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The Life of Thomas Telford by Smiles by Samuel Smiles

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The Life of Thomas Telford civil engineer with an
introductory history of roads and travelling in Great Britian

by Samuel Smiles

"Let us travel, and wherever we find no facility for
travelling from a city to a town, from a village to a
hamlet, we may pronounce the people to be barbarous"
--Abbe Raynal

"The opening up of the internal communications of a
country is undoubtedly the first and most important
element of its growth in commerce and civilization"
--Richard Cobden




CHAPTER I. Old Roads

Roads as agents of civilization
Their important uses
Ancient British trackways or ridgeways
The Romans and their roads in Britain
Decay of the Roman roads
Early legislation relating to highways
Roads near London
The Weald of Kent
Great Western roads
Hollow ways or lanes
Roads on Dartmoor
in Sussex
at Kensington

CHAPTER II. Early Modes of Conveyance

Riding on horseback the ancient mode of traveling
Shakespear's description of travelling in 'Henry IV.'
Queen Elizabeth and her coach
Introduction of coaches or waggons
Painful journeys by coach
Carriers in reign of James I
Great north Road in reign of Charles I
Mace's description of roads and travellers stage-coaches introduced
Sobriere's account of the Dover stage-coach
Thoresby's account of stage-coaches and travelling
Roads and travelling in North Wales
Proposal to suppres stage-coaches
Tediousness and discomforts of travelling by coach
Pennant's account of the Chester and London stage
Travelling on horseback preferred
The night coach
Highway robbers and foot-pads
Methods of transport of the merchandize pack-horse convoys
Traffic between lancashire and Yorkshire
Signs of the pack-horse

CHAPTER III. Influence of Roads on Society

Restricted intercourse between districts
Local dialects and customs thereby preserved
Camden's fear of travelling into the barbarous regions of the North
Rev. Mr Brome's travels in England
Old Leisure
Imperfect postal communication
Hawkers and pedlars
Laying in stores for winter
Household occupations
Great fairs of ancient times
Local fairs
Fair on Dartmoor
Primitive manners of Dartmoor District

CHAPTER IV. Roads in Scotland last centuary

Poverty of Scotland
Backwardness of agriculture
Idleness of the people
Andrew Flecher's description of Scotland
Slavery of colliers and salters
Improvements in agriculture opposed
Low wages of the labouring population
State of the Lothians and Ayrshire
Wretched states of the roads
Difficulty of communication between districts
Coach started between Edinburgh and Glasgow
Carrier's perils between Edinburgh and Selkirk
Dangers of travelling in Galloway
Lawlessness of the Highlands
Picking and lifting of cattle
Ferocity of population on the Highland Border
Ancient civilization of Scotland

CHAPTER V. Travelling in England last century

Progress made in travelling by coach
Fast coaches established
Bad state of the roads
Foreigners' accounts of travelling in England
Herr Moritz's journey by the basket coach
Arthur Young's description of English roads
Palmer's mail coaches introduced
The first 'Turnpike' roads
Turnpike riots
The rebellion of 1745
Passing of numerous highway Acts
Road-making thought beneath the dignity of the engineer

CHAPTER VI. John Metcalf, road-maker.

Metcalf's boyhood
His blindness
His boldness
Becomes a Musician
His travels
Journey on foot from London to Harrogate
Joins the army as musician in the rebellion of 1745
Adventures in Scotland
Becomes travelling merchant and horse dealer
Begins road-making
Builds a bridge
His extensive road contracts in Yorkshire and Lancashire
Manner of aking his surveys
His skill in road-making
His last road--his death
Roads in the south of England
Want of roads on Lincoln Heath
Land lighthouses
Dunstan pillar
Rapid improvement in the roads
Application of steam
Sydney Smith on improved facilities of communication


CHAPTER I. Eskdale.

Former lawlessness of the Border population
Jonnie armstrong
Border energy
Telford's birthplace
Valley of the Meggat
The 'unblameable shepherd'
Telford's mother
Early years
Laughing Tam
Put to school
His school-fellows

CHAPTER II. Langholm--Telford a Stonemason

Telford apprenticed to a stonemason
Runs away
Re-apprenticed to a mason at Langholm
Building operations in the district
Miss Pasley lends books to young Telford
Attempt to write poetry
Becomes village letter-writer
Works as a journeyman mason
Employed on Langholm Bridge
Manse of Westerkirk
Poem of 'Eskdale'
Hews headstones and doorheads
Works as a mason at Edinburgh
Study of architecture
Revisits Eskdale
His ride to London

CHAPTER III. Arrives in London

Telford a working man in London
Obtains employment as a mason at
Somerset House
Correspondence with Eskdale friends
Observations on his fellow-workman
Propses to begin business, but wants money
Mr. Pulteney
Becomes foreman of builders at Portsmouth Dockyard
Continues to write poetry
Employment of his time
Prints letters to his mother

CHAPTER IV. Becomes Surveyor for the County of Salop

Superintends repairs of Shrewsbury Castle
Appointed Surveyor for County of Salop
Superintends erection of new gaol
Interview with John Howard
His studies in science and literature
Poetical exercises
Fall of St. Chad's Church, Shrewsburg
Discovery of the Roman city of Uriconium
Overseer of felons
Mrs. Jordan at Shrewsbury
Telford's indifference to music
Politics, Paine's 'Rights of Man'
Reprints his poem of 'Eskdale'

CHAPTER V. Telford's First Employment as an Engineer

Advantages of mechanical training to an engineer
Erects Montford Bridge
Erects St. Mary Magdalen Church, Bridgenorth
Telford's design
Architectural tour
Studies in British Museum
Study of architecture
Appointed Engineer to the Ellesmere Canal

CHAPTER VI. The Ellesmere Canal

Course of the Ellesmire Canal
Success of the early canals
The Act obtained and working survey made
Chirk Aqueduct
Pont-Cysylltau Aqueduct,
Telford's hollow walls
His cast iron trough at Pont-Cysylltau
The canal works completed
Revists Eskdale
Early impressions corrected
Tours in Wales
Conduct of Ellesmere Canal navigation
His literary studies and compositions

CHAPTER VII. Iron and other Bridges

Use of iron in bridge-building
Design of a Lyons architect
First iron bridge erected at Coalbrookdale
Tom paine's iron bridge
Wear iron bridge, Sunderland
Telford's iron bridge at Buildwas
His iron lock-gates and turn-bridges
Projects a one-arched bridge of iron over the Thames
Bewdley stone bridge
Tougueland Bridge
Extension of Telford's engineering buisness
Literary friendships
Thomas Campbell
Miscellaneous reading

CHAPTER VIII. Higland Roads and Bridges

Progress of Scotch agriculture
Romilly's account
State of the Highlands
Want of roads
Use of the Cas-chrom
Telford's survey of Scotland
Lord Cockburn's account of the difficulties of travelling
the North Circuit
Parliamentary Commission of Highland Roads and Bridges appointed
Dunkeld Bridge built
920 miles of new roads constucted
Craigellachie Bridge
Travelling facilitated
Agriculture improved
Moral results of Telford's Highland contracts
Rapid progress of the Lowlands
Results of parish schools

CHAPTER IX. Telford's Scotch Harbours

Highland harbours
Wick and Pulteney Town
Columnar pier work
Peterhead Harbour
Frazerburgh Harbour
Bannf Harbour
Old history of Aberdeen, its witch-burning and slave-trading
Improvements of its harbour
Telford's design carried out
Dundee Harbour

CHAPTER X. Caledonian and other Canals

Canal projected through the Great Glen of the Highlands
Survey by James Watt
Survey by Telford
Tide-basin at Corpach
Neptune's Staircase
Dock at Clachnaharry
The chain of lochs
Construction of the works
Commercial failure of the canal
Telford's disappointment
Glasgow and Ardrossan Canal
Weaver Navigation
Gotha Canal, Sweden
Gloucester and Berkeley, and other canals
Harecastle Tunnel
Birmingham Canal
Macclesfield Canal
Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal
Telford's pride in his canals

CHAPTER XI. Telford as a road-maker

Increase of road-traffic
Improvement of the main routes between the principal towns
Carlisle and Glasgow road
Telford's principles of road-construction
Cartland Crags Bridge
Improvement of the London and Edinburgh post road
Communications with Ireland
Wretched state of the Welsh roads
Telford's survey of the Shrewsbury and Holyhead road
Its construction
Roads and railways
London and Shrewsbury post road
Roads near London
Coast road, North Wales

CHAPTER XII. The Menai and Conway Bridges

Bridges projected over the Menai Straits
Telford's designs
Ingenious plan of suspended centering
Design of a suspension bridge over the Mersey at Runcorn
Design of suspension bridge at Menai
The works begun
The main piers
The suspension chains
Hoisting of the first main chain
Progress of the works to completion
The bridge formally opened
Conway Suspension Bridge

CHAPTER XIII. Docks, Drainage, and Bridges

Resume of English engineering
General increase in trade and poulation
The Thames
St. Katherine's Docks
Tewkesburg Bridge
Gloucester Bridge
Dean Bridge, Edinburgh
Glasgow Bridge
Telford's works of drainage in the Fens
The North Level
The Nene Outfall
Effects of Fen drainage

CHAPTER XIV. Southey's tour in the highlands

Southey sets out to visit the Highlands in Telford's company
Works at Dundee Harbour
Bervie Harbour
Mitchell and Gibbs
Aberdeen Harbour
Approach to Banff
Cullen Harbour
The Forres road
Beauly Bridge
Bonar Bridge
Fleet Mound
Southey's description of the Caledonian Canal and works
John Mitchell
Takes leave of Telford
Results of Highland road-making

CHAPTER XV. Mr Telford's later years--His death and character

Telford's residence in London
Leaves the Salopian
First President of Institute of Civil Engineers
Consulted by foreign Governments as to roads and bridges
His views on railways
Failure of health
Consulted as to Dover Harbour
Illness and death
His character
His friends
Views on money-making
His Will
Libraries in Eskdale supported by his bequests


The present is a revised and in some respects enlarged edition of
the 'Life of Telford,' originally published in the 'Lives of the
Engineers,' to which is prefixed an account of the early roads and
modes of travelling in Britain.

From this volume, read in connection with the Lives of George and
Robert Stephenson, in which the origin and extension of Railways is
described, an idea may be formed of the extraordinary progress
which has been made in opening up the internal communications of
this country during the last century.

Among the principal works executed by Telford in the course of his
life, were the great highways constructed by him in North Wales and
the Scotch Highlands, through districts formerly almost inaccessible,
but which are now as easily traversed as any English county.

By means of these roads, and the facilities afforded by railways,
the many are now enabled to visit with ease and comfort magnificent
mountain scenery, which before was only the costly privilege of the
few; at the same time that their construction has exercised a most
beneficial influence on the population of the districts themselves.

The Highland roads, which were constructed with the active
assistance of the Government, and were maintained partly at the
public expense until within the last few years, had the effect of
stimulating industry, improving agriculture, and converting a
turbulent because unemployed population into one of the most loyal
and well-conditioned in the empire;-- the policy thus adopted with
reference to the Highlands, and the beneficial results which have
flowed from it, affording the strongest encouragement to Government
in dealing in like manner with the internal communications of

While the construction of the Highland roads was in progress,
the late Robert Southey, poet laureate, visited the Highlands in
company with his friend the engineer, and left on record an
interesting account of his visit, in a, manuscript now in the
possession of Robert Rawlinson, C.E., to whom we are indebted for
the extracts which are made from it in the present volume.

London, October, 1867.



Roads have in all times been among the most influential agencies of
society; and the makers of them, by enabling men readily to
communicate with each other, have properly been regarded as among
the most effective pioneers of civilization.

Roads are literally the pathways not only of industry, but of
social and national intercourse. Wherever a line of communication
between men is formed, it renders commerce practicable; and,
wherever commerce penetrates, it creates a civilization and leaves
a history.

Roads place the city and the town in connection with the village
and the farm, open up markets for field produce, and provide
outlets for manufactures. They enable the natural resources of a
country to be developed, facilitate travelling and intercourse,
break down local jealousies, and in all ways tend to bind together
society and bring out fully that healthy spirit of industry which
is the life and soul of every nation.

The road is so necessary an instrument of social wellbeing,
that in every new colony it is one of the first things thought of.
First roads, then commerce, institutions, schools, churches,
and newspapers. The new country, as well as the old, can only be
effectually "opened up," as the common phrase is, by roads
and until these are made, it is virtually closed.

Freedom itself cannot exist without free communication,--every
limitation of movement on the part of the members of society
amounting to a positive abridgment of their personal liberty.
Hence roads, canals, and railways, by providing the greatest
possible facilities for locomotion and information, are essential
for the freedom of all classes, of the poorest as well as the

By bringing the ends of a kingdom together, they reduce the
inequalities of fortune and station, and, by equalizing the price
of commodities, to that extent they render them accessible to all.
Without their assistance, the concentrated populations of our large
towns could neither be clothed nor fed; but by their instrumentality
an immense range of country is brought as it were to their very doors,
and the sustenance and employment of large masses of people become
comparatively easy.

In the raw materials required for food, for manufactures, and for
domestic purposes, the cost of transport necessarily forms a
considerable item; and it is clear that the more this cost can be
reduced by facilities of communication, the cheaper these articles
become, and the more they are multiplied and enter into the
consumption of the community at large.

Let any one imagine what would be the effect of closing the roads,
railways, and canals of England. The country would be brought to a
dead lock, employment would be restricted in all directions, and a
large proportion of the inhabitants concentrated in the large towns
must at certain seasons inevitably perish of cold and hunger.

In the earlier periods of English history, roads were of comparatively
less consequence. While the population was thin and scattered,
and men lived by hunting and pastoral pursuits, the track across
the down, the heath, and the moor, sufficiently answered their purpose.
Yet even in those districts unencumbered with wood, where the first
settlements were made--as on the downs of Wiltshire, the moors of
Devonshire, and the wolds of Yorkshire--stone tracks were laid down
by the tribes between one village and another. We have given here,
a representation of one of those ancient trackways still existing
in the neighbourhood of Whitby, in Yorkshire;

[Image] Ancient Causeway, near Whitby.

and there are many of the same description to be met with in other
parts of England. In some districts they are called trackways or
ridgeways, being narrow causeways usually following the natural
ridge of the country, and probably serving in early times as local
boundaries. On Dartmoor they are constructed of stone blocks,
irregularly laid down on the surface of the ground, forming a rude
causeway of about five or six feet wide.

The Romans, with many other arts, first brought into England the
art of road-making. They thoroughly understood the value of good
roads, regarding them as the essential means for the maintenance
of their empire in the first instance, and of social prosperity in
the next. It was their roads, as well as their legions, that made
them masters of the world; and the pickaxe, not less than the sword,
was the ensign of their dominion. Wherever they went, they opened
up the communications of the countries they subdued, and the roads
which they made were among the best of their kind. They were
skilfully laid out and solidly constructed. For centuries after
the Romans left England, their roads continued to be the main
highways of internal communication, and their remains are to this
day to be traced in many parts of the country. Settlements were
made and towns sprang up along the old "streets;" and the numerous
Stretfords, Stratfords, and towns ending' in "le-street"
--as Ardwick-le-street, in Yorkshire, and Chester-le-street,
in Durham--mostly mark the direction of these ancient lines of road.
There are also numerous Stanfords, which were so called because they
bordered the raised military roadways of the Romans, which ran
direct between their stations.

The last-mentioned peculiarity of the roads constructed by the
Romans, must have struck many observers. Level does not seem to
have been of consequence, compared with directness. This
peculiarity is supposed to have originated in an imperfect
knowledge of mechanics; for the Romans do not appear to have been
acquainted with the moveable joint in wheeled carriages.
The carriage-body rested solid upon the axles, which in four-wheeled
vehicles were rigidly parallel with each other. Being unable
readily to turn a bend in the road, it has been concluded that for
this reason all the great Roman highways were constructed in as
straight lines as possible.

On the departure of the Romans from Britain, most of the roads
constructed by them were allowed to fall into decay, on which the
forest and the waste gradually resumed their dominion over them,
and the highways of England became about the worst in Europe.
We find, however, that numerous attempts were made in early times
to preserve the ancient ways and enable a communication to be
maintained between the metropolis and the rest of the country,
as well as between one market town and another.

The state of the highways may be inferred from the character of
the legislation applying to them. One of the first laws on the
subject was passed in 1285, directing that all bushes and trees
along the roads leading from one market to another should be cut
down for two hundred feet on either side, to prevent robbers
lurking therein;*[1] but nothing was proposed for amending the
condition of the ways themselves. In 1346, Edward III.
authorised the first toll to be levied for the repair of the
roads leading from St. Giles's-in-the-Fields to the village of
Charing (now Charing Cross), and from the same quarter to near
Temple Bar (down Drury Lane), as well as the highway then called
Perpoole (now Gray's Inn Lane). The footway at the entrance of
Temple Bar was interrupted by thickets and bushes, and in wet
weather was almost impassable. The roads further west were so
bad that when the sovereign went to Parliament faggots were
thrown into the ruts in King-street, Westminster, to enable the
royal cavalcade to pass along.

In Henry VIII.'s reign, several remarkable statutes were passed
relating to certain worn-out and impracticable roads in Sussex and
the Weald of Kent. From the earliest of these, it would appear
that when the old roads were found too deep and miry to be passed,
they were merely abandoned and new tracks struck out. After
describing "many of the wayes in the wealds as so depe and noyous
by wearyng and course of water and other occasions that people
cannot have their carriages or passages by horses uppon or by the
same but to their great paynes, perill and jeopardie," the Act
provided that owners of land might, with the consent of two
justices and twelve discreet men of the hundred, lay out new roads
and close up the old ones. Another Act passed in the same reign,
related to the repairs of bridges and of the highways at the ends
of bridges.

But as these measures were for the most part merely permissive,
they could have had but little practical effect in improving the
communications of the kingdom. In the reign of Philip and Mary
(in 1555), an Act was passed providing that each parish should elect
two surveyors of highways to see to the maintenance of their
repairs by compulsory labour, the preamble reciting that
"highwaies are now both verie noisome and tedious to travell in,
and dangerous to all passengers and cariages;" and to this day
parish and cross roads are maintained on the principle of Mary's
Act, though the compulsory labour has since been commuted into a
compulsory tax.

In the reigns of Elizabeth and James, other road Acts were passed;
but, from the statements of contemporary writers, it would appear
that they were followed by very little substantial progress, and
travelling continued to be attended with many difficulties. Even in
the neighbourhood of the metropolis, the highways were in certain
seasons scarcely passable. The great Western road into London was
especially bad, and about Knightsbridge, in winter, the traveller
had to wade through deep mud. Wyatt's men entered the city by this
approach in the rebellion of 1554, and were called the "draggle-tails"
because of their wretched plight. The ways were equally bad as far
as Windsor, which, in the reign of Elizabeth, is described by Pote,
in his history of that town, as being "not much past half a day's
journeye removed from the flourishing citie of London."

At a greater distance from the metropolis, the roads were still
worse. They were in many cases but rude tracks across heaths and
commons, as furrowed with deep ruts as ploughed fields; and in
winter to pass along one of them was like travelling in a ditch.
The attempts made by the adjoining occupiers to mend them, were for
the most part confined to throwing large stones into the bigger
holes to fill them up. It was easier to allow new tracks to be
made than to mend the old ones. The land of the country was still
mostly unenclosed, and it was possible, in fine weather, to get
from place to place, in one way or another, with the help of a
guide. In the absence of bridges, guides were necessary to point
out the safest fords as well as to pick out the least miry tracks.
The most frequented lines of road were struck out from time to time
by the drivers of pack-horses, who, to avoid the bogs and sloughs,
were usually careful to keep along the higher grounds; but, to
prevent those horsemen who departed from the beaten track being
swallowed up in quagmires, beacons were erected to warn them
against the more dangerous places.*[2]

In some of the older-settled districts of England, the old roads
are still to be traced in the hollow Ways or Lanes, which are to
be met with, in some places, eight and ten feet deep. They were
horse-tracks in summer, and rivulets in winter. By dint of
weather and travel, the earth was gradually worn into these deep
furrows, many of which, in Wilts, Somerset, and Devon, represent
the tracks of roads as old as, if not older than, the Conquest.
When the ridgeways of the earliest settlers on Dartmoor, above
alluded to, were abandoned, the tracks were formed through the
valleys, but the new roads were no better than the old ones.
They were narrow and deep, fitted only for a horse passing along
laden with its crooks, as so graphically described in the ballad
of "The Devonshire Lane."*[3]

Similar roads existed until recently in the immediate neighbourhood
of Birmingham, now the centre of an immense traffic. The sandy
soil was sawn through, as it were, by generation after generation
of human feet, and by packhorses, helped by the rains, until in
some places the tracks were as much as from twelve to fourteen
yards deep; one of these, partly filled up, retaining to this day
the name of Holloway Head. In the neighbourhood of London there
was also a Hollow way, which now gives its name to a populous
metropolitan parish. Hagbush Lane was another of such roads.
Before the formation of the Great North Road, it was one of the
principal bridle-paths leading from London to the northern parts of
England; but it was so narrow as barely to afford passage for more
than a single horseman, and so deep that the rider's head was
beneath the level of the ground on either side.

The roads of Sussex long preserved an infamous notoriety.
Chancellor Cowper, when a barrister on circuit, wrote to his wife
in 1690, that "the Sussex ways are bad and ruinous beyond
imagination. I vow 'tis melancholy consideration that mankind will
in habit such a heap of dirt for a poor livelihood. The country is
a sink of about fourteen miles broad, which receives all the water
that falls from two long ranges of hills on both sides of it,
and not being furnished with convenient draining, is kept moist
and soft by the water till the middle of a dry summer, which is only
able to make it tolerable to ride for a short time."

It was almost as difficult for old persons to get to church in
Sussex during winter as it was in the Lincoln Fens, where they were
rowed thither in boats. Fuller saw an old lady being drawn to
church in her own coach by the aid of six oxen. The Sussex roads
were indeed so bad as to pass into a by-word. A contemporary
writer says, that in travelling a slough of extraordinary miryness,
it used to be called "the Sussex bit of the road;" and he
satirically alleged that the reason why the Sussex girls were so
long-limbed was because of the tenacity of the mud in that county;
the practice of pulling the foot out of it "by the strength of the
ancle" tending to stretch the muscle and lengthen the bone!*[4]
But the roads in the immediate neighbourhood of London long
continued almost as bad as those in Sussex. Thus, when the poet
Cowley retired to Chertsey, in 1665, he wrote to his friend Sprat
to visit him, and, by way of encouragement, told him that he
might sleep the first night at Hampton town; thus occupying; two
days in the performance of a journey of twenty-two miles in the
immediate neighbourhood of the metropolis. As late as 1736 we
find Lord Hervey, writing from Kensington, complaining that
"the road between this place and London is grown so infamously bad
that we live here in the same solitude as we would do if cast on
a rock in the middle of the ocean; and all the Londoners tell us
that there is between them and us an impassable gulf of mud."

Nor was the mud any respecter of persons; for we are informed that
the carriage of Queen Caroline could not, in bad weather,
be dragged from St. James's Palace to Kensington in less than two
hours, and occasionally the royal coach stuck fast in a rut,
or was even capsized in the mud. About the same time, the streets
of London themselves were little better, the kennel being still
permitted to flow in the middle of the road, which was paved with
round stones,--flag-stones for the convenience of pedestrians
being as yet unknown. In short, the streets in the towns and the
roads in the country were alike rude and wretched,--indicating a
degree of social stagnation and discomfort which it is now
difficult to estimate, and almost impossible to describe.

Footnotes for chapter I

*[1] Brunetto Latini, the tutor of Dante, describes a journey made
by him from London to Oxford about the end of the thirteenth
century, resting by the way at Shirburn Castle. He says,
"Our journey from London to Oxford was, with some difficulty and
danger, made in two days; for the roads are bad, and we had to
climb hills of hazardous ascent, and which to descend are equally
perilous. We passed through many woods, considered here as
dangerous places, as they are infested with robbers, which indeed
is the case with most of the roads in England. This is a
circumstance connived at by the neighbouring barons, on
consideration of sharing in the booty, and of these robbers serving
as their protectors on all occasions, personally, and with the
whole strength of their band. However, as our company was
numerous, we had less to fear. Accordingly, we arrived the first
night at Shirburn Castle, in the neighbourhood of Watlington, under
the chain of hills over which we passed at Stokenchurch." This
passage is given in Mr. Edward's work on 'Libraries' (p. 328),
as supplied to him by Lady Macclesfield.

*[2] See Ogilby's 'Britannia Depicta,' the traveller's ordinary
guidebook between 1675 and 1717, as Bradshaw's Railway Time-book is
now. The Grand Duke Cosmo, in his 'Travels in England in 1669,'
speaks of the country between Northampton and Oxford as for the
most part unenclosed and uncultivated, abounding in weeds. From
Ogilby's fourth edition, published in 1749, it appears that the
roads in the midland and northern districts of England were still,
for the most part, entirely unenclosed.

*[3] This ballad is so descriptive of the old roads of the
south-west of England that we are tempted to quote it at length.
It was written by the Rev. John Marriott, sometime vicar of
Broadclist, Devon; and Mr. Rowe, vicar of Crediton, says, in his
'Perambulation of Dartmoor,' that he can readily imagine the
identical lane near Broadclist, leading towards Poltemore, which
might have sat for the portrait.

In a Devonshire lane, as I trotted along
T'other day, much in want of a subject for song,
Thinks I to myself, half-inspired by the rain,
Sure marriage is much like a Devonshire lane.

In the first place 'tis long, and when once you are in it,
It holds you as fast as a cage does a linnet;
For howe'er rough and dirty the road may be found,
Drive forward you must, there is no turning round.

But tho' 'tis so long, it is not very wide,
For two are the most that together can ride;
And e'en then, 'tis a chance but they get in a pother,
And jostle and cross and run foul of each other.

Oft poverty meets them with mendicant looks,
And care pushes by them with dirt-laden crooks;
And strife's grazing wheels try between them to pass,
And stubbornness blocks up the way on her ass,

Then the banks are so high, to the left hand and right,
That they shut up the beauties around them from sight;
And hence, you'll allow, 'tis an inference plain,
That marriage is just like a Devonshire lane.

But thinks I, too, these banks, within which we are pent,
With bud, blossom, and berry, are richly besprent;
And the conjugal fence, which forbids us to roam,
Looks lovely, when deck'd with the comforts of home.

In the rock's gloomy crevice the bright holly grows;
The ivy waves fresh o'er the withering rose,
And the ever-green love of a virtuous wife
Soothes the roughness of care, cheers the winter of life.

Then long be the journey, and narrow the way,
I'll rejoice that I've seldom a turnpike to pay;
And whate'er others say, be the last to complain,
Though marriage is just like a Devonshire lane.

*[4] Iter Sussexiense.' By Dr. John Burton.



Such being the ancient state of the roads, the only practicable
modes of travelling were on foot and on horseback. The poor walked
and the rich rode. Kings rode and Queens rode. Judges rode circuit
in jack-boots. Gentlemen rode and robbers rode. The Bar sometimes
walked and sometimes rode. Chaucer's ride to Canterbury will be
remembered as long as the English language lasts. Hooker rode to
London on a hard-paced nag, that he might be in time to preach his
first sermon at St. Paul's. Ladies rode on pillions, holding on by
the gentleman or the serving-man mounted before.

Shakespeare incidentally describes the ancient style of travelling
among the humbler classes in his 'Henry IV.'*[1]

The Party, afterwards set upon by Falstaff and his companions,
bound from Rochester to London, were up by two in the morning,
expecting to perform the journey of thirty miles by close of day,
and to get to town "in time to go to bed with a candle." Two are
carriers, one of whom has "a gammon of bacon and two razes of
ginger, to be delivered as far as Charing Cross;" the other has his
panniers full of turkeys. There is also a franklin of Kent,
and another, "a kind of auditor," probably a tax-collector,
with several more, forming in all a company of eight or ten, who
travel together for mutual protection. Their robbery on Gad's Hill,
as painted by Shakespeare, is but a picture, by no means exaggerated,
of the adventures and dangers of the road at the time of which he

Distinguished personages sometimes rode in horse-litters; but
riding on horseback was generally preferred. Queen Elizabeth made
most of her journeys in this way,*[2] and when she went into the
City she rode on a pillion behind her Lord Chancellor. The Queen,
however, was at length provided with a coach, which must have been
a very remarkable machine. This royal vehicle is said to have been
one of the first coaches used in England, and it was introduced by
the Queen's own coachman, one Boomen, a Dutchman. It was little
better than a cart without springs, the body resting solid upon the
axles. Taking the bad roads and ill-paved streets into account,
it must have been an excessively painful means of conveyance.
At one of the first audiences which the Queen gave to the French
ambassador in 1568, she feelingly described to him "the aching
pains she was suffering in consequence of having been knocked about
in a coach which had been driven a little too fast, only a few days

Such coaches were at first only used on state occasions.
The roads, even in the immediate neighbourhood of London, were so
bad and so narrow that the vehicles could not be taken into the
country. But, as the roads became improved, the fashion of using
them spread. When the aristocracy removed from the City to the
western parts of the metropolis, they could be better accommodated,
and in course of time they became gradually adopted. They were
still, however, neither more nor less than waggons, and, indeed,
were called by that name; but wherever they went they excited great
wonder. It is related of "that valyant knyght Sir Harry Sidney,"
that on a certain day in the year 1583 he entered Shrewsbury in his
waggon, "with his Trompeter blowynge, verey joyfull to behold and

From this time the use of coaches gradually spread, more
particularly amongst the nobility, superseding the horse-litters
which had till then been used for the conveyance of ladies and
others unable to bear the fatigue of riding on horseback.
The first carriages were heavy and lumbering: and upon the execrable
roads of the time they went pitching over the stones and into the
ruts, with the pole dipping and rising like a ship in a rolling sea.
That they had no springs, is clear enough from the statement of
Taylor, the water-poet--who deplored the introduction of carriages
as a national calamity--that in the paved streets of London men and
women were "tossed, tumbled, rumbled, and jumbled about in them."
Although the road from London to Dover, along the old Roman
Watling-street, was then one of the best in England, the French
household of Queen Henrietta, when they were sent forth from
the palace of Charles I., occupied four tedious days before they
reached Dover.

But it was only a few of the main roads leading from the metropolis
that were practicable for coaches; and on the occasion of a royal
progress, or the visit of a lord-lieutenant, there was a general
turn out of labourers and masons to mend the ways and render the
bridges at least temporarily secure. Of one of Queen Elizabeth's
journeys it is said:-- "It was marvellous for ease and expedition,
for such is the perfect evenness of the new highway that Her
Majesty left the coach only once, while the hinds and the folk of a
base sort lifted it on with their poles."

Sussex long continued impracticable for coach travelling at certain
seasons. As late as 1708, Prince George of Denmark had the
greatest difficulty in making his way to Petworth to meet Charles VI.
of Spain. "The last nine miles of the way," says the reporter,
"cost us six hours to conquer them." One of the couriers in
attendance complained that during fourteen hours he never once
alighted, except when the coach overturned, or stuck in the mud.

When the judges, usually old men and bad riders, took to going the
circuit in their coaches, juries were often kept waiting until
their lordships could be dug out of a bog or hauled out of a slough
by the aid of plough-horses. In the seventeenth century, scarcely
a Quarter Session passed without presentments from the grand jury
against certain districts on account of the bad state of the roads,
and many were the fines which the judges imposed upon them as a
set-off against their bruises and other damages while on circuit.

For a long time the roads continued barely practicable for wheeled
vehicles of the rudest sort, though Fynes Morison (writing in the
time of James I.) gives an account of "carryers, who have long
covered waggons, in which they carry passengers from place to
place; but this kind of journeying," he says, "is so tedious, by
reason they must take waggon very early and come very late to their
innes, that none but women and people of inferior condition travel
in this sort."

[Image] The Old Stage Waggon.

The waggons of which Morison wrote, made only from ten to fifteen
miles in a long summer's day; that is, supposing them not to have
broken down by pitching over the boulders laid along the road, or
stuck fast in a quagmire, when they had to wait for the arrival of
the next team of horses to help to drag them out. The waggon,
however, continued to be adopted as a popular mode of travelling
until late in the eighteenth century; and Hogarth's picture
illustrating the practice will be remembered, of the cassocked
parson on his lean horse, attending his daughter newly alighted
from the York waggon.

A curious description of the state of the Great North Road, in the
time of Charles II., is to be found in a tract published in 1675 by
Thomas Mace, one of the clerks of Trinity College, Cambridge. The
writer there addressed himself to the King, partly in prose and
partly in verse; complaining greatly of the "wayes, which are so
grossly foul and bad;" and suggesting various remedies. He pointed
out that much ground "is now spoiled and trampled down in all wide
roads, where coaches and carts take liberty to pick and chuse for
their best advantages; besides, such sprawling and straggling of
coaches and carts utterly confound the road in all wide places, so
that it is not only unpleasurable, but extreme perplexin and
cumbersome both to themselves and all horse travellers." It would
thus appear that the country on either side of the road was as yet
entirely unenclosed.

But Mace's principal complaint was of the "innumerable
controversies, quarrellings, and disturbances" caused by the
packhorse-men, in their struggles as to which convoy should pass
along the cleaner parts of the road. From what he states, it would
seem that these "disturbances, daily committed by uncivil,
refractory, and rude Russian-like rake-shames, in contesting for
the way, too often proved mortal, and certainly were of very bad
consequences to many." He recommended a quick and prompt punishment
in all such cases. "No man," said he, "should be pestered by
giving the way (sometimes) to hundreds of pack-horses, panniers,
whifflers (i.e. paltry fellows), coaches, waggons, wains, carts,
or whatsoever others, which continually are very grievous to weary
and loaden travellers; but more especially near the city and upon a
market day, when, a man having travelled a long and tedious
journey, his horse well nigh spent, shall sometimes be compelled to
cross out of his way twenty times in one mile's riding, by the
irregularity and peevish crossness of such-like whifflers and
market women; yea, although their panniers be clearly empty, they
will stoutly contend for the way with weary travellers, be they
never so many, or almost of what quality soever." "Nay," said he
further, "I have often known many travellers, and myself very
often, to have been necessitated to stand stock still behind a
standing cart or waggon, on most beastly and unsufferable deep wet
wayes, to the great endangering of our horses, and neglect of
important business: nor durst we adventure to stirr (for most
imminent danger of those deep rutts, and unreasonable ridges) till
it has pleased Mister Garter to jog on, which we have taken very

Mr. Mace's plan of road reform was not extravagant. He mainly
urged that only two good tracks should be maintained, and the road
be not allowed to spread out into as many as half-a-dozen very bad
ones, presenting high ridges and deep ruts, full of big stones,
and many quagmires. Breaking out into verse, he said --

"First let the wayes be regularly brought
To artificial form, and truly wrought;
So that we can suppose them firmly mended,
And in all parts the work well ended,
That not a stone's amiss; but all compleat,
All lying smooth, round, firm, and wondrous neat."

After a good deal more in the same strain, he concluded--

"There's only one thing yet worth thinking on
which is, to put this work in execution."*[5]

But we shall find that more than a hundred years passed before the
roads throughout England were placed in a more satisfactory state
than they were in the time of Mr. Mace.

The introduction of stage-coaches about the middle of the
seventeenth century formed a new era in the history of travelling
by road. At first they were only a better sort of waggon, and
confined to the more practicable highways near London. Their pace
did not exceed four miles an hour, and the jolting of the
unfortunate passengers conveyed in them must have been very hard to
bear. It used to be said of their drivers that they were "seldom
sober, never Civil, and always late."

The first mention of coaches for public accommodation is made by
Sir William Dugdale in his Diary, from which it appears that a
Coventry coach was on the road in 1659. But probably the first
coaches, or rather waggons, were run between London and Dover, as
one of the most practicable routes for the purpose. M. Sobriere,
a French man of letters, who landed at Dover on his way to London
in the time of Charles II., alludes to the existence of a
stagecoach, but it seems to have had no charms for him, as the
following passage will show: "That I might not," he says,
"take post or be obliged to use the stage-coach, I went from Dover
to London in a waggon. I was drawn by six horses, one before another,
and driven by a waggoner, who walked by the side of it. He was
clothed in black, and appointed in all things like another St. George.
He had a brave montrero on his head and was a merry fellow, fancied
he made a figure, and seemed mightily pleased with himself."

Shortly after, coaches seem to have been running as far north as
Preston in Lancashire, as appears by a letter from one Edward
Parker to his father, dated November, 1663, in which he says,
"I got to London on Saturday last; but my journey was noe ways
pleasant, being forced to ride in the boote all the waye.
Ye company yt came up with mee were persons of greate quality,
as knights and ladyes. My journey's expense was 30s. This traval
hath soe indisposed mee, yt I am resolved never to ride up againe
in ye coatch."*[6]
These vehicles must, however, have considerably increased, as we
find a popular agitation was got up against them. The Londoners
nicknamed them "hell-carts;" pamphlets were written recommending
their abolition; and attempts were even made to have them
suppressed by Act of Parliament.

Thoresby occasionally alludes to stage-coaches in his Diary,
speaking of one that ran between Hull and York in 1679, from which
latter place he had to proceed by Leeds in the usual way on
horseback. This Hull vehicle did not run in winter, because of the
state of the roads; stagecoaches being usually laid up in that
season like ships during Arctic frosts.*[7]

Afterwards, when a coach was put on between York and Leeds, it
performed the journey of twenty-four miles in eight hours;*[8]
but the road was so bad and dangerous that the travellers were
accustomed to get out and walk the greater part of the way.

Thoresby often waxes eloquent upon the subject of his manifold
deliverances from the dangers of travelling by coach. He was
especially thankful when he had passed the ferry over the Trent in
journeying between Leeds and London, having on several occasions
narrowly escaped drowning there. Once, on his journey to London,
some showers fell, which "raised the washes upon the road near Ware
to that height that passengers from London that were upon that road
swam, and a poor higgler was drowned, which prevented me travelling
for many hours; yet towards evening we adventured with some country
people, who conducted us over the meadows, whereby we missed the
deepest of the Wash at Cheshunt, though we rode to the
saddle-skirts for a considerable way, but got safe to Waltham
Cross, where we lodged."*[9] On another occasion Thoresby was
detained four days at Stamford by the state of the roads, and was
only extricated from his position by a company of fourteen members
of the House of Commons travelling towards London, who took him
into their convoy, and set out on their way southward attended by
competent guides. When the "waters were out," as the saying went,
the country became closed, the roads being simply impassable.
During the Civil Wars eight hundred horse were taken prisoners
while sticking in the mud.*[10] When rain fell, pedestrians,
horsemen, and coaches alike came to a standstill until the roads
dried again and enabled the wayfarers to proceed. Thus we read of
two travellers stopped by the rains within a few miles of Oxford,
who found it impossible to accomplish their journey in consequence
of the waters that covered the country thereabout.

A curious account has been preserved of the journey of an Irish
Viceroy across North Wales towards Dublin in 1685. The roads were
so horrible that instead of the Viceroy being borne along in his
coach, the coach itself had to be borne after him the greater part
of the way. He was five hours in travelling between St. Asaph and
Conway, a distance of only fourteen miles. Between Conway and
Beaumaris he was forced to walk, while his wife was borne along in
a litter. The carriages were usually taken to pieces at Conway and
carried on the shoulders of stout Welsh peasants to be embarked at
the Straits of Menai.

The introduction of stage-coaches, like every other public
improvement, was at first regarded with prejudice, and had
considerable obloquy to encounter. In a curious book published in
1673, entitled 'The Grand Concern of England Explained in several
Proposals to Parliament,'*[11] stagecoaches and caravans were
denounced as among the greatest evils that had happened to the
kingdom, Being alike mischievous to the public, destructive to
trade, and prejudicial to the landed interest. It was alleged that
travelling by coach was calculated to destroy the breed of horses,
and make men careless of good horsemanship,--that it hindered the
training of watermen and seamen, and interfered with the public
resources. The reasons given are curious. It was said that those
who were accustomed to travel in coaches became weary and listless
when they rode a few miles, and were unwilling to get on horseback
--"not being able to endure frost, snow, or rain, or to lodge in
the fields;" that to save their clothes and keep themselves clean
and dry, people rode in coaches, and thus contracted an idle habit
of body; that this was ruinous to trade, for that "most gentlemen,
before they travelled in coaches, used to ride with swords, belts,
pistols, holsters, portmanteaus, and hat-cases, which, in these
coaches, they have little or no occasion for: for, when they rode
on horseback, they rode in one suit and carried another to wear
when they camp to their journey's end, or lay by the way; but in
coaches a silk suit and an Indian gown, with a sash, silk
stockings, and beaver-hats, men ride in, and carry no other with
them, because they escape the wet and dirt, which on horseback they
cannot avoid; whereas, in two or three journeys on horseback, these
clothes and hats were wont to be spoiled; which done, they were
forced to have new very often, and that increased the consumption
of the manufactures and the employment of the manufacturers; which
travelling in coaches doth in no way do."*[12] The writer of the
same protest against coaches gives some idea of the extent of
travelling by them in those days; for to show the gigantic nature
of the evil he was contending against, he averred that between
London and the three principal towns of York, Chester, and Exeter,
not fewer than eighteen persons, making the journey in five days,
travelled by them weekly the coaches running thrice in the week),
and a like number back; "which come, in the whole, to eighteen
hundred and seventy-two in the year." Another great nuisance,
the writer alleged, which flowed from the establishment of the
stage-coaches, was, that not only did the gentlemen from the
country come to London in them oftener than they need, but their
ladies either came with them or quickly followed them. "And when
they are there they must be in the mode, have all the new fashions,
buy all their clothes there, and go to plays, balls, and treats,
where they get such a habit of jollity and a love to gaiety and
pleasure, that nothing afterwards in the country will serve them ,
if ever they should fix their minds to live there again; but they
must have all from London, whatever it costs."

Then there were the grievous discomforts of stage-coach travelling,
to be set against the more noble method of travelling by horseback,
as of yore. "What advantage is it to men's health," says the
writer, waxing wroth, "to be called out of their beds into these
coaches, an hour before day in the morning; to be hurried in them
from place to place, till one hour, two, or three within night;
insomuch that, after sitting all day in the summer-time stifled
with heat and choked with dust, or in the winter-time starving and
freezing with cold or choked with filthy fogs, they are often
brought into their inns by torchlight, when it is too late to sit
up to get a supper; and next morning they are forced into the coach
so early that they can get no breakfast? What addition is this to
men's health or business to ride all day with strangers, oftentimes
sick, antient, diseased persons, or young children crying; to whose
humours they are obliged to be subject, forced to bear with, and
many times are poisoned with their nasty scents and crippled by the
crowd of boxes and bundles? Is it for a man's health to travel with
tired jades, to be laid fast in the foul ways and forced to wade up
to the knees in mire; afterwards sit in the cold till teams of
horses can be sent to pull the coach out? Is it for their health to
travel in rotten coaches and to have their tackle, perch, or
axle-tree broken, and then to wait three or four hours (sometimes
half a day) to have them mended, and then to travel all night to
make good their stage? Is it for a man's pleasure, or advantageous
to his health and business, to travel with a mixed company that he
knows not how to converse with; to be affronted by the rudeness of
a surly, dogged, cursing, ill-natured coachman; necessitated to
lodge or bait at the worst inn on the road, where there is no
accommodation fit for gentlemen; and this merely because the owners
of the inns and the coachmen are agreed together to cheat the
guests?" Hence the writer loudly called for the immediate
suppression of stagecoaches as a great nuisance and crying evil.

Travelling by coach was in early times a very deliberate affair.
Time was of less consequence than safety, and coaches were
advertised to start "God willing," and "about" such and such an
hour "as shall seem good" to the majority of the passengers.
The difference of a day in the journey from London to York was a
small matter, and Thoresby was even accustomed to leave the coach
and go in search of fossil shells in the fields on either side the
road while making the journey between the two places. The long coach
"put up" at sun-down, and "slept on the road." Whether the coach
was to proceed or to stop at some favourite inn, was determined by
the vote of the passengers, who usually appointed a chairman at the
beginning of the journey.

In 1700, York was a week distant from London, and Tunbridge Wells,
now reached in an hour, was two days. Salisbury and Oxford were
also each a two days journey, Dover was three days, and Exeter
five. The Fly coach from London to Exeter slept at the latter place
the fifth night from town; the coach proceeding next morning to
Axminster, where it breakfasted, and there a woman Barber "shaved
the coach."*[13]

Between London and Edinburgh, as late as 1763, a fortnight was
consumed, the coach only starting once a month.*[14] The risk of
breaks-down in driving over the execrable roads may be inferred
from the circumstance that every coach carried with it a box of
carpenter's tools, and the hatchets were occasionally used in
lopping off the branches of trees overhanging the road and
obstructing the travellers' progress.

Some fastidious persons, disliking the slow travelling, as well as
the promiscuous company which they ran the risk of encountering in
the stage, were accustomed to advertise for partners in a postchaise,
to share the charges and lessen the dangers of the road; and,
indeed, to a sensitive person anything must have been preferable to
the misery of travelling by the Canterbury stage, as thus described
by a contemporary writer:--

"On both sides squeez'd, how highly was I blest,
Between two plump old women to be presst!
A corp'ral fierce, a nurse, a child that cry'd,
And a fat landlord, filled the other side.
Scarce dawns the morning ere the cumbrous load
Boils roughly rumbling o'er the rugged road:
One old wife coughs and wheezes in my ears,
Loud scolds the other, and the soldier swears;
Sour unconcocted breath escapes 'mine host,'
The sick'ning child returns his milk and toast!"

When Samuel Johnson was taken by his mother to London in 1712, to
have him touched by Queen Anne for "the evil," he relates,--
"We went in the stage-coach and returned in the waggon, as my mother
said, because my cough was violent; but the hope of saving a few
shillings was no slight motive.... She sewed two guineas in her
petticoat lest she should be robbed.... We were troublesome to the
passengers; but to suffer such inconveniences in the stage-coach
was common in those days to parsons in much higher rank."

Mr. Pennant has left us the following account of his journey in
the Chester stage to London in 1789-40: "The first day," says he,
"with much labour, we got from Chester to Whitchurch, twenty
miles; the second day to the 'Welsh Harp;' the third, to Coventry;
the fourth, to Northampton; the fifth, to Dunstable; and, as a
wondrous effort, on the last, to London, before the commencement of
night. The strain and labour of six good horses, sometimes eight,
drew us through the sloughs of Mireden and many other places.
We were constantly out two hours before day, and as late at night,
and in the depth of winter proportionally later. The single
gentlemen, then a hardy race, equipped in jackboots and trowsers,
up to their middle, rode post through thick and thin, and, guarded
against the mire, defied the frequent stumble and fall, arose and
pursued their journey with alacrity; while, in these days, their
enervated posterity sleep away their rapid journeys in easy
chaises, fitted for the conveyance of the soft inhabitants of

No wonder, therefore, that a great deal of the travelling of the
country continued to be performed on horseback, this being by far
the pleasantest as well as most expeditious mode of journeying.
On his marriage-day, Dr. Johnson rode from Birmingham to Derby with
his Tetty, taking the opportunity of the journey to give his bride
her first lesson in marital discipline. At a later period James
Watt rode from Glasgow to London, when proceeding thither to learn
the art of mathematical instrument making.

And it was a cheap and pleasant method of travelling when the
weather was fine. The usual practice was, to buy a horse at the
beginning of such a journey, and to sell the animal at the end of
it. Dr. Skene, of Aberdeen, travelled from London to Edinburgh in
1753, being nineteen days on the road, the whole expenses of the
journey amounting to only four guineas. The mare on which he rode,
cost him eight guineas in London, and he sold her for the same
price on his arrival in Edinburgh.

Nearly all the commercial gentlemen rode their own horses, carrying
their samples and luggage in two bags at the saddle-bow; and hence
their appellation of Riders or Bagmen. For safety's sake, they
usually journeyed in company; for the dangers of travelling were
not confined merely to the ruggedness of the roads. The highways
were infested by troops of robbers and vagabonds who lived by
plunder. Turpin and Bradshaw beset the Great North Road; Duval,
Macheath, Maclean, and hundreds of notorious highwaymen infested
Hounslow Heath, Finchley Common, Shooter's Hill, and all the
approaches to the metropolis. A very common sight then, was a
gibbet erected by the roadside, with the skeleton of some
malefactor hanging from it in chains; and " Hangman's-lanes" were
especially numerous in the neighbourhood of London.*[15] It was
considered most unsafe to travel after dark, and when the first
"night coach" was started, the risk was thought too great, and it
was not patronised.

[Image] The Night Coach

Travellers armed themselves on setting out upon a journey as if
they were going to battle, and a blunderbuss was considered as
indispensable for a coachman as a whip. Dorsetshire and Hampshire,
like most other counties, were beset with gangs of highwaymen; and
when the Grand Duke Cosmo set out from Dorchester to travel to
London in 1669, he was "convoyed by a great many horse-soldiers
belonging to the militia of the county, to secure him from

Thoresby, in his Diary, alludes with awe to his having passed
safely "the great common where Sir Ralph Wharton slew the
highwayman," and he also makes special mention of Stonegate Hole,
"a notorious robbing place" near Grantham. Like every other
traveller, that good man carried loaded pistols in his bags, and on
one occasion he was thrown into great consternation near Topcliffe,
in Yorkshire, on missing them, believing that they had been
abstracted by some designing rogues at the inn where he had last
slept.*[17] No wonder that, before setting out on a journey in
those days, men were accustomed to make their wills.

When Mrs. Calderwood, of Coltness, travelled from Edinburgh to
London in 1756, she relates in her Diary that she travelled in her
own postchaise, attended by John Rattray, her stout serving man, on
horseback, with pistols at his holsters, and a good broad sword by
his side. The lady had also with her in the carriage a case of
pistols, for use upon an emergency. Robberies were then of
frequent occurrence in the neighbourhood of Bawtry, in Yorkshire;
and one day a suspicious-looking character, whom they took to be a
highwayman, made his appearance; but "John Rattray talking about
powder and ball to the postboy, and showing his whanger, the fellow
made off" Mrs. Calderwood started from Edinburgh on the 3rd of
June, when the roads were dry and the weather was fine, and she
reached London on the evening of the 10th, which was considered a
rapid journey in those days.

The danger, however, from footpads and highwaymen was not greatest
in remote country places, but in and about the metropolis itself.
The proprietors of Bellsize House and gardens, in the
Hampstead-road, then one of the principal places of amusement, had
the way to London patrolled during the season by twelve "lusty
fellows;" and Sadler's Wells, Vauxhall, and Ranelagh advertised
similar advantages. Foot passengers proceeding towards Kensington
and Paddington in the evening, would wait until a sufficiently
numerous band had collected to set footpads at defiance, and then
they started in company at known intervals, of which a bell gave
due warning. Carriages were stopped in broad daylight in Hyde
Park, and even in Piccadilly itself, and pistols presented at the
breasts of fashionable people, who were called upon to deliver up
their purses. Horace Walpole relates a number of curious instances
of this sort, he himself having been robbed in broad day, with Lord
Eglinton, Sir Thomas Robinson, Lady Albemarle, and many more.
A curious robbery of the Portsmouth mail, in 1757, illustrates the
imperfect postal communication of the period. The boy who carried
the post had dismounted at Hammersmith, about three miles from Hyde
Park Corner, and called for beer, when some thieves took the
opportunity of cutting the mail-bag from off the horse's crupper
and got away undiscovered!

The means adopted for the transport of merchandise were as tedious
and difficult as those ordinarily employed for the conveyance of
passengers. Corn and wool were sent to market on horses'
backs,*[18] manure was carried to the fields in panniers, and fuel
was conveyed from the moss or the forest in the same way. During
the winter months, the markets were inaccessible; and while in some
localities the supplies of food were distressingly deficient, in
others the superabundance actually rotted from the impossibility
of consuming it or of transporting it to places where it was
needed. The little coal used in the southern counties was
principally sea-borne, though pack-horses occasionally carried coal
inland for the supply of the blacksmiths' forges. When Wollaton
Hall was built by John of Padua for Sir Francis Willoughby in 1580,
the stone was all brought on horses' backs from Ancaster, in
Lincolnshire, thirty-five miles distant, and they loaded back with
coal, which was taken in exchange for the stone.

[Image] The Pack-horse Convoy

The little trade which existed between one part of the kingdom and
another was carried on by means of packhorses, along roads little
better than bridle-paths. These horses travelled in lines, with
the bales or panniers strapped across their backs. The foremost
horse bore a bell or a collar of bells, and was hence called the
"bell-horse." He was selected because of his sagacity; and by the
tinkling of the bells he carried, the movements of his followers
were regulated. The bells also gave notice of the approach of the
convoy to those who might be advancing from the opposite direction.
This was a matter of some importance, as in many parts of the path
there was not room for two loaded horses to pass each other, and
quarrels and fights between the drivers of the pack-horse trains
were frequent as to which of the meeting convoys was to pass down
into the dirt and allow the other to pass along the bridleway. The
pack-horses not only carried merchandise but passengers, and at
certain times scholars proceeding to and from Oxford and Cambridge.
When Smollett went from Glasgow to London, he travelled partly on
pack-horse, partly by waggon, and partly on foot; and the
adventures which he described as having befallen Roderick Random
are supposed to have been drawn in a great measure from his own
experiences during; the journey.

A cross-country merchandise traffic gradually sprang up between the
northern counties, since become pre-eminently the manufacturing
districts of England; and long lines of pack-horses laden with
bales of wool and cotton traversed the hill ranges which divide
Yorkshire from Lancashire. Whitaker says that as late as 1753 the
roads near Leeds consisted of a narrow hollow way little wider than
a ditch, barely allowing of the passage of a vehicle drawn in a
single line; this deep narrow road being flanked by an elevated
causeway covered with flags or boulder stones. When travellers
encountered each other on this narrow track, they often tried to
wear out each other's patience rather than descend into the dirt
alongside. The raw wool and bale goods of the district were nearly
all carried along these flagged ways on the backs of single horses;
and it is difficult to imagine the delay, the toil, and the perils
by which the conduct of the traffic was attended. On horseback
before daybreak and long after nightfall, these hardy sons of trade
pursued their object with the spirit and intrepidity of foxhunters;
and the boldest of their country neighbours had no reason to
despise either their horsemanship or their courage.*[19]
The Manchester trade was carried on in the same way. The chapmen
used to keep gangs of pack-horses, which accompanied them to all the
principal towns, bearing their goods in packs, which they sold to
their customers, bringing back sheep's wool and other raw materials
of manufacture.

The only records of this long-superseded mode of communication are
now to be traced on the signboards of wayside public-houses.
Many of the old roads still exist in Yorkshire and Lancashire; but
all that remains of the former traffic is the pack-horse still
painted on village sign-boards -- things as retentive of odd bygone
facts as the picture-writing of the ancient Mexicans.*[20]

Footnotes for Chapter II.

*[1] King Henry the Fourth (Part I.), Act II. Scene 1.

*[2] Part of the riding road along which the Queen was accustomed
to pass on horseback between her palaces at Greenwich and Eltham is
still in existence, a little to the south of Morden College,
Blackheath. It winds irregularly through the fields, broad in some
places, and narrow in others. Probably it is very little different
from what it was when used as a royal road. It is now very
appropriately termed "Muddy Lane."

*[3] 'Depeches de La Mothe Fenelon,' 8vo., 1858. Vol. i. p. 27.

*[4] Nichols's ' Progresses,' vol. ii., 309.

*[5] The title of Mace's tract (British Museum) is "The Profit,
Conveniency, and Pleasure for the whole nation: being a short
rational Discourse lately presented to his Majesty concerning the
Highways of England: their badness, the causes thereof, the reasons
of these causes, the impossibility of ever having them well mended
according to the old way of mending: but may most certainly be
done, and for ever so maintained (according to this NEW WAY)
substantially and with very much ease, &c., &c. Printed for the
public good in the year 1675."

*[6] See Archaelogia, xx., pp. 443-76.

*[7] "4th May, 1714. Morning: we dined at Grantham, had the annual
solemnity (this being the first time the coach passed the road in
May), and the coachman and horses being decked with ribbons and
flowers, the town music and young people in couples before us; we
lodged at Stamford, a scurvy, dear town. 5th May: had other
passengers, which, though females, were more chargeable with wine
and brandy than the former part of the journey, wherein we had
neither; but the next day we gave them leave to treat themselves."
--Thoresby's 'Diary,' vol. ii., 207.

*[8] "May 22, 1708. At York. Rose between three and four, the
coach being hasted by Captain Crome (whose company we had) upon the
Queen's business, that we got to Leeds by noon; blessed be God for
mercies to me and my poor family."--Thoresby's 'Diary,' vol. ii., 7.

*[9] Thoresby's 'Diary,' vol. i.,295.

*[10] Waylen's 'Marlborough.'

*[11] Reprinted in the 'Harleian Miscellany,' vol. viii., p. 547.
supposed to have been written by one John Gressot, of the

*[12] There were other publications of the time as absurd (viewed
by the light of the present day) as Gressot's. Thus, "A Country
Tradesman," addressing the public in 1678, in a pamphlet entitled
'The Ancient Trades decayed, repaired again,--wherein are
declared the several abuses that have utterly impaired all the
ancient trades in the Kingdom,' urges that the chief cause of the
evil had been the setting up of Stage-coaches some twenty years
before. Besides the reasons for suppressing; them set forth in the
treatise referred to in the text, he says, "Were it not' for them
(the Stage-coaches), there would be more Wine, Beer, and Ale, drunk
in the Inns than is now, which would be a means to augment the
King's Custom and Excise. Furthermore they hinder the breed of
horses in this kingdom [the same argument was used against Railways],
because many would be necessitated to keep a good horse that keeps
none now. Seeing, then, that there are few that are gainers by them,
and that they are against the common and general good of the
Nation, and are only a conveniency to some that have occasion to go
to London, who might still have the same wages as before these
coaches were in use, therefore there is good reason they should be
suppressed. Not but that it may be lawful to hire a coach upon
occasion, but that it should be unlawful only to keep a coach that
should go long journeys constantly, from one stage or place to
another, upon certain days of the week as they do now"-- p. 27.

*[13] Roberts's 'Social History of the Southern Counties,' p. 494.
Little more than a century ago, we find the following advertisement
of a Newcastle flying coach:-- "May 9, 1734.--A coach will set out
towards the end of next week for London, or any place on the road.
To be performed in nine days,--being three days sooner than any
other coach that travels the road; for which purpose eight stout
horses are stationed at proper distances."

*[14] In 1710 a Manchester manufacturer taking his family up to
London, hired a coach for the whole way, which, in the then state
of the roads, must have made it a journey of probably eight or ten
days. And, in 1742, the system of travelling had so little
improved, that a lady, wanting to come with her niece from
Worcester to Manchester, wrote to a friend in the latter place to
send her a hired coach, because the man knew the road, having
brought from thence a family some time before."--Aikin's 'Manchester.'

*[15] Lord Campbell mentions the remarkable circumstance that
Popham, afterwards Lord Chief Justice in the reign of Elizabeth,
took to the road in early life, and robbed travellers on Gad's
Hill. Highway robbery could not, however, have been considered a
very ignominious pursuit at that time, as during Popham's youth a
statute was made by which, on a first conviction for robbery, a
peer of the realm or lord of parliament was entitled to have
benefit of clergy, "though he cannot read!" What is still more
extraordinary is, that Popham is supposed to have continued in his
course as 'a highwayman even after he was called to the Bar.
This seems to have been quite notorious, for when he was made Serjeant
the wags reported that he served up some wine destined for an
Alderman of London, which he had intercepted on its way from
Southampton.--Aubrey, iii., 492.--Campbell's 'Chief Justices,' i.,

*[16] Travels of Cosmo the Third, Grand Duke of Tuscany,' p. 147.

*[17] "It is as common a custom, as a cunning policie in thieves,
to place chamberlains in such great inns where cloathiers and
graziers do lye; and by their large bribes to infect others, who
were not of their own preferring; who noting your purses when you
draw them, they'l gripe your cloak-bags, and feel the weight, and
so inform the master thieves of what they think, and not those
alone, but the Host himself is oft as base as they, if it be left
in charge with them all night; he to his roaring guests either
gives item, or shews the purse itself, who spend liberally, in hope
of a speedie recruit." See 'A Brief yet Notable Discovery of
Housebreakers,' &c., 1659. See also 'Street Robberies Considered;
a Warning for Housekeepers,' 1676; 'Hanging not Punishment Enough,'
1701; &c.

*[18] The food of London was then principally brought to town in
panniers. The population being comparatively small, the feeding of
London was still practicable in this way; besides, the city always
possessed the great advantage of the Thames, which secured a supply
of food by sea. In 'The Grand Concern of England Explained,' it is
stated that the hay, straw, beans, peas, and oats, used in London,
were principally raised within a circuit of twenty miles of the
metropolis; but large quantities were also brought from
Henley-on-thames and other western parts, as well as from below
Gravesend, by water; and many ships laden with beans came from
Hull, and with oats from Lynn and Boston.

*[19] 'Loides and Elmete, by T.D. Whitaker, LL.D., 1816, p. 81.
Notwithstanding its dangers, Dr. Whitaker seems to have been of
opinion that the old mode of travelling was even safer than that
which immediately followed it; "Under the old state of roads and
manners," he says, "it was impossible that more than one death
could happen at once; what, by any possibility, could take place
analogous to a race betwixt two stage-coaches, in which the lives
of thirty or forty distressed and helpless individuals are at the
mercy of two intoxicated brutes?"

*[20] In the curious collection of old coins at the Guildhall there
are several halfpenny tokens issued by the proprietors of inns
bearing the sign of the pack-horse, Some of these would indicate
that packhorses were kept for hire. We append a couple of
illustrations of these curious old coins.




While the road communications of the country remained thus imperfect,
the people of one part of England knew next to nothing of the other.
When a shower of rain had the effect of rendering the highways
impassable, even horsemen were cautious in venturing far from home.
But only a very limited number of persons could then afford to
travel on horseback. The labouring people journeyed on foot,
while the middle class used the waggon or the coach. But the amount
of intercourse between the people of different districts
--then exceedingly limited at all times--was, in a country so wet
as England, necessarily suspended for all classes during the greater
part of the year.

The imperfect communication existing between districts had the
effect of perpetuating numerous local dialects, local prejudices,
and local customs, which survive to a certain extent to this day;
though they are rapidly disappearing, to the regret of many, under
the influence of improved facilities for travelling. Every village
had its witches, sometimes of different sorts, and there was
scarcely an old house but had its white lady or moaning old man
with a long beard. There were ghosts in the fens which walked on
stilts, while the sprites of the hill country rode on flashes of
fire. But the village witches and local ghosts have long since
disappeared, excepting perhaps in a few of the less penetrable
districts, where they may still survive. It is curious to find
that down even to the beginning of the seventeenth century, the
inhabitants of the southern districts of the island regarded those
of the north as a kind of ogres. Lancashire was supposed to be
almost impenetrable-- as indeed it was to a considerable
extent,--and inhabited by a half-savage race. Camden vaguely
described it, previous to his visit in 1607, as that part of the
country " lying beyond the mountains towards the Western Ocean."
He acknowledged that he approached the Lancashire people "with a
kind of dread," but determined at length "to run the hazard of the
attempt," trusting in the Divine assistance. Camden was exposed to
still greater risks in his survey of Cumberland. When he went into
that county for the purpose of exploring the remains of antiquity
it contained for the purposes of his great work, he travelled along
the line of the Roman Wall as far as Thirlwall castle, near
Haltwhistle; but there the limits of civilization and security
ended; for such was the wildness of the country and of its lawless
inhabitants beyond, that he was obliged to desist from his
pilgrimage, and leave the most important and interesting objects of
his journey unexplored.

About a century later, in 1700, the Rev. Mr. Brome, rector of
Cheriton in Kent, entered upon a series of travels in England as if
it had been a newly-discovered country. He set out in spring so
soon as the roads had become passable. His friends convoyed him on
the first stage of his journey, and left him, commending him to the
Divine protection. He was, however, careful to employ guides to
conduct him from one place to another, and in the course of his
three years' travels he saw many new and wonderful things. He was
under the necessity of suspending his travels when the winter or
wet weather set in, and to lay up, like an arctic voyager, for
several months, until the spring came round again. Mr. Brome
passed through Northumberland into Scotland, then down the western
side of the island towards Devonshire, where he found the farmers
gathering in their corn on horse-back, the roads being so narrow
that it was impossible for them to use waggons. He desired to
travel into Cornwall, the boundaries of which he reached, but was
prevented proceeding farther by the rains, and accordingly he made
the best of his way home.*[1] The vicar of Cheriton was considered
a wonderful man in his day,-- almost as as venturous as we should
now regard a traveller in Arabia. Twenty miles of slough, or an
unbridged river between two parishes, were greater impediments to
intercourse than the Atlantic Ocean now is between England and
America. Considerable towns situated in the same county, were then
more widely separated, for practical purposes, than London and
Glasgow are at the present day. There were many districts which
travellers never visited, and where the appearance of a stranger
produced as great an excitement as the arrival of a white man in an
African village.*[2]

The author of 'Adam Bede' has given us a poet's picture of the
leisure of last century, which has "gone where the spinning-wheels
are gone, and the pack-horses, and the slow waggons, and the
pedlars who brought bargains to the door on sunny afternoons. "Old
Leisure" lived chiefly in the country, among pleasant seats and
homesteads, and was fond of sauntering by the fruit-tree walls, and
scenting the apricots when they were warmed by the morning
sunshine, or sheltering himself under the orchard boughs at noon,
when the summer pears were falling." But this picture has also its
obverse side. Whole generations then lived a monotonous, ignorant,
prejudiced, and humdrum life. They had no enterprize, no energy,
little industry, and were content to die where they were born. The
seclusion in which they were compelled to live, produced a
picturesqueness of manners which is pleasant to look back upon, now
that it is a thing of the past; but it was also accompanied with a
degree of grossness and brutality much less pleasant to regard, and
of which the occasional popular amusements of bull-running,
cock-fighting, cock-throwing, the saturnalia of Plough-Monday, and
such like, were the fitting exponents.

People then knew little except of their own narrow district. The
world beyond was as good as closed against them. Almost the only
intelligence of general affairs which reached them was communicated
by pedlars and packmen, who were accustomed to retail to their
customers the news of the day with their wares; or, at most, a
newsletter from London, after it had been read nearly to pieces at
the great house of the district, would find its way to the village,
and its driblets of information would thus become diffused among
the little community. Matters of public interest were long in
becoming known in the remoter districts of the country. Macaulay
relates that the death of Queen Elizabeth was not heard of in some
parts of Devon until the courtiers of her successor had ceased to
wear mourning for her. The news of Cromwell's being made Protector
only reached Bridgewater nineteen days after the event, when the
bells were set a-ringing; and the churches in the Orkneys continued
to put up the usual prayers for James II. three months after he
had taken up his abode at St. Germains. There were then no shops
in the smaller towns or villages, and comparatively few in the
larger; and these were badly furnished with articles for general
use. The country people were irregularly supplied by hawkers, who
sometimes bore their whole stook upon their back, or occasionally
on that of their pack-horses. Pots, pans, and household utensils
were sold from door to door. Until a comparatively recent period,
the whole of the pottery-ware manufactured in Staffordshire was
hawked about and disposed of in this way. The pedlars carried
frames resembling camp-stools, on which they were accustomed to
display their wares when the opportunity occurred for showing them
to advantage. The articles which they sold were chiefly of a
fanciful kind--ribbons, laces, and female finery; the housewives'
great reliance for the supply of general clothing in those days
being on domestic industry.

Every autumn, the mistress of the household was accustomed to lay
in a store of articles sufficient to serve for the entire winter.
It was like laying in a stock of provisions and clothing for a
siege during the time that the roads were closed. The greater part
of the meat required for winter's use was killed and salted down at
Martinmas, while stockfish and baconed herrings were provided for
Lent. Scatcherd says that in his district the clothiers united in
groups of three or four, and at the Leeds winter fair they would
purchase an ox, which, having divided, they salted and hung the
pieces for their winter's food.*[3] There was also the winter's
stock of firewood to be provided, and the rushes with which to
strew the floors--carpets being a comparatively modern invention;
besides, there was the store of wheat and barley for bread, the
malt for ale, the honey for sweetening (then used for sugar), the
salt, the spiceries, and the savoury herbs so much employed in the
ancient cookery. When the stores were laid in, the housewife was
in a position to bid defiance to bad roads for six months to come.
This was the case of the well-to-do; but the poorer classes, who
could not lay in a store for winter, were often very badly off both
for food and firing, and in many hard seasons they literally
starved. But charity was active in those days, and many a poor
man's store was eked out by his wealthier neighbour.

When the household supply was thus laid in, the mistress, with her
daughters and servants, sat down to their distaffs and spinning-wheels;
for the manufacture of the family clothing was usually the work of
the winter months. The fabrics then worn were almost entirely of
wool, silk and cotton being scarcely known. The wool, when not
grown on the farm, was purchased in a raw state, and was carded,
spun, dyed, and in many cases woven at home: so also with the linen
clothing, which, until quite a recent date, was entirely the
produce of female fingers and household spinning-wheels. This kind
of work occupied the winter months, occasionally alternated with
knitting, embroidery, and tapestry work. Many of our country
houses continue to bear witness to the steady industry of the
ladies of even the highest ranks in those times, in the fine
tapestry hangings with which the walls of many of the older rooms
in such mansions are covered.

Among the humbler classes, the same winter's work went on.
The women sat round log fires knitting, plaiting, and spinning by
fire-light, even in the daytime. Glass had not yet come into
general use, and the openings in the wall which in summer-time
served for windows, had necessarily to be shut close with boards to
keep out the cold, though at the same time they shut out the light.
The chimney, usually of lath and plaster, ending overhead in a cone
and funnel for the smoke, was so roomy in old cottages as to
accommodate almost the whole family sitting around the fire of logs
piled in the reredosse in the middle, and there they carried on
their winter's work.

Such was the domestic occupation of women in the rural districts in
olden times; and it may perhaps be questioned whether the
revolution in our social system, which has taken out of their hands
so many branches of household manufacture and useful domestic
employment, be an altogether unmixed blessing.

Winter at an end, and the roads once more available for travelling,
the Fair of the locality was looked forward to with interest. Fairs
were among the most important institutions of past times, and were
rendered necessary by the imperfect road communications. The right
of holding them was regarded as a valuable privilege, conceded by
the sovereign to the lords of the manors, who adopted all manner of
devices to draw crowds to their markets. They were usually held at
the entrances to valleys closed against locomotion during winter,
or in the middle of rich grazing districts, or, more frequently, in
the neighbourhood of famous cathedrals or churches frequented by
flocks of pilgrims. The devotion of the people being turned to
account, many of the fairs were held on Sundays in the churchyards;
and almost in every parish a market was instituted on the day on
which the parishioners were called together to do honour to their
patron saint.

The local fair, which was usually held at the beginning or end of
winter, often at both times, became the great festival as well as
market of the district; and the business as well as the gaiety of
the neighbourhood usually centred on such occasions. High courts
were held by the Bishop or Lord of the Manor, to accommodate which
special buildings were erected, used only at fair time. Among the
fairs of the first class in England were Winchester, St. Botolph's
Town (Boston), and St. Ives. We find the great London merchants
travelling thither in caravans, bearing with them all manner of
goods, and bringing back the wool purchased by them in exchange.

Winchester Great Fair attracted merchants from all parts of Europe.
It was held on the hill of St. Giles, and was divided into streets
of booths, named after the merchants of the different countries who
exposed their wares in them. "The passes through the great woody
districts, which English merchants coming from London and the West
would be compelled to traverse, were on this occasion carefully
guarded by mounted 'serjeants-at-arms,' since the wealth which was
being conveyed to St. Giles's-hill attracted bands of outlaws from
all parts of the country."*[4] Weyhill Fair, near Andover, was
another of the great fairs in the same district, which was to the
West country agriculturists and clothiers what Winchester St.
Giles's Fair was to the general merchants.

The principal fair in the northern districts was that of
St. Botolph's Town (Boston), which was resorted to by people from
great distances to buy and sell commodities of various kinds.
Thus we find, from the 'Compotus' of Bolton Priory,*[5] that the
monks of that house sent their wool to St. Botolph's Fair to be sold,
though it was a good hundred miles distant; buying in return their
winter supply of groceries, spiceries, and other necessary
articles. That fair, too, was often beset by robbers, and on one
occasion a strong party of them, under the disguise of monks,
attacked and robbed certain booths, setting fire to the rest; and
such was the amount of destroyed wealth, that it is said the veins
of molten gold and silver ran along the streets.

The concourse of persons attending these fairs was immense.
The nobility and gentry, the heads of the religions houses, the
yeomanry and the commons, resorted to them to buy and sell all
manner of agricultural produce. The farmers there sold their wool
and cattle, and hired their servants; while their wives disposed of
the surplus produce of their winter's industry, and bought their
cutlery, bijouterie, and more tasteful articles of apparel.
There were caterers there for all customers; and stuffs and wares
were offered for sale from all countries. And in the wake of this
business part of the fair there invariably followed a crowd of
ministers to the popular tastes-- quack doctors and merry andrews,
jugglers and minstrels, singlestick players, grinners through
horse-collars, and sportmakers of every kind.

Smaller fairs were held in most districts for similar purposes of
exchange. At these the staples of the locality were sold and
servants usually hired. Many were for special purposes--cattle
fairs, leather fairs, cloth fairs, bonnet fairs, fruit fairs.
Scatcherd says that less than a century ago a large fair was held
between Huddersfield and Leeds, in a field still called Fairstead,
near Birstal, which used to be a great mart for fruit, onions, and
such like; and that the clothiers resorted thither from all the
country round to purchase the articles, which were stowed away in
barns, and sold at booths by lamplight in the morning.*[6] Even
Dartmoor had its fair, on the site of an ancient British village or
temple near Merivale Bridge, testifying to its great antiquity; for
it is surprising how an ancient fair lingers about the place on
which it has been accustomed to be held, long after the necessity
for it has ceased. The site of this old fair at Merivale Bridge is
the more curious, as in its immediate neighbourhood, on the road
between Two Bridges and Tavistock, is found the singular-looking
granite rock, bearing so remarkable a resemblance to the Egyptian
sphynx, in a mutilated state. It is of similarly colossal
proportions, and stands in a district almost as lonely as that in
which the Egyptian sphynx looks forth over the sands of the
Memphean Desert.*[7]

[Image] Site of an ancient British village and fair on Dartmoor.

The last occasion on which the fair was held in this secluded spot
was in the year 1625, when the plague raged at Tavistock; and there
is a part of the ground, situated amidst a line of pillars marking
a stone avenue--a characteristic feature of the ancient aboriginal
worship--which is to this day pointed out and called by the name of
the "Potatoe market."

But the glory of the great fairs has long since departed. They
declined with the extension of turnpikes, and railroads gave them
their death-blow. Shops now exist in every little town and
village, drawing their supplies regularly by road and canal from
the most distant parts. St. Bartholomew, the great fair of
London,*[8] and Donnybrook, the great fair of Dublin, have been
suppressed as nuisances; and nearly all that remains of the dead
but long potent institution of the Fair, is the occasional
exhibition at periodic times in country places, of pig-faced
ladies, dwarfs, giants, double-bodied calves, and such-like
wonders, amidst a blatant clangour of drums, gongs, and cymbals.
Like the sign of the Pack-Horse over the village inn door, the
modern village fair, of which the principal article of merchandise
is gingerbread-nuts, is but the vestige of a state of things that
has long since passed away.

There were, however, remote and almost impenetrable districts which
long resisted modern inroads. Of such was Dartmoor, which we have
already more than once referred to. The difficulties of
road-engineering in that quarter, as well as the sterility of a
large proportion of the moor, had the effect of preventing its
becoming opened up to modern traffic; and it is accordingly curious
to find how much of its old manners, customs, traditions, and
language has been preserved. It looks like a piece of England of
the Middle Ages, left behind on the march. Witches still hold
their sway on Dartmoor, where there exist no less than three
distinct kinds-- white, black, and grey,*[9]--and there are still
professors of witchcraft, male as well as female, in most of the

As might be expected, the pack-horses held their ground in Dartmoor
the longest, and in some parts of North Devon they are not yet
extinct. When our artist was in the neighbourhood, sketching the
ancient bridge on the moor and the site of the old fair, a farmer
said to him, "I well remember the train of pack-horses and the
effect of their jingling bells on the silence of Dartmoor.
My grandfather, a respectable farmer in the north of Devon, was the
first to use a 'butt' (a square box without wheels, dragged by a
horse) to carry manure to field; he was also the first man in the
district to use an umbrella, which on Sundays he hung in the
church-porch, an object of curiosity to the villagers." We are also
informed by a gentleman who resided for some time at South Brent',
on the borders of the Moor, that the introduction of the first cart
in that district is remembered by many now living, the bridges
having been shortly afterwards widened to accommodate the wheeled

The primitive features of this secluded district are perhaps best
represented by the interesting little town of Chagford, situated in
the valley of the North Teign, an ancient stannary and market town
backed by a wide stretch of moor. The houses of the place are
built of moor stone--grey, venerable-looking, and substantial--some
with projecting porch and parvise room over, and granite-mullioned
windows; the ancient church, built of granite, with a stout old
steeple of the same material, its embattled porch and granite-groined
vault springing from low columns with Norman-looking capitals,
forming the sturdy centre of this ancient town clump.

A post-chaise is still a phenomenon in Chagford, the roads and
lanes leading to it being so steep and rugged as to be ill adapted
for springed vehicles of any sort. The upland road or track to
Tavistock scales an almost precipitous hill, and though well enough
adapted for the pack-horse of the last century, it is quite
unfitted for the cart and waggon traffic of this. Hence the horse
with panniers maintains its ground in the Chagford district; and
the double-horse, furnished with a pillion for the lady riding
behind, is still to be met with in the country roads.

Among the patriarchs of the hills, the straight-breasted blue coat
may yet be seen, with the shoe fastened with buckle and strap as in
the days when George III. was king; and old women are still found
retaining the cloak and hood of their youth. Old agricultural
implements continue in use. The slide or sledge is seen in the
fields; the flail, with its monotonous strokes, resounds from the
barn-floors; the corn is sifted by the windstow--the wind merely
blowing away the chaff from the grain when shaken out of sieves by
the motion of the hand on some elevated spot; the old wooden plough
is still at work, and the goad is still used to urge the yoke of
oxen in dragging it along.

[Image] The Devonshire Crooks

"In such a place as Chagford," says Mr. Rowe, "the cooper or rough
carpenter will still find a demand for the pack-saddle, with its
accompanying furniture of crooks, crubs, or dung-pots. Before the
general introduction of carts, these rough and ready contrivances
were found of great utility in the various operations of husbandry,
and still prove exceedingly convenient in situations almost, or
altogether, inaccessible to wheel-carriages. The long crooks are
used for the carriage of corn in sheaf from the harvest-field to
the mowstead or barn, for the removal of furze, browse,
faggot-wood, and other light materials. The writer of one of the
happiest effusions of the local muse,*[10] with fidelity to nature
equal to Cowper or Crabbe, has introduced the figure of a
Devonshire pack-horse bending under the 'swagging load' of the
high-piled crooks as an emblem of care toiling along the narrow and
rugged path of life. The force and point of the imagery must be
lost to those who have never seen (and, as in an instance which
came under my own knowledge, never heard of) this unique specimen
of provincial agricultural machinery. The crooks are formed of two
poles,*[11] about ten feet long, bent, when green, into the
required curve, and when dried in that shape are connected by
horizontal bars. A pair of crooks, thus completed, is slung over
the pack-saddle--one 'swinging on each side to make the balance
true.' The short crooks, or crubs, are slung in a similar manner.
These are of stouter fabric, and angular shape, and are used for
carrying logs of wood and other heavy materials. The dung-pots, as
the name implies, were also much in use in past times, for the
removal of dung and other manure from the farmyard to the fallow or
plough lands. The slide, or sledge, may also still occasionally
be seen in the hay or corn fields, sometimes without, and in other
cases mounted on low wheels, rudely but substantially formed of
thick plank, such as might have brought the ancient Roman's harvest
load to the barn some twenty centuries ago."

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