I HAVE spent so much time, and taken up so much room in my description of London, and the adjacent parts, that I must be the more cautious, at least, as to needless excursions in the country near it.
The villages round London partake of the influence of London, so much, that it is observ’d as London is encreased, so they are all encreased also, and from the same causes.
I have taken notice of this in my first setting out, and particularly in the counties of Essex, Kent, and Surrey; and as the same appears to an extreme in Middlesex: I shall only give some discriptions, and say the less of the reason of it.
Hackney and Bromley are the first villages which begin the county of Middlesex, east; for Bow as reckon’d to Stepney, is a part of the great mass. This town of Hackney is of a great extent, containing no less than 12 hamlets or separate villages, tho’ some of them now join, viz.
All these, tho’ some of them are very large villages, make up but one parish (viz.) of Hackney.
All these, except the Wyck-house, are within a few years so encreas’d in buildings, and so fully inhabited, that there is no comparison to be made between their present and past state: Every separate hamlet is encreas’d, and some of them more than treble as big as formerly; Indeed as this whole town is included in the bills of mortality, tho’ no where joining to London, it is in some respects to be call’d a part of it.
This town is so remarkable for the retreat of wealthy citizens, that there is at this time near a hundred coaches kept in it; tho’ I will not join with a certain satyrical author, who said of Hackney, that there were more coaches than Christians in it.
Newington, Tottenham, Edmonton, and Enfield stand all in a line N. from the city; the encrease of buildings is so great in them all, that they seem to a traveller to be one continu’d street; especially Tottenham and Edmonton, and in them all, the new buildings so far exceed the old, especially in the value of them, and figure of the inhabitants, that the fashion of the towns are quite altered.
At Tottenham we see the remains of an antient building called the Cross, from which the town takes the name of High-Cross. There is a long account of the antiquities of this place lately published, to which I refer, antiquities as I have observed, not being my province in this work, but a description of things in their present state.
Here is at this town a small but pleasant seat of the Earl of Colerain, in Ireland; his lordship is now on his travels, but has a very good estate here extending from this town to Muzzle-hill, and almost to High-gate.
The first thing we see in Tottenham is a small but beautiful house, built by one Mr. Wanly, formerly a goldsmith, near Temple Bar; it is a small house, but for the beauty of the building and the gardens, it is not outdone by any of the houses on this side the country.
There is not any thing more fine in their degree, than most of the buildings this way; only with this observation, that they are generally belonging to the middle sort of mankind, grown wealthy by trade, and who still taste of London; some of them live both in the city, and in the country at the same time: yet many of these are immensely rich.
High-gate and Hamstead are next on the north-side; At the first is a very beautiful house built by the late Sir William Ashurst, on the very summit of the hill, and with a view from the very lowest windows over the whole vale, to the city: And that so eminently, that they see the very ships passing up and down the river for 12 or 15 miles below London. The Jews have particularly fixt upon this town for their country retreats, and some of them are very wealthy; they live there in good figure, and have several trades particularly depending upon them, and especially, butchers of their own to supply them with provisions kill’d their own way; also, I am told, they have a private synagogue here.
As the county does not extend far this way, I take no notice of smaller towns; nor is there any thing of note but citizens houses for several miles; except that in the chase, at Enfield is a fine lodge formerly possest by the Earl of Denbigh: Now we are told that General Pepper is fixt ranger of the chase, and resides there.
This chase was once a very beautiful place, and when King James I. resided at Theobalds, which he loved for the pleasure of his hunting; it was then very full of deer, and all sorts of game; but it has suffered several depredations since that, and particularly in the late Protector’s usurpation, when it was utterly stript, both of game, and timber, and let out in farms to tenants, for the use of the publick.
After the Restoration, it was reassumed, and laid open again; Woods and groves were every where planted, and the whole chase stored with deer: But the young timber which indeed began to thrive, was so continually plundered, and the deer-stealers have so harass’d the deer, and both perhaps by those who should have preserved it, as well as by others, that the place was almost ruined for a forrest, and little but hares and bushwood was to be found in it. But now we hear, that by the vigilance of General Pepper, the chase is much recovered, and likely to be a place fit for the diversion of a prince, as it has been before.
At a village a little farther north, called Totteridge, Mr. Charleton of the Ordnance Office, has a very delicious seat, the house new built, and the gardens extremely fine: In the same town the old Earl of Anglesey had also a house, but not extraordinary for any thing more than a rural situation, very retired, but yet very agreeable.
The Mineral Waters, or Barnet Wells, are a little beyond this house, on the declivity of a hill; they were formerly in great request, being very much approved by physicians; but of late, they began to decline, and are now almost forgotten: Other waters at Islington, and at Hamstead having grown popular in their stead.
Hampstead indeed is risen from a little country village, to a city, not upon the credit only of the waters, tho’ ’tis apparent, its growing greatness began there; but company increasing gradually, and the people liking both the place and the diversions together; it grew suddenly populous, and the concourse of people was incredible. This consequently raised the rate of lodgings, and that encreased buildings, till the town grew up from a little village, to a magnitude equal to some cities; nor could the uneven surface, inconvenient for building, uncompact, and unpleasant, check the humour of the town, for even on the very steep of the hill, where there’s no walking twenty yards together, without tugging up a hill, or stradling down a hill, yet ’tis all one, the buildings encreased to that degree, that the town almost spreads the whole side of the hill.
On the top of the hill indeed, there is a very pleasant plain, called the Heath, which on the very summit, is a plain of about a mile every way; and in good weather ’tis pleasant airing upon it, and some of the streets are extended so far, as that they begin to build, even on the highest part of the hill. But it must be confest, ’tis so near heaven, that I dare not say it can be a proper situation, for any but a race of mountaineers, whose lungs have been used to a rarity’d air, nearer the second region, than any ground for 30 miles round it.
It is true, this place may be said to be prepared for a summer dwelling, for in winter nothing that I know can recommend it: ’Tis true, a warm house, and good company, both which are to be had here, go a great way to make amends for storms, and severity of cold.
Here is a most beautiful prospect indeed, for we see here Hanslop Steeple one way, which is within eight miles of Northampton, N.W. to Landown-Hill in Essex another way, east, at least 66 miles from one another; the prospect to London, and beyond it to Bansted Downs, south; Shooters-Hill, S.E. Red-Hill, S.W. and Windsor-Castle, W. is also uninterrupted: Indeed due north, we see no farther than to Barnet, which is not above six miles; but the rest is sufficient.
At the foot of this hill is an old seat of the Earls of Chesterfields, called Bellsize; which for many years had been neglected, and as it were forgotten: But being taken lately by a certain projector to get a penny, and who knew by what handle to take the gay part of the world, he has made it a true house of pleasure; Here, in the gardens he entertained the company with all kind of sport, and in the house with all kinds of game, to say no more of it: This brought a wonderful concourse of people to the place, for they were so effectually gratified in all sorts of diversion, that the wicked part at length broke in, till it alarm’d the magistrates, and I am told it has been now in a manner suppress’d by the hand of justice.
Here was a great room fitted up with abundance of dexterity for their balls, and had it gone on to a degree of masquerading as I hear was actually begun, it would have bid fair to have had half the town run to it: One saw pictures and furniture there beyond what was to have been expected in a meer publick house; and ’tis hardly credible how it drew company to it; But it could not be, no British government could be supposed to bear long with the liberties taken on such publick occasions: So as I have said, they are reduc’d, at least restrain’d from liberties which they could not preserve by their prudence.
Yet Hampstead is not much the less frequented for this. But as there is (especially at the Wells) a conflux of all sorts of company, even Hampstead itself has suffered in its good name; and you see sometimes more gallantry than modesty: So that the ladies who value their reputation, have of late more avoided the wells and walks at Hampstead, than they had formerly done.
I could not be at Hampstead, and not make an excursion to Edgworth, a little market town, on the road to St. Albans; I say to St. Albans, because ’tis certain, that this was formerly the only or the main road from London to St. Albans; being the famous high road, call’d Watling-street, which in former times reached from London to Shrewsbury, and on towards Wales.
The remains of this road are still to be seen here, and particularly in this, (viz.) That from Hide-Park Corner, just where Tyburn stands, the road makes one straight line without any turning, even to the very town of St. Albans. In this road lyes the town of Edgworth, some will have it that it was built by King Edgar the Saxon monarch, and called by his name, and so will have the town called Edgar, and that it was built as a garrison on the said Watling-street, to preserve the high-way from thieves: But all this I take to be fabulous, and without authority.
Near this town, and which is the reason for naming it, the present Duke of Chandos has built a most magnificent palace or mansion house, I might say, the most magnificent in England: It is erected where formerly stood an old seat belonging to Sir Lancelot Lake, whose son and successor struggled hard to be chosen representative for the county, but lost it, and had a great interest and estate hereabouts.
This palace is so beautiful in its situation, so lofty, so majestick the appearance of it, that a pen can but ill describe it, the pencil not much better; ’tis only fit to be talk’d of upon the very spot, when the building is under view, to be consider’d in all its parts. The fronts are all of freestone, the columns and pilasters are lofty and beautiful, the windows very high, with all possible ornaments: The pilasters running flush up to the cornish and architrave, their capitals seems as so many supporters to the fine statues which stand on the top, and crown the whole; in a word, the whole structure is built with such a profusion of expence, and all finish’d with such a brightness of fancy, goodness of judgment; that I can assure you, we see many palaces of sovereign princes abroad, which do not equal it, which yet pass for very fine too either within or without. And as it is a noble and well contriv’d building; so it is as well set out, and no ornament is wanting to make it the finest house in England. The plaistering and guilding is done by the famous Pargotti an Italian, said to be the finest artist in those particular works now in England. The great salon or hall is painted by Paolucci, for the duke spared no cost to have every thing as rich as possible. The pillars supporting the building are all of marble: The great staircass is the finest by far of any in England; and the steps are all of marble, every step being of one whole piece, about 22 foot in length.
Nor is the splendor which the present duke lives in at this place, at all beneath what such a building calls for, and yet, so far is the duke from having exhausted himself by this prodigy of a building; that we see him since that laying out a scheme, and storing up materials for building another house for his city convenience, on the north side of the new square, call’d Oxford or Cavendish Square, near Maribone; and if that is discontinued it seems to be so, only because the duke found an opportunity to purchase another much more to his advantage; namely, the Duke of Ormond’s house in St. James’s Square.
It is in vain to attempt to describe the beauties of this building at Cannons; the whole is a beauty, and as the firmament is a glorious mantle filled with, or as it were made up of a concurrence of lesser glories the stars; so every part of this building adds to the beauty of the whole. The avenue is spacious and majestick, and as it gives you the view of two fronts, join’d as it were in one, the distance not admitting you to see the angle, which is in the centre; so you are agreeably drawn in, to think the front of the house almost twice as large as it really is. And yet when you come nearer you are again surprized, by seeing the winding passage opening as it were a new front to the eye, of near 120 feet wide, which you had not seen before, so that you are lost a while in looking near hand for what you so evidently saw a great way off. Tho’ many of the palaces in Italy are very large fine buildings, yet I venture to say, not Italy it self can show such a building rais’d from the common surface, by one private hand, and in so little a time as this; For Cannons as I was inform’d, was not three years a building and bringing the gardens and all, to the most finish’d beauty we now see it in.
The great palaces in Italy, are either the work of sovereign princes, or have been ages in their building; one family laying the design, and ten succeeding ages and families being taken up, in carrying on the building: But Cannons had not been three years in the duke’s possession, before we saw this prodigy rise out of the ground, as if he had been resolv’d to merit that motto which the French king assum’d, He saw, and it was made. The building is very lofty, and magnificent, and the gardens are so well designed, and have so vast a variety, and the canals are so large, that they are not to be out done in England; possibly the Lord Castlemains at Wanstead, may be said to equal but can not exceed them.
The inside of this house is as glorious, as the outside is fine; the lodgings are indeed most exquisitely finish’d, and if I may call it so, royally furnish’d; the chapel is a singularity, not only in its building, and the beauty of its workmanship, but in this also, that the duke maintains there a full choir, and has the worship perform’d there with the best musick, after the manner of the chappel royal, which is not done in any other noble man’s chappel in Britain; no not the Prince of Wales’s, though heir apparent to the crown.
Nor is the chapel only furnish’d with such excellent musick, but the duke has a set of them to entertain him every day at dinner. The avenues and vista’s to this house are extreamly magnificent, the great walk or chief avenue is near a mile in length, planted with two double rows of trees, and the middle walk broad enough for a troop of horse to march in front; in the middle way there is a large basin or fountain of water, and the coaches drive round it on either side; there are three other avenues exceeding fine, but not so very large; the beauty of them all will double, with time, when the trees may be grown, like those of New-Hall, in Essex.
Two things extreamly add to the beauty of this house, namely, the chapel, and the library; but I cannot enlarge, having taken up so much room in the view of this house, as must oblige me to abate in others, to whom I am willing to do what justice I can. In his gardens and out-houses the duke keeps a constant night-guard, who take care of the whole place, duly walk the rounds, and constantly give the hour to the family at set appointed places and times; so that the house has some waking eyes about it, to keep out thieves and spoilers night and day. In a word, no nobleman in England, and very few in Europe, lives in greater splendour, or maintains a grandeur and magnificence, equal to the Duke of Chandos.
Here are continually maintained, and that in the dearest part of England, as to house expences, not less than one hundred and twenty in family, and yet a face of plenty appears in every part of it; nothing needful is with-held, nothing pleasant is restrained; every servant in the house is made easy, and his life comfortable; and they have the felicity that it is their lord’s desire and delight that it should be so.
But I am not writing panegyrick. I left Cannons with regret, the family all gay, and in raptures on the marriage of the Marquiss of Caernarvon, the dukes eldest son, just then celebrated with the Lady Katharine Talmash daughter of the Earl of Dysert which marriage adds to the honour and estate also, of the family of Chandos.
Two mile from hence, we go up a small ascent by the great road, which for what reason I know not, is there call’d Crab Tree Orchard, when leaving the Street Way on the right, we enter a spacious heath or common call’d Bushy-Heath, where, again, we have a very agreeable prospect.
I cannot but remember, with some satisfaction, that having two foreign gentlemen in my company, in our passing over this heath, I say I could not but then observe, and now remember it with satisfaction, how they were surprized at the beauty of this prospect, and how they look’d at one another, and then again turning their eyes every way in a kind of wonder, one of them said to the other, That England was not like other country’s, but it was all a planted garden.
They had there on the right hand, the town of St. Albans in their view; and all the spaces between, and further beyond it, look’d indeed like a garden. The inclos’d corn-fields made one grand parterre, the thick planted hedge rows, like a wilderness or labyrinth, divided in espaliers; the villages interspers’d, look’d like so many several noble seats of gentlemen at a distance. In a word, it was all nature, and yet look’d all like art; on the left hand we see the west-end of London, Westminster-Abbey, and the Parliament-House, but the body of the city was cut off by the hill, at which Hampstead intercepted the sight on that side.
More to the south we had Hampton Court, and S.W. Windsor, and between both, all those most beautiful parts of Middlesex and Surrey, on the bank of the Thames, of which I have already said so much, and which are indeed the most agreeable in the world.
At the farther end of this heath, is the town of Bushy, and at the end of the town, the Earl of Essex has a very good old seat, situate in a pleasant park, at Cashiobery; a little farther, is the town of Hemstead, noted for an extraordinary cornmarket, and at Ashridge, near Hemstead, is an antient mansion house of the Duke of Bridge-water, both these are old built houses, but both shew the greatness of the antient nobility, in the grandeur and majesty of the building, and in the well-planted parks, and high grown woods, with which they are surrounded, than which, there are few finer in England. St. Albans is the capital town, tho’ not the county town of Hertfordshire, it has a great corn market, and is famous for its antient church, built on the ruins, or part of the ruins of the most famous abbey of Verulam; the greatness of which, is to be judg’d by the old walls, which one sees for a mile before we come to town.
In this church as some workmen were digging for the repairs of the church, they found some steps which led to a door in a very thick stone wall, which being opened, there was discover’d an arched stone vault, and in the middle of it a large coffin near 7 foot long, which being open’d, there was in it the corps of a man, the flesh not consum’d, but discolour’d; by the arms and other paintings on the wall, it appear’d that this must be the body of Humphry Duke of Gloucester, commonly call’d, the good Duke of Gloucester, one of the sons of Henry IV. and brother to King Henry V. and by the most indisputable authority,’ must have lain buried there 277 years. Viz. It being in the 26th of Hen. VI. 1477.
But I must travel no farther this way, till I have taken a journey west from London, and seen what the country affords that way; the next towns adjacent to London, are, Kensington, Chelsea, Hammersmith, Fulham, Twickenham, &c. all of them near, or adjoyning to the river of Thames, and which, by the beauty of their buildings, make good the north shore of the river, answerable, to what I have already describ’d. Kensington cannot be nam’d without mentioning the king’s palace there; a building which may now be call’d entirely new, tho’ it was originally an old house of the Earl of Nottingham’s of whom the late King William bought it, and then enlarg’d it as we see; some of the old building still remaining in the center of the house.
The house it self fronts to the garden three ways, the gardens being now made exceeding fine, and enlarged to such a degree, as to reach quite from the great road to Kensington town, to the Acton road north, more than a mile. The first laying out of these gardens was the design of the late Queen Mary, who finding the air agreed with, and was necessary to the health of the king, resolved to make it agreeable to her self too, and gave the first orders for enlarging the gardens: the author of this account, having had the honour to attend her majesty, when she first viewed the ground, and directed the doing it, speaks this with the more satisfaction.
The late Queen Anne compleated what Queen Mary began, and delighted very much in the place; and often was pleased to make the green house which is very beautiful, her summer supper house.
But this house has lost much of its pleasantness on one account, namely, that all the princes that ever might be said to single it out for their delight, had the fate to dye in it; namely, King William, Prince George of Denmark, and lastly, Queen Anne her self; since which it has not been so much in request, King George having generally kept his summer, when in England, at Hampton Court.
As this palace opens to the west, there are two great wings built, for lodgings for such as necessarily attend the court, and a large port cocher at the entrance, with a postern and a stone gallery on the south side of the court which leads to the great stair-case.
This south wing was burnt down by accident, the king and queen being both there, the queen was a little surprized at first, apprehending some treason, but King William a stranger to fears smil’d at the suggestion, chear’d her majesty up, and being soon dress’d, they both walked out into the garden, and stood there some hours till they perceived the fire by the help that came in, and by the diligence of the foot guards, was gotten under foot.
It is no wonder if the Court being so much at Kensington, that town has encreased in buildings, so I do not place that to the same account as of the rest; On the south side of the street over against the palace, is a fair new large street, and a little way down a noble square full of very good houses, but since the Court has so much declin’d the palace, the buildings have not much encreased.
South of this town stands Chelsea, a town of palaces, and which by its new extended buildings seems to promise itself to be made one time or other a part of London, I mean London in its new extended capacity, which if it should once happen, what a monster must London be, extending (to take it in a line) from the farther end of Chelsea, west, to Deptford-Bridge east, which I venture to say, is at least eleven miles.
Here is the noblest building, and the best foundation of its kind in the world, viz. for the entertainment of maimed and old soldiers. If we must except the hospital call’d Des Invalids at Paris, it must be only that the number is greater there, but I pretend to say that the oeconomy of the invalids there, is not to compare with this at Chelsea; and as for the provisions, the lodging and attendance given, Chelsea infinitely exceeds that at Paris. Here the poor men are lodg’d, well cloathed, well furnish’d, and well fed, and I may say there are thousands of poor families in England who are said to live well too, and do not feed as the soldiers there are fed; and as for France, I may add, they know nothing there what it is to live so. The like may be said of the invalid sea men at the hospital of Greenwich.
Near this hospital or college, is a little palace, I had almost call’d it a paradise, of the late earl of Ranelagh. It is true that his lordship was envied for the work, but had it been only for the beauties of the building, and such things as these, I should have been hardly able to censure it, the temptation wou’d have been so much; In a word, the situation, the house, the gardens, the pictures, the prospect, and the lady, all is such a charm; who could refrain from coveting his neighbours . . . . &c.
It is impossible to give an account of all the rest of England in this one volume, while London and its adjacent parts, take up one half of it: I must be allowed therefore to abate the description of private houses and gardens, in which (this part especially) so abounds, that it would take up two or three volumes equal to this, to describe the county of Middlesex only.
Let it suffice to tell you that there’s an incredible number of fine houses built m all these towns, within these few years, and that England never had such a glorious show to make in the world before; In a word, being curious in this part of my enquiry, I find two thousand houses which in other places wou’d pass for palaces, and most, if not all the possessors whereof, keep coaches in the little towns or villages of the county of Middlesex, west of London only; and not reckoning any of the towns within three miles of London; so that I exclude Chelsea, Kensington, Knights-Bridge, Marybon, and Paddington; as for Hampstead, that lying north of London, is not concerned in the reckoning, for I reckon’d near a thousand more such in the towns north of London, within the county of Middlesex, and exclusive of Hackney, for Hackney I esteem as part of London itself as before: among all these three thousand houses I reckon none but such, as are built since the year 1666, and most of them since the Revolution.
Among these, that is to say, among the first two thousand new foundations, there are very many houses belonging to the nobility, and to persons of quality, (some of whom) have been in the ministry; which excel all the rest. Such as the Lord Peterborough’s at Parsons Green; Lord Hallifax at Bushy Park, near Hampton Court; the late Earl of Marr, Earl of Bradford, Earl of Strafford, Earl of Shrewsbury, Earl of Burlington, Earl of Falconberg, Lady Falkland, Lord Brook, Lord Dunbarr, Moses Hart, Mr. Barker, Sir Stephen Fox, Sir Thomas Frankland, General Wettham, Sir Godfrey Kneller, Secretary Johnson’s, and others. This last is a seat so exquisitely finish’d, that his majesty was pleased to dine there, to view the delightful place, and honour it with his presence, that very day, that I was writing this account of it. The king was pleased to dine in the green house, or rather in a pleasant room which Mr. Johnson built, joyning to the green house; from whence is a prospect every way into the most delicious gardens; which indeed for the bigness of them are not out-done in any part of the world. Here is a compleat vineyard, and Mr. Johnson who is a master of gardening, perhaps the greatest master now in England, has given a testimony that England notwithstanding the changeable air and uncertain climate, will produce most excellent if due care be taken in the gardening or cultivating, as also in the curing and managing part; and without due care in these, not France it self will do it.
Sir Stephen Fox’s house at Chiswick is the flower of all the private gentlemens palaces in England. Here when the late King William, who was an allowed judge of fine buildings, and of gardening also, had seen the house and garden, he stood still on the terras for near half a quarter of an hour without speaking one word, when turning at last to the Earl of Portland, the king said, This place is perfectly fine, I could live here five days.1 In the village of Hammersmith, which was formerly a long scattering place, full of gardeners grounds, with here and there an old house of some bulk: I say, in this village we see now not only a wood of great houses and palaces, but a noble square built as it were in the middle of several handsome streets, as if the village seem’d enclin’d to grow up into a city.
Here we are told they design to obtain the grant of a market, tho’ it be so near to London, and some talk also of building a fine stone bridge over the Thames; but these things are yet but in embryo, tho’ it is not unlikely but they may be both accomplished in time, and also Hammersmith and Chiswick joyning thus, would in time be a city indeed.
I have now ranged the best part of Middlesex, a county made rich, pleasant, and populous by the neighbourhood of London: The borders of the county indeed have three market towns; which I shall but just mention, Stanes, Colebrook, and Uxbridge: This last, a pleasant large market town, famous in particular, for having abundance of noble seats of gentlemen and persons of quality in the neighbourhood: But I can not describe all the fine houses, it would be endless. This town is also famous in story, for being the town where an attempt was in vain made in the late war, to settle the peace of these nations, by a treaty; Some say both sides were sincerely inclin’d to peace; some say neither side; all I can say of it is, in the words of blessed St. Paul, Sathan hindred. There are but three more market towns in the county, viz. Brentford, Edgworth and Enfield.
On the right hand as we ride from London to Uxbridge, or to Colebrook, we see Harrow, a little town on a very high hill, and is therefore call’d Harrow on the Hill: The church of this town standing upon the summit of the hill, and having a very handsome and high spire, they tell us, King Charles II. ridiculing the warm disputes among some critical scripturallists of those times, concerning the visible church of Christ upon earth; us’d to say of it, that if there was e’er a visible church upon earth, he believ’d this was one.
About Uxbridge, and all the way from London, as we do every where this way, we saw a great many very beautiful seats of the nobility and gentry, too many I say to enter upon the description of here.
From hence, we proceeded on the road towards Oxford; but first turned to the right to visit Aylesbury. This is the principal market town in the county of Bucks; tho’ Buckingham a much inferior place, is call’d the county town: Here also is held the election for Members of Parliament, or Knights of the Shire for the county, and county goal, and the assizes. It is a large town, has a very noble market for corn, and is famous for a large tract of the richest land in England, extended for many miles round it, almost from Tame, on the edge of Oxfordshire, to Leighton in Bedfordshire, and is called from this very town, the Vale of Aylesbury. Here it was that conversing with some gentlemen, who understood country affairs, for all the gentlemen hereabouts are graziers, tho’ all the graziers are not gentlemen; they shew’d me one remarkable pasture-field, no way parted off or separated, one piece of it from another; I say, ’tis one enclosed field of pasture ground, which was let for 1400l . per ann. to a grazier, and I knew the tenant very well, whose name was Houghton, and who confirm’d the truth of it.
It was my hap formerly, to be at Aylesbury, when there was a mighty confluence of noblemen and gentlemen, at a famous horse race at Quainton-Meadow, not far off, where was then the late Duke of Monmouth, and a great many persons of the first rank, and a prodigious concourse of people.
I had the occasion to be there again in the late queen’s reign; when the same horse race which is continu’d yearly, happen’d again, and then there was the late Duke of Marlborough, and a like concourse of persons of quality; but the reception of the two dukes was mightily differing, the last duke finding some reasons to withdraw from a publick meeting, where he saw he was not like to be used as he thought he had deserved. The late Lord Wharton, afterwards made duke, has a very good dwelling at Winchenden, and another much finer nearer Windsor, call’d Ubourn. But I do not hear that the present duke has made any additions, either to the house or gardens; they were indeed admirably fine before, and if they are but kept in the same condition, I shall think the dukes care cannot be reproach’d.
Were there not in every part of England at this time so many fine palaces, and so many curious gardens, that it would but be a repetition of the same thing to describe them; I should enter upon that task with great chearfulness here, as also at Clifden, the Earl of Orkney’s fine seat built by the late D. of Buckingham, near Windsor, and at several other places, but I proceed: We went on from Aylesbury to Thame or Tame, a large market town on the River Thames: This brings me to mention again The Vale of Aylesbury; which as I noted before, is eminent for the richest land, and perhaps the richest graziers in England: But it is more particularly famous for the head of the River Thame or Thames, which rises in this vale near a market town call’d Tring, and waters the whole vale either by itself or the several streams which run into it, and when it comes to the town of Tame, is a good large river.
At Tring abovenam’d is a most delicious house, built ? la moderne, as the French call it, by the late Mr. Guy, who was for many years Secretary of the Treasury, and continued it till near his death; when he was succeeded by the late Mr. Lowndes. The late King William did Mr. Guy the honour to dine at this house, when he set out on his expedition to Ireland, in the year 1690, the same year that he fought the battle of the Boyn; and tho’ his Majesty came from London that morning, and was resolved to lye that night at Northampton, yet he would not go away without taking a look at the fine gardens, which are perhaps the best finish’d in the worst situation of any in England. This house was afterwards bought by Sir William Gore, a merchant of London; and left by him to his eldest son, who now enjoys it.
There was an eminent contest here between Mr. Guy, and the poor of the parish, about his enclosing part of the common to make him a park; Mr. Guy presuming upon his power, set up his pales, and took in a large parcel of open land, call’d Wiggington-Common; the cottagers and farmers oppos’d it, by their complaints a great while; but finding he went on with his work, and resolv’d to do it, they rose upon him, pull’d down his banks, and forced up his pales, and carried away the wood, or set it on a heap and burnt it; and this they did several times, till he was oblig’d to desist; after some time he began again, offering to treat with the people, and to give them any equivalent for it: But that not being satisfactory, they mobb’d him again. How they accommodated it at last, I know not; but I see that Mr. Gore has a park, and a very good one but not large: I mention this as an instance of the popular claim in England; which we call right of commonage, which the poor take to be as much their property, as a rich man’s land is his own.
But to return to the Vale of Aylesbury. Here the great and antient family of Hampden flourish’d for many ages, and had very great estates: But the present heir may (I doubt) be said, not to have had equal success with some of his ancestors.
From Thame, a great corn market, the Thame joins the other branch call’d also the Thames, at a little town call’d Dorchester. I observe that most of our historians reject the notion that Mr. Cambden makes so many flourishes about, of the marriage of Thame and Isis; that this little river was call’d the Thame, and the other, the Isis; and that being join’d, they obtain’d the united name of Thamisis: I say they reject it, and so do I. At this little town of Dorchester was once the seat of the bishoprick of Lincoln.
From hence I came to Oxford, a name known throughout the learned world; a city famous in our English history for several things, besides its being an university.
So eminent for the goodness of its air, and healthy situation; that our Courts have no less than three times, if my information is right, retir’d hither, when London has been visited with the pestilence; and here they have been always safe.
It has also several times been the retreat of our princes, when the rest of the kingdom has been embroil’d in war and rebellion; and here they have found both safety and support; at least, as long as the loyal inhabitants were able to protect them.
It was famous for the noble defence of religion, which our first reformers and martyrs made here, in their learned and bold disputations against the Papists, in behalf of the Protestant religion; and their triumphant closing the debates, by laying down their lives for the truths which they asserted.
It was likewise famous for resisting the attacks of arbitrary power, in the affair of Magdalen College, in King James’s time; and the Fellows laying down their fortunes, tho’ not their lives, in defence of liberty and property.
This, to use a scripture elegance, is that city of Oxford; the greatest (if not the most antient) university in this island of Great-Britain; and perhaps the most flourishing at this time, in men of polite learning, and in the most accomplish’d masters, in all sciences, and in all the parts of acquir’d knowledge in the world.
I know there is a long contest, and yet undetermin’d between the two English universities, about the antiquity of their foundation; and as they have not decided it themselves, who am I? and what is this work? that I should pretend to enter upon that important question, in so small a tract?
It is out of question, that in the largeness of the place, the beauty of situation, the number of inhabitants, and of schollars, Oxford has the advantage. But fame tells us, that as great and applauded men, as much recommended, and as much recommending themselves to the world, and as many of them have been produced from Cambridge, as from Oxford.
Oxford has several things as a university, which Cambridge has not; and Cambridge ought not to be so meanly thought of, but that it has several things in it, which cannot be found in Oxford. For example, the theater, the museum, or chamber of rarities, the Bodleian Library, the number of colleges, and the magnificence of their buildings are on the side of Oxford, yet Kings College Chappel, and College, is in favour of Cambridge; for as it is now edifying, it is likely to be the most admir’d in a few years of all the colleges of the world.
I have said something of Cambridge; I’ll be as brief about Oxford as I can: It is a noble flourishing city, so possess’d of all that can contribute to make the residence of the scholars easy and comfortable, that no spot of ground in England goes beyond it. The situation is in a delightful plain, on the bank of a fine navigable river, in a plentiful country, and at an easy distance from the capital city, the port of the country. The city itself is large, strong, populous, and rich; and as it is adorn’d by the most beautiful buildings of the colleges, and halls, it makes the most noble figure of any city of its bigness in Europe.
To enter into the detail or description of all the colleges, halls, &c. would be to write a history of Oxford, which in so little a compass as this work can afford, must be so imperfect, so superficial, and so far from giving a stranger a true idea of the place; that it seems ridiculous, even to think it can be to any ones satisfaction. However, a list of the names and establishments of the colleges may be useful, so take them as follows, according to the seniority of their foundation.
This college was properly the university it self for about 345 years; being as they tell us, founded by King Alfred in the year 872; the old building on which the college now stands was erected by that king; after which viz. anno 1217. William Bishop of Durham, form’d it into a regular house and built the college, which however was for a long time call’d sometimes the college, sometimes the university, and by some the college of the university, there being at that time no other; till at length other colleges rising up in the same city; this was call’d University College, that is, the college which was the old university. It maintained at the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.
1 Bible clark,
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Founded by John Baliol, father to John Baliol King of Scotland, and by Dame Der Verguilla his wife, who enlarged the foundation after her husbands decease. It maintained at the end of King James the Ist’s reign,
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Founded by William de Merton, Lord Chancellour to King Henry III. afterwards Bishop of Rochester. N.B. This college was first erected at Maldon in Surrey, near Kingston, anno 1260. and translated to Oxford ten years after, by the same founder. It maintains
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Founded by Walter Stapleton Bishop of Excester, and Lord High Treasurer to King Edward II. afterwards beheaded by Queen Isabella mother to King Edward III. It was first call’d Stapleton-Hall, but afterwards on the benefaction of other inhabitants of Excester and of the county of Devon, it was ade a college. It maintained in the time of King James Ist,
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Founded by King Edward II. anno 1327. but some say Adam Brown the king’s almoner and who was the first provost, was also the founder, only that being afraid to be call’d to an account for so great wealth, he put the fame of it upon the king after his death. It had only a provost, 10 fellows, with some servants, at its first institution, but encreasing by subsequent benefactions, it maintained in King James’s time who also incorporated the college,
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Founded anno 1340. by Robert Eglesfield a private clergyman, only domestick chaplain to Queen Phillippa, Edward the 3d’s queen; ’tis said the land it stood on was his own inheritance, and he built the house at his own charge; but begging her majesty to be the patroness of his charity, he call’d it Queens Hall, recommending the scholars at his death, to her majesty and the Queens of England her successors: He dyed before it was finish’d, having settled only 12 fellows, whereas he intended 70 schollarships besides, representing all together Christ his 12 apostles, and his 70 disciples; but this pious design of the good founder was so well approved on all hands, that it was presently encreased by several royal benefactors, and is now one of the best colleges in the university; also it is lately rebuilt, the old building being wholly taken down and the new being all of free stone, containing two noble squares with piazza’s, supported by fine pillars; the great hall, the library, and a fine chappel, all contained in the same building, so that it is without comparison the most beautiful college in the university.
Founded anno 1379. by William of Wickham Bishop of Winchester, the same who is said to have built Windsor Castle, for King Edward III; rebuilt the cathedral church at Winchester, and the fine school there, the scholars of which are the nursery to this fine college. He instituted here and they still remain,
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N.B. This college is very rich.
Founded anno 1420. by Richard Hemming Arch-Bishop of York, but left it imperfect; the foundation was finish’d by Thomas Rotherham Bishop of Lincoln, 59 years after. It maintains
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Founded anno 1437. by Henry Chichley Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, also Cardinal Pool was a great benefactor to it afterwards. It maintains
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Founded 1459, by William Wainfleet Bishop of Winton, who built it in the stately figure we now see it in, very little having been added; and what has been rebuilt, has kept much to the founders first design; except a new appartment added by one Mr. Clarke a private gentleman, who serv’d many years in Parliament for the university; this new building is exceeding fine; as is now also, the library, towards which, another private gentleman, namely, Colonel Codrington, gave ten thousand pounds, and a good collection of books. It maintains
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First founded by William Smith Bishop of Lincoln, anno. 1512. but finish’d by Richard Sutton, Esq; a Cheshire gentleman, who perfected the buildings of the house; and both together gave considerably large revenues. It has also had great benefactors since, so that it now maintains
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Founded anno 1516. by Richard Fox Bishop of Winchester, who also endow’d it very liberally; and Hugh Oldham Bishop of Excester, advanc’d the best part of the building. It maintains
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Founded anno 1524. by Cardinal Woolsey. “Tis said he suppres’d 40 monasteries to build this magnificent college, but the king having demolish’d the cardinal, he could not finish it; so the king carried on the work, and establish’d the church to be the cathedral of the diocess of Oxford, ann. 1519. The revenues of this college are exceeding great, it is the largest college in the university, and the buildings are very noble and well finish’d, all of free-stone. It maintains
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The royal school at Winchester, is the nursery of this college, sending as some say, 25 scholars hither every 3 months.
Founded anno 1518. by Tho. Hatfield Bishop of Durham, and it was then call’d Durham College; but the bishop not living, Sir Thomas Pope carried on his design; and having seen the first foundation suppress’d, because it was a provision for monks, &c. he restor’d it and endow’d it, dedicating it to the undivided Trinity, anno 1556. as it is to this day. It maintains
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St. John’s College
First founded by Arch-Bishop Chichley, anno 1437. and call’d Bernards College; but being suppress’d as a house of religion in the reign of King Henry VIII. it was again founded as a college by Sir Thomas White a wealthy citizen and merchant of London, who new built the house, and richly endow’d it, to maintain as it now does,
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The foundation of this college is corruptly assign’d to Hugh Paice, Esq; a Welch gentleman, who was indeed a benefactor to the foundation, and particularly gave 6ool . towards erecting the fabrick of the college; as did afterwards Sir Eubule Thitwall, who was principal; and this last in particular gave 8 fellowships, and 8 scholarships: But Queen Elizabeth was the foundress of this college, and endow’d it for a principal, adding 8 fellowships, and 8 scholarships. This Mr. Speed confirms, as also Mr. Dugdale, and it appears by the present endowment. By which it maintains
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Founded anno 1613. by Nicolas Wadham, Esq; and Dorothy his wife, and sister to the Lord Petre of Essex; they endow’d it with its whole maintenance, by which at this day it maintains
|}||In all 125.|
As therefore I did in the speaking of Cambridge, I shall now give a summary of what a traveller may be suppos’d to observe in Oxford, en passant, and leave the curious inquirer to examine the histories of the place, where they may meet with a compleat account of every part in the most particular manner, and to their full satisfaction.
There are in Oxford 17 colleges, and seven halls, some of these colleges as particularly, Christ Church, Magdalen, New College, Corpus Christi, Trinity, and St. John’s will be found to be equal, if not superior to some universities abroad; whether we consider the number of the scholars, the greatness of their revenues, or the magnificence of their buildings.
I thought my self oblig’d to give a more particular account of the colleges here, than I have done of those at Cambridge; because some false and assuming accounts of them have been publish’d by others, who demand to be credited, and have impos’d their accounts upon the world, without sufficient authority.
Besides the colleges, some of which are extremely fine and magnificent; there are some publick buildings which make a most glorious appearance: The first and greatest of all is the theatre, a building not to be equall’d by any thing of its kind in the world; no, not in Italy itself: Not that the building of the theatre here is as large as Vespasian’s or that of Trajan at Rome; neither would any thing of that kind be an ornament at this time, because not at all suited to the occasion, the uses of them being quite different.
We see by the remains that those amphitheatres, as they were for the the exercise of their publick shews, and to entertain a vast concourse of people, to see the fighting of the gladiators, the throwing criminals to the wild beasts, and the like, were rather great magnificent bear-gardens, than theatres, for the actors of such representations, as entertain’d the polite part of the world; consequently, those were vast piles of building proper for the uses for which they were built.
What buildings were then made use of in Rome for the fine performances of ——— who acted that of Terence, or who wrote that, we can not be certain of; but I think I have a great deal of reason to say, they have no remains of them, or of any one of them at Rome; or if they are, they come not near to this building.
The theatre at Oxford prepared for the publick exercises of the schools, and for the operations of the learned part of the English world only, is in its grandeur and magnificence, infinitely superiour to any thing in the world of its kind; it is a finish’d piece, as to its building, the front is exquisitely fine, the columns and pilasters regular, and very beautiful; ’tis all built of freestone: The model was approv’d by the best masters of architecture at that time, in the presence of K. Charles II. who was himself a very curious observer, and a good judge; Sir Christopher Wren was the director of the work, as he was the person that drew the model: Archbishop Sheldon, they tell us, paid for it, and gave it to the university: There is a world of decoration in the front of it, and more beautiful additions, by way of ornament, besides the antient inscription, than is to be seen any where in Europe; at least, where I have been.
The Bodleian Library is an ornament in it self worthy of Oxford, where its station is fix’d, and where it had its birth. The history of it at large is found in Mr. Speed, and several authors of good credit; containing in brief, that of the old library, the first publick one in Oxford, erected in Durham now Trinity College, by Richard Bishop of Durham, and Lord Treasurer to Ed. III. it was afterward joined to another, founded by Cobham Bishop of Worcester, and both enlarg’d by the bounty of Humphry Duke of Gloucester, founder of the divinity schools: I say, these libraries being lost, and the books embezzled by the many changes and hurries of the suppressions in the reign of Hen. VIII. the commissioner appointed by King Edw. VI. to visit the universities, and establish the Reformation; found very few valuable books or manuscripts left in them. In this state of things, one Sir Thomas Bodley, a wealthy and learned knight, zealous for the encouragement both of learning and religion, resolv’d to apply, both his time, and estate, to the erecting and furnishing a new library for the publick use of the university.
In this good and charitable undertaking, he went on so successfully, for so many years, and with such a profusion of expence, and obtain’d such assistances from all the encouragers of learning in his time, that having collected books and manuscripts from all parts of the learned world; he got leave of the university, (and well they might grant it) to place them in the old library room, built as is said, by the good Duke Humphry. To this great work, great additions have been since made in books, as well as contributions in money, and more are adding every day; and thus the work was brought to a head, the 8th of Nov. 1602, and has continued encreasing by the benefactions of great and learned men to this day: To remove the books once more and place them in beauty and splendor suitable to so glorious a collection, the late Dr. Radcliff has left a legacy of 40000l . say some, others say not quite so much, to the building a new repository or library for the use of the university: This work is not yet built, but I am told ’tis likely to be such a building as will be greater ornament to the place than any yet standing in it.
I shall say nothing here of the benefactions to this library. Unless I had room to mention them all, it would be both partial and imperfect. And as there is a compleat catalogue of the books preparing, and that a list of the benefactors and what books they gave, will be speedily publish’d; it would be needless to say any thing of it here.
Other curious things in Oxford are, the museum, the chamber of rarities, the collection of coins, medals, pictures and antient inscriptions, the physick-garden, &c.
The buildings for all these are most beautiful and magnificent, suitable for the majesty of the university, as well as to the glory of the benefactors.
It is no part of my work to enter into the dispute between the two universities about the antiquity of their foundation: But this I shall observe for the use of those who insist, that it was the piety of the Popish times to which we owe the first, institution of the university it self, the foundation and endowment of the particular colleges, and the encouragement arising to learning from thence, all which I readily grant; but would have them remember too, that tho’ those foundations stood as they tell us eight hundred years, and that the Reformation as they say, is not yet of 200 years standing, yet learning has more encreas’d and the universities flourish’d more; more great scholars been produc’d, greater libraries been raised, and more fine buildings been erected in these 200 years than in the 800 years of Popery; and I might add, as many great benefactions have been given, notwithstanding this very momentous difference; that the Protestant’s gifts are meerly acts of charity to the world, and acts of bounty, in reverence to learning and learned men, without the grand excitement of the health of their souls, and of the souls of their fathers, to be pray’d out of purgatory and get a ready admission into heaven, and the like.
Oxford, had for many ages the neighbourhood of the Court, while their kings kept up the royal palace at Woodstock; which tho’ perhaps it was much discontinu’d, for the fate of the fair Rosamond, mistress to Henry Fitz Empress, or Henry II. of which history tells us something, and fable much more; yet we after find that several of the kings of England made the house and park at Woodstock, which was always fam’d for its pleasant situation, the place of their summer retreat for many years. Also for its being a royal palace before, even beyond the certainty of history, there is abundant reason to believe it; nay some will have it to have been a royal house before Oxford was an university. Dr. Plott allows it to have been so ever since King Alfred; and a manuscript in the Cotton Library confirms it; and that King Henry I. was not the founder of it, but only rebuilt it: And as for Henry II. he built only some additions; namely, that they call’d the Bower, which was a building in the garden (or labyrinth,) for the entertainment and security of his fair mistress, of whose safety he was it seems very careful. Notwithstanding which the queen found means to come at her, and as fables report, sent her out of the way by poison. The old buildings are now no more, nor so much as the name, but the place is the same and the natural beauty of it indeed, is as great as ever.
It is still a most charming situation, and ’tis still disputable after all that has been laid out, whether the country round gives more lustre to the building, or the building to the country. It has now chang’d masters, ’tis no more a royal house or palace for the king; but a mark of royal bounty to a great, and at that time powerful subject, the late Duke of Marlborough. The magnificence of the building does not here as at Canons, at Chatsworth, and at other palaces of the nobility, express the genius and the opulence of the possessor, but it represents the bounty, the gratitude, or what else posterity pleases to call it, of the English Nation, to the man whom they delighted to honour: Posterity when they view in this house the trophies of the Duke of Marlborough’s fame, and the glories of his great atchievements will not celebrate his name only; but will look on Blenheim House, as a monument of the generous temper of the English Nation; who in so glorious a manner rewarded the services of those who acted for them as he did: Nor can any nation in Europe shew the like munificence to any general, no nor the greatest in the world; and not to go back to antient times, not the French nation to the great Luxemberg, or the yet greater Turenne: Nor the emperor to the great Eugene, or to the yet greater Duke of Lorrain; whose inimitable conduct saved the imperial city of Vienna, and rescued the whole house of Austria; retook the whole kingdom of Hungary, and was victorious in seaventeen pitch’d battles. I say none of these ever receiv’d so glorious a mark of their country’s favour. Again, It is to be consider’d, that not this house only, built at the nation’s expence, was thus given; but lands and pensions to the value of above one hundred thousand pounds sterl. and honours the greatest England can bestow: These are all honours indeed to the duke, but infinitely more to the honour of the nation.
The magnificent work then is a national building, and must for ever be call’d so. Nay, the dimensions of it will perhaps call upon us hereafter, to own it as such in order to vindicate the discretion of the builder, for making a palace too big for any British subject to fill, if he lives at his own expence. Nothing else can justify the vast design, a bridge or ryalto rather, of one arch costing 20000l . and this, like the bridge at the Escurial in Spain, without a river. Gardens of near 100 acres of ground. Offices fit for 300 in family. Out-houses fit for the lodgings of a regiment of guards, rather than of livery servants. Also the extent of the fabrick, the avenues, the salons, galleries, and royal apartments; nothing below royalty and a prince, can support an equipage suitable to the living in such a house: And one may without a spirit of prophecy, say, it seems to intimate, that some time or other Blenheim may and will return to be as the old Woodstock once was, the palace of a king.
I shall enter no farther into the description, because ’tis yet a house unfurnish’d, and it can only be properly said what it is to be, not what it is: The stair-case of the house is indeed very great, the preparations of statues and paintings, and the ornament both of the building and finishing and furnishing are also great, but as the duke is dead, the duchess old, and the heir abroad, when and how it shall be all perform’d, requires more of the gift of prophecy than I am master of.
From Woodstock I could not refrain taking a turn a little northward as high as Banbury to the banks of the Charwell, to see the famous spot of ground where a vigorous rencounter happen’d between the Royalists in the grand Rebellion, and the Parliament’s forces, under Sir William Waller; I mean at Croprady Bridge, near Banbury. It was a vigorous action, and in which the king’s forces may be said fairly to out-general their enemies, which really was not always their fate: I had the plan of that action before me, which I have had some years, and found out every step of the ground as it was disputed on both sides by inches, where the horse engaged and where the foot; where Waller lost his cannon, and where he retired; and it was evident to me the best thing Waller cou’d do, (tho’ superiour in number) was to retreat as he did, having lost half his army.
From thence, being within eight miles of Edge-Hill, where the first battle in that war happen’d, I had the like pleasure of viewing the ground about Keinton, where that bloody battle was fought; it was evident, and one could hardly think of it without regret, the king with his army had an infinite advantage by being posted on the top of the hill, that he knew that the Parliament’s army were under express orders to fight, and must attack him lest his majesty who had got two days march of them, should advance to London, where they were out of their wits for fear of him.
The king I say knowing this, ’tis plain he had no business but to have intrench’d, to fight upon the eminence where he was posted, or have detach’d 15000 men for London, while he had fortify’d himself with a strong body upon the hill: But on the contrary, his majesty scorning to be pursued by his subjects, his army excellently appointed, and full of courage, not only halted, but descended from his advantages and offer’d them battle in the plain field, which they accepted.
Here I cannot but remark that this action is perhaps the only example in the world, of a battle so furious, so obstinate, manag’d with such skill, every regiment behaving well, and doing their duty to the utmost, often rallying when disorder’d, and indeed fighting with the courage and order of veterans; and yet not one regiment of troops that had ever seen the face of an enemy, or so much as been in arms before. It’s true, the king had rather the better of the day; and yet the rebel army though their left wing of horse was entirely defeated, behav’d so well, that at best it might be call’d a drawn battle; and the loss on both sides was so equal, that it was hard to know who lost most men.
But to leave the war, ’tis the place only I am taking notice of. From hence I turn’d south, for I was here on the edge both of Warwickshire, and Gloucestershire: But I turned south, and coming down by and upon the west side of Oxfordshire, to Chipping-Norton, we were shew’d Roll-Richt-Stones, a second Stone-Henge; being a ring of great stones standing upright, some of them from 5 to 7 foot high.
I leave the debate about the reason and antiquity of this antient work to the dispute of the learned, who yet cannot agree about them any more than about Stone-Henge in Wiltshire. Cambden will have them be a monument of victory, and the learned Dr. Charleton is of the same mind. Mr. Cambden also is willing to think that they were erected by Rollo the Dane, because of the town of Rollwright, from which they are call’d Rolle Right or Rolle Richt Stones. Aiston wou’d have them to be a monument of the dead, perhaps kill’d in battle; and that a great stone 9 foot high, at a distance, was over a king; and 5 other great ones likewise at a distance, were great commanders and the like.
The ingenious and learned Dr. Plot wou’d have us think it was a cirque or ring for their field elections of a king, something like the Dyetts on horseback in Poland; that they met in the open field to choose a king, and that the persons in competition were severally placed in such a cirque, surrounded by the suffrages or voters; and that when they were chosen, the person chosen was inaugurated here.
Thus I leave it as I find it: for antiquity as I have often said is not my business in this work; let the occasion of those stones be what it will, they are well worth notice; especially to those who are curious in the search of antiquity.
We were very merry at passing thro’ a village call’d Bloxham, on the occasion of a meeting of servants for hire, which the people there call a Mop; ’tis generally in other places vulgarly call’d a Statute, because founded upon a statute law in Q. Elizabeth’s time for regulating of servants. This I christn’d by the name of a Jade-Fair, at which some of the poor girls began to be angry, but we appeas’d them with better words. I have observ’d at some of these fairs, that the poor servants distinguish themselves by holding something in their hands, to intimate what labour they are particularly qualify’d to undertake; as the carters a whip, the labourers a shovel, the wood men a bill, the manufacturers a wool comb, and the like. But since the ways and manners of servants are advanc’d as we now find them to be, those Jade Fairs are not so much frequented as formerly, tho’ we have them at several towns near London; as at Enfield, Waltham, Epping, &c.
Here we saw also the famous parish of Brightwell, of which it was observed, that there had not been an alehouse nor a dissenter from the church, nor any quarrel among the inhabitants that rise so high as to a suit of law within the memory of man. But they could not say it was so still, especially as to the alehouse part; tho’ very much is still preserved, as to the unity and good neighbourhood of the parishioners, and their conformity to the church.
Being now on the side of Warwickshire, as is said before, I still went south, and passing by the four Shire Stones, we saw where the counties of Oxford, Warwick, and Gloucester joyn all in a point; one stone standing in each county, and the fourth touching all three.
Hence we came to the famous Cotswold-Downs, so eminent for the best of sheep, and finest wool in England: It was of the breed of these sheep. And fame tells us that some were sent by King Rich. I. into Spain, and that from thence the breed of their sheep was raised, which now produce so fine a wool, that we are oblig’d to fetch it from thence, for the making our finest broad cloaths; and which we buy at so great a price.
In viewing this part of England, and such things as these, and considering how little notice other writers had taken of them, it occur’d to my thoughts that it wou’d be a very useful and good work, if any curious observer would but write an account of England, and oblige himself to speak of such things only, as all modern writers had said nothing of, or nothing but what was false and imperfect. And there are doubtless so many things, so insignificant, and yet so omitted, that I am persuaded such a writer would not have wanted materials; nay, I will not promise that even this work, tho’ I am as careful as room for writing will allow, shall not leave enough behind, for such a gleaning to make it self richer than the reapings that have gone before; and this not altogether from the meer negligence and omissions of the writers, as from the abundance of matter, the growing buildings, and the new discoveries made in every part of the country.
Upon these downs we had a clear view of the famous old Roman high-way, call’d the Fosse, which evidently crosses all the middle part of England, and is to be seen and known (tho’ in no place plainer than here,) quite from the Bath to Warwick, and thence to Leicester, to Newark, to Lincoln, and on to Barton, upon the bank of Humber.
Here it is still the common road, and we follow’d it over the downs to Cirencester. We observ’d also how several cross roads as antient as it self, and perhaps more antient, joyn’d it, or branch’d out of it; some of which the people have by antient usage tho’ corruptly call’d also Fosses, making the word Fosse as it were a common name for all roads. For example, The Ackemanstreet which is an antient Saxon road leading from Buckinghamshire through Oxfordshire to the Fosse, and so to the Bath; this joyns the Fosse between Burford and Cirencester. It is worth observing how this is said to be call’d Ackeman’s Street; namely, by the Saxon way of joyning their monosyllables into significant words, as thus, ackman or achman a man of aching limbs, in English a cripple travelling to the Bath for cure: So Achmanstreet was the road or street for diseased people going to the Bath; and the city of Bath was on the same account call’d Achmanchester, or the city of diseased people; or, Urbs Ægrotorum hominum. Thus much for antiquity. There are other roads or fosses which joyn this grand highway, viz. Grinnes Dike, from Oxfordshire, Wattle Bank, or Aves Ditch from ditto. and the Would Way, call’d also the Fosse crossing from Gloucester to Cirencester.
In passing this way we very remarkably cross’d four rivers within the length of about 10 miles, and enquiring their names, the country people call’d them every one the Thames, which mov’d me a little to enquire the reason, which is no more than this; namely, that these rivers, which are, the Lech, the Coln, the Churn, and the Isis; all rising in the Cotswould Hills and joyning together and making a full stream at Lechlade near this place, they become one river there, and are all call’d Thames, or vulgarly Temms; also beginning there to be navigable, you see very large barges at the key, taking in goods for London, which makes the town of Lechlade a very populous large place.
On the Churne one of those rivers stands Cirencester, or Ciciter for brevity, a very good town, populous and rich, full of clothiers, and driving a great trade in wool; which as likewise at Tetbury, is brought from the midland counties of Leicester, Northampton, and Lincoln, where the largest sheep in England are found, and where are few manufactures; it is sold here in quantities, so great, that it almost exceeds belief: It is generally bought here by the clothiers of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, for the supply of that great clothing trade; of which I have spoken already: They talk of 5000 packs in a year.
As we go on upon the Fosse, we see in the vale on the left hand, the antient town of Malmsbury, famous for a monastary, and a great church, built out of the ruins of it; and which I name in meer veneration to that excellent, and even best of our old historians Gulielmus Malmsburiensis, to whom the world is so much oblig’d, for preserving the history and antiquities of this kingdom.
We next arriv’d at Marshfield, a Wiltshire clothing town, very flourishing and where we cross’d the great road from London to Bristol, as at Cirencester, we did that from London, to Gloucester; and in the evening keeping still the Fosse-Way, we arriv’d at Bath.
My description of this city would be very short, and indeed it would have been a very small city, (if at all a city) were it not for the hot baths here, which give both name and fame to the place. The antiquity of this place, and of the baths here, is doubtless very great, tho’ I cannot come in to the inscription under the figure, said to be of a British king, placed in that call’d the King’s Bath, which says that this King Bladud, (Mr. Cambden calls him Blayden, or Blaydon Cloyth; that is, the south-sayer) found out the use of these baths, 300 years before our Saviour’s time. I say, I cannot come into this, because even the discovery is ascribed to the magick of the day, not their judgment in the physical virtue of minerals, and mineral-waters. The antiquities of this place are farther treated of by Mr. Cambden, as the virtues of the waters, are, by several of the learned members of that faculty, who have wrote largely on that subject; as particularly, Dr. ——— Dr. Baynard, Dr. ——— and others.
There remains little to add, but what relates to the modern customs, the gallantry and diversions of that place, in which I shall be very short; the best part being but a barren subject, and the worst part meriting rather a satyr, than a description. It has been observ’d before, that in former times this was a resort hither for cripples, and the place was truly Urbs Ægrotorum Hominum: And we see the crutches hang up at the several baths, as the thank-offerings of those who have come hither lame, and gone away cur’d. But now we may say it is the resort of the sound, rather than the sick; the bathing is made more a sport and diversion, than a physical prescription for health; and the town is taken up in raffling, gameing, visiting, and in a word, all sorts of gallantry and levity.
The whole time indeed is a round of the utmost diversion. In the morning you (supposing you to be a young lady) are fetch’d in a close chair, dress’d in your bathing cloths, that is, stript to the smock, to the Cross-Bath. There the musick plays you into the bath, and the women that tend you, present you with a little floating wooden dish, like a bason; in which the lady puts a handkerchief, and a nosegay, of late the snuff-box is added, and some patches; tho’ the bath occasioning a little perspiration, the patches do not stick so kindly as they should.
Here the ladies and the gentlemen pretend to keep some distance, and each to their proper side, but frequently mingle here too, as in the King and Queens Bath, tho’ not so often; and the place being but narrow, they converse freely, and talk, rally, make vows, and sometimes love; and having thus amus’d themselves an hour, or two, they call their chairs and return to their lodgings.
The rest of the diversion here, is the walks in the great church, and at the raffling shops, which are kept (like the cloyster at Bartholomew Fair,) in the churchyard, and ground adjoyning. In the afternoon there is generally a play, tho’ the decorations are mean, and the performances accordingly; but it answers, for the company here (not the actors) make the play, to say no more. In the evening there is a ball, and dancing at least twice a week, which is commonly in the great town hall, over the market-house; where there never fails in the season to be a great deal of very good company.
There is one thing very observable here, which tho’ it brings abundance of company to the Bath, more than ever us’d to be there before; yet it seems to have quite inverted the use and virtue of the waters, (viz.) that whereas for seventeen hundred or two thousand years, if you believe King Bladud, the medicinal virtue of these waters had been useful to the diseased people by bathing in them, now they are found to be useful also, taken into the body; and there are many more come to drink the waters, than to bathe in them; nor are the cures they perform this way, less valuable than the outward application; especially in colicks, ill digestion, and scorbutick distempers. This discovery they say, is not yet above fifty years old, and is said to be owing to the famous Dr. Radcliff, but I think it must be older, for I have my self drank the waters of the Bath above fifty years ago: But be it so, ’tis certain, ’tis a modern discovery, compar’d to the former use of these waters.
As to the usefulness of these waters to procure conception, and the known story of the late King James’s queen here, the famous monument in the Cross-Bath gives an account of it. Those that are enclin’d to give faith to such things, may know as much of it at the Santa Casa of Loretto, as here; and in Italy I believe it is much more credited.
There is nothing in the neighbourhood of this city worth notice, except it be Chipping-Norton-Lane, where was a fight between the forces of King James II. and the Duke of Monmouth, in which the latter had plainly the better; and had they push’d their advantage, might have made it an entire victory. On the N.W. of this city up a very steep hill, is the King’s Down, where sometimes persons of quality who have coaches go up for the air: But very few people care to have coaches here, it being a place where they have but little room to keep them, and less to make use of them. And the hill up to the Downs is so steep, that the late Queen Anne was extremely frighted in going up, her coachman stopping to give the horses breath, and the coach wanting a dragstaff, run back in spight of all the coachman’s skill; the horses not being brought to strain the harness again, or pull together for a good while, and the coach putting the guards behind it into the utmost confusion, till some of the servants setting their heads and shoulders to the wheels, stopt them by plain force.
When one is upon King-Down, and has pass’d all the steeps and difficulties of the ascent, there is a plain and pleasant country for many miles, into Gloucestershire, and two very noble palaces, the one built by Mr. Blathwait, late Secretary of War; and the other is call’d Badminton, the mansion of the most noble family of the Dukes of Beaufort, the present duke being under age. The lustre and magnificence of this palace is magnify’d by the surprise one is at, to see such a house in such a retreat, so difficult of access, at least this way, so near to so much company, and yet, so much alone.
Following the course of the river Avon, which runs thro’ Bath, we come in ten miles to the city of Bristol, the greatest, the richest, and the best port of trade in Great Britain, London only excepted.
The merchants of this city not only have the greatest trade, but they trade with a more entire independency upon London, than any other town in Britain. And ’tis evident in this particular, (viz.) That whatsoever exportations they make to any part of the world, they are able to bring the full returns back to their own port, and can dispose of it there.
This is not the case in any other port in England. But they are often oblig’d to ship part of the effects in the ports abroad, on the ships bound to London; or to consign their own ships to London, in order both to get freight, as also to dispose of their own cargoes.
But the Bristol merchants as they have a very great trade abroad, so they have always buyers at home, for their returns, and that such buyers that no cargo is too big for them. To this purpose, the shopkeepers in Bristol who in general are all wholesale men, have so great an inland trade among all the western counties, that they maintain carriers just as the London tradesmen do, to all the principal countries and towns from Southampton in the south, even to the banks of the Trent north; and tho’ they have no navigable river that way, yet they drive a very great trade through all those counties.
Add to this, That, as well by sea, as by the navigation of two great rivers, the Wye, and the Severn, they have the whole trade of South-Wales, as it were, to themselves, and the greatest part of North-Wales; and as to their trade to Ireland, it is not only great in it self, but is prodigiously encreas’d in these last thirty years, since the Revolution, notwithstanding the great encrease and encroachment of the merchants at Liverpool, in the Irish trade, and the great devastations of the war; the kingdom of Ireland it self being wonderfully encreas’d since that time.
The greatest inconveniences of Bristol, are, its situation, and the tenacious folly of its inhabitants; who by the general infatuation, the pretence of freedoms and priviledges, that corporation-tyranny, which prevents the flourishing and encrease of many a good town in England, continue obstinately to forbid any, who are not subjects of their city soveraignty, (that is to say, freemen,) to trade within the chain of their own liberties; were it not for this, the city of Bristol, would before now, have swell’d and encreas’d in buildings and inhabitants, perhaps to double the magnitude it was formerly of.
This is evident by this one particular; There is one remarkable part of the city where the liberties extend not at all, or but very little without the city gate. Here and no where else, they have an accession of new inhabitants; and abundance of new houses, nay, some streets are built, and the like ’tis probable wou’d have been at all the rest of the gates, if liberty had been given. As for the city itself, there is hardly room to set another house in it, ’tis so close built, except in the great square, the ground about which is a little too subject to the hazard of inundations: So that people do not so freely enlarge that way. The Tolsey of this city, (so they call their Exchange where their merchants meet,) has been a place too of great business, yet so straighten’d, so crowded, and so many ways inconvenient, that the merchants have been obliged to do less business there, than indeed the nature of their great trade requires; They have therefore long solicited, a sufficient authority of Parliament, empowering them to build a Royal Exchange; by which, I mean a place suitable and spatious, fit for the accommodation of the merchants, and for the dispatch of business; and to be impowered to pull down the adjacent buildings for that purpose: But there is not much progress yet made in this work, tho’ if finish’d, it would add much to the beauty of the city of Bristol. The Hot Well, or, the water of St. Vincents Rock, is not in the city, but at the confluence of the two little rivers, and on the north side of the stream. It is but a few years since this spring lay open at the foot of the rock, and was covered by the salt water at every tide, and yet it preserved both its warmth and its mineral virtue entire.
The rock tho’ hard to admiration, has since that been work’d down, partly by strength of art, and partly blown in pieces by gunpowder, and a plain foundation made for building a large house upon it, where they have good apartments for entertaining diseased persons. The well is secur’d, and a good pump fix’d in it, so that they have the water pure and unmix’d from the spring it self.
The water of this well possess’d its medicinal quality no doubt from its original, which may be as antient as the Deluge. But what is strangest of all is, that it was never known before; it is now famous for being a specifick in that otherwise incurable disease the diabetes; and yet was never known to be so, ‘till within these few years; namely, thirty years, or thereabout. There are in Bristol 21 parish churches, many meeting-houses, especially Quakers, one (very mean) cathedral, the reason of which, may be, that it is but a very modern bishoprick. It is supposed they have an hundred thousand inhabitants in the city, and within three miles of its circumference; and they say above three thousand sail of ships belong to that port, but of the last I am not certain.
’Tis every remarkable, That this city is so plentifully supply’d with coals, tho’ they are all brought by land carriage, that yet they are generally bought by the inhabitants, laid down at their doors, after the rate of from seven to nine shillings per chaldron.
The situation of the city is low, but on the side of a rising hill. The ground plat of it is said very much to resemble that of old Rome, being circular, with something greater diameter one way than another, but not enough to make it oval: And the river cutting off one small part, as it were, a sixth, or less from the rest.
The bridge over the Avon is exceeding strong, the arches very high, because of the depth of water, and the buildings so close upon it, that in passing the bridge, you see nothing but an entire well built street. The tide of flood rises here near 6 fathom, and runs very sharp.
They draw all their heavy goods here on sleds, or sledges without wheels, which kills a multitude of horses; and the pavement is worn so smooth by them, that in wet-weather the streets are very slippery, and in frosty-weather ’tis dangerous walking.
From this city I resolv’d to coast the marshes or border of Wales, especially South-Wales, by tracing the rivers Wye, and Lug, into Monmouth and Herefordshire. But I chang’d this resolution on the following occasion; namely, the badness and danger of the ferries over the Severn, besides, having formerly travers’d these counties, I can without a re-visit, speak to every thing that is considerable in them, and shall do it in a letter by itself. But in the mean time, I resolv’d to follow the course of the famous river Severn, by which I should necessarily see the richest, most fertile, and most agreeable part of England; the bank of the Thames only excepted.
From Bristol West, you enter the county of Gloucester, and keeping the Avon in view, you see King Road, where the ships generally take their departure, as ours at London do from Graves-End; and Hung Road, where they notify their arrival, as ours for London do in the Downs: The one lyes within the Avon, the other, in the open sea or the Severn; which is there call’d the Severn Sea. Indeed great part of Bristol is in the bounds of Gloucestershire, tho’ it be a county of itself. From hence going away a little north west, we come to the Pill, a convenient road for shipping, and where therefore they generally run back for Ireland or for Wales. There is also a little farther, an ugly, dangerous, and very inconvenient ferry over the Severn, to the mouth of Wye; namely, at Aust; the badness of the weather, and the sorry boats, at which, deterr’d us from crossing there.
As we turn north towards Gloucester, we lose the sight of the Avon, and in about two miles exchange it for an open view of the Severn Sea, which you see on the west side, and which is as broad as the ocean there; except, that you see two small islands in it, and that looking N.W. you see plainly the coast of South Wales; and particularly a little nearer hand, the shore of Monmouthshire. Then as you go on, the shores begin to draw towards one another, and the coasts to lye parallel; so that the Severn appears to be a plain river, or an æstuarium, somewhat like the Humber, or as the Thames is at the Nore, being 4 to 5 and 6 miles over; and to give it no more than its just due, a most raging, turbulent, furious place. This is occasion’d by those violent tides call’d the Bore, which flow here sometimes six or seven foot at once, rolling forward like a mighty wave: So that the stern of a vessel shall on a sudden be lifted up six or seven foot upon the water, when the head of it is fast a ground. After coasting the shore about 4 miles farther, the road being by the low salt marshes, kept at a distance from the river: We came to the ferry call’d Ast Ferry, or more properly Aust Ferry, or Aust Passage, from a little dirty village call’d Aust; near which you come to take boat.
This ferry lands you at Beachly in Monmouthshire, so that on the out-side ’tis call’d Aust Passage, and on the other side, ’tis call’d Beachly-Passage. From whence you go by land two little miles to Chepstow, a large port town on the river Wye. But of that part I shall say more in its place.
When we came to Aust, the hither side of the Passage, the sea was so broad, the fame of the Bore of the tide so formidable, the wind also made the water so rough, and which was worse, the boats to carry over both man and horse appear’d (as I have said above) so very mean, that in short none of us car’d to venture: So we came back, and resolv’d to keep on the road to Gloucester. By the way we visited some friends at a market-town, a little out of the road, call’d Chipping-Sodbury, a place of note for nothing that I saw, but the greatest cheese market in all that part of England; or, perhaps, any other, except Atherstone, in Warwickshire.
Hence we kept on north, passing by Dursley to Berkley-Castle; the antient seat of the Earls of Berkley, a noble tho’ antient building, and a very fine park about it. The castle gives title to the earl, and the town of Dursly to the heir apparent; who during the life of his father, is call’d the Lord Dursley. I say nothing of the dark story of King Edward II. of England; who, all our learned writers agree, was murther’d in this castle: As Richard II. was in that of Pontefract, in Yorkshire; I say I take no more notice of it here, for history is not my present business: ’Tis true, they show the apartments where they say that king was kept a prisoner: But they do not admit that he was kill’d there. The place is rather antient, than pleasant or healthful, lying low, and near the water; but ’tis honour’d by its present owner, known to the world for his many services to his country, and for a fame, which our posterity will read of, in all the histories of our times.
From hence to Gloucester, we see nothing considerable, but a most fertile, rich country, and a fine river, but narrower as you go northward, ‘till a little before we come to Gloucester it ceases to be navigable by ships of burthen, but continues to be so, by large barges, above an hundred miles farther; not reckoning the turnings and windings of the river: Besides that, it receives several large and navigable rivers into it.
Gloucester is an antient middling city, tolerably built, but not fine; was fortify’d and stood out obstinately against its lord King Charles the Ist, who befieged it to his great loss in the late Rebellion, for which it had all its walls and works demolish’d; for it was then very strong: Here is a large stone bridge over the Severn, the first next the sea; and this, and the cathedral is all I see worth recording of this place. Except that the late eminent and justly famous Sir Thomas Powel, commonly call’d Judge Powel, one of the judges of the King’s Bench Court; and contemporary with Sir John Holt lived and dyed in this city, being one of the greatest lawyers of the age.
The cathedral is an old venerable pile, with very little ornament within or without, yet ’tis well built; and tho’ plain, it makes together, especially the tower, a very handsome appearance. The inhabitants boast much of its antiquity, and tell us, that a bishop and preachers were plac’d here, in the very infancy of the Christian religion; namely, in the year 189. But this I take ad referendum. The cathedral they tell us, has been three times burnt to the ground.
The first Protestant bishop of this church, was, that truly reverend and religious Dr. John Hooper, set up by King Edward VI. and afterwards martyr’d for his religion in the Marian tyranny: Being burnt to death in the cimitary of his own cathedral.
The whispering place in this cathedral, has for many years pass’d for a kind of wonder; but since, experience has taught us the easily comprehended reason of the thing: And since there is now the like in the church of St. Paul, the wonder is much abated. However, the verses written over this whispering place, intimate, that it has really past for something miraculous; and as the application rather shows religion, than philosophy in the author, the reader may not like them the worse.
Doubt not, that God who sits on high,
Thy secret prayers can hear;
When a dead wall thus cunningly,
Conveys soft whispers to thine ear.
From Gloucester we kept the east shore of the Severn, and in twelve miles came to Tewksbury, a large and very populous town situate upon the river Avon, this is call’d the Warwickshire Avon, to distinguish it from the Avon at Bristol and others, for there are several rivers in England of this name; and some tell us that avona was an old word in the British tongue signifying a river.
This town is famous for a great manufacture of stockings, as are also, the towns of Pershore, and Evesham, or Esham; on the same river.
The great old church at Tewksbury may indeed be call’d the largest private parish church in England; I mean, that is not a collegiate or cathedral church. This town is famous for the great, and as may be said, the last battle, fought between the two houses of Lancaster and York, in which Edward IV. was conqueror; and in, or rather after which, Prince Edward the only surviving son of the House of Lancaster, was kill’d by the cruel hands of Richard the king’s brother; the same afterwards Richard III. or Crookback Richard. In this place begins that fruitful and plentiful country which was call’d the Vale of Esham, which runs all along the banks of the Avon, from Tewksbury to Pershore, and to Stratford upon Avon, and in the south part of Warwickshire; and so far, (viz. to Stratford,) the river Avon is navigable.
At this last town, going into the parish church, we saw the monument of old Shakespear, the famous poet, and whose dramatick performances so justly maintain his character among the British poets; and perhaps will do so to the end of time. The busto of his head is in the wall on the north side of the church, and a flat grave-stone covers the body, in the isle just under him. On which grave-stone these lines are written.
Good friend, for Jesus’s sake, forbear
To move the dust that resteth here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he, that moves my bones.
The navigation of this river Avon is an exceeding advantage to all this part of the country, and also to the commerce of the city of Bristol. For by this river they drive a very great trade for sugar, oil, wine, tobacco, iron, lead, and in a word, all heavy goods which are carried by water almost as far as Warwick; and in return the corn, and especially the cheese, is brought back from Gloucestershire and Warwickshire, to Bristol.
This same vale continuing to extend it self in Warwickshire, and under the ridge of little mountains call’d Edge-Hill, is there call’d the vale of Red-Horse. All the grounds put together, make a most pleasant corn country, especially remarkable for the goodness of the air, and fertility of the soil.
Gloucestershire must not be pass’d over, without some account of a most pleasant and fruitful vale which crosses part of the country, from east to west on that side of the Cotswold, and which is call’d Stroud-Water; famous not for the finest cloths only, but for dying those cloths of the finest scarlets, and other grain colours that are any where in England; perhaps in any part of the world: Here I saw two pieces of broad cloth made, one scarlet, the other crimson in grain, on purpose to be presented, the one to His Majesty King George, and the other to the prince; when the former was Elector of Hanover, and the latter, electoral prince: And it was sent to Hanover, presented accordingly, and very graciously accepted. The cloth was valued including the colour, at 45s . per yard: Indeed it was hardly to be valued, nothing so rich being ever made in England before, at least as I was informed.
The clothiers lye all along the banks of this river for near 20 miles, and in the town of Stroud, which lyes in the middle of it, as also at Paynswick, which is a market-town at a small distance north. The river makes its way to the Severn about 5 miles below Gloucester.
From Tewkesbury we went north 12 miles, to Worcester, all the way still on the bank of the Severn; and here we had the pleasing sight of the hedge-rows, being fill’d with apple trees and pear trees, and the fruit so common, that any passenger as they travel the road may gather and eat what they please; and here, as well as in Gloucestershire, you meet with cyder in the publick-houses sold as beer and ale is in other parts of England, and as cheap.
Here we saw at a distance, in a most agreeable situation, the mansion or seat of Sir John Packington, a barronet of a very antient family; and for so long from father to son knight of the shire for the county, that it seems as if it were hereditary to that house.
On the other side of the Severn at —— and near the town of Bewdly the Lord Foley has a very noble seat suitable to the grandeur of that rising family.
Worcester is a large, populous, old, tho’ not a very well built city; I say not well built because the town is close and old, the houses standing too thick. The north part of the town is more extended and also better built. There is a good old stone bridge over the Severn, which stands exceeding high from the surface of the water. But as the stream of the Severn is contracted here by the buildings on either side, there is evident occasion sometimes for the height of the bridge, the waters rising to an incredible height in the winter-time.
It narrowly escap’d burning, but did not escape plundering at the time when the Scots army commanded by King Ch. II. in person, was attack’d here by Cromwel’s forces; ’twas said some of the Royalist’s officers themselves, propos’d setting the city on fire, when they saw it was impossible to avoid a defeat, that they might the better make a retreat; which they propos’d to do over the Severn, and so to march into Wales: But that the king, a prince from his youth, of a generous and merciful disposition would by no means consent to it.
I went to see the town-house, which afforded nothing worth taking notice of, unless it be how much it wants to be mended with a new one; which the city, they say, is not so much enclin’d, as they are able and rich to perform. I saw nothing of publick notice there, but the three figures, (for they can hardly be call’d statues) of King Charles I. King Charles II. and Queen Anne.
The cathedral of this city is an antient, and indeed, a decay’d building; the body of the church is very mean in its aspect, nor did I see the least ornament about it, I mean in the outside. The tower is low, without any spire, only four very small pinnacles on the corners; and yet the tower has some little beauty in it more than the church itself, too; and the upper part has some images in it, but decay’d by time.
The inside of the church has several very antient monuments in it, particularly some royal ones; as that of King John, who lyes interr’d between two sainted bishops, namely, St. Oswald, and St. Woolstan. Whether he ordered his interment in that manner, believing that they should help him up at the last call, and be serviceable to him for his salvation I know not; it is true they say so, but I can hardly think the king himself so ignorant, whatever the people might be in those days of superstition; nor will I say but that it may be probable, they may all three go together at last (as it is) and yet, without being assistant to, or acquainted with one another at all.
Here is also a monument for that famous Countess of Salisbury, who dancing before, or with K. Edward III. in his great hall at Windsor, dropt her garter, which the king taking up, honoured it so much as to make it the denominating ensign of his new order of knighthood, which is grown so famous, and is call’d the most Noble Order of the Garter: What honour, or that any honour redounds to that most noble order, from its being so deriv’d from the garter of a —— For ’tis generally agreed, she was the king’s mistress, I will not enquire.
Certainly the Order receives a just claim to the title of most noble, from the honour done it, by its royal institution; and its being compos’d of such a noble list of the kings and princes as have been entred into it: I say, certainly this order has a just title to that of noble, and most noble too; yet I cannot but think that the king might have found out a better trophy to have fix’d it upon, than that lady’s garter. But this by the way: here lyes the lady that’s certain, and a very fine monument she has, in which one thing is more ridiculous than all that went before, (viz.) That about the monument, there are several angels cut in stone, strewing garters over the tomb, as if that passage, which at best had something a little obscene in it, I mean of the kings taking up the lady’s garter, and giving such honours to it, was also a thing to be celebrated by angels, in perpetuam re? memoriam.
Besides this, here is the monument or the body of Prince Arthur, eldest son to King Henry VII. who was married, but died soon after; and his wife Katharine Infanta of Spain, was afterwards married to, and after 20 years wedlock divorced from King Henry VIII.
Upon the prince’s tomb stone is this inscription. HERE lyes the body of Prince Arthur, the eldest son of King Henry VII. who dyed at Ludlow, in the year 1502. and in the seventeenth year of his father’s reign.
There are several other antient monuments in this church, too many to be set down here: They reckon up 99 Bishops of this diocess, beginning at the year 980, out of which catalogue they tell us have been furnish’d to the world, 1 Pope, 4 Saints, 7 High-Chancellors of England, 11 Arch-Bishops, 2 Lord Treasurers of England, 1Chancellor to the Queen, 1 Lord President of Wales, and 1 Vice President: Their names are as follows.
|1 Pope, (viz.)||Julius de Medicis, call’d Clement VII|
|4 Saints.||St. Egwin.
|7 Chancellors of England.||De Ely.
|2 Lord Treasurers.||Reynolds.
|1 Chancellor to a Queen.||Simon.|
This city is very full of people, and the people generally esteem’d very rich, being full of business, occasion’d chiefly by the cloathing trade, of which the city and the country round carries on a great share, as well for the Turkey trade as for the home trade.
The salt springs in this county which were formerly esteem’d as next to miraculous, have since the discovery of the mines of rock salt in Lancashire, Cheshire, &c. lost all of wonder that belong’d to them, and much of the use also; the salt made there being found to be much less valuable than what is now made of the other. So I need say little to them.
Near this city are the famous Maulvern Hills, or Mauvern Hills, seen so far every way. In particular, we saw them very plainly on the Downs, between Marlborough and Malmsbury; and they say they are seen from the top of Salisbury steeple, which is above 50 miles.
There was a famous monastery at the foot of these hills, on the S.W. side, and the ruins are seen to this day; the old legend of wonders perform’d by the witches of Mauvern, I suppose they mean the religieuse of both kinds, are too merry, as well as too antient for this work.
They talk much of mines of gold and silver, which are certainly to be found here, if they were but look’d for, and that Mauvern wou’d out do Potosi for wealth; but ’tis probable if there is such wealth, it lies too deep for this idle generation to find out, and perhaps to search for.
There are three or four especial manufactures carried on in this country, which are peculiar to it self, or at least to this county with the two next adjoyning; namely, Chester, and Warwick.
Monmouth cups sold chiefly to the Dutch seamen, and made only at Beawdly.
Fine stone potts for the glass-makers melting their metal, of which they make their fine flint glass, glass plates, &c. not to be found any where but at Stourbridge in this county, the same clay makes crucibles and other melting pots.
The Birmingham iron works: The north indeed claims a share or part of this trade, but it is only a part.
Kidderminster stuffs call’d Lindsey Woolseys, they are very rarely made any where else.
At Stourbridge also they have a very great manufacture for glass of all sorts.
From Worcester I took a tour into Wales, which tho’ I mentioned above, it was not at the same time with the rest of my journey; my account I hope will be as effectual.
In passing from this part of the country to make a tour through Wales, we necessarily see the two counties of Hereford and Monmouth, and for that reason I reserv’d them to this place, as I shall the counties of Chester and Salop to my return. A little below Worcester the Severn receives a river of a long course and deep chanel, call’d the Teme, and going from Worcester we past this river at a village call’d Broadways; from whence keeping a little to the north, we come to Ludlow-Castle, on the bank of the same river. On another journey I came from Stourbridge, famous for the clay for melting pots as above; thence to Kidderminster, and passing the Severn at Bewdley we came to Ludlow, on the side of Shropshire.
In this course we see two fine seats not very far from the Severn, (viz.) the Lord Foley’s, and the Earl of Bradford’s, as we had before a most delicious house, belonging to the Lord Conway, now in the family of the late famous Sir Edward Seymour. Indeed this part of the county, and all the county of Salop is fill’d with fine seats of the nobility and gentry, too many so much as to give a list of, and much less to describe.
The castle of Ludlow shows in its decay, what it was in its flourishing estate: It is the palace of the Princes of Wales, that is, to speak more properly, it is annex’d to the principality of Wales; which is the appanage of the heir apparent, and this is his palace in right of his being made Prince of Wales.
The situation of this castle is most beautiful indeed; there is a most spacious plain or lawn in its front, which formerly continu’d near two miles; but much of it is now enclosed. The country round it is exceeding pleasant, fertile, populous, and the soil rich; nothing can be added by nature to make it a place fit for a royal palace: It only wants the residence of its princes, but that is not now to be expected.
The castle itself is in the very perfection of decay, all the fine courts, the royal apartments, halls, and rooms of state, lye open, abandoned and some of them falling down; for since the Courts of the President and Marches are taken away, here is nothing to do that requires the attendance of any publick people; so that time, the great devourer of the works of men, begins to eat into the very stone walls, and to spread the face of royal ruins upon the whole fabrick.
The town of Ludlow is a tolerable place, but it decays to be sure with the rest: It stands on the edge of the two counties, Shropshire, and Worcestershire, but is itself in the first; ’tis on the bank of the Teme, over which it has a good bridge, and it was formerly a town of good trade; the Welch call this town Lye Twysoe, which is in English, the Prince’s Court. Mr. Cambden calls the river Teme the Tem’d, and another river which joyns it just at this town, the Corve, whence the rich flat country below the town is call’d Corvesdale.
King Henry VIII. established the Court of the President here, and the Council of the Marches and all causes of nisi prius, or of civil right were try’d here, before the Lord President and Council; but this Court was entirely taken away by Act of Parliament in our days, and this, as above, tends to the sensible decay of the town as well as of the castle.
From Ludlow we took our course due south to Lemster, or Leominster, a large and good trading town on the River Lug. This river is lately made navigable by Act of Parliament, to the very great profit of the trading part of this country, who have now a very great trade for their corn, wool, and other products of this place, into the river Wye, and from the Wye, into the Severn, and so to Bristol.
Leominster has nothing very remarkable in it, but that it is a well built, well inhabited town: The church which is very large, has been in a manner rebuilt, and is now, especially in the inside, a very beautiful church. This town, besides the fine wool, is noted for the best wheat, and consequently the finest bread; whence Lemster Bread, and Weobly Ale, is become a proverbial saying.
The country on our right as we came from Ludlow is very fruitful and pleasant, and is call’d the Hundred of Wigmore, from which the late Earl of Oxford at his creation, took the title of Baron of Wigmore: And here we saw two antient castles, (viz.) Brampton-Brian, and Wigmore-Castle, both belonging to the earl’s father, Sir Edward Harley; Brampton is a stately pile, but not kept in full repair, the fate of that antient family not permitting the rebuilding it as we were told was in tended. Yet it is not so far decay’d as Ludlow, nor is it abandoned, or like to be so, and the parks are still very fine, and full of large timber.
We were now on the borders of Wales, properly so call’d; for from the windows of Brampton-Castle, you have a fair prospect into the county of Radnor, which is, as it were, under its walls; nay, even this whole county of Hereford, was, if we may believe antiquity, a part of Wales, and was so esteem’d for many ages. The people of this county too, boast that they were a part of the antient Silures, who for so many ages withstood the Roman arms, and who could never be entirely conquer’d. But that’s an affair quite beyond my enquiry. I observ’d they are a diligent and laborious people, chiefly addicted to husbandry, and they boast, perhaps, not without reason, that they have the finest wool, and best hops, and the richest cyder in all Britain.
Indeed the wool about Leominster, and in the Hundred of Wigmore observ’d above, and the Golden Vale as ’tis call’d, for its richness on the banks of the river Dove, (all in this county) is the finest without exception, of any in England, the South Down wool not excepted: As for hops, they plant abundance indeed all over this county, and they are very good. And as for cyder, here it was, that several times for 20 miles together, we could get no beer or ale in their publick houses, only cyder; and that so very good, so fine, and so cheap, that we never found fault with the exchange; great quantities of this cyder are sent to London, even by land carriage tho’ so very remote, which is an evidence for the goodness of it, beyond contradiction.
One would hardly expect so pleasant, and fruitful a country as this, so near the barren mountains of Wales; but ’tis certain, that not any of our southern counties, the neighbourhood of London excepted, comes up to the fertility of this county, as Gloucester furnishes London with great quantities of cheese, so this county furnishes the same city with bacon in great quantities, and also with cyder as above.
From Lemster it is ten miles to Hereford, the chief city, not of this county only, but of all the counties west of Severn: ’Tis a large and a populous city, and in the time of the late Rebellion, was very strong, and being well fortify’d, and as well defended, supported a tedious and very severe siege; for besides the Parliament’s Forces, who could never reduce it, the Scots army was call’d to the work, who lay before it, ‘till they laid above 4000 of their bones there, and at last, it was rather taken by the fate of the war, than by the attack of the besiegers.
Coming to Hereford, we could not but enquire into the truth of the story so famous, that the Reverend Dr. Gibson had mentioned it in his continuation of Cambden; of the removing the two great stones near Sutton, which the people confirm’d to us. The story is thus,
Between Sutton and Hereford, is a common meadow call’d the Wergins, where were plac’d two large stones for a watermark; one erected upright, and the other laid a-thwart. In the late Civil Wars, about the Year 1652, they were remov’d to about twelve score paces distance, and no body knew how; which gave occasion to a common opinion, That they were carried thither by the Devil. When they were set in their places again, one of them requir’d nine yoke of oxen to draw it.
Not far from Lidbury, is Colwal; near which, upon the waste, as a countryman was digging a ditch about his cottage, he found a crown or a .coronet of gold, with gems set deep in it. It was of a size large enough to be drawn over the arm, with the sleeve. The stones of it are said to have been so valuable, as to be sold by a jeweller for fifteen hundred pounds.
It is truly an old, mean built, and very dirty city, lying low, and on the bank of Wye, which sometimes incommodes them very much, by the violent freshes that come down from the mountains of Wales; for all the rivers of this county, except the Driffin-Doe, come out of Wales.
The chief thing remarkable next to the cathedral, is the college, which still retains its Foundation Laws, and where the residentiaries are still oblig’d to celibacy, but otherwise, live a very happy, easy, and plentiful life; being furnish’d upon the foot of the foundation, besides their ecclesiastical stipends.
The great church is a magnificent building, however ancient, the spire is not high, but handsome, and there is a fine tower at the west end, over the great door or entrance. The choir is very fine, tho’ plain, and there is a very good organ: The revenues of this bishoprick are very considerable, but lye under. some abatement at present, on account of necessary repairs.
There are several monuments in it of antient bishops, but no other of note. Between Leominster and this city, is another Hampton Court, the seat of the Lord Conningsby, who has also a considerable interest in the north part of this county; a person distinguishing himself in the process or impeachment against the late Earl of Oxford, his neighbour; who, to his no small disappointment, escap’d him. There is nothing remarkable here that I could observe: But the name putting me in mind of another Hampton Court, so much beyond it, that the house seems to be a foil to the name; the house was built by Rowland Lenthall, Esq; who was Guard de Robe to Henry IV. so that it is old enough, if that may recommend it, and so is its master.
From Hereford keeping the bank of Wye as near as we could, we came to Ross, a good old town, famous for good cyder, a great manufacture of iron ware, and a good trade on the River Wye, and nothing else as I remember, except it was a monstrous fat woman, who they would have had me gone to see. But I had enough of the relation, and so I suppose will the reader, for they told me she was more than three yards about her wast; that when she sat down, she was oblig’d to have a small stool plac’d before her, to rest her belly on, and the like.
From hence we came at about 8 miles more into Monmouthshire, and to the town of Monmouth. It is an old town situate at the conflux of the Wye and of Munnow, whence the town has its name; it stands in the angle where the rivers joyn, and has a bridge over each river, and a third over the River Trothy, which comes in just below the other.
This town shews by its reverend face, that it is a place of great antiquity, and by the remains of walls, lines, curtains, and bastions, that it has been very strong, and by its situation that it may be made so again: This place is made famous, by being the native place of one of our most antient historians Jeoffry of Monmouth. At present ’tis rather a decay’d than a flourishing town, yet, it drives a considerable trade with the city of Bristol, by the navigation of the Wye.
This river having as I said, just received two large streams, the Mynevly or Munno, and the Trother, is grown a very noble river, and with a deep chanel, and a full current hurries away towards the sea, carrying also vessels of a considerable burthen hereabouts.
Near Monmouth the Duke of Beaufort has a fine old seat, call’d Troy; but since the family has had a much finer palace at Badminton, near the Bath; this tho’ a most charming situation seems to be much neglected.
Lower down upon the Wye stands Chepstow, the sea port for all the towns seated on the Wye and Lug, and where their commerce seems to center. Here is a noble bridge over the Wye: To this town ships of good burthen may come up, and the tide runs here with the same impetuous current as at Bristol; the flood rising from six fathom, to six and a half at Chepstow Bridge. This is a place of very good trade, as is also Newport, a town of the like import upon the River Uske, a great river, tho’ not so big as Wye, which runs thro’ the center of the county, and falls also into the Severn Sea.
This county furnishes great quantities of corn for exportation, and the Bristol merchants frequently load ships here, to go to Portugal, and other foreign countries with wheat; considering the mountainous part of the west of this county, ’tis much they should have such good corn, and so much of it to spare; but the eastern side of the county, and the neighbourhood of Herefordshire, supplies them.
I am now at the utmost extent of England west, and here I must mount the Alps, traverse the mountains of Wales, (and indeed, they are well compar’d to the Alps in the inmost provinces;) But with this exception, that in abundance of places you have the most pleasant and beautiful valleys imaginable, and some of them, of very great extent, far exceeding the valleys so fam’d among the mountains of Savoy, and Piedmont.
The two first counties which border west upon Monmouthshire, are Brecknock, and Glamorgan, and as they are very mountainous, so that part of Monmouthshire which joyns them, begins the rising of the hills. Kyrton-Beacon, Tumberlow, Blorench, Penvail, and Skirridan, are some of the names of these horrid mountains, and are all in this shire; and I could not but fansy my self in view of Mount Brennus, Little Barnard, and Great Barnard, among the Alps. When I saw Plinlimmon Hill, and the sources of the Severn on one side of it, and the Wye and Rydall on the other: it put me in mind of the famous hill, call’d ———in the cantons of Switzerland, out of which the Rhine rises on one side, and the Rhosne, and the Aa on the other. But I shall give you more of them presently.
We now entered South Wales: The provinces which bear the name of South Wales, are these, Glamorgan, Brecknock, Radnor, Caermarthen, Pembroke, and Cardigan. We began with Brecknock, being willing to see the highest of the mountains, which are said to be hereabouts; and indeed, except I had still an idea of the height of the Alps, and of those mighty mountains of America, the Andes, which we see very often in the South-Seas, 20 leagues from the shore: I say except that I had still an idea of those countries on my mind, I should have been surprized at the sight of these hills; nay, (as it was) the Andes and the Alps, tho’ immensly high, yet they stand together, and they are as mountains, pil’d upon mountains, and hills upon hills; whereas sometimes we see these mountains rising up at once, from the lowest valleys, to the highest summits which makes the height look horrid and frightful, even worse than those mountains abroad; which tho’ much higher, rise as it were, one behind another: So that the ascent seems gradual, and consequently less surprising.
Brecknockshire is a meer inland county, as Radnor is; the English jestingly (and I think not very improperly) call it Breakneckshire: ’Tis mountainous to an extremity, except on the side of Radnor, where it is something more low and level. It is well watered by the Wye, and the Uske, two rivers mentioned before; upon the latter stands the town of Brecknock, the capital of the county: The most to be said of this town, is what indeed I have said of many places in Wales, (viz.) that it is very antient, and indeed to mention it here for all the rest, there are more tokens of antiquity to be seen every where in Wales, than in any particular part of England, except the counties of Cumberland, and Northumberland. Here we saw Brecknock-Mere, a large or long lake of water, two or three miles over; of which, they have a great many Welch fables, not worth relating: The best of them is, that a certain river call’d the Lheweni runs thro’ it, and keeps its colour in mid-chanel distinguish’d from the water of the lake, and as they say, never mingles with it. They take abundance of good fish in this lake, so that as is said of the river Thysse in Hungary; they say this lake is two thirds water, and one third fish. The country people affirm, there stood a city once here, but, that by the judgment of Heaven, for the sin of its inhabitants, it sunk into the earth, and the water rose up in the place of it. I observe the same story is mentioned by Mr. Cambden with some difference in the particulars: I believe my share of it, but ’tis remarkable, that Mr. Cambden having lost the old city Loventium, mentioned by Ptolemy to be hereabouts, is willing to account for it, by this old story.
It was among the mountains of this county that the famous Glendower shelter’d himself, and taking arms on the deposing Richard II. proclaimed himself Prince of Wales; and they shew us several little refuges of his in the mountains, whither he retreated, and from whence, again, he made such bold excursions into England.
Tho’ this county be so mountainous, provisions are exceeding plentiful, and also very good all over the county; nor are these mountains useless, even to the city of London, as I have noted of other counties; for from hence they send yearly, great herds of black cattle to England, and which are known to fill our fairs and markets, even that of Smithfield it self.
The yellow mountains of Radnorshire are the same, and their product of cattle is the same; nor did I meet with any thing new, and worth noticing, except monuments of antiquity, which are not the subject of my enquiry: The stories of Vortigern, and Roger of Mortimer, are in every old woman’s mouth here. There is here a great cataract or water fall of the River Wye, at a place call’d Rhayadr Gwy in Welch, which signifies the Cataract or Water Fall of the Wye, but we did not go to see it, by reason of a great flood at that time, which made the way dangerous: There is a kind of desart too, on that side, which is scarce habitable or passable, so we made it our north boundary for this part of our journey, and turn’d away to Glamorganshire.
Entring this shire, from Radnor and Brecknock, we were saluted with Monuchdenny-Hill on our left, and the Black-Mountain on the right, and all a ridge of horrid rocks and precipices between, over which, if we had not had trusty guides, we should never have found our way; and indeed, we began to repent our curiosity, as not having met with any thing worth the trouble; and a country looking so full of horror, that we thought to have given over the enterprise, and have left Wales out of our circuit: But after a day and a night conversing thus with rocks and mountains, our guide brought us down into a most agreeable vale, opening to the south, and a pleasant river running through it, call’d the Taaffe; and following the course of this river, we came in the evening to the antient city of Landaff, and Caerdiff, standing almost together.
Landaff is the seat of the episcopal see, and a city; but Cardiff which is lower on the river, is the port and town of trade; and has a very good harbour opening into the Severn Sea, about 4 miles below the town. The cathedral is a neat building, but very antient; they boast that this church was a house of religious worship many years before any church was founded in England, and that the Christian religion flourish’d here in its primitive purity, from the year 186, till the Pelagian heresy overspread this country; which being afterwards rooted out by the care of the orthodox bishop, they plac’d St. Dobricius as the first bishop in this town of Landaff, then call’d Launton: Tis observable, that though the Bishop of Landaff was call’d an arch-bishop, yet the cathedral church was but 28 foot long, and 10 foot broad, and without any steeple or bells; notwithstanding which the 3 first bishops were afterwards sainted, for their eminent holiness of life, and the miracles they wrought; nor had they any other cathedral from the year 386, to the year 1107, when Bishop Urban built the present church, with some houses for the clergy adjoyning, in the nature of a cloyster. Tho’ the church is antient, yet the building is good, and the choir neat, and pretty well kept; but there are no monuments of note in it, except some so antient, that no inscription can be read, to give any account of.
The south part of this country is a pleasant and agreeable place, and is very populous; ’tis also a very good, fertile, and rich soil, and the low grounds are so well cover’d with grass, and stock’d with cattle, that they supply the city of Bristol with butter in very great quantities salted and barrell’d up, just as Suffolk does the city of London.
The chief sea port is Swanzey, a very considerable town for trade, and has a very good harbour: Here is also a very great trade for coals, and culmn, which they export to all the ports of Sommerset, Devon, and Cornwal, and also to Ireland itself; so that one sometimes sees a hundred sail of ships at a time loading coals here; which greatly enriches the country, and particularly this town of Swanzey, which is really a very thriving place; it stands on the River Tawye, or Taw: ’Tis very remarkable, that most of the rivers in this county chime upon the letters T, and Y, as Taaf, Tawy, Tuy, Towy, Tyevy.
Neath is another port, where the coal trade is also considerable, tho’ it stands farther within the land. Kynfig Castle, is now the seat and estate of the Lord Mansel, who has here also a very royal income from the collieries; I say royal, because equal to the revenues of some sovereign princes, and which formerly denominated Sir Edward Mansel, one of the richest commoners in Wales; the family was enobled by Her late Majesty Queen Anne.
In this neighbourhood, near Margan Mynydd, we saw the famous monument mentioned by Mr. Cambden, on a hill, with the inscription, which the people are so terrify’d at, that no body will care to read it; for they have a tradition from father to son, that whoever ventures to read it, will dye within a month. We did not scruple the adventure at all, but when we came to try, the letters were so defac’d by time, that we were effectually secur’d from the danger; the inscription not being any thing near so legible, as it seems it was in Cambdens time.
The stone pillar is about 4 or 5 foot high, and 1 foot thick, standing on the top of this hill; there are several other such monuments in Radnorshire, and other counties in Wales, as likewise in Scotland we saw the like: But as I have always said, I carefully avoid entering into any discourses of antiquity, as what the narrow compass of these letters will not allow.
Having thus touch’d at what is most curious on this coast, we pass’d thro’ the land of Gowre, and going still west, we came to Caermarthen, or Kaer-Vyrdhin, as the Welsh call it, the capital of the county of Kaermardhinshire.
This is an antient but not a decay’d town, pleasantly situated on the River Towy, or Tovy, which is navigable up to the town, for vessels of a moderate burthen. The town indeed is well built, and populous, and the country round it, is the most fruitful, of any part of all Wales, considering that it continues to be so for a great way; namely, thro’ all the middle of the county, and a great way into the next; nor is this county so mountainous and wild, as the rest of this part of Wales: but it abounds in corn, and in fine flourishing meadows, as good as most are in Britain, and in which are fed, a very great number of good cattle.
The chancery, and exchequer of the principality, was usually kept at this town, till the jurisdiction of the Court and Marches of Wales was taken away. This town was also famous for the birth of the old Brittish prophet Merlin, of whom so many things are fabled, that indeed nothing of its kind ever prevail’d so far, in the delusion of mankind, and who flourish’d in the year 480: And here also the old Britains often kept their parliament or assemblies of their wise men, and made their laws. The town was fortify’d in former times, but the walls are scarcely to be seen now, only the ruins of them.
Here we saw near Kily-Maen Ibwyd, on a great mountain, a circle of mighty stones, very much like Stone-henge in Wiltshire, or rather like the Rollrych Stones in Oxfordshire; and tho’ the people call it Bruarth Arthur, or King Arthur’s Throne, we see no reason to believe that King Arthur knew any thing of it, or that it had any relation to him.
We found the people of this county more civiliz’d and more curteous, than in the more mountainous parts, where the disposition of the inhabitants seems to be rough, like the country: But here as they seem to converse with the rest of the world, by their commerce, so they are more conversible than their neighbours.
The next county west, is Pembrokeshire, which is the most extreme part of Wales on this side, in a rich, fertile, and plentiful country, lying on the sea coast, where it has the benefit of Milford Haven, one of the greatest and best inlets of water in Britain. Mr. Cambden says it contains 16 creeks, 5 great bays, and 13 good roads for shipping, all distinguish’d as such by their names; and some say, a thousand sail of ships may ride in it, and not the topmast of one be seen from another; but this last, I think, merits confirmation.
Before we quitted the coast, we saw Tenbigh, the most agreeable town on all the sea coast of South Wales, except Pembroke, being a very good road for shipping, and well frequented: Here is a great fishery for herring in its season, a great colliery, or rather export of coals, and they also drive a very considerable trade to Ireland.
From hence, the land bearing far into the sea, makes a promontory, call’d St. Govens Head or Point. But as we found nothing of moment was to be seen there, we cross’d over the isthmus to Pembroke, which stands on the E. shore of the great haven of Milford Haven.
This is the largest and richest, and at this time, the most flourishing town of all S. Wales: Here are a great many English merchants, and some of them men of good business; and they told us, there were near 200 sail of ships belong’d to the town, small and great; in a word, all this part of Wales is a rich and flourishing country, but especially this part is so very pleasant, and fertile, and is so well cultivated, that ’tis call’d by distinction, Little England, beyond Wales.
This is the place also made particularly famous for the landing of King Henry VII, then Duke of Richmond: From hence, being resolv’d to see the utmost extent of the county west, we ferry’d over the haven as ———and went to Haverford, or by some call’d Haverford-West; and from thence to St. Davids, or St. Taffys, as the Welch call it. Haverford is a better town than we expected to find, in this remote angle of Britain; ’tis strong, well built, clean, and populous.
From hence to St. Davids, the country begins to look like Wales again, dry, barren, and mountainous; St. Davids is not a bishop’s see only, but was formerly an arch-bishop’s, which they tell us, was by the Pope transferr’d to Dole in Britany, where it still remains.
The venerable aspect of this cathedral church, shews that it has been a beautiful building, but that it is much decay’d. The west end or body of the church is tolerably well; the choir is kept neat, and in tollerable repair, the S. isle without the choir, and the Virgin Mary’s Chappel, which makes the E. end of the church, are in a manner demolish’d, and the roofs of both fallen in.
There are a great many eminent persons bury’d here, besides such, whose monuments are defac’d by time: There is St. Davids monument, to whom the church is dedicated, the monument of the Earl of Richmond, as also of the famous Owen Tudor; there are also four antient monuments of Knights Templara, known by their figures lying cross legg’d; but their names are not known, and there are six several monuments of bishops, who ruled this church, besides St. David.
This St. David they tell us was uncle to King Arthur, that he lived to 146 years of age, that he was bishop of this church 65 years, being born in the year 496, and dyed ann. 642; that he built 12 monasteries, and did abundance of miracles.
There was a very handsome house for the bishop, with a college, all built in a close by themselves, but they are now turn’d to ruins.
Here the weather being very clear, we had a full view of Ireland, tho’ at a very great distance: The land here is call’d St. Davids Head, and from hence, there has some time ago, gone a passage boat constantly between England and Ireland, but that voiture is at present discontinued. They reckon up 112 bishops of this see, since it begun, to the year 1712.
The last bishop but two, was Dr. Thomas Watson, of whom the world has heard so much, being depriv’d after a long debate, on a charge of simony; whether justly, or not, I shall not enquire, but he bestow’d great sums on charitable designs, and is still (living) enclined as I am told, to do much more.
From hence we turn’d N. keeping the sea in our W. prospect. and a rugged mountainous country on the E. where the hills even darken’d the air with their heighth; as we went on, we past by Newport, on the River Nevern, a town having a good harbour, and consequently a good trade with Ireland.
Here we left Pembrokeshire, and after about 22 miles, came to the town of Cardigan, an old and well inhabited town, on the River Tivy: ’Tis a very noble river indeed, and famous for its plenty of the best and largest salmon in Britain.
The country people told us, that they had beavers here, which bred in the lakes among the mountains, and came down the stream of Tivy to feed; that they destroy’d the young frye of salmon, and therefore the country people destroy’d them; but they could shew us none of them, or any of their skins, neither could the countrymen describe them, or tell us that they had ever seen them; so that we concluded they only meant the otter, till I found after our return, that Mr. Cambden mentions also, that there were beavers seen here formerly.
This town of Cardigan was once possess’d by the great Robert Fitz-Stephen, who was the first Britain that ever attempted the conquest of Ireland; and had such success with a handful of men, as afterwards gave the English a footing there, which they never quitted afterwards, till they quite reduc’d the country, and made it, as it were, a province of England.
The town is not large, has been well fortify’d, but that part is now wholly neglected. It has a good trade with Ireland, and is enrich’d very much, as is all this part of the country, by the famous lead mines, formerly discover’d by Sir Carbery Price, which are the greatest, and perhaps the richest in England; and particularly as they require so little labour and charge to come at the oar, which in many places lyes within a fathom or two of the surface, and in some, even bare to the very top.
Going N. from the Tyvy about 25 miles, we came to Abrystwyth, that is to say, the town at the mouth of the River Ystwyth. This town is enrich’d by the coals and lead which is found in its neighbourhood, and is a populous, but a very dirty, black, smoaky place, and we fancy’d the people look’d as if they liv’d continually in the coal or lead mines. However, they are rich, and the place is very populous.
The whole county of Cardigan is so full of cattle, that ’tis said to be the nursery, or breeding-place for the whole kingdom of England, S. by Trent; but this is not a proof of its fertility, for tho’ the feeding of cattle indeed requires a rich soil, the breeding them does not, the mountains and moors being as proper for that purpose as richer land.
Now we enter’d N. Wales, only I should add, that as we pass’d, we had a sight of the famous Plymlymon-Hill, out of the east side of which as I mentioned before, rises the Severn, and the Wye; and out of the west side of it, rises the Rydall and the Ystwyth. This mountain is exceeding high, and tho’ it is hard to say which is the highest hill in Wales, yet I think this bids fair for it; nor is the county for 20 miles round it, any thing but a continued ridge of mountains: So that for almost a whole week’s travel, we seem’d to be conversing with the upper regions; for we were often above the clouds, I’m sure, a very great way, and the names of some of these hills seem’d as barbarous to us, who spoke no Welch, as the hills themselves.
Passing these mountains, I say, we enter’d N. Wales, which contains the counties of Montgomery, Merionith, Caernarvon, Denbeigh, and Flint shires, and the Isle of Anglesea.
In passing Montgomery-shire, we were so tired with rocks and mountains, that we wish’d heartily we had kept close to the sea shore, but it not much mended the matter if we had, as I understood afterwards: The River Severn is the only beauty of this county, which rising I say, out of the Plymlymon Mountain, receives instantly so many other rivers into its bosom, that it becomes navigable before it gets out of the county; namely, at Welch Pool, on the edge of Shropshire. This is a good fashionable place, and has many English dwelling in it, and some very good families; but we saw nothing farther worth remarking.
The vales and meadows upon the bank of the Severn, are the best of this county, I had almost said, the only good part of it; some are of opinion, that, the very water of the Severn, like that of Nile, impregnates the valleys, and when it overflows, leaves a vertue behind it, particularly to itself; and this they say is confirm’d, because all the country is so fruitful, wherever this river does overflow, and its waters reach. The town, or rather as the natives call it, the city of Montgomery, lyes not far from this river, on the outer edge of the country next to Herefordshire. This was, it seems, a great frontier town in the wars between the English and the Welch, and was beautify’d and fortify’d by King Henry III; the town is now much decay’d: It gives title to the eldest son of the ducal house of Powis, who is call’d Lord Montgomery, and Marquis of Powis; they have a noble seat at Troy, hard by this town on the other side the river: But the house of Pembroke also claims the title of Montgomery.
This county is noted for an excellent breed of Welch horses, which, though not very large, are exceeding valuable, and much esteem’d all over England; all the North and West part of the county is mountainous and stony. We saw a great many old monuments in this country, and Roman camps wherever we came, and especially if we met any person curious in such things, we found they had many Roman coins; but this was none of my enquiry, as I have said already.
Merionithshire, or Merionydshire, lyes west from Montgomeryshire; it lyes on the Irish Sea, or rather the ocean; for St. George’s Chanel does not begin till further north, and it is extended on the coast, for near 35 miles in length, all still mountainous and craggy. The principal river is the Tovy, which rises among the unpassable mountains, which range along the center of this part of Wales, and which we call unpassable, for that even the people themselves call’d them so; we look’d at them indeed with astonishment, for their rugged tops, and the immense height of them: Some particular hills have particular names, but otherwise we called them all the Black Mountains, and they well deserv’d the name; some think ’tis from the unpassable mountains of this county, that we have an old saying, that the devil lives in the middle of Wales, tho’ I know there is another meaning given to it; in a word, Mr. Cambden calls these parts the Alps of Wales.
There is but few large towns in all this part, nor is it very populous; indeed much of it is scarce habitable, but ’tis said, there are more sheep in it, than in all the rest of Wales. On the sea shore however, we see Harleigh-Castle, which is still a garrison, and kept for the guard of the coast, but ’tis of no great strength, but by its situation.
In the middle of these vast mountains (and forming a very large lake (viz.) near its first sources) rises the River Dee, of which I shall speak again in its proper place.
Here among innumerable summits, and rising peaks of nameless hills, we saw the famous Kader-Idricks, which some are of opinion, is the highest mountain in Britain, another call’d Rarauvaur, another call’d Mowylwynda, and still every hill we saw, we thought was higher than all that ever we saw before.
We enquired here after that strange phænomenon which was not only seen, but fatally experienced by the country round this place, namely, of a livid fire, coming off from the sea; and setting on fire, houses, barns, stacks of hay and corn, and poisoning the herbage in the fields; of which there is a full account given in the philosophical transactions: And as we had it confirm’d by the general voice of the people, I content my self with giving an account of it as follows:
It is observable, that the eclipses of the sun in Aries, have been very fatal to this place; for in the years 1542, and 1567, when the sun was eclipsed in that sign, it suffer’d very much by fire; and after the latter eclipse of the two, the fire spread so far, that about 200 houses in the town and suburbs of Caernarvon, were consum’d.
But to return to the face of things, as they appear’d to us, the mountainous country spoken of runs away N. through this county and almost the next, I mean Caernarvonshire, where Snowden Hill is a monstrous height, and according to its name, had snow on the top in the beginning of June; and perhaps had so till the next June, that is to say, all the year.
These unpassable heights were doubtless the refuges of the Britains, when they made continual war with the Saxons and Romans, and retreated on occasion of their being over power’d, into these parts; where, in short, no enemy could pursue them.
That side of the country of Carnarvon, which borders on the sea, is not so mountainous, and is both more fertile and more populous. The principal town in this part, is Carnarvon, a good town, with a castle built by Edward I. to curb and reduce the wild people of the mountains, and secure the passage into Anglesea. As this city was built by Edward I. so he kept his Court often here, and honour’d it with his presence very much; and here his eldest son and successor, tho’ unhappy, (Ed. II.) was born, who was therefore call’d Edward of Caernarvon. This Edward was the first Prince of Wales; that is to say, the first of the Kings of Englands sons, who was vested with the title of Prince of Wales: And here was kept the chancery and exchequer of the Prince’s of Wales, for the N. part of the principality, as it was at —— for the S. part. It is a small, but strong town, clean and well built, and considering the place, the people are very courteous and obliging to strangers. It is seated on the firth or inlet call’d Menai, parting the isle of Anglesea, or Mona, from the main land; and here is a ferry over to the island called Abermenai Ferry: And from thence a direct road to Holly Head, where we went for no purpose, but to have another view of Ireland, tho’ we were disappointed, the weather being bad and stormy.
Whoever travels critically over these mountains, I mean of S. Wales, and Merionithshire, will think Stone-henge in Wiltshire, and Roll-Rich Stones in Oxfordshire no more a wonder, seeing there are so many such, and such like, in these provinces; that they are not thought strange of at all, nor is it doubted, but they were generally monuments of the dead, as also are the single stones of immense bulk any other, of which we saw so many, that we gave over remarking them; some we saw from 7, 8, to 10, and one 16 foot high, being a whole stone, but so great, that the most of the wonder is, where they were found, and how dragg’d to the place; since, besides the steep ascents to some of the hills on which they stand, it would be impossible to move some of them, now, with 50 yoke of oxen. And yet a great many of these stones are found confusedly lying one upon another on the utmost summit or top of the Glyder, or other Hills, in Merionith and Carnarvonshire; to which it is next to impossible, that all the power of art, and strength of man and beast could carry them, and the people make no difficulty of saying the devil set them up there.
One of these monumental stones is to be seen a little way from Harleigh-Castle: It is a large stone lying flat, supported by three other stones at 3 of the 4 angles, tho’ the stone is rather oval than square, it is almost n foot long, the breadth unequal, but in some places its from 7 to 8 foot broad, and it may be suppos’d has been both longer and broader; ’tis in some places above 2 foot thick, but in others ’tis worn almost to an edge by time: The three stones that support it, are about 20 inches square, ’tis suppos’d there has been four, two of which that support the thickest end, are near 8 foot high, the other not above 3 foot, being suppos’d to be settled in the ground, so that the stone lyes sloping, like the roof of a barn. There is another of these to be seen in the isle of Anglesea, the flat stone is much larger and thicker than this; but we did not go to see it: There are also two circles of stones in that island, such as Stone-henge, but the stones much larger.
This is a particular kind of monument, and therefore I took notice of it, but the other are generally single stones of vast magnitude, set up on one end, column wise, which being so very large, are likely to remain to the end of time; but are generally without any inscription, or regular shape or any mark, to intimate for who, or for what they were so placed.
These mountains are indeed so like the Alps, that except the language of the people, one could hardly avoid thinking he is passing from Grenoble to Susa, or rather passing the country of the Grisons. The lakes also, which are so numerous here, make the similitude the greater, nor are the fables which the country people tell of these lakes, much unlike the stories which we meet with among the Switzers, of the famous lakes in their country; Dr. Gibson, (Mr. Cambdens continuator) tells us of 50 or 60 lakes in Carnarvonshire only, we did not count them indeed, but I believe if we had, we should have found them to be many more.
Here we met with the char fish, the same kind which we see in Lancashire, and also in the lakes of Switzerland, and no where else, that I have heard of in Europe; the Welch call it the torgoch.
There is nothing of note to be seen in the Isle of Anglesea but the town, and the castle of Baumaris, which was also built by King Edward I. and call’d Beau-Marsh, or the Fine Plain; for here the country is very level and plain, and the land is fruitful and pleasant. The castle was very large, as may be seen by its remains, and that it was strong; the situation will tell also, but ’tis now of no use.
As we went to Holly Head, by the S. part of the island from Newborough, and came back thro’ the middle to Beaumaris, we saw the whole extent of it, and indeed, it is a much pleasanter country, than any part of N. Wales, that we had yet seen; and particularly is very fruitful for corn and cattle.
Here we cross’d the Fretum, or strait of Meneu again, and came to Bangor, at the place where King Edward I. intended to have built a great stone bridge, it wou’d indeed have been a work fit for so great and powerful a king, as K. Edward was: But the bottom being doubtful, and the sea in that place sometimes very raging and strong, the workmen thought it impracticable, and tho’ as we were told, that the king was very positive in his design for a great while, yet he was prevail’d with at last to decline it.
From hence, I say, we cross’d to Bangor, a town noted for its antiquity, its being a bishops see, and an old, mean looking, and almost despicable cathedral church.
This church claims to be one of the most antient in Britain, the people say, ’tis the most antient; that St. Daniel (to whom this church was dedicated) was first bishop here, in the year 512. They allow that the pagans, perhaps of Anglesea, ruined the church, and possess’d the bishoprick after it was first built, for above 100 years; nor is there any account of it from the year 512, to 1009: After this, the bishoprick was ruined again by dilapidation, by one of its own bishops, whose name was Bulkeley, who, as the Monasticon says, not only sold the revenues, but even the very bells, for which sacrilege he was struck blind; but this last is a tradition only.
It is certainly at present a poor bishoprick, and has but a poor cathedral; yet the bishops are generally allow’d to hold some other good benefice in commendam, and the preferment seems to be a grateful introduction to the clergy, as the bishops are generally translated from hence, to a more profitable bishoprick.
From Bangor we went north, (keeping the sea on our left hand) to Conway. This is the poorest but pleasantest town in all this county for the bigness of it; it is seated on the bank of a fine river, which is not only pleasant and beautiful, but is a noble harbour for ships, had they any occasion for them there; the stream is deep and safe, and the river broad, as the Thames at Deptford: It only wants a trade suitable to so good a port, for it infinitely out does Chester or Leverpool itself.
In this passage, we went over the famous precipice call’d Penmen-muir, which indeed fame has made abundance more frightful, than it really is; for tho’ the rock is indeed very high, and if any one should fall from it, it wou’d dash them in pieces, yet, on the other hand, there is no danger of their falling; and besides, there is now a wall built all the way, on the edge of the precipice, to secure them: Those who have been at the hill or pass of Enterkin in Scotland, know very well, the danger there is much greater, than what can be thought of here; as the frequent loss of lives, both of man and horse will testify.
We have but little remarkable in the road from Conway to Hollywell, but craggs and rocks all along the N. shore of Denbeigh, till we came to Denbeigh town. This is the county town, and is a large populous place, which carries something in its countenance of its neighbourhood to England, but that which was most surprizing, after such a tiresom and fatiguing journey, over the unhospitable mountains of Merioneth, and Carnarvonshire, was, that descending now from the hills, we came into a most pleasant, fruitful, populous, and delicious vale, full of villages and towns, the fields shining with corn, just ready for the reapers, the meadows green and flowery, and a fine river, with a mild and gentle stream running thro’ it: Nor is it a small or casual intermission, but we had a prospect of the country open before us, for above 20 miles, in length, and from 5 to 7 miles in breadth, all smiling with the same kind of complexion; which made us think our selves in England again, all on a sudden.
In this pleasant vale, turning N. from Denbeigh, and following the stream of the river, we came to S. Asaph, a small city, with a cathedral, being a bishoprick of tolerable good value, though the church is old: It is but a poor town, and ill built, tho’ the country is so pleasant and rich round it. There are some old monuments in this church, but none of any note, nor could we read the Welch inscriptions.
From hence we come to Holly-well: The stories of this Well of S. Winifrid are, that the pious virgin, being ravished and murthered, this healing water sprung out of her body when buried; but this smells too much of the legend, to take up any of my time; the Romanists indeed believe it, as ’tis evident, from their thronging hither to receive the healing sanative virtue of the water, which they do not hope for as it is a medicinal water, but as it is a miraculous water, and heals them by virtue of the intercession and influence of this famous virgin, St. Winifrid; of which I believe as much as comes to my share.
Here is a fine chapel cut out of a solid rock, and was dedicated to this holy virgin; and numbers of pilgrims resort to it, with no less devotion than ignorance; under this chapel the water gushes out in a great stream, and the place where it breaks out, is form’d like a basin or cistern, in which they bathe: The water is intensely cold, and indeed there is no great miracle in that point, considering the rocks it flows from, where it is impregnated by divers minerals, the virtue of which, and not of the saint, I suppose, work the greatest part of the cures.
There is a little town near the well, which may, indeed, be said to have risen from the confluence of the people hither, for almost all the houses are either publick houses, or let into lodgings; and the priests that attend here, and are very numerous, appear in disguise: Sometimes they are physicians, sometimes surgeons, sometimes gentlemen, and sometimes patients, or any thing as occasion presents. No body takes notice of them, as to their profession, tho’ they know them well enough, no not the Roman Catholicks themselves; but in private, they have their proper oratory’s in certain places, whither the votaries resort; and good manners has prevail’d so far, that however the Protestants know who and who’s together; no body takes notice of it, or enquires where one another goes, or has been gone.
From hence we past by Flint-Castle, a known place, but of no significance; and then in a few hours we cross’d the River Dee, and arriv’d at the city of West Chester, from whence, I shall give a farther account of my journey in my next.
SIR, Yours, &c.
1 N.B. This was an expression the king used on no occasion, but such, as where the places were exquisitely fine, and particularly pleased him: and it was not observ’d that ever his majesty said it of any place in England, but of this, and of Burleigh-House by Stamford in Lincolnshire, the seat of the Earl of Exeter.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53