Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Wanderings in Wessex by Edric Holmes

Part 5 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

old west front was much altered.

[Illustration: ST. JOHN'S, DEVIZES.]

St. Mary's, the town church, has a Norman chancel and Perpendicular
nave and tower. On the beautiful old roof of the nave is a record of
the actual date and the builder's name:--


A fine statue of the Virgin will be noticed in the eastern gable of
the nave. The Transitional south porch has a not unpleasing upper
story dating from 1612.

The streets between the two churches have some good old houses in
them, and the first traversed is called the "Brittox," said to be
derived from "Bretesque," the name for the outer defences of the
castle. The broad market place is one of the most spacious in the
kingdom, and a very interesting sight on market days. Here one may see
the shepherd of Salisbury Plain, or rather, of the Marlborough Downs,
in typical costume--long weather-stained cloak and round black felt,
almost brimless, hat, described by Lady Tennant as having a bunch of
flowers stuck in the brim, but this the writer had never the fortune
to see until the summer of 1921 when the shepherd was also wearing his
own old cavalry breeches and puttees! In the centre of the throng
rises the mock Gothic pinnacled market cross, presented to Devizes in
1814 by Henry Addington, afterwards Viscount Sidmouth, who succeeded
Pitt as Premier. There is a remarkable inscription upon one side of
the pedestal which, for the benefit of those unable personally to
peruse it, a portion is here appended:--

On Thursday the 25th of January 1753
Ruth Pierce of Pottern, in this County agreed with
Three other women to buy a Sack of Wheat in the Market
Each paying her due proportion toward the same.
One of these women, in collecting
The Several Quotas of Money discovered a Deficiency,
And demanded of Ruth Pierce the sum which was wanting
To make good the amount: Ruth Pierce protested
That she had paid her share and said "She wished
That she might drop down dead if she had not."
She rashly repeated this awful wish, when, to the
Consternation and Terror of the surrounding Multitude
She instantly fell down and expired, having the Money
Concealed in her hand.

The "Bear" is a spacious inn made out of two fine old houses, and is
famous as the hostelry where the father of Sir Thomas Lawrence was at
one time landlord. He was a man of literary tastes and public-spirited
withal, for he is said to have erected posts upon the lonely hills
hereabouts to guide wayfarers to civilization. Those who have seen
Salisbury Plain in its winter aspect will appreciate what this meant
at the end of the eighteenth century, when cultivation, and the
consequent fence, was not in existence thereon, and to be lost on the
Downs in the snow was a serious adventure. The account of the Lawrence
family in Fanny Burney's Diary is of much interest and throws an
intimate light on certain aspects of English provincial life at that

Besides a large number of pleasant and dignified houses of the
eighteenth century, Devizes has a few older ones, principally in the
alleys at the back of St. John Street; and some fine public buildings
that would not disgrace a town of more consequence. Foremost among
these is the Corn Exchange, close to the "Bear." On its front will be
noticed a statue of the goddess of agriculture. The edifice over which
she presides is of imposing size and shows how great an amount of
business must have been transacted here in the past. The Town Hall
contains several objects of interest which are shown to the visitor,
including a fine set of old corporation plate. The ancient hall of the
wool merchants' Guild is near the castle. Its purpose has long
forsaken the old walls, but under the care of the present occupiers
the well-being of the building is assured. The museum is well worth
seeing. Here is the famous "Marlborough Bucket," said to be of
Armorican origin. It was discovered near Marlborough by Sir R.C.
Hoare, and its contents proved it to be a cinerary urn of a date
probably not much anterior to the Roman occupation of Britain. The
geological collections--stones and fossils; and some interesting
models of Avebury and Stonehenge, and particularly the Stourhead
antiquities--British and prehistoric--should on no account be missed.

An old diary of royal progresses gives the following account of a
foreign visit in 1786:--

"On September 25 the Archduke and Duchess of Austria with their
suite arrived in town from Bath. On the road, as they came through
the Devizes, they met with a singular occurrence, which afforded
them some entertainment. A custom has prevailed in that place, of
which the following story is the foundation: A poor weaver passing
through the place without money and friends, being overtaken by
hunger and in the utmost necessity, applied for charity to a baker,
who kindly gave him a penny loaf. The weaver made his way to
Coventry, where, after many years' industry, he amassed a fortune,
and by his will, in remembrance of the seasonable charity of
the Devizes, he bequeathed a sum in trust, for the purpose of
distributing on the anniversary of the day when he was so relieved
a halfpenny loaf to every person in the town, gentle and simple,
and to every traveller that should pass through the town on that
day a penny loaf. The will is faithfully adminstered, and the Duke
of Austria and his suite passing through the town on the day of
the Coventry loaf, on their way from Bath to London, a loaf was
presented to each of them, of which the Duke and Duchess were most
cheerfully pleased to accept, and the custom struck the Archduke so
forcibly as a curious anecdote in his travels that he minuted down
the circumstance, and the high personages seemed to take delight in
breakfasting on the loaf thus given as the testimony of gratitude
for a favour seasonably conferred."

[Illustration: BISHOP'S CANNINGS.]

St. James' Church, with its fine Perpendicular tower, will be passed
if the main road is taken toward Avebury. A better way for the
traveller on foot is to go by the beautiful avenue called Quakers'
Walk to Roundway Down and Oliver's Camp, the last named being actually
an ancient encampment, given its present name because the battle for
Devizes in the Civil War took place close by. The fight was not a
Parliamentary success and Waller was forced to retire before the
King's men under Lord Wilmot. The Down was in consequence renamed
"Runaway" by the jubilant Cavaliers. Below the face of the hill to the
south-west is the picturesque village of Rowde, famous for its quaint
old inn. If the Roundway route is chosen a descent should be made to
Bishop's Cannings lying snugly under the steep side of Tan Hill. Here
is a magnificent church of much interest and beauty. The cruciform
building is in the main Transitional and Early English. The dignified
central tower has a spire of stone. The corbels supporting the roof
are carved with representations of Kings and Abbots. The interior is
impressive in its splendid proportions and graceful details, and of
especial beauty are the Perpendicular arches inserted in the nave. The
fine triple lancets of the chancel, transepts and west end also call
for notice. To the east of the south transept is the former chapel of
Our Lady of the Bower. This has been the Ernle chantry since 1563. It
contains monuments of this family and an ancient helmet bearing their
crest hangs on the wall. The south transept has a piscina and in the
north transept is a curious old carved chair, said to have been used
by the guardian of a shrine, but whose or what shrine is unknown. The
two-storied building on the north-east of the chancel, consisting of a
sacristry and priest's room, is the oldest part of the church. James I
was entertained in the village during one of his progresses by the
vicar who, with the help of his parishioners, rendered some of his own
compositions for the edification of the King.

The Avebury road now ascends the sparsely inhabited chalk hills, part
of the range known under the general designation of the Marlborough
Downs. To the left, on the northern slopes of Roundway Down, have been
erected a number of gaunt and lofty wireless masts, visible for a
great distance. They may be said to stand in a cemetery, so numerous
are the round barrows scattered about the surrounding hills. After
passing a reservoir on the left the road reaches the lonely
"Shepherd's Shore," nearly 600 feet up. Just past this point the
mysterious Wansdyke is crossed. Hereabouts the Dyke runs in a fairly
straight line east and west, where this direction keeps to the summit
of the hills. It is well seen from our road as it descends on the
right from Horton Down. To the east it eventually becomes lost in the
fastnesses of Savernake Forest. Westwards it is, for some distance,
identical with the Roman road to Bath. The "Wodensdyke" appears to
have been made to protect south-western England from foes coming out
of the midlands, but whether it was the work of Brito-Roman or West
Saxon is unknown. Our way now drops past three conspicuous barrows on
the left, with the Lansdown Column showing up on the summit of
Cherhill Down beyond. This was erected to commemorate the birth of
Edward VII. Presently, in the other direction, to the right front,
appears the dark mass of Silbury Hill, perhaps another monument to a
great monarch, but of an age too distant for conjecture.

Seven miles from Devizes we reach the Bath road at Beckhampton, first
crossing the track of the old Roman Bath-Silchester way about
three-quarters of a mile before it joins the modern road. We are now
in the valley of the Kennet, which here turns east after an infant
course under the long line of Hackpen Hill and through the
out-of-the-way villages of Winterbourne Basset, Monkton and Berwick
Basset. The "winter bourne" is actually the baby Kennet, that in dry
summers hardly makes an appearance. Berwick has a family connexion
with Wooton, over the hills and far away to the north-west. Hackpen is
almost the final effort of the chalk in this direction. At its
northern end it rises to 884 feet, an isolated section being crowned
by Barbury Camp, ringed by its beech trees, from which there is a
grand view north and west. From this point the general trend of the
chalk escarpment is north-east to the Lambourn Downs, between Lambourn
and Wantage. Along the brow of this long ridge wanders that
fascinating old track indifferently termed Ridgeway and Icknield Way,
which only leaves the highlands to cross the Thames at Streatley. But
we are off our own track now and must return to Avebury, or Abury as
the natives have it. The village is a mile from Beckhampton, and a
short distance up the by-road the first glimpse of our goal may be had
on the left in the two "Long Stones" just visible across a field. A
little farther one gets the best distant view of Silbury Hill--one
which shows its artificial character and true shape to great
advantage. The sombre tone of the turf that clothes it is remarkable;
when seen against the pale sweep of the Downs behind, its sides do not
appear to _reflect_ light at all.

[Illustration: SILBURY HILL.]

"As a cathedral is to a parish church," Aubrey's comparison of Avebury
with Stonehenge is difficult to understand upon merely a casual visit.
To grasp the unique character of this, the oldest prehistoric monument
in Europe, and perhaps in the world, we must take for granted the
investigations and discoveries of antiquaries and archaeologists
during the last 250 years, and if the comparison between their
conjectural but approximately correct plans and the present aspect of
this mysterious relic of the Stone Age is disappointing and
perplexing, we can only be thankful that the work of Farmer Green and
Tom Robinson, the two despoilers mentioned by the earliest
investigators, has been prevented in their descendants, and that
though the circles are incapable of restoration, the few stones that
remain will be preserved for all time.

Avebury is undoubtedly older than Stonehenge and must belong to the
true Neolithic period, whether the former does or not. Of the original
six hundred and fifty megaliths eighteen are standing and about the
same number are buried. Some are nearly 17 feet high, and the rampart
that encloses the Temple is no less than 4,500 feet round and from 10
to 20 feet in height, though it is computed that from the bottom of
the ditch to the wall must have originally been nearly 50 feet. The
modern village, built of some of the missing stones, is partly within
the circular earthwork. This rampart is the only part of the great
work which can be readily comprehended by the visitor. A circle of one
hundred stones is said by the archaeologist Stukely to have stood
around the edge of the enclosure, forty-four still standing in his
time (1720). The same writer asserts that within the great circle were
two other separate rings consisting of thirty stones, and each
containing an inner circle of twelve stones. The northern of these
rings had three large stones in the middle; the southern, one enormous
stone 27 feet high and nearly 9 feet round. One, or possibly two,
avenues of stones led south-east and south-west; that going in the
direction of West Kennet may still be traced and fifteen stones
remain, but the other is conjectural, if it existed at all. The two
megaliths seen from the Beckhampton road may be a remnant of it. The
purpose of all this intricate and elaborate work is a puzzling problem
and, like the mystery of Stonehenge, will probably remain a secret to
the end. The literature of Avebury, not quite so copious as that of
the stones of the Plain, is also more diffident in its guessing.
Avebury has given a title to the most modest and thorough of its
students, and his writings on this and the other prehistoric monuments
of Wiltshire, a county that must have been a holy land some thousands
of years ago, should be studied by all who have any concern in the
long-buried past of their country.

Avebury Church, just without the rampart, was originally a Saxon
building, its aisles being Norman additions. The chancel was rebuilt
in 1879, but certain old features are preserved. The fine tower is
Perpendicular. The font may be Saxon, though the ornamentation is of a
later date. Avebury Manor House, beyond the churchyard, is a beautiful
old sixteenth-century dwelling; it marks the site of a twelfth-century

About one mile south of Avebury rises the extraordinary mound called
Silbury Hill, as wonderful in its way as either of the two great stone
circles of Wiltshire and perhaps part of one plan with them. It is
said to be the largest artificial hill in Europe and bears comparison,
as far as the labour involved in its erection is concerned, with the
Pyramids. The mound is 1,660 feet round at the base and covers over
five acres. It is now just 130 feet high, but when made it is probable
that the top was more acute and consequently higher. A circle of
sarsens once surrounded the base, but these have almost all
disappeared. Pepys repeats an old tradition that a King Seall was
buried upon the hill; but it is extraordinary that Avebury and Silbury
were less known to our forefathers than Stonehenge, and the first
mention of these two places, as being of antiquarian or historic
interest, is in the seventeenth century. Excavations during recent
years have done little or nothing to clear up the mystery of Silbury.
The fact that the Roman road (which leaves the Bath road just west of
Silbury) here deviates slightly from its usual straightness is
significant and proves that the mound was in existence when the road
was made. The villagers around used to ascend the hill on Palm Sunday
to eat "fig cakes" and drink sugar and water. It has been suggested
that this ceremony had some connexion with the gospel story of the
barren fig tree, but it is much more probable that the tradition has a
very early origin. As a matter of fact the cakes were mostly made with
raisins which are called figs by natives of Wessex.

[Illustration: DEVIL'S DEN.]

To the south-east of Silbury is the "Long Barrow," one of the most
famous in England. This tumulus is over 330 feet long and about 60
feet wide. When the stone chamber was opened some years ago, four
skeletons were found within. Vestiges of a small stone circle remain
on the South of the Bath road, between it and the Kennet, and almost
on the track of the Ridgeway. If the Way is followed northwards towards
the slopes of Overton Hill we reach the "quarry" where most of the
megalithic monuments of Wiltshire originated. These extraordinary
stones, thickly scattered over the southern slopes of the Marlborough
Downs, are generally known as the "Grey Wethers," or "Sarsens." At one
time supposed to have been brought to their present position by
glacial action, they are now said to be, and undoubtedly are, the
result of denudation. They are composed of a hard grey sandstone which
once covered the chalk; the softer portions wearing away left the
tough core lying in isolated masses upon the hills. Not far away in
Clatford Bottom is the "Devil's Den," a cromlech upon the remains of a
long barrow; the upper slab measures nine feet by eight. The Downs
above Fyfield form a magnificent galloping and training ground for the
racing stables near by. Our road, the Bath highway, now follows the
Kennet into Marlborough, six miles from Avebury.

[Illustration: MARLBOROUGH.]



Marlborough is in Wiltshire, but it will be legitimate to start a
slight exploration of the middle course of the Kennet from the old
Forest town. Here the clear chalk stream, fresh from the highlands of
the Marlborough Downs, runs as a clear and inviting little river at
the foot of the High Street gardens. For Marlborough is a flowery and
umbrageous town in its "backs," however dull it may appear to the
traveller by the railway, from which dis-vantage point most English
towns look their very worst.

Although the river was never wide enough to bring credit or renown to
Marlborough, the borough had another channel of profit and good
business in its position on the Bath Road. The part that great highway
played in the two hundred years which ended soon after Queen Victoria
commenced her long reign seems likely to have a renewal in these days
of revived road travel. Ominous days are these for the iron ways that,
for almost a century, have half ruined the old road towns of England,
but at the same time left them in such a state of suspended animation
that they are mostly delightful and unspoilt reminders of another age.

The fine and spacious High Street that once echoed with the horns of a
dozen coaches in the course of an afternoon now hums with the
machinery of half a hundred motors in an hour, and if they do not all
stop, some do, and leave the worthy burgesses a greater amount of
wealth and a cleaner roadway than their more picturesque predecessors.

The municipality is very ancient and still retains some quaint
customs. Not that, however, of the medieval fee for admission to the
corporation consisting of two greyhounds, two white capons, and a
white bull! The last item must have given the aspirant for civic
honour much wearisome searching of farmyards before he found the
acceptable colour. Like so many of the old towns through which we have
wandered, Marlborough has suffered from fire; one in the middle of the
seventeenth century was of particular fury, for, with the exception of
the beautiful old gabled houses on the higher side of the sloping main
street, the town was then practically destroyed. "Two hundred and
fifty dwellings and Saint Mary's church are gone, and over three
hundred families forced to crave the hospitality of the neighbouring
farmers and gentry, or wander about the fields vainly looking for
shelter. Every barn and beast-house filled to overflowing."

The tradesmen of High Street say that theirs is the widest street in
England. This may be so. It is undoubtedly one of the most pleasant
and picturesque, and "the great houses supported on pillars," to which
Pepys refers in his Diary, still remain on the north side.

Marlborough had not actually a Roman beginning. The station known as
Cunetio was nearly three miles away to the east. But the castle hill
antedates this period considerably and is supposed to be an artificial
mound of unknown antiquity, perhaps made by the men who reared Silbury
Hill. It is said that within lie the bones of Merlin. Quite possibly
this idea arose from the resemblance of the ancient form of
Marlborough--"Merlebergh" to the name of the half legendary sorcerer.
The real origin of the town-name is supposed to be the West Saxon
"Maer-leah" or cattle boundary. Here was erected in the earlier years
of the Conqueror's reign a castle that was strengthened and rebuilt in
succeeding generations until, somewhere about the rise of the Tudor
power, it was allowed to fall into decay. It was probably in the
Castle Chapel of St. Nicholas that King John was married to Isabella
of Gloucester in 1180, and in the church at Preshute, the parish
church of the Castle, is an enormous font of black marble brought from
this chapel. A tradition has it that King John was baptized in it. The
only real fighting recorded as taking place around the Castle, while
it was in existence, was during the time of Fitz Gilbert, who held it
for the Empress Maud. Of more importance was the sallying forth,
during the Civil War, of the Royalists, who had fortified a mansion
which had arisen from the Castle ruins, against the republican town,
capturing and partly burning it. The soldiers displayed great
savagery, fifty-three houses being destroyed. The garrison of "the
most notoriously disaffected town in Wiltshire" was the first taken in
the War. The Castle was also famous as the place of meeting for the
Parliament of Henry III which passed the "Statutes of Marlborough,"
the Charter for which Simon de Montfort had risked and suffered so

Of more living interest are the ancient and beautiful buildings of
Marlborough School, instituted in 1843 by a number of public-spirited
men, headed by a priest of the Church of England--Charles Plater. The
school is the scene of Stanley Weyman's _The Castle Inn_, for it was
formerly that historic hostel, one of the finest and most famous in
England, before the disappearance of the road traveller caused the
collapse of the old-fashioned posting-houses. Before the year 1740 it
had been a mansion, originally built by Lord Seymour during the reign
of Charles II. It afterwards passed through several hands, and, while
in the possession of Lady Hertford, saw the entertainment of some of
the literary lions of the day, including Thomson of _The Seasons_ and
Isaac Watts. In 1767, when it had become the largest inn in England,
it was the headquarters of Lord Chatham who, while on the road,
developed an attack of gout and, shutting himself up in his room,
remained there some weeks. "Everybody who travelled that road was
amazed by the number of his attendants. Footmen and grooms, dressed in
his family livery, filled the whole inn and swarmed in the streets of
the little town. The truth was that the invalid had insisted that
during his stay all the waiters and stable boys of the 'Castle' should
wear his livery." The fine school chapel was added in 1882 and several
extensive and necessary additions have been made to the original
buildings. Among famous headmasters may be mentioned Dean Bradley and
Dean Farrar.


King Edward the VI Grammar School is at the far end of the town. The
old buildings were pulled down in 1905. In this school Dr.
Sacheverell, who was born in Marlborough, received his education. The
present St. Mary's Church practically dates from the great fire of
1653, and is a very poor specimen of debased Perpendicular. The
chancel was added in 1874. A Norman doorway at the west end should be
noticed. The tower of the church shows traces of the Royalist attack
on the town in 1642. St. Peter's Church, not far from the College, is
Perpendicular, and from its high and finely designed tower, curfew
still rings each night through the year. Within, the groined roof and
beautiful design of the windows are worthy of notice.

Beautiful in the extreme is the walk through Savernake Forest which,
if it is not to be compared with the New Forest either in size or
wildness, does in one particular surpass the latter, namely in its
magnificent vistas and beech avenues. The central walk between
Marlborough and Savernake is unsurpassed in England and probably in
Europe. It leads to Tottenham House, situated at the eastern extremity
and belonging to the Marquis of Ailesbury. This mansion stands on the
site of an old house of the Seymours, to whom the Forest passed from
the Plantagenet Kings (it was a jointure of Queen Eleanor). By marriage
the estates afterwards went to the Bruces, who still hold them.

Herds of deer roam the open glades, and wild life is abundant and
varied. In some parts of the Forest the thickets and dense undergrowth
are reminiscent of the district between the Rufus Stone and
Fording-bridge in the greater Forest, but the highest beauty of
Savernake lies in the avenues of oak and beech which extend for miles
and meet about midway between Durley and Marlborough. Here are no fir
plantations to strike an alien note. Rugged and ancient trees that
were saplings in Stuart times or before and the dense young growth of
to-day are all natural to the soil. The column that stands on high
ground, a little over a mile from Savernake station, commemorates,
among other events, the temporary recovery of George III from his
mental illness.

Great Bedwyn was once a Parliamentary borough and, in more remote
times still, a town of importance. It has a station on the
Reading-Taunton Railway and can be reached by circuitous roads from
Savernake Forest. Although nominally still a market town, it is really
but a large village. It is mentioned in the Saxon records as the scene
of a battle between the men of Wessex and those of Mercia in the great
struggle for domination in 675. The cruciform church is a fine
structure, mostly built of flint and dating from Transitional times.
The chancel is Early English and the transepts Decorated, but the nave
is of the older style with fine ornamentation. In the chancel will be
noticed the effigy of Sir John Seymour (1536), the father of Protector
Somerset. A brass commemorates another John Seymour, brother of the
Protector. There is also a monument to a daughter of Robert Devereux,
Earl of Essex. In the south transept is an effigy, cross legged, of
Sir Adam de Stokke (1312) and a plain slab with an incised cross of
another of his family. The church has a quantity of stained glass of
much beauty. An ancient Market Hall once stood in the centre of the
spacious main street; while it stood the villagers were reminded of
the vanished glories of Bedwyn. The road proceeds past Chisbury Hill,
a prehistoric camp on the Wansdyke. Within the earthwork is a barn
that was once the Decorated church of St. Martin. Mr. A.H. Allcroft
thinks that the original building was erected shortly after the drawn
battle between Wessex and Mercia that took place on the Downs
hereabouts in 675. Froxfield is reached just short of the Berkshire
border and the way accompanies the railway and canal through Little
Bedwyn, where is a stone-spired church dating from the early
thirteenth century. Froxfield Church is outside the village on a hill.
It is a small and ancient Norman building, quaint and picturesque. The
old Somerset Hospital here was founded in 1686 by Sarah Duchess of
Somerset for thirty widows of the clergy and others; about half that
number are now maintained in the beautiful old buildings, grouped
round a quadrangle high above the road.

At Hungerford, the first town in Berkshire, over nine miles _direct_
from Marlborough, we return to the Kennet. The townsmen are proud of
the fact that their liberties were given them by John of Gaunt, who
held the Royal Manor, which afterwards became the property of the
town, and as proof of the charter they still show the stranger a
famous horn presented to the burgesses by the great Duke of Lancaster.
A fierce battle is said to have raged on the banks of the Kennet
between West Saxons and Danes, where now anglers whip the stream for
the fat trout that this part of Kennet breeds. The historic _Bear Inn_
was the lodging of William of Orange on the night of December 6, 1688,
when he received the messengers of James II. Hungerford Church is now
of small interest. It has been rebuilt within recent times and
contains little from the old building. A cross-legged effigy is
supposed to represent Sir Robert de Hungerford (1340).

In coming from Marlborough to Hungerford the valley of the Kennet has
been left to the north, but only for the purpose of noting the
beauties that lie around Savernake Forest and the course of the Avon
Canal. The Kennet in its upper course is equally beautiful and, if
possible, an additional journey should be made through the picturesque
village of Axford, passing on the way Mildenhall, the one-time
Cunetio. The site of the Roman station is now marked by Folly Farm.
The most attractive place on this part of the river is Ramsbury, six
miles from Marlborough and five from Hungerford. That this little town
was evidently of great antiquity is proved by the important place it
held in the tenth century, when it was a "stool" of the Bishop of
Wiltshire. Originally the name of the town was Hrafensbyrig or
Ravensbury. The Early English church contains a number of interesting
relics of the supposed cathedral discovered in the restoration of the
existing building. They consist of sculptured stones of fine design
and well preserved. In the Darell Chapel is an altar tomb and others
to various members of this once famous family. A canopied tomb of
William de St. John stands in the chancel. Other interesting items are
the finely sculptured font and stoups at the north and south doors.
Ramsbury Park has been passed on the way here from Marlborough. In it
is the manor house, a seventeenth-century building, containing a
famous collection of armour. The Kennet is at its best as it flows
through the park.

On the Hungerford side of Ramsbury, and to the south of the Kennet, is
the famous Littlecote Manor, a magnificent and unexcelled
sixteenth-century house. Built by the Darells it passed to the
Pophams, one of whom was a leader of the Parliamentarians. A gruesome
and probably true story is told of the last of the Darells--"Wild
Dayrell." A midwife deposed that she had been fetched blindfold to
attend a lady at dead of night. When her offices were over, a
wild-looking man seized the infant and hurled it in a blazing fire.
Afterwards apprehended, Darell by some trick managed to defeat

A beautiful side excursion can be taken soon after leaving Ramsbury to
Aldbourne, three miles from the Hungerford road. This small town,
which boasts a fine church of much dignity and interest, is situated
at the end of the lonely expanse of Aldbourne Chase. From the heights
above views may be had of the distant Cotswold and Malvern Hills.
Chilton Foliat, picturesquely placed on the river bank, is the only
village passed on the way to Hungerford. Its church contains a number
of monuments to the Popham family and a cross-legged effigy of an
unknown person.

Kintbury is three miles from Hungerford on the road which follows the
canal and railway toward Newbury. The interesting and partly Norman
church was pulled about in a shameful manner in the middle of the last
century. Another restoration about forty years ago repaired the
mischief as far as was possible. The Norman doorways remain much in
their original condition, also the chancel arch and the two squints.
Kintbury is a pleasant and typical Berkshire village, little altered
by the railway, which seems to have spared these old towns and
villages in the Kennet valley in a remarkable way, possibly because
"desirable villadom" has taken itself entirely to the banks of the
Thames away to the north.

The road may be now taken northwards over the Kennet Bridge in two
miles to Avington, which is only about two miles from Hungerford
direct and just off the main Newbury road. The church here should on
no account be missed. It is a perfect gem of pure Norman architecture,
the only portion of later date being the Tudor south porch and arch
near the font; the priest's door; vestry arch and window, and a low
side window. It will be noticed that the chancel arch is broken at the
top. The font has grotesque sculpture upon it, the subjects being
doubtful. The early carvings and arabesques in the church are of great
interest and will repay careful scrutiny. Avington is one of the
smallest of hamlets, but wonderfully pretty in its setting of green on
the river-bank. The picturesque rectory is close to the church.

The Newbury road runs about half a mile north of the river past Stock
Cross and Benham Park to Speen, generally supposed to be identical
with Spinae, the Roman station at the junction of the roads from Bath
and Cirencester to Silchester. Not far from the rebuilt church is an
ancient well over which has been erected in recent years a Gothic
arch. One mile farther, eight from Hungerford, and we are in Newbury,
perhaps the "new burb" in comparison with the older settlement of
Speen. A castle built in 1140 was in existence but a few years. It was
destroyed by King Stephen after being held for the Empress Maud during
a three months' siege. Newbury took part in the Wars of the Roses and
stood for the House of York. When the Lancastrians entered the town in
1460 the partisans of York were put to the sword. Every one has heard
of "Jack of Newbury." He was a rich cloth merchant named John
Smallwood who lived in North-Brook Street at a time when the town was
famed for its woollen trade. His patriotism led him to gather one
hundred and fifty of the youth of Newbury and, himself marching at
their head, took part with his men in the battle of Flodden. His house
still stands, although greatly altered to outward appearance; in its
old rooms Henry VIII was received as a guest and proffered to the
worthy clothier a knighthood in recognition of his services to the
state, an honour which Smallwood sturdily refused.

During the Marian persecutions the Master of Reading School--Julian
Palmer, with others, was burnt at the stake. But the stirring events
of the Civil War eclipse the earlier historical interest. Two
important battles were fought in the near vicinity of the town. The
first took place on September 20, 1643. The Londoners, under Essex,
were returning to the capital after raising the siege of Gloucester,
and had taken the longer, and southern, route as being the most open
and practicable. News of the approach reached the King at Oxford and
it was decided to stop them and give battle. Essex had led his men out
of Hungerford the day before and in the evening he found his way
barred by the Royalist cavalry at Newbury Wash. The Parliamentary
forces bivouacked on Crockham Heath and next morning opened the
attack. They were fortunate enough to be able to seize the high ground
commanding the Kintbury road before the King's men awoke to the
importance of the position. The Life Guards under Biron charged up the
hill with great valour, but failed to shift the stubborn townsmen, and
brave and gentle Falkland was killed in the melee. On the Highclere
road, about a mile out of Newbury, stands the monument to this noble
and pathetic figure, whose heart seems to have been broken by the
wretched times in which he lived.

On the other side of the field Prince Rupert, after repeated attempts
to cut a way through the London infantry, met with as little success
as the Guards, and the vanguard of the Parliamentary Army had forced
its way steadily along the London road, so that, when night fell,
after a day of heroic fighting on both sides, the King decided to
retire into Newbury, and the way into London was open to the

The second battle took place after a year had passed, on October 27,
1644. The King's cause had been victorious in the west, and his army
had afterwards successfully relieved Donnington Castle. The Royal
forces were in a strong position to the north of Newbury, between Shaw
House and the Kennet, with Donnington in the centre of the defences.
The Army of the Parliament, under the joint command of Essex and
Manchester, and numbering among the sub-commandants Cromwell and the
redoubtable Waller, made a concerted attack from front and rear. In
this fight the honours may be said to have lain with the King as, with
the exception of the artillery, the Royal losses were small and a
successful retreat during the night quite defeated the object of the
Republican attack, which was to smash, once and for all, the army
opposed to them.

Beautiful old Shaw House, one of the finest in Berkshire, still shows
traces of the fight in the earthworks that partly encircle it. The
mansion was built by another celebrated clothier of Newbury, one
Thomas Dolman, whose namesake and descendant was knighted at the

Newbury Church was rebuilt by "Jack of Newbury," and the date of its
completion (1532) may be seen on a corbel. This was after Smallwood's
death, the work being finished by his son. The clothier's brass (1519)
may be seen among others. The appointments of the church are fine and
imposing; the Jacobean pulpit, dated 1607, should be noticed, also the
history of the church, in the form of an illuminated chart, on the
west wall. The hero of the town was married in the chapel of the old
Hospital of St. Bartholomew which was turned into a school in the
reign of Edward VI. Some of the school buildings are of a later date
than this. The most picturesque old house in the town, which really
contains few that are ancient, is Newbury Museum, once the Cloth Hall.
There is a pleasing glimpse of the Kennet from the short high bridge
in the main street and a still pleasanter view of the bridge itself
from the river path below.

[Illustration: CLOTH HALL, NEWBURY.]

A charming excursion can be taken to Lambourne, up in the heart of the
chalk hills to the north-west. This was one of King Alfred's towns,
and until the coming of the light railway one of the most unknown and
remote in the kingdom. Railway and road follow the course of the
Lambourne, a delightful river, clear and cold from the chalk and never
seeming to run dry, as do other streams of a like nature in
exceptionally hot summers. Another railroad goes directly north from
Newbury and forms the main route between Oxford and Winchester. This
also penetrates the heart of the Berkshire uplands and taps a district
inexhaustible in charm and interest, in the centre of which is
Wantage, famous as the birthplace of Alfred. But this country has been
fully described by Mr. Ditchfield in "Byeways in Berkshire."

The Bath road in a little over three miles from Newbury reaches
Thatcham, once, by all accounts, a large and prosperous market town,
but this was in the days of the Angevin kings. The great market square
probably dates from their time and the battered remains of the old
market cross may have replaced a still more ancient one. The fine
church has a Norman door and Transitional arcading, but a very
thorough "restoration" has obliterated most of the ancient features.
The Danvers and Fuller tombs should be seen, also an interesting brass
to Thomas Loundye. The fabric of a chantry chapel at the other end of
the village dates from 1334, but it was much altered in externals in
the early eighteenth century, when it was turned into a school.

The Bath-London road that we have travelled from Marlborough now
approaches the most beautiful stretches of the Kennet, lined with fine
parklands on the gentle northern slopes of the valley. The high hedges
and fences are in places very jealous of the beauties they encircle,
but there are charming glimpses here and there of this pleasant
countryside. Woolhampton, with a modern church of no particular
interest, is passed four miles from Thatcham, and two miles farther
comes Aldermaston Station, where we leave the great highway and turn
south to Aldermaston Wharf on the Kennet Canal. This is a most
pleasant spot, and to enhance the charm of the surroundings a large
sheet of ornamental water has been formed, close to, and fed by, the
channel. Aldermaston village is nearly two miles to the south-west and
well-placed among the wooded hills that march with the Hampshire
border. The aspect of the village is as unspoilt as any in the old
Berkshire by-ways. At the southern end of the street are the gates of
Aldermaston Park; a picturesque expanse of broken ground with several
fine avenues, and populated by herds of deer. The old Jacobean mansion
was burnt down in 1843, although a few of the ancient features were
saved and incorporated in the new house. Close to the park is the
church, the foundations of which are Norman, as are also the very fine
and uncommon west door and two blocked-up doors in the chancel and
nave. In the chapel on the south side is the tomb of Sir George
Forster and his lady (1526) with their twenty attendant children. The
knight's feet rest against his favourite hound and a lap dog is
pulling at the lady's dress. There are also brasses to some other
members of the Forster family which owned the manor during Elizabethan
days. The pulpit and sounding board belong to this period. The lancet
windows of the chancel date this portion of the church as about 1270.
There are some ancient frescoes, faint and dim by contrast with the
modern scheme of decoration; they represent St. Christopher carrying
our Lord, and, below, a mermaid and fish.

Silchester is about four miles to the south-east by winding ways that
lead over the hills of the Hampshire border. The traveller who comes
prepared to find the actual ruins of the Roman Calleva spread before
him will be grievously disappointed. The economic necessities of to-day
have rendered the surrender of the site to the agriculturist as
necessary as it is appropriate. The sandy soil of North Hants is a
better protection to these remnants of a former civilization than all
the tarpaulins or sheds that would otherwise have to be used. Minute
and accurate plans of the foundations, that include those of a small
Christian Basilica, were made in sections, as they were uncovered, over
a period extending from 1864 to 1910. For a detailed study of the
surveys, and of the many antiquities capable of removal, those
interested must visit the Reading Museum. It has been found that the
walls of Calleva followed the irregular outline of a former British
stronghold, and instead of the usual square plan the outline of the
city was seven-sided. The remnants of the flint walls are nearly one
and three-quarter miles round and contain within their circumference
about 100 acres. Within the east gate is an old farmhouse and the
interesting parish church of Silchester, dating mostly from the
thirteenth century.

The beautiful fir woods that are such a feature of the surrounding
landscape make rambles in any direction most delightful. By-ways may be
taken eastwards to the Stratfields--Mortimer, Saye and Turgis. The
second is well known as the residence of the great Duke of Wellington
and his successors, who hold it by presenting a flag to the King on the
anniversary of Waterloo.

About three miles south of Silchester is an interesting church at
Bramley. It is more than probable that the ruins of the former place
were used by the builders of this church. The older portions, the north
side of the nave and the font, are Norman. Part of the chancel is Early
English and the tower, built of brick, just antedates the Civil War.
The ugly Brocas chapel on the south side was erected in the opening
years of the nineteenth century. It contains a "monstrous fine"
sculpture of one of the family and bears on the roof their gilded
Moor's head crest as a vane. The most interesting detail in the church
is a series of wall paintings, including one of the martyrdom of St.
Thomas a Becket. The west gallery was added in the early eighteenth
century and is a handsome erection. Not far away is the fine old Manor
House, now divided into tenements, but still a gracious and dignified
"black-and-white" building.

A by-way going westwards through "Little London" eventually leads to a
number of interesting villages, among them Pamber and Monk Sherborne,
which form one parish. The church used by Pamber is a remnant of the
old Priory church founded by Henry I, and consists of the ancient choir
and tower dating from the end of the twelfth century. Within are a few
relics of this period, including several old coffin slabs, a font and a
wooden cross-legged effigy belonging to the thirteenth century. Monk
Sherborne Church has a Norman door and chancel arch and also a piscina
of this period. The remainder of the much-restored fabric is mainly
Early English.

For our present goal--Kingsclere--the way is circuitous, but extremely
pleasant. (In fine weather it is possible to take a short cut by field
paths for the greater part of the distance.) After crossing the almost
obliterated Port Way, as the road from Silchester to Old Sarum is
called, and nearly eight miles of cross country rambling from Bramley,
a main highway is reached at Wolverton, where the church is reputed to
be a work of Sir Christopher Wren. This is unlikely, but the design of
the tower is familiar to anyone acquainted with London City and dates,
with the remainder of the fabric, from 1717. The red-brick walls
relieved by white stone are a little startling at first in such an
out-of-the-way village, but their effect is not unpleasing, and when
the church is entered its fine proportions will be admired by anyone
not slavishly bound to the worship of "Gothic." The powers that once
ruled here evidently thought otherwise, for several attempts have
obviously been made to do away with some of the classic details. The
fine contemporary woodwork of the chancel and other irreplacable
details were destroyed or seriously damaged by a destructive fire about
twelve years ago.

[Illustration: WOLVERTON.]

In another two miles Kingsclere is reached. This is a very ancient
town and was under the Saxon Kings, as its name proclaims, a royal
manor. Its "papers" go back to the eighth century. After the
Conqueror's day it passed into the hands of the church, and Rouen
Canons were its overlords. When they became aliens in political fact,
the manor passed to William de Melton. King John had one of his
hunting lodges at Freeman tie on the south of the town. No history has
been made at Kingsclere since Charles passed the night of October 21,
1644, here, on his way to Newbury, but there is an air of "far-off
things and battles long ago" about the quiet little town and its grey
and solemn Norman church. The stern square church tower is a fine
example of early twelfth-century work, majestic in its simplicity, but
apart from this the exterior appears to have been scraped clean of
ancient details by a drastic restoration. Within, the spacious and
fine proportions of the building atone for a great deal that has been
lost by the mistaken zeal of Victorian renovators. The font, pulpit
and Norman north door are of especial interest; of less ancient
details, the Jacobean pulpit and the great chandelier, dated 1713,
call for notice.

The Downs to the south of Kingsclere are of much beauty and
comparatively unknown to the tourist. Although of no great height and
unremarkable in outline, the splendour of the colouring, especially
after August is past, of the woods that cover the sides of the
undulating billows of chalk is unforgettable. The Port Way, ignoring
all hills and dales in its uncompromising straightness, occasionally
shows itself as a rough track along the open side of a spinney, or as
a well-marked score in the escarpment of a Down, but never as a modern
highway east of Andover. The road winding and up and down westwards
from Kingsclere is a pleasant enough adaptation of a possible British
trackway, and brings us in a short four miles to Burghclere, where
there is a station on the Great Western Railway between Newbury and
Winchester. At Sydmonton, half a mile short of the railway, a grassy
lane leads up to Ladle Hill (768 feet), the bold bastion of chalk to
to the south. Here we may obtain a fine view of the characteristic
scenery of northern Hampshire. The curving undulations of the chalk
have many a hut circle and tumulus to tell of the fierce life that
once peopled these solitary wastes. Then the valleys were shunned as
inimical to human kind. Now the depths of almost every wrinkle and
fold has some habitation, and many a small hamlet lies out of sight
among the trees, unguessed at from the hill-road above. Away to the
south is Great Litchfield Down--literally the "Dead-field"; perhaps
the scene of a great battle, but more probably the cemetery of a
forgotten race. The still higher Beacon Hill (853 feet) appears close
at hand, as does Sidown, on the other side of Burghclere, where is
perhaps an even finer view. The old church down by the railway station
was "polished up" in a very painstaking way about fifty years ago, but
still retains a Norman nave which seems to have resisted the
sandpapering process. Highclere Park and Castle form a show-place of
the first rank; the park being beyond all praise. The slopes of the
Downs and some of their summits are within this beautiful domain of
the Earls of Carnarvon. Ear away from the Castle the park is entirely
natural and unconfined, but around the house--for an actual "castle"
is non-existent--magnificent avenues of rhododendrons make a perfect
blaze of colour in the early summer. The "Jacobean" pile high on the
hillside is so only in name, for it was built by the architect of Big
Ben. Once a favourite residence of the Bishops of Winchester, the
Castle passed to the Crown in the sixteenth century and then, after
purchase by Sir Robert Sawyer, to the Herberts by intermarriage with
the last-named knight's family. Highclere Church is a new building
designed by Sir Gilbert Scott and stands just outside the park. It
replaces an erection of the late seventeenth century which used to
stand within a stone's throw of the castle upon the site of another
building of great antiquity.

It is possible to make a way past the woods of Sidown and by the Three
Legged Cross Inn to Ashmansworth, where a few years ago a number of
wall paintings, one an unique depictment of Pentecost, were discovered
on the walls of the little old church that are supposed to have Roman
materials built into them. From here we may continue more or less
along the summits of the chalk uplands until the famous Inkpen, or
Ingpen, Beacon is reached, in an isolated corner of north-western
Berkshire. But alas! the former glory, on the map, of the Beacon has
departed. Until quite recently it was thought that this, the highest
section of the chalk in England, exceeded that mystic 1,000 feet that
gives such a glamour to the mere hill and makes of it a local
"mountain." An added slur was cast upon Inkpen in the handing to the
neighbouring Walbury Hill Camp of an additional five feet by these
interfering Ordnance surveyors. The new maps now read--Walbury Camp
959 feet; Inkpen, 954. But the loss of 18 yards or so does not seem to
have altered the glorious view from the flat-topped Down or to have
made its air less sparkling. The grand wooded vista down the Kennet
valley toward Newbury is a sharp contrast to the bare uplands north
and south. Walbury Camp, a fine prehistoric entrenchment, is distinct
from Walbury Hill, slightly lower, on which is Combe Gallows, a relic
of the past kept in constant repair by a neighbouring farmer as a
condition of his land tenure. Inkpen village is more than a mile away
to the north. Here is a church once old but now smartened up to such
an extent that its ancient character is not apparent. The building,
however, has not lost by the change. The modern appointments are both
beautiful and costly.

[Illustration: THE INKPEN COUNTRY.]

At the back of the Beacon is the lonely little village of Combe, sunk
deep in a hollow of the hills that rise all around it. It has a small
Early English church of little interest, but the village is worth a
long detour to see because of its unique position. Here was once a
cell of the Abbey of Bec in Normandy. A stony hill-road goes out of
the settlement southwards, between the huge bulk of Oat Hill (936
feet) and Sheepless Down, back into Hampshire. The road eventually
leads to Linkenholt, another hamlet lost in the wilderness of chalk,
and then by Upton to the Andover highway at Hurstbourne Tarrant on one
of the headwaters of the Test. The map name is rarely used by the
natives, who term the place "Up Husband"; it was officially spelt "Up
Hursborn" as lately as 1830. It is a village in a delightful situation
and delightful in itself, though of late years the architecture of the
"general stores" has replaced some of the old timber-framed houses on
the main street. But the George and Dragon, even if it shows no
timbers on its long front, wears an old-fashioned air of prosperity
that belongs to the coaching past. Tarrant Church, like so many others
hereabouts, has been sadly "well restored," but still retains a
Transitional south door and some rather remarkable wall paintings.

The Andover road rises through Dole's Wood and passes over the hill to
Knight's Enham and Andover. The last-named busy little town of to-day
owes much of its prosperity to the fact that it is an important
meeting place of railways connecting three great trunk lines. To
outward view Andover is utterly commonplace; everything ancient has
been ruthlessly improved away, and that curse of the railway town, an
appendix of mean red-brick villas, mars the approach from the west. It
has a past, however, which goes back to such remote times that its
beginnings are lost in those "mists of antiquity" which shroud so much
of the country described in our preceding chapter. The "dover" in the
town-name is probably the pre-Celtic root which meets the traveller
when he arrives at Dover and greets him again in unsuspected places
from the "dor" in Dorchester and the Falls of Lodore to the "der" in
Derwent and smoky Darwen. All have the same meaning--_water_; and
"an," strangely enough, is a later and Celtic word for the same
element, the equally ubiquitous "afon." So that Andover should be a
place of many waters, which it is not. A small stream--the
Anton--flows almost unnoticed through the town, though its name seems
to have been given occasionally to the whole of the longer Test that
it meets a few miles to the south.

Written records of Andover before Wessex became a kingdom do not
exist. But scraps of tessellated pavement in the vicinity show that it
was a locality well known to the Romans, and the Port Way, that great
thoroughfare of the Empire, passed within half a mile of the modern
railway junction. In 994, Olaus, King of Norway, is said to have been
baptized here, his sponsor being Ethelred the Unready. The town
received its charter from King John and took part in the disagreement
between Stephen and Matilda, when it had the misfortune to be burnt.
It saw two of the Stuarts when the evil days for each were reaching
their culmination. Charles I stayed here on his way to the last battle
of Newbury, and James II slept at Priory House while retiring from
Salisbury to London just before the arrival of William of Orange. The
town returned two members to Parliament before the Reform Act, and
afterwards one until 1885. Half legendary are some of the tales of the
hustings at Andover in those days of "free and open" voting, and the
old "George" seems to have been a centre of the excitement on election
days, where most of the guineas changed hands and where most free
drinks were handed to the incorruptibles. It was here during the
candidature of Sir Francis Delaval that his attorney had occasion to
send him the following bill--

"To being thrown out of the window of the George Inn, Andover; to
my leg being broken; to surgeon's bill, and loss of time and business;
all in the service of Sir Francis Delaval

This rough treatment was in consequence of the poor lawyer having, at
his patron's instigation, invited the officers of a regiment quartered
in the town, and the mayor and corporation, to a dinner at the
"George," _each in the other's name_. At this same inn Cobbett, in one
of his _Rural Rides_, had an adventure with mine host and pushed his
opinions down the throat of the assembled company in his usual manner.
This inn, and the "Angel," were great places in the posting days, when
the Exeter Road was one of the most important arteries in England.
They are among the pleasant survivals of eighteenth-century Andover,
for there is nothing that appears on the surface older than that
period, except the Norman door of the churchyard--all that is left of
the fine building pulled down in 1840 to make way for the present
imitation Early English church--and a piece of wall on the north side,
a remnant of a cell belonging to the Benedictine Abbey of Saumur.
About three miles west of Andover is Weyhill, a village celebrated for
its fair and immortalized in _The Mayor of Casterbridge_. It at one
time claimed to be the largest in England, but in these changed days
its rural importance has diminished. The fair takes place in October
and now covers four consecutive days instead of the original six. The
first day is Sheep Fair followed by "Mop" (hiring), Pleasure, and Hop
Fairs with horses every day and several side-shows such as "Cheese
Fair" and the like. It has been thought possible that Weyhill is
referred to in _The Vision of Piers Plowman_--"At Wy and at Wynchestre
I went to the Fair."

We now propose to turn eastwards for the last time and to follow the
main London road along the northern boundary of Harewood Forest
through Hurstbourne Priors ("Down Husband") and then past the wide
expanse of Hurstbourne Park, in which stands the seat of the Earl of
Portsmouth and which clothes the northern slopes of the Test valley
for more than a mile with its beautiful woods and glades. Its eastern
boundary is close to Whitchurch, seven miles from Andover. Whitchurch
was another famous posting centre and, like Andover, a rotten borough.
Here an important cross-country route from Oxford to Winchester tapped
the Exeter road and here the modern ways of the Great Western and
South Western cross each other at right angles. At the famous "White
Hart" Newman wrote the opening part of the _Lyra Apostolica_ while
awaiting the Exeter coach in December, 1832. The great tower of All
Hallows still stands, but little besides of the old building. While
the restoration was in progress a Saxon headstone was brought to
light. It bears a presentment of our Lord's head with the following


[Illustration: WHITCHURCH.]

The old chapel of Freefolk, little more than a mile out of the town,
dates from 1265 and came into existence because the winter floods on
the infant Test prevented the good folk of the vicinity getting into
Whitchurch. The famous Laverstock Mill, where the paper for Bank of
England notes has been made for two hundred years, is not far away by
the side of the high road. The owners of the Mill, and of Laverstock
Park, are a naturalized Huguenot family named de Portal, whose
ancestors came to England and settled in Southampton during the
persecution of the Protestants that followed the revocation of the
Edict of Nantes. When Cobbett rode by the Mill he made the following
unprophetic utterance:--"We passed the mill where the Mother-Bank
paper is made! Thank God! this mill is likely soon to want employment.
Hard by is a pretty park and house belonging to 'Squire' Portal, the
_paper-maker_. The country people, who seldom want for sarcastic
shrewdness, call it 'Rag Hall!'"

Nearly four miles from Whitchurch comes Overton, once a market but now
a quiet village that shows signs of activity (apart from the ceaseless
procession of motor traffic) only on one day in the year, July 18,
when a great sheep fair takes place. For Overton is a centre of the
great sheep-down country of north Hampshire. The church is
unremarkable except that the nave has Norman pillars with arches of a
later date above them. The fine old manor house near the railway
station is called Quidhampton.

After passing Ashe we reach Deane, where a road to the right leads in
a mile and a half to Steventon, at the rectory of which village Jane
Austen was born in 1775, her father holding the incumbency for many
years. As we rejoin the main road Church Oakley lies to the right at
the source of the Test. Here stands a church built about 1525 by
Archbishop Warham, whose ancestors lived at Malshanger, nearly two
miles away to the north. After passing Worting, ten miles from
Whitchurch and two from Basingstoke, that we are nearing a large town
becomes apparent, and soon the gaunt and curious clock tower of
Basingstoke Town Hall comes into view, a land-mark for many miles.


The "Stoke Bare-hills" of Thomas Hardy has changed the tenor of its
way several times in history. It started by sending members to
Parliament three hundred years before it became a borough in the reign
of the first Stuart, when it was already famous as a manufactory of
silks and woollens. A time of inanition followed until the great
period of road travel set in, when it became the most important centre
between London and Salisbury. Then with the iron way came another
phase that at one time threatened to bring the town into line with
Swindon, Crewe and other railway "wens"; but except for some miles of
small red-brick villas, packed close together on the bleak wolds that
surround the town, it has not greatly suffered and is still
essentially agricultural. Quite lately a new industry has grown up
here, the manufacture of farming implements.

Close to the railway station are the ruins of the chapel of the Holy
Ghost, founded by Bishop Fox in 1525. They stand in the ancient
cemetery which dates from the time of the Papal Interdict (1208) when,
in consequence of King John's quarrel with the Pope, burial in
churchyards was suspended. Basingstoke Church was built in the early
sixteenth century and contains some of the old glass from the Holy
Ghost Chapel.

The most interesting place in the vicinity of Basingstoke is Old
Basing, two miles to the east, and ever memorable as the scene of the
defence of Basing House. This magnificent mansion had been built by
William Paulet, first Marquis of Winchester, on the site of the
original Norman castle of Basing. When the Civil War broke out, the
fifth Marquis, John Paulet, decided to defend the house for the King,
and gathering his friends and retainers about him, amply provisioning
his cellars and "writing 'Aimez Loyalte' on every pane of his windows
with the diamond of his ring," he calmly awaited the Roundheads, who
were soon in possession of Basingstoke. Two hundred and fifty Royalist
soldiers had already joined the garrison when the actual siege began
in July, 1643. The attackers under Waller numbered seven thousand, but
by December, after great losses, they were forced to withdraw. The
following spring another determined effort was made to starve out the
garrison, but the arrival of Colonel Gage with reinforcements from
Oxford put fresh heart into the "nest of hornets," and the news that
their fortress had been renamed "Basting House" by their admiring
friends stiffened their resolve. During the next few months, however,
religious differences within led to a weakening of the heroic defence
and to the beginning of the end, and after two thousand lives had
already been lost, Basing House fell to the redoubtable Cromwell in
person on October 14, 1645, about one hundred of the defenders being
killed in the final assault and some three hundred prisoners taken.

Of this historic site there remain but a few walls and the Gate-house.
The area covered by the entrenchments was about fourteen acres and the
garden must have been a place of beauty before the litter of the siege
marred the trim walks and parterres. The country people were bidden
help themselves when the victors departed with their prisoners, and
the work of ruin was quickly complete.

[Illustration: BASING.]

Basing church, which was used in the attack on the House, is of the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and contains many memorials of the
Paulet family. Its outside is much more striking and handsome than its
interior, which has a rather empty and featureless appearance. Not far
from Basing is the great entrenchment of Winklebury Castle, over 3,000
feet round. From the edge of its commanding vallum Cromwell took the
observations for his successful assault on Basing House.

Sherborne St. John, two miles north of Basingstoke, has an old church,
with an ugly tower built in 1833. The Brocas brasses and the fine
Jacobean pulpit are interesting. The Vyne, a celebrated mansion, is
one mile farther along our road. The greater part of the building is
four hundred years old, though certain additions and alterations are
due to Inigo Jones. Its beautiful chapel has some old French glass,
inserted in the windows in 1544, and other details of much interest.

Between the hills to the south, nearly four miles from Basingstoke, is
the small village of Herriard and the neighbouring park named after
it. Its Transitional church has been much rebuilt, but still contains
several items of interest, including a fine chancel arch and some old
stained glass. North-east of the park is the old and partly Saxon
church of Tunworth, about four miles direct from Basingstoke. The
Herriard road continues in a little over six miles to Alton, a
pleasant and out-of-the-way old town, but with little left of its
former picturesque streets. Alton is famous for its ale made from the
hops grown in the immediate neighbourhood. The church has a door
covered with bullet marks, a legacy from the Civil War, when the
troops of the Parliament under Waller attacked the Royalists, who had
fled to the church for sanctuary. A good deal of Norman work is
visible in the base of the tower. The Jacobean pulpit and misericords
in the choir call for remark and also the interesting "memoriall" on a
pillar of the nave to the "Renowned Martialist "--Richard Boles--who
defended the church during the attack referred to above.

From Alton the Meon Valley Railway follows the high road to distant
Fareham on the shores of Portsmouth Harbour, and penetrates a lonely
countryside, perhaps the least-known portion of Hampshire. For the
first ten miles the railway and road traverse the uplands that are a
continuation of the Sussex Downs and part of the great chalk range of
southern England. In one of the nooks of this tableland, two miles
from the station at Tisted and four from Petersfield, is Selborne,
made for ever famous by Gilbert White, who lived at The Wakes, the
picturesque rambling old house opposite the church. At West Meon the
actual valley from which the railway takes its name is entered. The
infant stream, here a mere trickle under the hedgerows, comes down
from East Meon, three miles away, where there is a cruciform church
containing a black Tournai font, and an old stone pulpit dating from
the fifteenth century. Close by is a manor house, once the property of
the Bishops of Winchester. Warnford, a mile below West Meon, has a
church of great interest. It is a Norman building on the site of the
first sanctuary erected for the converted Meonwaras by Wilfred of
York. Several noteworthy features may be seen, including a Saxon
sundial from the original church. At Corhampton two miles further
south, a Saxon church still remains, though it has lost its early
apsidal chancel.

[Illustration: CORHAMPTON.]

The building has apparently been erected on a mound, possibly
prehistoric. Droxford station is within a four-mile walk of Hambledon
where, in 1774, modern cricket was first played. Droxford Church is
another fine old building that, with those just enumerated, lends an
added interest to this delightful valley, the scenic charm of which
would alone be sufficient recompense for the trouble involved in
exploring it. Customs and beliefs are more primitive and the forms of
speech more archaic than in the region beyond the New Forest, and the
natives have a goodly amount of the old Jutish blood in their veins,
possibly more than their relatives of the Isle of Wight. The swelling
hills of that delectable land fill the vista as we descend between
Soberton and Wickham, where the valley divides the main portion of the
ancient Forest of Bere from the scattered woodlands of Waltham Chase
and, at the last-named village, widens into the lowlands that stretch
between Tichfield and Fareham and the busy activities of Portsmouth.

We now near the end of our brief exploration of Wessex and, returning
to Basingstoke, take the last sixteen miles of our course over the
great road, straight and lonely of houses, that runs across the hills
to Winchester. The Romans built up the solid foundations of the
greater part of this highway which passes through no villages, though
it has several within a short distance of its straight hedges and
interminable telegraph posts. Near the _Sun Inn_, high on the chalk
hills five miles from Basingstoke, a lane turns left to Dummer, worth
visiting for the sake of the old unrestored church dating mostly from
the early thirteenth century. The old beams and the large
sixteenth-century gallery have escaped "improvement." The oak pulpit
is said to date from the early fifteenth century. The most striking
feature of the interior is a canopy over the chancel arch, a relic of
the rood that once stood beneath it. Several interesting brasses of
the At Moores, and a squint at the back of a recess, or image niche,
should be noticed. George Whitfield's first ministry was in this
church. Close by is the ancient manor house, partly of the fourteenth
century, and on the Basingstoke side of the village is Kempshott Park,
a "hunting lodge" of George IV. The bare rolling Downs reach a height
of over 650 feet east of Dummer, in the neighbourhood of Farleigh
Wallop and Nutley. On the other side of the Winchester highway North
Waltham has a rebuilt church in "Norman" style. Steventon, the
birthplace of Jane Austen, already mentioned, is but a short distance
farther. East Stratton is another out-of-the-way village off the high
road to the left and just beyond Stratton House, a seat of the Earl of
Northbrook. A magnificent avenue of beech trees leads to Micheldever
village, and also, in the opposite direction to the station, to that
point on the South Western Railway where the traveller to Southampton
notes that the exhausted pant of the engine has changed to an easy
glide as the train passes the summit tunnel and rolls down to
Winchester. The dim recesses of Micheldever wood extend to the east of
the Roman road on its undulating but perfectly straight course until
it drops to Headbourne Worthy.

As we descend the last few miles the ancient capital of Wessex and of
England is seen ahead lying in the lap of its enfolding hills. The
blunt and stern outline of the grey cathedral is softened by the misty
veil, shot with mingled gold and pearl, that rests softly over the
valley and that obliterates everything mean and unworthy in the scene
before us. Just as the memories of great and famous days that cling
round the old towns of Wessex--threads of faith and chivalry, valour
and high endeavour--make an opalescent robe to hide for a moment the
futilities of the present.

[Illustration: MAP OF WESSEX.]


Abbot's Worthy
Alfred's Tower
All Cannings
Allen, Ralph
Allen River
Alton Berners
Alton Priors
Amesbury, West
Anne Boleyn
Anning, Mary
Ansty Hill
Anvil Point
Arish Mel
Arnold, Dr.
Arundell of Wardour
Aubrey, John
Aurelius Ambrosius
Austen, Jane
Avebury, Lord
Avon (Bristol)
Avon (Southern)
Axe, River
Ayscough, Bp.

Babylon Hill
Bacon, Roger
Badbury Hill
Bailey Gate
Baleares, The
Ballands Castle
Ballard Down
Banbury Hill
Bankes, Sir John
Barbury Camp
Barford St. Martin
Barn Door
Barnes, Wm.
Barrow Hill
Barton, Wm.
Battlesbury Camp
Beacon Hill
Beaufort, Cardinal
Beaufort, John
Beaulieu River
Beckford, Wm.
Beer Head
Benham Park
Bere Regis
Berthon, Mr.
Berwick Basset
Berwick, St. James
Berwick, St. John
Bicton Park
Bilbury Ring
Bindon Abbey
Bindon Hill
Bishop's Cannings
Blackdowns, The
Blacklough Castle
Blackmore Vale
Blake, Admiral
Bourne Valley
Bovey House
Bower Chalke
Bowles Family
Bradford Abbas
Branscombe Hill
Bratton Castle
Bratton Seymour
Bride River
Broad Chalke
Browne, Bp. Harold
Browning, Robert
Brownsea Island
Bubb Down
Bucket, John
Buckingham, Duke of
Buckland Rings
Budleigh Salterton
Bulbarrow Hill
Burford Park
Burney, Fanny
Burton Bradstock
Butser Hill
Buzbury Rings

Cadbury, North and South
Cadbury Castle
Caer Gwent
Calshot Castle
Camel, Queen's and West
Campeden, John de
Castle Cary
Castle Hill
Caundle Purse
Cerne, The
Cerne Abbas
Chalbury Camp
Chaldon Herring
Challow Hill
Chapman's Pool
Chard, Thos.
Charles I
Charles II
Charles X of France
Chatham, Lord
Cherhill Down
Chesil Bank
Chilton Foliat
Chisbury Hill
Chislebury Camp
Churchend Ring
Church Hope Cove
Church Oakley
Churchill, Winston
Church Hill
Civil War
Clatford Bottom
Clearbury Camp
Cley Hill
Cobbett (_Rural Rides_)
Codford, St. Mary
Codford, St. Peter
Coleridge, S.T.
Collingbourne Ducis
Collingbourne Kingston
Combe Gallows
Compton Abbas
Compton Chamberlaine
Coney Castle
Coombe Bisset
Copley Hill
Coram, Capt.
Corfe Castle
Cowden Hill
Cranborne Chase
Crawford Castle
Creech Barrow
Creech Hill
Crete Hill
Cricket, St. Thomas
Cromwell, Oliver
Cromwell, Richard

Damory Court
Dampier, Wm.
Danes, The
Dauntsey School, etc.
Deadman's Bay
De Aquila
De Blois, Bp.
De Burgh, Hubert
De Campeden, John
De Chideock
De Lacy, Bp.
Delaval, Sir Francis
De Longespee, Wm.
De Mauleon, Savaric
De Montacute, John
Deverill Villages
"Devil's Den"
Dickens, Chas.
Dodington, G. Bubb
Donhead St. Andrew
Donhead St. Mary
Dorchester (Oxon)
Dorset Dialect
Dorset Heaths
Dowlish Wake
Drake, Sir Francis
Dumpdon Hill
Dunstan, Archbp.
Durdle Door

Ealhstan, Bp.
Earle, Sir Walter
East Chinnock
East Coker
East Knoyle
East Meon
East Stratton
East Wellow
Ebbesborne Wake
Ebble Valley
Edmund, Ironside
Edward Confessor
Edward the Martyr
Edyngton, Bp.
"Egdon Heath"
Eggardon Hill
Eldon, Lord
Eleanor, Princess
Eleanor, Queen
Elizabeth, Queen
Ellandune, Battle of
Etricke, Anthony

Farleigh Wallop
Fawcett, Henry
Fifield Bavant
Figsbury Rings
Five Maries
Fisherton Delamere
Flowers Barrow
Fonthill Abbey
Fonthill Giffard
Fontmell Magna
Ford Abbey
Forster, W.E.
Fortunes Well
Fosse Way
Fox, Bp.
Frome, River
Fuller, Thos.
Furzy Cliff

Gad Cliff
Geoffrey of Monmouth
George III
Gloucester, Duke of
Glover, Richard
Golden Cap
Great Bedwyn
Great Wishford
Gresham, Sir Thomas
"Grey Mare"
Grovely Wood

Hackpen Hill,
Hamble River
Hambledon Hill
Handfast Point
Hanging Langford Camp
Hardy, Admiral
Hardy, Thomas
Harewood Forest
Hazlitt, Wm
Headbourne Worthy
Heale House
Hengistbury Head
Henover Hill
Henry II
Henry III
Henry VI
Henry VII
Henry VIII
Henry of Huntingdon
Henstridge Down
Herbert, George
High Stoy
Hinton Admiral
Hinton Parva
Hinton St. George
Hinton St. Mary
Hod Hill
Holton Heath
Holworth Cliff
Horsey, Sir John
Horton Down
Hubert, Bp.
Hungerford, Sir Edward
Hunter's Lodge
Hurstbourne Priors
Hurstbourne Tarrant
Hurst Castle

Icknield Way
Inkpen Beacon
Isle of Wight
Isle, River
Itchen, River
Itchen Abbas
Iwerne Courtenay
Iwerne Minster

Jack Straw's Castle
James I
James II
Jefferies, Richard
Jeffreys, Judge
Jesty, Benj.
Jewel, Bp.
John of Gaunt
Johnson, Dr.
Joliffe, Capt.
Jones, Inigo
Jonson, Ben
Joscelyn, Bp.

Keble, John
Kempshott Park
Ken, Bp.
Kennet, River
Kimmeridge Bay
Kingsettle Hill
Kingsley, Chas.
Kingsmill, Prior
King's Somborne
Kingston, Lacy
Kingston, Russell
King's Worthy
Knapp Hill
Knights' Enham
Knightwood Oak
Knowle Hill
Konigsmark, Count

Ladle Hill
Lamb, Chas.
Lambert's Castle
Lambourne Downs
Langdon Hill
Langton Herring
Langton Matravers
Lawrence, Sir Thos.
Lea, Lord Herbert of
Lewsdon Hill
Littlecote Manor
Lisle, Mrs. Alicia
Litchfield Down
Little Bedwyn
Little Bredy
Little Durnford
Little Langford
Little London
Litton Cheyney
Lockyer, Sir Norman
Long Barrow, The
Long Bredy
Longford Castle
Long Knoll
Louis the Dauphin
Lovells, The
Ludlow, Edmund
Lulworth Castle
Lulworth Cove
Lulworth East
Lulworth West
Lyme Regis
Lytchett Beacon
Lytchett Matravers
Lytchett Minster

Maiden Bradley
Maiden Castle
Maiden Newton
Manningford Abbots
Manningford Bruce
Margaret of Anjou
Mark Ash
Market Lavington
Markway Hill
Marlborough Downs
Marshwood Vale
Marston Magna
Martyr's Worthy
Marwood, Thos.
Mary I
Maud, Empress
Maumbury Rings
Melbury Abbas
Melbury Bubb
Melbury Downs
Melbury Sampford
Melcombe Regis
Middle Down
Middle Wallop
Milborne Port
Milk Hill
Milton Abbas
Milton Abbey
Mitford, Mary Russell
Monk Sherborne
Monmouth, Duke of
Morton Bavant
Motley, J.L.
Moule, Bp.
Mowlem and Burt
Mupe Bay

Nadder Valley
Nash Court
Nether Cerne
Nether Wallop
Netley Abbey
Netley Castle
Newenham Abbey
New Forest
Newman, Cardinal
New Milton
Newton Tony
Nightingale, Florence
Nine Barrows Down
North, Bp. Brownlow
North Waltham

Oakford Fitzpaine
Oat Hill
Ogbury Camp
Olaus of Norway
Old Sarum
"Orator Hunt"
Osmington Mills
Osmund, Bp.
Otter River
Ottery St. Mary
Overton Hill
Over Wallop

Page, Harry
Palmer, Julian
Parnham Park
Paulet, John
Pennsylvania Castle
Penruddocke, Col.
Pentridge Hill
Pepys, Samuel
Perkin Warbeck
Peter of Pontefract
Peveril Point
Pewsey, Vale of
Philip of Castile
Pilgrim Fathers
Pilsdon Pen
Pimperne Down
Pitman, Col.
Pitt Down
Pitt Family
Place House, Tisbury
Preston Harbour
Poore, Bp.
Portal Family
Port Way
Poticary, Jerome
Pouletts, The
Poundbury Camp
Prescombe Down
Preston Pucknell
Prior, Matthew
Puddle River
Purbeck Hills
Purbeck Marble


Raleigh, Sir Walter
Raymond's Hill
Red Cross
Redlynch Hill
Richard, I
Richard, III
Richard, Earl of Cambridge
Ring's Hill
Robert of Gloucester
Roger, Bp.
Roundway Down
Rufus Castle
Rupert, Prince
Russell, John

Sacheverell, Dr.
Saint Aldhelm
Saint Aldhelm's Head
Saint Alfreda
Saint Boniface
Saint Candida
Saint Catherine's Chapel
Saint Catherine's Hill
Saint Cross
Saint Edyth
Saint Elizabeth's College
Saint Grimald
Saint John a Gore's Cross
Saint Leonards
Saint Mary's College
Saint Swithun
Salcombe Regis
Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Plain
Sandford Orcas
Sandsfoot Castle
"Sarum, Use of,"
Savernake Forest
Scratchbury Camp
Seacombe Cliff
Shaw House
Sheepless Down
Shepherd's Shore
Sherborne St. John
Shipton Bellinger
Sidney, Sir Philip
Silbury Hill
Skipton Beacon
Skipton Gorge
Sleeping Green
Smallwood, John
Smith, Sidney
Somers, Sir Geo.
Southampton Water
South Newton
South Petherton
Spanish Armada
Stair Hole

Book of the day: