This etext was prepared by David Price firstname.lastname@example.org, from the 1888 Cassell & Company edition.
From London to Land’s End
I find so much left to speak of, and so many things to say in every part of England, that my journey cannot be barren of intelligence which way soever I turn; no, though I were to oblige myself to say nothing of anything that had been spoken of before.
I intended once to have gone due west this journey; but then I should have been obliged to crowd my observations so close (to bring Hampton Court, Windsor, Blenheim, Oxford, the Bath and Bristol all into one letter; all those remarkable places lying in a line, as it were, in one point of the compass) as to have made my letter too long, or my observations too light and superficial, as others have done before me.
This letter will divide the weighty task, and consequently make it sit lighter on the memory, be pleasanter to the reader, and make my progress the more regular: I shall therefore take in Hampton Court and Windsor in this journey; the first at my setting out, and the last at my return, and the rest as their situation demands.
As I came down from Kingston, in my last circuit, by the south bank of the Thames, on the Surrey side of the river; so I go up to Hampton Court now on the north bank, and on the Middlesex side, which I mention, because, as the sides of the country bordering on the river lie parallel, so the beauty of the country, the pleasant situations, the glory of innumerable fine buildings (noblemen’s and gentlemen’s houses, and citizens’ retreats), are so equal a match to what I had described on the other side that one knows not which to give the preference to: but as I must speak of them again, when I come to write of the county of Middlesex, which I have now purposely omitted; so I pass them over here, except the palace of Hampton only, which I mentioned in “Middlesex,” for the reasons above.
Hampton Court lies on the north bank of the River Thames, about two small miles from Kingston, and on the road from Staines to Kingston Bridge; so that the road straightening the parks a little, they were obliged to part the parks, and leave the Paddock and the great park part on the other side the road–a testimony of that just regard that the kings of England always had, and still have, to the common good, and to the service of the country, that they would not interrupt the course of the road, or cause the poor people to go out of the way of their business to or from the markets and fairs, for any pleasure of their own whatsoever.
The palace of Hampton Court was first founded and built from the ground by that great statesman and favourite of King Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey; and if it be a just observation anywhere, as is made from the situation of the old abbeys and monasteries, the clergy were excellent judges of the beauty and pleasantness of the country, and chose always to plant in the best; I say, if it was a just observation in any case, it was in this; for if there be a situation on the whole river between Staines Bridge and Windsor Bridge pleasanter than another, it is this of Hampton; close to the river, yet not offended by the rising of its waters in floods or storms; near to the reflux of the tides, but not quite so near as to be affected with any foulness of the water which the flowing of the tides generally is the occasion of. The gardens extend almost to the bank of the river, yet are never overflowed; nor are there any marshes on either side the river to make the waters stagnate, or the air unwholesome on that account. The river is high enough to be navigable, and low enough to be a little pleasantly rapid; so that the stream looks always cheerful, not slow and sleeping, like a pond. This keeps the waters always clear and clean, the bottom in view, the fish playing and in sight; and, in a word, it has everything that can make an inland (or, as I may call it, a country) river pleasant and agreeable.
I shall sing you no songs here of the river in the first person of a water-nymph, a goddess, and I know not what, according to the humour of the ancient poets; I shall talk nothing of the marriage of old Isis, the male river, with the beautiful Thame, the female river (a whimsey as simple as the subject was empty); but I shall speak of the river as occasion presents, as it really is made glorious by the splendour of its shores, gilded with noble palaces, strong fortifications, large hospitals, and public buildings; with the greatest bridge, and the greatest city in the world, made famous by the opulence of its merchants, the increase and extensiveness of its commerce; by its invincible navies, and by the innumerable fleets of ships sailing upon it to and from all parts of the world.
As I meet with the river upwards in my travels through the inland country I shall speak of it, as it is the channel for conveying an infinite quantity of provisions from remote counties to London, and enriching all the counties again that lie near it by the return of wealth and trade from the city; and in describing these things I expect both to inform and divert my readers, and speak in a more masculine manner, more to the dignity of the subject, and also more to their satisfaction, than I could do any other way.
There is little more to be said of the Thames relating to Hampton Court, than that it adds by its neighbourhood to the pleasure of the situation; for as to passing by water to and from London, though in summer it is exceeding pleasant, yet the passage is a little too long to make it easy to the ladies, especially to be crowded up in the small boats which usually go upon the Thames for pleasure.
The prince and princess, indeed, I remember came once down by water upon the occasion of her Royal Highness’s being great with child, and near her time–so near that she was delivered within two or three days after. But this passage being in the royal barges, with strength of oars, and the day exceeding fine, the passage, I say, was made very pleasant, and still the more so for being short. Again, this passage is all the way with the stream, whereas in the common passage upwards great part of the way is against the stream, which is slow and heavy.
But be the going and coming how it will by water, it is an exceeding pleasant passage by land, whether we go by the Surrey side or the Middlesex side of the water, of which I shall say more in its place.
The situation of Hampton Court being thus mentioned, and its founder, it is to be mentioned next that it fell to the Crown in the forfeiture of his Eminence the Cardinal, when the king seized his effects and estate, by which this and Whitehall (another house of his own building also) came to King Henry VIII. Two palaces fit for the kings of England, erected by one cardinal, are standing monuments of the excessive pride as well as the immense wealth of that prelate, who knew no bounds of his insolence and ambition till he was overthrown at once by the displeasure of his master.
Whoever knew Hampton Court before it was begun to be rebuilt, or altered, by the late King William, must acknowledge it was a very complete palace before, and fit for a king; and though it might not, according to the modern method of building or of gardening, pass for a thing exquisitely fine, yet it had this remaining to itself, and perhaps peculiar–namely, that it showed a situation exceedingly capable of improvement, and of being made one of the most delightful palaces in Europe.
This her Majesty Queen Mary was so sensible of, that, while the king had ordered the pulling down the old apartments, and building it up in that most beautiful form which we see them now appear in, her Majesty, impatient of enjoying so agreeable a retreat, fixed upon a building formerly made use of chiefly for landing from the river, and therefore called the Water Galley, and here, as if she had been conscious that she had but a few years to enjoy it, she ordered all the little neat curious things to be done which suited her own conveniences, and made it the pleasantest little thing within doors that could possibly be made, though its situation being such as it could not be allowed to stand after the great building was finished, we now see no remains of it.
The queen had here her gallery of beauties, being the pictures at full-length of the principal ladies attending upon her Majesty, or who were frequently in her retinue; and this was the more beautiful sight because the originals were all in being, and often to be compared with their pictures. Her Majesty had here a fine apartment, with a set of lodgings for her private retreat only, but most exquisitely furnished, particularly a fine chintz bed, then a great curiosity; another of her own work while in Holland, very magnificent, and several others; and here was also her Majesty’s fine collection of Delft ware, which indeed was very large and fine; and here was also a vast stock of fine china ware, the like whereof was not then to be seen in England; the long gallery, as above, was filled with this china, and every other place where it could be placed with advantage.
The queen had here also a small bathing-room, made very fine, suited either to hot or cold bathing, as the season should invite; also a dairy, with all its conveniences, in which her Majesty took great delight. All these things were finished with expedition, that here their Majesties might repose while they saw the main building go forward. While this was doing, the gardens were laid out, the plan of them devised by the king himself, and especially the amendments and alterations were made by the king or the queen’s particular special command, or by both, for their Majesties agreed so well in their fancy, and had both so good judgment in the just proportions of things, which are the principal beauties of a garden, that it may be said they both ordered everything that was done.
Here the fine parcel of limes which form the semicircle on the south front of the house by the iron gates, looking into the park, were by the dexterous hand of the head gardener removed, after some of them had been almost thirty years planted in other places, though not far off. I know the King of France in the decoration of the gardens of Versailles had oaks removed, which by their dimensions must have been above an hundred years old, and yet were taken up with so much art, and by the strength of such engines, by which such a monstrous quantity of earth was raised with them, that the trees could not feel their remove–that is to say, their growth was not at all hindered. This, I confess, makes the wonder much the less in those trees at Hampton Court gardens; but the performance was not the less difficult or nice, however, in these, and they thrive perfectly well.
While the gardens were thus laid out, the king also directed the laying the pipes for the fountains and JET-D’EAUX, and particularly the dimensions of them, and what quantity of water they should cast up, and increased the number of them after the first design.
The ground on the side of the other front has received some alterations since the taking down the Water Galley; but not that part immediately next the lodgings. The orange-trees and fine Dutch bays are placed within the arches of the building under the first floor; so that the lower part of the house was all one as a greenhouse for sometime. Here stand advanced, on two pedestals of stone, two marble vases or flower-pots of most exquisite workmanship–the one done by an Englishman, and the other by a German. It is hard to say which is the best performance, though the doing of it was a kind of trial of skill between them; but it gives us room, without any partiality, to say they were both masters of their art.
The PARTERRE on that side descends from the terrace-walk by steps, and on the left a terrace goes down to the water-side, from which the garden on the eastward front is overlooked, and gives a most pleasant prospect.
The fine scrolls and BORDURE of these gardens were at first edged with box, but on the queen’s disliking the smell those edgings were taken up, but have since been planted again–at least, in many places–nothing making so fair and regular an edging as box, or is so soon brought to its perfection.
On the north side of the house, where the gardens seemed to want screening from the weather or the view of the chapel, and some part of the old building required to be covered from the eye, the vacant ground, which was large, is very happily cast into a wilderness, with a labyrinth and ESPALIERS so high that they effectually take off all that part of the old building which would have been offensive to the sight. This labyrinth and wilderness is not only well designed, and completely finished, but is perfectly well kept, and the ESPALIERS filled exactly at bottom, to the very ground, and are led up to proportioned heights on the top, so that nothing of that kind can be more beautiful.
The house itself is every way answerable on the outside to the beautiful prospect, and the two fronts are the largest and, beyond comparison, the finest of the kind in England. The great stairs go up from the second court of the palace on the right hand, and lead you to the south prospect.
I hinted in my last that King William brought into England the love of fine paintings as well as that of fine gardens; and you have an example of it in the cartoons, as they are called, being five pieces of such paintings as, if you will believe men of nice judgment and great travelling, are not to be matched in Europe. The stories are known, but especially two of them–viz., that of St. Paul preaching on Mars Hill to the self-wise Athenians, and that of St. Peter passing sentence of death on Ananias–I say, these two strike the mind with the utmost surprise, the passions are so drawn to the life; astonishment, terror, and death in the face of Ananias, zeal and a sacred fire in the eyes of the blessed Apostle, fright and surprise upon the countenances of the beholders in the piece of Ananias; all these describe themselves so naturally that you cannot but seem to discover something of the like passions, even in seeing them.
In the other there is the boldness and courage with which St. Paul undertook to talk to a set of men who, he knew, despised all the world, as thinking themselves able to teach them anything. In the audience there is anticipating pride and conceit in some, a smile or fleer of contempt in others, but a kind of sensible conviction, though crushed in its beginning, on the faces of the rest; and all together appear confounded, but have little to say, and know nothing at all of it; they gravely put him off to hear him another time; all these are seen here in the very dress of the face–that is, the very countenances which they hold while they listen to the new doctrine which the Apostle preached to a people at that time ignorant of it.
The other of the cartoons are exceeding fine but I mention these as the particular two which are most lively, which strike the fancy the soonest at first view. It is reported, but with what truth I know not, that the late French king offered an hundred thousand LOUIS D’ORS for these pictures; but this, I say, is but a report. The king brought a great many other fine pieces to England, and with them the love of fine paintings so universally spread itself among the nobility and persons of figure all over the kingdom that it is incredible what collections have been made by English gentlemen since that time, and how all Europe has been rummaged, as we may say, for pictures to bring over hither, where for twenty years they yielded the purchasers, such as collected them for sale, immense profit. But the rates are abated since that, and we begin to be glutted with the copies and frauds of the Dutch and Flemish painters who have imposed grossly upon us. But to return to the palace of Hampton Court. Queen Mary lived not to see it completely finished, and her death, with the other difficulties of that reign, put a stop to the works for some time till the king, reviving his good liking of the place, set them to work again, and it was finished as we see it. But I have been assured that had the peace continued, and the king lived to enjoy the continuance of it, his Majesty had resolved to have pulled down all the remains of the old building (such as the chapel and the large court within the first gate), and to have built up the whole palace after the manner of those two fronts already done. In these would have been an entire set of rooms of state for the receiving and, if need had been, lodging and entertaining any foreign prince with his retinue; also offices for all the Secretaries of State, Lords of the Treasury, and of Trade, to have repaired to for the despatch of such business as it might be necessary to have done there upon the king’s longer residence there than ordinary; as also apartments for all the great officers of the Household; so that had the house had two great squares added, as was designed, there would have been no room to spare, or that would not have been very well filled. But the king’s death put an end to all these things.
Since the death of King William, Hampton Court seemed abandoned of its patron. They have gotten a kind of proverbial saying relating to Hampton Court, viz., that it has been generally chosen by every other prince since it became a house of note. King Charles was the first that delighted in it since Queen Elizabeth’s time. As for the reigns before, it was but newly forfeited to the Crown, and was not made a royal house till King Charles I., who was not only a prince that delighted in country retirements, but knew how to make choice of them by the beauty of their situation, the goodness of the air, &c. He took great delight here, and, had he lived to enjoy it in peace, had purposed to make it another thing than it was. But we all know what took him off from that felicity, and all others; and this house was at last made one of his prisons by his rebellious subjects.
His son, King Charles II., may well be said to have an aversion to the place, for the reason just mentioned–namely, the treatment his royal father met with there–and particularly that the rebel and murderer of his father, Cromwell, afterwards possessed this palace, and revelled here in the blood of the royal party, as he had done in that of his sovereign. King Charles II. therefore chose Windsor, and bestowed a vast sum in beautifying the castle there, and which brought it to the perfection we see it in at this day– some few alterations excepted, done in the time of King William.
King William (for King James is not to be named as to his choice of retired palaces, his delight running quite another way)–I say, King William fixed upon Hampton Court, and it was in his reign that Hampton Court put on new clothes, and, being dressed gay and glorious, made the figure we now see it in.
The late queen, taken up for part of her reign in her kind regards to the prince her spouse, was obliged to reside where her care of his health confined her, and in this case kept for the most part at Kensington, where he died; but her Majesty always discovered her delight to be at Windsor, where she chose the little house, as it was called, opposite to the Castle, and took the air in her chaise in the parks and forest as she saw occasion.
Now Hampton Court, by the like alternative, is come into request again; and we find his present Majesty, who is a good judge too of the pleasantness and situation of a place of that kind, has taken Hampton Court into his favour, and has made it much his choice for the summer’s retreat of the Court, and where they may best enjoy the diversions of the season. When Hampton Court will find such another favourable juncture as in King William’s time, when the remainder of her ashes shall be swept away, and her complete fabric, as designed by King William, shall be finished, I cannot tell; but if ever that shall be, I know no palace in Europe, Versailles excepted, which can come up to her, either for beauty and magnificence, or for extent of building, and the ornaments attending it.
From Hampton Court I directed my course for a journey into the south-west part of England; and to take up my beginning where I concluded my last, I crossed to Chertsey on the Thames, a town I mentioned before; from whence, crossing the Black Desert, as I called it, of Bagshot Heath, I directed my course for Hampshire or Hantshire, and particularly for Basingstoke–that is to say, that a little before, I passed into the great Western Road upon the heath, somewhat west of Bagshot, at a village called Blackwater, and entered Hampshire, near Hartleroe.
Before we reach Basingstoke, we get rid of that unpleasant country which I so often call a desert, and enter into a pleasant fertile country, enclosed and cultivated like the rest of England; and passing a village or two we enter Basingstoke, in the midst of woods and pastures, rich and fertile, and the country accordingly spread with the houses of the nobility and gentry, as in other places. On the right hand, a little before we come to the town, we pass at a small distance the famous fortress, so it was then, of Basing, being a house belonging then to the Marquis of Winchester, the great ancestor of the present family of the Dukes of Bolton.
This house, garrisoned by a resolute band of old soldiers, was a great curb to the rebels of the Parliament party almost through that whole war; till it was, after a vigorous defence, yielded to the conquerors by the inevitable fate of things at that time. The old house is, indeed, demolished but the successor of the family, the first Duke of Bolton, has erected a very noble fabric in the same place, or near it, which, however, is not equal to the magnificence which fame gives to the ancient house, whose strength of building only, besides the outworks, withstood the battery of cannon in several attacks, and repulsed the Roundheads three or four times when they attempted to besiege it. It is incredible what booty the garrison of this place picked up, lying as they did just on the great Western Road, where they intercepted the carriers, plundered the waggons, and suffered nothing to pass–to the great interruption of the trade of the city of London,
Basingstoke is a large populous market-town, has a good market for corn, and lately within a very few years is fallen into a manufacture, viz., of making druggets and shalloons, and such slight goods, which, however, employs a good number of the poor people, and enables them to get their bread, which knew not how to get it before.
From hence the great Western Road goes on to Whitchurch and Andover, two market-towns, and sending members to Parliament; at the last of which the Downs, or open country, begins, which we in general, though falsely, call Salisbury Plain. But my resolution being to take in my view what I had passed by before, I was obliged to go off to the left hand, to Alresford and Winchester.
Alresford was a flourishing market-town, and remarkable for this– that though it had no great trade, and particularly very little, if any, manufactures, yet there was no collection in the town for the poor, nor any poor low enough to take alms of the parish, which is what I do not think can be said of any town in England besides.
But this happy circumstance, which so distinguished Alresford from all her neighbours, was brought to an end in the year -, when by a sudden and surprising fire the whole town, with both the church and the market-house, was reduced to a heap of rubbish; and, except a few poor huts at the remotest ends of the town, not a house left standing. The town is since that very handsomely rebuilt, and the neighbouring gentlemen contributed largely to the relief of the people, especially by sending in timber towards their building; also their market-house is handsomely built, but the church not yet, though we hear there is a fund raising likewise for that.
Here is a very large pond, or lake of water, kept up to a head by a strong BATTER D’EAU, or dam, which the people tell us was made by the Romans; and that it is to this day part of the great Roman highway which leads from Winchester to Alton, and, as it is supposed, went on to London, though we nowhere see any remains of it, except between Winchester and Alton, and chiefly between this town and Alton.
Near this town, a little north-west, the Duke of Bolton has another seat, which, though not large, is a very handsome beautiful palace, and the gardens not only very exact, but very finely situate, the prospect and vistas noble and great, and the whole very well kept.
From hence, at the end of seven miles over the Downs, we come to the very ancient city of Winchester; not only the great church (which is so famous all over Europe, and has been so much talked of), but even the whole city has at a distance the face of venerable, and looks ancient afar off; and yet here are many modern buildings too, and some very handsome; as the college schools, with the bishop’s palace, built by Bishop Morley since the late wars– the old palace of the bishop having been ruined by that known church incendiary Sir William Waller and his crew of plunderers, who, if my information is not wrong, as I believe it is not, destroyed more monuments of the dead, and defaced more churches, than all the Roundheads in England beside.
This church, and the schools also are accurately described by several writers, especially by the “Monasticon,” where their antiquity and original is fully set forth. The outside of the church is as plain and coarse as if the founders had abhorred ornaments, or that William of Wickham had been a Quaker, or at least a Quietist. There is neither statue, nor a niche for a statue, to be seen on all the outside; no carved work, no spires, towers, pinnacles, balustrades, or anything; but mere walls, buttresses, windows, and coigns necessary to the support and order of the building. It has no steeple, but a short tower covered flat, as if the top of it had fallen down, and it had been covered in haste to keep the rain out till they had time to build it up again.
But the inside of the church has many very good things in it, and worth observation; it was for some ages the burying-place of the English Saxon kings, whose RELIQUES, at the repair of the church, were collected by Bishop Fox, and being put together into large wooden chests lined with lead were again interred at the foot of the great wall in the choir, three on one side, and three on the other, with an account whose bones are in each chest. Whether the division of the RELIQUES might be depended upon, has been doubted, but is not thought material, so that we do but believe they are all there.
The choir of the church appears very magnificent; the roof is very high, and the Gothic work in the arched part is very fine, though very old; the painting in the windows is admirably good, and easy to be distinguished by those that understand those things: the steps ascending to the choir make a very fine show, having the statues of King James and his son King Charles, in copper, finely cast; the first on the right hand, and the other on the left, as you go up to the choir.
The choir is said to be the longest in England; and as the number of prebendaries, canons, &c., are many, it required such a length. The ornaments of the choir are the effects of the bounty of several bishops. The fine altar (the noblest in England by much) was done by Bishop Morley; the roof and the coat-of-arms of the Saxon and Norman kings were done by Bishop Fox; and the fine throne for the bishop in the choir was given by Bishop Mew in his lifetime; and it was well it was for if he had ordered it by will, there is reason to believe it had never been done–that reverend prelate, notwithstanding he enjoyed so rich a bishopric, scarce leaving money enough behind him to pay for his coffin.
There are a great many persons of rank buried in this church, besides the Saxon kings mentioned above, and besides several of the most eminent bishops of the See. Just under the altar lies a son of William the Conqueror, without any monument; and behind the altar, under a very fine and venerable monument, lies the famous Lord Treasurer Weston, late Earl of Portland, Lord High Treasurer of England under King Charles I. His effigy is in copper armour at full-length, with his head raised on three cushions of the same, and is a very magnificent work. There is also a very fine monument of Cardinal Beaufort in his cardinal’s robes and hat.
The monument of Sir John Cloberry is extraordinary, but more because it puts strangers upon inquiring into his story than for anything wonderful in the figure, it being cut in a modern dress (the habit gentlemen wore in those times, which, being now so much out of fashion, appears mean enough). But this gentleman’s story is particular, being the person solely entrusted with the secret of the restoration of King Charles II., as the messenger that passed between General Monk on one hand, and Mr. Montague and others entrusted by King Charles II. on the other hand; which he managed so faithfully as to effect that memorable event, to which England owes the felicity of all her happy days since that time; by which faithful service Sir John Cloberry, then a private musketeer only, raised himself to the honour of a knight, with the reward of a good estate from the bounty of the king.
Everybody that goes into this church, and reads what is to be read there, will be told that the body of the church was built by the famous William of Wickham; whose monument, intimating his fame, lies in the middle of that part which was built at his expense.
He was a courtier before a bishop; and, though he had no great share of learning, he was a great promoter of it, and a lover of learned men. His natural genius was much beyond his acquired parts, and his skill in politics beyond his ecclesiastic knowledge. He is said to have put his master, King Edward III., to whom he was Secretary of State, upon the two great projects which made his reign so glorious, viz.:- First, upon setting up his claim to the crown of France, and pushing that claim by force of arms, which brought on the war with France, in which that prince was three times victorious in battle. (2) Upon setting up, or instituting the Order of the Garter; in which he (being before that made Bishop of Winchester) obtained the honour for the Bishops of Winchester of being always prelates of the Order, as an appendix to the bishopric; and he himself was the first prelate of the Order, and the ensigns of that honour are joined with his episcopal ornaments in the robing of his effigy on the monument above.
To the honour of this bishop, there are other foundations of his, as much to his fame as that of this church, of which I shall speak in their order; but particularly the college in this city, which is a noble foundation indeed. The building consists of two large courts, in which are the lodgings for the masters and scholars, and in the centre a very noble chapel; beyond that, in the second court, are the schools, with a large cloister beyond them, and some enclosures laid open for the diversion of the scholars. There also is a great hall, where the scholars dine. The funds for the support of this college are very considerable; the masters live in a very good figure, and their maintenance is sufficient to support it. They have all separate dwellings in the house, and all possible conveniences appointed them.
The scholars have exhibitions at a certain time of continuance here, if they please to study in the new college at Oxford, built by the same noble benefactor, of which I shall speak in its order.
The clergy here live at large, and very handsomely, in the Close belonging to the cathedral; where, besides the bishop’s palace mentioned above, are very good houses, and very handsomely built, for the prebendaries, canons, and other dignitaries of this church. The Deanery is a very pleasant dwelling, the gardens very large, and the river running through them; but the floods in winter sometimes incommode the gardens very much.
This school has fully answered the end of the founder, who, though he was no great scholar, resolved to erect a house for the making the ages to come more learned than those that went before; and it has, I say, fully answered the end, for many learned and great men have been raised here, some of whom we shall have occasion to mention as we go on.
Among the many private inscriptions in this church, we found one made by Dr. Over, once an eminent physician in this city, on a mother and child, who, being his patients, died together and were buried in the same grave, and which intimate that one died of a fever, and the other of a dropsy:
“Surrepuit natum Febris, matrem abstulit Hydrops, Igne Prior Fatis, Altera cepit Aqua.”
As the city itself stands in a vale on the bank, and at the conjunction of two small rivers, so the country rising every way, but just as the course of the water keeps the valley open, you must necessarily, as you go out of the gates, go uphill every wry; but when once ascended, you come to the most charming plains and most pleasant country of that kind in England; which continues with very small intersections of rivers and valleys for above fifty miles, as shall appear in the sequel of this journey.
At the west gate of this city was anciently a castle, known to be so by the ruins more than by any extraordinary notice taken of it in history. What they say of it, that the Saxon kings kept their court here, is doubtful, and must be meant of the West Saxons only. And as to the tale of King Arthur’s Round Table, which they pretend was kept here for him and his two dozen of knights (which table hangs up still, as a piece of antiquity to the tune of twelve hundred years, and has, as they pretend, the names of the said knights in Saxon characters, and yet such as no man can read), all this story I see so little ground to give the least credit to that I look upon it, and it shall please you, to be no better than a fib.
Where this castle stood, or whatever else it was (for some say there was no castle there), the late King Charles II. marked out a very noble design, which, had he lived, would certainly have made that part of the country the Newmarket of the ages to come; for the country hereabout far excels that of Newmarket Heath for all kinds of sport and diversion fit for a prince, nobody can dispute. And as the design included a noble palace (sufficient, like Windsor, for a summer residence of the whole court), it would certainly have diverted the king from his cursory journeys to Newmarket.
The plan of this house has received several alterations, and as it is never like to be finished, it is scarce worth recording the variety. The building is begun, and the front next the city carried up to the roof and covered, but the remainder is not begun. There was a street of houses designed from the gate of the palace down to the town, but it was never begun to be built; the park marked out was exceeding large, near ten miles in circumference, and ended west upon the open Downs, in view of the town of Stockbridge.
This house was afterwards settled, with a royal revenue also, as an appanage (established by Parliament) upon Prince George of Denmark for his life, in case he had out-lived the queen; but his Royal Highness dying before her Majesty, all hope of seeing this design perfected, or the house finished, is now vanished.
I cannot omit that there are several public edifices in this city and in the neighbourhood, as the hospitals and the building adjoining near the east gate; and towards the north a piece of an old monastery undemolished, and which is still preserved to the religion, being the residence of some private Roman Catholic gentlemen, where they have an oratory, and, as they say, live still according to the rules of St. Benedict. This building is called Hide House; and as they live very usefully, and to the highest degree obliging among their neighbours, they meet with no obstruction or disturbance from anybody.
Winchester is a place of no trade other than is naturally occasioned by the inhabitants of the city and neighbouring villages one with another. Here is no manufacture, no navigation; there was indeed an attempt to make the river navigable from Southampton, and it was once made practicable, but it never answered the expense so as to give encouragement to the undertakers.
Here is a great deal of good company, and abundance of gentry being in the neighbourhood, it adds to the sociableness of the place. The clergy also here are, generally speaking, very rich and very numerous.
As there is such good company, so they are gotten into that new- fashioned way of conversing by assemblies. I shall do no more than mention them here; they are pleasant and agreeable to the young peoples, and sometimes fatal to them, of which, in its place, Winchester has its share of the mirth. May it escape the ill- consequences!
The hospital on the south of this city, at a mile distant on the road to Southampton, is worth notice. It is said to be founded by King William Rufus, but was not endowed or appointed till later times by Cardinal Beaufort. Every traveller that knocks at the door of this house in his way, and asks for it, claims the relief of a piece of white bread and a cup of beer, and this donation is still continued. A quantity of good beer is set apart every day to be given away, and what is left is distributed to other poor, but none of it kept to the next day.
How the revenues of this hospital, which should maintain the master and thirty private gentlemen (whom they call Fellows, but ought to call Brothers), is now reduced to maintain only fourteen, while the master lives in a figure equal to the best gentleman in the country, would be well worth the inquiry of a proper visitor, if such can be named. It is a thing worthy of complaint when public charities, designed for the relief of the poor, are embezzled and depredated by the rich, and turned to the support of luxury and pride.
From Winchester is about twenty-five miles, and over the most charming plains that can anywhere be seen (far, in my opinion, excelling the plains of Mecca), we come to Salisbury. The vast flocks of sheep which one everywhere sees upon these Downs, and the great number of those flocks, is a sight truly worth observation; it is ordinary for these flocks to contain from three thousand to five thousand in a flock, and several private farmers hereabouts have two or three such flocks.
But it is more remarkable still how a great part of these Downs comes, by a new method of husbandry, to be not only made arable (which they never were in former days), but to bear excellent wheat, and great crops, too, though otherwise poor barren land, and never known to our ancestors to be capable of any such thing–nay, they would perhaps have laughed at any one that would have gone about to plough up the wild downs and hills where the sheep were wont to go. But experience has made the present age wiser and more skilful in husbandry; for by only folding the sheep upon the ploughed lands–those lands which otherwise are barren, and where the plough goes within three or four inches of the solid rock of chalk, are made fruitful and bear very good wheat, as well as rye and barley. I shall say more of this when I come to speak of the same practice farther in the country.
This plain country continues in length from Winchester to Salisbury (twenty-five miles), from thence to Dorchester (twenty-two miles), thence to Weymouth (six miles); so that they lie near fifty miles in length and breadth; they reach also in some places thirty-five to forty miles. They who would make any practicable guess at the number of sheep usually fed on these Downs may take it from a calculation made, as I was told, at Dorchester, that there were six hundred thousand sheep fed within six miles of that town, measuring every way round and the town in the centre.
As we passed this plain country, we saw a great many old camps, as well Roman as British, and several remains of the ancient inhabitants of this kingdom, and of their wars, battles, entrenchments, encampments, buildings, and other fortifications, which are indeed very agreeable to a traveller that has read anything of the history of the country. Old Sarum is as remarkable as any of these, where there is a double entrenchment, with a deep graff or ditch to either of them; the area about one hundred yards in diameter, taking in the whole crown of the hill, and thereby rendering the ascent very difficult. Near this there is one farm- house, which is all the remains I could see of any town in or near the place (for the encampment has no resemblance of a town), and yet this is called the borough of Old Sarum, and sends two members to Parliament. Whom those members can justly say they represent would be hard for them to answer.
Some will have it that the old city of SORBIODUNUM or Salisbury stood here, and was afterwards (for I know not what reasons) removed to the low marshy grounds among the rivers, where it now stands. But as I see no authority for it other than mere tradition, I believe my share of it, and take it AD REFERENDUM.
Salisbury itself is indeed a large and pleasant city, though I do not think it at all the pleasanter for that which they boast so much of–namely, the water running through the middle of every street–or that it adds anything to the beauty of the place, but just the contrary; it keeps the streets always dirty, full of wet and filth and weeds, even in the middle of summer.
The city is placed upon the confluence of two large rivers, the Avon and the Willy, neither of them considerable rivers, but very large when joined together, and yet larger when they receive a third river (viz., the Naddir), which joins them near Clarendon Park, about three miles below the city; then, with a deep channel and a current less rapid, they run down to Christchurch, which is their port. And where they empty themselves into the sea, from that town upwards towards Salisbury they are made navigable to within two miles, and might be so quite into the city, were it not for the strength of the stream.
As the city of Winchester is a city without trade–that is to say, without any particular manufactures–so this city of Salisbury and all the county of Wilts, of which it is the capital, are full of a great variety of manufactures, and those some of the most considerable in England–namely, the clothing trade and the trade of flannels, druggets, and several other sorts of manufactures, of which in their order.
The city of Salisbury has two remarkable manufactures carried on in it, and which employ the poor of great part of the country round– namely, fine flannels, and long-cloths for the Turkey trade, called Salisbury whites. The people of Salisbury are gay and rich, and have a flourishing trade; and there is a great deal of good manners and good company among them–I mean, among the citizens, besides what is found among the gentlemen; for there are many good families in Salisbury besides the citizens.
This society has a great addition from the Close–that is to say, the circle of ground walled in adjacent to the cathedral; in which the families of the prebendaries and commons, and others of the clergy belonging to the cathedral, have their houses, as is usual in all cities, where there are cathedral churches. These are so considerable here, and the place so large, that it is (as it is called in general) like another city.
The cathedral is famous for the height of its spire, which is without exception the highest and the handsomest in England, being from the ground 410 feet, and yet the walls so exceeding thin that at the upper part of the spire, upon a view made by the late Sir Christopher Wren, the wall was found to be less than five inches thick; upon which a consultation was had whether the spire, or at least the upper part of it, should be taken down, it being supposed to have received some damage by the great storm in the year 1703; but it was resolved in the negative, and Sir Christopher ordered it to be so strengthened with bands of iron plates as has effectually secured it; and I have heard some of the best architects say it is stronger now than when it was first built.
They tell us here long stories of the great art used in laying the first foundation of this church, the ground being marshy and wet, occasioned by the channels of the rivers; that it was laid upon piles, according to some, and upon woolpacks, according to others. But this is not supposed by those who know that the whole country is one rock of chalk, even from the tops of the highest hills to the bottom of the deepest rivers.
They tell us this church was forty years a-building, and cost an immense sum of money; but it must be acknowledged that the inside of the work is not answerable in the decoration of things to the workmanship without. The painting in the choir is mean, and more like the ordinary method of common drawing-room or tavern painting than that of a church; the carving is good, but very little of it; and it is rather a fine church than finely set off.
The ordinary boast of this building (that there were as many gates as months, as many windows as days, as many marble pillars as hours in the year) is now no recommendation at all. However, the mention of it must be preserved:-
“As many days as in one year there be, So many windows in one church we see;
As many marble pillars there appear As there are hours throughout the fleeting year; As many gates as moons one year do view: Strange tale to tell, yet not more strange than true.”
There are, however, some very fine monuments in this church; particularly one belonging to the noble family of Seymours, since Dukes of Somerset (and ancestors of the present flourishing family), which on a most melancholy occasion has been now lately opened again to receive the body of the late Duchess of Somerset, the happy consort for almost forty years of his Grace the present Duke, and only daughter and heiress of the ancient and noble family of Percy, Earls of Northumberland, whose great estate she brought into the family of Somerset, who now enjoy it.
With her was buried at the same time her Grace’s daughter the Marchioness of Caermarthen (being married to the Marquis of Caermarthen, son and heir-apparent to the Lord of Leeds), who died for grief at the loss of the duchess her mother, and was buried with her; also her second son, the Duke Percy Somerset, who died a few months before, and had been buried in the Abbey church of Westminster, but was ordered to be removed and laid here with the ancestors of his house. And I hear his Grace designs to have a yet more magnificent monument erected in this cathedral for them, just by the other which is there already.
How the Dukes of Somerset came to quit this church for their burying-place, and be laid in Westminster Abbey, that I know not; but it is certain that the present Duke has chosen to have his family laid here with their ancestors, and to that end has caused the corpse of his son, the Lord Percy, as above, and one of his daughters, who had been buried in the Abbey, to be removed and brought down to this vault, which lies in that they call the Virgin Mary’s Chapel, behind the altar. There is, as above, a noble monument for a late Duke and Duchess of Somerset in the place already, with their portraits at full-length, their heads lying upon cushions, the whole perfectly well wrought in fine polished Italian marble, and their sons kneeling by them. Those I suppose to be the father of the great Duke of Somerset, uncle to King Edward IV.; but after this the family lay in Westminster Abbey, where there is also a fine monument for that very duke who was beheaded by Edward VI., and who was the great patron of the Reformation.
Among other monuments of noble men in this cathedral they show you one that is very extraordinary, and to which there hangs a tale. There was in the reign of Philip and Mary a very unhappy murder committed by the then Lord Sturton, or Stourton, a family since extinct, but well known till within a few years in that country.
This Lord Stourton being guilty of the said murder, which also was aggravated with very bad circumstances, could not obtain the usual grace of the Crown (viz., to be beheaded), but Queen Mary positively ordered that, like a common malefactor, he should die at the gallows. After he was hanged, his friends desiring to have him buried at Salisbury, the bishop would not consent that he should be buried in the cathedral unless, as a farther mark of infamy, his friends would submit to this condition–viz., that the silken halter in which he was hanged should be hanged up over his grave in the church as a monument of his crime; which was accordingly done, and there it is to be seen to this day.
The putting this halter up here was not so wonderful to me as it was that the posterity of that lord, who remained in good rank some time after, should never prevail to have that mark of infamy taken off from the memory of their ancestor.
There are several other monuments in this cathedral, as particularly of two noblemen of ancient families in Scotland–one of the name of Hay, and one of the name of Gordon; but they give us nothing of their history, so that we must be content to say there they lie, and that is all.
The cloister, and the chapter-house adjoining to the church, are the finest here of any I have seen in England; the latter is octagon, or eight-square, and is 150 feet in its circumference; the roof bearing all upon one small marble pillar in the centre, which you may shake with your hand; and it is hardly to be imagined it can be any great support to the roof, which makes it the more curious (it is not indeed to be matched, I believe, in Europe).
From hence directing my course to the seaside in pursuit of my first design–viz., of viewing the whole coast of England–I left the great road and went down the east side of the river towards New Forest and Lymington; and here I saw the ancient house and seat of Clarendon, the mansion of the ancient family of Hide, ancestors of the great Earl of Clarendon, and from whence his lordship was honoured with that title, or the house erected into an honour in favour of his family.
But this being a large county, and full of memorable branches of antiquity and modern curiosity, I cannot quit my observations so soon. But being happily fixed, by the favour of a particular friend, at so beautiful a spot of ground as this of Clarendon Park, I made several little excursions from hence to view the northern parts of this county–a county so fruitful of wonders that, though I do not make antiquity my chief search, yet I must not pass it over entirely, where so much of it, and so well worth observation, is to be found, which would look as if I either understood not the value of the study, or expected my readers should be satisfied with a total omission of it.
I have mentioned that this county is generally a vast continued body of high chalky hills, whose tops spread themselves into fruitful and pleasant downs and plains, upon which great flocks of sheep are fed, &c. But the reader is desired to observe these hills and plains are most beautifully intersected and cut through by the course of divers pleasant and profitable rivers; in the course and near the banks of which there always is a chain of fruitful meadows and rich pastures, and those interspersed with innumerable pleasant towns, villages, and houses, and among them many of considerable magnitude. So that, while you view the downs, and think the country wild and uninhabited, yet when you come to descend into these vales you are surprised with the most pleasant and fertile country in England.
There are no less than four of these rivers, which meet all together at or near the city of Salisbury; especially the waters of three of them run through the streets of the city–the Nadder and the Willy and the Avon–and the course of these three lead us through the whole mountainous part of the county. The two first join their waters at Wilton, the shiretown, though a place of no great notice now; and these are the waters which run through the canal and the gardens of Wilton House, the seat of that ornament of nobility and learning, the Earl of Pembroke.
One cannot be said to have seen anything that a man of curiosity would think worth seeing in this county, and not have been at Wilton House; but not the beautiful building, not the ancient trophy of a great family, not the noble situation, not all the pleasures of the gardens, parks, fountains, hare-warren, or of whatever is rare either in art or nature, are equal to that yet more glorious sight of a noble princely palace constantly filled with its noble and proper inhabitants. The lord and proprietor, who is indeed a true patriarchal monarch, reigns here with an authority agreeable to all his subjects (family); and his reign is made agreeable, by his first practising the most exquisite government of himself, and then guiding all under him by the rules of honour and virtue, being also himself perfectly master of all the needful arts of family government–I mean, needful to make that government both easy and pleasant to those who are under it, and who therefore willingly, and by choice, conform to it.
Here an exalted genius is the instructor, a glorious example the guide, and a gentle well-directed hand the governor and law-giver to the whole; and the family, like a well-governed city, appears happy, flourishing, and regular, groaning under no grievance, pleased with what they enjoy, and enjoying everything which they ought to be pleased with.
Nor is the blessing of this noble resident extended to the family only, but even to all the country round, who in their degree feel the effects of the general beneficence, and where the neighbourhood (however poor) receive all the good they can expect, and are sure to have no injury or oppression.
The canal before the house lies parallel with the road, and receives into it the whole river Willy, or at least is able to do so; it may, indeed, be said that the river is made into a canal. When we come into the courtyards before the house there are several pieces of antiquity to entertain the curious, as particularly a noble column of porphyry, with a marble statue of Venus on the top of it. In Italy, and especially at Rome and Naples, we see a great variety of fine columns, and some of them of excellent workmanship and antiquity; and at some of the courts of the princes of Italy the like is seen, as especially at the court of Florence; but in England I do not remember to have seen anything like this, which, as they told me, is two-and-thirty feet high, and of excellent workmanship, and that it came last from Candia, but formerly from Alexandria. What may belong to the history of it any further, I suppose is not known–at least, they could tell me no more of it who showed it me.
On the left of the court was formerly a large grotto and curious water-works; and in a house, or shed, or part of the building, which opened with two folding-doors, like a coach-house, a large equestrian statue of one of the ancestors of the family in complete armour, as also another of a Roman Emperor in brass. But the last time I had the curiosity to see this house, I missed that part; so that I supposed they were removed.
As the present Earl of Pembroke, the lord of this fine palace, is a nobleman of great personal merit many other ways, so he is a man of learning and reading beyond most men of his lordship’s high rank in this nation, if not in the world; and as his reading has made him a master of antiquity, and judge of such pieces of antiquity as he has had opportunity to meet with in his own travels and otherwise in the world, so it has given him a love of the study, and made him a collector of valuable things, as well in painting as in sculpture, and other excellences of art, as also of nature; insomuch that Wilton House is now a mere museum or a chamber of rarities, and we meet with several things there which are to be found nowhere else in the world.
As his lordship is a great collector of fine paintings, so I know no nobleman’s house in England so prepared, as if built on purpose, to receive them; the largest and the finest pieces that can be imagined extant in the world might have found a place here capable to receive them. I say, they “might have found,” as if they could not now, which is in part true; for at present the whole house is so completely filled that I see no room for any new piece to crowd in without displacing some other fine piece that hung there before. As for the value of the piece that might so offer to succeed the displaced, that the great judge of the whole collection, the earl himself, must determine; and as his judgment is perfectly good, the best picture would be sure to possess the place. In a word, here is without doubt the best, if not the greatest, collection of rarities and paintings that are to be seen together in any one nobleman’s or gentleman’s house in England. The piece of our Saviour washing His disciples’ feet, which they show you in one of the first rooms you go into, must be spoken of by everybody that has any knowledge of painting, and is an admirable piece indeed.
You ascend the great staircase at the upper end of the hall, which is very large; at the foot of the staircase you have a Bacchus as large as life, done in fine Peloponnesian marble, carrying a young Bacchus on his arm, the young one eating grapes, and letting you see by his countenance that he is pleased with the taste of them. Nothing can be done finer, or more lively represent the thing intended–namely, the gust of the appetite, which if it be not a passion, it is an affection which is as much seen in the countenance, perhaps more than any other. One ought to stop every two steps of this staircase, as we go up, to contemplate the vast variety of pictures that cover the walls, and of some of the best masters in Europe; and yet this is but an introduction to what is beyond them.
When you are entered the apartments, such variety seizes you every way that you scarce know to which hand to turn yourself. First on one side you see several rooms filled with paintings as before, all so curious, and the variety such, that it is with reluctance that you can turn from them; while looking another way you are called off by a vast collection of busts and pieces of the greatest antiquity of the kind, both Greek and Romans; among these there is one of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in basso-relievo. I never saw anything like what appears here, except in the chamber of rarities at Munich in Bavaria.
Passing these, you come into several large rooms, as if contrived for the reception of the beautiful guests that take them up; one of these is near seventy feet long, and the ceiling twenty-six feet high, with another adjoining of the same height and breadth, but not so long. Those together might be called the Great Gallery of Wilton, and might vie for paintings with the Gallery of Luxembourg, in the Faubourg of Paris.
These two rooms are filled with the family pieces of the house of Herbert, most of them by Lilly or Vandyke; and one in particular outdoes all that I ever met with, either at home or abroad; it is done, as was the mode of painting at that time, after the manner of a family piece of King Charles I., with his queen and children, which before the burning of Whitehall I remember to hang at the east end of the Long Gallery in the palace.
This piece fills the farther end of the great room which I just now mentioned; it contains the Earl of Montgomery, ancestor of the house of Herbert (not then Earls of Pembroke) and his lady, sitting, and as big as life; there are about them their own five sons and one daughter, and their daughter-in-law, who was daughter of the Duke of Buckingham, married to the elder Lord Herbert, their eldest son. It is enough to say of this piece, it is worth the labour of any lover of art to go five hundred miles to see it; and I am informed several gentlemen of quality have come from France almost on purpose. It would be endless to describe the whole set of the family pictures which take up this room, unless we would enter into the roof-tree of the family, and set down a genealogical line of the whole house.
After we have seen this fine range of beauties–for such, indeed, they are–far from being at an end of your surprise, you have three or four rooms still upon the same floor, filled with wonders as before. Nothing can be finer than the pictures themselves, nothing more surprising than the number of them. At length you descend the back stairs, which are in themselves large, though not like the other. However, not a hand’s-breadth is left to crowd a picture in of the smallest size; and even the upper rooms, which might be called garrets, are not naked, but have some very good pieces in them.
Upon the whole, the genius of the noble collector may be seen in this glorious collection, than which, take them together, there is not a finer in any private hand in Europe, and in no hand at all in Britain, private or public.
The gardens are on the south of the house, and extend themselves beyond the river, a branch of which runs through one part of them, and still south of the gardens in the great park, which, extending beyond the vale, mounts the hill opening at the last to the great down, which is properly called, by way of distinction, Salisbury Plain, and leads from the city of Salisbury to Shaftesbury. Here also his lordship has a hare-warren, as it is called, though improperly. It has, indeed, been a sanctuary for the hares for many years; but the gentlemen complain that it mars their game, for that as soon as they put up a hare for their sport, if it be anywhere within two or three miles, away she runs for the warren, and there is an end of their pursuit; on the other hand, it makes all the countrymen turn poachers, and destroy the hares by what means they can. But this is a smaller matter, and of no great import one way or other.
From this pleasant and agreeable day’s work I returned to Clarendon, and the next day took another short tour to the hills to see that celebrated piece of antiquity, the wonderful Stonehenge, being six miles from Salisbury, north, and upon the side of the River Avon, near the town of Amesbury. It is needless that I should enter here into any part of the dispute about which our learned antiquaries have so puzzled themselves that several books (and one of them in folio) have been published about it; some alleging it to be a heathen or pagan temple and altar, or place of sacrifice, as Mr. Jones; others a monument or trophy of victory; others a monument for the dead, as Mr. Aubrey, and the like. Again, some will have it be British, some Danish, some Saxon, some Roman, and some, before them all, Phoenician.
I shall suppose it, as the majority of all writers do, to be a monument for the dead, and the rather because men’s bones have been frequently dug up in the ground near them. The common opinion that no man could ever count them, that a baker carried a basket of bread and laid a loaf upon every stone, and yet never could make out the same number twice, this I take as a mere country fiction, and a ridiculous one too. The reason why they cannot easily be told is that many of them lie half or part buried in the ground; and a piece here and a piece there only appearing above the grass, it cannot be known easily which belong to one stone and which to another, or which are separate stones, and which are joined underground to one another; otherwise, as to those which appear, they are easy to be told, and I have seen them told four times after one another, beginning every time at a different place, and every time they amounted to seventy-two in all; but then this was counting every piece of a stone of bulk which appeared above the surface of the earth, and was not evidently part of and adjoining to another, to be a distinct and separate body or stone by itself.
The form of this monument is not only described but delineated in most authors, and, indeed, it is hard to know the first but by the last. The figure was at first circular, and there were at least four rows or circles within one another. The main stones were placed upright, and they were joined on the top by cross-stones, laid from one to another, and fastened with vast mortises and tenons. Length of time has so decayed them that not only most of the cross-stones which lay on the top are fallen down, but many of the upright also, notwithstanding the weight of them is so prodigious great. How they came thither, or from whence (no stones of that kind being now to be found in that part of England near it) is still the mystery, for they are of such immense bulk that no engines or carriages which we have in use in this age could stir them.
Doubtless they had some method in former days in foreign countries, as well as here, to move heavier weights than we find practicable now. How else did Solomon’s workmen build the battlement or additional wall to support the precipice of Mount Moriah, on which the Temple was built, which was all built of stones of Parian marble, each stone being forty cubits long and fourteen cubits broad, and eight cubits high or thick, which, reckoning each cubit at two feet and a half of our measure (as the learned agree to do), was one hundred feet long, thirty-five feet broad, and twenty feet thick?
These stones at Stonehenge, as Mr. Camden describes them, and in which others agree, were very large, though not so large–the upright stones twenty-four feet high, seven feet broad, sixteen feet round, and weigh twelve tons each; and the cross-stones on the top, which he calls coronets, were six or seven tons. But this does not seem equal; for if the cross-stones weighed six or seven tons, the others, as they appear now, were at least five or six times as big, and must weigh in proportion; and therefore I must think their judgment much nearer the case who judge the upright stones at sixteen tons or thereabouts (supposing them to stand a great way into the earth, as it is not doubted but they do), and the coronets or cross-stones at about two tons, which is very large too, and as much as their bulk can be thought to allow.
Upon the whole, we must take them as our ancestors have done– namely, for an erection or building so ancient that no history has handed down to us the original. As we find it, then, uncertain, we must leave it so. It is indeed a reverend piece of antiquity, and it is a great loss that the true history of it is not known. But since it is not, I think the making so many conjectures at the reality, when they know lots can but guess at it, and, above all, the insisting so long and warmly on their private opinions, is but amusing themselves and us with a doubt, which perhaps lies the deeper for their search into it.
The downs and plains in this part of England being so open, and the surface so little subject to alteration, there are more remains of antiquity to be seen upon them than in other places. For example, I think they tell us there are three-and-fifty ancient encampments or fortifications to be seen in this one county–some whereof are exceeding plain to be seen; some of one form, some of another; some of one nation, some of another–British, Danish, Saxon, Roman–as at Ebb Down, Burywood, Oldburgh Hill, Cummerford, Roundway Down, St. Ann’s Hill, Bratton Castle, Clay Hill, Stournton Park, Whitecole Hill, Battlebury, Scrathbury, Tanesbury, Frippsbury, Southbury Hill, Amesbury, Great Bodwin, Easterley, Merdon, Aubery, Martenscil Hill, Barbury Castle, and many more.
Also the barrows, as we all agree to call them, are very many in number in this county, and very obvious, having suffered very little decay. These are large hillocks of earth cast up, as the ancients agree, by the soldiers over the bodies of their dead comrades slain in battle; several hundreds of these are to be seen, especially in the north part of this county, about Marlborough and the downs, from thence to St. Ann’s Hill, and even every way the downs are full of them.
I have done with matters of antiquity for this county, unless you will admit me to mention the famous Parliament in the reign of Henry II. held at Clarendon, where I am now writing, and another intended to be held there in Richard II.’s time, but prevented by the barons, being then up in arms against the king.
Near this place, at Farlo, was the birthplace of the late Sir Stephen Fox, and where the town, sharing in his good fortune, shows several marks of his bounty, as particularly the building a new church from the foundation, and getting an Act of Parliament passed for making it parochial, it being but a chapel-of-ease before to an adjoining parish. Also Sir Stephen built and endowed an almshouse here for six poor women, with a master and a free school. The master is to be a clergyman, and to officiate in the church–that is to say, is to have the living, which, including the school, is very sufficient.
I am now to pursue my first design, and shall take the west part of Wiltshire in my return, where are several things still to be taken notice of, and some very well worth our stay. In the meantime I went on to Langborough, a fine seat of my Lord Colerain, which is very well kept, though the family, it seems, is not much in this country, having another estate and dwelling at Tottenham High Cross, near London.
From hence in my way to the seaside I came to New Forest, of which I have said something already with relation to the great extent of ground which lies waste, and in which there is so great a quantity of large timber, as I have spoken of already.
This waste and wild part of the country was, as some record, laid open and waste for a forest and for game by that violent tyrant William the Conqueror, and for which purpose he unpeopled the country, pulled down the houses, and, which was worse, the churches of several parishes or towns, and of abundance of villages, turning the poor people out of their habitations and possessions, and laying all open for his deer. The same histories likewise record that two of his own blood and posterity, and particularly his immediate successor William Rufus, lost their lives in this forest- -one, viz., the said William Rufus, being shot with an arrow directed at a deer which the king and his company were hunting, and the arrow, glancing on a tree, changed his course, and struck the king full on the breast and killed him. This they relate as a just judgment of God on the cruel devastation made here by the Conqueror. Be it so or not, as Heaven pleases; but that the king was so killed is certain, and they show the tree on which the arrow glanced to this day. In King Charles II.’s time it was ordered to be surrounded with a pale; but as great part of the paling is down with age, whether the tree be really so old or not is to me a great question, the action being near seven hundred years ago.
I cannot omit to mention here a proposal made a few years ago to the late Lord Treasurer Godolphin for re-peopling this forest, which for some reasons I can be more particular in than any man now left alive, because I had the honour to draw up the scheme and argue it before that noble lord and some others who were principally concerned at that time in bringing over–or, rather, providing for when they were come over–the poor inhabitants of the Palatinate, a thing in itself commendable, but, as it was managed, made scandalous to England and miserable to those poor people.
Some persons being ordered by that noble lord above mentioned to consider of measures how the said poor people should be provided for, and whether they could be provided for or no without injury to the public, the answer was grounded upon this maxim–that the number of inhabitants is the wealth and strength of a kingdom, provided those inhabitants were such as by honest industry applied themselves to live by their labour, to whatsoever trades or employments they were brought up. In the next place, it was inquired what employments those poor people were brought up to. It was answered there were husbandmen and artificers of all sorts, upon which the proposal was as follows. New Forest, in Hampshire, was singled out to be the place:-
Here it was proposed to draw a great square line containing four thousand acres of land, marking out two large highways or roads through the centre, crossing both ways, so that there should be a thousand acres in each division, exclusive of the land contained in the said cross-roads.
Then it was proposed to since out twenty men and their families, who should be recommended as honest industrious men, expert in, or at least capable of being instructed in husbandry, curing and cultivating of land, breeding and feeding cattle, and the like. To each of these should be parcelled out, in equal distributions, two hundred acres of this land, so that the whole four thousand acres should be fully distributed to the said twenty families, for which they should have no rent to pay, and be liable to no taxes but such as provided for their own sick or poor, repairing their own roads, and the like. This exemption from rent and taxes to continue for twenty years, and then to pay each 50 pounds a year to the queen– that is to say, to the Crown.
To each of these families, whom I would now call farmers, it was proposed to advance 200 pounds in ready money as a stock to set them to work; to furnish them with cattle, horses, cows, hogs, &c.; and to hire and pay labourers to inclose, clear, and cure the land, which it would be supposed the first year would not be so much to their advantage as afterwards, allowing them timber out of the forest to build themselves houses and barns, sheds and offices, as they should have occasion; also for carts, waggons, ploughs, harrows, and the like necessary things: care to be taken that the men and their families went to work forthwith according to the design.
Thus twenty families would be immediately supplied and provided for, for there would be no doubt but these families, with so much land given them gratis, and so much money to work with, would live very well; but what would this do for the support of the rest, who were supposed to be, to every twenty farmers, forty or fifty families of other people (some of one trade, some of another), with women and children? To this it was answered that these twenty farmers would, by the consequence of their own settlements, provide for and employ such a proportion of others of their own people that, by thus providing for twenty families in a place, the whole number of Palatinates would have been provided for, had they been twenty thousand more in number than they were, and that without being any burden upon or injury to the people of England; on the contrary, they would have been an advantage and an addition of wealth and strength to the nation, and to the country in particular where they should be thus seated. For example:-
As soon as the land was marked out, the farmers put in possession of it, and the money given them, they should be obliged to go to work, in order to their settlement. Suppose it, then, to be in the spring of the year, when such work was most proper. First, all hands would be required to fence and part off the land, and clear it of the timber or bushes, or whatever else was upon it which required to be removed. The first thing, therefore, which the farmer would do would be to single out from the rest of their number every one three servants–that is to say, two men and a maid; less could not answer the preparations they would be obliged to make, and yet work hard themselves also. By the help of these they would, with good management, soon get so much of their land cured, fenced-off, ploughed, and sowed as should yield them a sufficiency of corn and kitchen stuff the very first year, both for horse-meat, hog-meat, food for the family, and some to carry to market, too, by which to bring in money to go farther on, as above.
At the first entrance they were to have the tents allowed them to live in, which they then had from the Tower; but as soon as leisure and conveniences admitted, every farmer was obliged to begin to build him a farm-house, which he would do gradually, some and some, as he could spare time from his other works, and money from his little stock.
In order to furnish himself with carts, waggons, ploughs, harrows, wheel-barrows, hurdles, and all such necessary utensils of husbandry, there would be an absolute necessity of wheelwrights or cartwrights, one at least to each division.
Thus, by the way, there would be employed three servants to each farmer, that makes sixty persons.
Four families of wheelwrights, one to each division–which, suppose five in a family, makes twenty persons. Suppose four head- carpenters, with each three men; and as at first all would be building together, they would to every house building have at least one labourer. Four families of carpenters, five to each family, and three servants, is thirty-two persons; one labourer to each house building is twenty persons more.
Thus here would be necessarily brought together in the very first of the work one hundred and thirty-two persons, besides the head- farmers, who at five also to each family are one hundred more; in all, two hundred and thirty-two.
For the necessary supply of these with provisions, clothes, household stuff, &c. (for all should be done among themselves), first, they must have at least four butchers with their families (twenty persons), four shoemakers with their families and each shoemaker two journeymen (for every trade would increase the number of customers to every trade). This is twenty-eight persons more.
They would then require a hatmaker, a glover, at least two ropemakers, four tailors, three weavers of woollen and three weavers of linen, two basket-makers, two common brewers, ten or twelve shop-keepers to furnish chandlery and grocery wares, and as many for drapery and mercery, over and above what they could work. This makes two-and-forty families more, each at five in a family, which, is two hundred and ten persons; all the labouring part of these must have at least two servants (the brewers more), which I cast up at forty more.
Add to these two ministers, one clerk, one sexton or grave-digger, with their families, two physicians, three apothecaries, two surgeons (less there could not be, only that for the beginning it might be said the physicians should be surgeons, and I take them so); this is forty-five persons, besides servants; so that, in short–to omit many tradesmen more who would be wanted among them– there would necessarily and voluntarily follow to these twenty families of farmers at least six hundred more of their own people.
It is no difficult thing to show that the ready money of 4,000 pounds which the Government was to advance to those twenty farmers would employ and pay, and consequently subsist, all these numerous dependants in the works which must severally be done for them for the first year, after which the farmers would begin to receive their own money back again; for all these tradesmen must come to their own market to buy corn, flesh, milk, butter, cheese, bacon, &c., which after the first year the farmers, having no rent to pay, would have to spare sufficiently, and so take back their own money with advantage. I need not go on to mention how, by consequence provisions increasing and money circulating, this town should increase in a very little time.
It was proposed also that for the encouragement of all the handicraftsmen and labouring poor who, either as servants or as labourers for day-work, assisted the farmers or other tradesmen, they should have every man three acres of ground given them, with leave to build cottages upon the same, the allotments to be upon the waste at the end of the cross-roads where they entered the town.
In the centre of the square was laid out a circle of twelve acres of ground, to be cast into streets for inhabitants to build on as their ability would permit–all that would build to have ground gratis for twenty years, timber out of the forest, and convenient yards, gardens, and orchards allotted to every house.
In the great streets near where they cross each other was to be built a handsome market-house, with a town-hall for parish or corporation business, doing justice and the like; also shambles; and in a handsome part of the ground mentioned to be laid out for streets, as near the centre as might be, was to be ground laid out for the building a church, which every man should either contribute to the building of in money, or give every tenth day of his time to assist in labouring at the building.
I have omitted many tradesmen who would be wanted here, and would find a good livelihood among their country-folks only to get accidental work as day-men or labourers (of which such a town would constantly employ many), as also poor women for assistance in families (such as midwives, nurses, &c.).
Adjacent to the town was to be a certain quantity of common-land for the benefit of the cottages, that the poor might have a few sheep or cows, as their circumstances required; and this to be appointed at the several ends of the town.
There was a calculation made of what increase there would be, both of wealth and people, in twenty years in this town; what a vast consumption of provisions they would cause, more than the four thousand acres of land given them would produce, by which consumption and increase so much advantage would accrue to the public stock, and so many subjects be added to the many thousands of Great Britain, who in the next age would be all true-born Englishmen, and forget both the language and nation from whence they came. And it was in order to this that two ministers were appointed, one of which should officiate in English and the other in High Dutch, and withal to have them obliged by a law to teach all their children both to speak, read, and write the English language.
Upon their increase they would also want barbers and glaziers, painters also, and plumbers; a windmill or two, and the millers and their families; a fulling-mill and a cloth-worker; as also a master clothier or two for making a manufacture among them for their own wear, and for employing the women and children; a dyer or two for dyeing their manufactures; and, which above all is not to be omitted, four families at least of smiths, with every one two servants–considering that, besides all the family work which continually employs a smith, all the shoeing of horses, all the ironwork of ploughs, carts, waggons, harrows, &c., must be wrought by them. There was no allowance made for inns and ale-houses, seeing it would be frequent that those who kept public-houses of any sort would likewise have some other employment to carry on.
This was the scheme for settling the Palatinates, by which means twenty families of farmers, handsomely set up and supported, would lay a foundation, as I have said, for six or seven hundred of the rest of their people; and as the land in New Forest is undoubtedly good, and capable of improvement by such cultivation, so other wastes in England are to be found as fruitful as that; and twenty such villages might have been erected, the poor strangers maintained, and the nation evidently be bettered by it. As to the money to be advanced, which in the case of twenty such settlements, at 1,000 pounds each, would be 80,000 pounds, two things were answered to it:-
1. That the annual rent to be received for all those lands after twenty years would abundantly pay the public for the first disburses on the scheme above, that rent being then to amount to 40,000 pounds per annum.
2. More money than would have done this was expended, or rather thrown away, upon them here, to keep them in suspense, and afterwards starve them; sending them a-begging all over the nation, and shipping them off to perish in other countries. Where the mistake lay is none of my business to inquire.
I reserved this account for this place, because I passed in this journey over the very spot where the design was laid out–namely, near Lyndhurst, in the road from Rumsey to Lymington, whither I now directed my course.
Lymington is a little but populous seaport standing opposite to the Isle of Wight, in the narrow part of the strait which ships sometimes pass through in fair weather, called the Needles; and right against an ancient town of that island called Yarmouth, and which, in distinction from the great town of Yarmouth in Norfolk, is called South Yarmouth. This town of Lymington is chiefly noted for making fine salt, which is indeed excellent good; and from whence all these south parts of England are supplied, as well by water as by land carriage; and sometimes, though not often, they send salt to London, when, contrary winds having kept the Northern fleets back, the price at London has been very high; but this is very seldom and uncertain. Lymington sends two members to Parliament, and this and her salt trade is all I can say to her; for though she is very well situated as to the convenience of shipping I do not find they have any foreign commerce, except it be what we call smuggling and roguing; which, I may say, is the reigning commerce of all this part of the English coast, from the mouth of the Thames to the Land’s End of Cornwall.
From hence there are but few towns on the sea-coast west, though there are several considerable rivers empty themselves into the sea; nor are there any harbours or seaports of any note except Poole. As for Christchurch, though it stands at the mouth of the Avon (which, as I have said, comes down from Salisbury, and brings with it all the waters of the south and east parts of Wiltshire, and receives also the Stour and Piddle, two Dorsetshire rivers which bring with them all the waters of the north part of Dorsetshire), yet it is a very inconsiderable poor place, scarce worth seeing, and less worth mentioning in this account, only that it sends two members to Parliament, which many poor towns in this part of England do, as well as that.
From hence I stepped up into the country north-west, to see the ancient town of Wimborne, or Wimborneminster; there I found nothing remarkable but the church, which is indeed a very great one, ancient, and yet very well built, with a very firm, strong, square tower, considerably high; but was, without doubt, much finer, when on the top of it stood a most exquisite spire–finer and taller, if fame lies not, than that at Salisbury, and by its situation in a plainer, flatter country visible, no question, much farther; but this most beautiful ornament was blown down by a sudden tempest of wind, as they tell us, in the year 1622.
The church remains a venerable piece of antiquity, and has in it the remains of a place once much more in request than it is now, for here are the monuments of several noble families, and in particular of one king, viz., King Etheldred, who was slain in battle by the Danes. He was a prince famed for piety and religion, and, according to the zeal of these times, was esteemed as a martyr, because, venturing his life against the Danes, who were heathens, he died fighting for his religion and his country. The inscription upon his grave is preserved, and has been carefully repaired, so as to be easily read, and is as follows:-
“In hoc loco quiescit Corpus S. Etheldredi, Regis West Saxonum, Martyris, qui Anno Dom. DCCCLXXII., xxiii Aprilis, per Manos Danorum Paganorum Occubuit.”
In English thus:-
“Here rests the Body of Holy Etheldred, King of the West Saxons, and Martyr, who fell by the Hands of the Pagan Danes in the Year of our Lord 872, the 23rd of April.”
Here are also the monuments of the great Marchioness of Exeter, mother of Edward Courtney, Earl of Devonshire, and last of the family of Courtneys who enjoyed that honour; as also of John de Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, and his wife, grandmother of King Henry VII., by her daughter Margaret, Countess of Richmond.
This last lady I mention because she was foundress of a very fine free school, which has since been enlarged and had a new benefactress in Queen Elizabeth, who has enlarged the stipend and annexed it to the foundation. The famous Cardinal Pole was Dean of this church before his exaltation.
Having said this of the church, I have said all that is worth naming of the town; except that the inhabitants, who are many and poor, are chiefly maintained by the manufacture of knitting stockings, which employs great part indeed of the county of Dorset, of which this is the first town eastward.
South of this town, over a sandy, wild, and barren country, we came to Poole, a considerable seaport, and indeed the most considerable in all this part of England; for here I found some ships, some merchants, and some trade; especially, here were a good number of ships fitted out every year to the Newfoundland fishing, in which the Poole men were said to have been particularly successful for many years past.
The town sits in the bottom of a great bay or inlet of the sea, which, entering at one narrow mouth, opens to a very great breadth within the entrance, and comes up to the very shore of this town; it runs also west up almost to the town of Wareham, a little below which it receives the rivers Frome and Piddle, the two principal rivers of the county.
This place is famous for the best and biggest oysters in all this part of England, which the people of Poole pretend to be famous for pickling; and they are barrelled up here, and sent not only to London, but to the West Indies, and to Spain and Italy, and other parts. It is observed more pearls are found in the Poole oysters, and larger, than in any other oysters about England.
As the entrance into this large bay is narrow, so it is made narrower by an island, called Branksey, which, lying the very month of the passage, divides it into two, and where there is an old castle, called Branksey Castle, built to defend the entrance, and this strength was very great advantage to the trade of this port in the time of the late war with France.
Wareham is a neat town and full of people, having a share of trade with Poole itself; it shows the ruins of a large town, and, it is apparent, has had eight churches, of which they have three remaining.
South of Wareham, and between the bay I have mentioned and the sea, lies a large tract of land which, being surrounded by the sea except on one side, is called an island, though it is really what should be called a peninsula. This tract of land is better inhabited than the sea-coast of this west end of Dorsetshire generally is, and the manufacture of stockings is carried on there also; it is called the Isle of Purbeck, and has in the middle of it a large market-town, called Corfe, and from the famous castle there the whole town is now called Corfe Castle; it is a corporation, sending members to Parliament.
This part of the country is eminent for vast quarries of stone, which is cut out flat, and used in London in great quantities for paving courtyards, alleys, avenues to houses, kitchens, footways on the sides of the High Streets, and the like; and is very profitable to the place, as also in the number of shipping employed in bringing it to London. There are also several rocks of very good marble, only that the veins in the stone are not black and white, as the Italian, but grey, red, and other colours.
From hence to Weymouth, which is 22 miles, we rode in view of the sea; the country is open, and in some respects pleasant, but not like the northern parts of the county, which are all fine carpet- ground, soft as velvet, and the herbage sweet as garden herbs, which makes their sheep be the best in England, if not in the world, and their wool fine to an extreme.
I cannot omit here a small adventure which was very surprising to me on this journey; passing this plain country, we came to an open piece of ground where a neighbouring gentleman had at a great expense laid out a proper piece of land for a decoy, or duck-coy, as some call it. The works were but newly done, the planting young, the ponds very large and well made; but the proper places for shelter of the fowl not covered, the trees not being grown, and men were still at work improving and enlarging and planting on the adjoining heath or common. Near the decoy-keeper’s house were some places where young decoy ducks were hatched, or otherwise kept to fit them for their work. To preserve them from vermin (polecats, kites, and such like), they had set traps, as is usual in such cases, and a gibbet by it, where abundance of such creatures as were taken were hanged up for show.
While the decoy-man was busy showing the new works, he was alarmed with a great cry about this house for “Help! help!” and away he ran like the wind, guessing, as we supposed, that something was catched in the trap.
It was a good big boy, about thirteen or fourteen years old, that cried out, for coming to the place he found a great fowl caught by the leg in the trap, which yet was so strong and so outrageous that the boy going too near him, he flew at him and frighted him, bit him, and beat him with his wings, for he was too strong for the boy; as the master ran from the decoy, so another manservant ran from the house, and finding a strange creature fast in the trap, not knowing what it was, laid at him with a great stick. The creature fought him a good while, but at length he struck him an unlucky blow which quieted him; after this we all came up to see what the matter, and found a monstrous eagle caught by the leg in the trap, and killed by the fellow’s cudgel, as above.
When the master came to know what it was, and that his man had killed it, he was ready to kill the fellow for his pains, for it was a noble creature indeed, and would have been worth a great deal to the man to have it shown about the country, or to have sold to any gentleman curious in such things; but the eagle was dead, and there we left it. It is probable this eagle had flown over the sea from France, either there or at the Isle of Wight, where the channel is not so wide; for we do not find that any eagles are known to breed in those parts of Britain.
From hence we turned up to Dorchester, the county town, though not the largest town in the county. Dorchester is indeed a pleasant agreeable town to live in, and where I thought the people seemed less divided into factions and parties than in other places; for though here are divisions, and the people are not all of one mind, either as to religion or politics, yet they did not seem to separate with so much animosity as in other places. Here I saw the Church of England clergyman, and the Dissenting minister or preacher drinking tea together, and conversing with civility and good neighbourhood, like Catholic Christians and men of a Catholic and extensive charity. The town is populous, though not large; the streets broad, but the buildings old and low. However, there is good company, and a good deal of it; and a man that coveted a retreat in this world might as agreeably spend his time and as well in Dorchester as in any town I know in England.
The downs round this town are exceeding pleasant, and come up on, every side, even to the very streets’ end; and here it was that they told me that there were six hundred thousand sheep fed on the downs within six miles of the town–that is, six miles every way, which is twelve miles in diameter, and thirty-six miles in circumference. This, I say, I was told–I do not affirm it to be true; but when I viewed the country round, I confess I could not but incline to believe it.
It is observable of these sheep that they are exceeding fruitful, the ewes generally bringing two lambs, and they are for that reason bought by all the farmers through the east part of England, who come to Burford Fair in this country to buy them, and carry them into Kent and Surrey eastward, and into Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire north; even our Banstead Downs in Surrey, so famed for good mutton, is supplied from this place. The grass or herbage of these downs is full of the sweetest and the most aromatic plants, such as nourish the sheep to a strange degree; and the sheep’s dung, again, nourishes that herbage to a strange degree; so that the valleys are rendered extremely fruitful by the washing of the water in hasty showers from off these hills.
An eminent instance of this is seen at Amesbury, in Wiltshire, the next county to this; for it is the same thing in proportion over this whole county. I was told that at this town there was a meadow on the bank of the River Avon, which runs thence to Salisbury, which was let for 12 pounds a year per acre for the grass only. This I inquired particularly after at the place, and was assured by the inhabitants, as one man, that the fact was true, and was showed the meadows. The grass which grew on them was such as grew to the length of ten or twelve feet, rising up to a good height and then taking root again, and was of so rich a nature as to answer very well such an extravagant rent.
The reason they gave for this was the extraordinary richness of the soil, made so, as above, by the falling or washing of the rains from the hills adjacent, by which, though no other land thereabouts had such a kind of grass, yet all other meadows and low grounds of the valley were extremely rich in proportion.
There are abundance of good families, and of very ancient lines in the neighbourhood of this town of Dorchester, as the Napiers, the Courtneys, Strangeways, Seymours, Banks, Tregonells, Sydenhams, and many others, some of which have very great estates in the county, and in particular Colonel Strangeways, Napier, and Courtney. The first of these is master of the famous swannery or nursery of swans, the like of which, I believe, is not in Europe. I wonder any man should pretend to travel over this country, and pass by it, too, and then write his account and take no notice of it.
From Dorchester it is six miles to the seaside south, and the ocean in view almost all the way. The first town you come to is Weymouth, or Weymouth and Melcombe, two towns lying at the mouth of a little rivulet which they call the Wey, but scarce claims the name of a river. However, the entrance makes a very good though small harbour, and they are joined by a wooden bridge; so that nothing but the harbour parts them; yet they are separate corporations, and choose each of them two members of Parliament, just as London and Southwark.
Weymouth is a sweet, clean, agreeable town, considering its low situation, and close to the sea; it is well built, and has a great many good substantial merchants in it who drive a considerable trade, and have a good number of ships belonging to the town. They carry on now, in time of peace, a trade with France; but, besides this, they trade also to Portugal, Spain, Newfoundland, and Virginia; and they have a large correspondence also up in the country for the consumption of their returns; especially the wine trade and the Newfoundland trade are considerable here.
Without the harbour is an old castle, called Sandfoot Castle; and over against them, where there is a good road for ships to put in on occasions of bad weather, is Portland Castle, and the road is called Portland Road. While I was here once, there came a merchant-ship into that road called Portland Road under a very hard storm of wind; she was homeward bound from Oporto for London, laden with wines; and as she came in she made signals of distress to the town, firing guns for help, and the like, as is usual in such cases; it was in the dark of the night that the ship came in, and, by the help of her own pilot, found her way into the road, where she came to an anchor, but, as I say, fired guns for help.
The venturous Weymouth men went off, even before it was light, with two boats to see who she was, and what condition she was in; and found she was come to an anchor, and had struck her topmasts; but that she had been in bad weather, had lost an anchor and cable before, and had but one cable to trust to, which did hold her, but was weak; and as the storm continued to blow, they expected every hour to go on shore and split to pieces.
Upon this the Weymouth boats came back with such diligence that in less than three hours they were on board them again with an anchor and cable, which they immediately bent in its place, and let go to assist the other, and thereby secured the ship. It is true that they took a good price of the master for the help they gave him; for they made him draw a bill on his owners at London for 12 pounds for the use of the anchor, cable, and boat, besides some gratuities to the men. But they saved the ship and cargo by it, and in three or four days the weather was calm, and he proceeded on his voyage, returning the anchor and cable again; so that, upon the whole, it was not so extravagant as at first I thought it to be.
The Isle of Portland, on which the castle I mentioned stands, lies right against this Port of Weymouth. Hence it is that our best and whitest freestone comes, with which the Cathedral of St. Paul’s, the Monument, and all the public edifices in the City of London are chiefly built; and it is wonderful, and well worth the observation of a traveller, to see the quarries in the rocks from whence they are cut out, what stones, and of what prodigious a size are cut out there.
The island is indeed little more than one continued rock of freestone, and the height of the land is such that from this island they see in clear weather above half over the Channel to France, though the Channel here is very broad. The sea off of this island, and especially to the west of it, is counted the most dangerous part of the British Channel. Due south, there is almost a continued disturbance in the waters, by reason of what they call two tides meeting, which I take to be no more than the sets of the currents from the French coast and from the English shore meeting: this they call Portland Race; and several ships, not aware of these currents, have been embayed to the west of Portland, and been driven on shore on the beach (of which I shall speak presently), and there lost.
To prevent this danger, and guide the mariner in these distresses, they have within these few months set up two lighthouses on the two points of that island; and they had not been many months set up, with the directions given to the public for their bearings, but we found three outward-bound East India ships which were in distress in the night, in a hard extreme gale of wind, were so directed by those lights that they avoided going on shore by it, which, if the lights had not been there, would inevitably happened to their destruction.
This island, though seemingly miserable, and thinly inhabited, yet the inhabitants being almost all stone-cutters, we found there were no very poor people among them, and when they collected money for the re-building St. Paul’s, they got more in this island than in the great town of Dorchester, as we were told.
Though Portland stands a league off from the mainland of Britain, yet it is almost joined by a prodigious riff of beach–that is to say, of small stones cast up by the sea–which runs from the island so near the shore of England that they ferry over with a boat and a rope, the water not being above half a stone’s-throw over; and the said riff of beach ending, as it were, at that inlet of water, turns away west, and runs parallel with the shore quite to Abbotsbury, which is a town about seven miles beyond Weymouth.
I name this for two reasons: first, to explain again what I said before of ships being embayed and lost here. This is when ships coming from the westward omit to keep a good offing, or are taken short by contrary winds, and cannot weather the high land of Portland, but are driven between Portland and the mainland. If they can come to an anchor, and ride it out, well and good; and if not, they run on shore on that vast beach and are lost without remedy.
On the inside of this beach, and between it and the land, there is, as I have said, an inlet of water which they ferry over, as above, to pass and re-pass to and from Portland: this inlet opens at about two miles west, and grows very broad, and makes a kind of lake within the land of a mile and a half broad, and near three miles in length, the breadth unequal. At the farthest end west of this water is a large duck-coy, and the verge of the water well grown with wood, and proper groves of trees for cover for the fowl: in the open lake, or broad part, is a continual assembly of swans: here they live, feed, and breed, and the number of them is such that, I believe, I did not see so few as 7,000 or 8,000. Here they are protected, and here they breed in abundance. We saw several of them upon the wing, very high in the air, whence we supposed that they flew over the riff of beach, which parts the lake from the sea, to feed on the shores as they thought fit, and so came home again at their leisure.
From this duck-coy west, the lake narrows, and at last almost closes, till the beach joins the shore; and so Portland may be said, not to be an island, but part of the continent. And now we came to Abbotsbury, a town anciently famous for a great monastery, and now eminent for nothing but its ruins.
From hence we went on to Bridport, a pretty large corporation town on the sea-shore, though without a harbour. Here we saw boats all the way on the shore, fishing for mackerel, which they take in the easiest manner imaginable; for they fix one end of the net to a pole set deep into the sand, then, the net being in a boat, they row right out into the water some length, then turn and row parallel with the shore, veering out the net all the while, till they have let go all the net, except the line at the end, and then the boat rows on shore, when the men, hauling the net to the shore at both ends, bring to shore with it such fish as they surrounded in the little way they rowed. This, at that time, proved to be an incredible number, insomuch that the men could hardly draw them on shore. As soon as the boats had brought their fish on shore we observed a guard or watch placed on the shore in several places, who, we found, had their eye, not on the fishermen, but on the country people who came down to the shore to buy their fish; and very sharp we found they were, and some that came with small carts were obliged to go back empty without any fish. When we came to inquire into the particulars of this, we found that these were officers placed on the shore by the justices and magistrates of the towns about, who were ordered to prevent the country farmers buying the mackerel to dung their land with them, which was thought to be dangerous as to infection. In short, such was the plenty of fish that year that the mackerel, the finest and largest I ever saw, were sold at the seaside a hundred for a penny.
From Bridport (a town in which we see nothing remarkable) we came to Lyme, the town particularly made famous by the landing of the Duke of Monmouth and his unfortunate troops in the time of King James II., of which I need say nothing, the history of it being so recent in the memory of so many living.
This is a town of good figure, and has in it several eminent merchants who carry on a considerable trade to France, Spain, Newfoundland, and the Straits; and though they have neither creek or bay, road or river, they have a good harbour, but it is such a one as is not in all Britain besides, if there is such a one in any part of the world.
It is a massy pile of building, consisting of high and thick walls of stone, raised at first with all the methods that skill and art could devise, but maintained now with very little difficulty. The walls are raised in the main sea at a good distance from the shore; it consists of one main and solid wall of stone, large enough for carts and carriages to pass on the top, and to admit houses and warehouses to be built on it, so that it is broad as a street. Opposite to this, but farther into the sea, is another wall of the same workmanship, which crosses the end of the first wall and comes about with a tail parallel to the first wall.
Between the point of the first or main wall is the entrance into the port, and the second or opposite wall, breaking the violence of the sea from the entrance, the ships go into the basin as into a pier or harbour, and ride there as secure as in a millpond or as in a wet dock.
The townspeople have the benefit of this wonderful harbour, and it is carefully kept in repair, as indeed it behoves them to do; but they could give me nothing of the history of it, nor do they, as I could perceive, know anything of the original of it, or who built it. It was lately almost beaten down by a storm, but is repaired again.
This work is called the Cobb. The Custom House officers have a lodge and warehouse upon it, and there were several ships of very good force and rich in value in the basin of it when I was there. It might be strengthened with a fort, and the walls themselves are firm enough to carry what guns they please to plant upon it; but they did not seem to think it needful, and as the shore is convenient for batteries, they have some guns planted in proper