SIR — My last letter ended the account of my travels, where Nature ended her account, when she meeted out the island, and where she fix’d the utmost western bounds of Britain; and, being resolved to see the very extremity of it, I set my foot into the sea, as it were, beyond the farthest inch of dry land west, as I had done before near the town of Dover, at the foot of the rocks of the South-Foreland in Kent, which, I think, is the farthest point east in a line; And as I had done, also, at Leostoff in Suffolk, which is another promontory on the eastern coast, and is reckoned the farthest land eastward of the island in general: Likewise, I had used the same ceremony at Selsy near Chichester, which I take to be the farthest land south, except at Portland only, which, as it is not really an island, may be called, the farthest land south; so, in its place, I shall give you an account of the same curiosity at John a Grot’s House in Caithness, the farthest piece of ground in Great Britain, north.
I had once, indeed, resolved to have coasted the whole circuit of Britain by sea, as ’tis said, Agricola the Roman general, did; and in this voyage I would have gone about every promontory, and into the bottom of every bay, and had provided myself a good yacht, and an able commander for that purpose; but I found it would be too hazardous an undertaking for any man to justify himself in the doing it upon the meer foundation of curiosity, and having no other business at all; so I gave it over.
There was another difficulty also, upon which my navigator, or commander, as I called him, who was an old experienced seaman, dissuaded me from the undertaking; and that was, the necessity of getting pilots to every part of the coast, and to every port, river, and creek, and the danger of not getting them: The necessity was plain; For that, as I proposed to keep all the way near, or under the shore, to enter into all the bays, and mouths of rivers, and creeks, as above; I. It would be impracticable to find any single man that knew so perfectly the whole coast, as to venture in without pilots. 2. Pilots would not always be found, especially on the north and west coasts of Scotland; so I laid it aside, I say, as a hopeless, and too dangerous adventure, and satisfied myself, to make the circuit very near as perfect by land, which I have done with much less hazard, though with much more pains and expence; the fruit of which, you have, in part, communicated in these letters.
I now turned about to the east, and as, when I went west, I kept to the southern coast of this long county of Cornwall, and of Devonshire also, so in going east, I shall keep the north-shore on board. The first place, of any note, we came to, is St. Ives, a pretty good town, and grown rich by the fishing-trade; it is situated on the west side of a deep bay, called St. Ives Bay, from the name of the town. This bay is opposite, on the land side, to Mount’s Bay, which I spoke of in my last, in my account of Pensance.
It is a very pleasant view we have at Madern Hills, and the plain by them, in the way from the Land’s -End to St. Ives, where, at one sight, there is a prospect of the ocean at the Land’s -End west; of the British Channel at Mount’s Bay south; and the Bristol Channel, or Severn Sea, north; At St. Ives, the land between the two bays being not above four or five miles over, is so situated, that upon the hill, neither of the two seas are above three miles off, and very plain to be seen; and also, in a clear day, the islands of Scilly, though above thirty miles off.
From this town and port of St. Ives, we have no town of any note on the coast; no, not a market town, except Redruth, which is of no consideration, ‘till we come to Padstow-Haven, which is near thirty miles: The country is, indeed, both fruitful and pleasant, and several houses of gentlemen are seen as we pass; the sands, also, are very pleasant to the eye, and to travel upon; Among the gentlemens houses, is, Lanhidrock, the seat of the Earls of Radnor, who are Barons of Truro, and were so, long before they obtained the title of Radnor; also a good house belonging to the ancient family of Trefusis.
In viewing these things, we observ’d the hills fruitful of tin, copper, and lead, all the way on our right hand, the product of which, is carried all to the other shore; so that we shall have little to say of it here. The chief business on this shore, is in the herring fishing; the herrings, about October, come driving up the Severn Sea, and from the coast of Ireland, in prodigious shoals, and beat all upon this coast as high as Biddeford, and Barnstable, in Devonshire, and are caught in great quantities by the fishermen, chiefly on account of the merchants of Falmouth, Foy, and Plymouth, and other ports on the south.
Padstow is a large town, and stands on a very good harbour for such shipping as use that coast, that is to say, for the Irish trade: The harbour is the mouth of the river Camel, or Carnal, which rising at Camelford, runs down by Bodmyn to Wodbridge, or Wardbridge, a large stone bridge of eight arches, or thereabouts, built by the general good will of the country gentlemen; but at the motion of a religious man, named Lovibond, moved in mere charity; the passage over the river there, before, being very dangerous, and having been the loss of some lives, as well as goods. The passage from this town of Padstow to Ireland, is called, by writers, to be no more than twenty-four hours, but not justly: It is true, that Padstow being the first, and best, if not the only haven on this shore, the trade from Ireland settled here of course, and a great many ships in this harbour, are imploy’d in the commerce; but to say, they make the voyage in four-and-twenty hours, is to say, It has been so, or, on extraordinary gales of fair wind, it may be done; but not one in twenty-four ships makes its voyage in twenty-four hours; and, I believe, it may be said, they are oftener five or six days in the passage.
A little way within the land S.W. from Padstow, lies St. Columb, eminent for nothing but its being the antient estate of the famous Arundel of Trerice, of late years made noble by King Charles II., being still famous in the present Lord Arundel of Trerice; also between them, is a very antient seat of a family of the name of Prideaux who, in Queen Elizabeth’s time, built a very noble seat there, which remains to this day, tho’ time makes the architect of it look a little out of fashion.
Higher within the land, lies the town of Bodmyn, once one of the coining towns for tin, but lost it to Lestwithyel: However, this town enjoys several privileges, some of which are also tokens of its antiquity.
The coinage towns were, in Queen Elizabeth’s time, four; namely,
Since that, in King James’s time, was added,
Tintagel Castle lies upon this coast a little farther, a mark of great antiquity, and every writer has mentioned it; but as antiquity is not my work, I leave the ruins of Tintagel to those that search into antiquity; little or nothing, that I could hear, is to be seen at it; and as for the story of King Arthur being both born and killed there, ’tis a piece of tradition, only on oral history, and not any authority to be produced for it.
We have nothing more of note in this county, that I could see, or hear of, but a set of monumental stones, found standing not far from Bodmyn, called The Hurlers, of which the country, nor all the writers of the country, can give us no good account; so I must leave them as I found them.
The game called the Hurlers, is a thing the Cornish men value themselves much upon; I confess, I see nothing in it, but that it is a rude violent play among the boors, or country people; brutish and furious, and a sort of an evidence, that they were, once, a kind of barbarians: It seems, to me, something to resemble the old way of play, as it was then called, with whirle-bats, with which Hercules slew the gyant, when he undertook to clean the Augean stable.
The wrestling in Cornwall, is, indeed, a much more manly and generous exercise, and that closure, which they call the Cornish Hug, has made them eminent in the wrestling rings all over England, as the Norfolk, and Suffolk men, are for their dexterity at the hand and foot, and throwing up the heels of their adversary, without taking hold of him.
I came out of Cornwall by passing the river Tamar at Launceston, the last, or rather, the first, town in the county, the town shewing little else, but marks of its antiquity; for great part of it is so old, as it may, in a manner, pass for an old, ragged, decay’d place, in general. It stands at a distance, almost two miles from the river, over which, there is a very good bridge; the town is eminent, however, for being, as we call it, the county town, where the assizes are always kept.
In the time when Richard, Earl of Cornwall, had the absolute government of this county, and was, we might say, king of the country, it was a frontier town, walled about, and well fortified, and had, also, a strong castle to defend it; but these are seen, now, only in their old cloaths, and lie all in ruins and heaps of rubbish.
It is a principal gain to the people of this town, that they let lodgings to the gentlemen, who attend here in the time of the assizes, and other publick meetings; as particularly, that of electing knights of the shire, and at the county sessions, which are held here; for which purposes, the town’s people have their rooms better furnished than in other places of this country, though their houses are but low; nor do they fail to make a good price to their lodgers, for the conveniences they afford them.
The town sends two members to Parliament, and so does Newport, a little village adjoining, and which, indeed, is but a part of Launceston itself; so that the town may be said, almost, to choose four Members of Parliament. There is a fine image, or figure of Mary Magdalen, upon the tower of the church, which the Catholicks fail not to pay their reverences to, as they pass by. There is no tin, or copper, or lead, found hereabouts, as I could find, nor any manufacture in the place; there are a pretty many attorneys here, who manage business for the rest of their fraternity at the assizes: As to trade, it has not much to boast of, and yet there are people enough in it to excuse those who call it a populous place: There is a long nook of the county, runs north from this place, which is called the Hundred of Stratton, and in which there is one market town, and no more, the name of which, is Stratton; but has nothing in, or about it, worth our making any remarks. Passing the river Tamar, as above, about two miles from Launceston, we enter the great county of Devon, and as we enter Devonshire, in the most wild and barren part of the county, and where, formerly, tin mines were found, though now they are either quite exhausted, or not to be found without more charge than the purchase, if found, would be worth; so we must expect it a little to resemble its neighbour country for a while.
The river Tamar, here, is so full of fresh salmon, and those so exceeding fat, and good, that they are esteemed, in both counties, above the fish, of the same kind, found in other places; and the quantity is so great, as supplies the country in abundance, which is occasioned by the mouth of the river being so very large, and the water so deep for two leagues before it opens into Plymouth Sound, so that the fish have a secure retreat in the salt water for their harbour and shelter, and from thence they shoot up into the fresh water, in such vast numbers to cast their spawn, that the country people cannot take too many.
It is observed of Cornwall, as of one or two counties more in England, that all the rivers that are in the county, rise within the bounds of the same county; and this must needs be because this river Tamar, which parts the two counties, rises in the upper edge, within a little more than two miles of the North, or Severn Sea, and runs into the South, or British Channel, cross the whole limits, so that no river out of Devonshire, can enter Cornwall, that little piece in the north excepted; unless we should suppose it to run cross the Tamar, which is not to be thought of.
As we are just entered Devonshire, as I said above, it seems, at first sight, a wild, barren, poor country; but we ride but a few miles, ‘till we find an alteration in several things: i. More people; 2. Larger towns; 3. The people all busy, and in full employ upon their manufactures.
At the uppermost, and extreme part of the county, N.W. there runs a huge promontory, a mountain like proboscis, into the sea, beyond all the land on either side, whether of Devonshire, or of Cornwall. This they would fain have called Hercules’s Promontory, and Mr. Cambden, in his writing, and his mapmaker also, calls it Herculis Promontorium; but the honest sailers, and after them, the plain country people, call it, in down-right modern English, Hartland Point, or, Hearty Point, from the town of Hartland, which stands just within the shore, and is on the very utmost edge of the county of Devon: It is a market town, though so remote, and of good resort too, the people coming to it out of Cornwall, as well as out of Devonshire; and particularly the fisher-boats of Barnstaple, Bidiford, and other towns on the coast, lying often under the lee, as they call it, of these rocks, for shelter from the S.W. or S.E. winds; the seamen go on shore here, and supply themselves with provisions; nor is the town unconcerned in that gainful fishing trade, which is carried on for the herrings on this coast, many seamen and fishing vessels belonging to the town.
From this point or promontory, the land, falling away for some miles, makes a gulph or bay, which, reaching to the head land, or point of Barnstable River or Haven, is called from thence, Barnstable Bay; into this bay, or at the W. end of this bay, the rivers Taw and Tower empty themselves at one mouth, that is to say, in one channel; and it is very particular, that as two rivers join in one channel, so here are two great trading towns in one port, a thing which as it is not usual, so I cannot say ’tis any advantage to either of them; for it naturally follows, that they rival one another, and lessen both; whereas, had they been join’d together in one town, or were it possible to join them, they would make the most considerable town, or city rather, in all this part of England.
These are the towns of Barnstable and Biddiford, or, as some write it, Bediford; the first of these is the most antient, the last the most flourishing; the harbour or river is in its entrance the same to both, and when they part, the Tower turning to the right, or south west, and the Taw to the S.E. yet they seem to be both so safe, so easy in the channel, so equally good with respect to shipping, so equi-distant from the sea, and so equally advantageous, that neither town complains of the bounty of the sea to them, or their situation by land; and yet, of late years, the town of Biddiford has flourished, and the town of Barnstable rather declin’d.
Biddiford is a pleasant, clean, well-built town; the more antient street which lies next the river, is very pleasant, where is the bridge, a very noble key, and the custom-house; this part also is very well built and populous, and fronts the river for above three quarters of a mile: But besides this, there is a new spacious street, which runs N. and S. or rather N.W. and S.E. a great length, broad as the High Street of Excester, well-built, and, which is more than all, well inhabited, with considerable and wealthy merchants, who trade to most parts of the trading world.
Here, as is to be seen in almost all the market towns of Devonshire, is a very large, well-built, and well-finish’d meeting-house, and, by the multitude of people which I saw come out of it, and the appearance of them, I thought all the town had gone thither, and began to enquire for the church: But when I came to the church, I found that also, large, spacious, and well filled too, and that with people of the best fashion. The person who officiates at the meeting-house in this town, I happened to have some conversation with, and found him to be not only a learned man, and master of good reading; but a most acceptable gentlemanly person, and one, who, contrary to our received opinion of those people, had not only good learning, and good sense, but abundance of good manners, and good humour; nothing soure, cynical, or morose in him, and, in a word, a very valuable man: And as such a character always recommends a man to men of sense and good breeding, so I found this gentleman was very well received in the place, even by those who he differ’d from in matters of religion, and those differences did not, as is usual, make any breach in their conversing with him: His name, as I remember, was Bartlet. But this is a digression: I wish I could say the like of all the rest of his brethren.
The trade of this town being very much in fish, as it is also of all the towns on this coast, I observed here, that several ships were employ’d to go to Leverpool, and up the river Mersey to Warrington, to fetch the rock salt, which is found in that county, (and of which I shall say more in my remarks on those parts) which rock salt they bring to Biddiford and Barnstable, and here they dissolve it into brine in the sea water, joyning the strength of two bodies into one, and then boil it up again into a new salt, as the Dutch do by the French and Portuguese salt: This is justly call’d salt upon salt, and with this they cure their herrings; and as this is a trade which can be but of a few years standing, because the rock itself has not been discovered in England much above twenty years; so the difference in curing the fish has been such, and it has so recommended their herrings in foreign markets, that the demand for them has considerably increased, and consequently the trade.
There is indeed, a very fine stone bridge over the river here, but the passage over it is so narrow, and they are so chary of it, that few carriages go over it; but as the water ebbs quite out of the river every low water, the carts and waggons go over the sand with great ease and safety; the arches of the bridge are beautiful and stately; but as for saying one of them is so big, that a ship of 60 tons may sail under it, &c. as a late author asserts, I leave that where I find it, for the people of Bidiford to laugh at: If it had been said the hull of such a ship might pass under the bridge, it might have been let go; But, as he says, It may SAIL under it, which must suppose some or one of its masts standing too; this puts it past all possibility of belief, at least to those who judge of such things by rules of mechanism, or by what is to be seen in other parts of the world, no such thing being practicable either at London Bridge, Rochester Bridge, or even at York, where the largest arch in England is supposed to be.
Bidiford was antiently the inheritance of the family of Granville, or Greenfield, as formerly call’d, and the Earl of Bath, who is the heir and chief of the family, is now Baron of Bidiford, Viscount Lansdown, and Earl of Bath.
As Biddiford has a fine bridge over the Tower or Towridge, so Barnstable has a very noble bridge over the Taw, and though not longer, is counted larger and stronger than the other. These two rival towns are really very considerable; both of them have a large share in the trade to Ireland, and in the herring fishery, and in a trade to the British colonies in America; if Biddiford cures more fish, Barnstable imports more wine, and other merchandizes; they are both established ports for landing wooll from Ireland; of which by itself.
If Biddiford has a greater number of merchants, Barnstable has a greater commerce within land, by its great market for Irish wooll and yarn, &c. with the serge-makers of Tiverton and Excester, who come up hither to buy. So that, in a word, Barnstable, though it has lost ground to Biddiford, yet, take it in all its trade compleatly, is full as considerable as Biddiford; only, that perhaps, it was formerly far superior to it, and the other has risen up to be a match to it.
Barnstable is a large, spacious, well built town, more populous than Biddiford, but not better built, and stands lower; insomuch, that at high water in spring tides, it is, as it were, surrounded with water; the bridge here, was built by the generous gift of one Stamford, a citizen and merchant of London, who, it seems, was not a native of this place, but by trading here to his gain, had kindness enough for the town, to offer such a benefaction to them as they enjoy the benefit of to this day.
The bridge at Biddiford as above, was likewise a gift; but was, as they say, done by collections among the clergy, by grant of indulgences and the like church management: But be it how it will, both the towns are infinitely obliged to the benefactors.
Behind Biddiford, that is as we come from Launceston, are several good towns, though I observed that the country was wild and barren; as Tavistock, belonging to the house of Bedford, and giving the title of marquis, to the eldest son of that illustrious ducal family; the town of Torrington, on the same river Towridge that Biddiford stands on; the title of Earl of Torrington, was first given to the late General Monk, Duke of Albemarle, in honour, and for a reward of his loyalty, in restoring King Charles II. and the line being extinct in his son, it was given by King William III. to Admiral Herbert, who came over with him, and was immediately made admiral of the British fleet, to defend the possession of the crown in the person of that prince; and since that to Sir George Bing, one of our present admirals, and one who asserted the authority and power of the British navy against the Spaniards, at the late sea fight near Cape Passaro in Sicily: So that the town of Torrington, seems to be appropriated to the honour of the defenders of the British sovereignty at sea.
Another town in this part of the country is Okehampton, vulgarly Okington, a good market town, which gave title of baron to the Lord Mohun, and sends two members to the Parliament; it is a manufacturing town, as all the towns this way now are, and pretty rich; and having said this, I have said all, unless it be, that in the records of antiquity, it appears to have been much more considerable than it is now, having 92 knights fees belonging to it. But as I studiously avoid medling with antiquity in these accounts, studying to give you the present state of the countries and towns through which I travel, rather than what they have been; so I say no more of those things than needs must.
A little above Barnstable, N.E. upon the coast, stands a good market and port town, call’d Ilfar-Comb, a town of good trade, populous and rich, all which is owing to its having a very good harbour and road for ships, and where ships from Ireland often put in, when, in bad weather, they cannot, without the extremest hazard, run into the mouth of the Taw, which they call Barnstable Water; and this is one reason, which causes the merchants at Barnstable, to do much of their business at this port of Ilfar-Comb.
Antiquity tells us long stories, of the Danes landing on this coast; of Hubba, the Danish king, being slain here, that is at Kennith Castle, between this place and the mouth of the Taw and Towridge, and that the place was call’d Hubbestow ever after, from the burying of this prince there; All this may be true, for ought we know, but I could neither find or hear of this castle of Kennith, or burial place, Hubbestow, or any thing of the ruins or remains of them in the country; so I shall trouble you no farther about them.
The sea coast in this county, runs a little farther east by north, but I found there was nothing of moment to be seen there, except fishing towns, and small creeks, on which are two small market towns, such as Combemerton, and Porlock, ‘till we came to Minehead.
Leaving the coast, we came, in our going southward, to the great river Ex, or Isca, which rises in the hills on this north side of the county, and that so far, as, like the Tamar, it begins within four or five miles of the Severn Sea; the country it rises in, is called Exmore, Cambden calls it a filthy, barren, ground, and, indeed, so it is; but as soon as the Ex comes off from the moors, and hilly country, and descends into the lower grounds, we found the alteration; for then we saw Devonshire in its other countenance, viz. cultivated, populous, and fruitful; and continuing so ‘till we came to Tiverton, a town which I mentioned before, but did not fully describe.
Next to Excester, this is the greatest manufacturing town in the county, and, of all the inland towns, is next to it in wealth, and in numbers of people; it stands on the river Ex, and has over it, a very fine bridge, with another over the little river Loman, which, immediately after, falls into the Ex just below the town: Antiquity says, before those bridges were built, there were two fords here, one through each river, and that the town was from thence called Twyford-ton, that is, the town upon the two fords, and so by abbreviating the sounds Twy-for-ton, then Tiverton; but that I leave to the learned searchers into antient things.
But the beauty of Tiverton is the Free-School, at the east entrance into the town, a noble building, but a much nobler foundation; it was erected by one Peter Blundel, a clothier, and a lover of learning, who used the saying of William of Wickham to the king when he founded the royal school at Winchester, viz. That if he was not himself a scholar, he would be the occasion of making more scholars, than any scholar in England; to which end he founded this school: He has endowed it with so liberal a maintenance, that, as I was informed, the school-master has, at least, sixty pounds per annum, besides a very good house to live in, and the advantage of scholars not on the foundation, and the usher in proportion; and to this he added two fellowships, and two scholarships, which he gave the maintenance for to Sydney-College in Cambridge, and one fellowship, and two scholarships, to Baliol-College in Oxford, all which are appointed for the scholars bred up in this school, and the present reverend master, was a scholar upon the foundation in the same school.
As this is a manufacturing country, as above, we found the people, here, all fully employed, and very few, if any, out of work, except such as need not be unemployed, but were so from mere sloth and idleness, of which, some will be found every where.
From this town, there is little belonging to Devonshire, but what has been spoken of, except what lies in the road to Taunton, which we took next, where we meet with the river Columb, a river rising also in the utmost limits of the shire towards Somersetshire, and giving name to so many towns on its banks, as leaves no room to doubt of its own name being right, such as Columb David’s, Ufcolumbe, Columstock, and Columbton; the last is a market town, and they are all full of manufacturers, depending much on the master manufacturers of Tiverton.
With this town, we leave the county of Devon, and entering Somersetshire, have really a taste of a different country from Devonshire; for entering Wellington, the first town we came at in Somersetshire, though partly employ’d in manufacturing too, we were immediately surrounded with beggars, to such a degree, that we had some difficulty to keep them from under our horse heels.
It was our misfortune at first, that we threw some farthings, and halfpence, such as we had, among them; for thinking by this to be rid of them, on the contrary, it brought out such a croud of them, as if the whole town was come out into the street, and they ran in this manner after us through the whole street, and a great way after we were quite out of the town; so that we were glad to ride as fast as we could through the town to get clear of them; I was, indeed, astonish’d at such a sight, in a country where the people were so generally full of work, as they were here; for in Cornwall, where there are hardly any manufacturers, and where there are, indeed, abundance of poor, yet we never found any thing like this.
Before I quite leave Devonshire, I must mention one thing, which I observed at my first setting out; namely, That I would take notice how every county in England furnish’d something of its produce towards the supply of the city of London: Now I must allow, that Cornwall is, in some respects, an exception to this rule, because, though it is fruitful enough for the supply of its own inhabitants, yet, in the first place, the waste grounds are so many, the inhabitants so numerous, and the county so narrow, that, except the herrings, a few of which may be brought to London for sale, they have not much overplus to furnish other parts with; but then they make us amends by sending up an immense wealth in their tin, lead, and copper, from the bowels of their barren mountains, and the export of the pilchards, and herrings, from both their shores to Spain and Italy, from whence much of the returns are again brought to London for their vent and consumption.
In like manner, the county of Devon has been rich in mines of tin and lead, though they seem at present, wrought out; and they had their stannary towns and coinage, as well as in Cornwall; nay, so numerous were the miners or tinners, as they are called in this county, that they were, on occasion of a national muster, or defence, regimented by themselves, arm’d, and officer’d by themselves, and were, in short, a separate militia from the train’d bands, or militia of the county; but now we see the tin works in Devonshire is quite laid aside, not one tin mine being at work in the whole county: There are, indeed, some copper-works undertaken on the north side, as we were told; but I do not find, that they are yet brought to any perfection, and about Ilfarcomb, Comb Mertin, also at Delverton, in the north part of the county, they have been at work to see if they can recover some silver mines, which, in the time of King Edward III. were so large, that they employed three hundred miners, besides other workmen, and brought that prince great sums of money for the carrying on his wars against France: What progress they are now like to make in it, I cannot yet learn.
But there is one article in the produce of Devonshire, which makes good what I have written before, That every county contributes something towards the supply of London; and this is, the cyder which I have mentioned already, and which takes up the south part of the county, between Topsham and Axminster, where they have so vast a quantity of fruit, and so much cyder made, that sometimes they have sent ten, or twenty thousand hogsheads of it in a year to London, and at a very reasonable rate too.
The county of Somerset joins to the N.E. part of Devonshire. I touched only upon one point of the county in my last, as I went west. The whole county is worth a more particular account, than can be given within the space of a letter.
I entered the county, as I observed above, by Wellington, where we had the entertainment of the beggars; from whence we came to Taunton, vulgarly called Taunton Dean upon the River Ton; this is a large, wealthy, and exceedingly populous, town: One of the chief manufacturers of the town told us, That there was at that time so good a trade in the town, that they had then eleven hundred looms going for the weaving of sagathies, du roys, and such kind of stuffs, which are made there; and that which added to the thing very much, was, that not one of those looms wanted work: He farther added, That there was not a child in the town, or in the villages round it, of above five years old, but, if it was not neglected by its parents, and untaught, could earn its own bread. This was what I never met with in any place in England, except at Colchester in Essex.
This town chooses two Members of Parliament, and their way of choosing is, by those who they call “pot-walloners,” that is to say, every inhabitant, whether house-keeper or lodger, that dresses their own victuals; to make out which, several inmates, or lodgers, will, sometime before the election, bring out their pots, and make fires in the street, and boil their victuals in the sight of their neighbours, that their votes may not be called in question.
There are two large parish churches in this town, and two or three meeting-houses, whereof one, is said to be the largest in the county. The inhabitants have been noted for the number of Dissenters; for among them it was always counted a seminary of such: They suffered deeply in the Duke of Monmouth’s Rebellion, but paid King James home for the cruelty exercised by Jeffries among them; for when the Prince of Orange arrived, the whole town ran in to him, with so universal a joy, that, ’twas thought, if he had wanted it, he might have raised a little army there, and in the adjacent part of the country.
There was, and, I suppose, is still, a private college, or academy, for the Dissenters in this town; the tutor, who then managed it, was named Warren, who told me, that there were threescore and twelve ministers then preaching, whereof six had conformed to the Church, the rest were among the Dissenters, who had been his scholars, whereupon, one of his own sort had, it seems, stiled him the Father of the Faithful: The academy, since his death, is continued, but not kept up to the degree it was, in the days of the said Mr. Warren.
From this town of Taunton, which is by far the greatest in all this part of the country, and has more people in it, than the city of York, we went north to take a view of the coast. Exmore, of which mention was made above, where the River Ex rises, lies in the way, part of it in this country, and extending to the sea side: It gives, indeed, but a melancholy view, being a vast tract of barren, and desolate lands; yet on the coast, there are some very good sea-ports. As,
1. Porlock, on the very utmost extent of the country; it has a small harbour, but of no importance, nor has it any thing of trade, so I need but name it. 2. Minhead, the best port, and safest harbour, in all these counties, at least, on this side: No ship is so big, but it may come in, and no weather so bad, but the ships are safe when they are in; and they told me, that in the great storm anno 1703, when in all the harbours and rivers in the county, the ships were blown on shore, wreck’d, and lost, they suffered little or no damage in this harbour.
The trade of this town lies chiefly with Ireland, and this was, for many years, the chief port in this part of England, where wool from Ireland was allowed to be imported; but that liberty is since inlarged to several other ports by Act of Parliament.
This corporation sends two members to the Parliament, which are chosen also, as at Taunton, by the pot-walloners; the town is well built, is full of rich merchants, and has some trade also to Virginia, and the West Indies: They correspond much with the merchants of Barnstable, and Bristol, in their foreign trade.
There are some very good families, and of very antient standing, in this part of the county, among which, the families of Seymour, of Portman, of Orchard, Wyndham, Popham of Wellington, Mallet, an antient family of Norman extraction, Mohun, Beauchamp, and some others, are most eminent; the Mohuns in particular were antiently lords of Dunstar] Castle, at a small distance from the sea, and very strong. Here formerly was the antient mansion, or inheritance, of the Lords Mohun, who, as above, long enjoy’d it: Who it will now descend to, that antient family being extinct in the person of the late unhappy Lord Mohun, who was kill’d in a duel with Duke Hamilton, I could not learn.
From hence the coast bears back west to Watchet, a small port also, but of no importance, that is to say, ’tis of no importance now; for if we may calculate things present, by things past, the town of Minhead is risen out of the decay of the towns of Porlock, and Watchet, which were once important places; and the reason is clear, since the increase of shipping and trade, and the improvement of the navigating skill, bigger ships being brought into use, than were formerly built; accordingly, larger ports, and deeper water, were requisite to harbour such vessels, than would serve for that purpose before; and the harbour at Minhead being fairer, and much deeper, than those at Watchet and Porlock, and therefore able to secure those greater ships, which the others were not, the merchants removed to it; and thus, in time, the town grew up, to what we now find it to be.
From hence the winding shore brings us to Bridgewater. This is an antient and very considerable town and port, it stands at the mouth of the river Parrat, or Perot, which comes from the south, after having received the river Tone from the west, which is made navigable up to Taunton, by a very fine new channel, cut at the expence of the people of Taunton, and which, by the navigation of it, is infinitely advantagious to that town, and well worth all their expence, first by bringing up coals, which are brought from Swanzy in Wales by sea to Bridgewater, and thence by barges up this river to Taunton; also for bringing all heavy goods and merchandizes from Bristol, such as iron, lead, oyl, wine, hemp, flax, pitch, tar, grocery, and dye stuffs, and the like; their tobacco they generally received from Barnstable by land, which is about sixteen miles west
This town of Bridgewater, is a populous, trading town, is well built, and as well inhabited, and has many families of good fashion dwelling in it, besides merchants. The famous Admiral Blake, was a native of this town. Here it was, that the Duke of Monmouth, finding himself defeated in his expectation of the city of Bristol, and repuls’d at the city of Bath, and press’d by the approach of the king’s troops, who endeavour’d to surround him, made his retreat; where, finding the king’s troops followed him, and seem’d resolved to attack him, he went up to the top of the steeple, with some of his officers, and viewing the situation of the king’s army, by the help of perspectives, resolved to make an attempt upon them the same night, by way of prevention, and accordingly march’d out of the town in the dead of the night to attack them, and had he not, either by the treachery, or mistake of his guides, been brought to an impassable ditch, where he could not get over, in the interval of which, the king’s troops took the alarm, by the firing a pistol among the duke’s men, whether, also, by accident, or treachery, was not known; I say, had not those accidents, and his own fate, conspired to his defeat, he had certainly cut the Lord Feversham’s army (for he commanded them) all to pieces; but by these circumstances, he was brought to a battle on unequal terms, and defeated: The rest I need not mention.
This town was regularly fortified in the late civil wars, and sustained two sieges, if not more; the situation of it renders it easy to be fortified, the river and haven taking one chief part of the circumference; over the river, they have a very good bridge of stone, and the tide rises here, at high water, near six fathoms, whereof, sometimes it comes in with such furious haste, as to come two fathoms deep at a time, and when it does so, by surprize, it often does great damage to ships, driving them foul of one another, and oftentimes oversetting them. This sudden rage of the tide, is called, the “boar,” and is frequent in all the rivers of this channel, especially in the Severn itself; ’tis also known in the north, particularly in the Trent, and the Ouse, at their entrance into Humber, and in several other places.
In this town of Bridgewater, besides a very large church, there is a fine new-built meeting-house, that is to say, built since the Toleration, in which ’tis remarkable, that they have an advanced seat for the mayor and aldermen, when any of the magistrates should be of their Communion, as sometimes has happened. Here, also, is a college, or private academy, for the Dissenters to breed up their preaching youth; the tutor was one Mr. Moor, a man who, it is own’d, was a master of good literature; what talent he had at erudition, I can give no account of, for it is not every master of learning, that makes a good instructor of others, as I shall observe on some other occasions.
From Bridgewater, there is a road to Bristol, which they call the Lower Way; the Upper Way, and which is the more frequented road, being over Mendip Hills. This Lower Way also is not always passable, being subject to floods, and dangerous inundations, I mean, dangerous to travel through, especially for strangers: All this part of the country, viz. between Bridgewater, and the sea, and on northward upon the coast, lies low, and is wholly imployed in breeding and feeding of cattle, as are also the moors, or marsh grounds, which extend themselves up the rivers Perrot, and Ivill, into the heart of the country; of which in its place.
This low part of the country, between Bridgewater and Bristol, suffered exceedingly in that terrible inundation of the sea, which was occasioned by the violence of the wind in the great storm, anno 1703, and the country people have set up marks upon their houses and trees, with this note upon them, “ Thus high the waters came in the great storm”: “Thus far the great tide flowed up in the last violent tempest”; and the like.
And in one place they shewed us, where a ship was, by the force of the water, and the rage of the tempest, driven up upon the shore, several hundred yards from the ordinary high water mark, and was left in that surprizing condition upon dry land.
As this country is all a grazing, rich, feeding soil, so a great number of large oxen are fed here, which are sent up to London; so that now we come into the reach of my former observation, viz. That every county furnishes something for the supply of London, and no county in England furnishes more effectual provisions, nor, in proportion, a greater value than this. These supplies are in three articles.
Fat oxen (as above) as large, and good, as any in England.
Large Cheddar cheese, the greatest, and best of the kind in England.
Colts bred in great numbers in the moors, and sold into the northern counties, where the horse copers, as they are called, in Staffordshire, and Leicestershire, buy them again, and sell them to London for cart horses, and coach horses, the breed being very large.
As the low part of this county is thus imployed in grazing and feeding cattle, so all the rest of this large extended country is imployed in the woollen manufactures, and in the best, and most profitable part of it, viz.
|In Taunton:||}||The Serges, druggets, &c. and several other kinds of stuffs.|
|}||Knitting of stockings, principally for the Spanish trade.|
|In Bristol, and many towns on the Somerset-shire side:||}||Druggets, cantaloons, and other stuffs.|
|In Froom, Philips-Norton, and all the country bordering upon Wiltshire:||}||Fine Spanish medley cloths, especially on that part of the county from Wincanton, and Meer, to Warminster, Bruton, Castle-cary, Temple Comb, down to Gillingham, and Shaftsbury, in Dorsetshire.|
I mention this at large, because this trade of fine Spanish medley cloth, being the mix’d colours and cloths, with which all the gentlemen and persons of any fashion in England, are cloth’d, and vast quantities of which are exported to all parts of Europe, is so very considerable, so vast an advantage to England, maintains and supports so many poor families, and makes so many rich ones, that no man can be just in the description of things, and in a survey of this part of England, and not enter into a particular description of it; the above you may take as an introduction to it, only I shall add but a little more, concerning this county of Somerset, and shall, upon my entering into the north-west and west parts of Wiltshire, where the center of this prodigy of a trade is, sum it all up together, and shew you the extent of land which it spreads itself upon, and give you room, at least, to make some guess at the numbers of poor people, who are sustain’d and inrich’d by it.
But I must first go back again a little while into Somersetshire: The northern part of the county, I did not visit in this journey, which, as I hinted before, is only a return from my long travel to the Land’s End. In omitting this part, I, of course, leave the two cities of Bristol and Bath, and that high part of the county called Mendip Hill, to my next western journey, which will include all the counties due west from London; for these now spoken of, though ordinarily called the west country, are rather S.W. than west.
But as I made a little trip from Bridgewater north, into the body of the county, I must take notice of what I observed in that part of it: The first place I came to was Glastenbury, where, indeed, the venerable marks of antiquity, however I have declined the observation of them, struck me with some unusual awe, and I resolved to hear all that could be told me upon that subject; and first they told me (for there are two pieces of antiquity, which were to be inquired of in this place) that King Arthur was buried here, and that his coffin had been found here.
Secondly, that Joseph of Arimathea was here, and that when he fix’d his staff in the ground, which was on Christmas Day, it immediately took root, budded, put forth white-thorn leaves, and the next day, was in full blossom, white as a sheet, and that the plant is preserved, and blows every Christmas Day, as at first, to this very day.
I took all this ad referendum, but took guides afterward, to see what demonstrations there could be given of all these things; they went over the ruins of the place with me, telling me, which part every particular piece of building had been; and as for the white-thorn, they carried me to a gentleman’s garden in the town, where it was preserved, and I brought a piece of it away in my hat, but took it upon their honour, that it really does blow in such manner, as above, on Christmas Day. However, it must be confessed, that it is universally attested.
Where I had the sight of the white-thorn tree, I obtained a sight of Mr. Cambden, and his continuator, and was, at first, a little concern’d, that a person of Mr. Cambden’s judgment, gave such an account of the legendary part of the history of this place, with a taste of his crediting the whole story; and from him I began to believe also, that Joseph of Arimathea, was really here, and that the Christian religion was preached in this island within thirty seven years after the death of our Saviour.
This, however, prompted me to farther inquiry, and the following account occurred, which is to be found, as they say, in the manuscript History of the Church of Glastenbury, now deposited in the Cottonian Library, and taken from it by Mr. Dugdale, in his Monasticon. Fol. 1, 2.
In the year 31 after the Passion of our Lord, twelve of St. Philip the Apostle’s disciples (the chief of whom was Joseph of Arimathea) came into this country, and preached the Christian faith to Arviragus, who refused to embrace it, and yet granted them this place, with twelve hides of land; where they made walls of wattles, and erected the first church in this kingdom, which Christ personally dedicated to the honour of His Mother, and the place for burial of His servants, as is said in the manuscript History of the Monastery of Glastenbury in the Cotton Library. These twelve, and their successors, continuing long the same number, and leading an eremetical life, converted a great multitude of pagans to the faith of Christ. They being all, at length, dead and buried here, the most holy men Phaganus and Diruvianus, coming into these parts, and baptizing King Lucius and his people, had the aforesaid hides confirm’d to them and their successors, the same number of twelve being kept up ‘till the coming of St. Patrick, who, instructing them in the monastical life, became their abbot: After whom, the holy fathers Benignus, Kolumkil, and Gildas, led a most holy life there. Next came St. David Archbishop of Menevia, now called St. David’s, who added a new chapel to the church, dedicating it to the blessed Virgin, and erected a rich altar; and near the said chapel, Joseph of Arimathea, and other holy men, are said to have been buried. Tho’ the church was afterwards several times rebuilt, this place still remained under the former consecration, and was held in such veneration, that kings, bishops, and all the greatest persons, thought themselves happy in adding something to its possessions, or being buried with any small parcel of its earth. St. Dunstan, and other holy abbots, always preserving the number of twelve monks, added to them several clergymen that sung well.
This church, by reason of its antiquity, was by the English called Ealdchurch, that is, Old Church; and the people of the country about it, thought no oath more sacred, than to swear by the Old Church; as being the first, and oldest church in England, and held in such veneration, that it was called a second Rome, for sanctity; because, as Rome was honoured with a multitude of martyrs, so this place was renowned for many confessors.
This island, in which this church stands, was, by the Britons, first called Ynswyxtryn, that is, the Glass Island, by reason of the river, as it were of the colour of glass, incompassing the marsh. It was called an island, because inclosed about by a deep marsh. It was called Avallonia, either from the British word aval, signifying an apple, as being full of fruit-trees, or from Avallon, who was once lord of that territory. The Saxons gave it the name of Glastingebury, that is, the Town of Glass. There are several islands about this, all belonging to it, all which together were reduced to make up the twelve hides above-mentioned, the bounds whereof may be seen in Dugdale, p. 2. and 3. All the places within those bounds enjoy all sorts of immunities, from the first times of Christianity, granted and confirmed to the church of Glastonbury by the British, English, and Norman kings.
This church was the sacred repository of the ashes of a multitude of saints, insomuch that no corner of it, or of the church-yard,, is destitute of the same. There lie the twelve disciples (above-mentioned) of St. Philip the Apostle, with their chief, Joseph of Arimathea, and his son Josephus; also St. Patrick, the apostle of Ireland; St. Benignus, disciple to St. Patrick; St. Pinius, disciple to Benignus; St. Gildas, the British historian; St. David, Bishop of Menevia; St. Dunstan; St. Indrastus, martyr, and his seven companions; St. Urban, martyr; St. Apollinaris, bishop and martyr, disciple to St. Peter the Apostle; St. Vincentius, archdeacon and martyr; three of the Holy Innocents; St. Besilius, martyr; part of St. Oswald, king and martyr; St. Valerius, and St. Salvius, bishops and martyrs; St. Canon, Anastatius, Renignius, Casanius, Abdon, and Sennen, martyrs; St. Paulinus, Bishop of the Northumbrians; St. Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarn; Coelfrid and Boisilus, abbots; Venerable Bede; St. Benedict, bishop; Hesterpine, Sigfride, and Herbert, abbots; St. Idamus, bishop; St. Teison, abbot, and his twelve companions; St. Iltwich; St. Lilianus, abbot; part of Guthlac, the anchorite; St. Poppa, Archbishop of Treves; St. Geminianus, confessor; the holy virgins Hilda, Hebbe, Begu, Crisante, Udilia, Mary, Martha, Lucy, Walburge, Gertrude, Cecily, Wenta, Mamilla, Edberga, Elfleda, Batildis, Ursula, Daria, Ealswitha; the last of these affirmed to be intire many years after she had been interred. Many more names of holy men and women were lost by the burning of the antient church, and time has worn out the memory of a still greater number.
Many holy relicks were also preserved in this church: Of those relating to the Old Testament, part of Rachel’s tomb; of the altar on which Moses pour’d out oyl; of his book; of the tomb of Isaiah; some manna: relicks of the prophet Daniel; of the three children delivered from the fiery furnace; six gilt stones of the pavement of the Temple, and some of the gate. Relating to our Lord Jesus Christ: Some of the linen He was wrapp’d in; two pieces of the manger; some of the gold offer’d by the Wise Men; five stones out of Jordan, where our Saviour was baptized; one of the vessels in which Christ turned water into wine; of the stones the Devil proposed to Christ to convert into bread; of the five loaves with which our Lord fed five thousand persons; of the place where He was transfigured; of the stone He stood on in the Temple; of His hair; of the hem of His garment; and many more, too tedious for this place: Also relicks of the Blessed Virgin; of St. John Baptist; of the Apostles; of many martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins.
On this account, Glastonbury was every where held in the greatest veneration; and, as has been said, the greatest persons coveted to be buried there; most of whose names have been lost, and of some, mention has been made above.
A few feet from the Old Church stood two pyramids; that next to the church twenty-six feet high, on which were many antiquities worn out by age. On the uppermost story of it, was a pontifical image; on the second, the image of a king, with these letter, Heri, Sexi, and Blisier; on the third, were these words, Wemerest, Bantomp, Wineweng; on the fourth, Hate, Wulfred, and Eanfled; on the fifth, and lowest, an image, and this inscription, Logior, Weslicas, Bregden, Swelves, Hwingendes, Bera . The other pyramid was eighteen feet high, and had four stages, on which was to be read, Hedde Bishop Bregored, and Breorward. What these words signify is not known; but it is guess’d, they were the names of the persons deposited within the pyramid. So great was the respect paid by our ancestors to this place, that they durst not utter any idle words, nor so much as spit in the church, or church-yard, unless compell’d by the utmost necessity, and even then with the utmost reluctancy and remorse: Neither durst any man bring a hawk, horse, or dog into the church, because it had been often observed, that such as had been accidentally brought in, immediately died. Even from foreign countries the earth of this church-yard was sent for, to bury with the greatest persons; and it is reported, that even a Mahometan sultan, having taken an English gentleman in the Holy Land, gave him his liberty, upon promise, that he would bring him a gantlet full of that earth, which was accordingly perform’d, and the gentleman returning to Glastonbury, declared the same upon oath.
As to the burial of King Arthur, Mr. Cambden makes no doubt of it, and gives us from Giraldus Cambrensis, an account how King Henry II. caused search to be made for his tomb, and before they had dug seven foot, they came to a great stone, having a cross of lead on the inside of it, and the subsequent letters, or inscription upon it, and in the following rude character; which the said Giraldus Cambrensis, Mr. Cambden says, was an eye-witness of, as well as of a coffin of hollow’d oak, which they found by digging nine foot deeper than the inscription, wherein were deposited the bones of that great prince.
On the top of a high hill, near a mile from the town, stands an old tower, which the people vulgarly call the TORR; what it was, we are not certain; but it is made famous by one thing in particular; that here King Henry VIII. caused Richard Whitingus, the last Abbot of Glastonbury, to be hanged for refusing to surrender the monastery.
I must confess, that I cannot so much blame the Catholicks in those early days, for reverencing this place as they did, or, at least, ‘till they came to found idolatry upon their respect, if they really believed all these things; but my business is to relate, rather than make remarks.
The inscription on King Arthur’s coffin, is as follows:
Four miles from Glastonbury, lies the little city of Wells, where is one of the neatest, and, in some respects, the most beautiful, cathedrals in England, particularly the west front of it, is one complete draught of imagery, very fine, and yet very antient.
This is a neat, clean city, and the clergy, in particular, live very handsomly; the Closs, or part of the city, where the Bishop’s Palace is, is very properly called so; for it is walled in, and lock’d up like a little fortification, and has a ditch round it.
The dignified clergy live in the inside of it, and the prebendaries, and canons, which are very numerous, have very agreeable dwellings, and live very pleasantly. Here are no less than seven-and-twenty prebends, and nineteen canons, belonging to this church, besides a dean, a chancellor, a precentor, and three arch deacons; a number which very few cathedrals in England have, besides this.
Dugdale, in his Monasticon, tells us, that the church of Wells has given to the kingdom, one Cardinal, six High Chancellors, five High Treasurers, one Lord Privy Seal, one Lord President of Wales, one Secretary of State, all of them bishops of this diocess; the county is the diocess, and contains three hundred eighty-eight parishes, and the arch deaconries are of Wells, Bath, and Taunton.
The city lies just at the foot of the mountains called Mendip Hills, and is itself built on a stony foundation. Its manufacture is chiefly of stockings, as is mentioned already; ’tis well built, and populous, and has several good families in it; so that there is no want of good company there.
Near this city, and just under the hills, is the famous, and so much talk’d of Wokey Hole, which, to me, that had been in Pool’s Hole, in the Peak of Derby, has nothing of wonder or curiosity in it; the chief thing I observed in this, is, what is generally found in all such subterraneous caverns; namely, That the water dropping from the roof of the vault, petrifies, and hangs in long pieces like isicles, as if it would, in time, turn into a column to support the arch. As to the stories of a witch dwelling here, as of a gyant dwelling in the other (I mean in Pool’s Hole) I take them to be equally fabulous, and worth no notice.
In the low country, on the other side Mendip Hills, lies Chedder, a village pleasantly situated under the very ridge of the mountains; before the village is a large green, or common, a piece of ground, in which the whole herd of the cows, belonging to the town, do feed; the ground is exceeding rich, and as the whole village are cowkeepers, they take care to keep up the goodness of the soil, by agreeing to lay on large quantities of dung for manuring, and inriching the land.
The milk of all the town cows, is brought together every day into a common room, where the persons appointed, or trusted for the management, measure every man’s quantity, and set it down in a book; when the quantities are adjusted, the milk is all put together, and every meal’s milk makes one cheese, and no more; so that the cheese is bigger, or less, as the cows yield more, or less, milk. By this method, the goodness of the cheese is preserved, and, without all dispute, it is the best cheese that England affords, if not, that the whole world affords.
As the cheeses are, by this means, very large, for they often weigh a hundred weight, sometimes much more, so the poorer inhabitants, who have but few cows, are obliged to stay the longer for the return of their milk; for no man has any such return, ‘till his share comes to a whole cheese, and then he has it; and if the quantity of his milk deliver’d in, comes to above a cheese, the overplus rests in account to his credit, ‘till another cheese comes to his share; and thus every man has equal justice, and though he should have but one cow, he shall, in time, have one whole cheese. This cheese is often sold for six pence to eight pence per pound, when the Cheshire cheese is sold but for two pence to two pence halfpenny.
Here is a deep, frightful chasm in the mountain, in the hollow of which, the road goes, by which they travel towards Bristol; and out of the same hollow, springs a little river, which flows with such a full stream, that, it is said, it drives twelve mills within a quarter of a mile of the spring; but this is not to be understood, without supposing it to fetch some winding reaches in the way; there would not, otherwise, be room for twelve mills to stand, and have any head of water above the mill, within so small a space of ground. The water of this spring, grows quickly into a river, and runs down into the marshes, and joins another little river called Axe, about Axbridge, and thence into the Bristol Channel, or Severn Sea.
I must now turn east, and south-east, for I resolved not to go up the hills of Mendip at all, this journey, leaving that part to another tour, when I shall give an account of these mountains, as also of the cities of Bath and Bristol, to which they are very near, all in one letter.
I come now to that part of the country, which joins itself to Wiltshire, which I reserved, in particular, to this place, in order to give some account of the broad-cloth manufacture, which I several times mentioned in my first journey, and which is carried on here, and that to such a degree, as deserves a place in all the descriptions, or histories, which shall be given of this country.
As the east, and south parts of Wiltshire are, as I have already observed, all hilly, spreading themselves far and wide, in plains, and grassy downs, for breeding, and feeding, vast flocks of sheep, and a prodigious number of them: And as the west and north parts of Somersetshire are, on the contrary, low, and marshy, or moorish, for feeding, and breeding, of black cattle, and horses, or for lead-mines, &c. So all the south west part of Wiltshire, and the east part of Somersetshire, are low and flat, being a rich, inclosed country, full of rivers and towns, and infinitely populous, insomuch, that some of the market towns are equal to cities in bigness, and superior to them in numbers of people.
This low, flat country, contains part of the three counties of Somerset, Wilts, and Gloucester, and that the extent of it may be the easier understood by those who know any thing of the situation of the country, it reaches from Cirencester in the north, to Sherburn on the edge of Dorsetshire south, and from the Devizes east, to Bristol west, which may take in about fifty miles in length where longest, and twenty in breadth where narrowest.
In this extent of country, we have the following market towns, which are principally employed in the clothing trade, that is to say, in that part of it, which I am now speaking of; namely, fine medley, or mix’d cloths, such as are usually worn in England by the better sort of people; and, also, exported in great quantities to Holland, Hamburgh, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Italy, &c. The principal clothing towns in this part of the country, are these,
|Somersetshire||Frome, Pensford, Philip’s Norton, Bruton, Shepton Mallet, Castle Carey, and Wincanton.|
|Wiltshire||Malmsbury, Castlecomb, Chippenham, Caln, Devizes, Bradford, Trubridge, Westbury, Warminster, Meer.|
|Dorsetshire||Gillingham, Shaftsbury, Bemister, and Bere, Sturminster, Shireborn.|
|Gloucester||Cirencester, Tetbury, Marshfield, Minchinghampton, and Fairford.|
These towns, as they stand thin, and at considerable distance from one another; for, except the two towns of Bradford and Trubridge, the other stand at an unusual distance; I say, these towns are interspers’d with a very great number of villages, I had almost said, innumerable villages, hamlets, and scattered houses, in which, generally speaking, the spinning work of all this manufacture is performed by the poor people; the master clothiers, who generally live in the greater towns, sending out the wooll weekly to their houses, by their servants and horses, and, at the same time, bringing back the yarn that they have spun and finished, which then is fitted for the loom.
The increasing and flourishing circumstances of this trade, are happily visible by the great concourse of people to, and increase of buildings and inhabitants in these principal clothing towns where this trade is carried on, and the wealth of the clothiers. The town of Froom, or, as it is written in our maps, Frome Sellwood, is a specimen of this, which is so prodigiously increased within these last twenty or thirty years, that they have built a new church, and so many new streets of houses, and those houses are so full of inhabitants, that Frome is now reckoned to have more people in it, than the city of Bath, and some say, than even Salisbury itself, and if their trade continues to increase for a few years more, as it has done for those past, it is very likely to be one of the greatest and wealthiest inland towns in England.
I call it an inland town, because it is particularly distinguished as such, being, not only no sea-port, but not near any sea-port, having no manner of communication by water, no navigable river at it, or near it. Its trade is wholly clothing, and the cloths they make, are, generally speaking, all conveyed to London: Blackwell-Hall is their market, and thither they send up the gross of their clothing product; and, if we may believe common fame, there are above ten thousand people in Frome now, more than lived in it twenty years ago, and yet it was a considerable town then too.
Here are, also, several large meeting-houses, as well as churches, as there are, generally, in all the manufacturing, trading towns in England, especially in the western counties.
The Devizes is, next to this, a large and important town, and full of wealthy clothiers; but this town has, lately, run pretty much into the drugget-making trade; a business, which has made some invasion upon the broad-cloth trade, and great quantities of druggets are worn in England, as also, exported beyond the seas, even in the place of our broad-cloths, and where they usually were worn and exported; but this is much the same as to the trade still; for as it is all a woollen manufacture, and that the druggets may properly be called cloth, though narrow, and of a different make, so the makers are all called clothiers.
The River Avon, a noble and large fresh river, branching itself into many parts, and receiving almost all the rivers on that side the hills, waters this whole fruitful vale; and the water of this river seems particularly qualified for the use of the clothiers; that is to say, for dying the best colours, and for fulling and dressing the cloth, so that the clothiers generally plant themselves upon this river, but especially the dyers, as at Trubridge, and Bradford, which are the two most eminent cloathing towns in that part of the vale for the making fine Spanish cloths, and of the nicest mixtures.
From these towns south, to Westbury, and to Warminster, the same trade continues, and the finest medley Spanish cloths, not in England only, but in the whole world, are made in this part. They told me at Bradford, That it was no extraordinary thing to have clothiers in that country worth, from ten thousand, to forty thousand pounds a man, and many of the great families, who now pass for gentry in those counties, have been originally raised from, and built up by this truly noble manufacture.
If I may speak here from the authority of the antient inhabitants of the place, and who have been curious observers upon this subject, the country which I have now described, as principally imploy’d in, and maintained by this prodigy of a trade, contains two million, three hundred and thirty thousand acres of land, and has in it seven hundred eighty-eight parishes, and three hundred and seventy-four thousand people. It is true, that this is all guess-work; but I must confess myself very willing to believe, that the reckoning is far short of the account; for the county is exceeding large and populous.
It may be worth enquiry, by the curious, how the manufacturers, in so vast a consumption of the wooll, as such a trade must take up, can be supplied with wooll for their trade; and, indeed, it would be something strange, if the answer were not at hand.
We may reasonably conclude, that this manufacture was at first seated in this county, or, as we may say, planted itself here at first, because of the infinite numbers of sheep, which were fed at that time upon the downs and plains of Dorset, Wilts, and Hampshire, all adjoining, as a trading town is seated, or rises gradually upon some large river, because of the benefit of navigation; and as gentlemen place the mansion houses of their estates, and seats of their families, as near the pleasant rivers, woods, and fine prospects as possible, for the delight of their living; so the first planters of the clothing manufacture, doubtless, chose this delightful vale for its seat, because of the neighbourhood of those plains, which might be supposed to be a fund of wooll for the carrying it on. Thus the manufacture of white cloth was planted in Stroud Water in Gloucestershire, for the sake of the excellent water there for the dying scarlets, and all colours that are dyed in grain, which are better dyed there, than in any other place of England, some towns near London excepted. Hence, therefore, we first observe, they are supplied yearly with the fleeces of two or three millions of sheep.
But as the number of sheep fed on these downs is lessened, rather than increased, because of the many thousand acres of the carpet ground being, of late years, turned into arable land, and sowed with wheat; which, by the way, has made Warminster a market town, on the edge of Somersetshire, as it now is, without exception, the greatest market for wheat in England, with this exception only, viz. Where none of it is bought to send to London.
I say, The number of sheep, and consequently the quantity of wooll, decreasing, and at the same time the manufacture, as has been said, prodigiously increasing, the manufacturers applied themselves to other parts for a supply, and hence began the influx of north-country wooll to come in from the counties of Northampton, Leicester, and Lincoln, the center of which trade, is about Tetbury and Cirencester, where are the markets for the north-country wooll, and where, as they say, several hundred packs of wooll are sold every week, for the supply of this prodigious consumption.
From London, they have great quantities of wooll, which is generally called Kentish wooll, in the fleece, which is brought up from thence by the farmers, since the late severe Acts against their selling it within a certain number of miles of the sea, also fell-wooll for the combers, bought of the wooll-staplers in Barnabystreet, and sent back by the carriers, which bring up the cloths to market.
They have also, sometimes, large quantities of Irish wooll, by the way of Bristol, or of Mynhead, in Somersetshire; but this is uncertain, and only on extraordinary occasions. I omit the Spanish wooll, as being an article by itself.
Thus, in short, as those that see the numbers of sheep fed on the downs and plains, as above, and that see the quantity of wooll brought to the markets of Tetbury, and other towns, and the quantity sent from London, all into this one vale, would wonder how it was possible to be consumed, manufactured, and wrought up; so on the other hand, those that saw the numbers of people imploy’d, and the vast quantity of goods made in this part of England, would wonder where the whole nation should be able to supply them with wooll.
And yet, notwithstanding the whole country is thus imploy’d in the broad-cloth manufacture, as above, I must not omit to mention, that here is a very great application to another trade or two, which I am obliged, by my first scheme, not to forget to mention, viz. The supplying the city of London with provisions; though it is true, that the general imployment of the people in all this county, is in the woollen manufacture; yet, as the spinning is generally the work of the women and children, and that the land is here exceeding rich and fertile, so it cannot be supposed, but that here are farmers in great numbers, whose business it is to cultivate the land, and supply the rest of the inhabitants with provisions; and this they do so well, that notwithstanding the county is so exceeding populous, yet provisions of all sorts are very cheap, the quantity very great, and a great overplus sent every day to London for the supply of their demand, which, as I said before, is great enough to exhaust a whole nation.
All the lower part of this county, and also of Gloucestershire, adjoining, is full of large feeding farms, which we call dairies, and the cheese they make, as it is excellent good of its kind, so being a different kind from the Cheshire, being soft and thin, is eaten newer than that from Cheshire. Of this, a vast quantity is every week sent up to London, where, though it is called Gloucestershire cheese, yet a great part of it is made in Wiltshire, and the greatest part of that which comes to London, the Gloucestershire cheese being more generally carried to Bristol, and Bath, where a very great quantity is consumed, as well by the inhabitants of two populous cities, as also for the shipping off to our West-India colonies, and other places.
This Wiltshire cheese is carried to the river of Thames, which runs through part of the county, by land carriage, and so by barges to London.
Again, in the spring of the year, they make a vast quantity of that we call green cheese, which is a thin, and very soft cheese, resembling cream cheeses, only thicker, and very rich. These are brought to market new, and eaten so, and the quantity is so great, and this sort of cheese is so universally liked and accepted in London, that all the low, rich lands of this county, are little enough to supply the market; but then this holds only for the two first summer months of the year, May and June, or little more.
Besides this, the farmers in Wiltshire, and the part of Gloucestershire adjoining, send a very great quantity of bacon up to London, which is esteemed as the best bacon in England, Hampshire only excepted: This bacon is raised in such quantities here, by reason of the great dairies, as above, the hogs being fed with the vast quantity of whey, and skim’d milk, which so many farmers have to spare, and which must, otherwise, be thrown away.
But this is not all, for as the north part of Wiltshire, as well the downs, as the vales, border upon the river Thames, and, in some places, comes up even to the banks of it; so most of that part of the county being arable land, they sow a very great quantity of barley, which is carried to the markets at Abingdon, at Farrington, and such places, where it is made into malt, and carried to London. This imploys all the hill country from above Malmsbury to Marlbro, and on the side of the Vale of White Horse, as ’tis called, which is in Barkshire, and the hills adjoyning, a tract of ground, able to furnish, considering its fertility, a prodigious quantity of barley, and does so.
Thus Wiltshire itself helps to supply London with cheese, bacon, and malt, three very considerable articles, besides that vast manufacture of fine Spanish cloths, which I have said so much of, and I may, without being partial, say, that it is thereby rendered one of the most important counties in England, that is to say, important to the publick wealth of the kingdom. The bare product is in itself prodigious great; the downs are an inexhausted store-house of wooll, and of corn, and the valley, or low part of it, is the like for cheese and bacon.
One thing here is worth while to mention, for the observation of those counties in England, where they are not yet arrived to that perfection of husbandry, as in this county, and I have purposely reserved it to this place: The case is this, The downs or plains, which are generally called Salisbury Plain; but, particularly, extend themselves over the counties of Southampton, Wilts, and Dorset, were formerly all left open to be fed by the large flocks of sheep so often mentioned; but now, so much of these downs are plowed up, as has increased the quantity of corn produced in this county, in a prodigious manner, and lessened their quantity of wooll, as above; all which has been done by folding their sheep upon the plow’d lands, removing the fold every night to a fresh place, ‘till the whole piece of ground has been folded on; this, and this alone, has made these lands, which in themselves are poor, and where, in some places, the earth is not above six inches above the solid chalk rock, able to bear as good wheat, as any of the richer lands in the vales, though not quite so much: I say this alone; for many of these lands lie so remote from the farmers houses, and up such high hills, for the farmers live always in the valleys, and by the rivers, that it could not be worth their while to carry dung from those farm-houses, to those remote lands; besides, the draught up hill would be so heavy, and the ways so bad, that it would kill all their cattle.
If this way of folding sheep upon the fallows, and plowed lands, were practised, in some parts of England, and especially in Scotland, they would find it turn to such account, and so effectually improve the waste lands, which now are useless and uncultivated, that the sheep would be more valuable, and lands turn to a better account than was ever yet known among them. In Wiltshire it appears to be so very significant, that if a farmer has a thousand of sheep, and no fallows to fold them on, his neighbours will give him ten shillings a night for every thousand.
I am come now to Marlborough: On the downs, about two or three miles from the town, are abundance of loose stones, lying scattered about the plain; some whereof are very large, and appear to be of the same kind with those at Stonehenge, and some larger. They are called by the country people, not for want of ignorance, The Gray Weathers. I do not find any account given of them in history, or by the greatest of our antiquaries, so I must leave them as I find them.
At Marlborough, and in several villages near, as well as on the downs, there are several of those round rising mounts, which the country people call barrows, and which all our writers agree, were monuments of the dead, and particularly of soldiers slain in fight. This in Marlborough, stands in the Duke of Somerset’s garden, and is, by that means, kept up to its due height. There is a winding way cut out of the mount, that goes several times round it, ‘till insensibly it brings you to the top, where there is a seat, and a small pleasant green, from whence you look over great part of the town.
This is an antient town, and, at present, has a pretty good shop-keeping trade, but not much of the manufacturing part. The river Kennet, lately made navigable by Act of Parliament, rises just by this town, and running from hence to Hungerford, and Newbery, becomes a large stream, and passing by Reading, runs into the Thames near the town. This river is famous for craw-fish, which they help travellers to at Newbery; but they seldom want for price.
Between this town of Marlborough, and Abington, westward, is the Vale of White Horse: The inhabitants tell a great many fabulous stories of the original of its being so called; but there is nothing of foundation in them all, that I could see; the whole of the story is this; Looking south from the vale, we see a trench cut on the side of a high green hill, this trench is cut in the shape of a horse, and not ill-shap’d I assure you. The trench is about two yards wide on the top, about a yard deep, and filled almost up with chalk, so that at a distance, for it is seen many miles off, you see the exact shape of a White Horse; but so large, as to take up near an acre of ground, some say, almost two acres. From this figure the hill is called, in our maps, White Horse Hill, and the low, or flat country under it, the Vale of White Horse.
It is a very fertile and fruitful vale, and extends itself from Farrington almost to Abington, tho’ not exactly in a line: Some think ’twas done by the Saxons, whose device was a white horse, and is so still.
Having spoken of what is most remarkable, or at least, what most occurred to my observation from the Land’s End to Newbery in Barkshire, I must here take the liberty to look round upon some passages in later times, which have made this part of the country more famous than before, I. On the hills on this side the Devizes, is Roundway Down, where the Lord Wilmot, and the king’s forces, beat, and intirely routed, the famous Sir William Waller, in the late Rebellion, or Civil War; from whence the place is called, by some, Runaway Down to this day. A little nearer towards Marlborough, is St. Ann’s Hill, where, notwithstanding several high hills between, and the distance of twenty-two miles, or more, is a fair view of Salisbury-steeple, or spire, which is, without all dispute, the highest in England. The defeat of Sir William Waller, take in the few words of one of the most impartial historians of those times. —— The action was, in short, thus,
Waller had always the misfortune to be beaten when he pursued nis enemy to force a fight. This was his case now: He heard that the Lord Wilmot, with a body of the king’s forces, were marched into the west to joyn Colonel Greenville, Sir Arthur Slanning, and the loyal troops in Dorsetshire: Upon this, he makes long marches to overtake, and intercept them, pretending to fight them, joyn’d, or not joyn’d; but my Lord Wilmot advancing with 1500 horse of the king’s best troops, joyn’d the western forces at the Devizes, and facing about upon Waller, met him upon Roundway Down, not far from St. Ann’s Hill, mentioned above.
As I said, he who was seeking out his enemy, must himself be easy to be found, and therefore they soon came together; for though Waller seeing too late, that he was in an error, would have been glad to have got off without fighting, yet seeing the king’s troops advance in full march to attack him, boldly drew up in order of battle, and marched forward to meet them: Upon which ensued an obstinate, and very bloody, fight; for Waller was brave, and his men had been enur’d to victory, especially his infantry, and though they were gallantly attacked by Colonel Slanning, and Greenville, the latter of whom was slain, yet they stood their ground, and could not be broken, but rather gain’d upon the Royalists: But the Lord Wilmot charging with an irresistable fury at the head of the cavalry, the rebel horse were broken, and put into confusion, a body of Wilmot’s horse pushing them quite out of the field: Lord Wilmot then falling with the like fury upon the rear of the foot, while the king’s foot lay hard upon them in the front: They were, at last, broken also; and, in a word, quite overthrown: And there being no way to escape the horse, upon an open wild down, as that is, they were most of them cut in pieces, or taken prisoners. All their cannon and baggage were also taken, with their arms and ammunition; and Waller himself, with great difficulty, escaped. This was in the month of August, 1643.
From this action, as I said, this place was ever after called Runaway-Down, instead of Roundway-Down.
At Newbery there was another, or rather a double scene of blood; for here were two obstinate, and hard fought, battles, at two several times, between the king’s army, and the Parliament’s, the king being present at them both, and both fought almost upon the same spot of ground. In these two battles, said an old experienced soldier, that served in the king’s army, there was more generalship shewn on both sides, than in any other battle through the whole course of the war; his meaning was, That the generals, on both sides, shewed the most exquisite skill in the managing, posting, bringing up, and drawing off their troops; and as the men fought with great bravery on both sides, so the generals, and officers, shewed both their bravery, and their judgment. In the first of these battles, the success was doubtful, and both sides pretended to the advantage: In the last, the king’s army had apparently the worst of it and yet the king, in a very few days, with a great body of horse, fetch’d off his cannon, which he had, in the close of the battle, thrust into Dunington Castle, and carried them away to Oxford the head quarter of his army, or his place of arms, as it would be called now; and this he did in the sight of the victorious army, facing them at the same time, with a body of six thousand horse, and they, on the other hand, did not think fit to draw out to attack him. That retreat, in point of honour, was equal to a victory, and gave new courage, as well as reputation, to the king’s troops. Indeed the Parliament’s army was out-general’d in that part; for as they had beaten the long s army out of the field, and obliged them to shelter their train of artillery and carriages in the castle, which was m itself a place of no great strength; they ought immediately, even the same night, to have invested the place, and posted their army so, as to cover the siege; in which case, the cannon, and all that was in the castle, had been their own; for though the king had indeed, a gallant body of horse, and superior to the Parliament cavalry by almost three thousand, yet his best regiments of foot had been roughly handled in the battle, and some of them quite cut in pieces; so that his majesty would not have been in condition to have attacked them in their posts, in order to have raised the siege.
But this is not my business: This town of Newbery is an antient cloathing town, though, now, little of that part remains to it; but it retains still a manufacturing genius, and the people are generally imployed in making shalloons, a kind of stuff, which, though it be used only for the lineing and insides of mens cloaths, for women use but little of it, nor the men for any thing but as above, yet it becomes so generally worn, both at home and abroad, that it is increased to a manufacture by itself, and is more considerable, than any single manufacture of stuffs in the nation. This imploys the town of Newbery, as also, Andover, another town on the side of Wiltshire, about twelve miles from it, and abundance of other towns, in other counties of England, of which I shall speak in their place.
And, having mentioned Andover, though out of the road that I was in, I must digress to tell you, that the town of Andover lies on the very edge of the downs which I have so often mentioned, and is in the road from Newbery to Salisbury, as it is from London to Taunton, and all the manufacturing part of Somersetshire; ’tis a handsom town, well built, populous, and much inrich’d by the manufacture, as above, and may be called a thriving town: It sends two members to Parliament, and is an antient corporation.
But the chief reason of my making this digression, is to mention, that within a mile, or thereabouts, of this town, at the place where the open down country begins, is Wey-Hill, where the greatest fair for sheep is kept, that this nation can shew. I confess, though I once saw the fair, yet I could make no estimate of the number brought thither for sale; but asking the opinion of a grasier, who had used to buy sheep there, he boldly answered, There were many hundred thousands. This being too general, I pressed him farther; at length he said, He believed there were five hundred thousand sheep sold there in one fair. Now, tho’ this might, I believe, be too many, yet ’tis sufficient to note, that there are a prodigious quantity of sheep sold here; nor can it be otherwise, if it be considered, that the sheep sold here, are not for immediate killing, but are generally ewes for store sheep for the farmers, and they send for them from all the following counties, Berks, Oxford, Bucks, Bedford, Hertford, Middlesex, Kent, Surrey, and Sussex: The custom of these farmers, is, to send one farmer in behalf of (perhaps) twenty, and so the sheep come up together, and they part them when they come home. These ewes have also this property, that they generally bring two lambs at a time. What weathers are bought here, are carried off by the farmers, who have feeding grounds, in order to fat them for killing; but they are but few compared to the ewes.
But to go back to Newbery: Not to insist upon the famous Jack of Newbery, who was so great a clothier, that when King James met his waggons loaden with cloths going to London, and inquiring whose they were, was answered by them all, They were Jack of Newbery’s, the king returned, if the story be true, That this Jack of Newbery was richer than he: But not to insist upon this man’s story, which is almost grown fabulous, yet another story is fact, and to be proved, viz. That this is one of the two legatee towns (as they were called) in the will of the late famous Mr. Kenrick, who being the son of a clothier of Newbery, and afterwards a merchant in London, left four thousand pounds to Newbery, and seven thousand five hundred pounds to Reading, to incourage the cloathing trade, and set the poor at work, besides other gifts of extraordinary value to the poor, as such. This gentleman I shall have occasion to mention again, and therefore I say no more now, only, that his effigie, or picture, was to be seen, before the Fire, in S. Christopher’s Church in Thread Needle Street, London, where he is buried, and where the benefaction he left for prayers every morning at six a clock, winter and summer, in that church, is still injoyed, and the prayers performed there accordingly: As likewise, it is at Reading, and at Newbery.
This extraordinary will is to be seen at large in Stow’s Survey of London, to which I refer, and which it is well worth the reader’s while to look over, the like not being heard of in England, before. It seems he died a batchelor, or, at least, without children, and his legacies, all in ready money, cannot amount to less than forty thousand to fifty thousand pounds, besides what might be included in the general clause of leaving all the rest of his estate to him who he made his universal heir; which estate, as I have heard, amounted to a very great value. That forty or fifty thousand pounds also, being considered at the time it was left, might well be rated at four times the value, as the rate of things goes now, it being in the year 1624. What improvement the town of Newbery, or the town of Reading, has made of the great sums he left to their management, that I did not inquire into.
Near this town of Newbery, the late Earl of Craven built a very stately pile of buildings for his own dwelling, called Spine; but as it was never quite finished, so I do not understand, that his lordship ever came to live in it, and, within these few years, it was, by a sudden fire, which no-body can, or no-body will, tell how it began, burnt down to the ground. It was reported, the old lord built this magnificent palace, for such it really was, at a time when he (flatter’d himself, at least, with expectation, and) had hopes of marrying Madam Royal, as she was then called, the Queen of Bohemia, sister to King Charles I. who was then a widow, and lived under the shadow of the English Court; but being frustrated afterwards in that view, his lordship went no farther in his building.
Here it was that the vanguard, or first line of the Prince of Orange’s army, was posted, when the Irish dragoons, who were posted in Reading, finding they should be attacked in a few days, had put the town’s people into such a fright, by threatening to burn and plunder the town, and cut all the peoples throats, that they sent express messengers to the Dutch general officer Grave Van Nassau for help; who sent them a detachment of but two hundred and eighty dragoons, though the troops in the town were near seven hundred men. What success they met with, I shall mention presently.
The next town of note, I say, is Reading, a very large and wealthy town, handsomly built, the inhabitants rich, and driving a very great trade. The town lies on the River Kennet, but so near the Thames, that the largest barges which they use, may come up to the town bridge, and there they have wharfs to load, and unload them. Their chief trade is by this water-navigation to and from London, though they have necessarily a great trade into the country, for the consumption of the goods which they bring by their barges from London, and particularly coals, salt, grocery wares, tobacco, oyls, and all heavy goods.
They send from hence to London by these barges, very great quantities of malt, and meal, and these are the two principal articles of their loadings, of which, so large are those barges, that some of them, as I was told, bring a thousand, or twelve hundred quarters of malt at a time, which, according to the ordinary computation of tonnage in the freight of other vessels, is from a hundred, to an hundred and twenty ton, dead weight.
They also send very great quantities of timber from Reading; for Berkshire being a very-well wooded county, and the River Thames a convenient conveyance for the timber, they send most of it, and especially the largest and fairest of the timber, to London, which is generally bought by the shipwrights in the river, for the building merchant ships; as also, the like trade of timber is at Henley, another town on the Thames, and at Maidenhead, of which by itself.
Here was a large manufacture of sail-cloth set up in this town, by the late Sir Owen Buckingham, Lord Mayor of London, and many of the poor people were, profitably (to them) imployed in it; but Sir Owen himself dying, and his son being unhappily killed in a duel, a little while after, that manufacture died also.
There is, however, still a remnant of the woollen manufacture here; I say a remnant, because this was once a very considerable cloathing town, much greater than it is now; and this town, as well as Newbery, and principally before Newbery, has injoyed the munificent legacies of that generous merchant I mentioned before, I mean Mr. Kenrick, who left them 7500l . to set the poor at work, and encourage the cloathing trade. How they manage for the poor, that they can give the best account of.
Mr. Cambden’s continuator, Dr. Gibson, says, there was once a hundred and forty master-clothiers in this one town; but that now, they are almost all gone. During the civil wars in England, this town was strongly fortified, and the remains of the bastions, and other works are still to be seen; but the Royalists abandoning it afterwards, it was possess’d by the Parliament, soon after the battle at Newbery.
There are three churches, and two large meeting houses in this town, besides that of the Quakers; and the town, Cambden calls it a little city, is said to contain about eight thousand people, including a little hamlet at the bridge over the Thames.
Here was once a most famous monastery, founded by King Henry I. younger son of William the Conqueror, who lies buried in it with his queen, and his daughter Maud; of whom it was said, She was a king’s daughter, a king’s wife, and a king’s mother, but herself no queen; this is made out, in that she was daughter to Henry I. wife to the Emperor of Germany, and mother to King Henry II. so she was an empress, but not a queen. This abbey is now so demolished, that scarce any remains of it are found, or the place of it known.
As I have noted above, it was here that the Dutch with two hundred and eighty horse and dragoons, attacked the forces of the late King James, in aid of the distress’d town’s -men, who they threatened to murther and plunder that very day. It was on a Sunday morning, that the Irish dragoons had resolved on the design’d mischief, if they really intended it: In order to it, they posted a guard at the principal church in the piazza there, and might, indeed, easily have lock’d all the people in, and have cut their throats; also they placed a company of foot in the church-yard of another church, over-against the Bear Inn; so that if they really did not intend to massacre the people, as their officers said they did not, yet that way of posting their men, joyn’d to the loud oaths and protestations, that they would do it, made it look as like such a design, as any thing unexecuted, or unattempted, could do.
In this posture things stood when the Dutch entered the town: The Irish had placed a centinel on the top of the steeple of the great church, with orders, if he saw any troops advance, to fire his piece, and ring the bell; the fellow, being surprised with the sight, for he discovered the Dutch but a little before they reached the town, fired his musquet, but forgot to ring the bell, and came down. However, his firing gave the alarm sufficiently, and the troops in the town, who were all under arms before, whether for the designed execution, or not, I will not determine; but, I say, being under arms before, they had little more to do, but to post their troops, which they did with skill enough, being commanded by Sir John Lanier, an experienced officer, and colonel of a regiment of horse in King James’s army; and had the men done their duty, they might easily have repuls’d the few troops that attacked them; but the Dutch entering the town in two places, one by the ordinary road from Newbery, and the other by the Broad Street near where the horse-fair is kept, forc’d both the posts, and entered the market place, where the main body of the Irish troops were drawn up.
The first party of the Dutch found a company of foot drawn up in the church-yard over-against the Bear Inn, and a troop of dragoons in the Bear Inn yard; the dragoons hearing the Dutch were at hand, their officer bravely drew them out of the inn yard, and faced the Dutch in the open road, the churchyard wall being lined with musquetiers to flank the street; the Dutch, who came on full gallop, fell in upon the dragoons, sword in hand, and with such irresistable fury, that the Irish were immediately put into confusion, and after three or four minutes bearing the charge, they were driven clear out of the street. At the very same instant, another party of the Dutch dragoons, dismounting, entered the church-yard, and the whole body posted there, fled also, with little or no resistance, not sufficient, indeed, to be called resistance. After this, the dragoons, mounting again, forced their squadrons, and entered the market place.
Here, the troops being numerous, made two or three regular discharges; but finding themselves charged in the rear by the other Dutchmen, who had by this time entered the said Broad Street, they not knowing the strength, or weakness of their enemy, presently broke, and fled by all the ways possible. Sir John Lanier, having a calash and six horses, got away with the first, though he was twice headed by a Dutch trooper, who endeavoured to shoot one of the horses, but miss’d his shot, so the colonel got away.
The Dutch having cleared the town, pursued some of them as far as Twyford, and such was the terror that they were in, that a person, from whom I had this part of the relation, told me, he saw one Dutch trooper chase twelve of the Irish dragoons to the river near Twyford, and ride into the water a good way after them; nor durst Sir John Lanier’s regiment of horse, and Sir John Fenwick’s, and a third, whose colonel I do not remember, advance to relieve their friends, though they, having had the alarm, stood drawn up on the hill on Twyford side of the river, where they might see by what a contemptible number their numerous party was pursued; for there were not above five and forty, or fifty at most, of the Dutch, that pursued about three hundred of the Irish dragoons to Twyford.
Thus the town of Reading was delivered from the danger they were threatned with, and which they as really expected, as they expected the sun would rise. It is true, the Irish officers denied afterwards, that there was any such design, or that they intended to offer the people any violence; but it is true, that several of their soldiers confess’d it, and gave private intimations of it, to the people in the houses where they quartered, especially some that had been kindly treated in their quarters, and had a little more gratitude and humanity than the rest.
I cannot omit to observe one thing here, to which I was an eye-witness, and which will resolve a difficulty that to this day has puzzled the understandings of a great many people, if not of the whole nation; namely, That here began the universal alarm that spread over the whole kingdom (almost at the same time) of the Irish being coming to cut every bodies throats: The brief account of which, because it has something curious in it I believe will be agreeable to you. The state of it is thus:
As the terror which the threatnings of these Irishmen had brought upon the whole town of Reading, obliged the magistrates, and chief of the inhabitants, to apply to the Prince of Orange’s army for immediate help, so you cannot doubt, but that many of the inhabitants fled for their lives by all the ways that they could; and this was chiefly in the night; for in the day the soldiers, who had their eyes every where, stopped them, and would not permit them to stir, which still increased their terror.
Those that got away, you may be sure, were in the utmost fright and amazement, and they had nothing less in their mouths, but that the Irish would (and by that time had) burnt the town, and cut the throats of all the people, men, women, and children. I was then at Windsor, and in the very interval of all this fright, King James being gone, and the army retreated from Salisbury, the Lord Feversham calls the troops together, and causing them to lay down their arms, disbands them, and gives them leave, every man, to go whither they would.
The Irish dragoons, which had fled from Reading, rallied at Twyford, and having not lost many of their number (for there were not above twelve men killed) they marched on for Maidenhead, swearing, and cursing, after most soldierly a manner, that they would burn all the towns where-ever they came, and cut the throats of all the people. However, whether it was, that they thought themselves too near the Dutch at Maidenhead, or what else was the matter, they did not offer to take quarters at Maidenhead, the town also being full of King James’s troops, so they marched on for Colebrook, blustering in the same manner, of what they would do when they came there. The town of Colebrook had notice of their coming, and how they had publickly threatened to burn the town, and murther all the people; but, happily for them, they had quartered there a regiment of Scots foot, of those regiments which King James had caused to march from Scotland to his aid on this occasion; and they had with them, as was the usage of all the foot in those times, two pieces of cannon, that is to say, field-pieces, and they stood just in the market-place, pointing westward to the street where these gentlemen were to come.
The people of Colebrook applied immediately to the Scots colonel, whose name I am very sorry I cannot remember, because it is to his honour that I should mention it, and begged his protection. The colonel calling together a council of his officers, immediately resolved, they would make good their quarters, unless they received orders from their superior officers to quit them, and that they would defend the town from plunder; and upon this, immediately the drums beat to arms, and the regiment came together in a few moments: It was in the depth of winter, and, by consequence, was night, and being a wet day, the evening was exceeding dark, when some advanced centinels gave notice, that they heard the drums beat the dragoons march, at some distance upon the road.
Upon this the colonel ordered a lieutenant, with thirty musqueteers, to make an advanced guard at the extreme part of the town, and he was supported by another party of forty men, most pikes, at a small distance, who were to advance upon a signal; and if these last should ingage, the drums of the whole regiment were to beat a march, and half the battalion, to advance with the two pieces of cannon.
It was near ten a clock at night before the dragoons reached the town, when the two advanced dragoons, which, by the discipline at that time, always rode at a distance from the regiment, were challenged by the centinels placed by the lieutenant, as above; upon which they gave notice to the regiment, who immediately halted, and an officer, with some dragoons (they could not tell how many, because it was dark) came up, and demanded, Who they were that challenged? the centinel called his corporal, and he the serjeant, with three files of musqueteers, and they told the officer what regiment they belong’d to, and that they had orders to stop any troops from entering the town, ‘till their colonel should be acquainted with it and give farther orders.
The dragoons, as the ground would admit, drew up in front, and their officers began to huff and threaten, that they were the king’s troops, and within the line of the army; that they must have quarters in the town, and ought not to be refused by their own side.
By this time the lieutenant came up also: He gave the officer of dragoons very good words, and told him, He knew too well what belonged to the duty of a subaltern officer, to blame him for doing his duty; but that the regiment was under arms, and the colonel at the head of them in the market-house, and he would immediately send to him for orders, and doubted not, but that the colonel would give them quarters in the town. The dragoons, not satisfied with this civil usage, threatened, swore rag’d, and damning the colonel, and the regiment, though not present, said they would have quarters without asking leave of any man, and the officer turning about to a sergeant, bid him go back, and cause the regiment to advance.
The lieutenant told him calmly, He was sorry to see him act so; but if that was his resolution, he was ready for him, and immediately called out to his sergeant to give the signal to the next party to advance, and told the officer of dragoons, that if he stirred one foot forward, or any of his men, he would fire upon them immediately. The forty men advanced, and in two minutes after, they could hear the drums of the regiment beat the Scots march.
Upon this, the dragoons halted again, and the major of the dragoons advancing to the parlee, the lieutenant colonel of the foot was also come up to the lieutenant’s party, with the forty men, and with the colonel’s answer to the demand of quarters; namely, That if the dragoons had any orders in writing from the general for quartering in the town, or for marching that way, he was very ready to give them admittance; but if not they were his quarters, and he would defend them to the last man, and no-body should come in there, especially at that time of night.
The dragoons, however, insulted and menac’d the major also, and that at such a rate, that he gave orders immediately to acquaint the colonel of it, who instantly advanced, in full march, with the whole regiment, having about one hundred links lighted to let them see the way, the night being exceeding dark.
When the dragoons saw this, and having no stomach to engage, they desisted; but raged and stormed at such a rate, as I cannot express, and taking the road to Stanes, swore, they would go thither, and burn the town, and kill man, woman and child.
Those blusters were so loud, and the fellows, by nation, such as from whom it might be expected, as put the people of Colebrook, the fright they had been in for themselves being a little over, into a second concern for their neighbours at Stanes, and some of them shewed the concern to be so real, that they sent express upon express to Stanes, to acquaint the people there of their danger, knowing there was, at that time, only two companies of foot, of Colonel ———’s regiment, in the town. When these messengers came there, they found the people already alarmed by others, who had come from the same town of Colebrook, in the first fright, with the news, that the Irish were coming to burn the said town of Colebrook, and that, by that time, they did not question but they had done it, and they were surprized to hear now, that it was not done; but upon the arriving of these messengers, bringing word, that they had burnt Colebrook, but for the assistance of the Scots regiment; and that they were coming to Stanes, and swore, they would kill man, woman and child; it is impossible to express the consternation of the people: Away they run out of the town, dark, and rainy, and midnight as it was, some to Kingston, some over the heath to Hownslow, and Brentford, some to Egham, and some to Windsor, with the dreadful news; and by that tune they reached those places, their fears had turned their story from saying, they would burn and kill, to they had burned and killed, and were coming after you to do the like.
The same alarm was carried by others from Colebrook to Uxbridge; for thither the dragoons were for marching at first; and thus, some one way, and some another, it spread like the undulations of the water in a pond, when a flat stone is cast upon the surface: From Brentford and Kingston, and from Uxbridge, it came severally, and by different roads, to London, and so, as I may say, all over England; nor is it wonderful, that it seemed to be all over the nation in one day, which was the next after this beginning; Fear gave wings to the news, no post could carry it as it flew from town to town, and still every messenger had two articles with him. 1. Not that such and such towns were to be burnt and plundered by them; but that they were already burnt; and 2. That the Irish were at their heels to do the like.
This, I think, is a clear account of this alarm, and what can be more natural? Colebrook was not the case, for where-ever the Colebrook men came, they were asked, If their town was down? I rode the next morning to Maidenhead: At Slough they told me, Maidenhead was burnt, and Uxbridge, and Reading, and I know not how many more, were destroy’d; and when I came to Reading, they told me, Maidenhead and Okingham were burnt, and the like. From thence I went to Henley, where the Prince of Orange, with the second line of his army, entered that very afternoon, and there they had had the same account, with the news of King James’s flight; and thus it spread every way insensibly. The manner is too recent in memory, to need my giving any description of it.
My next stage from Reading, was to Great Marlow in Buckinghamshire, which, though not in the direct road, yet lying on the banks of the river of Thames, is, in my course, proper enough to be spoken of, and is particularly worth notice for several things.
It is a town of very great embarkation on the Thames, not so much for goods wrought here, (for the trade of the town is chiefly in bone-lace) but for goods from the neighbouring towns, and particularly, a very great quantity of malt, and meal, is brought hither from High-Wickham, a large market town, about ——— miles off, which is one of the greatest corn markets on this side of England, and lies on the road from London to Oxford.
Between High Wickham and Marlow, is a little river called the Loddon, on which are a great many mills, and particularly corn mills, and paper mills; the first of these, grind and dress the wheat, and then the meal is sent to Marlow, and loaded on board the barges for London: And the second makes great quantities of printing paper, and that, very good of its kind, and cheap, such as generally is made use of in printing our news papers, journals, &c. and smaller pamphlets; but not much fine, or large, for bound books, or writing.
On the river of Thames, just by the side of this town, though on the other bank, are three very remarkable mills, which are called the Temple-Mills, and are called also, the Brass-Mills, and are for making Bisham Abbey Battery Work, as they call it, viz. brass kettles, and pans, &c. of all sorts. They have first a foundary, where, by the help of lapis caliminaris, they convert copper into brass, and then, having cast the brass in large broad plates, they beat them out by force of great hammers, wrought by the water mills, into what shape they think fit for sale. Those mills went on by the strength of a good stock of money in a company or partnership, and with very good success, ‘till at last, they turned it into what they call a Bubble, brought it to Exchange-Alley, set it a stock-jobbing in the days of our South Sea madness, and brought it up to be sold at one hundred pounds per share, whose intrinsick worth was perhaps ten pounds, ‘till, with the fall of all those things together, it fell to nothing again. Their treasurer, a tradesman in London, failed, having misapply’d about thirty thousand pounds of their money, and then, as it is usual where want of success goes before, quarelling among themselves followed after, and so the whole affair sunk into a piece of mere confusion and loss, which otherwise was certainly a very beneficial undertaking.
Next to these are two mills, both extraordinary in themselves, one for making of thimbles, a work excellently well finished, and which performs to admiration, and another for pressing of oyl from rape-seed, and flax-seed, both which, as I was told, turn to very good account to the proprietors.
Here is also brought down a vast quantity of beech wood, which grows in the woods of Buckinghamshire more plentifully than in any other part of England. This is the most useful wood, for some uses, that grows, and without which, the city of London would be put to more difficulty, than for any thing of its kind in the nation.
For fellies for the great carrs, as they are called, which ply in London streets for carrying of merchandizes, and for cole-carts, dust-carts, and such like sorts of voiture, which are not, by the city laws, allowed to draw with shod wheels, or wheels tyr’d with iron.
For billet wood for the king’s palaces, and for the plate and flint glass houses, and other such nice purposes.
Beech quarters for divers uses, particularly chairmakers, and turnery wares. The quantity of this, brought from hence, is almost incredible, and yet so is the country overgrown with beech in those parts, that it is bought very reasonable, nor is there like to be any scarcity of it for time to come.
At Bisham, over against this town, was formerly an abbey, and the remains of it are still to be seen there: The estate belongs to the antient family of the name of Hobby. Some of the heads of this family, were very eminent in former days, particularly Sir William Hobby, and Sir Edward Hobby, the latter having been imployed by Queen Elizabeth in the most important foreign negotiations. Their monuments, with those of their ladies, and sons, are now to be seen, and well worth seeing they are, in the little church of Bisham. The seat of the family, is now in Dorsetshire, where Sir Thomas Hobby is still living; but they are generally all brought hither, when they die, to be buried with their ancestors.
A little higher, on the same side of the river, is Hurley, an antient seat of the Lord Lovelace, and that family being extinct, it came, by the daughter and heiress, to Sir Henry Johnson of Blackwall, near Ratcliff, who originally was only a shipwright, or master-builder, at the great yard and dock there, of which I shall speak in their place. This lady left only one daughter, married to the Earl of Strafford, and who now enjoys the Hurly estate, in the right of the above marriages of the daughters.
There are two other towns on the Thames, which I have already mentioned, viz. Henly and Maidenhead, which have little or nothing remarkable in them; but that they have great business also, by the trade for malt and meal and timber for London, which they ship, or load, on their great barges for London, as the other towns do.
And now I am, by just degrees, come to Windsor, where I must leave talking of trade, river, navigation, meal, and malt, and describe the most beautiful, and most pleasantly situated castle, and royal palace, in the whole isle of Britain.
Windsor Castle, founded, as some say, by William the Conqueror, if there was any thing in that part, was at least rebuilt, by Edward III. But the truth of the story is this, William the Conqueror did pitch upon it as a pleasant situation, in a delightful sporting country, and agreeable to him, who delighted much in hunting; and, as he says of it, a place fitted for the entertainment of kings, and therefore treated with the Abbot of Westminster for an exchange, and so took possession of it. He also had several little lodges, or hunting houses, in the forest adjoyning, and frequently lodg’d, for the conveniency of his game, in a house which the monks before injoy’d, near, or in the town of Windsor, for the town is much more antient than the castle, and was an eminent pass upon the Thames in the reign of the Saxon kings: But to pass over the antiquity or history of the town, this is certain, That King Edward III. took an extreme liking to the place, because of its beautiful situation, and pleasing prospect, which, indeed, is not to be out-done in any part of the kingdom: Here, at length, the king resolved to fix his summer residence, and himself laid out the plan of a most magnificent palace, the same, as to the outward form and building, as we now see it; for whatever has been done for beautifying, altering, or amending the inside and apartments, there has nothing been added to the building itself, except that noble terras, which runs under the north front, and leads to the green on the park, at the east side, or end of it, along which east end, the fine lodgings, and royal apartments, were at first built, all the north part being then taken up in rooms of state, and halls for publick balls, &c.
The house itself was, indeed, a palace, and without any appearance of a fortification; but when the building was brought on to the slope of the hill on the town side, the king added ditches, ramparts, the round tower, and several addenda of strength; and so it was immediately called a castle.
The pretence which some made to an old story, that William of Wickham built this castle, is a story so evidently fabulous, and so plainly detected, that the very relations which pretend to it, discover the contrary; owning, that the king was so incensed against him, but for a suggestion, that he had a project of assuming the honour of being the founder, that it had like to have cost William all his interest in the king’s favour, which, at that time, was very great; and the Duke of Lancaster, who was his irreconcilable enemy, took the advantage of prompting the king to make that suggestion; but he cleared himself by denying, that he ever made any pretence to being the founder, only put this construction upon the words, That the money, and the reputation he had gained by building that castle for the king, had been the making of him. The words were these,
THIS MADE WICKHAM.
These words, they say, he had caused to be cut on a stone in the inner wall of the little tower, which, from him, is to this day called Winchester Tower.
But to pass over this fiction, this is certain, King Edward was the founder of the whole work, and the plan of it was much of his own contrivance; but he committed the overseeing, and direction of the works, to William of Wickham, or, if you please, William of Wickham was the Sir Christopher Wren of that Court; for William was then a layman, not having had a liberal education, but had a good genius, a mighty lover of building, and had applied his head much that way; nor, indeed, does the building itself fail to do the head, or master-builder, a great deal of honour; for in all the decorations and ornaments, which have been made since by the princes who have liked Windsor best, they have found no occasion to alter any of the front, or to pull down, or build up, add, or diminish, except it be some small matter at the entrance to the great stair-case, the kitchen, and offices below stairs, and the like; but the great north, and east fronts, the square of the inner court, the great gates at the entering from the town, with the Round Tower, and the walls annexed, are all standing in the very form in which King Edward III. left them.
The only addition in the inside, is a fine equestrian statue of King Charles II. which stands over the great well, sunk, as may be supposed, in the first building, for the supply of the castle with water, and in which was an engine for raising the water, notwithstanding the great depth, by very little labour; the contrivance and performance done by the great Sir Samuel Morland, one of the best-natur’d mechanicks of his time, and as good a mathematician.
On the outside was added, the terrace walk, built by Queen Elizabeth, and where she usually walked for an hour every day before her dinner, if not hindered by windy weather, which she had a peculiar aversion to; for as to rainy weather, it would not always hinder her; but she rather loved to walk in a mild, calm rain, with an umbrella over her head.
This walk was really a magnificent work; for as it is raised on the side of a precipice, or steep declivity of the hill, so that hill was necessarily cut down a very great depth to bring the foundation to a flat equal to the breadth, which was to be formed above. From the foundation it was raised by solid stone work, of a vast thickness, with cross walls of stone, for banding the front, and preventing any thrust from the weight of earth within. Then this work was all to be filled up again within, after all was first taken out, was thrown down the front of the hill, to push out the precipices still farther, that it might be the same slope from the terrace, as it was before from the foot of the castle.
This noble walk is covered with fine gravel, and has cavities, with dreins, to carry off all the water; so that let it rain as it will, not a drop of it is seen to rest on the walk, but it is dry, hard, and fit to walk on immediately. The breadth of this walk is very spacious on the north side, on the east side it is narrower; but neither at Versailles, or at any of the royal palaces in France, or at Rome, or Naples, have I ever seen any thing like it. The grand seignior’s terrace in the outer court of the Seraglio, next the sea, is the nearest to it, that I have read of, and yet not equal to it, if I may believe the account of those who have seen it; for that, I acknowledge, I have not seen. At the north-east corner of this terrace, where it turns south, to run on by the east side of the castle, there are steps, by which you go off upon the plain of the park, which is kept smooth as a carpet, and on the edge of which, the prospect of the terrace is doubled by a vista, south over the park, and quite up to the great park, and towards the forest. Here also is a small seat, fit for one, or but two at the most, with a high back, and cover for the head, which turns so easily, the whole being fix’d on a pin of iron, or brass, of strength sufficient, that the persons who sit in it, may turn it from the wind, and which way soever the wind blows, or how hard soever, yet they may sit in a perfect tranquillity, and enjoy a compleat calm. This is said also, to be Queen Elizabeth’s own invention, who, though she delighted in being abroad in the air, yet hated to be ruffled with the wind. It is also an admirable contrivance for the person sitting in it, to shelter himself from the sun.
This lofty terrace makes the castle quite another thing, and gives an egress to the people within to the park, and to a most beautiful walk, which King Edward III. nor his successors for some hundreds of years, knew nothing of, all their prospect being from the windows of the castle.
On that side of the building which looks out upon the terrace, are all the royal apartments, King Edward Ill’s were on the east side. The east side is now allotted to great officers of state, who are obliged to attend whenever the Court removes to Windsor, such as the Lord Treasurers, Secretaries of State, Lord High Chancellor, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, and the like; and below they have proper offices for business, if they please to order any to be done there.
You mount into the royal apartments, by several back stairs; but the publick way is up a small ascent to a flat, or half pace (for I love to make my account speak English) where there are two entries of state, by two large stair-cases, one on the left hand to the royal apartments, and the other, on the right, to St. George’s -Hall, and the royal chapel.
Before the enterance to these, on either side, you pass through the guard chambers, where you see the walls furnished with arms, and the king’s Beef-eaters, as they call the yeomen of the guard, keep their station, or, as it may be called, their main guard. These rooms lead either way, towards the fine lodgings, or towards St. George’s Hall, which you please.
In the royal lodgings, there have been so many alterations of furniture, that there can be no entering upon the particular description. In one of those lodgings, the late Queen Mary set up a rich atlas, and chints bed, which, in those times, was invaluable, the chints being of Masslapatan, on the coast of Coromandel, the finest that was ever seen before that time in England; but the rate of those things have suffered much alteration since that time. Also here was, some time before that, the picture of the late Dutchess of Portsmouth at full length, a noble piece, and of which ’twas said, King Charles II. should say, ’Twas the finest painting, of the finest woman in Christendom; but our English ladies of Queen Mary’s court, were of another opinion, and the Gallery of Beauties, as it was called, which her majesty placed in the water gallery at Hampton Court, shews several as good faces, and as good painting.
In the chimney-piece of one of these apartments, is a piece of needle-work exquisitely fine, performed, as they say, by the Queen of Scots, during the time of her confinement in Fotheringay Castle. There are several family pieces in the chimney-pieces, and other parts of those lodgings, that are valuable, because of the persons they represent: But the finery of painting is to come.
These rooms look all out north towards the terrace, and over part of the finest, and richest, vale in the world; for the same vale attending the course of the River Thames, with very little interruption, reaches to, and includes the city of London east, and the city of Oxford west: The river, with a winding, and beautiful stream, gliding gently through the middle of it, and inriching by its navigation, both the land and the people on every side.
It must be confess’d, that, as William the Conqueror expresses it in his letter to the monks at Windsor, it was a place fit for the entertainment of kings, so it is; for it seems, by nature, to be formed for a palace; and for delight; all kinds of pleasure and convenience, that any country, at least in England, can afford, are to be found here.
It may be proper here to say something to the beauties and ornaments of St. George’s Hall, though nothing can be said equal to what the eye would be witness to; ’tis surprizing, at the first entrance, to see at the upper end, the picture of King William on horseback, under him, an ascent with marble steps, a balustrade, and a half pace, which, formerly, was actually there, with room for a throne, or chair of state, for the sovereign to sit on, when on publick days he thought fit to appear in ceremony.
No man that had seen the former steps or ascent, and had gone up to the balustrade and throne, as I had done, could avoid supposing, they were there still; and as on a casual view, having been absent some years out of the nation, I was going forward towards the end of the hall, intending to go up the steps, as I had done formerly, I was confounded, when I came nearer, to see that the ascent was taken down, the marble steps gone, the chair of state, or throne, quite away, and that all I saw, was only painted upon the wall below the king and his horse; indeed it was so lively, so bright, so exquisitely performed, that I was perfectly deceived, though I had some pretension to judgment in pictures too; nor was my eye alone deceived, others were under the same deception, who were then with me.
When I came to the farther end, and look’d from the throne, as I called it, down the hall. I was again surprized, though most agreeably, I confess, viz. The painting on the side of the hall, which was the representation of Prince Edward’s triumph, in imitation of Caesar’s glorious entry into Rome, and which was drawn marching from the lower end of the room, to the upper, that is to say, from the door, which is in the corner on the north side of the hall, was now wholly inverted, and the same triumph was performed again; but the march turned just the other way.
That this could be done no other way, but by wiping the whole work out, and painting it all over again, was easy to conclude, seeing it was not done upon cloth, but upon the mere plaister of the wall, as appeared by the salts of the lime in the wall, having work’d out, and spoiled a great piece of the paint; besides, the nature of the thing forbids; for if it had been a canvas, turning it would have been impracticable, for then all the imagery would have stood heels up, unless it had been carried on to the directly opposite part of the hall, and that could not be, because there were the windows, looking all into the inner court of the castle.
The first painting was done by Mr. Varrio, who, after finishing this work, was entertained for 12 years at Burley House, near Stamford, by that great lover of art, and particularly of fine painting, the Earl of Excester: After which King William entertained him again, and, as they told me, he performed this second painting of the hall, with greater mastership of hand, than he had done the first. The painting of the cielings generally remain, being finished by the same hand in a most exquisite manner at first.
At the west end of the hall, is the chapel royal, the neatest and finest of the kind in England; the carv’d work is beyond any that can be seen in England, the altar-piece is that of the institution, or, as we may call it, our Lord’s first supper. I remember, that going with some friends to shew them this magnificent palace, it chanced to be at the time when the Dissenters were a little uneasy at being obliged to kneel at the Sacrament; one of my friends, who, as I said, I carried to see Windsor Castle, was a Dissenter, and when he came into the chapel, he fix’d his eyes upon the altar-piece with such a fix’d, steady posture, and held it so long, that I could not but take notice of it, and asked him, Whether it was not a fine piece? Yes, says he, it is; but, whispering to me, he added, How can your people prosecute us for refusing to kneel at the Sacrament? Don’t you see there, that though our Saviour himself officiates, they are all sitting about the table?
I confess it surprized me, and, at first, I knew not what answer to make to him; but I told him, That was not a place for him and I to dispute it, we would talk of it afterwards, and so we did, but brought it to no conclusion, so ’tis needless to mention it any more here.
After we had spent some hours in viewing all that was curious on this side, we came down to the dungeon, or Round Tower, which goes up a long, but easy, ascent of steps, and is very high. Here we were obliged to deliver up our swords, but no where else.
There is nothing curious here: The governor, or constable’s lodgings, are very well, and neatly furnished, but nothing extraordinary, especially they will not look so, after seeing the fine lodgings, as above. From this tower, you see St. Paul’s Cathedral at London, very plainly: Coming down from hence, we came into the other court, where is the great Chapel of the Garter, and the house or college for the poor knights, as they are called.
The late Duke of Northumberland, who was constable of this castle, met with a very strange, and uncommon accident in coming hither from Stanes in his coach; for being benighted, as we call it in England, the night also very dark, and passing by a place where there are some houses, tho’ not a town, and where the road goes close to the river, whether his coachman did not see the water, or mistook it for the water in the road, I know not, but he plunged in the horses, coach and all, into the river, and at a place where the water was exceeding deep, and the bank steep; so that if help had not come immediately from a gentleman’s house, which was close to the road, the servants crying out loud enough to alarm them, his grace, and a gentleman who was in the coach with him, had unavoidably perished; and, as it was, he was a considerable time under water, so that he was in the extremity of danger.
I might go back here to the history of the Order of the Garter, the institution of which by King Edward III. not only had its original here, but seems to be seated here, as a native of the place; and that this is the place where the ceremonies of it, the instalments, feasts, &c. are always to be performed: But this is done so fully in other authors, and by so many, that it would be falling into that error, which I condemn in others, and making my accounts be, what I resolved, from the beginning, they should not be; namely, A copy of other men’s performances. I shall only give you out of Mr. Ashmole, a list of the first knights who had the honour of this Order, and who have been succeeded by so many kings, dukes, and sovereign princes abroad, as well as noble-men, and peers of this kingdom at home. The names of the first knights are as follow.
|King Edward III.||Ralph, Earl of Stafford,|
|His Son Edward the Black
|William Montacute, Earl of
|Henry, Duke of Lancaster,||Roger Mortimer, Earl of March,|
|Thomas, Earl of Warwick,||John de Lysle,|
|Peers Capitow de la Bouch,||Bartholomew Burghersh,|
|John de Beauchamp,||Hugh Wrotesley,|
|John de Mohun,||Nele Loring,|
|Hugh Courtenay,||John Chandos,|
|Thomas Holland,||James de Audeley,|
|John de Grey,||Otho Holland,|
|Richard Fitz Simon,||Henry Eam,|
|Miles Stapleton,||Sanchet Daubricourt,|
|Thomas Wale,||Walter Paveley, alias Pevrell.|
It is true, these were not all noble-men, that is to say, not all peers, neither does the institution confine the order to such; but ’tis certain, they were all men of great characters and stations, either in the army, or in the civil administration, and such as the sovereign did not think it below him to make his companions; for so they are called.
The lower court, as I mentioned, of the castle, though not so beautiful, for the stately lodgings, rooms of state, &c. is particularly glorious for this fine chapel of the Order, a most beautiful and magnificent work, and which shews the greatness, not only of the Court in those days, but the spirit and genius of the magnanimous founder. The chapel is not only fine within, but the workmanship without is extraordinary; nothing so antient is to be seen so very beautiful. The chapel of St. Stephen’s in Westminster-Abby, called Henry VIIth’s Chapel, and King’s College Chapel at Cambridge, built by Henry VI. are fine buildings; but they are modern, compared to this, which was begun, as by the inscribed dates upon the works appears, in the year 1337.
The coats of arms, and the various imagery &c. even inside and outside, not only of the king, but of several of the first Knights Companions, are most admirably finished, and the work has stood out the injury of time to admiration; the beauty of the building remains without any addition, and, indeed, requiring none.
’Tis observable, that King Edward owns this chapel was begun by his ancestors, and some think it was by King Edward I. and that he himself was baptized in it, and that there was a castle built by William the Conqueror also: As to the chapel, which was then called a church, or a convent, King Edward III. did not pull down the old building intirely, but he added all the choir to the first model, and several other proper parts for the purposes intended; as houses and handsome apartments for the canons, dignitaries, and other persons belonging to the church, which are generally situated on the north side of the square, out of sight, or rather skreen’d from the common view by the church itself, which dwellings are, notwithstanding, very good, and well accommodated for the persons who are possessors of them; then the king finished it in the manner we now see it: As for the old castle, the building of William the Conqueror, the king pulled it intirely down, even to the very foundation, forming a new building according to the present plan, and which stood, as above, to the time of King Charles II. without any alteration.
The establishment for this chapel was very considerable, by the donation of divers subjects, before it was set apart to be the chapel of the Order; the Duke of Suffolk in particular, as appears in Dugdale’s Monasticon, gave near three thousand acres of land, nineteen manors, one hundred seventy messuages and tofts, and several advowsons of churches to it, which, with other gifts afterwards, made the revenue above one thousand pounds a year in those days, which was a prodigious sum, as money went at that time.
In the choir are the stalls for the knights of the Order, with a throne for the sovereign; also stalls in the middle of it for the poor knights pensioners, who live in their house or hospital on the south side of the square or court which the church stands in.
Here are to be seen, the banners of the knights who now enjoy the honour of the Garter: When they die, those banners are taken down, and the coat of arms of the deceased knight set up in the place allotted for those arms over the same stall, so that those coats of arms are a living history, or rather a record of all the knights that ever have been since the first institution of the Order, and how they succeeded one another; by which it appears, that kings, emperors and sovereign princes, have not thought it below them to accept of the honour of being Knights Companions of this Order; while, at the same time, it must be noted to the honour of the English Crown, that our kings have never thought fit to accept of any of their Orders abroad, of what kind soever, whether Popish or Protestant; that of the Cordon Blue, or the Cordon Blanc, the Cordon Noir, or the Cordon Rouge, the Golden Fleece of Spain, the Holy Ghost of France, or the Black Eagle of Prussia, or any other; whereas of the Garter, there is an account by the register of the Order, that there are reckoned up of this most noble company,
|Eight Emperors of Germany.
Three Kings of Sweden.
Five Kings of Denmark.
Two Kings of Prussia.
Three Kings of Spain,
Five Princes of Orange,
Five Kings of France.
Four Dukes, Peers of France.
Two Noblemen of the House
of Duras in France, viz.
Galliard de Duras, & Lewis
de Duras, Earl of Fever-
One King of Scotland, besides
James VI. who became
Sovereign of the Order.
Five Kings of Portugal.
One King of Poland.
Two Kings of Naples.
One King of Aragon.
Three Infants of Portugal.
|One Prince of the House of
the King of Bohemia, Prince
One Prince of Denmark,
One Bishop of Osnaburg.
Five Princes of Lunenburg.
One Elector of Brandeburg.
Seven Electors Palatines.
Two Electors of Saxony.
Two Dukes of Lorrain.
Three Dukes of Wirtemberg.
Two Dukes of Holstein.
Two Grandees of Spain
Two Dukes de Urbino in Italy.
One Duke of Savoy.
Three Princes of England not
viz. Edward the
Black Prince, the Duke of
Gloucester, and Prince
Several kings, and persons of high rank have been buried also in this chapel; as Edward IV. and Charles I. Also here is the family repository, or burying ground of the Dukes of Beauford, who are a natural branch of the royal family, by the antient House of Lancaster; and in the chapel where the vault is there is a very noble monument of the last duke save one.
All the ceremonies observed here in the installment of the knights, are so perfectly and fully set down in Mr. Ashmole’s History of the Order of the Garter, that nothing can be said, but what must be a copy from him, which, as above, I studiously decline, and therefore refer you to him.
Besides the foreign princes, Companions of this famous Order as above; there is a little gallaxie of English nobility, the flower of so many Courts, and so many ages, to whose families the ensigns of the Order have been an honour, and who are not the least of the honour this Order has to boast of.
In the first institution, there was but one duke, namely, the great Duke of Lancaster; but as that order of nobility is since much increased in England, since the days of King Edward III. so in the present list of knights, we find no less than fifteen dukes, including the Prince of Wales, who is also Duke of Cornwall. The list of the present knights are as follow, viz.
George Prince of Wales,
Duke of York, the king’s brother,
Duke of Cleveland and Southampton,
Duke of Somerset,
Duke of Richmond,
Duke of St. Albans,
Duke of Devonshire,
Duke of Argyle,
Duke of Newcastle,
Duke of Kent,
Duke of Kingstone,
Duke of Montague,
Duke of Grafton,
Duke of Dorset,
Duke of Rutland,
Earl of Lincoln,
Earl of Pembroke,
Earl of Berkley,
Earl of Peterborough,
Earl of Strafford,
Earl of Scarborough,
Lord Visc. Townshend.
As the upper court and building are fronted with the fine terrace as above, so the lower court, where this fine chapel stands, is walled round with a very high wall, so that no buildings, if there was room for any, could overlook it, which wall goes round the west end of the court to the gate, which looking south, leads into the town, as the gate of the upper court looks likewise S.E. into the park, which they call the Little Park.
The parks about Windsor are very agreeable, and suitable to the rest; the little park, which is so, only compared to the great park, is above three miles round, the great one fourteen, and the forest above thirty: This park is particular to the Court, the other are open for riding, hunting, and taking the air for any gentlemen that please.
The lodges in those parks, are no more lodges, tho’ they retain the name, but palaces, and might pass for such in other countries; but as they are all eclipsed by the palace itself, so it need only be added, That those lodges are principally beautified by the grandeur of the persons to whom the post of rangers have been assigned, who, having been inriched by other advancements, honours and profitable employments, thought nothing too much to lay out to beautify their apartments, in a place, which it was so much to their honour, as well as conveniency, to reside; such is the lodge, which belongs to Admiral Churchill, the Dutchess of Marlborough and others.
I cannot leave Windsor, without taking notice, that we crossed the Thames upon a wooden bridge, for all the bridges on the river, between London and Oxford, are of timber, for the conveniency of the barges: Here we saw Eaton College, the finest school for what we call grammar learning, for it extends only to the humanity class, that is in Britain, or, perhaps, hi Europe.
The building, except the great school room, is antient, the chapel truly Gothick; but all has been repaired, at a very great expence, out of the college stock, within these few years.
The gardens are very fine, and extended from the college, down, almost, to the bank of the Thames; they are extremely well planted, and perfectly well kept.
This college was founded by King Henry VI. a prince munificent in his gifts, for the encouragement of learning, to profusion; Witness, besides this noble foundation, that of King’s College in Cambridge, to which the scholars of Eaton are annually removed
This college has a settled revenue of about five thousand pounds per annum, and maintains as follows.
A vice provost, who is also a fellow.
Seven fellows, inclusive of the vice provost.
Seventy scholars on the foundation, besides a full choir for the chapel, with officers, and servants usual.
The school is divided into the upper and lower, and each into three classes.
Each school has one master, and each master four assistants, or ushers.
None are received into the upper school, ‘till they can make Latin verse, and have a tolerable knowledge of the Greek.
In the lower school, the children are received very young, and are initiated into all school-learning.
Besides the seventy scholars upon the foundation, there are always abundance of children, generally speaking, of the best families, and of persons of distinction, who are boarded in the houses of the masters, and within the college.
The number of scholars instructed here, is from 400 to 550; but has not been under 400 for many years past.
The elections of scholars for the university out of this school, is worth taking notice of: It being a time of jubilee to the school.
The election is once every year, and is made on the first Tuesday in August. In order to the election, there are deputed from King’s College in Cambridge, three persons, viz. The Provost of King’s College for the time being, with one senior, and one junior poser, fellows of the same college. To these are joyn’d, on the part of Eaton College, the provost, the vice provost, and the head master.
These calling the scholars of the upper class, called the sixth class, before them, and examining them in the several parts of their learning, choose out twelve such as they think best qualified, and these are entered in a roll, or list, for the university. The youths thus chosen, are not immediately removed from the school, but must wait till vacancies fall in the said King’s College, to make room to receive them; and as such vacancies happen, they are then called up, as they stand in seniority in the said list, or roll of election.
When a scholar from Eaton, comes to King’s College, he is received upon the foundation, and pursues his studies there for three years, after which, he claims a Fellowship, unless forfeited in the terms of the statutes; that is to say, by marriage, accepting of ecclesiastick preferments, &c. The present governors at Eaton, are,
The Provost, The Reverend and Honourable Dr. Godolphin, Dean of St. Paul’s .
Vice Provost, and Senior Fellow, The Right Reverend Dr. Wiston, Bishop of Excester.
Second Fellow, The Right Reverend Dr. Waddington, Bishop of Chichester.
Third Fellow, The Reverend Dr. Richardson, Master of Peter House in Cambridge.
Fourth Fellow, The Reverend Dr. Evans.
Fifth Fellow, The Reverend Dr. Carter.
Sixth Fellow, The Reverend and Honourable Mr. Hill, once one of the Lords of the Treasury.
Seventh Fellow, The Reverend Dr. Sleech.
The present masters are,
Dr. Henry Bland, Head Master.
Mr. Francis Goode, Second Master.
N.B. The Provost has a noble house and garden, besides the use of the college gardens, at his pleasure.
And now being come to the edge of Middlesex, which is a county too full of cities, towns, and palaces, to be brought in at the close of a letter, and with which I purpose to begin my next travels; I conclude this letter, and am,
Your most humble servant.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53