods, either from Fordwich, three miles off, or from Whitstable seven miles off; the latter they chuse for such heavy goods as come from London; as oyl, wine, grocery, &c. because ’tis the less hazard by sea; but as for coals, deals, &c. they come by way of Sandwich, and are brought up the river to Fordwich, as above.
In the neighbourhood of this city are some antient families, as Sir Tho. Hales, the Lord Strangford, Sir Henry Oxenden, and several others, the two former Roman; also Sir George Rook, famous for his services at sea against the French; the last of which was in the Streights, where the French fleet was commanded by the Count de Tourville, Admiral of France; where both sides fought with such equal gallantry, and resolution, and the strength of the fleets were so equal, tho’ the French the most in number of the two, that neither seem’d to seek a second engagement; and of which the following lines were made by some of the merry wits of that time.
The great Tourville Sir George did beat,
The great Sir George beat him;
But if they chance again to meet,
George will his jacket trim:
They both did fight, they both did beat,
They both did run away;
They both did strive again to meet,
The clean contrary way.
The shore from Whitstable, and the East-Swale, affords nothing remarkable but sea-marks, and small towns on the coast, till we come to Margate and the North Foreland; the town of Margate is eminent for nothing that I know of, but for King William’s frequently landing here in his returns from Holland, and for shipping a vast quantity of corn for London Market, most, if not all of it, the product of the Isle of Thanet, in which it stands.
On the north-east point of this land, is the promontory, or head-land which I have often mentioned, call’d the North Foreland; which, by a line drawn due north to the Nase in Essex, about six miles short of Harwich, makes the mouth of the river of Thames, and the Port of London: As soon as any vessels pass this Foreland from London, they are properly said to be in the open sea; if to the north, they enter the German Ocean, if to the south, the Chanel, as ’tis call’d, that is the narrow seas between England and France; and all the towns or harbours before we come this length, whether on the Kentish or Essex shoar, are call’d members of the Port of London.
From this point westward, the first town of note is Ramsgate, a small port, the inhabitants are mighty fond of having us call it Roman’s -Gate; pretending that the Romans under Julius Caesar made their first attempt to land here, when he was driven back by a storm; but soon returned, and coming on shore, with a good body of troops beat back the Britains, and fortify’d his camp, just at the entrance of the creek, where the town now stands; all which may be true for ought any one knows, but is not to be prov’d, either by them or any one else; and is of so little concern to us, that it matters nothing whether here or at Deal, where others pretend it was.
It was from this town of Ramsgate, that a fellow of gigantick strength, tho’ not of extraordinary stature, came abroad in the world, and was call’d the English Sampson, and who suffer’d men to fasten the strongest horse they could find to a rope, and the rope round his loins, sitting on the ground, with his feet strait out against a post, and no horse could stir him; several other proofs of an incredible strength he gave before the king, and abundance of the nobility at Kensington, which no other man could equal; but his history was very short, for in about a year he disappear’d, and we heard no more of him since.
Sandwich is the next town, lying in the bottom of a bay, at the mouth of the river Stour, an old, decay’d, poor, miserable town, of which when I have said that it is an antient town, one of the Cinque Ports, and sends two members to Parliament; I have said all that I think can be worth any bodies reading of the town of Sandwich.
From hence to Deal is about —— miles. This place is famous for the road for shipping, so well known all over the trading world, by the name of the Downs, and where almost all ships which arrive from foreign parts for London, or go from London to foreign parts, and who pass the Channel, generally stop; the homeward-bound to dispatch letters, send their merchants and owners the good news of their arrival, and set their passengers on shoar, and the like; and the outward-bound to receive their last orders, letters, and farewells from owners, and friends, take in fresh provisions, &c.
Sometimes, and when the wind presents fair, ships do come in here, and pass thro’ at once, without coming to an anchor; for they are not oblig’d to stop, but for their own convenience: This place would be a very wild and dangerous road for ships, were it nor for the South Foreland, a head of land, forming the east point of the Kentish shoar; and is called, the South, as its situation respects the North Foreland; and which breaks the sea off, which would otherwise come rowling up from the west, this and a flat, or the bank of sands, which for three leagues together, and at about a league, or league and half distance run parallel with the shore, and are dry at low water, these two I say, break all the force of the sea, on the east and south, and south-west; so that the Downs is counted a very good road-
And yet on some particular winds, and especially, if they over-blow, the Downs proves a very wild road; ships are driven from their anchors, and often run on shoar, or are forced on the said sands, or into Sandwich-Bay, or Ramsgate-Peer, as above, in great distress; this is particularly when the wind blows hard at S.E. or at E. by N. or E.N.E. and some other points; and terrible havock has been made in the Downs at such times.
But the most unhappy account that can be given of any disaster in the Downs, is in the time of that terrible tempest, which we call by way of distinction, the Great Storm, being on 27th of November 1703, unhappy in particular; for that there chanced just at that time to be a great part of the royal navy under Sir Cloudesly Shovel, just come into the Downs, in their way to Chatham, to be laid up.
Five of the biggest ships had the good hap to push thro’ the Downs the day before, finding the wind then blow very hard, and were come to an anchor at the Gunfleet; and had they had but one fair day more, they had been all safe at the Nore, or in the river Medway at Blackstakes.
There remained in the Downs about twelve sail when this terrible blast began, at which time England may be said to have received the greatest loss that ever happen’d to the royal navy at one time; either by weather, by enemies, or by any accident whatsoever; the short account of it, as they shewed it me in the town, I mean of what happened in the Downs, is as follows.
The Northumberland, a third rate, carrying 70 guns, and 353 men; the Restoration, a second rate, carrying 76 guns, and 386 men; the Sterling-Castle, a second rate, carrying 80 guns, and 400 men, but had but 349 men on board; and the Mary, a third rate, of 64 guns, having 273 men on board; these were all lost, with all their men, high and low; except only one man out of the Mary, and 70 men out of the Sterling-Castle, who were taken up by boats from Deal.
All this was besides the loss of merchants ships, which was exceeding great, not here only, but in almost all the ports in the south, and west of England; and also in Ireland, which I shall have occasion to mention again in another place.
From hence we pass over a pleasant champain country, with the sea, and the coast of France, clear in your view; and by the very gates of the antient castle (to the town) of Dover: As we go, we pass by Deal Castle, and Sandown Castle, two small works, of no strength by land, and not of much use by sea; but however maintained by the government for the ordinary services of salutes, and protecting small vessels, which can lye safe under their cannon from picaroons, privateers, &c. in time of war.
Neither Dover nor its castle has any thing of note to be said of them, but what is in common with their neighbours; the castle is old, useless, decay’d, and serves for little; but to give the title and honour of government to men of quality, with a salary, and sometimes to those that want one.
The town is one of the Cinque Ports, sends members to Parliament, who are call’d barons, and has it self an ill repaired, dangerous, and good for little harbour and peir, very chargeable and little worth: The packets for France go off here, as also those for Nieuport, with the mails for Flanders, and all those ships which carry freights from New-York to Holland, and from Virginia to Holland, come generally hither, and unlade their goods, enter them with, and show them to the custom-house officers, pay the duties, and then enter them again by certificate, reload them, and draw back the duty by debenture, and so they go away for Holland.
In the time of the late war with France, here was a large victualling-office kept for the use of the navy, and a commissioner appointed to manage it, as there was also at Chatham, Portsmouth, and other places; but this is now unemploy’d: The Duke of Queensberry in Scotland, who was lord commissioner to the Parliament there, at the time of making the Union, was after the said Union created Duke of Dover, which title is possessed now by his son.
From this place the coast affords nothing of note; but some other small Cinque-Ports, such as Hith and Rumney, and Rye; and as we pass to them Folkstone, eminent chiefly for a multitude of fishing-boats belonging to it, which are one part of the year employ’d in catching mackarel for the city of London: The Folkstone men catch them, and the London and Barking mackarel-smacks, of which I have spoken at large in Essex, come down and buy them, and fly up to market with them, with such a cloud of canvas, and up so high that one would wonder their small boats cou’d bear it and should not overset: About Michaelmas these Folkstone barks, among others from Shoreham, Brighthelmston and Rye, go away to Yarmouth, and Leostoff, on the coast of Suffolk and Norfolk, to the fishing-fair, and catch herrings for the merchants there, of which I have spoken at large in my discourse on that subject.
As I rode along this coast, I perceiv’d several dragoons riding, officers, and others arm’d and on horseback, riding always about as if they were huntsmen beating up their game; upon inquiry I found their diligence was employ’d in quest of the owlers, as they call them, and sometimes they catch some of them; but when I came to enquire farther, I found too, that often times these are attack’d in the night, with such numbers, that they dare not resist, or if they do, they are wounded and beaten, and sometimes kill’d; and at other times are oblig’d, as it were, to stand still, and see the wool carry’d off before their faces, not daring to meddle; and the boats taking it in from the very horses backs, go immediately off, and are on the coast of France, before any notice can be given of them, while the other are as nimble to return with their horses to their haunts and retreats, where they are not easily found out.
But I find so many of these desperate fellows are of late taken up, by the courage and vigilance of the soldiers, that the knots are very much broken, and the owling-trade much abated, at least on that side; the French also finding means to be supply’d from Ireland with much less hazard, and at very little more expence.
From Rumney-Marsh the shoar extends it self a great way into the sea, and makes that point of land, call’d Dengey-Ness; between this point of land and Beachy, it was that the French in the height of their naval glory took the English and Dutch fleets at some disadvantage, offering them battle, when the French were so superior in number, that it was not consistent with humane prudence to venture an engagement, the French being ninety two ships of the line of battle, and the English and Dutch, put together, not sixty sail; the French ships also generally bigger: yet such was the eagerness of both the English and Dutch seamen, and commanders, that it was not without infinite murmurings, that Admiral Herbert stood away, and call’d off the Dutch, who had the van, from engaging; the English it seems believ’d themselves so superior to the French when they came to lye broad-side and broad-side, yard-arm and yard-arm, as the seamen call it in an engagement, that they would admit of no excuse for not fighting; tho’ according to all the rules of war, no admiral could justify hazarding the royal navy on such terms; and especially the circumstances of the time then considered, for the king was in Ireland, and King James ready in France, if the English and Dutch fleets had received a blow, to have embark’d with an army for England, which perhaps would have hazarded the whole Revolution; so that wise men afterwards, and as I have been told the king himself upon a full hearing justify’d the conduct of Admiral Herbert, and afterwards created him Earl of Torrington.
Here, or rather a little farther, we saw the bones of one of the Dutch men of war, which was burnt and stranded by the French in that action; the towns of Rye, Winchelsea, and Hastings, have little in them to deserve more than a bare mention; Rye would flourish again, if her harbour, which was once able to receive the royal navy, cou’d be restor’d; but as it is, the bar is so loaded with sand cast up by the sea, that ships of 200 tun chuse to ride it out under Dengey or Beachy, tho’ with the greatest danger, rather than to run the hazard of going into Rye for shelter: It is true there is now an Act of Parliament pass’d for the restoring this port to its former state, when a man of war of 70 guns might have safely gone in; but ’tis very doubtful, whether it will be effectual to the main end or no, after so long a time.
Indeed our merchants ships are often put to great extremity hereabout, for there is not one safe place for them to run into, between Portsmouth and the Downs; whereas in former days, Rye-Bay was an asylum, a safe harbour, where they could go boldly in, and ride safe in all weathers, and then go to sea again at pleasure.
From a little beyond Hastings to Bourn, we ride upon the sands in a straight line for eighteen miles, all upon the coast of Sussex, passing by Pemsey, or Pevensey Haven, and the mouth of the river, which cometh from Battle, without so much as knowing that there was a river, the tide being out, and all the water of the ordinary chanel of the river sinking away in the sands: This is that famous strand where William the Norman landed with his whole army; and near to which, namely, at the town of Battle abovenamed, which is about nine miles off, he fought that memorable fight with Harold, then King of England; in which the fate of this nation was determined, and where victory gave the crown to the Conqueror and his race, of the particulars of all which, our histories are full; this town of Battle is remarkable for little now, but for making the finest gun-powder, and the best perhaps in Europe. Near this town of Battle, they show us a hill with a beacon upon it, which since the beacon was set up, indeed has been call’d Beacon Hill, as is usual in such cases; but was before that call’d Standard-Hill, being the place where William the Conqueror set up his great standard of defiance, the day before the great battle with Harold and the English.
From the beginning of Rumney Marsh, that is to say, at Sandgate, or Sandfoot Castle near Hith, to this place, the country is a rich fertile soil, full of feeding grounds, and where an infinite number of large sheep are fed every year, and sent up to London market; these Rumney Marsh sheep, are counted rather larger than the Leicester-shire and Lincolnshire sheep, of which so much is said elsewhere.
Besides the vast quantity of sheep as above, abundance of large bullocks are fed in this part of the country; and especially those they call stall’d oxen, that is, house fed, and kept within the farmers sheds or yards, all the latter season, where they are fed for the winter market. This I noted, because these oxen are generally the largest beef in England.
From hence it was that, turning north, and traversing the deep, dirty, but rich part of these two counties, I had the curiosity to see the great foundaries, or iron-works, which are in this county, and where they are carry’d on at such a prodigious expence of wood, that even in a country almost all over-run with timber, they begin to complain of the consuming it for those furnaces, and leaving the next age to want timber for building their navies: I must own however, that I found that complaint perfectly groundless, the three counties of Kent, Sussex, and Hampshire, (all which lye contiguous to one another) being one inexhaustible store-house of timber never to be destroyed, but by a general conflagration, and able at this time to supply timber to rebuild all the royal navies in Europe, if they were all to be destroy’d, and set about the building them together.
After I had fatigued my self in passing this deep and heavy part of the country, I thought it would not be foreign to my design, if I refreshed my self with a view of Tunbridge-Wells, which were not then above twelve miles out of my way.
When I came to the wells, which were five miles nearer to me than the town, supposing me then at Battle to the southward of them; I found a great deal of good company there, and that which was more particular, was, that it happened to be at the time when his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales was there with abundance of the nobility, and gentry of the country, who to honour the prince’s coming, or satisfy their own curiosity, throng’d to that place; so that at first I found it very difficult to get a lodging.
The prince appeared upon the walks, went into the raffling shops, and to every publick place, saw every thing, and let every body see him, and went away, with the Duke of Dorset, and other of his attendance for Portsmouth; so in two or three days, things return’d all to their antient chanel, and Tunbridge was just what it used to be.
The ladies that appear here, are indeed the glory of the place; the coming to the Wells to drink the water is a meer matter of custom; some drink, more do not, and few drink physically: But company and diversion is in short the main business of the place; and those people who have nothing to do any where else, seem to be the only people who have any thing to do at Tunbridge.
After the appearance is over at the Wells, (where the ladies axe all undress’d) and at the chapel, the company go home; and as if it was another species of people, or a collection from another place, you are surpriz’d to see the walks covered with ladies compleatly dress’d and gay to profusion; where rich cloths, jewels, and beauty not to be set out by (but infinitely above) ornament, dazzles the eyes from one end of the range to the other.
Here you have all the liberty of conversation in the world, and any thing that looks like a gentleman, has an address agreeable, and behaves with decency and good manners, may single out whom he pleases, that does not appear engag’d, and may talk, rally, be merry, and say any decent thing to them; but all this makes no acquaintance, nor is it taken so, or understood to mean so; if a gentleman desires to be more intimate, and enter into any acquaintance particular, he must do it by proper application, not by ordinary meeting on the walks, for the ladies will ask no gentleman there, to go off the walk, or invite any one to their lodgings, except it be a sort of ladies of whom I am not now speaking.
As for gaming, sharping, intrieguing; as also fops, fools, beaus, and the like, Tunbridge is as full of these, as can be desired, and it takes off much of the diversion of those persons of honour and virtue, who go there to be innocently recreated: However a man of character, and good behaviour cannot be there any time, but he may single out such company as may be suitable to him, and with whom he may be as merry as heart can wish.
The air here is excellent good, the country healthful, and the provisions of all sorts very reasonable: Particularly, they are supply’d with excellent fish, and that of almost all sorts, from Rye, and other towns on the sea-coast; and I saw a turbut of near 20l. weight sold there for 3s.: In the season of mackarel, they have them here from Hastings, within three hours of their being taken out of the sea, and the difference which that makes in their goodness, I need not mention.
They have likewise here abundance of wild-fowl, of the best sorts; such as pheasant, partridge, woodcock, snipe, quails, also duck, mallard, teal, &c. particularly they have from the South-Downs, the bird call’d a wheat ear, or as we may call them, the English ortolans, the most delicious taste for a creature of one mouthful, for ’tis little more, that can be imagined; but these are very dear at Tunbridge, they are much cheaper at Seaford, Lewis, and that side of the country.
In a word, Tunbridge wants nothing that can add to the felicities of life, or that can make a man or woman compleatly happy, always provided they have money; for without money a man is no-body at Tunbridge, any more than at any other place; and when any man finds his pockets low, he has nothing left to think of, but to be gone, for he will have no diversion in staying there any longer.
And yet Tunbridge also is a place in which a lady however virtuous, yet for want of good conduct may as soon shipwreck her character as in any part of England; and where, when she has once injur’d her reputation, ’tis as hard to restore it; nay, some say no lady ever recovered her character at Tunbridge, if she first wounded it there: But this is to be added too, that a lady very seldom suffers that way at Tunbridge, without some apparent folly of her own; for that they do not seem so apt to make havock of one another’s reputation here, by tattle and slander, as I think they do in some other places in the world; particularly at Epsome, Hampstead, and such like places; which I take to be, because the company who frequent Tunbridge, seem to be a degree or two above the society of those other places, and therefore are not so very apt, either to meddle with other peoples affairs, or to censure if they do; both which are the properties of that more gossiping part of the world.
In this I shall be much misunderstood, if it is thought I mean the ladies only, for I must own I look just the other way; and if I may be allow’d to use my own sex so coursly, it is really among them that the ladies characters first, and oftnest receive unjust wounds; and I must confess the malice, the reflections, the busy meddling, the censuring, the tatling from place to place, and the making havock of the characters of innocent women, is found among the men gossips more than among their own sex, and at the coffee-houses more than at the tea-table; then among the women themselves, what is to be found of it there, is more among the chamber-maids, than among their mistresses; slander is a meanness below persons of honour and quality, and to do injustice to the ladies, especially, is a degree below those who have any share of breeding and sense: On this account you may observe, ’tis more practis’d among the citizens than among the gentry, and in country towns and villages, more than in the city, and so on, till you come to the meer canail, the common mobb of the street, and there, no reputation, no character can shine without having dirt thrown upon it every day: But this is a digression.
I left Tunbridge, for the same reason that I give, why others should leave it, when they are in my condition; namely, that I found my money almost gone; and tho’ I had bills of credit to supply my self in the course of my intended journey; yet I had none there; so I came away, or as they call it there, I retir’d; and came to Lewes, through the deepest, dirtiest, but many ways the richest, and most profitable country in all that part of England.
The timber I saw here was prodigious, as well in quantity as in bigness, and seem’d in some places to be suffered to grow, only because it was so far off of any navigation, that it was not worth cutting down and carrying away; in dry summers, indeed, a great deal is carry’d away to Maidstone, and other places on the Medway; and sometimes I have seen one tree on a carriage, which they call there a tug, drawn by two and twenty oxen, and even then, ’tis carry’d so little a way, and then thrown down, and left for other tugs to take up and carry on, that sometimes ’tis two or three year before it gets to Chatham; for if once the rains come in, it stirs no more that year, and sometimes a whole summer is not dry enough to make the roads passable: Here I had a sight, which indeed I never saw in any other part of England: Namely, that going to church at a country village, not far from Lewis, I saw an ancient lady, and a lady of very good quality, I assure you, drawn to church in her coach with six oxen; nor was it done in frolic or humour, but meer necessity, the way being so stiff and deep, that no horses could go in it.
Lewis is a fine pleasant town, well built, agreeably scituated in the middle of an open champaign country, and on the edge of the South Downs, the pleasantest, and most delightful of their kind in the nation; it lies on the bank of a little wholsome fresh river, within twelve miles of the sea; but that which adds to the character of this town, is, that both the town and the country adjacent, is full of gentlemen of good families and fortunes, of which the Pelhams may be named with the first, whose chief was by King William made a baron, and whose eldest son succeeding to the greatest part of the estate of that English Crassus, the late Duke of Newcastle, has since brought the title and honour of Newcastle to the house of Pelham. Here are also the antient families of Gage, Shelly, &c. formerly Roman, but now Protestant, with many others.
From this town, following still the range of the South Downs, west; we ride in view of the sea, and on a fine carpet ground, for about twelve miles to Bright Helmston, commonly call’d Bredhemston, a poor fishing town, old built, and on the very-edge of the sea: Here again, as I mentioned at Folkstone and Dover, the fisher-men having large barks go away to Yarmouth, on the coast of Norfolk, to the fishing fair there, and hire themselves for the season to catch herrings for the merchants; and they tell us, that these make a very good business of it.
The sea is very unkind to this town, and has by its continual encroachments, so gained upon them, that in a little time more they might reasonably expect it would eat up the whole town, above 100 houses having been devoured by the water in a few years past; they are now obliged to get a brief granted them, to beg money all over England, to raise banks against the water; the expence of which, the brief expresly says, will be eight thousand pounds; which if one were to look on the town, would seem to be more than all the houses in it are worth.
From hence, still keeping the coast close on the left, we come to Shoreham, a sea-faring town, and chiefly inhabited by ship-carpenters, ship-chandlers, and all the several trades depending upon the building and fitting up of ships, which is their chief business; and they are fam’d for neat building, and for building good sea-boats; that is to say, ships that are wholesome in the sea, and good sailors; but for strong building, they do not come up to Yarmouth, Ipswich, and the north.
The builders of ships seemed to plant here, chiefly because of the exceeding quantity and cheapness of timber in the country behind them; being the same wooded country I mentioned above, which still continues thro’ this county and the next also: The river this town stands upon, tho’ not navigable for large vessels, yet serves them to bring down this large timber in floats from Bramber, Stenning, and the country adjacent; which is as it were all covered with timber.
Here in the compass of about six miles are three burrough towns, sending members to Parliament, (viz.) Shoreham, Bramber, and Stenning: and Shoreham, Stenning are tolerable little market-towns; but Bramber (a little ruin of an old castle excepted) hardly deserves the name of a town, having not above fifteen or sixteen families in it, and of them not many above asking you an alms as you ride by; the chiefest house in the town is a tavern, and here, as I have been told, the vintner, or ale-house-keeper rather, for he hardly deserv’d the name of a vintner, boasted, that upon an election, just then over, he had made 300l. of one pipe of canary.
This is the second town in this county, where the elections have been so scandalously mercenary; and of whom it is said, there was in one king’s reign more money spent at elections, than all the lands in the parishes were worth, at twenty years purchase; the other town I mean is Winchelsea, a town, if it deserves the name of a town, which is rather the skeleton of an ancient city than a real town, where the antient gates stand near three miles from one another over the fields, and where the ruins are so bury’d, that they have made good corn fields of the streets, and the plow goes over the foundations, nay, over the first floors of the houses, and where nothing of a town but the destruction of it seems to remain; yet at one election for this town the strife was such between Sir John Banks, father-in-law to the Earl of Aylesford, and Colonel Draper, a neighbouring gentleman, that I was told in the country the latter spent 11000l . at one election, and yet lost it too; what the other spent who opposed him, may be guest at, seeing he that spent most was always sure to carry it in those days.
Bramber is the very exemplification of this, with this difference only, namely, that at the former they have given it over, at the latter it seems to be rather worse than ever.
Near Stenning, the famous Sir John Fagg had a noble antient seat, now possessed with a vast estate by his grandson, Sir Robert Fagg; but I mention the antient gentleman on this occasion, that being entertained at his house, in the year 1697, he show’d me in his park four bullocks of his own breeding, and of his own feeding, of so prodigious a size, and so excessively overgrown by fat, that I never saw any thing like them; and the bullock which Sir Edward Blacket, in Yorkshire, near Rippon, fed, and caused to be shew’d about for a sight at Newcastle upon Tyne, was not any way equal to the least of them, nor had it so much flesh on it by near twenty stone a quarter.
While I continued at Sir John’s, some London butchers came down to see them, and in my hearing offered Sir John six and twenty pound a head for them, but he refused it; and when I mov’d him afterward to take the money, he said No, he was resolv’d to have them to Smithfield himself, that he might say he had the four biggest bullocks in England at market.
He continued positive, and did go up to Smithfield-Market with them; but whether it was that they sunk a little hi the driving, or that the butchers play’d a little upon him, I cannot tell; but he was obliged to sell them for twenty five pound a head when he came there: I knew one of the butchers that bought them, and on a particular occasion enquir’d of him what they weighed when kill’d, and he assur’d me that they weigh’d eighty stone a quarter, when kill’d and cut-out; which is so incredible, that if I had not been well assur’d of the truth of it, I should not have ventur’d thus to have recorded it: But by this may be judg’d something of the largeness of the cattle in the Wild of Kent and Sussex, for it is all the same, of which I mention’d something before, and for this reason I tell the story.
From hence we come to Arundel, a decayed town also; but standing near the mouth of a good river, call’d Arun, which signifies, says Mr, Cambden, the swift, tho’ the river it self is not such a rapid current as merits that name; at least it did not seem to be so to me.
The principal advantage to the country from this river, is the shipping of great quantities of large timber here; which is carry’d up the Thames to Woolwich and Deptford, and up the Medway to Chatham; as also westward to Portsmouth, and even to Plymouth, to the new dock there, that is to say, it goes to all the king’s yards, where the business of the navy is carry’d on: The timber shipped off here is esteemed the best, as it is also the largest that is brought by sea from any part of England; also great quantities of knee timber is had here, which is valuable in its kind above the strait timber, being not only necessary, but scarce, I mean that which is very large.
This river, and the old decay’d, once famous castle at Arundel, which are still belonging to the family of Howards, Earls of Arundel, a branch of the Norfolk family, is all that is remarkable here; except it be that in this river are catch’d the best mullets, and the largest in England, a fish very good in it self, and much valued by the gentry round, and often sent up to London.
From hence to the city of Chichester are twelve miles, and the most pleasant beautiful country in England, whether we go by the hill, that is the Downs, or by the plain, (viz.) the enclosed country. To the north of Arundel, and at the bottom of the hills, and consequently in the Wild, is the town of Petworth, a large handsome country market-town, and very populous, and as it stands upon an ascent, and is dry and healthy, it is full of gentlemens families, and good well built houses both in the town and neighbourhood; but the beauty of Petworth, is the antient seat of the old family of Peircy, Earls of Northumberland, now extinct; whose daughter, the sole heiress of all his vast estates, marry’d the present Duke of Somerset; of the noble and antient family of Seymour, and among other noble seats brought his grace this of Petworth.
The duke pull’d down the antient house, and on the same spot has built from the ground, one of the finest piles of building, and the best model’d houses then in Britain: It has had the misfortune to be once almost demolish’d by fire, but the damage is fully repaired; but another disaster to the family can never be repaired, which has happen’d to it, even while these sheets were writing; namely, the death of the dutchess, who dy’d in November 1722, and lies buried in the burying place of the family of Seymor, Dukes of Somerset, in the cathedral church of Salisbury.
Her Grace was happy in a numerous issue, as well as in a noble estate; and besides two sons and one daughter, which lye bury’d with her, has left one son and ——— daughters still living. I shall have occasion to mention the Northumberland estates again, when I come to speak of the other fine seats, which the duke enjoys in right of his late dutchess, and the many old castles which were formerly part of that Northumberland estate.
The duke’s house at Petworth, is certainly a compleat building in it self, and the apartments are very noble, well contriv’d, and richly furnish’d; but it cannot be said, that the situation of the house is equally designed, or with equal judgment as the rest; the avenues to the front want space, the house stands as it were with its elbow to the town, its front has no visto answerable, and the west front look’d not to the parks or fine gardens, but to the old stables.
To rectify this, when it was too late to order it any other way, the duke was oblig’d to pull down those noble buildings; I mean the mews, or stables, the finest of their kind in all the south of England, and equal to some noblemens whole houses, and yet even the demolishing the pile has done no more than open’d a prospect over the country, whereas had the house been set on the rising ground, on the side of the park, over against the north wing of the house, and a little more to the westward, the front had been south to the town, the back front to the parks, which were capable of fountains, canals, vistos, and all the most exquisite pieces of art, that sets out the finest gardens, whereas all now lyes on one angle, or opposite to one wing of the house. But with all these disadvantages, the house it self is a noble pile of building, and by far the finest in all this part of Britain.
From Petworth west, the country is a little less woody than the Wild, and there begin to show their heads above the trees, a great many fine seats of the nobility and gentlemen of the country, as the Duke of Richmond’s seat at Goodwood, near Chichester. (This family also is in tears, at the writing these sheets, for the death of her grace the dutchess, who dyed the beginning of the month of December, and is bury’d in Westminster Abbey; and here the year closing, I think ’tis very-remarkable, that this year 1722, no less than five dukes and two dutchesses are dead (viz.) the Dukes of Bucks, Bolton, Rutland, Manchester, and Marlborough, and the Dutchesses of Somerset and Richmond; besides earls (viz.) the Earl of Sunderland, of Stamford, Exeter, and others; and since the above was written, and sent to the press, the Duke of Richmond himself is also dead.) The seats of the late Earl of Tankerville, and the Earl of Scarborough, the antient house of the Lord Montacute at Midhurst, an antient family of the sirname of Brown, the eldest branch of the house: These and a great many more lying so near together, make the country hereabout much more sociable and pleasant than the rest of the woody country, call’d The Wild, of which I have made mention so often; and yet I cannot say much for the city of Chichester, in which, if six or seven good families were removed, there would not be much conversation, except what is to be found among the canons, and dignitaries of the cathedral.
The cathedral here is not the finest in England, but is far from being the most ordinary: The spire is a piece of excellent workmanship, but it received such a shock about ——— years ago, that it was next to miraculous, that the whole steeple did not fall down; which in short, if it had, would almost have demolished the whole church.
It was a fire-ball, if we take it from the inhabitants, or, to speak in the language of nature, the lightning broke upon the steeple, and such was the irresistible force of it, that it drove several great stones out of the steeple, and carry’d them clear off, not from the roof of the church only, but of the adjacent houses also, and they were found at a prodigious distance from the steeple, so that they must have been shot out of the places where they stood in the steeple, as if they had been shot out of a cannon, or blown out of a mine: One of these stones of at least a ton weight, by estimation, was blown over the south side, or row of houses in the West-Street, and fell on the ground in the street at a gentleman’s door, on the other side of the way; and another of them almost as big was blown over both sides of the said West-Street, into the same gentleman’s garden, at whose door the other stone lay, and no hurt was done by either of them; whereas if either of those stones had fallen upon the strongest built house in the street, it would have dash’d it all to pieces, even to the foundation: This account of the two stones, I relate from a person of undoubted credit, who was an eye-witness, and saw them, but had not the curiosity to measure them, which he was very sorry for. The breach it made in the spire, tho’ within about forty five foot of the top, was so large, that as the workmen said to me, a coach and six horses might have driven through it, and yet the steeple stood fast, and is now very substantially repaired; withal, showing that it was before, an admirable sound and well finished piece of workmanship.
They have a story in this city, that when ever a bishop of that diocess is to dye, a heron comes and sits upon the pinnacle of the spire of the cathedral: This accordingly happen’d, about ——— when Dr. ——— Williams was bishop: A butcher Standing at his shop-door, in the South-Street, saw it, and ran in for his gun, and being a good marks-man shot the heron, and kill’d it, at which his mother was very angry with him, and said he had kill’d the bishop, and the next day news came to the town that Dr. Williams, the last bishop was dead; this is affirm’d by many people inhabitants of the place.
This city is not a place of much trade, nor is it very populous; but they are lately fallen into a very particular way of managing the corn trade here, which it is said turns very well to account; the country round it is very fruitful, and particularly in good wheat, and the farmers generally speaking, carry’d all their wheat to Farnham, to market, which is very near forty miles by land-carriage, and from some parts of the country more than forty miles.
But some money’d men of Chichester, Emsworth, and other places adjacent, have join’d their stocks together, built large granaries near the Crook, where the vessels come up, and here they buy and lay up all the corn which the country on that side can spare; and having good mills in the neighbourhood, they grind and dress the corn, and send it to London in the meal about by Long Sea, as they call it; nor now the war is over do they make the voyage so tedious as to do the meal any hurt, as at first in the time of war was sometimes the case for want of convoys.
It is true, this is a great lessening to Farnham Market, but that is of no consideration in the case; for, if the market at London is supply’d, the coming by sea from Chichester is every jot as much a publick good, as the encouraging of Farnham Market, which is of it self the greatest corn-market in England, London excepted. Notwithstanding all the decrease from this side of the country, this carrying of meal by sea met with so just an encouragement from hence, that it is now practised from several other places on this coast, even as far as Shampton.
From Chichester the road lying still west, passes in view of the Earl of Scarborough’s fine seat at Stansted, a house seeming to be a retreat, being surrounded with thick woods, thro’ which there are the most pleasant agreeable visto’s cut, that are to be seen any where in England, particularly, because through the west opening, which is from the front of the house, they sit in the dining-room of the house, and see the town and harbour of Portsmouth, the ships at Spithead, and also at St. Helens; which when the royal navy happens to be there, as often happen’d during the late war, is a most glorious sight.
This house was fatal to Dr. Williams, mentioned above, Bishop of Chichester, who having been here to make a visit to the late Earl of Scarborough, was thrown out of his coach, or rather threw himself out, being frighted by the unruliness of his horses, and broke his leg in the fall, which, his lordship being in years, was mortal to him: He dy’d in a few days after.
From hence we descend gradually to Portsmouth, the largest fortification, beyond comparison, that we have in England, but it was not with any consideration, that the author before recited could say, it was the only regular fortification in England; especially the same writer owning afterwards that Shireness, Languardfort, and Tilbury, were all regular fortifications, as they really are.
The situation of this place is such, that it is chosen, as may well be said, for the best security to the navy above all the places in Britain; the entrance into the harbour is safe, but very narrow, guarded on both sides by terrible platforms of cannon, particularly on the Point; which is a suburb of Portsmouth properly so call’d, where there is a brick platform built with two tire of guns, one over another, and which can fire so in cover, that the gunners cannot be beaten from their guns, or their guns easily dismounted; the other is from the point of land on the side of Gosport, which they call Gilkicker, where also they have two batteries.
Before any ships attempt to enter this port by sea, they must also pass the cannon of the main platform of the garrison, and also another at South-Sea-Castle; so that it is next to impossible that any ships could match the force of all those cannon, and be able to force their way into the harbour; in which I speak the judgment of men well acquainted with such matters, as well as my own opinion, and of men whose opinion leads them to think the best of the force of naval batteries too; and who have talk’d of making no difficulty to force their way through the Thames, in the teeth of the line of guns at Tilbury; I say, they have talk’d of it, but it was but talk, as any one of judgment would imagin, that knew the works at Tilbury, of which I have spoken in its place: The reasons, however, which they give for the difference, have some force in them, as they relate to Portsmouth, tho’ not as they relate to Tilbury; (viz.) That the mouth or entrance into Portsmouth is narrow, and may be lock’d up with booms, which before the ships could break, and while they were lying at them to break them away, they would be torn in pieces by the battery at the Point: (next) That the guns on the said battery at the Point at Portsmouth, are defended as above, with ambruziers, and the gunners stand cover’d, so that they cannot so soon be beaten from their guns, or their guns so soon dismounted by the warm quarter of a three deck ship, as at Tilbury, where all the gunners and guns too must stand open, both to small and great shot: Besides at Tilbury, while some of the ships lay battering the fort, others would pass behind them, close under the town, and if one or more received damage from the fort, the rest would pass in the cloud of smoke, and perhaps might compass their design, as is the case in all places, where the entrance is broad; whereas at Portsmouth, they would be batter’d within little more than pistol shot, and from both sides of the way; whereas at Tilbury there are very few guns on the Gravesend side of the river.
But to avoid comparing of strengths, or saying what may be done in one place, and not done in another; ’tis evident, in the opinion of all that I have met with, that the greatest fleet of ships that ever were in the hands of one nation at a time, would not pretend, if they had not an army also on shoar, to attack the whole work, to force their entrance into the harbour at Portsmouth.
As to the strength of the town by land, the works are very large and numerous, and besides the battery at the Point aforesaid, there is a large hornwork on the south-side, running out towards South-Sea Castle; there is also a good counterscarp, and double mote, with ravelins in the ditch, and double pallisadoes, and advanced works to cover the place from any approach, where it may be practicable: The strength of the town is also considerably augmented on the land-side, by the fortifications raised in King William’s time about the docks and yards, which are now perfected, and those parts made a particular strength by themselves; and tho’ they are indeed in some sense independent one of another, yet they cover and strengthen one another, so as that they cannot be separately attack’d on that side, while they are both in the same hands.
These docks and yards are now like a town by themselves, and are a kind of marine corporation, or a government of their own kind within themselves; there being particular large rows of dwellings, built at the publick charge, within the new works, for all the principal officers of the place; especially the commissioner, the agent of the victualling, and such as these; the tradesmen likewise have houses here, and many of the labourers are allow’d to live in the bounds as they can get lodging.
The town of Portsmouth, besides its being a fortification, is a well inhabited, thriving, prosperous corporation; and hath been greatly enrich’d of late by the fleet’s having so often and so long lain there, as well as large fleets of merchant-men, as the whole navy during the late war; besides the constant fitting out of men here, and the often paying them at Portsmouth, has made a great confluence of people thither on their private business, with other things, which the attendance of those fleets hath required: These things have not only been a great advantage to the town, but has really made the whole place rich, and the inhabitants of Portsmouth are quite another sort of people than they were a few years before the Revolution; this is what Mr. Cambden takes notice of, even so long ago as the reign of Queen Elizabeth; that “Portsmouth was populous in time of war, but not so in time of peace”: but now the business of the navy is so much encreased, and so much of it always done here, that it may be said, there is as much to do at Portsmouth now in time of peace, as there was then in time of war, and more too.
There is also this note to be put upon the two great arsenals of England, Portsmouth, and Chatham; Namely, That they thrive by a war, as the war respects their situation (viz.) That when a war with France happens, or with Spain, then Portsmouth grows rich, and when a war with Holland, or any of the Powers of the north, then Chatham, and Woolwich, and Deptford are in request; but of this I shall speak again, when I come to speak of the like antithesis between Plymouth and the Humber, or Portsmouth and the Firth of Edinburgh.
The government of the place is by a mayor and aldermen, &c. as in other corporations, and the civil government is no more interrupted by the military, than if there was no garrison there, such is the good conduct of the governors, and such it has always been, since our soveraigns have ceas’d to encourage the soldiery to insult the civil magistrates: And we have very seldom had any complaint on either side, either of want of discipline among the soldiers, or want of prudence in the magistrates: The inhabitants indeed necessarily submit to such things as are the consequence of a garrison town, such as being examin’d at the gates, such as being obliged to keep garrison hours, and not be let out, or let in after nine a clock at night, and the like; but these are things no people will count a burthen, where they get their bread by the very situation of the place, as is the case here.
Since the encrease of business at this place, by the long continuance of the war, the confluence of people has been so great, and the town not admitting any enlargement for buildings, that a kind of a suburb, or rather a new town has been built on the healthy ground adjoining to the town, which is so well built, and seems to encrease so fast, that in time it threatens to outdo for numbers of inhabitants, and beauty of buildings, even the town it self; and particularly by being unconfin’d by the laws of the garrison, as above, and unencumbered with the corporation burthens, freedoms, town duties, services, and the like.
From Portsmouth west, the country lyes low and flat, and is full of creeks and inlets of the sea and rivers, all the way to Southampton, so that we ferry over three times in about eighteen miles; besides going over one bridge, namely, at Tichfield: The first of these ferries is that at Portsmouth it self, (viz.) cross the mouth of the harbour, from the Point above-mention’d to Gosport; from thence we ride to Tichfield, as above, where we pass the river Alre, which rises in the same county at Alresford, or near it, which is not above twenty two miles off; and yet it is a large river here, and makes a good road below, call’d Tichfield Bay: Thence at about four miles we pass another river at Busselton, narrow in breadth, but exceeding deep, and eminent for its being able to carry the biggest ships: Here is a building yard for ships of war, and in King William’s time, two eighty gun ships were launched here. It seems the safety of the creek, and the plenty of timber in the country behind it, is the reason of building so much in this place.
From hence when we come opposite to Southampton, we pass another creek, being the mouth of the river Itchen which comes down from Winchester, and is both very broad and deep, and the ferry men having a very sorry boat, we found it dangerous enough passing it: On the other bank stands the antient town of Southampton, and on the other side of Southampton comes down another large river, entring Southampton Water by Red-Bridge; so that the town of Southampton stands upon a point running out into the sea, between two very fine rivers, both navigable, up some length into the country, and particularly useful for the bringing down timber out of one of the best wooded counties in Britain; for the river on the west side of the town in particular comes by the edge of the great forest, call’d New-Forest; here we saw a prodigious quantity of timber, of an uncommon size, vastly large, lying on the shoar of the river, for above two miles in length, which they told us was brought thither from the forest, and left there to be fetch’d by the builders at Portsmouth-Dock, as they had occasion for it.
In riding over the south part of Hampshire, I made this observation about that growth of timber, which I mention in supplement to what I said before concerning our timber being wasted and decayed in England, (viz.) that notwithstanding the very great consumption of timber in King William’s reign, by building or rebuilding almost the whole navy; and notwithstanding so many of the king’s ships were built hereabouts, besides abundance of large merchant ships, which were about that time built at Southampton, at Redbridge, and at Bursleton, &c. yet I saw the gentlemens estates, within six, eight, or ten miles of Southampton, so over-grown with wood, and their woods so full of large full grown timber, that it seem’d as if they wanted sale for it, and that it was of little worth to them. In one estate at Hursely in particular near Winchester, the estate since bought by Mr. Cardonell, late manager for the Duke of Marlborough, and formerly belonging to Mr. Cromwell, grandson to Oliver Cromwell, the whole estate not above 8ool . per ann. in rent, they might have cut twenty thousand pounds worth of timber down, and yet have left the woods in a thriving condition; in another estate between that and Petersfield, of about 1000l . per ann. they told me they could fell a thousand pounds a year in good large timber fit for building, for twenty years together, and do the woods no harm: Colonel Norton also, a known gentleman, whose seat at Southwick is within six miles of Portsmouth, and within three miles of the water carriage; this gentleman they told me had an immense quantity of timber, some growing within sight of the very docks in Portsmouth: Farther west it is the like, and as I rode through New-Forest, I cou’d see the antient oaks of many hundred years standing, perishing with their wither’d tops advanced up in the air, and grown white with age, and that could never yet get the favour to be cut down, and made serviceable to their country.
These in my opinion are no signs of the decay of our woods, or of the danger of our wanting timber in England; on the contrary, I take leave to mention it again, that if we were employ’d in England, by the rest of the world, to build a thousand sail of three deck ships, from 80 to 100 guns, it might be done to our infinite advantage, and without putting us in any danger of exhausting the nation of timber.
I shall give other hints of the like, when I come to speak of Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, and the counties which we call inland, where the timber is really of small value, for want of water carriage to carry it away; likewise again in the counties northward, bordering upon the Humber, and upon all the northern rivers, not to say a word of Ireland; which is still a store-house of timber, more inexhaustible if possible than England.
Southampton is a truly antient town, for ’tis in a manner dying with age; the decay of the trade is the real decay of the town; and all the business of moment that is transacted there, is the trade between us and the islands of Jersey and Guernsey, with a little of the wine trade, and much smuggling: The building of ships also is much stop’d of late; however, the town is large, has many people in it, a noble fair High-Street, a spacious key; and if its trade should revive, is able to entertain great numbers of people: There is a French church, and no inconsiderable congregation, which was a help to the town, and there are still some merchants who trade to Newfoundland, and to the Streights with fish; but for all other trade, it may be said of Southampton as of other towns, London has eaten it up. The situation of the town between two rivers was to its advantage formerly in point of strength, and the town was wall’d with a very strong wall, strengthened with a rampart, and a double ditch; but I don ot hear that they ever were put to make much use of them.
Whatever the fable of Bevis of Southampton, and the gyants in the woods thereabouts may be deriv’d from, I found the people mighty willing to have those things pass for true; and at the north gate of the town, the only entrance from the land side, they have the figures of two eminent champions, who might pass for gyants if they were alive now, but they can tell us very little of their history, but what is all fabulous like the rest, so I say no more of them.
I was now at the extent of my intended journey west, and thought of looking no farther this way for the present, so I came away north east, leaving Winchester a little on the left, and came into the Portsmouth road at Petersfield, a town eminent for little, but its being full of good inns, and standing in the middle of a country, still over-grown with a prodigious quantity of oak-timber. From hence we came to Alton, and in the road thither, began a little to taste the pleasure of the Western Downs, which reach from Winchester almost to Alton.
The Duke of Bolton has two very noble seats in this country, one between Alton and Alresford; and one at Basing, of which hereafter. Alton is a small market-town, of no note, neither is there any considerable manufacture in all this part of England; except a little drugget and shalloon making, which begins hereabouts, otherwise the whole counties of Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Hampshire, are not employ’d in any considerable woollen manufacture; what there is, I have spoken of about Cranbrook in Kent, Guilford, and Farnham in Surrey, and a little in the north part of Barkshire, all which put together, is not equal to one ordinary manufacturing village in Essex or Norfolk.
From Alton we came to Farnham, of which I can only say, that it is a large populous market-town, the farthest that way in the county of Surrey, and without exception the greatest corn-market in England, London excepted; that is to say, particularly for wheat, of which so vast a quantity is brought every market-day to this market, that a gentleman told me, he once counted on a market-day eleven hundred teams of horse, all drawing waggons, or carts, loaden with wheat at this market; every team of which is supposed to bring what they call a load, that is to say, forty bushel of wheat to market; which is in the whole, four and forty thousand bushel; but I do not take upon me to affirm this relation, or to say whether it be a probable opinion or not; I know some have thought the quantity has been much more; but this also was, I suppose, before the people of Chichester and Emsworth on one side, and Southampton, Tichfield, and Redbridge on the other, took to the trade of sending their wheat in meal to London by sea, as is mentioned above,
At this town is a castle eminent for this, that it was built by a Bishop of Winchester; and tho’ its antiquity is evident, as far back as King Stephen; yet it remains to the Bishops of Winchester to this day. Here the said Bishops of Winchester usually keep their ordinary residence, and tho’ the county of Surrey, be generally speaking within the diocess, they may be truly said to reside in the middle of their ecclesiastical dominion. The Farnham people it seems, or some of the country folks, notwithstanding the liberality and bounty of the several bishops, who, if some people may be believ’d, have been very good, benefactors to the town; I say, notwithstanding all this, have of late been very unkind to the bishop, in pulling down the pale of his park, and plundering it of the deer, killing, wounding, and disabling, even those they cou’d not carry away.
From Farnham, that I might take in the whole county of Surrey, I took the coach-road, over Bagshot-Heath, and that great forest, as ’tis call’d, of Windsor: Those that despise Scotland, and the north part of England, for being full of wast and barren land, may take a view of this part of Surrey, and look upon it as a foil to the beauty of the rest of England; or a mark of the just resentment shew’d by Heaven upon the Englishmen’s pride; I mean the pride they shew in boasting of their country, its fruitfulness, pleasantness, richness, the fertility of the soil, &c. whereas here is a vast tract of land, some of it within seventeen or eighteen miles of the capital city; which is not only poor, but even quite steril, given up to barrenness, horrid and frightful to look on, not only good for little, but good for nothing; much of it is a sandy desert, and one may frequently be put in mind here of Arabia Deserta, where the winds raise the sands, so as to overwhelm whole caravans of travellers, cattle and people together; for in passing this heath, in a windy day, I was so far in danger of smothering with the clouds of sand, which were raised by the storm, that I cou’d neither keep it out of my mouth, nose or eyes; and when the wind was over, the sand appeared spread over the adjacent fields of the forest some miles distant, so as that it ruins the very soil. This sand indeed is checked by the heath, or heather, which grows in it, and which is the common product of barren land, even in the very Highlands of Scotland; but the ground is otherwise so poor and barren, that the product of it feeds no creatures, but some very small sheep, who feed chiefly on the said heather, and but very few of these, nor are there any villages, worth mentioning, and but few houses, or people for many miles far and wide; this desart lyes extended so much, that some say, there is not less than a hundred thousand acres of this barren land that lyes all together, reaching out every way in the three counties of Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire; besides a great quantity of land, almost as bad as that between Godalming and Petersfield, on the road to Portsmouth, including some hills, call’d the Hind Head and others.
Thro’ this desart, for I can call it no less, we come into the great western road, leading from London to Salisbury, Exeter, &c. and pass the Thames at Stanes; and here I could not but call to mind, upon viewing the beautiful prospect of the river, and of the meadows, on the banks of the river, on the left hand of the road, I say, I cou’d not but call to mind those two excellent lines of Sir John Denham, in his poem, call’d Cooper’s Hill, viz.
Tho’ deep, yet clear, tho’ gentle, yet not dull,
Strong without rage, without overflowing full.
Here I remembered that I had yet left the inland towns of the two counties of Kent and Sussex, and almost all the county of Surrey out of my account; and that having as it were taken a circuit round the coast only, I had a great many places worth viewing to give an account of; I therefore left Windsor, which was within my view, on one side of the river, and Hampton Court on the other, as being the subject of another letter; and resolv’d to finish my present view, in the order I had begun it; That is to say, to give an account of the whole country as I come on; that I may make no incongruous transitions from one remote part of England to another, at least as few as may be.
From Stanes therefore I turn’d S. and S.E. to Chertsey, another market-town, and where there is a bridge over the Thames: This town was made famous, by being the burial place of Henry VI. till his bones were after removed to Windsor by Henry VII. also by being the retreat of the incomparable Cowley, where he liv’d withdrawn from the hurries of the Court and town, and where he dy’d so much a recluse, as to be almost wholly taken up in country business, farming and husbandry, for his diversion, not for bread, according to the publick flight of his own fancy.
From this town wholly employ’d, either in malting, or in barges to carry it down the river to London; I went away south to Woking, a private country market-town, so out of all road, or thorough-fare, as we call it, that ’tis very little heard of in England; it claims however some honour, from its being once the residence of a royal branch of the family of Plantagenet, the old Countess of Richmond, mother to King Henry VII, who made her last retreat here, where the king her son built, or rather repaired, an old royal house, on purpose for her residence, and where she ended her days in much honour and peace; the former part of her life having been sufficiently exposed to the storms and dangers of the times; especially under the tyranny and turbulent reign of the two precedent monarchs.
From hence we came to Guilford, a well known and considerable market-town: It has the name of being the county town, tho’ it cannot properly be call’d so; neither the county gaol being here, or the assizes, any more than in common with other towns: But the election indeed for Parliament men for the county is always held here. The river which according to Mr. Camden is call’d the Wey, and which falls into the Thames at Oatlands, is made navigable to this town, which adds greatly to its trade; and by this navigation a very great quantity of timber is brought down to London, not from the neighbourhood of this town only, but even from the woody parts of Sussex and Hampshire above thirty miles from it, the country carriages bringing it hither in the summer by land: This navigation is also a mighty support to the great corn-market at Farnham, which I have mentioned so often: For as the meal-men and other dealers buy the corn at that market, much of it is brought to the mills on this river; which is not above seven miles distant, and being first ground and dress’d, is then sent down in the meal by barges to London; the expence of which is very small, as is practised on the other side of the Thames, for above fifty miles distance from London.
Here, as I observed in its place, is a small remainder of an old manufacture, that is to say, of the clothing trade, and it extends it self to Godalming, Haselmeer, and the vale country, on the side of the Holmwood; a place of which I shall speak on another occasion, quite to Darking: These cloths of a middling price, have formerly been in great repute, and then again were almost quite decay’d, but by the application and skill of the clothiers, maintained the credit of their make, and are encourag’d, and indeed revived in reputation of late years, when the clothiers of Cranbrook and Tenterden in Kent, whose goods are of the same kind, are almost sunk to nothing, as I have already observed.
This clothing trade, however small, is very assistant to the poor of this part of the country, where the lands, as I have noted, are but indifferent; except just above the great towns, and where abundance of the inhabitants are what we call cottagers, and live chiefly by the benefit of the large commons and heath ground, of which the quantity is so very great.
From this town of Guilford, the road to Farnham is very remarkable, for it runs along west from Guilford, upon the ridge of a high chalky hill, so narrow that the breadth of the road takes up the breadth of the hill, and the declivity begins on either hand, at the very hedge that bounds the highway, and is very steep, as well as very high; from this hill is a prospect either way, so far that ’tis surprising; and one sees to the north, or N.W. over the great black desart, call’d Bagshot-Heath, mentioned above, one way, and the other way south east into Sussex, almost to the South Downs, and west to an unbounded length, the horizon only restraining the eyes: This hill being all chalk, a traveller feels the effect of it in a hot summer’s day, being scorch’d by the reflection of the sun from the chalk, so as to make the heat almost insupportable; and this I speak by my own experience: This hill reaches from Guilford town’s end to within a mile and half of Farnham.
The hill, or the going up to it from Guilford rather, is call’d St. Katharine’s -Hill, and at the top of the ascent from the town stands the gallows, which is so placed, respecting the town, that the towns people from the High-Street may sit at their shop doors, and see the criminals executed.
The great road from London to Chichester, and from London to Portsmouth, lying thro’ this town; it is consequently a town very well furnish’d with inns for accommodation of travellers, as is Godalming, also the next town within three miles of it.
From Guilford there lies a cross-road, as it may be call’d, to London, not frequented by coaches or carriers, or the ordinary passengers to London; tho’ ’tis by some reckon’d the nearest way, and is without question much the pleasanter road, if it is not the pleasantest in this part of England: (viz.) From this town to Letherhead, ten miles from Letherhead to London, over Banstead Downs fifteen miles, or if you please by Epsome seventeen miles; which, tho’ it is call’d the farthest way, makes amends abundantly by the goodness of the way, and the advantage and pleasantness of the road.
The ten miles from Guilford to Leatherhead make one continued line of gentlemens houses, lying all, or most of them, on the west side of the road, and their parks, or gardens almost touching one another: Here are pleasantly seated several very considerable persons, as the posterity of Sir Tho. Bludworth, once Lord Mayor of London, a person famous for the implacable passion he put the people of London in, by one rash expression, at the time of the Great Fire: (viz.) “That it was nothing, and they might piss it out”; which was only spoken at the beginning of the fire, when neither Sir Thomas or the citizens themselves cou’d foresee the length it would go; and without any design to lessen their endeavours to quench it: But this they never forgot, or forgave to him, or his family after him; but fix’d the expression on him, as a mark of indelible reproach, even to this day: Among the other fine seats hi this row, is that of Arthur Moor, Esq; at Fetcham, where no cost has been spar’d to make a most beautiful and delicious situation be beholden to art, and which is set out at an immense charge: Near to Guilford, at the village of Clendon, at the west end of this line of fine seats, is the antient mansion of the Onslow’s: The father of the present lord, was Sir Richard Onslow, Baronet; several years one of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury or Admiralty; and created Baron Onslow by King GEORGE.
The seat is old, and the estate is old too (but the latter is much the better for its age) for it has been many years in the family, as appears in Mr. Camden, and has gone on, encreasing from hand to hand. The late Lord Onslow improved and beautify’d both the house and the estate too very much. The house has several times been honoured with the presence of both King William and King George; the former erected an annual race for a royal plate of 100 guineas, call’d the King’s Gold Plate, to be run for every year, and the latter has been so good, as twice at least to honour the diversion with his presence.
At the like distance north from Guilford, and on the banks of the Wey, is a fine seat, every way as fit for the possession of a peer as is Clendon Park; and belonging to a branch of the same family, (viz.) to Denzil Onslow, Esq; uncle to the present Lord Onslow, younger brother to his father the first lord: This seat is call’d Pyrford, and is exceeding pleasant, especially for the most beautiful intermixture of wood, and water in the park, and gardens, and grounds adjoining; by which the possessor, whose genius lay wonderfully in improving lands, and making things more pleasant, brought Pyrford to such a perfection, as to be inferior to very few, if any, of the finest houses in Surrey; particularly in one thing, which is not found in all that part of England; namely, a duckoy, which adjoins to his park, and which makes the rest inimitably agreeable.
At the north east end of this range of fine seats, is Letherhead, a little thorough-fare town, with a stone-bridge over the river Mole; this river is called the Mole, from its remarkable sinking into the earth, at the foot of Box-Hill, near a village call’d Mickleham, and working its way under ground like a mole, rising again at or near this town of Leatherhead, where its wandering streams are united again, and form a pretty large river, as they were before, running together under Leatherhead Bridge, and from thence to Cobham, and so it pursues its course to the Thames, which it joins at Molesy, which takes its name to be sure from the name of the river Mole.
And here I cannot but take notice of an unaccountable error. which all the writers I have met with fall unwarily into, on account of this little river hiding itself in the earth, and finding its way under ground, from the foot of Beechworth, more properly Betsworth-Castle, near Box-Hill, and then rising again at Letherhead, as above; as if the water had at once ingulph’d itself in a chasm of the earth, or sunk in a whirlpit, as is said of the Caspian-Sea, which they say rises again in the Persian Gulph with the same violence that it ingulphs it self: Tis strange this error should prevail in this manner, and with men of learning too, and in a case so easily discover’d and so near. But thus it is, nor is it at all remote from the true design of this work, to undeceive the world in the false or mistaken accounts, which other men have given of things, especially when those mistakes are so demonstrably gross; and when the subject is significant too, as in this part now in hand: Mr. Camden expresses it thus: “The Mole,” says he, “coming to White-Hill,” (he should have said Box-Hill) “hides it self, or is rather swallow’d up at the foot of it; and for that reason the place is call’d Swallow, but after two miles it bubbles up, and rises again”; then he adds, (alluding to the river Guadiana in Castile) “that the inhabitants of this tract no less than the Spaniards may boast of having a bridge that feeds several flocks of sheep.” Thus far Mr. Camden. The right reverend and learned editor of the Additions to Mr. Camden, makes it yet worse, speaking of Beechworth Castle, which is a mile before we come to Darking; and ’tis at the foot of this castle here, says his lordship, that the river Mole being nigh to the precipice of Box-Hill is swallow’d up.
Now ’tis something strange for me to take upon me, after two such authorities, to say, that neither of these is right. The accounts are so positive, that many curious people have rid thither to see this place, call’d Swallow, and to see this Beechworth Castle, at the foot of which the river is swallow’d up, not doubting but they should see some wonderful gulph, in which a whole river should be at once as it were bury’d alive; for Mr. Camden says, “ Swallow is the place “: The bishop says,” near Beechworth-Castle the river is swallowed up”; nay, and to make the wonder appear more conformable to the relation, the map of the county of Surrey, plac’d in Mr. Camden, makes a large blank between the river as swallowed up, a little off of Darking, and its rising again as at Leatherhead, breaking the river off abruptly, as if pouring its waters all at once into a great gulph, like one of the common-shores of the streets of London, and bringing it out again at once, just as the water of the brook running into Fleet-Ditch, comes out from under Holbourn-Bridge.
Now after all these plausible stories,, the matter of fact is this, and no more; and even of this, the thing is wonderful enough too: But I say, it is thus, and no more, (viz.)
The river Mole passes by Beechworth Castle in a full stream; and for near a mile farther on the west of the castle, it takes into its stream Darking-Brook, as they call it, and has upon it a large corn-mill, call’d Darking-Mill; below this it runs close at the foot of Box-Hill, near that part of the hill, which is call’d the Stomacher; then, as if obstructed by the hill, it turns a little south, and runs cross the road which leads from Darking to Leatherhead, where it is apparently rapid and strong; and then fetches a circuit round a park, formerly belonging to Sir Richard Studdolph, and which is part of it, within sight of Leatherhead, and so keeps a continued chanel to the very town of Leatherhead; so that there is no such thing as a natural bridge, or a river lost, no, not at all; and in the winter, in time of floods the stream will be very large, and rapid all the way above ground, which I affirm of my own knowledge, having seen it so, on many occasions.
But the true state of the case is this, the current of the river being much obstructed by the interposition of those hills, call’d Box-Hill, which tho’ descending in a kind of vale, as if parted to admit the river to pass, and making that descent so low as to have the appearance of a level, near a village call’d Mickleham; I say, these hills yet interrupting the free course of the river, it forces the waters as it were to find their way thro’ as well as they can; and in order to this, beginning, I say, where the river comes close to the foot of the precipice of Box-Hill, call’d the Stomacher, the waters sink insensibly away, and in some places are to be seen (and I have seen them) little chanels which go out on the sides of the river, where the water in a stream not so big as would fill a pipe of a quarter of an inch diameter, trills away out of the river, and sinks insensibly into the ground.
In this manner it goes away, lessening the stream for above a mile, near two, and these they call the Swallows; and the whole ground on the bank of the river, where it is flat and low, is full of these subterraneous passages; so that if on any sudden rain the river swells over the banks, it is observed not to go back into the chanel again when the flood abates, but to sink away into the earth in the meadows, where it spreads; a remarkable proof of which I shall give presently.
But now take this with you as you go, that these Swallows, for they are many, and not one call’d the Swallow, as is said in Mr. Camden; these Swallows (I say) tho’ they diminish the stream much, do not so drink it up as to make it disappear: But that, where it crosses the road near Mickleham, it runs, as I have said, very sharp and broad, nor did I ever know it dry in the dryest summer in that place, tho’ I liv’d in the neighbourhood several years: On the contrary I have known it so deep, that waggons and carriages have not dar’d to go thro’; but never knew it, I say, dry in the greatest time of drought.
Below this place the hills rise again on the other side very high, and particularly on the ridge, which the country people call the Ashcom-Hills, and they seem to force the river again west; so it surrounds most of the park I mentioned above, and has several bridges upon it, and by this time indeed, so much of it is sunk away, that in a very dry summer the chanel, tho’ full of water in pits and holes cannot be perceiv’d to run; but this must be, I say, in a very dry season, and still there is the chanel visible where it runs at other times fiercely enough.
This part which I say has the least water, continuing about half a mile, we then perceive the chanel insensibly to have more water than before: That is to say, that as it sunk in gradually and insensibly, so it takes vent again in the like manner in thousands of little springs, and unseen places, very few in any quantity, till in another half mile, it is a full river again, and passes in full streams under Leatherhead-Bridge, as above, and for the truth of this, I appeal to the knowledge of the inhabitants of Darking, Mickleham, Leatherhead, and all the country round.
A farther proof of this, and which is the account which I promised above, relating to the gradual sinking away of the water, take as follows: It was in the year 1676, in the month of October, or thereabouts, that there happen’d a very sudden hasty land flood, which swell’d the river to a very great height; and particularly so high, that at Beechworth-Castle, and other gentlemen’s seats, near the river, where they had fish-ponds that were fed by the river, it over-flowed their ponds, and carry’d off all their fish, or at least they thought so: Sir Adam Brown liv’d then at Beechworth-Castle, a gentleman in those days, well known in the country, for he was many years Knight of the Shire, of the family of Browns, a branch of the house of Montacutes at Midhurst, mentioned before, but a collateral line; another of the Browns liv’d at Bucknal, another at Darking, which I mention chiefly, because some ignorant writers, particularly the late Atlas, has confounded the title of Montacute with the sirname of Montague, which is quite another family, and generation, not at all ally’d, and nothing near so antient, but this by the by.
Sir Adam Brown’s son, and the young gentlemen of these, and other neighbouring families, disturbed at the loss of their fish, and mov’d by the report, came all down to Darking; where they raised a little troop of the young fellows and boys of the town, and all went together, to that part of the river which runs by the foot of the Stomacher, as I said they call it, on Box-Hill.
There was a low flat piece of meadow ground, lying close to the river on one side; just opposite to which, the hill lying also-close to the river, made up the bank on the other: This piece of ground might contain about four or five acres, and lying, hollow in the middle, like the shape of a dripping-pan, was by the overflowing of the river full of water, and so full, that the bank, which lay close to the river, tho’ higher than the rest, was not to be seen.
The gentlemen set themselves and all their little army at work, to raise this bank, which I say, lay between the river and the hollow of the field, so as to separate the water in the hollow part of the field from that in the river, and having so many hands, they effected that part the first day; and made a solid dam or bank, so that they cou’d walk upon it dry footed; then they made a return to it, at the upper, or east end of the field; so that in short, no more water could run into the field from any part of the river.
When this was done, they built hutts or booths, and made fires, and sent for victuals and drink to treat their young company, and there they encamp’d, as if they waited some great event; and so indeed they did, for in about two nights and a day, exclusive of the time they took in making their dams, the water sunk all away in the field; and the consequence of that was, that the fish being surrounded, were catch’d, as it were, in a trap, for they cou’d not be swallow’d up with the water; and the purchase fully recompenc’d their labour, for the like quantity of fish, great and small, I believe was never taken at once in this kingdom, out of so small a river.
This story would have nothing in it wonderful, or to make it worth recording, were it not so evident a demonstration of the manner of this river losing it self under ground, or being swallowed up, as they call it; for this field where the water sunk away is just at the place, which Mr. Cambden calls the Swallows, near the village of Mickleham; and under the precipice of the hill, and yet the water was two nights and a day, as I say, sinking leisurely off; and in this manner, and in no other, does the whole river, or so much of it as passes under ground, sink away.
The town of Darking is eminent for several little things worth observation; as first, for the great Roman highway, call’d Stormy-street, which Mr. Cambden says, passes through the very church-yard of this town: Secondly, for a little common or heath, call’d the Cottman Dean, or the dean or heath of poor cottagers, for so the word signifies, belonging to the town; and where their alms-house stands; which some learned physicians have singled out for the best air in England: Thirdly, for Mr. Howard’s house and garden, call’d Deaden, the garden is so naturally mounded with hills, that it makes a compleat amphitheatre, being an oblong square, the area about eighty yards by forty, and the hills unpassably steep, serve instead of walls, and are handsomely planted with trees, whose tops rising above one another gradually, as the hill rises at their roots, make a most beautiful green wall, of perhaps fifty or sixty foot high; at the north end, which is the entrance, is the house, which closes it wholly; and at the south end, the antient possessor, Mr. Howard, by what we call perforation, caused a vault or cave to be made quite through the hill, which came out again into a fine vineyard, which he planted the same year, on the south side, or slope of the hill, and which they say has produced since most excellent good wines, and a very great quantity of them.
Mr. Howard was an honourable and antient gentleman, younger brother to the old Duke of Norfolk, then living: (viz.) In the year 1676, for in that year, or the year before, was that vineyard planted, and tho’ Mr. Howard was then upwards of sixty years of age, he enjoy’d that pleasant seat near thirty years after.
At this town liv’d another antient gentleman and his son, of a very good family; (viz.) Augustin Bellson, Esq; or as some write it Belschon, the father was measured seven foot and half an inch high, allowing all that he might have sunk, for his age, being seventy one years old; and the son measured two inches taller than his father.
These families were Roman, as were several others thereabouts at that time; but were soon after that, upon the breaking out of the Popish Plot, dispers’d; some one way, and some another, as the fate of those times oblig’d them to do; tho’ I do not remember that any part of the scenes of treason were lay’d about Darking, or that any of the Romish gentlemen thereabout were charged with being concern’d with them.
The market of Darking cannot be omitted, as it relates to my design of giving an account of the several parts of England; from whence this great city of London, and all the dainty doings, which are to be seen there, as to eating, is supply’d with provisions.
This market is of all the markets in England famous for poultry; and particularly for the fattest geese, and the largest capons, the name of a Darking Capon being well known among the poulterers in Leaden-Hall Market; in a word, they are brought to this market from as far as Horsham in Sussex; and ’tis the business of all the country, on that side for many miles, to breed and fatten them up, insomuch, that ’tis like a manufacture to the country people; and some of these capons are so large, as that they are little inferior to turkeys; and I have seen them sold for 4s. to 4s. 6d. each, and weighing from 4/. to 5 or 61. a peice.
Once a year here is also a fair, (viz.) on Holy Thursday, chiefly for lambs, and the greatest fair in England of that kind: I have pass’d over the so much celebrated house of Mr. Evelyn at Wotton, near Darking, not that it is not worth notice, but because so many other writers have said so much of it.
On the top of Box-Hill, and in view of this town, grows a very great beech-tree, which by way of distinction is call’d the Great Beech, and a very great tree it is; but I mention it on the following account, under the shade of this tree, was a little vault or cave, and here every Sunday, during the summer season, there used to be a rendezvous of coaches and horsemen, with abundance of gentlemen and ladies from Epsome to take the air, and walk in the box-woods; and in a word, divert, or debauch, or perhaps both, as they thought fit, and the game encreased so much, that it began almost on a sudden, to make a great noise in the country.
A vintner who kept the King’s -Arms-Inn, at Darking, taking notice of the constant and unusual flux of company thither, took the hint from the prospect of his advantage, which offer’d, and obtaining leave of Sir Adam Brown, whose mannor and land it was, furnish’d this little cellar or vault with tables, chairs, &c. and with wine and eatables to entertain the ladies and gentlemen on Sunday nights, as above; and this was so agreeable to them as that it encreased the company exceedingly; in a word, by these means, the concourse of gentry, and in consequence of the country people, became so great, that the place was like a little fair; so that at length the country began to take notice of it, and it was very offensive, especially to the best governed people; this lasted some years, I think two or three, and tho’ complaint was made of it to Sir Adam Brown, and the neighbouring justices; alledging the revelling, and the indecent mirth that was among them, and on the Sabbath Day too, yet it did not obtain a suitable redress: whereupon a certain set of young men, of the town of Darking, and perhaps prompted by some others, resenting the thing also, made an unwelcome visit to the place once on a Saturday night, just before the usual time of their wicked mirth, and behold when the coaches and ladies, &c. from Epsome appear’d the next afternoon, they found the cellar or vault, and all that was in it, blown up with gun-powder; and so secret was it kept, that upon the utmost enquiry it cou’d never be heard, or found out who were the persons that did it: That action put an end to their revels for a great while; nor was the place ever repaired that I heard of, at least it was not put to the same wicked use that it was employ’d in before.
From this hill, and particularly from this part of it, is a fair view in clear weather quite over the Wild of Sussex, to the South-Downs; and by the help of glasses, those who know where things are scituated, may plainly see the town of Horsham, Ashdown-Forest, the Duke of Somerset’s house at Petworth, and the South-Downs, as they range between Brighthelmston and Arundel; besides an unbounded prospect into Kent.
The vale beneath this hill is for many miles east and west, call’d the Holmward, by some the Holm-Wood, others Holmsdale; but more vulgarly the Homeward: In the woody part of which are often found outlying red deer, and in the days of King James II. or while he was Duke of York, they have hunted the largest stags here that have been seen in England; the duke took great care to have them preserved for his own sport, and they were so preserv’d for many years; but have since that been most of them destroyed.
This Homeward, or Holmwood, is a vale, which is now chiefly grown with furz, famous for the country people gathering such quantities of strawberries, as they carry them to market by horse-loads: I saw neither town or village, for many miles on it, much less any gentlemen’s seats, only cottages and single houses; but vast quantities of geese and poultry, which as is said above, employs all the country in breeding them up: There has been large timber here, (they say) but most of it is cut down and gone, except that where there are any woods standing, the timber is still exceeding good and large.
It is suggested that this place was in antient times so unpassable a wild, or overgrown waste, the woods so thick, and the extent so large, reaching far into Sussex, that it was the retreat for many ages of the native Britons, who the Romans cou’d never drive out; and after that it was the like to the Saxons, when the Danes harrass’d the nation with their troops, and ravag’d the country wherever they came; and on this account they retain here in memory the following lines.
This is Holmes Dale,
Never conquer’d, never shall.
But this is a piece of history, which I leave as I find it; the country tho’ wild still, and perhaps having the same countenance now in many places, as it had above a thousand years ago; yet in other places is cultivated, and has roads passable enough in the summer quite thro’ it, on every side, and the woods are clear’d off in a great measure as above.
Keeping at the bottom of these hills, and yet not enter’d into this vale, the county is dry, and rather sandy or gravel, and is full of gentlemen’s houses, and of good towns; but if we go but a little to the right hand south, into the said wild part, ’tis a deep, strong, and in the wet season, an unpassable clay.
Here travelling east at the foot of the hills, we came to Rygate, a large market-town with a castle, and a mansion-house, inhabited for some years by Sir John Parsons, once Lord Mayor of London, and whose son is hi a fair way to be so also; being one of the aldermen and sheriffs of the said city at the writing these sheets.
Here are two miserable borough towns too, which nevertheless send each of them two members to Parliament, to wit, Gatton under the side of the hill, almost at Rygate; and Bleechingly, more eastward on the same cross-road, which we were upon before: In the first of these Sir John Thomson, (afterwards Lord Haversham) having purchas’d the mannor, was always elected; as Mr. Paul Docminique, an Italian merchant, has been since: The last was for many years, the estate of Sir Robert Clayton, a known citizen, and benefactor to the city of London, whose posterity still enjoy it: And at either town the purchasers seem to buy the election with the property.
At Nutfield, between Rygate and Bleechingly, is another branch of the family of Evelyn, who have flourish’d there many years, tho’ in a kind of retreat, and are often chosen representatives for the town of Bleechingly, which is just at their door.
From hence, crossing still the roads leading from London into Sussex, we come to a village call’d Godstone, which lyes on the road from London to Lewis; and keeping on (east) we come to Westerham, the first market town in Kent on that side: This is a neat handsome well built market-town, and is full of gentry, and consequently of good company. The late Earl of Jersey built, or rather finished, for it was begun by a private gentleman, a very noble house here, which still remains in the family, and is every year made finer and finer.
All this part of the country is very agreeably pleasant, wholesome and fruitful, I mean quite from Guildford to this place; and is accordingly overspread with good towns, gentlemen’s houses, populous villages, abundance of fruit, with hop-grounds and cherry orchards, and the lands well cultivated; but all on the right-hand, that is to say, south, is exceedingly grown with timber, has abundance of waste and wild grounds, and forests, and woods, with many large iron-works, at which they cast great quantities of iron caldrons, chimney-backs, furnaces, retorts, boiling pots, and all such necessary things of iron; besides iron cannon, bomb-shells, stink-pots, hand-grenadoes, and cannon ball, &c. in an infinite quantity, and which turn to very great account; tho’ at the same time the works are prodigiously expensive, and the quantity of wood they consume is exceeding great, which keeps up that complaint I mention’d before; that timber would grow scarce, and consequently dear, from the great quantity consumed in the iron-works in Sussex.
From hence going forward east, we come to Riverhead, a town on the road from London to Tunbridge; and then having little to speak of in Kent, except some petty market-towns, such as Wrotham, commonly call’d Rootham, Town-Mailing, Cranbrook, and the like; of which something had been observed, as I travell’d forward, in the beginning of this circuit, I turn’d north, and came to Bromley, a market-town, made famous by an hospital, lately built there by Dr. Warner, Lord Bishop of Rochester, for the relief of the widows of clergy-men, which was not only well endow’d at first, but has had many gifts and charities bestow’d on it since, and is a very noble foundation for the best of charities in the world; besides it has been an example, and an encouragement to the like in other places, and has already been imitated, as Mr. Camden’s most reverend continuator assures us, by the Bishops of Winchester and Salisbury in their diocesses.
Near this town we turn’d away by Beckenham, and thro’ Norwood to Croydon; in the way we saw Dullige or Sydenham Wells, where great crouds of people throng every summer from London to drink the waters, as at Epsome and Tunbridge; only with this difference, that as at Epsome and Tunbridge, they go more for the diversion of the season, for the mirth and the company; for gaming, or intrieguing, and the like, here they go for meer physick, and this causes another difference; Namely, that as the nobility and gentry go to Tunbridge, the merchants and rich citizens to Epsome; so the common people go chiefly to Dullwich and Stretham; and the rather also, because it lyes so near London, that they can walk to it in the morning, and return at night; which abundance do; that is to say, especially of a Sunday, or on holidays, which makes the better sort also decline the place; the croud on those days being both unruly and unmannerly.
Croydon is a great corn-market, but chiefly for oats and oatmeal, all for London still; the town is large and full of citizens from London, which makes it so populous; it is the antient palace of the Archbishops of Canterbury, and several of them lye buried here; particularly that great man, Archbishop Whitgift, who not only repair’d the palace, but built the famous hospital and school, which remains there to this day, to the singular honour of the giver.
In the gardens of this episcopal palace, the Lady Dowager Onslow, mother of the present lord of that name, of whom mention has been made, was very unhappily drown’d about two year since, in one of the fish-ponds, whether she did it herself, or whether by accident, or how, ’tis not the business of such a work as this to enquire; her daughter being the wife of Sir John Williams, merchant of London, had hired the house, and she was in his family.
From hence we pass’d by Beddington, where is still the seat or mansion house of Sir Nicholas Carew, it was a fine building in Mr. Camden’s time; but is now almost rebuilt from the ground, by the present owner, Sir Nicholas Carew, who now possesses that estate, and who is one of the representatives for the county of Surrey; the house is magnificently great, and the gardens are exquisitely fine; yet architects say, that the two wings are too deep for the body of the house, that they should either have been wider asunder, or not so long; the court before them is extreamly fine, and the canal in the park, before the court, is so well that nothing can be better, having a river running through it; the gardens are exceedingly enlarged, they take up all the flat part of the park, with vista’s, or prospects thro’ the park, for two or three miles; the orange-trees continue, and are indeed wonderful; they are the only standard orange-trees in England, and have moving houses to cover them in the winter; they are loaded with fruit in the summer, and the gardners told us, they have stood in the ground where they now grow above 80 years.
I am sorry to record it to the reproach of any person in their grave, that the ancestor of this family, tho’ otherwise a very honest gentleman, if fame lyes not, was so addicted to gaming, and so unfortunately over-match’d in his play, that he lost this noble seat and parks, and all the fine addenda which were then about it, at one night’s play, some say, at one cast of dice, to Mr. Harvey of Comb, near Kingston; What misery had befallen the family, if the right of the winner had been prosecuted with rigour, as by what I have heard it would have been, is hard to write: But God had better things in store for the gentleman’s posterity than he took thought for himself; and the estate being entail’d upon the heir, the loser dy’d before it came into possession of the winner, and so it has been preserv’d, and the present gentleman has not only recovered the disaster, but as above, has exceedingly improved it all.
From hence it is but a little mile to Cashalton, a country village scituate among innumerable springs of water, which all together, form a river in the very street of the town, and joining the other springs which come from Croydon and Bedington, make one stream, which are call’d the river Wandell: This village seated among such delightful springs, is yet all standing upon firm chalk; and having the Downs close adjoining, makes the most agreeable spot on all this side of London, as is abundantly testify’d by its being, as it were, crouded with fine houses of the citizens of London; some of which are built with such a profusion of expence, that they look rather like seats of the nobility, than the country houses of citizens and merchants; particularly those of Sir William Scawen, lately deceased; who besides an immense estate in money has left, as I was told, one article of nine thousand pounds a year to his heir; and was himself since the Fire of London, only Mr. Scawen, a Hamborough merchant, dealing by commission, and not in any view of such an encrease of wealth, or any thing like it.
The other house is that of Sir John Fellows, late sub-governor of the South-Sea Company, who having the misfortune to fall in the general calamity of the late directors, lost all his unhappy wealth, which he had gain’d in the company, and a good and honestly gotten estate of his own into the bargain: I cannot dwell on the description of all the fine houses in this and the neighbouring vilages; I shall speak of them again in bulk with their neighbours, of Mitcham, Stretham, Tooting, Clapham, and others; but I must take a trip here cross the Downs to Epsome-
Banstead Downs need no description other than this, that their being so near London, and surrounded as they are with pleasant villages, and being in themselves perfectly agreeable, the ground smooth, soft, level and dry; (even in but a few hours after rain) they conspire to make the most delightful spot of ground, of that kind in all this part of Britain.
When on the publick race days they are cover’d with coaches and ladies, and an innumerable company of horsemen, as well gentlemen as citizens, attending the sport; and then adding to the beauty of the sight, the racers flying over the course, as if they either touched not, or felt not the ground they run upon; I think no sight, except that of a victorious army, under the command of a Protestant King of Great Britain could exceed it.
About four miles, over those delicious Downs, brings us to Epsome, and if you will suppose me to come there in the month of July, or thereabouts, you may think me to come in the middle of the season, when the town is full of company, and all disposed to mirth and pleasantry; for abating one unhappy stock jobbing year, when England took leave to act the frantick, for a little while; and when every body’s heads were turn’d with projects and stocks, I say, except this year, we see nothing of business in the whole conversation of Epsome; even the men of business, who are really so when in London; whether it be at the Exchange, the Alley, or the Treasury-Offices, and the Court; yet here they look as if they had left all their London thoughts behind them, and had separated themselves to mirth and good company; as if they came hither to unbend the bow of the mind, and to give themselves a loose to their innocent pleasures; I say, innocent, for such they may enjoy here, and such any man may make his being here, if he pleases.
As, I say, this place seems adapted wholly to pleasure, so the town is suited to it; ’tis all rural, the houses are built at large, not many together, with gardens and ground about them; that the people who come out of their confined dwellings in London, may have air and liberty, suited to the design of country lodgings.
You have no sooner taken lodgings, and enter’d the apartments, but if you are any thing known, you walk out, to see who and who’s together; for ’tis the general language of the place, Come let’s go see the town, folks don’t come to Epsome to stay within doors.
The next morning you are welcom’d with the musick under your chamber window; but for a shilling or two you get rid of them, and prepare for going to the Wells.
Here you have the compliment of the place, are enter’d into the list of the pleasant company, so you become a citizen of Epsome for that summer; and this costs you another shilling, or if you please, half a crown: Then you drink the waters, or walk about as if you did; dance with the ladies, tho’ it be in your gown and slippers; have musick and company of what kind you like, for every man may sort himself as he pleases; The grave with the grave, and the gay with the gay, the bright, and the wicked; all may be match’d if they seek for it, and perhaps some of the last may be over-match’d, if they are not upon their guard.
After the morning diversions are over, and every one are walk’d home to their lodgings, the town is perfectly quiet again; nothing is to be seen, the Green, the Great Room, the raffling-shops all are (as if it was a trading town on a holiday) shut up; there’s little stirring, except footmen, and maid servants, going to and fro of errands, and higglers and butchers, carrying provisions to people’s lodgings.
This takes up the town till dinner is over, and the company have repos’d for two or three hours in the heat of the day; then the first thing you observe is, that the ladies come to the shady seats, at their doors, and to the benches in the groves, and cover’d walks; (of which, every house that can have them, is generally supply’d with several). Here they refresh with cooling liquors, agreeable conversation, and innocent mirth.
Those that have coaches, or horses (as soon as the sun declines) take the air on the Downs, and those that have not, content themselves with staying a little later, and when the air grows cool, and the sun low, they walk out under the shade of the hedges and trees, as they find it for their diversion: In the mean time, towards evening the Bowling-green begins to fill, the musick strikes up in the Great Room, and company draws together a-pace: And here they never fail of abundance of mirth, every night being a kind of ball; the gentlemen bowl, the ladies dance, others raffle, and some rattle; conversation is the general pleasure of the place, till it grows late, and then the company draws off; and, generally speaking, they are pretty well as to keeping good hours; so that by eleven a clock the dancing generally ends, and the day closes with good wishes, and appointments to meet the next morning at the Wells, or somewhere else.
The retir’d part of the world, of which also there are very many here, have the waters brought home to their apartments in the morning, where they drink and walk about a little, for assisting the physical operation, till near noon, then dress dinner, and repose for the heat as others do; after which they visit, drink tea, walk abroad, come to their lodgings to supper, then walk again till it grows dark, and then to bed: The greatest part of the men, I mean of this grave sort, may be supposed to be men of business, who are at London upon business all the day, and thronging to their lodgings at night, make the families, generally speaking, rather provide suppers than dinners; for ’tis very frequent for the trading part of the company to place their families here, and take their horses every morning to London, to the Exchange, to the Alley, or to the warehouse, and be at Epsome again at night; and I know one citizen that practised it for several years together, and scarce ever lay a night in London during the whole season.
This, I say, makes the good wives satisfy themselves with providing for the family, rather at night than at noon, that their husbands may eat with them; after which they walk abroad as above, and these they call the sober citizens, and those are not much at the Wells, or at the Green; except sometimes, when they give themselves a holiday, or when they get sooner home than usual.
Nor are these which I call the more retir’d part the company, the least part of those that fill up the town of Epsome, nor is their way of living so retir’d, but that there is a great deal of society, mirth, and good manners, and good company among these too.
The fine park of the late Earl of Berkeley, near Epsome, was formerly a great addition to the pleasure of the place, by the fine walks and cool retreats there; but the earl finding it absolutely necessary, for a known reason, to shut it up, and not permit any walking there, that relief to the company was abated for some years; but the pleasures of nature are so many round the town, the shady trees so every where planted, and now generally well grown, that it makes Epsome like a great park fill’d with little groves, lodges and retreats for coolness of air, and shade from the sun; and I believe, I may say, it is not to be matched in the world, on that account; at least, not in so little a space of ground.
It is to be observ’d too, that for shady walks, and innumerable numbers of trees planted before the houses, Epsome differs much from it self, that is to say, as it was twenty or thirty years ago; for then those trees that were planted, were generally young, and not grown; and now not only all the trees then young, are grown large and fair, but thousands are planted since; so that the town, at a distance, looks like a great wood full of houses, scatter’d every where, all over it.
In the winter this is no place for pleasure indeed; as it is full of mirth and gayety in the summer, so the prospect in the winter presents you with little, but good houses shut up, and windows fasten’d; the furniture taken down, the families remov’d, the walks out of repair, the leaves off of the trees, and the people out of the town; and which is still worse, the ordinary roads both to it, and near it, except only on the side of the Downs, are deep, stiff, full of sloughs, and, in a word, impassable; for all the country, the side of the Downs, as I have said, only excepted, is a deep stiff clay; so that there’s no riding in the winter without the utmost fatiegue, and some hazard, and this is the reason that Epsome is not (like Hampstead or Richmond) full of company in winter as well as summer.
From Epsome that I might thoroughly visit the county of Surrey, I rode over those clays, and through very bad roads to Kingstone, and from thence keeping the bank of the river on my right hand, I had a fine view of Hampton-Court, at a distance, but had reserved it for another journey; and was bound now in search of a piece of antiquity to satisfy my own curiosity, this was to Oatland, that I might see the famous place where Julius Caesar pass’d the river Thames in the sight of the British army, and notwithstanding they had stuck the river full of sharp stakes for three miles together.
The people said several of those stakes were still to be seen in the bottom of the river, having stood there for now above 1760 years; but they cou’d show me none of them, tho’ they call the place Coway Stakes to this day; I cou’d make little judgment of the thing, only from this, that it really seems probable, that this was the first place where Caesar at that time cou’d find the river fordable, or any way passable to him, who had no boats, no pontons, and no way to make bridges over, in the teeth of so powerful, and so furious an enemy; but the Roman valour and discipline surmounted all difficulties, and he pass’d the army, routing the Britons; whose king and general, Cassibellanus, never offer’d a pitch’d battle to the Romans afterward.
Satisfy’d with what little I cou’d see here, which indeed was nothing at all, but the meer place, said to be so; and which it behov’d me to believe, only because it was not unlikely to be true; I say, satisfy’d with this, I came back directly to Kingstone, a good market-town, but remarkable for little, only that they say, the antient British and Saxon kings were usually crown’d here in former times, which I will neither assert or deny.
But keeping the river now on my left, as I did before on my right-hand, drawing near to London, we came to Hame and Peterson, little villages; the first, famous for a most pleasant pallace of the late Duke of Lauderdale, close by the river; a house King Charles II. used to be frequently at, and be exceedingly pleased with; the avenues of this fine house to the land side, come up to the end of the village of Peterson, where the wall of New Park comes also close to the town, on the other side; in an angle of which stood a most delicious house, built by the late Earl of Rochester, Lord High Treasurer in King James II’s . reign, as also in part of Queen Ann’s reign, which place he discharged so well, that we never heard of any misapplications, so much as suggested, much less inquired after.
I am oblig’d to say only, that this house stood here; for even while this is writing the place seems to be but smoaking with the ruins of a most unhappy disaster, the whole house being a few months ago burnt down to the ground with a fire, so sudden, and so furious, that the family who were all at home, had scarce time to save their lives.
Nor was the house, tho’ so exquisitely finished, so beautiful within and without, the greatest loss sustained; the rich furniture, the curious collection of paintings; and above all, the most curious collection of books, being the library of the first Earl of Clarendon, Lord Chancellor of England, and author of that most excellent History of the Rebellion, of which the world knows so much; I say, this library, as I am assur’d, was here wholly consumed; a loss irreparable, and not to be sufficiently regretted by all lovers of learning, having among other valuable things, several manuscripts relating to those times, and to things transacted by himself, and by the king his master, both at home and abroad; and of other antient things, collected by that noble and learned author in foreign countries; which both for their rariety, antiquity, and authority, were of an inestimable value.
From hence we come to Richmond, the delightful retreat of their royal highnesses, the Prince and Princess of Wales, and where they have spent the fine season every summer for some years: The prince’s Court being so near must needs have fill’d Richmond, which was before a most agreeable retreat for the first and second rate gentry, with a great deal of the best company in England: This town and the country adjacent, encrease daily in buildings, many noble houses for the accommodation of such, being lately rais’d and more in prospect: But ’tis fear’d should the prince come, for any cause that may happen, to quit that side of the country, those numerous buildings must abate in the value which is now set upon them: The company however, at Richmond, is very great in the winter, when the prince’s Court is not there; because of the neighbourhood of so many gentlemen, who live constantly there, and thereabouts; and of its nearness to London also; and in this it has the advantage both of Epsome and Tunbridge.
Here are wells likewise, and a mineral-water, which tho’ not so much us’d as that at Epsome and Tunbridge, are yet sufficient to keep up the forms of the place, and bring the company together in the morning, as the musick does in the evening; and as there is more of quality in and about the place than is ordinarily to be seen at Epsome, the company is more shining, and sometimes even illustriously bright.
Mr. Temple created Baron Temple, of the kingdom of Ireland, even since this circuit was performed; and who is the son and successor to the honour, estate, and great part of the character of the great Sir William Temple, has a fine seat and gardens (hard by) at Shene; The gardens are indeed exquisitely fine, being finished, and even contrived by the great genius of Sir William, his father; and as they were his last delight in life, so they were every way suited to be so, to a man of his sense and capacity, who knew what kind of life was best fitted to make a man’s last days happy.
It is not easy to describe the beauty with which the banks of the Thames shine on either side of the river, from hence to London, much more than our ancestors, even of but one age ago, knew any thing of: If for pleasant villages, great houses, palaces, gardens, &c. it was true in Queen Elizabeth’s time, according to the poet, that
The Thames with royal Tyber may compare. I say, if this were true at that time, what may be said of it now? when for one fine house that was to be seen then, there are a hundred; nay, for ought I know, five hundred to be seen now, even as you sit still in a boat, and pass up and down the river.
First beginning from Ham-House, as above, the prince’s palace salutes the eye, being formerly no more than a lodge in the park, and by that means belonging to the ranger, who was then, the (since unhappy) Duke of Ormond, and who, with other branches of a noble estate, lost this among the rest by his precipitate retreat from the Parliamentary justice: I have seen many of the seats of the nobility in France, and some larger, but none finer than this, except such as had been lay’d out at the royal expence.
From Richmond to London, the river sides are full of villages, and those villages so full of beautiful buildings, charming gardens, and rich habitations of gentlemen of quality, that nothing in the world can imitate it; no, not the country for twenty miles round Paris, tho’ that indeed is a kind of prodigy.
To enumerate the gentlemen’s houses in their view, would be too long for this work to describe them, would fill a large folio; it shall suffice to observe something concerning the original of the strange passion, for fine gardens, which has so commendably possess’d the English gentlemen of late years, for ’tis evident it is but of late years.
It is since the Revolution that our English gentlemen, began so universally, to adorn their gardens with those plants, we call ever greens, which leads me to a particular observation that may not be improper in this place; King William and Queen Mary introduced each of them two customs, which by the people’s imitating them became the two idols of the town, and indeed of the whole kingdom; the queen brought in (I.) the love of fine East-India callicoes, such as were then call’d Masslapatan chints, atlasses, and fine painted callicoes, which afterwards descended into the humours of the common people so much, as to make them greivous to our trade, and ruining to our manufactures and the poor; so that the Parliament were oblig’d to make two Acts at several times to restrain, and at last prohibit the use of them: (2.) The queen brought in the custom or humour, as I may call it, of furnishing houses with china-ware, which increased to a strange degree afterwards, piling their china upon the tops of cabinets, scrutores, and every chymney-piece, to the tops of the ceilings, and even setting up shelves for their china-ware, where they wanted such places, till it became a grievance in the expence of it, and even injurious to their families and estates.
The good queen far from designing any injury to the country where she was so entirely belov’d, little thought she was in either of these laying a foundation for such fatal excesses, and would no doubt have been the first to have reform’d them had she lived to see it.
The king on his part introduc’d (1.) the love of gardening;* and (2.) of painting: In the first his majesty was particularly delighted with the decoration of ever greens, as the greatest addition to the beauty of a garden, preserving the figure of the place, even in the roughest part of an inclement and tempestuous winter.
Sir Stephen Fox’s gardens at Istleworth, and Sir William Temple’s at Eastshene, mentioned above, were the only two gardens where they had entirely persued this method at that time, and of Sir Stephen’s garden, this was to be said, that almost all his fine ever-greens were raised in the places where they stood; Sir Stephen taking as much delight to see them rise gradually, and form them into what they were to be, as to buy them of the nursery gardeners, finish’d to his hand; besides that by this method his greens, the finest in England, cost him nothing but the labour of his servants, and about ten years patience; which if they were to have been purchased, would not have cost so little as ten thousand pounds, especially at that time: It was here that King William was so pleased that according to his majesty’s usual expression, when he lik’d a place very well, he stood, and looking round him from the head of one of the canals, Well says his majesty, I cou’d dwell here five days; every thing was so exquisitely contriv’d, finish’d, and well kept, that the king, who was allow’d to be the best judge of such things then living in the world, did not so much as once say, this or that thing cou’d have been better.
With the particular judgment of the king, all the gentlemen in England began to fall in; and in a few years fine gardens, and fine houses began to grow up in every corner; the king began with the gardens at Hampton-Court and Kensington, and the gentlemen follow’d every where, with such a gust that the alteration is indeed wonderful thro’ the whole kingdom; but no where more than in the two counties of Middlesex and Surrey, as they border on the river Thames; the beauty and expence of which are only to be wonder’d at, not described; they may indeed be guess’d at, by what is seen in one or two such as these nam’d: But I think to enter into a particular of them would be an intolerable task, and tedious to the reader.
That these houses and gardens are admirably beautiful in their kind, and in their separate, and distinct beauties, such as their scituation, decoration, architect, furniture, and the like, must be granted; and many descriptions have been accurately given of them, as of Ham-House, Qew-Green, the Prince’s House, Sir William Temple’s, Sir Charles Hedges, Sion-House, Osterly, Lord Ranelagh’s at Chelsea-Hospital; the many noble seats in Istleworth, Twittenham, Hamersmith, Fullham, Puttney, Chelsea, Battersea, and the like.
But I find none has spoken of what I call the distant glory of all these buildings: There is a beauty in these things at a distance, taking them en passant, and in perspective, which few people value, and fewer understand; and yet here they are more truly great, than in all their private beauties whatsoever; Here they reflect beauty, and magnificence upon the whole country, and give a kind of a character to the island of Great Britain in general. The banks of the Sein are not thus adorn’d from Paris to Roan, or from Paris to the Loign above the city: The Danube can show nothing like it above and below Vienna, or the Po above and below Turin; the whole country here shines with a lustre not to be described; Take them in a remote view, the fine seats shine among the trees as jewels shine in a rich coronet; in a near sight they are meer pictures and paintings; at a distance they are all nature, near hand all art; but both in the extreamest beauty.
In a word, nothing can be more beautiful; here is a plain and pleasant country, a rich fertile soil, cultivated and enclosed to the utmost perfection of husbandry, then bespangled with villages; those villages fill’d with these houses, and the houses surrounded with gardens, walks, vistas, avenues, representing all the beauties of building, and all the pleasures of planting: It is impossible to view these countries from any rising ground and not be ravish’d with the delightful prospect: For example, suppose you take your view from the little rising hills about Clapham, if you look to the east, there you see the pleasant villages of Peckham and Camberwell, with some of the finest dwellings about London; as (1) the Lord Powis’s at Peckham: (2) a house built by a merchant, one Collins, but now standing empty at Camberwell, but justly call’d a picture of a house, and several others: Then turning south, we see Loughborough-House near Kennington, Mr. Howland’s, now the Dutchess of Bedford’s, at Stretham; Sir Richard Temple’s house near Croydon; a whole town of fine houses at Cashalton; Sir Nicholas Carew’s, and Sir John Lake’s at Bedington; Sir Theodore Janssen another South-Sea forfeiture at Wimbleton; Sir James Bateman’s at Tooting; besides an innumerable number in Clapham it self: On the south west also you have Mr. Harvey’s at Coomb, formerly the palace of a king; with all the villages mentioned above, and the country adjoining fill’d with the palaces of the British nobility and gentry already spoken of; looking north, behold, to crown all, a fair prospect of the whole city of London it self; the most glorious sight without exception, that the whole world at present can show, or perhaps ever cou’d show since the sacking of Rome in the European, and the burning the Temple of Jerusalem in the Asian part of the world.
Add to all this, that these fine houses and innumerable more, which cannot be spoken of here, are not, at least very few of them, the mansion houses of families, the antient residences of ancestors, the capital messuages of the estates; nor have the rich possessors any lands to a considerable value about them; but these are all houses of retreat, like the Bastides of Marseilles, gentlemen’s meer summer-houses, or citizen’s country-houses; whither they retire from the hurries of business, and from getting money, to draw their breath in a clear air, and to divert themselves and families in the hot weather; and they that are shut up, and as it were strip’d of their inhabitants in the winter, who return to smoke and dirt, sin and seacoal, (as it was coursly expressed) in the busy city; so that in short all this variety, this beauty, this glorious show of wealth and plenty, is really a view of the luxuriant age which we live in, and of the overflowing riches of the citizens, who in their abundance make these gay excursions, and live thus deliciously all the summer, retiring within themselves in the winter, the better to lay up for the next summer’s expence.
If this then is produced from the gay part of the town only, what must be the immense wealth of the city it self, where such a produce is brought forth? where such prodigious estates are raised in one man’s age; instances of which we have seen in those of Sir Josiah Child, Sir John Lethulier, Sir James Bateman, Sir Robert Clayton, Sir William Scawen, and hundreds more; whose beginnings were small, or but small compar’d, and who have exceeded even the greatest part of the nobility of England in wealth, at their death, and all of their own getting.
It is impossible in one journey to describe effectually this part of the county of Surrey, lying from Kingston to London and Greenwich, where I set out: That is, including the villages of Richmond, Petersham, Eastshene, Mortlock, Putney, Wandsworth, Barn-Elms, Battersey, Wimbleton, Tooting, Clapham, Camberwell, Peckham and Deptford; the description would swell with the stories of private families, and of the reasons of these opulent foundations, more than with their history.
It would also take up a large chapter in this book, to but mention the overthrow, and catastrophe of innumerable wealthy city families, who after they have thought their houses establish’d, and have built their magnificent country seats, as well as others, have sunk under the misfortunes of business, and the disasters of trade, after the world has thought them pass’d all possibility of danger; such as Sir Joseph Hodges, Sir Justus Beck, the widow Cock at Camberwell, and many others; besides all the late South-Sea directors, all which I chuse to have forgotten, as no doubt they desire to be, in recording the wealth and opulence of this part of England, which I doubt not to convince you infinitely out does the whole world.
I am come now to Southwark, a suburb to, rather than a part of London; but of which this may be said with justice.
A royal city were not London by.
To give you a brief description of Southwark, it might be call’d a long street, of about nine miles in length, as it is now built on eastward; reaching from Vaux-Hall to London-Bridge, and from the bridge to Deptford, all up to Deptford-Bridge, which parts it from Greenwich, all the way winding and turning as the river winds and turns; except only in that part, which reaches from Cuckold’s -Point to Deptford, which indeed winds more than the river does.
In the center, which is opposite to the bridge, it is thicken’d with buildings, and may be reckoned near a mile broad; (viz.) from the bridge to the end of Kent-street and Blackman-street, and about the Mint; but else the whole building is but narrow, nor indeed can it be otherwise; considering the length of it.
The principal beauty of the borrough of Southwark, consists in the prodigious number of its inhabitants: Take it as it was antiently bounded, it contain’d nine parishes; but as it is now extended, and, as I say, joins with Deptford, it contains eleven large parishes: According to the weekly-bills, for the year 1722, the nine parishes only bury’d 4166, which is about one sixth part of the whole body, call’d London; the bill of mortallity for that year, amounting in all to 25750.
The first thing we meet with considerable, is at the Spring-Garden, just at the corner, where the road turns away to go from Vaux-Hall Turnpike, towards Newington, there are the remains of the old lines cast up in the times of the Rebellion, to fortify this side of the town; and at that corner was a very large bastion, or rather a fort, and such indeed they call it; which commanded all the pass on that side, and farther on, where the openings near St. George’s -Fields are, which they now call the Ducking-Pond, there was another; the water they call the Ducking-Pond, is evidently to this day the moat of the fort, and the lines are so high, and so undemolish’d still, that a very little matter would repair and perfect them again.
From hence they turn’d south east, and went to the windmill, at the end of Blackman-street, where they crossed the road, and going to the end of Kent-street, we see another great bastion; and then turning S.E. till they come to the end of Barnaby-street, or rather beyond, among the tanners, and there you see another fort, so plain, and so undemolish’d, the grass growing now over the works, that it is as plain as it was, even when it was thrown down.
Here is also another remain of antiquity, the vestiges of which are easy to be traced; (viz.) The place where by strength of men’s hands, they turn’d the channel of this great river of Thames, and made a new course for the waters, while the great bridge, which is now standing, was built: Here it is evident they turn’d the waters out: (viz.) About a place call’d Nine Elms, just beyond Vaux-Hall, where now a little brook, from the Wash-way at Kennington, and which they once attempted to make navigable, enters the Thames, from thence it cross’d the great road, a little beyond the end of the houses in Newington; between which and Kennington Common, on the left of the road, as you go south, there is a very large pond, or lake of water, part of the channel not fill’d up to this day; from thence it enter’d the marshes between Rotherif and Deptford, where for many years after there remained a drain for the water, upon which was a large mill-pond and dam, and where since was built the second great wet-dock, said to belong to the Duke of Bedford’s estate, and call’d at first Snellgrove’s -Dock, because built by one Mr. Snellgrove, a shipwright, whose building-yards adjoin’d it. A farther description of Southwark, I refer till I come to speak of London, as one general appellation for the two cities of London and Westminster; and all the burrough of Southwark, and all the buildings and villages included within the bills of mortallity, make but one London, in the general appellation, of which in its order. I am, &c.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07