SIR, — My last from West Chester, gave you a full account of my progress thro’ Wales, and my coming to Chester, at the end of that really fatiguing journey: I must confess, I that have seen the Alps, on so many occasions, have gone under so many of the most frightful passes in the country of the Grisons, and in the mountains of Tirol, never believ’d there was any thing in this island of Britain that came near, much less that exceeded those hills, in the terror of their aspect, or in the difficulty of access to them; But certainly, if they are out done any where in the world, it is here: Even Hannibal himself wou’d have found it impossible to have march’d his army over Snowden, or over the rocks of Merioneth and Montgomery Shires; no, not with all the help that fire and vinegar could have yielded, to make way for him.
The only support we had in this heavy journey, was, (1.) That we generally found their provisions very good and cheap, and very good accommodations in the inns. And (2.) That the Welsh gentlemen are very civil, hospitable, and kind; the people very obliging and conversible, and especially to strangers; but when we let them know, we travell’d merely in curiosity to view the country, and be able to speak well of them to strangers, their civility was heightened to such a degree, that nothing could be more friendly, willing to tell us every thing that belong’d to their country, and to show us every thing that we desired to see.
They value themselves much upon their antiquity: The antient race of their houses, and families, and the like; and above all, upon their antient heroes: their King Caractacus, Owen ap Tudor, Prince Lewellin, and the like noblemen and princes of British extraction; and as they believe their country to be the pleasantest and most agreeable in the world, so you cannot oblige them more, than to make them think you believe so too.
The gentlemen of Wales, indeed, justly claim a very antient descent, and have preserv’d their families entire, for many ages: They receive you well into their houses, treat you very handsomely, are very generous; and indeed, nothing is wanting within doors; and which is more than all, they have generally very good estates.
I continued at Chester for some time, except that I made two or three excursions into the neighbouring country, and particularly into that part of Shropshire, which I had not view’d as I went; as also into the north, and north west part of Cheshire.
The first trip I made, was into the Cestria Chersonesus, as I think we may properly call it, (viz.) a piece of the county, which runs out a great way into the Irish Sea, and is bounded by the two great firths, or arms of the sea, the one call’d the mouth of the Dee, and the other of two rivers, the Mersey, and the Wever; this isthmus or neck of land, is about 16 miles long, and about 6 or 7 miles over, and has not one market town in it, tho’ ’tis exceeding rich and fertile; the last occasioned possibly by the neighbourhood of two such great towns, or cities rather: I mean Chester and Leverpool.
Going down from Chester, by the Rhoodee, as they call it, that is, the marshes of the River Dee, and coasting the river after it is grown broader than the marshes; the first place of any note which we come to, is Nesson, a long nase or ness of land, which running out into the sea, makes a kind of a key. This is the place where in the late war in Ireland, most of the troops embark’d, when that grand expedition begun; after which, the vessels go away to Highlake, in which as the winds may happen they ride safe in their way, as the ships from London lye in the Downs, till the wind presents for their respective voyages.
From Nesson we cross’d over that fruitful level I mentioned before, and coming to the other water, we ferry’d over to Leverpool. This town is now become so great, so populous, and so rich, that it may be call’d the Bristol of this part of England: It had formerly but one church, but upon the encrease of inhabitants, and of new buildings in so extraordinary a manner, they have built another very fine church in the north part of the town; and they talk of erecting two more.
The first thing we observ’d in this church, was a fine marble font, all of one entire stone, given to the town, or church rather, by the late Robert Heysham Esq; a citizen and very considerable merchant of London; who was many years representative for the town of Lancaster. Here is a very fine new built tower also, and in it a curious ring of eight, very good bells. This part of the town may indeed be call’d New Leverpool, for that, they have built more than another Leverpool that way, in new streets, and fine large houses for their merchants: Besides this, they have made a great wet dock, for laying up their ships, and which they greatly wanted; for tho’ the Mersey is a noble harbour, and is able to ride a thousand sail of ships at once, yet those ships that are to be laid up, or lye by the walls all the winter, or longer, as sometimes may be the case; must ride there, as in an open road, or (as the seamen call it,) be haled a shore; neither of which wou’d be practicable in a town of so much trade: And in the time of the late great storm, they suffer’d very much on that account.
This is the only work of its kind in England, except what is in the river of Thames, I mean for the merchants; nor is it many years since there was not one wet dock in England for private use, except Sir Henry Johnson’s at Black Wall.
This is still an encreasing flourishing town, and if they go on in trade, as they have done for some time, ’tis probable it will in a little time be as big as the city of Dublin. The houses here are exceedingly well built, the streets strait, clean, and spacious, and they are now well supplied with water. The merchants here have a very pretty Exchange, standing upon 12 free-stone columns, but it begins to be so much too little, that ’tis thought they must remove or enlarge it. They talk already as I have said above, of building two churches more at Leverpool, and surrounding them with new streets, to the N.E. of the old town, which if they should, Leverpool will soon out do Bristol: In short, ’tis already the next town to Bristol, and in a little time may probably exceed it, both in commerce, and in numbers of people.
We went no farther this way at that time, but came back to Chester, by the same ferry as we went over.
As I am now at Chester, ’tis proper to say something of it, being a city well worth describing: Chester has four things very remarkable in it. 1. It’s walls, which are very firm, beautiful, and in good repair. 2. The castle, which is also kept up, and has a garrison always in it. 3. The cathedral. 4. The River Dee, and 5. the bridge over it.
It is a very antient city, and to this day, the buildings are very old; nor do the Rows as they call them, add any thing, in my opinion, to the beauty of the city; but just the contrary, they serve to make the city look both old and ugly: These Rows are certain long galleries, up one pair of stairs, which run along the side of the streets, before all the houses, tho’ joined to them, and as is pretended, they are to keep the people dry in walking along. This they do indeed effectually, but then they take away all the view of the houses from the street, nor can a stranger, that was to ride thro’ Chester, see any shops in the city; besides, they make the shops themselves dark, and the way in them is dark, dirty, and uneven.
The best ornament of the city, is, that the streets are very broad and fair, and run through the whole city in strait lines, crossing in the middle of the city, as at Chichester: the walls as i have said, are in very good repair, and it is a very pleasant walk round the city, upon the walls, and within the battlements, from whence you may see the country round; and particularly on the side of the Roodee, which i mentioned before, which is a fine large low green, on the bank of the Dee. In the winter this green is often under water by the inundations of the river, and a little before I came there, they had such a terrible land flood, which flow’d 8 foot higher than usual so that it not only overflowed the said green, call’d the Roodee, but destroy’d a fine new wharf and landing-place for goods, a little below the town, bore down all the warehouses, and other buildings, which the merchants had erected for securing their goods, and carried all away goods and buildings together, to the irreparable loss of the persons concern’d: also beyond the Roodee, one sees from the walls of Chester the county of Flint, and the mountains of Wales, a prospect best indeed, at a distance.
The castle of Chester is a good firm building, and strong, tho’ not fortify’d, with many out works: There is always a good garrison kept, and here the prisoners taken at Presten, in the late time of Rebellion, were kept a great while, till compassion to their misery, mov’d the clemency of the conqueror to deliver them. They say this castle was built or at least repair’d by Hugh Lupus, the famous Earl of Chester, and brother to William the Conqueror as also was the church.
The great church here is a very magnificent building, but ’tis built of a red, sandy, ill looking stone, which takes much from the beauty of it, and which yielding to the weather, seems to crumble, and suffer by time, which much defaces the building: Here they shew’d us the monument of Henry IV. Emperor of Germany; who they say, resign’d his empire, and liv’d a recluse here, but ’tis all to be taken upon trust, for we find nothing of it in history. We saw no monument of any note, which is partly occasion’d by its remote situation, and partly by its being but a modern bishoprick; for it was formerly a part of the diocess of Litchfield, and was not made a bishop’s see till the year 1541; when King Henry VIII. divided it from Litchfield; nor has there ever been above 19 bishops of this see from its foundation. The short account of it is thus. Hugh Lupus gave the old monastery dedicated to St. Werburge, to a society of monks, after which, they say, King Edgar who conquer’d all this part of Britain, and was rowed up the Dee, in his royal barge, by four kings, founded the great church; and Hugh Lupus the great, Earl of Chester, finish’d and endow’d it.
Here is a noble stone bridge over the Dee, very high and strong built, and ’tis needful it should be so, indeed; for the Dee is a most furious stream at some seasons, and brings a vast weight of water with it from the mountains of Wales. Here it was that the first army of King William, design’d for the war in Ireland, and commanded by the great Duke Schomberg, encamp’d, for a considerable time before they embark’d. ann. 1689.
Here according to the Monasticon, the said Hugh Lupus held his parliament for the county palatine of Chester, given him by William the Conqueror, and where he sat in as great state as the king himself. The draught of which, as it is given us from antiquity, take as follows.
There are 11 parishes in this city, and very good churches to them, and it is the largest city in all this side of England that is so remote from London. When I was formerly at this city, about the year 1690, they had no water to supply their ordinary occasions, but what was carried from the River Dee upon horses, in great leather vessels, like a pair of bakers panyers; just the very same for shape and use, as they have to this day in the streets of Constantinople, and at Belgrade, in Hungary; to carry water about the streets to sell, for the people to drink. But at my coming there this time, I found a very good water-house in the river, and the city plentifully supply’d by pipes, just as London is from the Thames; tho’ some parts of Chester stands very high from the river.
Tho’ this is not an antient bishoprick, ’tis an antient city, and was certainly a frontier of the Roman Empire this way; and its being so afterwards to the English Empire also, has doubtless been the reason of its being so well kept, and the castle continued in repair, when most of the other castles on the frontiers were slighted and demolished.
This county, however remote from London, is one of those which contributes most to its support, as well as to several other parts of England, and that is by its excellent cheese, which they make here in such quantities, and so exceeding good, that as I am told from very good authority, the city of London only take off 14000 ton every year; besides 8000 ton which they say goes every year down the Rivers Severn and Trent, the former to Bristol, and the latter to York; including all the towns on both these large rivers: And besides the quantity ship’d both here, and at Leverpool, to go to Ireland, and Scotland. So that the quantity of cheese made in this country, must be prodigious great. Indeed, the whole county is employ’d in it, and part of its neighbourhood too; for tho’ ’tis call’d by the name of Cheshire Cheese, yet great quantities of it are made in Shropshire, Staffordshire and Lancashire, that is to say, in such parts of them as border upon Cheshire.
The soil is extraordinary good, and the grass they say, has a peculiar richness in it, which disposes the creatures to give a great quantity of milk, and that very sweet and good; and this cheese manufacture, for such it is, encreases every day, and greatly enriches all the county; raises the value of the lands, and encourages the farmers to the keeping vast stocks of cows; the very number of the cattle improving and enriching the land.
The east part of the county abounds in salt springs, from which they draw the brine, and boyl it into fine salt; and once it was a very considerable trade, which they carried on with this salt; but since the discovery of the rock salt, which they dig in great quantities, towards Warrington, the other salt is not in so much request.
I now resolv’d to direct my course east, and making the Wever and the Trent, my northern boundary in this circuit; I came forward to view the midland counties of England, I mean such as rnay be said to lye between the Thames and the Trent.
I had taken a little trip into the N.E. parts of Cheshire before, seen a fine old seat of the Lord Delamere’s, and which is beyond it all, the fine forest, which bears the name of that noble family; intending to see the salt pits at Northwich, which are odd indeed, but not so very strange as we were made to believe; the thing is, they say, the salt spring is found to be just perpendicularly under the stream or chanel of a fresh water river, namely, the Wever, and it is so, for the spring is very deep indeed in the ground, but that very thing takes off the wonder; for as the earth under the river, is but as a gutter to carry the water, there is no difficulty that it should not penetrate through it, the soil being a strong clay. So we came away not extremely gratify’d in our curiosity.
All the way as we cross’d this part of the county, we see Beeston Castle, an antient castle, giving name to a very antient family in this county. It stands upon a very high hill, over looking the county, like as Beavoir Castle over looks the vale of that name in Leicestershire; or as Harrow on the Hill over looks Middlesex. It was formerly a very strong place, and was re-fortify’d in the late wars, Sir William Beeston being in arms at that unhappy time; but the works are now demolish’d again.
From Northwich we turn’d S. and following the stream of the river by Middle Wich, we cross’d the great London road at Nantwich, or as some write it Namptwych; these are the three salt making towns of this county; there is a fourth which is call’d Droitwych, in Worcestershire; the nature of the thing is this, they boil the brine into fine salt, which is much priz’d for the beauty of its colour, and fineness of the grain, but the salt is not so strong, as what we now make from the rock salt mentioned above, and therefore loses of its value.
Hence we turn’d a little W. to Whitchurch, in Shropshire. But before I leave Cheshire, I must note two things of it. (1.) That there is no part of England, where there are such a great number of families of gentry, and of such antient and noble extraction; Mr. Cambden is very particular in their names, and descents, but that’s a work too long for this place, nor does it belong to my present design. (2.) That it is a County Palatine, and has been for so many ages, that its government is distinct from any other and very particular; it is administred by a chamberlain, a judge special, two barons of the exchequer, three sergeants at law, a sheriff, and attorney, and escheator, and all proper and useful subordinate officers; and the jurisdiction of all these offices are kept up, and preserv’d very strictly, only we are to note, that the judge special as he is call’d, tries only civil causes, not criminal, which are left to the ordinary judges of England, who go the circuits here, as in other places.
Whitchurch is a pleasant and populous town, and has a very good church, in which is the famous monument of the great Talbot, first Earl of Shrewsbury, who, perhaps, and not unworthily, was call’d in his time, the English ACHILLES. This is the Talbot so renowned in the antient wars in France, whom no man in France dare to encounter single handed, and who had engraven on his sword, on one side, these words, Sum Talboti, and on the reverse, Pro vincere inimicos meos. His epitaph is as follows:
ORATE PRO ANIMA PRÆNOBILIS DOMINI, DOMINI IOANNIS TALBOTT QUONDAM COMITIS SALOPIÆ, DOMINI TALBOTT, DOMINI FVRNIVALL, DOMINI VERDON, DOMINI STRANGE DE BLACKMERE, ET MARESCHALLI FRANCIÆ, QUI OBIIT IN BELLO APVD BVRDEWS VII. IVLII MCCCCLIII
Pray for the soul of the right honourable Lord, Lord John Talbott, sometime Earl of Shrewsbury, Lord Talbott, Lord Furnivall, Lord Verdon, Lord Strange of Blackmere, and Marshall of France, who dyed in battel, at Burdeaux, VII. of July, MCCCCLIII.
But the most to be said of this town now, is, that they have a good market, and a great many gentry near it, whereof some are Roman Catholicks. They tell us that this town when King Charles I. remov’d his standard from Nottingham to Shrewsbury, raised a whole regiment for the king: Nor has this town lost its old loyal principle, to this time; tho’ now it may run a little another way.
From hence we went towards Wales again, and cross’d the Dee, at Bangor Bridge; I could not satisfy myself to omit seeing this famous town, which was once so remarkable, but was surpriz’d when I came there, to see there was a stone-bridge over the Dee, and indeed, a very fine one: But as for the town or monastery, scarce any of the ruins were to be seen, and as all the people spoke Welch, we could find no body that could give us any intelligence. So effectually had time in so few years, ras’d the very foundations of the place. I will not say, as some do, that this is miraculous, and that it is the particular judgment of God upon the place, for being the birth-place of that arch heretick Pelagius, who from hence also began to broach his heretical opinions, which afterwards so terribly overspread the Church: I say I will not insist upon this: That Pelagius was a monk of Bungor, or Banchor, is not doubted; but for the rest I leave it where I find it.
The place is now (I say) a poor contemptible village, and has nothing to show but a fine stone bridge over Dee, by which we enter Denbighshire in Wales. From thence we visited Wrexham, having heard much of a fine church there, but we were greatly disappointed: There is indeed a very large tower steeple, if a tower may be call’d a steeple, and ’tis finely adorn’d with imagery; but far from fine: the work is mean, the statues seem all mean and in dejected postures, without any fancy or spirit in the workmanship, and as the stone is of a reddish crumbling kind, like the cathedral at Chester, Time has made it look gross and rough.
There are a great many antient monuments in this church, and in the church-yard also; but none of note, and almost all the inscriptions are in Welch. The church is large; but they must be much mistaken, who tell us ’tis the finest in England, no not among those which are as old as itself.
This town is large, well built and populous, and besides the church there are two large meeting-houses, in one of which we were told they preach in Welch one part of the day, and in English the other. Here is a great market for Welch flannel which the factors buy up of the poor Welch people, who manufacture it; and thence it is sent to London; and it is a very considerable manufacture indeed thro’ all this part of the country, by which the poor are very profitably employ’d.
From hence we turn’d south, and passing by Wem, the title given by King James II. to the late Lord Chancellor Jefferies, we saw the house where his father, then but a private gentleman liv’d, and in but middling circumstances. Thence we came to Ellsmere, famous for a great lake or mere, which gives the town its name, and which the people pretend has in some places no bottom. This place is remarkable for good fish. From hence we came the same night to Shrewsbury.
This is indeed a beautiful, large, pleasant, populous, and rich? town; full of gentry and yet full of trade too; for here too, is a great manufacture, as well of flannel, as also of white broadcloth, which enriches all the country round it.
The Severn surrounds this town, just as the Thames does the Isle of Dogs; so that it makes the form of an horse-shoe, over which there are two fine stone bridges, upon one of which is built a very noble gate, and over the arch of the gate the statue of the great Lewellin, the idol of the Welch, and their last Prince of Wales.
This is really a town of mirth and gallantry, something like Bury in Suffolk, or Durham in the north, but much bigger than either of them, or indeed than both together.
Over the market-house is kept a kind of hall for the manufactures, which are sold here weekly in very great quantities; they speak all English in the town, but on a market-day you would think you were in Wales.
Here is the greatest market, the greatest plenty of good provisions, and the cheapest that is to be met with in all the western part of England; the Severn supplies them here with excellent salmon, but ’tis also brought in great plenty from the River Dee, which is not far off, and which abounds with a very good kind, and is generally larger than that in the Severn; As an example of the cheapness of provisions, we paid here, in a publick inn, but a groat a night for hay, and six-pence a peck for oats for our horses, which is cheaper than we found it in the cheapest part of the north of England; all our other provisions were in proportion; and there is no doubt but the cheapness of provisions joined to the pleasantness and healthiness of the place, draws a great many families thither, who love to live within the compass of their estates.
Mr. Cambden calls it a city: Tis at this day, says he, a fine city well-inhabited: But we do not now call it a city, yet ’tis equal to many good cities in England, and superior to some. Near this place was fought the bloody battle between Henry Hotspur and Henry IV. King of England, in which the former was kill’d, and all his army overthrown, and the place is call’d Battlefield to this day.
Here are four very fine churches, whereof two St. Chad’s and St. Mary’s, are said to be anciently collegiate: There are abundance of ancient monuments in them all, but too many to mention here, my journey being too long, and my bounds too short to enter upon the particulars.
This town will for ever be famous for the reception it gave to King Charles the I. who, after setting up his standard at Nottingham, and finding no encouragement there, remov’d to Shrewsbury, being invited by the gentry of the town and country round, where he was receiv’d with such a general affection, and hearty zeal by all the people, that his majesty recover’d the discouragement of his first step at Nottingham, and raised and compleated a strong army in less time than could be imagin’d; insomuch that to the surprize of the Parliament, and indeed of all the world, he was in the field before them, and advanced upon them so fast, that he met them two thirds onward of his way to London, and gave them battle at Edge-hill near Banbury.
But the fate of the war turning afterward against the king, the weight of it fell heavy upon this town also, and almost ruin’d them.
But they are now fully recover’d, and it is at this time one of the most flourishing towns in England: The walls and gates are yet standing, but useless, and the old castle is gone to ruin, as is the case of almost all the old castles in England.
It should not be forgotten here, that notwithstanding the healthyness of the place, one blot lies upon the town of Shrewsbury, and which, tho’ nothing can be charg’d on the inhabitants, yet it seems they are the most obliged when ’tis least spoken of; namely, that here broke out first that unaccountable plague, call’d the sweating sickness; which at first baffled all the sons of art, and spread itself through the whole kingdom of England: This happen’d in the year 1551. It afterwards spread itself into Germany, and several countries abroad; But I do not remember that it was ever in Spain or in Italy.
Here is an ancient free-school, the most considerable in this part of England; built and endow’d by Queen Elizabeth, with a very sufficient maintainance for a chief or head-master, and three under-masters or ushers. The buildings are very spacious, and particularly the library is a fine building, and has a great many books in it; but I saw nothing curious or rare among them, and no manuscripts. The school-masters have also very handsome houses to dwell in.
There was a fine school here before, erected by the townspeople, and maintain’d several years by their contribution, and some endowments also it had. But the queen being sensible of the good design of the inhabitants, took the matter into her own hands, and built the whole fabrick new from the ground, endowing it liberally out of her own royal bounty.
Here I was shew’d a very visible and remarkable appearance of the great antient road or way call’d Watling-Street, which comes from London to this town, and goes on from hence to the utmost coast of Wales; where it cross’d the Severn, there are remains of a stone bridge to be seen in the bottom of the river, when the water is low. On this road we set out now for Litchfield in our way towards London; and I would gladly have kept to this old road, if it had been possible, because I knew several remarkable places stood directly upon it. But we were oblig’d to make many excursions, and sometimes quit the street for a great way together: And first we left it to go away south to the edge of Stafford-shire, to see the old house call’d White Ladies, and the royal oak, the famous retreat of King Charles II. after the Battle of Worcester. The tree is surrounded with a palisadoe, to preserve it from the fate which threatned it from curiosity; for almost every body that came to see it
for several years, carry’d away a piece of it, so that the tree was litterally in danger not to dye of age, but to be pull’d limb from limb; but the veneration of that kind is much abated, and as the palisadoes are more decay’d than the tree, the latter seems likely to stand safe without them; as for the house, there is nothing remarkable in it; but it being a house always inhabited by Roman Catholicks, it had and perhaps has still some rooms so private in it, that in those times could not have been discover’d without pulling down the whole buildings.
Entring Stafford-shire we quitted the said Street-way, a little to the left, to see Stafford the county town, and the most considerable except Litchfield in the county. In the way we were surpriz’d in a most agreeable manner, passing thro’ a small but ancient town call’d Penkrige, vulgarly Pankrage, where happen’d to be a fair. We expected nothing extraordinary; but was I say surpriz’d to see the prodigious number of horses brought hither, and those not ordinary and common draught-horses, and such kinds as we generally see at country-fairs remote from London: But here were really incredible numbers of the finest and most beautiful horses that can any where be seen; being brought hither from Yorkshire, the bishoprick of Durham, and all the horse-breeding countries: We were told that there were not less than an hundred jockies and horse-kopers, as they call them there, from London, to buy horses for sale. Also an incredible number of gentlemen attended with their grooms to buy gallopers, or race-horses, for their Newmarket sport. In a word, I believe I may mark it for the greatest horse-fair in the world, for horses of value, and especially those we call saddle-horses. There are indeed greater fairs for coach-horses, and draught horses; though here were great numbers of fine large stone horses for coaches, &c. too. But for saddle-horses, for the light saddle, hunters, pads, and racers, I believe the world cannot match this fair.
We staid 3 days here to satisfy our curiosity, and indeed the sight was very agreeable, to see what vast stables of horses there were, which never were brought out or shewn in the fair. How dextrous the northern grooms and breeders are in their looking after them, and ordering them: Those fellows take such indefatigable pains with them, that they bring them out like pictures of horses, not a hair amiss in them; they lye constantly in the stables with them, and feed them by weight and measure; keep them so clean, and so fine, I mean in their bodies, as well as their outsides, that, in short, nothing can be more nice. Here were several horses sold for 150 guineas a horse; but then they were such as were famous for the breed, and known by their race, almost as well as the Arabians know the genealogy of their horses.
From hence we came in two hours easy riding to Stafford, on the River Sow; ’tis an old and indeed antient town, and gives name to the county; but we thought to have found something more worth going so much out of the way in it. The town is however neat and well built, and is lately much encreas’d; nay, as some say, grown rich by the cloathing trade, which they have fallen into but within the reach of the present age, and which has not enrich’d this town only, but Tamworth also, and all the country round.
The people of this county have been particularly famous, and more than any other county in England, for good footman-ship, and there have been, and still are among them, some of the fleetest runners in England; which I do not grant to be occasion’d by any particular temperature of the air or soil, so much as to the hardy breed of the inhabitants, especially in the moorlands or northern part of the county, and to their exercising themselves to it from their child-hood; for running foot-races seems to be the general sport or diversion of the country.
Near Stafford we saw Ingestre, where the late Walter Chetwynd, Esq; built or rather rebuilt a very fine church at his own charge, and where the late Lord Chetwynd has with a profusion of expence laid out the finest park and gardens that are in all this part of England, and which, if nothing else was to be seen this way, are very well worth a traveller’s curiosity.
I am now at the utmost extent of my limits for this circuit; for Ingestre Parks reach to the very banks of the Trent, which I am not to pass; so I turn’d to the right, and intending for Litchfield, in the way we saw Beaudesert, a famous old seat, said to be built by Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester: The name indeed intimates it to be of Norman or French original; at present it is in the honourable family of the Pagets, and the Lord Paget is also Baron of Beaudesert. The park is very fine, and its situation exceeding pleasant, but the house is antient; in the park is a famous piece of antiquity, viz. a large entrench’d camp or fortification, surrounded with a double trench, very large and deep; but the inhabitants can give no account of it, that is worth notice.
From hence ’tis about four or five miles to Litchfield, a city, and the principal, next to Chester, of all the N.W. part of England; neither indeed is there any other, but this and Coventry, in the whole road from London to Carlisle on the edge of Scotland.
Here we came into the great Lancashire and Cheshire road, or the N.W. road from London, which passing thro’ this city from Warrington Bridge in Cheshire, falls into the Watling-street road, mention’d before, about three miles S.E. from the town, and crosses another antient causway or road, call’d Ickneild-street, about a mile out of the city; so that Litchfield lies as it were at the joining of all those great roads.
Litchfield is a fine, neat, well-built, and indifferent large city; there is a little lake or lough of water in the middle of it, out of which runs a small stream of water, which soon becomes a little rivulet, and save that it has but 4 or 5 miles to the Trent, would soon become a river; This lake parts Litchfield, as it were, into two cities, one is call’d the town, and the other the close; in the first is the market-place, a fine school, and a very handsome hospital well-endow’d. This part is much the largest and most populous: But the other is the fairest, has the best buildings in it, and, among the rest, the cathedral-church, one of the finest and most beautiful in England, especially for the outside, the form and figure of the building, the carv’d work’d, imagery, and the three beautiful spires; the like of which are not to be seen in one church, no not in Europe.
There are two fine causways which join the city and the close, with sluices to let the water pass, but those were cut thro’ in the time of the late intestine wars in England; and the closs, which is wall’d about, and was then fortify’d for the king, was very strong, and stood out several vigorous attacks against Cromwell’s men, and was not at last taken without great loss of blood on- both sides, being gallantly defended to the last drop, and taken by storm.
There are in the close, besides the houses of the clergy residentiaries, a great many very well-built houses, and well inhabited too; which makes Litchfield a place of good conversation and good company, above all the towns in this county or the next, I mean Warwickshire or Darbyshire.
The description of this church would take up much time, and requires a very nice observer. The see is very antient, and was once archiepiscopal, and Eadulp the archbishop was metropolitan of all the kingdom of the Mercians and East Angles, but it did not hold it; then it suffer’d another diminution. by having the see of Chester taken away, which was once part of this of Litchfield.
They told us here a long story of St. Chad, formerly bishop of this church, and how he liv’d in a little hovel or cell in the church-yard, instead of a bishop’s palace: But the bishops, since that time, have, I suppose, thought better of it, and make shift with a very fine palace in the closs, and the residentiaries live in proportion to it.
They have another legendary story also at Litchfield; namely, that a thousand poor people being instructed in the Christian faith by the care of Offa King of the Mercians, were all martyr’d here in one field by the Pagans, and that in the field where they were so murder’d, King Oswy of Northumberland caused a great church to be built; and from thence the city bears for its device, a landskip, or open field, with mangled carcasses lying dispers’d about in it, as if murder’d and left unburied: But this I take as I find it.
The church I say is indeed a most beautiful building; the west prospect of it is charming, the two spires on the corner towers being in themselves perfect beauties of architect, in the old Gothic way of building, but made still more shining and glorious by a third spire, which rising from the main tower in the body of the church, surmounts the other two, and shews itself exactly between them.
It is not easy to describe the beauty of the west end; you enter by three large doors in the porch or portico, which is as broad as the whole front; the spaces between the doors are fill’d with carv’d work and imagery, no place being void, where (by the rules of architect) any ornament could be plac’d.
Over the first cornish is a row of statues or images of all the kings which reign’d in Jerusalem from King David to the captivity; but I cannot say that they are all sufficiently distinguish’d one from another: Above there are other images, without number, whose names no account (I could meet with there) could explain.
The great window over the middle door is very large, and the pediment over it finely adorn’d, a large cross finishing the top of it; on either corner of the west front are two very fine towers, not unlike the two towers on the west end of St. Peter’s Church at Westminster, only infinitely finer: Even with the battlement of the porch, and adjoining to the towers, are large pinnacles at the outer angles, and on the top of the towers are to each tower eight more, very beautiful and fine; between these pinnacles, on the top of each tower, rises a spire equal in height, in thickness, and in workmanship, but so beautiful no pen can describe them.
The imagery and carv’d work on the front, as above, has suffer’d much in the late unhappy times; and they told us the cross over the west window was frequently shot at by the rude soldiers; but that they could not shoot it down, which however they do not say was miraculous.
The inside of the church also suffer’d very much, but it has been very well repaired since the Restoration, as well by the famous Bishop Hacket, as by the bounty of several noble and generous benefactors.
The Monasticon makes mention of a shrine given here for the holy St. Chad, or St. Cedda, which cost 200000l . but I conceive that to smell as much of the legend, as the miracles of St. Chad himself; since such a gift at that time must be equal to two millions of our money.
They tell us the main spire of this church is, from the ground, 385 foot, and the two spires at the angles of the west end each 260.
From Litchfield we came to Tamworth, a fine pleasant trading town, eminent for good ale and good company, of the middling sort; from whence we came into the great road again at Coleshill in Warwickshire.
This is a small but very handsome market-town; it chiefly, if not wholly belongs to the Lord Digby, who is lord of the mannor, if not real owner of almost all the houses in the town, and as that noble person is at present a little on the wrong side as to the government, not having taken the oaths to King George, so the whole town are so eminently that way too, that they told me there was but one family of Whiggs, as they call’d them, in the whole town, and they hoped to drive them out of the place too very quickly.
The late incumbent of this parish quitted his living, which is very considerable, because he would not take the oaths, and his successor was the famous ——— who, when I was there, was newly proscrib’d by proclamation, and the reward of l000l . order’d to whoever should apprehend him; so their instructors being such, ’tis no wonder the people have follow’d their leader.
From Coles-hill we came to Coventry, the sister city to Litchfield, and join’d in the title of the see, which was for some little time seated here, but afterwards return’d to Litchfield.
It was a very unhappy time when I first came to this city; for their heats and animosities for election of members to serve in Parliament, were carry’d to such a hight, that all manner of method being laid aside, the inhabitants (in short) enraged at one another, met, and fought a pitch’d battle in the middle of the street, where they did not take up the breadth of the street, as two rabbles of people would generally do; in which case no more could engage, but so many as the breadth of the street would admit in the front; but, on the contrary, the two parties meeting in the street, one party kept to one side of the way, and one side to the other, the kennel in the middle only parting them, and so marching as if they intended to pass by one another, ‘till the front of one party was come opposite to the reer of the other, and then suddenly facing to one another, and making a long front, where their flanks were before, upon a shout given, as the signal on both sides, they fell on with such fury with clubs and staves, that in an instant the kennel was cover’d with them, not with slain, but with such as were knock’d down on both sides, and, in a word, they fought with such obstinacy that ’tis scarce credible.
Nor were these the scum and rabble of the town, but in short the burgesses and chief inhabitants, nay even magistrates, aldermen, and the like.
Nor was this one skirmish a decision of the quarrel, but it held for several weeks, and they had many such fights; nor is the matter much better among them to this day, only that the occasion does not happen so often.
Coventry is a large and populous city, and drives a very great trade; the manufacture of tammies is their chief employ, and next to that weaving of ribbons of the meanest kind, chiefly black. The buildings are very old, and in some places much decay’d; the city may be taken for the very picture of the city of London, on the south side of Cheapside before the Great Fire; the timber-built houses, projecting forwards and towards one another, till in the narrow streets they were ready to touch one another at the top.
The tale of the Lady Godiva, who rode naked thro’ the High Street of the city to purchase her beloved city of Coventry exemption from taxes, is held for so certain a truth, that they will not have it question’d upon any account whatever; and the picture of the poor fellow that peep’d out of window to see her, is still kept up, looking out of a garret in the High Street of the city: But Mr. Cambden says positively no body look’d at her at all
There are eleven churches in this city; but three of them are particular ornaments to it, having fine high spires, after the manner of those at Litchfield, but nothing like them for the beauty of the building. Here is no cathedral, as some have falsly said, neither is the great church, so call’d, either collegiate or conventual.
It was indeed a monastry or priory, and, as has been said, the bishop’s see was remov’d from Chester hither, but no cathedral was built, for the change was not continued, and the see was soon remov’d to Litchfield, where it continues to this day. Yet this city contended a great while for it indeed, but could not carry it. In King Henry 8th’s time, the priory being dissolv’d, the church which they would have call’d a cathedral, was reduc’d to a private parish-church, and continues so to this day; ’tis an archdeaconry indeed, and the bishop is stiled Bishop of Litchfield and Coventry.
From Coventry we could by no means pass the town of Warwick, the distance too being but about six miles, and a very pleasant way on the banks of the River Avon: Tis famous for being the residence of the great Guy Earl of Warwick, known now only by fame, which also has said so much more than the truth of him, that even what was true is become a kind of romance, and the real history of his actions is quite lost to the world.
That there was such a man, no body (I find) makes a question, any more than they do that half of what is said of him is fable and fiction; but be that as it will, they show us here his castle, his helmet, his sword, and tell abundance of things of him, which have some appearance of history, tho’ not much authority to support them; so I leave that part to the curious searchers into antiquity, who may consult Mr. Cambden, Rous, Dugdale, and other antiquaries on that subject, who tell us the castle was built before our Saviour’s time, and has been a place of great consideration ever since.
As to the town of Warwick, it is really a fine town, pleasantly situated on the bank of the Avon, over which there is a large and stately bridge, the Avon being now grown a pretty large river, Warwick was ever esteem’d a handsome, well-built town, and there were several good houses in it, but the face of it is now quite alter’d; for having been almost wholly reduc’d to a heap of rubbish, by a terrible fire about two and twenty years ago, it is now rebuilt in so noble and so beautiful a manner, that few towns in England make so fine an appearance. The new church also is a fine building, but all the old monuments, which were very many, are entirely defac’d, and lost by the fire: However the memory and even the figure of ’em are eminently preserv’d by Mr. Dugdale, in his Antiquities of this county, to which I refer.
The castle is a fine building, beautiful both by situation and its decoration; it stands on a solid rock of free-stone, from whose bowels it may be said to be built, as likewise is the whole town; the terrass of the castle, like that of Windsor, overlooks a beautiful country, and sees the Avon running at the foot of the precipice, at above 50 foot perpendicular hight: the building is old, but several times repair’d and beautify’d by its several owners, and ’tis now a very agreeable place both within and without: the apartments are very nicely contrived, and the communication of the remotest parts of the building, one with another, are so well preserved by galleries, and by the great hall, which is very magnificent, that one finds no irregularity in the whole place, notwithstanding its ancient plan, as it was a castle not a palace, and built for strength rather than pleasure.
The possession of this castle is now in the family of Grevil Lord Brook, but the honour and possession is separated, and has been for some time; the ancient family of Beauchamp, or Bello Campo, E. of Warwick, held it for many ages, from whom ’tis now descended to the Earls of Holland, who are Earls of Holland and also of Warwick. But this by the way.
Here we saw the antient cell or hermitage, where they say the famous Guy Earl of Warwick ended his days in a private retreat for his devotion, and is from him call’d Guy Clift, by others Gibclift; ’tis now, as Mr. Cambden gives an account, which Mr. Dugdale also confirms, the pleasant seat of an antient Norman family of the name of De Beau-foe, whose posterity remain there, and in several other parts of the county, retaining the latter part of their sirname, but without the former to this day. Mr. Dugdale gives the monuments of them, and it appears they removed hither, on account of some marriage, from Seyton in Rutlandshire, where they were lords of the mannor, and patrons of the church, and where several of the name also still remain.
Being at Warwick, I took a short circuit thro’ the S.E. part of the county, resolving after viewing a little the places of note, that lay something out of my intended rout, to come back to the same place.
Three miles from Warwick we pass’d over the Foss Way, which goes on to Leicester; then we came by Southam to Daventry, a considerable market town, but which subsists chiefly by the great concourse of travellers on the old Watling-street way, which lies near it; and the road being turned by modern usage, lies now thro’ the town itself, then runs on to Dunsmore Heath, where it crosses the Foss, and one branch goes on to Coventry, the other joins the Foss, and goes on to a place call’d High-Cross, where it falls into the old Watling-street again, and both meet again near Litchfield.
It is a most pleasant curiosity to observe the course of these old famous highways; the Icknild Way, the Watling-street, and the Foss, in which one sees so lively a representation of the antient British, Roman and Saxon governments, that one cannot help realizing those times to the imagination; and tho’ I avoid meddling with antiquity as much as possible in this work, yet in this case a circuit or tour thro’ England would be very imperfect, if I should take no notice of these ways, seeing in tracing them we necessarily come to the principal towns, either that are or have been in every county.
From Daventry we cross’d the country to Northampton, the handsomest and best built town in all this part of England; but here, as at Warwick, the beauty of it is owing to its own disasters, for it was so effectually and suddenly burnt down, that very few houses were left standing, and this, tho’ the fire began in the day-time; the flame also spread itself with such fury, and run on with such terrible speed, that they tell us a townsman being at Queen’s Cross upon a hill, on the south side of the town, about two miles off, saw the fire at one end of the town then newly begun, and that before he could get to the town it was burning at the remotest end, opposite to that there he first saw it; ’tis now finely rebuilt with brick and stone, and the streets made spacious and wide.
The great new church, the town-hall, the jayl, and all their public buildings, are the finest in any country town in England, being all new built: But he took very little notice of Northampton, or rather had never seen it, who told us of a cathedral, a chapter-house and a cloyster.
The great inn at the George, the corner of the High Street, looks more like a palace than an inn, and cost above 2000l. building; and so generous was the owner, that, as we were told, when he had built it, he gave it to the poor of the town.
This is counted the center of all the horse-markets and horse-fairs in England, there being here no less than four fairs in a year: Here they buy horses of all sorts, as well for the saddle as for the coach and cart, but chiefly for the two latter.
Near this town is the ancient royal house of Holmby, which was formerly in great esteem, and by its situation is capable of being made a royal palace indeed. But the melancholy reflection of the imprisonment of King Charles the First in this house, and his being violently taken hence again by the mutinous rebels, has cast a kind of odium upon the place, so that it has been, as it were, forsaken and uninhabited. The house and estate has been lately purchas’d by the Dutchess of Marlborough; but we do not see that the house is like to be built or repair’d, as was at first discours’d; on the contrary it goes daily to decay.
The Earl of Sunderland’s house at Althorp, on the other hand, has within these few years changed its face to the other extreme, and had the late earl liv’d to make some new apartments, which, as we were told, were design’d as two large wings to the buildings, it would have been one of the most magnificent palaces in Europe. The gardens are exquisitely fine, and add, if it be possible, to the natural beauty of the situation.
From hence we went north to Harborough, and in the way, in the midst of the deep dismal roads, the dirtyest and worst in all that part of the country, we saw Boughton, the noble seat of the Duke of Mountague, a house built at the cost and by the fancy of the late duke, very much after the model of the Palace of Versailles; the treble wings projecting and expanded, forming a court or space wider and wider, in proper stades, answerable to the wings, the body of the house closing the whole view.
The pavillions are also after the manner of Versailles; the house itself is very large and magnificent, but the situation facing so beautiful a park adds to the glory of it; the park is wall’d round with brick, and so finely planted with trees, and in such an excellent order, as I saw nothing more beautiful, no not in Italy itself, except that the walks of trees were not orange and limon, and citron, as it is in Naples, and the Abruzzo, and other southern parts of Italy.
Here they shew’d us a petrifying spring, and told us so many stories of its turning every thing that was laid in it into stone, that we began to discredit the tale as fabulous; but I have been assur’d, that the water of this spring does really petrify, and that in such a manner as deserves the observation of the curious.
From hence we went on to Harborough intending to go forward to Leicester; but curiosity turn’d us west a little to see an old town call’d Lutterworth, famous for being the birthplace of honest John Wickliffe, the first preacher of the Reformation in England, whose disciples were afterwards called Lollards; when we came there we saw nothing worth notice, nor did the people, as I could find, so much as know in general, that this great man was born amongst them.
Being thus got a little out of our way, we went on with it, and turning into the great Watling-street way, at High Cross, where the Foss crosses it, and which I suppose occasioned the name, we kept on the street way to Non-Eaton, a manufacturing town on the River Anker, and then to Atherstone, a town famous for a great cheese fair on the 8th of September; from whence the great cheese factors carry the vast quantities of cheese they buy to Sturbridge Fair, which begins about the same time, but holds much longer; and here ’tis sold again for the supply of the counties of Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk.
From Atherston we turn’d N. to see Bosworth-Field, famous for the great battle which put an end to the usurpation of Richard III. and to the long and bloody contention between the red rose and the white, or the two royal houses of York and Lancaster, which, as fame tells us, had cost the lives of eleven princes, three and twenty earls and dukes, three thousand noblemen, knights, and gentlemen, and two hundred thousand of the common people: They shew’d us the spot of ground where the battle was fought, and at the town they shew’d us several pieces of swords, heads of lances, barbs of arrows, pieces of pole-axes, and such like instruments of death, which they said were found by the country people in the several grounds near the place of battle, as they had occasion to dig, or trench, or plough up the ground.
Having satisfy’d our curiosity in these points, we turn’d east towards Leicester. The E. of Stamford has a good old hunting seat on this side of the country, call’d Bradgate, and a fine park at Grooby; but they were too much out of our way, so we came on through a fine forest to Leicester.
Leicester is an ancient large and populous town, containing about five parishes, ’tis the capital of the county of Leicester, and stands on the River Soar, which rises not far from that High Cross I mention’d before: They have a considerable manufacture carry’d on here, and in several of the market towns round for weaving of stockings by frames; and one would scarce think it possible so small an article of trade could employ such multitudes of people as it does; for the whole county seems to be employ’d in it: as also Nottingham and Darby, of which hereafter.
Warwickshire and Northamptonshire are not so full of antiquities, large towns, and gentlemens seats, but this county of Leicester is as empty. The whole county seems to be taken up in country business, such as the manufacture above, but particularly in breeding and feeding cattle; the largest sheep and horses in England are found here, and hence it comes to pass too, that they are in consequence a vast magazine of wool for the rest of the nation; even most of the gentlemen are grasiers, and in some places the grasiers are so rich, that they grow gentlemen: ’tis not an uncommon thing for grasiers here to rent farms from 500l . to two thousand pounds a year rent.
The sheep bred in this county and Lincolnshire, which joins to it, are, without comparison, the largest, and bear not only the greatest weight of flesh on their bones, but also the greatest fleeces of wool on their backs of any sheep of England: nor is the fineness of the wool abated for the quantity; but as ’tis the longest staple, (so the clothiers call it) so ’tis the finest wool in the whole island, some few places excepted, such as Lemster in Herefordshire, the South Downs in Sussex, and such little places, where the quantity is small and insignificant, compar’d to this part of the country; for the sheep-breeding country reaches from the River Anker on the border of Warwickshire to the Humber at the farthest end of Lincolnshire, which is near a hundred miles in length, and from the bank of Trent in Lincoln and Leicestershire, to the bank of Ouse bordering Bucks, Bedford, Cambridge, and Huntingdonshires, above sixty miles in breadth.
These are the funds of sheep which furnish the city of London with their large mutton in so incredible a quantity: There are indeed a few sheep of a large breed, which are brought up from Rumney Marsh, and the adjoining low grounds in Kent and Sussex, but they are but few, and indeed scarce worth naming, compar’d to the vast quantity, which are produced in these counties.
The horses produced here, or rather fed here, are the largest in England, being generally the great black coach horses and dray horses, of which so great a number are continually brought up to London, that one would think so little a spot as this of Leicestershire could not be able to supply them: Nor indeed are they all bred in this county, the adjoining counties of Northampton and Bedford having of late come into the same business; but the chief supply is from this county, from whence the other counties rather buy them and feed them up, as jockeys and chapmen, than breed them up from their beginning.
In the south west part of the country rise four considerable second rate rivers, which run every one a directly contrary course in a most remarkable manner.
I should not pass over this just remark of the town, or, as Mr. Cambden calls it, city of Leicester, namely, that as it was formerly a very strong and well fortify’d town, being situated to great advantage for strength, the river compassing it half about, so it was again fortify’d in the late unhappy wars, and being garrison’d by the Parliament forces, was assaulted by the Royalists, and being obstinately defended, was taken sword in hand, with a great slaughter, and not without the loss also of several of the inhabitants, who too rashly concern’d themselves in opposing the conquerors. They preserve here a most remarkable piece of antiquity, being a piece of mosaick work at the bottom of a cellar; ’tis the story of Actæon, and his being kill’d by his own hounds, wrought as a pavement in a most exquisite manner; the stones are small, and of only two colours, white and brown, or chesnut, and very small.
The great Henry Duke of Lancaster, and the earl his father lye both bury’d in this town, in the hospital church, without the south gate, which church and hospital also the said duke was the founder of; but there is no monument to be found that shews the particular place of their interment.
The Foss Way leads us from hence through the eastern and north east part of the county, and particularly through the vale of Belvoir, or, as it is commonly call’d, of Bever, to Newark in Nottinghamshire: In all this long tract we pass a rich and fertile country, fruitful fields, and the noble River Trent, for twenty miles together, often in our view; the towns of Mount Sorrel, Loughborough, Melton Mowbray, and Waltham in the Would, that is to say, on the Downs; all these are market towns, but of no great note.
Belvoir Castle is indeed a noble situation, tho’ on a very high precipice; ’tis the antient seat of the Dukes of Rutland, a family risen by just degrees to an immense state both of honour and wealth. I shall mention the house again in my return out of Lincolnshire.
At Newark one can hardly see without regret the ruins of that famous castle, which maintain’d itself through the whole Civil War in England, and keeping a strong garrison there for the king to the last, cut off the greatest pass into the north that is in the whole kingdom; nor was it ever taken, ‘till the king, press’d by the calamity of his affairs, put himself into the hands of the Scots army, which lay before it, and then commanded the governor to deliver it up, after which it was demolish’d, that the great road might lye open and free; and it remains in rubbish to this day. Newark is a very handsome well-built town, the market place a noble square, and the church is large and spacious, with a curious spire, which, were not Grantham so near, might pass for the finest and highest in all this part of England: The Trent divides itself here, and makes an island, and the bridges lead just to the foot of the castle wall; so that while this place was in the hands of any party, there was no travelling but by their leave; But all the travelling into the north at that time was by Nottingham Bridge, of which by itself.
From Newark, still keeping the Foss Way, which lies as strait as a line can mark it out, we went on to Lincoln, having a view of the great church call’d the minster all the way before us, the River Trent on the left, and the downs call’d Lincoln Heath on the right.
Lincoln is an antient, ragged, decay’d, and still decaying city; it is so full of the ruins of monasteries and religious houses, that, in short, the very barns, stables, out-houses, and, as they shew’d me, some of the very hog-styes, were built church-fashion; that is to say, with stone walls and arch’d windows and doors. There are here 13 churches, but the meanest to look on that are any where to be seen; the cathedral indeed and the ruins of the old castle are very venerable pieces of antiquity.
The situation of the city is very particular; one part is on the flat and in a bottom, so that the Wittham, a little river that runs through the town, flows sometimes into the street, the other part lies upon the top of a high hill, where the cathedral stands, and the very steepest part of the ascent of the hill is the best part of the city for trade and business.
Nothing is more troublesome than the communication of the upper and lower town, the street is so steep and so strait, the coaches and horses are oblig’d to fetch a compass another way, as well on one hand as on the other.
The River Wittham, which as I said runs thro’ the city, is arch’d over, so that you see nothing of it as you go thro’ the main street; but it makes a large lake on the west side, and has a canal, by which it has a communication with the Trent, by which means the navigation of the Trent is made useful for trade to the city; this canal is called the Foss-dike.
There are some very good buildings, and a great deal of very good company, in the upper city, and several families of gentlemen have houses there, besides those of the prebendaries and other clergy belonging to the cathedral.
This cathedral is in itself a very noble structure, and is counted very fine, though I thought it not equal to some that I have already describ’d, particularly not to that at Litchfield: Its situation indeed is infinitely more to advantage, than any cathedral in England, for it is seen far and wide; it stands upon an exceeding high hill, and is seen into five or six counties.
The building in general is very noble, and the church itself is very large; it has a double cross, one in the nave or center on which the great tower stands, and one at the east end of the choir, under which are several antient rnonuments; the length of the church is near 500 foot, the breadth 126; so that it is much larger than that at Litchfield; but the spires on the towers at the angles of the west end are mean, small, and low, and not to be nam’d with those at Litchfield: The tower also is very plain, and has only four very ill-proportion’d spires, or rather pinnacles, at the four corners small and very mean.
As the church is very large, so the revenue of the bishoprick is large also, and was formerly immensely great, as may be seen by the Monasticon, where there is an astonishing account of the wealth of the place.
The church, as it is the seat of the bishoprick, is not antient, the see being remov’d, since the Norman Conquest, from Dorchester, a little town in Oxfordshire, on the River Thames, not far from Tame, of which I have spoken in its place; but the city is antient, and the ruins of it tell us as much; it was certainly a flourishing city in the time of the Romans, and continued so after the fall of their empire.
Mr. Cambden says King Vortimer, that valiant Britain, dy’d here, and was bury’d in the church of the great monastery; but we see nothing of his remains in the cathedral, for that was not built ‘till several ages after.
The city was a large and flourishing place at the time of the Norman Conquest, tho’ neither the castle or the great church were then built; there were then three and fifty parish churches in it, of which I think only thirteen remain; the chief extent of the city then was from the foot of the hill south, and from the lake or lough which is call’d Swanpool east; and by the Domesday Book they tell us it must be one of the greatest cities in England, whence perhaps that old English proverbial line:
Lincoln was, London is, and York shall be.
It is certain William the Conqueror built the castle, and, as ’tis said, to curb the potent citizens; and the ruins show that it was a most magnificent work, well fortify’d, and capable of receiving a numerous garrison.
The bishoprick of Lincoln at that time contain’d all that now is contain’d in the diocesses of Ely, Peterborough, and Oxford, besides what is now the diocess of Lincoln: and ’tis still the largest diocess, tho’ not of the greatest revenue, in England; containing the several counties of Lincoln, Leicester, Huntingdon, Bedford, Bucks, and part of Hertford; and in them 1255 parishes, whereof 577 are impropriations; and there are in this bounds six archdeacons, viz. Lincoln, Leicester, Bedford, Buckingham, Stow. and Huntington. This see, tho’ of no longer date than since the conquest, has produced to the Church and State
One Cardinal, (namely Wolsey)
Six Lord Chancellors,
One Lord Treasurer,
One Lord Privy Seal,
Four Chancellors of Oxford,
Two ditto, of Cambridge.
Here was the famous battle fought between the friends of the Empress Maud, mother to Henry II. and King Stephen, in which that magnanimous prince was overthrown and taken prisoner.
But all this relates to times past, and is an excursion, which I shall attone for by making no more. Such is the present state of Lincoln, that it is an old dying, decay’d, dirty city; and except that part, which, as above, lies between the castle and the church, on the top of the hill, it is scarce tolerable to call it a city.
Yet it stands in a most rich, pleasant, and agreeable country; for on the north, and again on the south east, the noble plain, call’d Lincoln Heath, extends itself, like the plains about Salisbury, for above fifty miles; namely, from Sleeford and Ancaster south to the bank of the Humber north, tho’ not with a breadth equal to the vast stretch’d out length; for the plain is hardly any where above three or four miles broad.
On the west side of this plain, the Trent waters a pleasant and rich valley, running from Newark to Gainsborough, a town of good trade, as well foreign as home trade, thence to Burton, and so into the Humber.
As the middle of the country is all hilly, and the west side low, so the east side is the richest, most fruitful, and best cultivated of any county in England, so far from London; one part is all fen or marsh grounds. and extends itself south to the Isle of Ely, and here it is that so vast a quantity of sheep are fed, as makes this county and that of Leicester an inexhaustible fountain of wool for all the manufacturing counties in England.
There are abundance of very good towns too in this part, especially on the sea coast, as Grimsby, in the utmost point of the county north east, facing the Humber and the ocean, and almost opposite to Hull: a little farther within Humber is Barton, a town noted for nothing that I know of, but an ill-favoured dangerous passage, or ferry, over the Humber to Hull; where in an open boat, in which we had about fifteen horses, and ten or twelve cows, mingled with about seventeen or eighteen passengers, call’d Christians; we were about four hours toss’d about on the Humber, before we could get into the harbour at Hull; whether I was sea-sick or not, is not worth notice, but that we were all sick of the passage, any one may suppose, and particularly I was so uneasy at it, that I chose to go round by York, rather than return to Barton, at least for that time.
Grimsby is a good town, but I think ’tis but an indifferent road for shipping; and in the great storm, (ann. 1703.) it was proved to be so, for almost all the ships that lay in Grimsby road were driven from their anchors, and many of them lost.
Here within land we see Brigg upon the River Ankam, Castor, Louth, Horncastle, Bolingbroke, Spilsby, Wainfleet, and Boston: As these are all, except the last, inland towns, they afford little remarkable, only to intimate that all this country is employ’d in husbandry, in breeding and feeding innumerable droves and flocks of black cattle and sheep: Indeed I should not have said black cattle. I should have call’d them red cattle; for it was remarkable, that almost all their cows for 50 miles together are red, or py’d red and white, and consequently all the cattle raised there, are the same; what they feed which are brought from other counties, (for the fens feed infinite numbers which they buy from other places); that (I say) is another case.
The Fen Country begins about Wainfleet, which is within twenty miles of Grimsby, and extends itself to the Isle of Ely south, and to the grounds opposite to Lynn Regis in Norfolk east.
This part is indeed very properly call’d Holland, for ’tis a flat, level, and often drowned country, like Holland itself; here the very ditches are navigable, and the people pass from town to town in boats, as in Holland: Here we had the uncouth musick of the bittern, a bird formerly counted ominous and presaging, and who, as fame tells us, (but as I believe no body knows) thrusts its bill into a reed, and then gives the dull, heavy groan or sound, like a sigh, which it does so loud, that with a deep base, like the sound of a gun at a great distance, ’tis heard two or three miles, (say the people) but perhaps not quite so far.
Here we first saw Boston, a handsome well-built sea port town, at the mouth of the River Wittham. The tower of this church is, without question, the largest and highest in England; and, as it stands in a country, which (they say) has no bottom, nothing is more strange, than that they should find a foundation for so noble and lofty a structure; it had no ornament, spire, or pinnacle on the top, but it is so very high, that few spires in England, can match it, and is not only beautiful by land, but is very useful at sea to guide pilots into that port, and even into the mouth of the River Ouse; for in clear weather ’tis seen quite out at sea to the entrance of those channels, which they call Lynn Deeps, and Boston Deeps, which are as difficult places as most upon the whole eastern shore of Britain.
The town of Boston is a large, populous, and well-built town, full of good merchants, and has a good share of foreign trade, as well as Lynn. Here is held one of those annual fairs, which preserve the antient title of a Mart, whereof I remember only four in England of any considerable note, viz. Lynn, Gainsborough, Beverly, and Boston.
The country round this place is all fenn and marsh grounds, the land very rich, and which feeds prodigious numbers of large sheep, and also oxen of the largest size, the overplus and best of which goes all to London market; and from this part, as also from the downs or heath above-mentioned, comes the greatest part of the wool, known, as a distinction for its credit, because of its fineness, by the name of Lincolnshire Wool; which is sent in great quantities into Norfolk and Suffolk, for the manufacturers of those counties, and indeed to several other of the most trading counties in England.
These fens are indeed very considerable for their extent, for they reach in length in some places fifty miles, and in breadth above thirty: and as they are so level that there is no interruption to the sight, any building of extraordinary hight is seen a long way; for example, Boston steeple is seen upon Lincoln Heath near thirty miles, Peterborough and Ely minsters are seen almost throughout the whole level, so are the spires of Lynn, Whittlesea, and Crowland, seen at a very great distance, which adds a beauty to the country.
From Boston we came on through the fen country to Spalding, which is another sea port in the level, but standing far within the land on the River Welland. Here was nothing very remarkable to be seen as to antiquity, but the ruins of an old famous monastry, of which the Monasticon gives a particular description. There is a bridge over the Welland, and vessels of about fifty or sixty ton may come up to the town, and that is sufficient for the trade of Spalding, which is chiefly in corn and coal.
We must not pass by Crowland, another place of great religious antiquity, here being once a famous monastry, the remains of which are still to be seen: The monks of Crowland were eminent in history, and a great many stories are told of the devils of Crowland also, and what conversation they had with the monks, which tales are more out of date now, than they were formerly; for they tell us, that in antient times those things were as certainly believ’d for truths, as if they had been done before their faces.
There is one thing here that is curious indeed, and very remarkable, and which is not to be seen in any other place in Britain, if it be in Europe; namely, a triangular bridge: The case is this; The River Welland and another river, or rather branch from the River Nyne, join together just at Crowland, and the bridge being fixed at the very point where they join, stands upon a center in the middle of the united waters, and then parting into two bridges, lands you one to the right upon Thorney, and one to the left upon Holland; and yet they tell us there is a whirlpool, or bottomless pit, in the middle too; but that part I see no reason to give credit to.
The town of Spalding is not large, but pretty well built and well inhabited; but for the healthyness or pleasantness of it, I have no more to say than this, that I was very glad when I got out of it, and out of the rest of the fen country; for ’tis a horrid air for a stranger to breathe in.
The history of the draining those fens, by a set of gentlemen call’d the Adventurers, the several laws for securing and preserving the banks, and dividing the lands; how they were by the extraordinary conflux of waters from all the inland counties of England frequently overflow’d, and sometimes lay under water most part of the year; how all the water in this part of England, which does not run into the Thames, the Trent, or the Severn, falls together into these low grounds, and empty themselves into the sea by those drains, as thro’ a sink; and how by the skill of these Adventurers, and, at a prodigious expence, they have cut new channels, and even whole rivers, with particular drains from one river to another, to carry off the great flux of waters, when floods or freshes come down either on one side or on the other; and how notwithstanding all that hands could do, or art contrive, yet sometimes the waters do still prevail, the banks break, and whole levels are overflow’d together; all this, tho’ it would be very useful and agreeable to have it fully and geographically describ’d, yet it would take up so much room, and be so tedious here, where you are expecting a summary description of things, rather than the history and reasons of them, that I cannot think of entering any farther into it.
I have only to add, that these fens of Lincolnshire are of the same kind with, and contiguous to those already mentioned in the Isle of Ely, in the counties of Cambridge and Huntingdon, and that here as well as there, we see innumerable numbers of cattle, which are fed up to an extraordinary size by the richness of the soil.
Here are also an infinite number of wild fowl, such as duck and mallard, teal and widgeon, brand geese, wild geese, &c. and for the taking of the four first kinds, here are a great number of decoys or duckoys, call them which you please, from all which the vast number of fowls they take are sent up to London; the quantity indeed is incredible, and the accounts which the country people give of the numbers they sometimes take, are such, that one scarce dares to report it from them. But this I can say, of my certain knowledge, that some of these decoys are of so great an extent, and take such great quantities of fowl, that they are let for great sums of money by the year, viz. from l00l, to 3, 4, and 500l . a year rent.
The art of taking the fowls, and especially of breeding up a set of creatures, call’d decoy ducks, to entice and then betray their fellow-ducks into the several decoys, is very admirable indeed, and deserves a description; tho’ ’tis not very easy to describe it, take it in as few words as I can.
The decoy ducks are first naturalised to the place, for they are hatch’d and bred up in the decoy ponds: There are in the ponds certain places where they are constantly fed, and where being made tame, they are used to come even to the decoy man’s hand for their food.
When they fly abroad, or, as might be said, are sent abroad, they go none knows where; but ’tis believ’d by some they fly quite over the seas in Holland and Germany; There they meet with others of their acquaintance, that is to say, of their own kind, where sorting with them, and observing how poorly they live, how all the rivers are frozen up, and the lands cover’d with snow, and that they are almost starv’d, they fail not to let them know, (in language that they make one another understand) that in England, from whence they came, the case is quite alter’d; that the English ducks live much better than they do in those cold climates; that they have open lakes, and sea shores full of food, the tides flowing freely into every creek; that they have also within the land, large lakes, refreshing springs of water, open ponds, covered and secured from human eyes, with large rows of grown trees and impenetrable groves; that the lands are full of food, the stubbles yielding constant supplies of corn, left by the negligent husbandmen, as it were on purpose for their use, that ’tis not once in a wild duck’s age, that they have any long frosts or deep snows, and that when they have, yet the sea is never frozen, or the shores void of food; and that if they will please but to go with them into England, they shall share with them in all these good things.
By these representations, made in their own duck language, (or by whatever other arts which we know not) they draw together a vast number of the fowls, and, in a word, kidnap them from their own country; for being once brought out of their knowlcdge, they follow the decoys, as a dog follows the huntsman; and ’tis frequent to see these subtle creatures return with a vast flight of fowls with them, or at their heels, as we may say, after the said decoy ducks have been absent several weeks together.
When they have brought them over, the first thing they do is to settle with them in the decoy ponds, to which they (the decoy ducks) belong: Here they chatter and gabble to them, in their own language, as if they were telling them, that these are the ponds they told them of, and here they should soon see how well they should live, how secure and how safe a retreat they had here.
When the decoy-men perceive they are come, and that they are gathering and encreasing, they fail not to go secretly to the pond’s side, I say secretly, and under the cover which they have made with reeds, so that they cannot be seen, where they throw over the reeds handfuls of corn, in shallow places, such where the decoy ducks are usually fed, and where they are sure to come for it, and to bring their new guests with them for their entertainment.
This they do for two or three days together, and no harm follows, ‘till throwing in this bait one time in an open wide place, another time in another open wide place, the third time it is thrown in a narrower place; that is to say, where the trees, which hang over the water and the banks, stand nearer, and then in another yet narrower, where the said trees are overhead like an arbour, though at a good hight from the water.
Here the boughs are so artfully managed, that a large net is spread near the tops of the trees among the branches, and fasten’d to hoops which reach from side to side: This is so high and so wide, and the room is so much below, and the water so open, that the fowls do not perceive the net above them at all.
Here the decoy-man keeping unseen, behind the hedges of reeds, which are made perfectly close, goes forward, throwing corn over the reeds into the water; the decoy ducks greedily fall upon it, and calling their foreign guests, seem to tell them, that now they may find their words good, and how well the ducks live in England; so inviting or rather wheedling them forward, ‘till by degrees they are all gotten under the arch or sweep of the net, which is on the trees, and which by degrees, imperceptibly to them, declines lower and lower, and also narrower and narrower, ‘till at the farther end it comes to a point like a purse; though this farther end is quite out of sight, and perhaps two or three hundred yards from the first entrance
When the whole quantity are thus greedily following the leading ducks or decoys, and feeding plentifully as they go; and the decoy-man sees they are all within the arch of the net, and so far within as not to be able to escape, on a sudden a dog,
which ‘till then he keeps close by him, and who is perfectly taught his business, rushes from behind the reeds, and jumps into the water, swimming directly after the ducks, and (terribly to them) barking as he swims.
Immediately the ducks (frighted to the last degree) rise upon the wing to make their escape, but to their great surprize, are beaten down again by the arched net, which is over their heads: Being then forced into the water, they necessarily swim forward, for fear of that terrible creature the dog; and thus they crowd on, ‘till by degrees the net growing lower and narrower, as is said, they are hurried to the very farther end, where another decoy-man stands ready to receive them, and who takes them out alive with his hands.
As for the traytors, that drew the poor ducks into this snare, they are taught to rise but a little way, and so not reaching to the net, they fly back to the ponds, and make their escape; or else, being used to the decoy-man, they go to him fearless, and are taken out as the rest; but instead of being kill’d with them, are strok’d, made much of, and put into a little pond just by him, and fed and made much of for their services.
There are many particulars in the managing and draining these levels, throwing off the water by milis and engines, and cultivating the grounds in an unusual manner, which would be very useful to be describ’d; but the needfu? brevity of this work will not admit of it: yet something may be touch’d at.
1. That here are some wonderful engines for throwing up water, and such as are not to be seen any where else, whereof one in particular threw up, (as they assur’d us) twelve hundred ton of water in half an hour, and goes by wind-sails, 12 wings or sails to a mili: This I saw the model of, but I must own I did not see it perform.
2. Here are the greatest improvements by planting of hemp, that, I think, is to be seen in England; particularly on the Norfolk and Cambridge side of the Fens, as about Wisbech, Well, and several other places, where we saw many hundred acres of ground bearing great crops of hemp.
3. Here is a particular trade carry’d on with London, which is no where else practis’d in the whole kingdom, that I have met with, or heard of, (viz.) For carrying fish alive by land-carriage; this they do by carrying great buts fill’d with water in waggons, as the carriers draw other goods: The buts have a little square flap, instead of a bung, about ten, twelve, or fourteen inches square, which, being open’d, gives air to the fish, and every night, when they come to the inn, they draw off the water, and let more fresh and sweet water run into them again. In these carriages they chiefly carry tench and pike, pearch and eels, but especially tench and pike, of which here are some of the largest in England.
Whittlesea and Ramsey meres are two lakes, made by the River Nyne or Nene, which runs through them; the first is between five and six miles long, and three or four miles broad, and is indeed full of excellent fish for this trade.
From the Fenns, longing to be deliver’d from fogs and stagnate air, and the water of the colour of brew’d ale, like the rivers of the Peak, we first set foot on dry land, as I call’d it, at Peterborough.
This is a little city, and indeed ’tis the least in England; for Bath, or Wells, or Ely, or Carlisle, which are all call’d cities, are yet much bigger; yet Peterborough is no contemptible place neither; there are some good houses in it, and the streets are fair and well-built; but the glory of Peterborough is the cathedral, which is truly fine and beautiful; the building appears to be more modern, than the story of the raising this pile implies, and it wants only a fine tower steeple, and a spire on the top of it, as St. Paul’s at London had, or as Salisbury still has; I say, it wants this only to make it the finest cathedral in Britain, except St. Paul’s, which is quite new, and the church of St. Peter at York.
In this church was bury’d the body of the unhappy Mary Queen of Scots, mother to King James the First, who was beheaded not far off in Fotheringay Castle in the same county; but her body was afterwards remov’d by King James the First, her son, into Westminster Abbey, where a monument is erected for her, in King Henry the VIIth’s chappel; tho’ some do not stick to tell us, that tho’ the monument was erected, the body was never remov’d.
Here also lies interred another unhappy queen, namely, the Lady Katherine of Spain, the divorc’d wife of King Henry VIII. and mother to Queen Mary: who reigned immediately after King Edward VI. Her monument is not very magnificent, but ’tis far from mean. Here is an old decay’d monument of Bishop Wulfer, the founder of the church; but this church has so often been burnt and demolish’d, since that time, that ’tis doubtful when they shew it you, whether it be authentick or not.
The chappel here, call’d St. Mary’s, is a very curious building, tho’ now not in use; the choir has been often repair’d and beautify’d, and is now very fine; but the west end, or great gate, is a prodigy for its beauty and variety: ’Tis remarkable, that as this church, when a monastry, was famous for its great revenues, so now, as reduced, ’tis one of the poorest bishopricks in England, if not the meanest.
Coming to this little city landed us in Northamptonshire; but as great part of Lincolnshire, which is a vastly extended large county, remain’d yet unseen, we were oblig’d to turn north from Peterborough, and take a view of the fens again, though we kept them at some distance too. Here we pass’d the Welland at Market Deeping, an old, ill-built and dirty town; then we went thro’ Bourn to Folkingham, near which we saw two pieces of decay’d magnificence; one was the old demolish’d monastry of Sempringham, the seat of the Gilbertine nuns, so famous for austerity, and the severest rules, that any other religious order have yielded to, and the other was the antient house of the Lord Clinton, Queen Elizabeth’s admiral, where that great and noble person once liv’d in the utmost splendor and magnificence; the house, tho’ in its full decay, shows what it has been, and the plaister of the cielings and walls in some rooms is so fine, so firm, and so entire, that they break it off in large flakes, and it will bear writing on it with a pencil or steel pen, like the leaves of a table book. This sort of plaister I have not seen anywhere so very fine, except in the palace of Nonesuch in Surrey, near Epsom, before it was demolish’d by the Lord Berkeley.
From hence we cross’d part of the great heath mentioned before, and came into the high road again at Ankaster, a small but antient Roman village, and full of remnants of antiquity: This town gives now the title of duke to the ancient family of Lindsey, now Dukes of Ankaster, formerly only Earls of Lindsey, and hereditary Lords Chamberlains of England.
This place and Panton, a village near it, would afford great subject of discourse, if antiquity was my present province, for here are found abundance of Roman coins, urns, and other remains of antiquity, as also in several parts here about; and Mr. Cambden puts it out of doubt, that at this town of Ankaster there was a station or colony settled of Romans, which afterwards swell’d up into a city, but is now sunk again out of knowledge. From hence we came to Grantham, famous for a very fine church and spire steeple, so finely built, and so very high, that I do not know many higher and finer built in Britain. The vulgar opinion, that this steeple stands leaning, is certainly a vulgar error: I had no instrument indeed to judge it by, but, according to the strictest observation, I could not perceive it, or anything like it, and am much of opinion with that excellent poet:
’Tis hight makes Grantham steeple stand awry. This is a neat, pleasant, well-built and populous town, has a good market, and the inhabitants are said to have a very good trade, and are generally rich. There is also a very good free-school here. This town lying on the great northern road is famous, as well as Stamford, for abundance of very good inns, some of them fit to entertain persons of the greatest quality and their retinues, and it is a great advantage to the place.
From a hill, about a mile beyond this town north west, being on the great York road, we had a prospect again into the Vale of Bever, or Belvoir, which I mentioned before; and which spreads itself here into 3 counties, to wit, Lincoln, Leicester, and Rutlandshires: also here we had a distant view of Bever, or Bellevoir Castle, which ’tis supposed took its name from the situation, from whence there is so fine a prospect, or Bellevoir over the country; so that you see from the hill into six counties, namely, into Lincoln, Nottingham, Darby, Leicester, Rutland, and Northampton Shires. The castle or palace (for such it now is) of Bevoir, is now the seat of the noble family of Mannors, Dukes of Rutland, who have also a very noble estate, equal to the demesnes of some sovereign princes, and extending itself into Nottingham and Darbyshire far and wide, and in which estate they have an immense subterranean treasure, never to be exhausted; I mean the lead mines and coal-pits, of which I shall say more in its place.
Turning southward from hence we enter’d Rutlandshire, remarkable for being the least county in England, having but two market towns in it, viz. Okeham and Uppingham, but famous for abundance of fine seats of the gentlemen, and some of the first rank, as particularly the Earls of Gainsborough and Nottingham; the latter has at a very great expence, and some years labour, rebuilt the ancient seat of Burleigh on the Hill, near Okeham, and on the edge of the vale of Cathross. This house would indeed require a volume of itself, to describe the pleasant situation, and magnificent structure, the fine gardens, the perfectly well-finish’d apartments, the curious paintings, and well-stor’d library: all these merit a particular view, and consequently an exact description; but it is not the work of a few pages, and it would be to lessen the fame of this palace, to say any thing by way of abstract, where every part calls for a full account: at present, all I can say of it is, there may be some extraordinary palaces in England, where there are so many fine ones, I say there may be some that excell in this or that particular, but I do not know a house in Britain, which excels all the rest in so many particulars, or that goes so near to excelling them all in every thing. Take something of it in the following lines, part of a poem, written wholly upon the subject, by an anonymous author.
Hall, happy fabrick! whose majestick view
First sees the sun, and bids him last adieu;
Seated in majesty, your eye commands
A royal prospect of the richest lands,
Whose better part, by your own lord possess’d,
May well be nam’d the crown of all the rest:
The under-lying vale shews with delight
A thousand beauties, at one charming sight;
No pencil’s art can such a landskip feign,
And Nature’s self scarce yields the like again:
Few situations may with this compare,
A fertile soil and a salubrious air.
Triumphant structure! while you thus aspire
From the dead ruin of rebellious fire;
Methinks I see the genius of the place
Advance its head, and, with a smiling face,
Say, Kings have on this spot made their abodes,
’Tis fitted now to entertain the Gods.
From hence we came to Stamford; the town is placed in a kind of an angle of the county of Lincoln, just upon the edge of three counties, viz. Lincoln, Northampton, and Rutland: this town boasts greatly too of its antiquity, and indeed it has evident marks of its having been a very great place in former days.
History tells us it was burnt by the Danes above 1500 years ago, being then a flourishing city: Tradition tells us, it was once a university, and that the schools were first erected by Bladud King of the Britains; the same whose figure stands up at the King’s Bath in the city of Bath, and who liv’d 300 years before our Saviour’s time: But the famous camps and military ways, which still appear at and near this town, are a more visible testimony of its having been a very ancient town, and that it was considerable in the Romans time.
It is at this time a very fair, well-built, considerable and wealthy town, consisting of six parishes, including that of St. Martin in Stamford-Baron; that is to say, in that part of the town which stands over the river, which, tho’ it is not a part of the town, critically speaking, being not in the liberty, and in another county, yet ’tis all called Stamford, and is rated with it in the taxes, and the like.
This town is the property, as it may be called, of the Earles of Excester; for the author of the Survey of Stamford, page 15, says, “William Cecil, Baron Burleigh, and afterwards Earl of Excester, obtain’d the fee farm of Queen Elizabeth for himself, in whose posterity it yet remains.”
The government of this town is not, it seems, as most towns of such note are, by a mayor and aldermen, but by an alderman, who is chief magistrate, and twelve comburgesses, and twenty four capital burgesses, which, abating their worships titles, is, to me, much the same thing as a mayor, aldermen, and common council.
They boast in this town of very great privileges, especially to their alderman, who is their chief magistrate, and his com-burgesses; such as being freed from the sheriffs jurisdiction, and from being empannel’d on juries out of the town; to have the return of all writs, to be freed from all lords lieutenants, and from their musters, and for having the militia of the town commanded by their own officers, the alderman being the king’s Lord Lieutenant, and immediately under his Majesty’s command, and to be (within the liberties and jurisdiction of the town) esteem’d the second man in the kingdom; and the grant of those privileges concludes thus; Ut ab antiguo usu fuerunt, as of antient time they had been accustomed: So that this Charter, which was granted by Edward IV. ann. 1461. seems to be only a confirmation of former privileges, not a grant of new ones.
In the church of St. Martin in Stamford-Baron, that is on this side the bridge, at the upper end of the choir, is a very noble monument of William Cecil Lord Burleigh, who lies bury’d there in a large vault just under it; and opposite to it, on the north side, is a more antient (but handsome) monument, tho’ not so magnificent as the former, being in memory of Richard Cecil, Esq; and Jane his wife, the father and mother of the said famous Lord Burleigh; also a more modern monument for the great earl who re-edify’d the house, being the last earl but one, and father of the present earl; and for his countess, a sister of the present Duke of Devonshire: This is a finish’d piece, ’tis all of the finest marble, and, they told us, it was made at Florence, and sent over: The said earl dy’d on his travels at Paris.
There is a very fine stone bridge over the River Welland of five arches, and the town-hall is in the upper part of the gate, upon or at the end of the bridge, which is a very handsome building. There are two constant weekly markets here, viz. on Mondays and Fridays, but the last is the chief market: They have also three fairs, viz. St. Simon and Jude, St. James’s, and Green-goose Fair, and a great Midlent mart; but the latter is not now so considerable, as it is reported to have formerly been.
But the beauty of Stamford is the neighbourhood of the noble palace of the Earl of Excester, call’d Burleigh House, built by the famous Sir William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, and Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth, the same whose monument I just now mentioned, being in St. Martin’s Church at Stamford-Baron, just without the park.
This house, built all of free-stone, looks more like a town than a house, at which avenue soever you come to it; the towers and the pinnacles so high, and placed at such a distance from one another, look like so many distant parish-churches in a great town, and a large spire cover’d with lead, over the great clock in the center, looks like the cathedral, or chief church of the town.
The house stands on an eminence, which rises from the north en trance of the park, coming from Stamford: On the other side, viz. south and west, the country lies on a level with the house, and is a fine plain, with posts and other marks for horse-races; As the entrance looks towards the flat low grounds of Lincolnshire, it gives the house a most extraordinary prospect into the Fens, so that you may see from thence twenty or near thirty miles, without any thing to intercept the sight.
As you mount the hill, you come to a fine esplanade, before the great gate or first entrance of the house, where there is a small but very handsome semi-circle, taken in with an iron balustrade, and from this, rising a few steps, you enter a most noble hall, but made infinitely more noble by the invaluable paintings, with which it is so fill’d, that there is not room to place any thing between them.
The late Earl of Excester, father of his present lordship, had a great genius for painting and architecture, and a superior judgment in both, as every part of this noble structure will testify; for he chang’d the whole face of the building; he pull’d down great part of the front next the garden, and turn’d the old Gothic windows into those spacious sashes which are now seen there; and tho’ the founder or first builder, who had an exquisite fancy also, (as the manner of buildings then was) had so well ordered the situation and avenues of the whole fabrick, that nothing was wanting of that kind, and had also contriv’d the house itself in a most magnificent manner; the rooms spacious, well directed, the cielings lofty, and the decorations just, yet the late earl found room for alterations, infinitely to the advantage of the whole; as particularly, a noble stair case, a whole set of fine apartments, with rooms of state, fitting for the entertainment of a prince, especially those on the garden side; tho’ at present a little out of repair again.
As this admirable genius, the late earl, lov’d paintings, so he had infinite advantage in procuring them; for he not only travell’d three times into Italy, and stay’d every time a considerable while at Florence, but he was so entertain’d at the Court of Tuscany, and had, by his most princely deportment and excellent accomplishments, so far obtain’d upon the great duke, that he might be said indeed to love him, and his highness shew’d the earl many ways that esteem; and more particularly, in assisting him to purchase many excellent pieces at reasonable prices; and not only so, but his highness presented him with several pieces of great value.
Among the rest, there is. in the great hall, his lordship’s picture, on horseback, done by the great duke’s principal painter, at his highness’s charge, and given to his lordship, as a mark of the great duke’s special favour: There is also a fine piece of Seneca bleeding to death in the warm bath, and dictating his last morals to his scholars; the passions are in so lively a manner described in the scholars, their eager attention, their generous regard to their master, their vigilant catching at his words, and some of them taking minutes, that it is indeed admirable and inexpressible. I have been told, that the King of France offer’d the earl 6000 pistoles for it.
It would be endless to give a detail of the fine pieces his lordship brought from Italy. all originals, and by the best masters; ’tis enough to say, they infinitely exceed all that can be seen in England, and are of more value than the house itself, and all the park belonging to it.
His lordship had indeed infinite advantage, join’d to his very good judgment, besides what I have mention’d, at the Court of the grand duke, for the furnishing himself with extraordinary paintings, having made his three journeys into Italy by several routs, and stopt at several Courts of princes; and his collection would doubtless have been still enlarg’d, had he liv’d to finish a fourth tour, which he was taking; but he was surpriz’d with a sudden and violent distemper, and dy’d at Paris (as we were told) of a dysentrie.
Besides the pictures, which, as above, were brought from abroad, the house itself, at least the new apartments may be said to be one entire picture. The stair-case, the cielings of all the fine lodgings, the chapel, the hall, the late earl’s closet, are all finely painted by VARRIO, of whose work I need say no more than this, that the earl kept him twelve years in his family, wholly employ’d in painting those cielings and staircases, &c. and allow’d him a coach and horses, and equipage, a table, and servants, and a very considerable pension.
N.B. The character this gentleman left behind him at this town, is, that he deserv’d it all for his paintings; but for nothing else; his scandalous life, and his unpaid debts, it seems, causing him to be but very meanly spoken of in the town of Stamford. I might dwell a long while upon this subject, and could do it with great pleasure, Burleigh House being well worth a full and compleat description; but this work will not admit of enlargements.
By the park wall, or, as some think, through the park, adjoining to Burleigh House, pass’d an old Roman highway, beginning at Castor, a little village near Peterborough; but which was anciently a Roman station, or colony, call’d Durobrevum; this way is still to be seen, and is now call’d The 40 Foot Way, passing from Gunworth Ferry (and Peterborough) to Stamford: This was, as the antiquaries are of opinion, the great road into the north, which is since turn’d from Stilton in Huntingdonshire to Wandsworth or Wandsford, where there is a very good bridge over the River Nyne; which coming down from Northampton, as I have observ’d already, passes thence by Peterborough, and so into the Fen country: But if I may straggle a little into antiquity, (which I have studiously avoided) I am of opinion, neither this or Wandsford was the ancient northern road in use by the Romans; for ’tis evident, that the great Roman causway is still seen on the left hand of that road, and passing the Nyne at a place call’d Water Neuton, went directly to Stamford, and pass’d the Welland, just above that town, not in the place where the bridge stands now; and this Roman way is still to be seen, both on the south and the north side of the Welland, stretching itself on to Brig Casterton, a little town upon the River Guash, about three miles beyond Stamford; which was, as all writers agree, another Roman station, and was call’d Guasennæ by the antients, from whence the river is supposed also to take its name; whence it went on to Panton, another very considerable colony, and so to Newark, where it cross’d the Foss.
This Forty Foot Way then must be a cross road from Castor, and by that from the Fen Country, so leading into the great highway at Stamford: as likewise another cross road went out of the said great road at Panton, above-named, to Ankaster, where was a Roman cohort plac’d, and thence join’d the Foss again at Lincoln.
Near this little village of Castor lives the Lord FitzWilliams, of an ancient family, tho’ an Irish title, and his lordship has lately built a very fine stone bridge over the River Nyne, near Gunworth, where formerly was the ferry.
I was very much applauding this generous action of my lord’s, knowing the inconvenience of the passage there before, especially if the waters of the Nyne were but a little swell’d, and I thought it a piece of publick charity; but my applause was much abated, when coming to pass the bridge (being in a coach) we could not be allow’d to go over it, without paying 2s. 6d. of which I shall only say this, That I think ’tis the only half crown toll that is in Britain, at least that ever I met with.
As we pass by Burleigh Park wall, on the great road, we see on the west side, not above a mile from it, another house, built by the same Lord Burleigh, and which might pass for a very noble seat, were not Burleigh by. This is call’d Wathorp, and stands just on the Great Roman Way, mention’d above; this is the house of which the old earl said he built it to remove to, and to be out of the dust, while Burleigh House was a sweeping. This saying is indeed father’d upon the noble founder, but I must acknowledge, I think it too haughty an expression to come from so wise and great a man.
At Overton, now call’d Cherry Orton, a village near Gunworth Ferry, is an old mansion house, formerly belonging to a very antient and almost forgotten race, or family of great men, call’d Lovetoft, which I nam’d for a particular reason. The estate is now in the heirs of the late Duke of Newcastle, and the house lies neglected. On the other side of the river is a fine new-built house, all of free stone, possess’d by Sir Francis St. John, Bart. which affords a very beautiful prospect to travellers, as they pass from the hill beyond Stilton to Wansford Bridge. This Wansford has obtain’d an idle addition to its name, from a story so firmly believ’d by the country people, that they will hardly allow any room for contradiction; namely, That a great flood coming hastily down the River Nyne, in hay-making-time, a country fellow, having taken up his lodging on a cock of hay in the meadow, was driven down the stream in the night, while he was fast asleep; and the hay swimming, and the fellow sleeping, they drove together towards Wisbech in the Fens, whence he was fairly going on to the sea; when being wakened, he was seen and taken up by some fishermen, almost in the open sea; and being ask’d, who he was? he told them his name; and where he liv’d? he answer’d, at Wansford in England: from this story the town is called Wansford in England; and we see at the great inn, by the south end of the bridge, the sign of a man floating on a cock of hay, and over him written, Wansford in England.
Coming south from hence we pass’d Stilton, a town famous for cheese, which is call’d our English Parmesan, and is brought to table with the mites, or maggots round it, so thick, that they bring a spoon with them for you to eat the mites with, as you do the cheese.
Hence we came through Sautrey Lane, a deep descent between two hills, in which is Stangate Hole, famous for being the most noted robbing-place in all this part of the country. Hence we pass’d to Huntington, the county town, otherwise not considerable; it is full of very good inns, is a strong pass upon the Ouse, and in the late times of rebellion it was esteemed so by both parties.
Here are the most beautiful meadows on the banks of the River Ouse, that I think are to be seen in any part of England; and to see them in the summer season, cover’d with such innumerable stocks of cattle and sheep, is one of the most agreeable sights of its kind in the world.
This town has nothing remarkable in it; ’tis a long continued Street, pretty well built, has three parish churches, and a pretty good market-place; but the bridge, or bridges rather, and causway over the Ouse is a very great ornament to the place. On the west side of this town, and in view of the plain lower side of the county, is a noble, tho’ ancient seat, of the Earl of Sandwich; the gardens very fine and well kept; the situation seems a little obscur’d by the town of Huntington. In the same plain we saw Bugden, a small village, in which is remarkable a very pleasant, tho’ ancient house or palace, of the Bishops of Lincoln: The house and garden surrounded by a very large and deep moat of water; the house is old, but pleasant, the chappel very pretty, ‘tho’ small; there is an organ painted against the wall, but in a seeming organ-loft, and so properly placed and well painted, that we at first believed it really to be an organ.
Hinchingbrook, another house belonging to a noble family, well known by the same title, shews itself at a small distance from Huntington; and a little way south stands that most nobly situated and pleasant seat of the Duke of Manchester, called Kimbolton, or Kimbolton Castle, where no pains or cost has been spar’d to make the most beautiful situation still more beautiful, and to help nature with art.
Hence we went a little north to see Oundle, being told that the famous drum was to be heard just at that time in the well; but when we came there, they shew’d us indeed the well and the town, but as for the drum, they could only tell us they heard of it, and that it did drum; but we could meet with no person of sufficient credit, that would say seriously they had heard it: so we came away dissatisfy’d.
This town of Oundle is pleasantly seated on the River Nyne, of which I have so often spoken. There are indeed a range of eminent towns upon this river; (viz.) Northampton, Wellingborough, Thrapston, Oundle, Fotheringay, Wandsford, and Peterborough; at all which, except Peterborough, there are very good stone bridges over the river.
Here again there is a most beautiful range of meadows, and perhaps they are not to be equall’d in England for length; they continue uninterrupted for above thirty miles in length, from Peterborough to Northampton, and, in some places, are near two miles in breadth, the land rich, the grass fine and good, and the cattle, which are always feeding on them, hay-time excepted, numberless.
From Oundle we cross’d the county of Northampton into Bedfordshire, and particularly to the town of Bedford, the chief town of the county; for this county has no city in it, tho’ even this town is larger and more populous, than several cities in England, having five parish-churches, and a great many, and those wealthy and thriving inhabitants. This is one of the seven counties, which they say lie together, and have not one city among them; namely, Huntington, Bedford, Bucks, Berks, Hertford, Essex, and Suffolk.
But here I must do a piece of justice to the usage of England in denominating of cities, namely, that it is not here as in France, and Flanders, and Holland, where almost all their towns of note are call’d cities, and where the gentry chiefly live in those cities, and the clergy also; I mean the religious houses, of which there are great numbers sometimes in one city, which are enough to make a city, where there was none before. But as we have no authority, but antient usage and custom, for the distinguishing places by the names of towns and cities, so since that ancient usage or authority had the titles of places, ’tis observable some places, formerly of note, are considerably decay’d, and scarce preserve the face of their ancient greatness; as Lincoln, Old Sarum, Carlisle, Verulam, and others; and several towns which in those times scarce deserv’d the name of cities, are now, by the encrease of commerce and numbers of inhabitants, become greater, more populous and wealthy, than others, which are call’d cities.
Nor is this all, but several towns, which Mr. Cambden tells us, were call’d cities in his time, are now sunk from the dignity, and are only call’d towns, and yet still retain a greatness, wealth, and populousness, superior to many cities, such as Colchester, Ipswich, Shrewsbury, Cambridge, Stamford, Leicester, and others, which are without all comparison greater now than Wells, Peterborough, Ely, or Carlisle, and yet have lost the title of cities, which the other retain.
Thus we have at this time the towns of Froom, Taunton, Tiverton, Plymouth, Portsmouth, and others in the west, and the towns of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, Hull, and several others in the north, that are much larger, richer, and more populous, than Rochester, Peterborough, Carlisle, Bath, and even than York itself, and yet these retain but the name of towns, nay even of villages, in some of which the chiefest magistrate is but a constable, as in Manchester, for example.
It is remarkable of Bedfordshire, that tho’ a great part of the county lies on the north side of the Ouse; that is to say, the two whole hundreds of Stodden and Barford; yet there is not one market town in all that side of the Ouse, but Bedford only. Another thing is scarce to be equall’d in the whole isle of Britain; namely, that tho’ the Ouse, by a long and winding course, cuts through the county, and by its long reachings, so as to make above seventy miles between Oulney and St. Neots, tho’ not above twenty by land, yet in all that course it receives but one river into it, namely the little River Ivel, which falls into the Ouse a little above Temsford.
Bedford, as I have said, is a large, populous, and thriving town, and a pleasant well-built place; it has five parish churches, a very fine stone bridge over the Ouse, and the High Street, (especially) is a very handsome fair street, and very well-built; and tho’ the town is not upon any of the great roads in England, yet it is full of very good inns, and many of them; and in particular we found very good entertainment here.
Here is the best market for all sorts of provisions, that is to be seen at any country town in all these parts of England; and this occasions, that tho’ it is so far from London, yet the higglers or carriers buy great quantities of provisions here for London markets; also here is a very good trade down the river to Lynn.
Here is also a great corn market, and great quantities of corn are bought here, and carry’d down by barges and other boats to Lynn, where it is again shipp’d, and carry’d by sea to Holland: The soil hereabouts is exceeding rich and fertile, and particularly produces great quantities of the best wheat in England, which is carry’d by waggons from hence, and from the north part of the county twenty miles beyond this, to the markets of Hitchin and Hertford, and bought again there, and ground and carry’d in the meal (still by land) to London.
Indeed the whole product of this county is corn, that is to say, wheat and malt for London; for here are very few manufactures, except that of straw-hats and bone-lace, of which by itself: There are but ten market towns in the whole county, and yet ’tis not a small county neither: The towns are,
The last of these was almost demolish’d by a terrible fire, which happen’d here just before my writing this account; but as this town has the good luck to belong to a noble family, particularly eminent for being good landlords; that is to say, bountiful and munificent to their poor tenants, I mean the ducal house of Bedford; there is no doubt but that the trustees, tho’ his grace the present duke is in his minority, will preserve that good character to the family, and re-edify the town, which is almost all their own.
The duke’s house, call’d Wooburn Abbey, is just by the town, a good old house, but very ancient, spacious and convenient rather than fine, but exceedingly pleasant by its situation; and for the great quantity of beach woods which surround the parks and cover the hills, and also for great woods of oak too, as rich and valuable, as they are great and magnificent: The very situation of this house to promise itself another Burleigh or Chatsworth, whenever an heir comes to enjoy the vast estate of this family, who has a genius for building; But at present, as above, the heir is an infant.
Ampthill is grac’d like Wooburn; for tho’ in itself, like the other, it is not a considerable town, and has no particular manufacture to enrich it, yet by the neighbourhood of that great and noble family of Bruce Earls of Ailesbury, the very town is made both rich and honourable: It is however the misfortune of this noble family, that the present earl lives abroad, being a Roman; but the next heirs are in view of recovering the grandeur of that ancient family. The old venerable seat of the family is near the town, and is a noble and magnificent palace, tho’ not wholly re-built, as is the fortune of many of the seats of our nobility of this age.
From hence, thro’ the whole south part of this county, as far as the border of Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, the people are taken up with the manufacture of bone-lace, in which they are wonderfully encreas’d and improv’d within these few years past. Also the manufactures of straw-work, especially straw hats, spreads itself from Hertfordshire into this county, and is wonderfully encreased within a few years past.
Having thus viewed this county in all its most considerable towns, we came from Dunstable to St. Albans, and so into London, all which has been spoken of before; I therefore break off this circuit here, and subscribe,
Your most obedient Servant.
THE same reasons which occasioned an Appendix to the last volume hold good still, and will hold, if ten volumes of the same kind were to be written; seeing no man can take so strict a view of England, but something will occur, which the nicest observer could not possibly see, or the most busy enquirer be inform’d of at one journey; and, which is still more, some things will be undertaken and begun in the smallest intervals of time, which were not heard of before; for example:
On a more exact enquiry into the particular state of the city of Bristol, I find it necessary to mention first, That there are but seventeen parishes in the city, tho’ there are nineteen churches, including the cathedral and the church of St. Mark: There are, besides those churches, seven meeting-houses, two Presbyterian, one Independent, two Quakers, one Baptist; also one or two other meetings not to be nam’d.
As to the Exchange design’d to be built, and for which an Act of Parliament actually pass’d, ann. 1723, it was at first intended to be built where the Tolsey now is; but so many buildings both publick and private and one church, namely Christ Church, at the corner of Vine-street, standing so near, as that they would crowd the place too much, the first measures were chang’d, and now the intended place is the meal market, between Vine-street and St. Mary Port, being on the north side of the Tolsey; but the citizens do not seem so hasty to build, as they were to get the Act of Parliament pass’d to give them power to do it.
There are no less than fifteen glass-houses in Bristol, which is more than are in the city of London: They have indeed a very great expence of glass bottles, by sending them fill’d with beer, cyder, and wine to the West Indies, much more than goes from London; also great numbers of bottles, even such as is almost incredible, are now used for sending the waters of St. Vincent’s Rock away, which are now carry’d, not all over England only, but, we may say, all over the world.
The ground is now so rais’d in Queen’s Square, (that which was formerly call’d the Mead) that the highest tide does not flow over it, and all the sides of the square are now fully built and inhabited, except one house only.
There is in the great church of Ratcliff, or Redcliff, a very antient monument for one Mr. William Cannings, burgess and merchant of Bristol, who besides repairing or new buiding part of Ratcliff great church, gave to the vicar and church-wardens, and major part of the inhabitants of the parish, in trust for the poor, 340l . This was in the year 1474. 17th of Edw. IV. N.B. Such a sum at that time was equal to eight times that money in these days.
On one part of the monument is a Latin inscription, in an odd way of writing, and full of abbreviations; and, on the other side, in English, the following account of this worthy citizen, and of the regard paid to him at that time.
Mr. William Cannings, the richest merchant of the town of Bristow; afterwards chosen five times Mayor of the town, for the good of the common wealth of the same: He was in Order of Priesthood, and afterwards Dean of Westburgh; and dy’d the 7th of November, 1474: Which said William did build within the said town of Westburgh a college with his canons and said William did maintain, by the space of 8 years, 8 hundred handy crafts men, besides carpenters and masons, every day 100 men. ——— Besides King Edward the 4th had of the said William 3000 marks for his peace, in 2470 tuns of shipping. These are the names of the shipping with their burthen.
|The Mary Canning,||400|
|The Mary Batt,||220|
|The Mary Redcliff,||500|
|The Mary and John,||900|
|The Katherine Boston,||22|
|A ship in Ireland,||100|
No age nor time can wear out well-won fame,
The stones themselves a stately work doth show;
From senseless stones we ground may mens good name,
And noble minds by virtuous deeds we know.
A lanthorn clear sets forth a candle-light:
A worthy act declares a worthy wight.
The buildings rare that here you may behold:
To shrine his bones deserves a tomb of gold:
The famous fabrick, that he here hath done,
Shines in his sphere, as glorious as the sun:
What needs more words? the future world he sought
And set the pomp and pride of this at naught;
Heaven was his aim! let Heaven be his station,
That leaves such works for others imitation.
Also here is the following inscription on the monument of Sir William Penn, Bart. the father of the great William Penn, one of the heads of the Quakers, who was a native of the city of Bristol: as follows.
To the just memory of Sir William Penn, Knt. and sometime general; borne at Bristol, in 1621, son of Capt. Giles Penn, several years consul for the English in the Mediterranean: Descended from the Penns of Penn Lodge in the county of Wilts, and the Penns of Penn near Wickham in the county of Bucks; and, by his mother, from the Gilberts in the county of Somerset, originally from Yorkshire; addicted from his youth to maritime affairs: He was made captain at the years of 21, Rear-Admiral of Ireland at 23, Vice-Admiral of Ireland at 25, Admiral to the Streights at 29, Vice-Admiral of England at 31, and General of the first Dutch Wars at 32; whence retiring, in anno 1655, he was chosen Parliament man for the town of Weymouth 1660, made Commissioner of the Admiralty and Navy, Governour of the towns and forts of Kingsaile, Vice-Admiral of Munster, and a member of the Provincial Councell; and, in anno 1664, was chosen Great Captain Commander under his Royal Highness, in that signal and most prudently successful fight against the Dutch Fleet. Thus he took leave of the sea, his old element, but continued still his other employs ‘till 1669, at what time, thro’ bodily Infirmities (contracted by the care and fatigue of the publick affairs) he withdrew, prepar’d, and made for his end, and with a gentle and even gale, in much peace, arriv’d and anchor’d in his last and best port, at Wanstead in the county of Essex, on the 16th of September, 1670, being then but 49 and 4 months old. To whose name and merit his surviving lady hath erected this remembrance.
In travelling this latter part of this second tour, it has not been taken notice of, though it very well deserves mention; That the soil of all the midland part of England, even from sea to sea, is of a deep stiff clay, or marly kind, and it carries a breadth of near 50 miles at least, in some places much more; nor is it possible to go from London to any part of Britain, north, without crossing this clayey dirty part. For example;
Suppose we take the great northern post road from London to York, and so into Scotland; you have tolerable good ways and hard ground, ‘till you reach Royston about 32, and to Kneesworth, a mile farther: But from thence you enter upon the clays, which beginning at the famous Arrington-Lanes, and going on to Caxton, Huntington, Stilton, Stamford, Grantham, Newark, Tuxford (call’d for its deepness Tuxford in the Clays) holds on ‘till we come almost to Bautree, which is the first town in Yorkshire, and there the country is hard and sound, being part of Sherwood Forest.
Suppose you take the other northern road, namely, by St. Albans, Dunstable, Hockley, Newport Pagnel, Northampton, Leicester, and Nottingham, or Darby: On this road, after you are pass’d Dunstable, which, as in the other way, is about 30 miles, you enter the deep clays, which are so surprisingly soft, that it is perfectly frightful to travellers, and it has been the wonder of foreigners, how, considering the great numbers of carriages which are continually passing with heavy loads, those ways have been made practicable; indeed the great number of horses every year kill’d by the excess of labour in those heavy ways, has been such a charge to the country, that new building of causeways, as the Romans did of old, seems to me to be a much easier expence: From Hockley to Northampton, thence to Harborough, and Leicester, and thence to the very bank of Trent these terrible clays continue; at Nottingham you are pass’d them, and the forest of Sherwood yields a hard and pleasant road for 30 miles together.
Take the same road as it leads to Coventry, and from thence to West Chester, the deep clays reach through all the towns of Brickhill, Fenny and Stony Stratford, Towcester, Daventry, Hill Morton, or Dunchurch, Coventry, Coleshill, and even to Birmingham, for very near 8o miles.
If we take the road to Worcester, it is the same through the vale of Aylesbury to Buckingham, and westward to Banbury, Keynton, and the vale of Evesham, where the clays reach, with some intermissions, even to the bank of Severn, as they do more northernly quite to West Chester.
The reason of my taking notice of this badness of the roads, through all the midland counties, is this; that as these are counties which drive a very great trade with the city of London, and with one another, perhaps the greatest of any counties in England; and that, by consequence, the carriage is exceeding great, and also that all the land carriage of the northern counties necessarily goes through these counties, so the roads had been plow’d so deep, and materials have been in some places so difficult to be had for repair of the roads, that all the surveyors rates have been able to do nothing; nay, the very whole country has not been able to repair them; that is to say, it was a burthen too great for the poor farmers; for in England it is the tenant, not the landlord, that pays the surveyors of the highways.
This necessarily brought the country to bring these things before the Parliament; and the consequence has been, that turnpikes or toll-bars have been set up on the several great roads of England, beginning at London, and proceeding thro’ almost all those dirty deep roads, in the midland counties especially; at which turn-pikes all carriages, droves of cattle, and travellers on horseback, are oblig’d to pay an easy toll; that is to say, a horse a penny, a coach three pence, a cart four pence, at some six pence to eight pence, a waggon six pence, in some a shilling, and the like; cattle pay by the score, or by the head, in some places more, in some less; but in no place is it thought a burthen that ever I met with, the benefit of a good road abundantly making amends for that little charge the travellers are put to at the turn-pikes.
Several of these turn-pikes and tolls had been set up of late years, and great progress had been made in mending the most difficult ways, and that with such success as well deserves a place in this account: And this is one reason for taking notice of it in this manner; for as the memory of the Romans, which is so justly famous, is preserv’d in nothing more visible to common observation, than in the remains of those noble causways and highways, which they made through all parts of the kingdom, and which were found so needful, even then, when there was not the five hundredth part of the commerce and carriage that is now: How much more valuable must these new works be, tho’ nothing to compare with those of the Romans, for the firmness and duration of their work?
The causways and roads, or streetways of the Romans, were perfect solid buildings, the foundations were laid so deep, and the materials so good, however far they were oblig’d to fetch them, that if they had been vaulted and arch’d, they could not have been more solid: I have seen the bottom of them dug up in several places, where I have observ’d flint-stones, chalkstones, hard gravel, solid hard clay, and several other sorts of earth, laid in layers, like the veins of oar in a mine; a laying of clay of a solid binding quality, then flint-stones, then chalk, then upon the chalk rough ballast or gravel, ‘till the whole work has been rais’d six or eight foot from the bottom; then it has been cover’d with a crown or rising ridge in the middle, gently sloping to the sides, that the rain might run off every way, and not soak into the work: This I have seen as fair and firm. after having stood, as we may conclude, at least 12 or 1600 years, as if it had been made but the year before.
And that I may not be charg’d with going beyond the most exact truth, I refer the curious to make their observations upon that causeway, call’d the Fosse, which is now remaining, and to be seen between Cirencester and Marshfield in Wiltshire, on the road to the Bath, or between the same Cirencester and Birdlip Hill in Gloucestershire, on the road to Gloucester; but more particularly, between Castleford Bridge, near Pontefract in Yorkshire, upon the River Aire, and the town of Aberford, in the road to Tadcaster and York.
In several parts of this causeway, the country being hard, and the way good on either side, travellers have not made much use of the causway, it being very high, and perhaps exposing them too much to the wind and weather, but have rather chosen to go on either side, so that the causway in some places, lies as flat and smooth on the top, as if it had never been made use of at all; and perhaps it has not, there being not so much as the mark of a wheel upon it, or of a horse foot for a good way together, for which I refer to the curious traveller that goes that way.
This very causeway have I seen cut into, so as to discover the very materials with which it was built; and in some parts of the same causeway, farther north, where the great road has taken some other way, I have seen the old causway dug down to carry the materials away, and mend the road which was then in use.
It is true the Romans being lords of the world, had the command of the people, their persons and their work, their cattle, and their carriages; even their armies were employ’d in these noble undertakings; and if the materials they wanted, were to fetch 20, nay 30 to 40 miles off, if they wanted them, they would have them, and the works were great and magnificent like themselves: Witness the numberless encampments, lines, castles and fortifications, which we see the remains of to this day.
But now the case is alter’d, labour is dear, wages high, no man works for bread and water now; our labourers do not work in the road, and drink in the brook; so that as rich as we are, it would exhaust the whole nation to build the edifices, the causways, the aqueducts, lines, castles, fortifications, and other publick works, which the Romans built with very little expence.
But to return to this new method of repairing the highways at the expence of the turn-pikes; that is to say, by the product of funds rais’d at those turn-pikes; it must be acknowledg’d they are very great things, and very great things are done by them; and ’tis well worth recording, for the honour of the present age, that this work has been begun, and is in an extraordinary manner carry’d on, and perhaps may, in a great measure be compleated within our memory. I shall give some examples here of those which have been brought to perfection already, and of others which are now carrying on.
First, that great county of Essex, of which our first tour gives an ample account. The great road from London, thro’ this whole county towards Ipswich and Harwich, is the most worn with waggons, carts, and carriages; and with infinite droves of black cattle, hogs, and sheep, of any road (that leads thro’ no larger an extent of country) in England: The length of it from Stratford-bridge by Bow, to Streetford-bridge over the Stour, on the side of Suffolk, is 50 miles, and to Harwich above 65 miles.
These roads were formerly deep, in time of floods dangerous, and at other times, in winter, scarce passable; they are now so firm, so safe, so easy to travellers, and carriages as well as cattle, that no road in England can yet be said to equal them; this was first done by the help of a turnpike, set up by Act of Parliament, about the year 1697, at a village near Ingerstone. Since that, another turnpike, set up at the corner of the Dog Row, near Mile-end; with an additional one at Rumford, which is called a branch, and paying at one, passes the person thro’ both: This I say, being set up since the other, compleats the whole, and we are told, that as the first expires in a year or two, this last will be sufficient for the whole, which will be a great case to the country: The first toll near Ingerstone, being the highest rated public toll in England; for they take 8d. for every cart, 6d. for every coach, and 12d . for every waggon; and in proportion for droves of cattle: For single horsemen indeed, it is the same as others pay, viz. 1d. per horse, and we are told, while this is doing, that the gentlemen of the county, design to petition the Parliament, to have the Commissioners of the last Act, whose turnpike, as above, is at Mile-end and Rumford, empowered to place other turnpikes, on the other most considerable roads, and so to undertake, and repair all the roads in the whole county, I mean all the considerable roads.
But to come back to the counties which I am now speaking of, some very good attempts have been made of this kind on the northern roads, thro’ those deep ways I mention’d, in the high post road; for example.
That an Act of Parliament was obtained about 30 years since, for repairing the road between Ware and Royston, and a turnpike was erected for it at Wade’s -mill, a village so called, about a mile and half beyond Ware: This proved so effectual, that the road there, which was before scarce passable, is now built up in a high, firm cause way; the most like those mentioned above, of the Romans, of any of these new undertakings. And, though this road is continually work’d upon, by the vast number of carriages, bringing malt and barly to Ware, for whose sake indeed, it was obtained; yet, with small repairs it is maintain’d, and the toll is reduced from a penny, to a half-penny, for the ease of the country, and so in proportion.
Beyond this, two grants have been obtained; one for repair of those wretched places, call’d Arrington Lanes, and all the road beyond Royston, to Caxton and Huntington; and another, for repairing the road from Stukely to Stilton, including the place called Stangate-Hole, and so on, towards Wansford and Santry Lane and Peterborough; by which these roads, which were before intollerable, are now much mended; but I cannot say, they are yet come up to the perfection of that road from London to Colchester.
One great difficulty indeed here, is, that the country is so universally made up of a deep, stiff clay; that ’tis hard to find any materials to repair the ways with, that may be depended upon. In some places they have a red sandy kind of a slate or stone, which they lay with timber and green faggots, and puts them to a very great expence; but this stone does not bind like chalk and gravel, or endure like flint and pebbles, but wears into clay from whence it proceeds; and this is the reason why they cannot expect those roads can reach up, however chargeable the repairs are to the goodness of the roads in Essex.
We see also a turnpike set up at a village very justly called Foul Mire near Cambridge, for the repair of the particular roads to the university, but those works are not yet brought to any perfection.
There is another road, which is a branch of the northern road, and is properly called the coach road, and which comes into the other near Stangate Hole; and this indeed is a most frightful way, if we take it from Hatfield, or rather the park corners of Hatfield House, and from thence to Stevenage, to Baldock, to Biggleswade, and Bugden. Here is that famous lane call’d Baldock Lane, famous for being so unpassable, that the coaches and travellers were oblig’d to break out of the way even by force, which the people of the country not able to prevent, at length placed gates, and laid their lands open, setting men at the gates to take a voluntary toll, which travellers always chose to pay, rather than plunge into sloughs and holes, which no horse could wade through.
This terrible road is now under cure by the same methods, and probably may in time be brought to be firm and solid, the chalk and stones being not so far to fetch here, as in some of those other places I have just now mention’d.
But the repair of the roads in this county, namely Bedfordshire, is not so easy a work, as in some other parts of England. The drifts of cattle, which come this way out of Lincolnshire and the fens of the Isle of Ely, of which I have spoken already, are so great, and so constantly coming up to London markets, that it is much more difficult to make the ways good, where they are continually treading by the feet of the large heavy bullocks, of which the numbers that come this way are scarce to be reckon’d up, and which make deep impressions, where the ground is not very firm, and often work through in the winter what the commissioners have mended in the summer.
But leaving these undertakings to speak for themselves when finish’d; for they can neither be justly prais’d or censur’d before; it ought to be observ’d, that there is another road branching out from this deep way at Stevenage, and goes thence to Hitchin, to Shefford, and Bedford. Hitchin is a large market town, and particularly eminent for its being a great corn market for wheat and malt, but especially the first, which is bought here for London market. The road to Hitchin, and thence to Bedford, tho’ not a great thorough-fare for travellers, yet is a very useful highway for the multitude of carriages, which bring wheat from Bedford to that market, and from the country round it, even as far as Northamptonshire, and the edge of Leicestershire; and many times the country people are not able to bring their corn for the meer badness of the ways.
This road, I hear, will be likewise repair’d, by virtue of a turn-pike to be plac’d near Hitchin on this side, and at the two bridges over the Ouse, namely Barford Bridge and Bedford Bridge, on the other side; as also at Temsford, where they drive through the river without the help of a bridge.
But to leave what may be, I return to what is. The next turnpikes are on the great north west road, or, as I have distinguish’d it already, the Watling-street Way; which, to describe it once for all, begins at Islington near London, and leads to Shrewsbury, West Chester, and Hollyhead in Wales; with other branches breaking out from it to the north, leading to Nottingham, Darby, Burton on the Trent, and Warrington, and from them all, farther north, into the north west parts of Great Britain; for they are the grand passes into Yorkshire, Darbyshire, and Lancashire, and thro’ them to Westmoreland, Cumberland, Durham, and Northumberland; of all which I shall give a farther account in my next letters.
Upon this great road there are wonderful improvements made and making, which no traveller can miss the observation of, especially if he knew the condition these ways were formerly in; nor can my account of these counties be perfect, without taking notice of it; for certainly no publick edifice, almshouse, hospital, or nobleman’s palace, can be of equal value to the country with this, no nor more an honour and ornament to it.
The first attempt upon this road was at Brickhill in Buckinghamshire, and the turn-pike was set up on the hill, near the town call’d Little Brickhill, by vertue of which, they repair’d the road from thence to Stony Stratford, for about ten miles, and with very good success; for that road was broad, and capable of giving room for such a work; and tho’ materials were hard to come at, and far to fetch, yet we soon found a large firm causway, or highway, and of a full breadth, reaching from Fenny Stratford to Stony Stratford, which is six miles, and where the way was exceeding bad before.
This encourag’d the country to set about the work in good earnest; and we now see the most dismal piece of ground for travelling, that ever was in England, handsomly repair’d; namely, from the top of the chalky hill beyond Dunstable down into Hockley Lane, and thro’ Hockley, justly called Hockley in the Hole, to Newport Pagnall, being a bye branch of the great road, and leading to Northampton, and was call’d the coach road; but such a road for coaches, as worse was hardly ever seen.
The next (to come southward) was the road from St. Albans to South Mims, a village beyond Barnet: Soon after this road parts from the great coach road to the north, which I mention’d before, beginning at Hatfield.
This road, from Mims to St. Albans, is so well mended, the work so well done, and the materials so good, so plentifully furnish’d, and so faithfully apply’d, that, in short, if possible, it out-does the Essex road mention’d before; for here the bottom is not only repair’d, but the narrow places are widen’d, hills levell’d, bottoms raised, and the ascents and descents made easy, to the inexpressible ease and advantage of travellers, and especially of the carriers, who draw heavy goods and hard loads, who find the benefit in the health and strength of their cattle.
From hence, to come still more towards London, another undertaking reaches from the foot of Barnet Hill, call’d formerly the Blockhouse, to Whetstone, and so over the great heath, call’d Finchley Common, to Highgate Hill, and up the hill to the gatehouse at Highgate, where they had their turn-pike; as also at the Blockhouse; and this work is also admirably well perform’d, and thro’ a piece of ground, which was very full of sloughs and deep places before.
But from Highgate to London still requir’d help; the road branch’d into two, at the top of Highgate Hill, or just at the gatehouse there; one came to London by Islington, and there branch’d again into two, one coming by the north end of Islington, and another on the back of the town, and entring the town at the south west end near the Angel Inn, there dividing again, one branch entred London at Goswell-street and Aldersgate street; and this was the principal road for waggons and pack-horses: The other going directly to St. John-street and into Smithfield; and this way was the chief road for cattle to Smithfield Market.
The other road parting off at Highgate, came down the hill by the late Sir William Ashurst’s house, of which I made mention in its place, and thence passing through Kentish Town, entred London by two ways: one by Grays Inn Lane, and the other by Clerkenwell.
All these roads were to the last extremity run to ruin, and grew worse and worse so evidently, that it was next to impossible, the country should be able to repair them: Upon which an Act of Parliament was obtain’d for a turnpike, which is now erected at Islington aforesaid, as also all the other branches by the Kentish Town way, and others; so that by this new toll, all these roads are now likely to be made good, which were before almost a scandal to the city of London.
Another turnpike, and which was erected before this, was on the great north road, beginning at Shoreditch, and extending to Enfield Street, in the way to Ware; though this road is exceedingly throng’d, and raises great sums, yet I cannot say, that the road itself seems to be so evidently improv’d, and so effectually repair’d, as the others last mention’d, notwithstanding no materials are wanting; even on the very verge of the road itself, whether it be, that the number of carriages, which come this way, and which are indeed greater than in any other road about London, is the occasion, or whether the persons concern’d do not so faithfully, or so skilfully perform, I will not undertake to determine.
After so many encouraging examples on this great Watling-street road, as I have mention’d above, they have now begun the like on the same way farther down, and particularly from Stony Stratford to Daventry and Dunchurch, and so on to Coventry and Coles-hill; all those parts of it are at this time repairing, and they promise themselves that in a few years those roads will be compleatly sound and firm, as Watling-street was in its most antient and flourishing state; but this must be mention’d, like any publick edifice, which is now building, and perhaps may require some time to finish.
I come next to mention other works of the same kind in remoter places, also more westerly, but within the compass of this midland circuit; as particularly the road from Birdlip Hill to Gloucester, formerly a terrible place for poor carriers and travellers out of Wales, &c. But now repair’d very well.
Likewise the road from Sandy Lane Hill in Wiltshire to the Bath, which began to be repair’d by the direction of her late Majesty Queen Anne.
Also another piece of bad road near Beaconsfield in Oxfordshire.
By the same happy example, turnpikes are erected at the west end of the town, for repairing that horrid road, formerly also a part of the Watling-street Way, from St. Giles’s Church to Paddington, and thence to Edgworth, obtain’d first by the interest and motion of his grace the Duke of Chandos.
On the other side of the river is another turnpike erected, or rather two turnpikes, one at the north end of the town of Newington, call’d Newington Buts, which has two or three colateral branches, viz. one at Vaux-Hall, at the bridge near the Spring Carden corner, and another at Croydon, besides smaller toll-bars on the bye-lanes. This undertaking has been very well prosecuted, and the great Sussex road, which was formerly unsufferably bad, is now become admirably good; and this is done at so great an expence, that they told me at Strettham, that one mile between the two next bridges south of that town, cost a thousand pounds repairing, including one of the bridges, and yet it must be acknowledg’d, that the materials are very near hand, and very good all the way to Croydon.
The other turnpike on that side is placed near New Cross on the road into Kent, a little before the road to Lusum parts from the road to Deptford Bridge; so that all the road to Lee and Eltham, the road to Bromley and Tunbridge, as well as the great road to Rochester and Canterbury, are taken in there; and this undertaking, they tell us, is likewise very well perform’d.
So that upon the whole, this custom prevailing, ’tis more than probable, that our posterity may see the roads all over England restor’d in their time to such a perfection, that travelling and carriage of goods will be much more easy both to man and horse, than ever it was since the Romans lost this island.
Nor will the charge be burthensome to any body; as for trade, it will be encourag’d by it every way; for carriage of all kind of heavy goods will be much easier, the waggoners will either perform in less time, or draw heavier loads, or the same load with fewer horses; the pack-horses will carry heavier burthens, or travel farther in a day, and so perform their journey in less time; all which till tend to lessen the rate of carriage, and so bring goods cheaper to market.
The fat cattle will drive lighter, and come to market with less toil, and consequently both go farther in one day, and not waste their flesh, and heat and spoil themselves, in wallowing thro’ the mud and sloughs, as is now the case.
The sheep will be able to travel in the winter, and the city not be oblig’d to give great prizes to the butchers for mutton, because it cannot be brought up out of Leicestershire and Lincolnshire, the sheep not being able to travel: the graziers and breeders will not be oblig’d to sell their stocks of weathers cheap in October to the farmers within 20 miles of London, because after that they cannot bring them up; but the ways being always light and sound, the grasiers will keep their stocks themselves, and bring them up to market, as they see cause, as well in winter as in summer.
Another benefit of these new measures for repairing the roads by turnpikes, is the opening of drains and water-courses, and building bridges, especially over the smaller waters, which are oftentimes the most dangerous to travellers on hasty rains, and always most injurious to the roads, by lying in holes and puddles, to the great spoiling the bottom, and making constant sloughs, sometimes able to bury both man and horse; ’tis very remarkable that the overseers of these works take effectual care to have bridges built in such places, and currents made or opened for the waters to pass, by which abundance of labour is sav’d in constantly tending the waters on such occasions; but of this also we shall say more presently.
To give an eminent instance of it, we refer the curious to take the road from Blackman-street in Southwark, to Croydon, for an example, where, if we are not mistaken, he will find eleven bridges wholly new-built in ten miles length, by which the whole road is laid dry, sound, and hard, which was before a most uncomfortable road to travel.
This improving of the roads is an infinite improvement to the towns near London, in the convenience of coming to them, which makes the citizens flock out in greater numbers than ever to take lodgings and country-houses, which many, whose business call’d them often to London, could not do, because of the labour of riding forward and backward, when the roads were but a little dirty, and this is seen in the difference in the rents of houses in those villages upon such repair’d roads, from the rents of the like dwellings and lodgings in other towns of equal distance, where they want those helps, and particularly the encrease of the number of buildings in those towns, as above.
This probably has not been the least reason why such tolls are erected now on every side of London, or soon will be, and I doubt not but in time it will be the like all over England.
There are indeed some very deep roads in many places of England, and that south by Trent too, where no such provision is yet made for repair of the roads, as particularly in and through the vale of Aylesbury, and to Buckingham, and beyond it into Oxfordshire; also beyond Northampton to Harborough and Leicester; also in Lincolnshire, beyond what we nam’d to be from Huntington to Stilton, the road from Stamford to Grantham, Newark, and Tuxford, in the clays, all which remain very deep, and in some seasons dangerous.
Likewise the roads in Sussex, and that in particular which was formerly a Roman work, call’d Stony-street or Stone-street: Mr. Cambden mentions it as going from Leatherhead to Darking, and thro’ Darking church-yard, then cross a terrible deep country, call’d the Homeward, and so to Petworth and Arundel: But we see nothing of it now; and the country indeed remains in the utmost distress for want of good roads: So also all over the Wild of Kent and Sussex it is the same, where the corn is cheap at the barn, because it cannot be carry’d out; and dear at the market, because it cannot be brought in.
But the specimens above, will, we doubt not, prompt the country gentlemen in time to go through with it all over England; and ’tis to give a clear view of this important case, that we have given this account of them.
The benefit of these turnpikes appears now to be so great, and the people in all places begin to be so sensible of it, that it is incredible what effect it has already had upon trade in the countries where it is more compleatly finish’d; even the carriage of goods is abated in some places, 6d. per hundred weight, in some places 12d. per hundred, which is abundantly more advantage to commerce. than the charge paid amounts to, and yet at the same time the expence is paid by the carriers too, who make the abatement; so that the benefit in abating the rate of carriage is wholly and simply the tradesmens, not the carriers.
Yet the advantage is evident to the carriers also another way; for, as was observ’d before, they can bring more weight with the same number of horses, nor are their horses so hard work’d and fatigued with their labour as they were before; in which one particular ’tis acknowledg’d by the carriers, they perform their work with more ease, and the masters are at less expence.
The advantage to all other kinds of travelling I omit here: such as the safety and ease to gentlemen travelling up to London on all occasions, whether to the term, or to Parliament, to Court, or on any other necessary occasion, which is not a small part of the benefit of these new methods.
Also the riding post, as well for the ordinary carrying of the mails, or for the gentlemen riding post, when their occasions require speed; I say, the riding post is made extreamly easy, safe, and pleasant, by this alteration of the roads.
I mention so often the safety of travelling on this occasion, because, as I observ’d before, the commissioners for these repairs of the highways have order’d, and do daily order, abundance of bridges to be repair’d and enlarg’d, and new ones built, where they find occasion, which not only serve to carry the water off, where it otherwise often spreads, and lies as it were, damm’d up upon the road, and spoils the way; but where it rises sometimes by sudden rains to a dangerous height; for it is to be observ’d, that there is more hazard, and more lives lost, in passing, or attempting to pass little brooks and streams, which are swell’d by sudden showers of rain, and where passengers expect no stoppage, than in passing great rivers, where the danger is known, and therefore more carefully avoided.
In many of these places the commissioners have built large and substantial bridges for the benefit of travelling, as is said already, and in other places have built sluices to stop, and open’d channels to carry off the water, where they used to swell into the highway: We have two of these sluices near London, in the road thro’ Tottenham High-Cross and Edmonton, by which the waters in those places, which have sometimes been dangerous, are now carry’d off, and the road clear’d; and as for bridges I have been told, that the several commissioners, in the respective districts where they are concern’d, have already built above three hundred new ones, where there were none before, or where the former were small and insufficient to carry the traveller safe over the waters; many of these are within a few miles of London, especially, for example, on the great road from London to Edgeworth, from London to Enfield, from London to St. Albans, and, as before, from London to Croydon, where they are very plain to be seen, and to which I refer.
And for farther confirmation of what I have advanc’d above, namely, that we may expect, according to this good beginning, that the roads in most parts of England will in a few years be fully repair’d, and restor’d to the same good condition, (or perhaps a better, than) they were in during the Roman government, we may take notice, that there are no less than twelve Bills, or Petitions for Bills, depending before the Parliament, at this time sitting, for the repair of the roads, in several remote parts of England, or for the lengthening the time allow’d in former Acts; some of which, besides those hereafter mentioned, give us hopes, that the grants, when obtain’d, will be very well manag’d, and the country people greatly encourag’d by them in their commerce; for there is no doubt to be made, but that the inland trade of England has been greatly obstructed by the exceeding badness of the roads.
A particular example of this, I have mention’d already, viz. the bringing of fat cattle, especially sheep to London in the winter, from the remoter counties of Leicester and Lincoln, where they are bred; by which the country grasiers are oblig’d to sell their stocks off, at the latter end of the summer, namely September and October, when they sell cheap, and the butchers and farmers near London engross them, and keeping them ‘till December and January, sell them, tho’ not an ounce fatter than before, for an advanc’d price, to the citizens of London; whereas were the roads made good and passable, the city would be serv’d with mutton almost as cheap in the winter as in the summer, or the profit of the advance would be to the graziers of Leicester and Lincolnshires, who were the original breeders. This is evidenc’d to a demonstration in the counties of Essex and Suffolk, from whence they already bring their fat cattle, and particularly their mutton in droves, from sixty, seventy, or eighty miles, without fatiguing, harrassing, or sinking the flesh of the creatures, even in the depth of winter.
I might give examples of other branches of inland commerce, which would be quite alter’d for the better, by this restoring the goodness of the roads, and particularly that of carrying cheese, a species of provision so considerable, that nothing, except that of live cattle, can exceed it.
This is chiefly made in the three north west counties of England, viz. Cheshire, Gloucester, and Warwickshires, and the parts adjacent, from whence the nation is very meanly supply’d, by reason of the exceeding distance of the country where the cheese is made, from those counties where it is chiefly expended.
The Cheshire men indeed carry great quantities about by long sea, as they call it, to London; a terrible long, and sometimes dangerous, voyage, being thro’ the Irish Channel, round all Wales, cross the Bristol Channel, round the Land’s End of Cornwall, and up the English Channel to the mouth of the Thames, and so up to London; or else by land to Burton upon Trent, and so down that river to Gainesborough and Hull, and so by sea to London.
Again, the Gloucestershire men carry all by land-carriage to Lechlade and Cricklade on the Thames, and so carry it down the river to London.
But the Warwickshire men have no water-carriage at all, or at least not ‘till they have carry’d it a long way by land to Oxford; but as their quantity is exceeding great, and they supply not only the city of London, but also the counties of Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Hertford, Bedford, and Northampton, the gross of their carriage is by meer dead draught, and they carry it either to London by land, which is full an hundred miles, and so the London cheese-mongers supply the said counties of Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk, besides Kent, and Sussex, and Surrey by sea and river navigation: or the Warwickshire men carry it by land once a year to Sturbridge Fair, whence the shop-keepers of all the inland country above-named, come to buy it; in all which cases land-carriage being long, and the ways bad, makes it very dear to the poor, who are the consumers.
But were the ways from Warwickshire made good, as I have shewn they are already in Essex, and some other places; this carriage would be perform’d for little more than half the price that it now is, and the poor would have their provisions much cheaper.
I could enlarge here upon the convenience that would follow such a restoring the ways, for the carrying of fish from the sea coasts to the inner parts of the kingdom, where, by reason of the badness of the ways, they cannot now carry them sweet; This would greatly encrease the consumption of fish in its season, which now for that very reason, is but small, and would employ an innumerable number of horses and men, as well as encrease the shipping by that consumption.
By this carriage of fish, I do not only mean the carrying herrings and mackerell to London, as is practis’d on the coast of Sussex and Kent in particular, and bringing salmon from the remote rivers of Severn and Trent; but the carrying of herrings, mackerell, and sprats in their season, and whitings and flat fish at other times, from the coasts of Yarmouth, Swole, Ipswich, Colchester, Malden, &c. and supplying all the inland counties with them sweet and good, which ’tis plain they might do, were the roads made good, even as far as Northampton, and Coventry, and farther too.
I might give examples where the herrings, which are not the best fish to keep neither, are, even as it is, carry’d to those towns, and up to Warwick, Birmingham, Tamworth and Stafford, and tho’ they frequently stink before they come thither, yet the people are so eager of them, that they buy them, and give dear for them too; whereas were the roads good, they would come in less time, by at least two days in six, and ten-fold the quantity, nay, some say, an hundred times the quantity, be consum’d.
These, and many others, are the advantages to our inland commerce, which we may have room to hope for upon the general repair of the roads, and which I shall have great occasion to speak of again in my northern circuit, which is yet to come.
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