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Title: Fragments of Two Centuries - Glimpses of Country Life when George III. was King
Author: Kingston, Alfred
Language: English
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[Frontispiece: King George III.]






  ESSEX, FROM 1801 TO 1891.






Though the town of Royston is frequently mentioned in the following
pages, it was no part of my task to deal with the general historical
associations of the place, with its interesting background of Court
life under James I.  These belong strictly to local history, and the
references to the town and neighbourhood of Royston simply arise from
the accidental association with the district of the materials which
have come most readily to my hand in glancing back at the life of rural
England in the time of the Georges.  Indeed, it may be claimed, I
think, that although, by reason of being drawn chiefly from local
sources, these "Fragments" have received a local habitation and a name,
yet they refer to a state of things which was common to all the
neighbouring counties, and for the most part, may be taken to stand for
the whole of rural England at the time.  For the rest, these glimpses
of our old country life are now submitted to the indulgent
consideration of the reader, who will, I hope, take a lenient view of
any shortcomings in the manner of presenting them.

There remains for me only the pleasing duty of acknowledging many
instances of courteous assistance received, without which it would have
been impossible to have carried out my task.  To the proprietors of the
_Cambridge Chronicle_ and the _Hertsfordshire Mercury_ for access to
the files of those old established papers; to the authorities of the
Cambridge University Library; to the Rev. J. G. Hale, rector of
Therfield, and the Rev. F. L. Fisher, vicar of Barkway, for access to
their interesting old parish papers; to Mr. H. J. Thurnall for access
to interesting MS. reminiscences by the late Mr. Henry Thurnall; to the
Rev. J. Harrison, vicar of Royston; to Mr. Thos. Shell and Mr. James
Smith, for access to Royston parish papers--to all of these and to
others my warmest thanks are due.  All the many persons who have kindly
furnished me with personal recollections it would be impossible here to
name, but mention must be made of Mr. Henry Fordham, Mr. Hale Wortham,
Mr. Frederick N. Fordham, and especially of the late Mr. James
Richardson and Mr. James Jacklin, whose interesting chats over bygone
times are now very pleasant recollections.



CHAPTER I.                                                     PAGE

  Introduction.--"The Good Old Times"  . . . . . . . . . . . .    1


  Getting on Wheels.--Old Coaches, Roads and Highwaymen.--The
  Romance of the Road  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    6


  Social and Public Life.--Wrestling and Cock-Fighting.--An
  Eighteenth Century Debating Club . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   19


  The Parochial Parliament and the Old Poor-Law  . . . . . . .   32


  Dogberry "On Duty" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   47


  The Dark Night of the Eighteenth Century.--The Shadow of
  Napoleon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   56


  Domestic Life and the Tax-Gatherer.--The Doctor and the
  Body-Snatcher  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   73


  Old Pains and Penalties.--From the Stocks to the Gallows . .   83


  Old Manners and Customs.--Soldiers, Elections and
  Voters.--"Statties," Magic and Spells  . . . . . . . . . . .   92


  Trade, Agriculture and Market Ordinaries . . . . . . . . . .  103


  Royston in 1800-25.--Its Surroundings, its Streets,
  and its People . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  110


  Public Worship and Education.--Morals and Music  . . . . . .  117


  Sports and Pastimes.--Cricket, Hunting, Racing, and
  Prize-Fighting.--The Butcher and the Baronet, and other
  Champions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  130


  Old Coaching Days.--Stage Wagons and Stage Coaches . . . . .  142


  New Wine and Old Bottles.--A Parochial Revolution.--The Old
  Poor-House and the New "Bastille"  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  155


  When the Policeman Came.--When the Railway Came.--Curious
  and Memorable Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  174


  Then and Now.--Conclusion  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  191

ERRATA--Page 16, lines 9 and 29, for _Dr. Monsey_, read _Dr. Mowse_.

[Transcriber's note: These changes have been incorporated into this



Portrait of King George III. . . . . . . . . . . . .  _Frontispiece_

Old Stage Wagon, A.D. 1800 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    8

The "Fox and Hounds," Barley, Herts. . . . . . . . . . . . . .   17

Lady in Reign of George III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   21

Old Jockey House--King James' Stables--Near Royston  . . . . .   22

Staircase into Royston Cave  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   36

Illustration of a portion of the Interior of Royston Cave  . .   37

Dogberry "On Duty" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   52

Napoleon Buonaparte  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   63

Tinder-Box, Flint, Steel, and Matches  . . . . . . . . . . . .   74

A Lady of the Period . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   76

The Old Parish Stocks at Meldreth  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   87

Reading the News . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  106

The Hunt Breakfast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  131

Third-Class to London  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  144

A Cambridge Election Party . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  147

Triumphal Arch at Buntingford .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  187

Triumphal Arch at Royston  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  188

Wimpole Mansion  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  189





The Jubilee Monarch, King George III., and his last name-sake, had
succeeded so much that was unsettled in the previous hundred years,
that the last half of the 18th Century was a period almost of
comparative quiet in home affairs.  Abroad were stirring events in
abundance in which England played its part, for the century gives, at a
rough calculation, 56 years of war to 44 years of peace, while the
reign of George III. had 37 years of war and 23 years of peace--the
longest period of peace being 10 years, and of war 24 years
(1793-1816).  But in all these stirring events, there was, in the
greater part of the reign, at least, and notwithstanding some
murmurings, the appearance of a solidity in the Constitution which has
somehow settled down into the tradition of "the good old times."  A
cynic might have described the Constitution as resting upon empty
bottles and blunder-busses, for was it not the great "three-bottle
period" of the British aristocracy? and as for the masses, the only
national sentiment in common was that of military glory earned by
British heroes in foreign wars.  In more domestic affairs, it was a
long hum-drum grind in settled grooves--deep ruts in fact--from which
there seemed no escape.  Yet it was a period in which great forces had
their birth--forces which were destined to exercise the widest
influence upon our national, social, and even domestic affairs.  Adam
Smith's great work on the causes of the wealth of nations planted a
life-germ of progressive thought which was to direct men's minds into
what, strange as it may seem, was almost a new field of research, viz.,
the relation of cause and effect, and was commercially almost as much a
new birth and the opening of a flood gate of activity, as was that of
the printing press at the close of the Middle Ages; and, this once set
in motion, a good many other things seemed destined to follow.

What a host of things which now seem a necessary part of our daily
lives were then in a chrysalis state!  But the bandages were visibly
cracking in all directions.  Literature was beginning those {2}
desperate efforts to emerge from the miseries of Grub Street, to go in
future direct to the public for its patrons and its market, and to
bring into quiet old country towns like Royston at least a newspaper
occasionally.  In the political world Burke was writing his "Thoughts
on the present Discontents," and Francis, or somebody else, the
"Letters of Junius."  Things were, in fact, showing signs of commencing
to move, though slowly, in the direction of that track along which
affairs have sometimes in these latter days moved with an
ill-considered haste which savours almost as much of what is called
political expediency as of the public good.

Have nations, like individuals, an intuitive sense or presentiment of
something to come?  If they have, then there has been perhaps no period
in our history when that faculty was more keenly alive than towards the
close of the last century.  From the beginning of the French Revolution
to the advent of the Victorian Era constitutes what may be called the
great transition period in our domestic, social, and economic life and
customs.  Indeed, so far as the great mass of the people were
concerned, it was really the dawn of social life in England; and, as
the darkest hour is often just before the dawn, so were the earlier
years of the above period to the people of these Realms.  Before the
people of England at the end of the 18th century, on the horizon which
shut out the future, lay a great black bank of cloud, and our great
grandfathers who gazed upon it, almost despairing whether it would ever
lift, were really in the long shadows of great coming events.

Through the veil which was hiding the new order of things,
occasionally, a sensitive far-seeing eye, here and there caught
glimpses from the region beyond.  The French, driven just then
well-nigh to despair, caught the least glimmer of light and the whole
nation was soon on fire!  A few of the most highly strung minds caught
the inspiration of an ideal dream of the regeneration of the world by
some patent process of redistribution!  All the ancient bundle of
precedents, and the swaddling bands of restraints and customs in which
men had been content to remain confined for thousands of years, were
henceforth to be dissolved in that grandiose dream of a society in
which each individual, left to follow his unrestrained will, was to be
trusted to contribute to the happiness of all without that security
from wrong which, often rude in its operation, had been the fundamental
basis of social order for ages!  The ideal was no doubt pure and noble,
but unfortunately it only raised once more the old unsolved problem of
the forum whether that which is theoretically right can ever be
practically wrong.  The French Revolution did not, as a matter of fact,
rest with a mere revulsion of moral forces, but as the infection
descended from moral heights into the grosser elements of the national
life, men soon {3} began to fight for the new life with the old
weapons, until France found, and others looking on saw, the beautiful
dream of liberty tightening down into that hideous nightmare, and
saddest of all tyrannies, the tyranny of the multitude!  Into the great
bank of cloud which had gathered across the horizon of Europe, towards
the close of the 18th century, some of the boldest spirits of France
madly rushed with the energy of despair, seeking to carve their way
through to the coming light, and fought in the names of "liberty,
equality and fraternity," with apparent giants and demons in the mist
who turned out to be their brother men!

It would be a total misapprehension of the great throbbing thought of
better days to come which stirred the sluggish life of the expiring
century, to assume, as we often do, that that cry of "liberty,
equality, and fraternity," was merely the cry of the French, driven to
desperation by the gulf between the nobility and the people.  In truth,
almost the whole Western world was eagerly looking on at the unfolding
of a great drama, and the infection of it penetrated almost into every
corner of England.  No glimpses even of our local life at this period
would be satisfactory which did not give a passing notice to an event
which literally turned the heads of many of the most gifted young men
in England.

Upon no individual mind in these realms had that aspiration for a
universal brotherhood a more potent spell than upon a youthful genius
then at Cambridge, with whom some notable Royston men were afterwards
to come in contact.  That glorious dream, in which the French
Revolution had its birth, had burnt itself into the very soul of young
Wordsworth who found indeed that--

    Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
  But to be young was very heaven! Oh! times
  In which the meagre, stale forbidding ways
  Of custom, law and statute, took at once
    The attraction of a country in romance!

In the Autumn of 1789, young Wordsworth, and a fellow student left
Cambridge and crossed the Channel to witness that

    Glorious opening, the unlooked for dawn,
  That promised everlasting joy to France!

The gifted singer caught the blissful intoxication and has told us--

    Meanwhile prophetic harps,
  In every grove were ringing, war shall cease.
      *      *      *      *      *      *
  Henceforth whate'er is wanting in yourselves
  In others ye shall promptly find--and all
  Be rich by mutual and reflected wealth!

{4} So the poet went out to stand by the cradle of liberty, only to
come back disenchanted, came back to find his republican dreams
gradually giving way to a settled conservatism, and the fruit of that
disappointed first-love of liberty received with unmeasured opposition
from the old school in literary criticism represented by Jeffrey and
the _Edinburgh Review_, with the result that those in high places for
long refused to listen to one who had the magical power of unlocking
the sweet ministries of Nature as no other poet of the century had.

Other ardent spirits had their dreams too, and for a short time at
least there was a sympathy with the French, among many of the English,
which left its traces in local centres like Royston--quite an
intellectual centre in those days--and was in striking contrast with
that hatred of the French which was so soon to settle over England
under the Napoleonic _régime_.  But, if many of the English people,
weary of the increasing burdens which fell upon them, had their dreams
of a good time coming, they, instead of following the mere glimmer of
the will-o'-the-wisp, across the darkness of their lot, responded
rather to signs of coming activities.  Through the darkness they saw
perhaps nothing very striking, but they _felt_ occasionally the thrill
of coming activities which were struggling for birth in that pregnant
mother-night which seemed to be shrouding the sunset of the
century--and they were saved from the immediate horrors of a
revolution.  Feudalism and the Pope had left our fathers obedience, _en
masse_, and Luther had planted hope through the reformation of the
individual.  So the great wave of aspiration after a patent scheme of
universal brotherhood passed over the people of these realms with only
a wetting of the spray.  Here and there was a weak reflection of the
drama, in the calling of hard names, and the taunt of "Jacobin," thrown
in the teeth of those who might have sympathised with the French in the
earlier stages of the Revolution, was sometimes heard in the streets of
Royston for many years after the circumstances which called it forth
had passed away.

I have referred thus fully to what may seem a general rather than a
local question, because the town of Royston, then full of aspirations
after reform, was looked upon almost as a hot-bed of what were called
"dangerous principles" by those attached to the old order of things,
and because it may help us to understand something of the excitement
occasioned by the free expression of opinions in the public debates
which took place in Royston to be referred to hereafter.

But though the "era of hope," in the particular example of its
application in France, failed miserably and deservedly of realising the
great romantic dream-world of human happiness without parchments and
formularies, it had at least this distinction, that it was in a sense
the birth-hour of the individual with regard to civil life, just as
Luther's bursting the bonds of Monasticism had been the birth-hour of
the {5} individual in religious life.  The birth, however, was a feeble
one, and in this respect, and for the social and domestic drawbacks of
a trying time, it is interesting to look back and see how our fathers
carried what to them were often felt to be heavy burdens, and how
bravely and even blithely they travelled along what to us now seems
like a weary pilgrimage towards the light we now enjoy.  Carrying the
tools of the pioneer which have ever become the hands of Englishmen so
well, they worked, with such means as they had, for results rather than
sentiment, and, cherishing that life-germ planted by Adam Smith,
earned, not from the lips of Napoleon as is commonly supposed, but from
one of the Revolutionary party--Bertrand Barrère in the National
Assembly in 1794, when the tide of feeling had been turned by events
the well-known taunt--"let Pitt then boast of his victory to a nation
of shop-keepers."  The instinct for persistent methodical plodding work
which extracted this taunt, afterwards vanquished Napoleon at Waterloo,
and enabled the English to pass what, when you come to gauge it by our
present standard, was one of the darkest and most trying crises in our
modern history.  We who are on the light side of that great cloud which
brooded over the death and birth of two centuries may possibly learn
something by looking back along the pathway which our forefathers
travelled, and by the condition of things and the actions of men in
those trying times--learn something of the comparative advantages we
now enjoy in our public, social, and domestic life, and the
corresponding extent of our responsibilities.

In the following sketches it is proposed to give, not a chapter of
local history, as history is generally understood, but what may perhaps
best be described by the title adopted--glimpses of the condition of
things which prevailed in Royston and its neighbourhood, in regard to
the life, institutions, and character of its people, during the
interesting period which is indicated at the head of this sketch--with
some fragments illustrative of the general surroundings of public
affairs, where the local materials may be insufficient to complete the
picture.  Imperfect these "glimpses" must necessarily be, but with the
advantage of kindly help from those whose memories carry their minds
back to earlier times, and his own researches amongst such materials,
both local and general, as seemed to promise useful information, the
writer is not without hope that they may be of interest.  The interest
of the sketches will necessarily vary according to the taste of the

  From grave to gay,
  From lively to severe.

The familiar words "When George III. was King," would, if strictly
interpreted, limit the survey to the period from 1760 to 1820, but it
may be necessary to extend these "glimpses" up to the {6} commencement
of the Victorian Era, and thus cover just that period which may be
considered of too recent date to have hitherto found a place in local
history, and yet too far away for many persons living to remember.  Nor
will the sketches be confined to Royston.  In many respects it is hoped
they may be made of equal interest to the district for many miles
round.  The first thing that strikes one in searching for materials for
attempting such a survey, is the enormous gulf which in a few short
years--almost bounded by the lifetime of the oldest individual--has
been left between the old order and the new.  There has been no other
such transition period in all our history, and in some respects perhaps
never may be again.



It is worthy of notice how locomotion in all ages seems to have
classified itself into what we now know as passenger and goods train,
saloon and steerage.  Away back in the 18th century when men were only
dreaming of the wonders of the good time coming, when carriages were
actually to "travel without horses," the goods train was simply a long
line or cavalcade of Pack-horses.  This was before the age of "fly
waggons," distinguished for carrying goods, and sometimes passengers as
well, at the giddy rate of two miles an hour under favourable
circumstances!  Fine strapping broad-chested Lincolnshire animals were
these Pack-horses, bearing on either side their bursting packs of
merchandise to the weight of half-a-ton.  Twelve or fourteen in a line,
they would thus travel the North Road, through Royston, from the North
to the Metropolis, to return with other wares of a smarter kind from
the London Market for the country people.  The arrival of such caravans
was the principal event which varied the life of Roystonians in the
last century, for was not the Talbot a very caravansarai for
Pack-horses!  This old inn, kept at the time of which I am writing by
Widow Dixon, as the Royston parish books show, then extended along the
West side of the High Street, from Mrs. Beale's corner shop to Mr.
Abbott's.  The Talbot formed a rendez-vous for the Pack-horses known
throughout the land, and in its stables at the back of the new Post
Office, with an entrance from Melbourn Street, known as the Talbot
Back-yard, there was accommodation for about a score of these


Occasionally a rare sign-board at a way-side public-house bearing a
picture of the Pack-horse may be seen, but it is only in this way, or
in some old print, that a glimpse can now be obtained of a means of
locomotion which has completely passed away from our midst.  But
besides the Pack-horses being a public institution, this was really the
chief means of burden-bearing, whether in the conveyance of goods to
market or of conveying friends on visits from place to place.  As to
the conveyance of goods, we find that as late as 1789, even the farmers
were only gradually getting on wheels.  A few carts were in use, no
wagons, and the bulk of the transit in many districts was by means of
Pack-horses; in the colliery districts, coals were carried by horses
from the mines; and even manure was carried on to the land in some
places on the backs of horses! trusses of hay were also occasionally
met with loaded upon horses' backs, and in towns, builders' horses
might be seen bending under a heavy load of brick, stone, and lime!
Members of Parliament travelled from their constituents to London on
horseback, with long over-alls, or wide riding breeches, into which
their coat tails were tucked, so as to get rid of traces of mud on
reaching the Metropolis!  Commercial travellers, then called "riders,"
travelled with their packs of samples on each side of their horses.
Farmers rode from the surrounding villages to the Royston Market on
horseback, with the good wife on a pillion behind them with the butter
and eggs, &c., and a similar mode of going to Church or Chapel, if any
distance, was used on a Sunday.  Among the latest in this district must
have been the one referred to in a note by Mr. Henry Fordham, who says:
"I remember seeing an old pillion in my father's house which was used
by my mother, as I have been told, in her early married days."  [Mr.
Henry Fordham's mother was a daughter of Mr. William Nash, a country
lawyer of some note.]

Some months ago the writer was startled by hearing, casually dropped by
an old man visiting a shop in Royston, the strange remark--"My
grandfather was chairman to the Marquis of Rockingham."  The remark
seemed like the first glimpse of a rare old fossil when visiting an old
quarry.  Of the truth of it further inquiry seemed to leave little
doubt, and the meaning of it was simply this: The Marquis of
Rockingham, Prime Minister in the early years of George III., would,
like the rest of the _beau monde_, be carried about town in his Sedan
chair, by smart velvet-coated livery men ["I have a piece of his livery
of green silk velvet by me now," said my informant, when further
questioned about his grandfather] preceded at night by the "link boy,"
or someone carrying a torch to light the way through the dark streets!
I have been unable to find any trace of the use of the Sedan Chair by
any of the residents of Royston, albeit that gifted but ill-fated
youth, John Smith, alias Charles Stuart, alias King Charles I., did,
with the {8} Duke of Buckingham, alias Thomas Smith, come back to his
royal father, King James I., at Royston, from that romantic Spanish
wooing expedition and bring with him a couple of Sedan Chairs, instead
of a Spanish bride!

The old stage wagons succeeding to the pack-horses, which carried goods
and occasionally passengers stowed away, were a curiosity.  A
long-bodied wagon, with loose canvas tilt, wheels of great breadth, so
as to be independent of ruts, except the very broadest; with a series
of four or five iron tires or hoops round the feloes, and the whole
drawn by eight or ten horses, two abreast with a driver riding on a
pony with a long whip, which gave him command of the whole team!
Average pace about 1 1/2 to 2 miles an hour, including stoppages, as
taken from old time tallies, for their journeys!  These ponderous
wagons, with their teams of eight horses and broad wheels, were
actually associated with the idea of "flying," for I find an
announcement in the year 1772, that the Stamford, Grantham, Newark and
Gainsboro' wagons began "flying" on Tuesday, March 24th, &c.  Twenty
and thirty horses have been known to be required to extricate these
lumbering wagons when they became embedded in deep ruts, in which not
infrequently, the wagon had to remain all night.  Many a struggling,
despairing scene of this kind has been witnessed at the bottom of our
hills, such as that at the bottom of Reed Hill, before the road was
raised out of the hollow; the London Road, before the cutting was made
through the hill; and along the Baldock Road by the Heath, on to which
wagons not infrequently turned and began those deep ruts which are
still visible, and the example, which every one must regret, of driving
along the Heath at the present day, with no such excuse as the "fly
wagons" had.

[Illustration: OLD STAGE WAGON, A.D. 1800.]


Bad as were the conditions of travel, however, it should be understood
that for some time before regular mail coaches were introduced in 1784
(by a Mr. Palmer) there had been some coaching through Royston.
Evidence of this is perhaps afforded by the old sign of the "Coach and
Horses," in Kneesworth Street, Royston.  This old public-house is
mentioned in the rate-books for Royston, Cambs., as far back as the
beginning of the reign of George III., or about the middle of last
century, and as its old sign, probably a picture of a coach and four,
hanging over the street, was a reflection of previous custom, we may
take it that public coaches passed up and down our High Street,
occasionally, in the first half of the last century, but the palmy days
of coaching were to come nearly a century after this.  It is
interesting to note that Royston itself had a much larger share in
contributing to the coaching of the last century, than it had during
the present, and its interest in the traffic was not confined to the
fact of its situation on two great thoroughfares.  The most interesting
of all the local coaching announcements for last century, is one which
refers to the existence of a Royston coach at a much earlier date.  In
1796 the following announcement was made, which I copy _verbatim_:

      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *




Will set out on Monday, 2nd May, and will continue to set out during
the summer, every Monday and Friday morning at four o'clock; every
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday at six o'clock, from the Old
Crown Inn, Royston; arrives at the Four Swans Inn, Bishopsgate Street,
London, at ten and twelve o'clock.  Returns every day (Sunday excepted)
from the said Inn, precisely at two o'clock, and arrives at Royston at
eight o'clock at night.

The proprietors of this undertaking, being persons who have rose by
their own merit, and being desirous of accommodating the public from
Royston and its environs, they request the favour of all gentlemen
travellers for their support, who wish to encourage the hand of
industry, when their favours will be gratefully acknowledged by their
servants with thanks.

  John Sporle, Royston.
  Thomas Folkes, London, and Co.

Fare as under:--

  From Royston to London, inside, L0 12s. 0d.
   "   Buntingford    ditto,      L0 10s. 0d.
   "   Puckeridge     ditto,      L0  9s. 0d.

Ware and other places the same as other coaches.

Outsiders, and children in lap, half-price.

N.B.--No parcels accounted for above five pounds, unless paid for and
entered as such.

      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *


A much earlier announcement was that in 1763, of the St. Ives and
Royston Coach, which was announced to run with able horses from the
Bell and Crown, Holborn, at five o'clock in the morning, every Monday
and Friday to the Crown, St. Ives, returning on Tuesday and Saturday.
Fare from London to Royston 8s., St. Ives 13s.  This was performed by
John Lomax, of London, and James Gatward, of Royston, and in the
following year the same proprietors extended the route to Chatteris,
March and Wisbech.  This James Gatward was probably a brother of the
unfortunate Gatward (son of Mrs. Gatward, for many years landlady of
the Red Lion Inn, at Royston), whose strange career and tragic end will
be referred to presently.

In 1772 I find a prospectus of the Royston, Buntingford, Puckeridge and
Ware "Machine" which set out from the Hull Hotel, Royston, "every
Monday and Friday at half after five o'clock, and returns from the Vine
Inn every Tuesday and Thursday at half after eight o'clock, and dines
at Ware on the return.  To begin on 20th of this instant, April, 1772.
Performed by their most humble servant, A. Windus (Ware)."

In 1776 occurs this announcement "The Royston, Buntingford, Puckeridge
and Ware Machine run from Royston (Bull Inn) to London, by Joshua Ellis
and Co."  In the same year was announced the Cambridge and London
Diligence in 8 hours--through Ware and Royston to Cambridge, performed
by J. Roberts, of London, Thomas Watson, Royston, and Jacob Brittain,
of Cambridge.

In October, 1786, at two o'clock in the morning, the first coach
carrying the mails came through Royston, and in the same month of the
same year the Royston Coach was "removed from the Old Crown to the Red

In 1788 we learn that "The Royston Post Coach, constructed on a most
approved principle for speed and pleasure in travelling goes from
Royston to London in six hours, admits of only four persons inside, and
sets out every morning from Mr. Watson's the Red Lion."

In 1793, W. Moul and Co. began with their Royston Coach.

Some of the old announcements of Coach routes indicate a spirit of
improvement which had set in even thus early, such as "The Cambridge
and Yarmouth Machine upon steel springs, with four able horses."  It
was a common name to apply to public coaches during the last century to
call them "Machines," and when an improved Machine is announced with
steel springs one can imagine the former state of things!  It was a
frequent practice, notwithstanding the apparent difficulty of
maintaining one's perch for a long weary journey and sleeping by the
road, for these old coaches to be overloaded at the top, and coachmen
fined for it.  In his "Travels in England in 1782," Moritz, the old
German pastor, in his delightful pages, says on this point: {11}
"Persons to whom it is not convenient to pay a full price, instead of
the inside, sit on the top of the coach, without any seats or even a
rail.  By what means passengers thus fasten themselves securely on the
roof of these vehicles, I know not."

Reference has been made to the condition of the roads, and the terrible
straits to which the old coaches and wagons of the last century were
sometimes put on this account.  The system of "farming" the highways
was responsible for a great deal of this.  An amusing instance occurred
in October, 1789.  A part of one of the high roads out of London was
left in a totally neglected condition by the last lessee, excepting
that some men tried to let out the water from the ruts, and when they
could not do this, "these labourers employed themselves in scooping out
the batter," and the plea for its neglect was that it was taken, but
not yet entered upon by the person who had taken it to repair, it being
some weeks before his time of entrance commenced!  What was its state
in November may be imagined.  "When the ruts were so deep that the fore
wheels of the wagons would not turn round, they placed in them fagots
twelve or fourteen feet long, which were renewed as they were worn away
by the traffic" (Gunning's "Reminiscences of Cambridge," 1798).

Some of the ruts were described as being four feet deep.  In Young's
_Tours through England_ (1768) the Essex roads are spoken of as having
ruts of inconceivable depth, and the roads so overgrown with trees as
to be impervious to the sun.  Some of the turnpikes were spoken of as
being rocky lanes, with stones "as big as a horse, and abominable
holes!"  He adds that "it is a prostitution of language to call them
turnpikes--ponds of liquid dirt and a scattering of loose flints, with
the addition of cutting vile grips across the road under the pretence
of letting water off, but without the effect, altogether render these
turnpike roads as infamous a turnpike as ever were made!"

If the early coaches on the main roads were in such a sorry plight,
what was to be expected of traffic on the parish roads?  In some
villages in this district lying two or three miles off the Great North
Road, it was not unusual for carts laden with corn for Royston market
to start over night to the high road so as to be ready for a fair start
in the morning, in which case one man would ride on the "for'oss" (fore
horse) carrying a lantern to light the way; and a sorry struggle it
was!  Years later when a carriage was kept here and there, it was not
uncommon for a dinner party to get stuck in similar difficulties, and
to have to call up the horses from a neighbouring farm to pull them

The difficulties for the older coaches and wagons were peculiarly
trying in this district on account of the hills and hollows, but one of
the most dreadful pieces of road at that time and for long afterwards,
was {12} that between Chipping and Buntingford, the foundations of
which were often little else but fagots thrown into a quagmire!

But besides bad vehicles and worse roads, there was a weird and a
horrid fascination about coaching in the eighteenth century, arising
from the vision of armed and well-mounted highwaymen, or of a
malefactor, after execution, hanging in chains on the gibbet by the
highway near the scene of his exploits!

Let us take one well authenticated case--the best authenticated perhaps
now known in England--in which a member of a respectable family in
Royston turned highwayman--an amateur highwayman one would fain hope
and believe--and paid the full penalty of the law, and was made to
illustrate the horrible custom of those times by hanging in chains on
the public highway!  For this we must take the liberty of going a few
years back before George III. came to the throne.  For some years
before and after that time, the noted old Posting House of the Red
Lion, in the High Street, Royston, was kept by a Mrs. Gatward.  This
good lady, who managed the inn with credit to herself and satisfaction
to her patrons, unfortunately had a son, who, while attending
apparently to the posting branch of the business, could not resist the
fascination of the life of the highwaymen, who no doubt visited his
mother's inn under the guise of well-spoken gentlemen.  Probably it was
in dealing with them for horses that young Gatward caught the infection
of their roving life, but what were the precise circumstances of his
fall we can hardly know; suffice it to say that his crime was one of
robbing His Majesty's mails, that he was evidently tried at the
Cambridgeshire Assizes, sentenced to death and afterwards to hang in
chains on a gibbet, and according to the custom of the times, somewhere
near the scene of his crime.  The rest of his story is so well told by
Cole, the Cambridgeshire antiquary, in his MSS. in the British Museum,
that the reader will prefer to have it in his own words:--

"About 1753-4, the son of Mrs. Gatward, who kept the Red Lion, at
Royston, being convicted of robbing the mail, was hanged in chains on
the Great Road.  I saw him hanging in a scarlet coat; after he had hung
about two or three months, it is supposed that the screw was filed
which supported him, and that he fell in the first high wind after.
Mr. Lord, of Trinity, passed by as he laid on the ground, and trying to
open his breast to see what state his body was in, not being offensive,
but quite dry, a button of brass came off, which he preserves to this
day, as he told me at the Vice-Chancellor's, Thursday, June 30, 1779.
I sold this Mr. Gatward, just as I left college in 1752, a pair of
coach horses, which was the only time I saw him.  It was a great grief
to his mother, who bore a good character, and kept the inn for many
years after."


There is a tradition, at least, that Mrs. Gatward afterwards obtained
her son's body and had it buried in the cellar of her house in the High
Street.  The story is in the highest degree creditable to human nature,
but there is no proof beyond the tradition.  As to the spot where the
gibbeting took place, the only clue we have is given in Cole's words:
"Hanged in chains on the Great Road."  There seems no road that would
so well answer this description as the North Road or Great North Road,
and, as the spot must have been somewhere within a riding distance of
Cambridge, the incident has naturally been associated with Caxton
gibbet, a half-a-mile to the north of the village of Caxton, where a
finger-post like structure, standing on a mound by the side of the
North Road, still marks the spot where the original gibbet stood.

It seems almost incredible that we have travelled so far within so
short a time!  That almost within the limits of two men's lives a state
of things prevailed which permitted a corpse to be lying about by the
side of the public highway, subject now to the insults, now to the
pity, of the passer-by!  Yet many persons living remember the fire-side
stories of the dreadful penalties awaiting any person who dared to
interfere with the course of the law, and remove the malefactor from
the gibbet!

Towards the end of the century the horrors of gibbeting, as illustrated
in Gatward's case, were tempered somewhat by a method of public
execution near the spot where the crime was committed, but, apparently
of sparing the victim and his friends the exposure of the body for
months afterwards till a convenient "high wind" blew it down.  The
latest instance I have found of an execution of this kind by the
highway occurred in Hertfordshire, and to a Hertfordshire man.  This
was James Snook, who had formerly been a contractor in the formation of
the Grand Junction Canal, but turning his attention to the "romance of
the road" was tried at the Hertfordshire Assizes in 1802 for robbing
the Tring mail.  He was capitally convicted and ordered to be executed
near the place where the robbery was committed.  He was executed there
a few days afterwards.  The spot was, I am informed, on the Boxmoor
Common, and his grave, at the same spot, is still, or was until recent
years, marked by a head stone standing, solitary and alone to tell the
sorry tale!

Situate on the York Road, one of the greatest coach roads in England,
with open Heath on all sides, it would have been strange indeed if
Royston and the neighbourhood had not got mixed up with traditions of
Dick Turpin, and that famous ride to York in which we get a flying
vision as the horseman passes the boundaries of the two counties.  The
stories of Dick Turpin, regarded as an historical figure, would not
quite fall within the limits assigned to these sketches, but as {14}
the traditions in this district which have become associated with the
name of Turpin, are a real reflection of a state of things which did
undoubtedly prevail in this locality during the latter half of the last
century, a passing reference to them will scarcely be out of place in
this concluding sketch of the old locomotion and its dangers.  The
stories have unquestionably been handed down orally from father to son
in this neighbourhood, without, I believe, having appeared in cold type
hitherto.  There is, for instance, the tradition of a young person
connected with one of the well-known families still represented in the
town, being accosted by a smart individual in a cocked hat, who
insisted upon kissing her, but gave her this consolation that she would
be able to say that she had been "kissed by Dick Turpin."

Among other stories associated with Dick Turpin, which have gained a
local habitation in Royston and its neighbourhood, the best known is
that which clings around the old well (now closed) in the "Hoops" Yard
in the High Street and Back Street, though other wells have been
coupled with the scene.  As the story goes, Turpin on one occasion
played something of the part of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, with his
horses.  Having a sort of duplicate of Black Bess, he used this animal
for his minor adventures in this neighbourhood, reserving Black Bess
for real emergencies.  He had been out on one of these errands,
probably across the Heath, leaving Black Bess in the stables in the
Hoops Yard in the Back Street.  As luck would have it he was so hotly
pursued by the officers of the law, that the pattering of their horses
was pretty close upon him down the street.  Finding himself almost at
bay, with the perspiring horse to testify against him, he conceived and
promptly carried out the bold expedient of backing the tell-tale horse
into the well in the inn yard!  He had only just accomplished this
desperate feat and rushed into the house and jumped into bed, when his
pursuers rode up and demanded their man.  With the utmost coolness the
highwayman denied having been out, and advised them to examine his
mare, which they would find in the stall, and they would see that she
had never been out at all that night.  The party proceeded to the
stables where they found, as Turpin had told them, that Black Bess was
indeed without a wet hair upon her and could not have been ridden!
They were obliged to accept this evidence as establishing Turpin's
innocence, and he escaped the clutches of the law by the sacrifice of
one of his steeds!

Another story, reflecting the hero's manner of tempering the demands of
his profession with generosity, is that on one occasion a Therfield
labouring man was returning home across the wilds of Royston Heath,
with his week's wages in his pocket, when he met with Dick Turpin.  In
answer to the demand for his money the man pleaded that it was all he
had to support his wife and children.  The {15} highwayman's code,
however, was inexorable, and the money had to be handed over, but with
a promise from the highwayman that if he would meet him at a certain
spot another night it should be returned to him.  The man made the best
of what seemed a hard bargain, but on going to the trysting place, his
money was returned to him with substantial interest!  Upon this one may
very well add the sentiment of the boy who, on finding the place in his
hand for a tip suddenly occupied by one of Turpin's guineas, is made to
remark:--"And so that be Dick Turpin folks talk so much about!  Well,
he's as civil speaking a chap as need be; blow my boots if he ain't!"

Of course these are only legends, but the desire to be impartial, is, I
hope, perfectly consistent with a tender regard for the legendary
background of history.  To subject a legend or tradition to the logical
process of reasoning and analysis, is like crushing a butterfly or
breaking a scent bottle, and expecting still to keep the beauty of the
one and the fragrance of the other.  I do not, therefore, push the
inquiry further than to remark that legend and tradition are generally
the reflection of a certain amount of truth, and the truth in this case
is that highwaymen and their practices were closely identified with
this district.  The case of Gatward is the strongest possible proof
that travelling along the great cross roads meeting at Royston, was
very frequently interrupted by the exploits of highwaymen possessing
some at least of the accomplishments indicated by one of the characters
in Ainsworth's story, that it was "as necessary for a man to be a
gentleman before he can turn highwayman, as for a doctor to have his
diploma or an attorney his certificate."  I am able to add, on the
authority of the _Cambridge Chronicle_ for the year 1765, the files of
which are preserved in the Cambridge University Library, that Royston
Heath and the road _across it_--for the Heath was then on both sides of
the Baldock Road--and especially that part of the road along what was
then known as Odsey Heath, near the present Ashwell Railway Station,
was at that time (and also later) infested by highwaymen, whom the old
_Chronicle_ describes as "wearing oil-skin hoods over their faces, and
well-mounted and well-spoken."

Intimately connected with the old locomotion, and with the exploits of
highwaymen, were the landmarks, such as old mile-stones and old
hostelries, the one to tell the pace of the traveller, and the other to
invite a welcome halt by the way!

Those who have travelled much along the old turnpike road from Barkway
by the Flint House to Cambridge, must have noticed the monumental
character of the mile-stones with their bold Roman figures, denoting
the distances.  These mile-stones, an old writer says, were the first
set up in England.  I do not know whether this be true or not, but as
the writer at the same time commented upon the system adopted {16} of
marking the stones with Roman figures, and as the mile-stones still
remaining along that road bear dates, in Roman figures, between thirty
and forty years before the time the above was written, they must be the
identical stones he is referring to.

The following particulars of these old milestones (contributed by Mr.
W. M. Palmer, of Charing Cross Hospital, London) are taken from the MS.
collections for a History of Trinity Hall, Cambridge.  [Add. MSS.,
5859, Brit. Mus.]

Dr. William Mowse, Master of Trinity Hall (1586), and Mr. Robert Hare
(1599), left 1,600 pounds in trust to Trinity Hall, the interest of
which was to mend the highways "in et circa villam nostram Cantabrigiae
praecipue versus Barkway."

On October 20th, 1725, Dr. Wm. Warren, Master of Trinity Hall, had the
first five mile-stones set up, starting from Great St. Mary's Church.

On June 25th, 1726, another five stones were set up.  And on June 15th,
1727, five more were set up.  The sixteenth mile was measured and ended
at the sign of the Angel, at Barkway, but no stone was then set up.

Of these stones, the fifth, tenth, and fifteenth, were large stones,
each about six feet high, and having the Trinity Hall arms cut on them,
viz., sable, a crescent in Fess ermine, with a bordure engrailed of the
2nd.  The others were small, having simply the number of miles cut on
them.  Between the years 1728 and 1732, Dr. Warren caused all these
small mile-stones to be replaced by larger ones, each bearing the
college arms.  The sixteenth mile-stone was set up on May 29th, 1728.

In addition to the Trinity College arms there were placed upon the
first stone the arms of Dr. Mowse, and on the Barkway stone those of
Mr. Hare.  The crescent of the Trinity Hall arms may still be easily
recognised on the Barkway stone, and on others along the road to

Bright spots in the older locomotion were the road-side inns, and if
the testimony of old travellers is to be credited, the way-farer met
with a degree of hospitality which made some amends for the
difficulties and dangers of the road, and of course figured in the bill
to a degree which gave the older Boniface a comfortable subsistence
such as his successors to-day would never dream of.  But the most
characteristic thing about these old inns was the outward sign of their
presence, ever seeming to say "know ye all men by these presents," &c.
At the entrance to every village the eye of the traveller would fall
upon an erection having a mixed resemblance to a gibbet, a gallows, and
a triumphal arch, extended across the village street, and in many
villages {18} he would have to pass beneath more than one of these
erections, upon which were suspended the signs of the road-side inns----

  Where village Statesmen tallied with looks profound,
  And news, much older than their ale, went round.


These picturesque features of our rural country life have now
disappeared almost as entirely as the parish stocks.  Perhaps the most
perfect specimen in existence, and one which could have hardly been
rivalled for picturesqueness even in the old days, is that which still
points the modern wayfarer to the "Fox and Hounds," in the village of
Barley, near Royston, where the visitor may see Reynard making his way
across the beam overhead, from one side of the street to the other,
into the "cover" of a sort of kennel in the thatch roof, with hounds
and huntsmen in full cry behind him!  This old picturesque scene was
painted some time ago by Mr. H. J. Thurnall, and the picture exhibited
in one of the Scottish Exhibitions, and as the canvas may out-live the
structure, the artist will have preserved what was an extremely
interesting feature of rural life in the last century.

The illustration on the preceding page gives a good idea of this
characteristic old sign, and of those of the period under review, and
also of the point of view from which Mr. Thurnall's picture is taken,
viz., from the position of a person looking down the hill towards

Upon this question of old signs it may not be out of place to add that
when George III. was King local tradesmen in Royston had their signs,
and especially the watchmakers, of which the following are
specimens:--In 1767 we find an announcement of William Warren, watch
and clock-maker at the "Dial and Crown," in the High Street, Royston,
near the Red Lion; and again that:--

"William Valentine, clock and watch-maker at the 'Dial and Sun,' in
Royston, begs leave to inform his friends that he has taken the
business of the late Mr. Kefford" [where he had been previously

These glimpses of our forefathers "getting on wheels," of the highways,
their passengers, their dangers, and their welcome signs of halting
places by the way, may perhaps be allowed to conclude with the
following curious inscription to be seen upon an old sign on a
chandler's shop in a village over the borders in Suffolk, in 1776:--

  Har lifs won woo Cuers a Goose,
  Gud Bare. Bako. sole Hare.

The modern rendering of which would be--

  Here lives one who cures Agues,
  Good Beer, Tobacco sold here.




It may be well here to take a nearer view of local life between the
years 1760 and 1800.  In doing so we shall probably see two extremes of
social and political life, with rather a dead level of morality and
public spirit between them--at the one extreme an unreasoning
attachment to, and a free and easy acquiescence in, the state of things
which actually existed, with too little regard for the possibility of
improving it; and at the other extreme an unreasonable ardour in
debating broad principles of universal philanthropy, with too little
regard for their particular application to some improvable things
nearer home.  Between these two extremes was comfortably located the
good old notion which looked for moral reforms to proclamations and the
Parish Beadle!  As approximate types of this state of things there was
the Old Royston Club at the one extreme, and the Royston Book Club, at
least in the debating period of its existence, at the other, and
between these extremes there were some instructive measures of local
government bearing upon public morals, of which the reader will be
afforded some curious illustrations in the course of this chapter.

The Old Royston Club must have been established before 1698, for at
that time there was a list of members, but what was the common bond of
fellowship, which enabled the Club to figure so notably among the
leading people of the neighbouring counties, we are left to infer from
one or two of its rules, and the emblems by which the members were
surrounded, rather than from any documentary proof.  It flourished in
an age of Clubs, of which the Fat Men's Club (five to a ton), the
Skeleton Club, the Hum-drum Club, and the Ugly Club, are given by
Addison as types in the _Spectator_.  The usual form of this
institution in the Provinces was the County Club.  The Royston Club
itself has been considered by some to have been the Herts. County Club,
but the County Clubs usually met in the county towns.  Mr. Hale Wortham
has in his possession some silver labels, bearing the words "County
Club," said to have been handed down as part of the Royston Club
property; but on the other hand there is the direct evidence of the
contemporary account of the Club given in the _Gentleman's Magazine_,
for 1783, describing it as the Royston Club, by which title it has
always been known.


It may not have been strictly speaking a political institution, and
yet, according to the custom of the times, could never have assembled
without a toast list pledging the institutions of the country, and the
prominent men of the day.

      But push round the claret,
      Come, stewards, don't spare it,
  With rapture you'll drink to the toast that I give!

Indeed, among some old papers placed at the writer's disposal, is this
candid expression of opinion by an old Roystonian:--"Probably the
members were strong partisans of the Stuarts; but, whatever may have
been their loyalty to the King, there is no doubt of their devotion to
Bacchus."  If so, they reflected the custom of the times rather than
the weakness of their institution which could scarcely have existed for
a century, and included such a distinguished membership, without
promoting much good feeling and adding to the importance of the town in
this respect.  The Club held its meetings at the Red Lion--then the
chief posting inn in the town--in two large rooms erected at the back
of the inn at the expense of the members.  In the first of these two
rooms, or ante-chamber, were half-length portraits of James I. and
Charles I.; whole lengths of Charles II. and James II., and of William
and Mary, and Anne; a head of the facetious Dr. Savage, of Clothall,
"the Aristippus of the age," who was one of its most famous members,
and its first Chaplain.  In the larger room were portraits of many
notable men in full wigs, and yellow, blue and pink coats of the period.

One of the rules of the Club was that the steward for the day had to
furnish the wine, or five guineas in lieu of it; and as politics went
up the wine went down, and vice versa, for, in 1760, after a
Hertfordshire election had gone wrong, and damped the ardour of the
Club, now in its old age, the attendance of members appears to have
fallen off, and the wine in the cellar had accumulated so much that no
steward was chosen for three months.  By September, 1783, there
remained of claret, Madeira, port, and Lisbon, about three pipes.
There is also a reference to "venison fees," from which it appears that
the gatherings were as hospitable as the list of membership was notable
for distinguished names--Sir Edward Turner, Knight, and Speaker of the
House of Commons; Sir John Hynde Cotton, Sir Thomas Middleton, Sir
Peter Soame, Sir Charles Barrington, the Earl of Suffolk, Sir Thomas
Salisbury, of Offley, and many other men of title, besides local and
county family names not a few.  Such an institution must have given to
the old town a prestige out of all proportion to what it has ever known
since.  A fuller account of the Royston Club belongs, however, to a
history of Royston, rather than to these sketches.


It is more to the purpose here to note that the head-quarters of the
Old Club remained for many years after the Club itself had disappeared,
a rallying point for social and festive gatherings of a brilliant kind,
in which political distinctions were less prominent.  For anything I
know, this over-ripe institution, with its old age and cellar full of
wine, may have been responsible for the following dainty _morceau_; at
any-rate it is in perfect harmony with the Club's traditions:--

"April, 1764.  On Monday last at the Red Lion, at Royston, there was a
very brilliant and polite Assembly of Ladies and Gentlemen, which was
elegantly conducted.  The company did not break up till six the next
morning, and would have continued longer had not a Northern Star
suddenly disappeared."

The poetical conclusion of the paragraph just quoted implies, I
suspect, a very elegant personal compliment to one of the belles of the
ball, and who should the "Northern Star" be if not my lady Hardwicke,
the first lady of that name, in whose newly acquired title the Royston
people took a pride--or at least it must have been a lady from the
Mansion on the North Road!


What a picture the Old Assembly Room at the Red Lion must have
presented!  Ladies with gorgeous and triumphant achievements in the
matter of head dresses, hair dressing, and hair powder, and frillings,
such as young ladies of to-day never dream of; and gentlemen in their
wigs, gold lace, silken hose, buckles, and elegant but economical
pantaloons!  A dazzling array of candles, artistic decorations, and
Kings and Queens looking down from the walls!  "A brilliant and polite
assembly elegantly conducted."  These brilliant assemblies were a
common and not unfrequent feature in our old town and district life
{22} all through the reign of George III., and more especially towards
the close of the eighteenth century.  Verily, "the world went very well
then," or seems to have done, at least, so far as one half of it was
concerned.  Of the other half we may get some other glimpses hereafter.

What were known during the present century as the Royston Races were a
continuation, with more or less interruption, of the old Odsey Races
established as far back as James I., and probably before that time.
The original course for these races was along the level land by the
side of the Baldock Road, near Odsey, and as time went on the course
was brought nearer the town of Royston.  Until the later years of last
century the course was just beyond King James' Stables, afterwards,
from the association with the course, called the Jockey House.  The
running of the "Royston" Races over a course on the west end of the
present Heath will be referred to under the head of "Sports and


In September, 1764, when the Odsey Races were run, the principal event
was the 100 guineas subscription purse, besides minor events of 50
guineas.  That large numbers of persons attended them is evident from
what is related for that year when we learn that James Butler, a
servant of Mr. Beldam, of Royston, was, while engaged in keeping the
horses without the ropes of the course, unfortunately thrown down, and
{23} run over by several horses, by which he was so miserably bruised
that he expired next day; and on Friday the stand, which was erected
for the nobility, ladies and gentry, being overcrowded with spectators,
suddenly broke down, but luckily none of the company received any
damage.  An old woman, however, who got underneath the stand to avoid
the crowd, was so much hurt that she died.

In September, 1766, at these races we read that "never was finer sport
seen," and that there was, as now, a good deal of betting connected
with race meetings, seems evident from the hint that the result of the
race was such that "the knowing ones were pretty deeply taken in."

The old Odsey Races only came once a year, in September, and other
sports were required to meet the popular taste.  Cricket had hardly
taken practical shape, but representative contests did take place in
the favourite pastime of cock-fighting--or "cocking" as it was always
called in the last century--in which contests the Hertfordshire side of
the town brought its birds into the pit against those of the
Cambridgeshire side.  Of this the following is a specimen under date

"On Monday next at the Old Crown, and on Tuesday at the Talbot Inns, in
Royston, will be fought a main of cocks between gentlemen of
Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire; fourteen cocks on each side for two
guineas a battle, and ten the odd.  Ten byes for each guinea."

The Red Lion also had its "assemblies and cookings as usual," on the
day of Odsey Races, from which it appears that the patrons of the races
finished up with cock fights at the inns in the town.  Indeed it would
be impossible to understand the social life of the period without
taking into account the universal popularity of cock-fighting.  Often
the stakes took the form of a fat hog or a fat ox, and the
technicalities of the sport read something like this:--"No one cock to
exceed the weight of 4 pounds, 10 ounces, when fairly brought to scale;
to fight in fair repute, silver weapons, and fair main hackles."  On
one occasion in the year 1800 a main of cocks was fought at Newmarket
for 1,000 guineas a side, and 40 guineas for each battle, when there
was "a great deal of betting."

Another form of sport was that of throwing at cocks on Shrove Tuesday.
Badger-baiting continued in Royston occasionally till the first decade
of the present century, and was sometimes a popular sport at the
smaller public-houses on the Market Hill.

Wrestling was emphatically the most generally practised recreation, and
the charming sketches in the _Spectator_ of young men wrestling on the
village green was no mere picture from the realms of fancy.  Such
scenes have been frequently witnessed on Royston Heath where the active
swain threw his opponent for a bever hat, or coloured {24} waistcoat
offered by the Squire, and for the smiles of his lady-love.  Wrestling
matches were very common events between the villages of Bassingbourn (a
good wrestling centre), the Mordens, Whaddon, Melbourn and Meldreth,
but when these events came off there was generally something else
looked for besides the prize-winning.  Sports in 1780 to 1800 were not
so refined and civil as those of to-day, and it was pretty well
understood that every match would end in a general fight between the
two contending villages; indeed, without this the spectators would have
come home greatly disappointed, and feeling that they had been "sold."

A favourite spot for such meetings was in a Bassingbourn field known as
the Red Marsh, on the left of the Old North Road beyond Kneesworth,
nearly opposite the footpath to Whaddon, where the Bassingbourn
men--who, when a bonâ fide contest did come off, could furnish some of
the most expert wrestlers in the district--frequently met those of the
Mordens and other villages, and many a stubborn set-to has been
witnessed there by hundreds of spectators from the surrounding

During the whole of the last half of the 18th century, bowling greens
did for the past what lawn tennis does for the present, always
excepting that the ladies were not thought of as they are now in regard
to physical recreation.  There was an excellent bowling green at the
"Green Man," smooth and level as a billiard table.  Earlier in the
century another bowling green was situate in Royston, Cambs., for which
Daniel Docwra was rated.  The gentry had private bowling greens on
their lawns.

As to other kinds of out-door sport of a more individual kind, shooting
parties were not quite so select as at the present day, and the farmers
had good reason to complain of the young sportsmen from Cambridge.
Foulmire Mere, as it was sometimes called during the last century, was
a favourite spot for this kind of thing.

It seems that about this time the undergraduates were in the habit of
freely indulging in sport to the prejudice of the farmers, for in 1787
a petition, almost ironical in its simplicity, was advertised in the
_Cambridge Chronicle_ of that date, commencing--

"We poor farmers do most humbly beg the favour of the Cambridge
gunners, coursers and poachers (whether gentleman barbers or gyps of
colleges), to let us get home our crops, &c."  In those days, and for
many years after, during the present century, there appears to have
been very little of what we now know as "shooting rights," over any
given lands, and the man or boy who could get behind an old flint-lock
with a shooting certificate went wherever he felt inclined in pursuit
of game.


The foregoing were some of the ways in which the people of Royston and
the neighbourhood took the pleasures of life, how they sought to amuse
themselves, and under what conditions.  If the glimpses afforded seem
to suggest that they allowed themselves a good deal of latitude it must
not be supposed that our great grandfathers had no care whatever for
public decency, or no means of defining what was allowable in public
morals.  In place of modern educating influences they could only trust
for moral restraints to proclamations and the parish beadle.  Perhaps
one of the best instances of this kind of machinery for raising public
morals is afforded by the Royston parish books, and I cannot do better
than let the old chronicler speak for himself.  The entries refer to
the proceedings of a joint Committee which practically governed the
town of Royston, and was elected by the parishes of Royston Herts. and
Cambs., which, as we shall see hereafter, were united for many years
for the purposes of local government.

"An Extraordinary Meeting of the Committee was held on 31st October,
1787, for the purpose of taking into consideration the Proclamation for
preventing and punishing profaneness, vice, and immorality, by order of
the Rev. Mr. Weston, present:--Daniel Lewer, Wm. Stamford, Jos. Beldam,
Wm. Nash, Wm. Seaby, Thomas Watson, Michael Phillips, Wm. Butler, and
Robt. Bunyan (chief constable).

"_Words of the Act_--No drover, horse courier, waggoner, butcher,
higlar, or their servants shall travel on a Sunday.

"Ordered that the above be prevented so far as relates to
Carriages--Punishments 21s., and for default stocks 2 hours.

"No fruit, herbs or goods of any kind shall be cried or exposed to sale
on a Sunday.  N.B.--Goods forfeited.

"No shoemaker shall expose to sale upon a Sunday any boots, shoes or
slippers--3s, 4d. per pair and the value forfeited.

"Any persons offending against these Laws are to be prosecuted, except
butchers, who may sell meat till nine o'clock in the morning, at which
time all barbers' shops are to be shut up and no business to be done
after that time.

"No person without a reasonable excuse shall be absent from some place
of Divine Worship on a Sunday--1s. to the poor.

"The Constables to go about the town, and particularly the Cross, to
see that this is complied with, and if they find any number of people
assembled together, to take down their names and return them to the
Committee that they may be prosecuted.

"No inn-keeper or alehouse-keeper shall suffer anyone to continue
drinking or tippling in his house--Forfeit 10s. and disabled for 3

"Ordered that the Constables go to the public-houses to see that no
tippling or drinking is done during Divine Service--and to prevent
drunkenness, &c., any time of the day.


"Persons who sell by fake weights and measures in market towns, 6s. 8d.
first offence; 13s. 4d. second offence; 20s. third, and pillory.

"Order'd that the Constables see that the weights and measures are good
and lawful."

A few years after the above bye-laws were adopted the Cambridge Mayor
and Corporation were considering the same question, and issued notices
warning persons against exposing to sale any article whatever or
keeping open their shops after 10 o'clock in the morning on Sunday.

Secular life was not so low but that it had its bright spots.  Bands of
music were not so well organized or so numerous as they are to-day, but
there was much more of what may be styled chamber music in those days
than is imagined.  Fiddles, bass viols, clarinets, bassoons, &c., were
used on all public occasions, and in 1786 we find that the Royston
"Musick Club" altered its night of meeting to Wednesday.  That is all
there is recorded of it, but it is sufficient to show us a working
institution with its regular meetings.

The effect of the French Revolution even in remote districts in England
has been referred to, and it may be added that a good deal of the
"dangerous" sentiment of the times was associated with the name of
Paine, the "Arch-traitor" as he was called, and as an instance of how
these sentiments were sometimes received even in rural districts we
learn that in the year 1793 Paine's effigy was "drawn through the
village of Hinxton, attended by nearly all the inhabitants of the place
singing 'God Save the Queen,' 'Rule Britannia,' &c., accompanied with a
band of music.  He was then hung on a gallows, shot at, and blown to
pieces with gunpowder, and burnt to ashes, and the company afterwards
spent the evening with every demonstration of loyalty."  At such a time
it was easy for even some of our local men of a reforming spirit to be
misunderstood, and the name of "Jacobin" was attached to very worthy
persons in Royston who happened to entertain a little freedom of

With the waning of the old Royston Club, another institution had sprung
up which at this time reflected the life of the place in a manner
which, while it was highly creditable to the intellectual life of the
townspeople, was, on the other hand, open to the suspicion of
representing what were called "dangerous principles" in the estimation
of those belonging to the old order.  This was the Royston Dissenting
Book Club, which played an important part as a centre of mental
activity during the last quarter of the 18th and the first quarter of
the 19th centuries.  The Club was an institution, the influence and
usefulness of which were felt and recognised far beyond the place of
its birth, and brought some notable men within the pale of its
activity.  It was founded on the 14th December, 1761, the first
meetings being held at the Green Man, then and for many years
afterwards one of the foremost {27} inns in the town.  Among the
earliest members of the Club occur the names of the Rev. Robert Wells,
Joseph Porter, John Fordham, Edward Fordham, George Fordham, Valentine
Beldam, James Beldam, John Wylde, Thomas Bailey, John Butler, Wm.
Coxall, and Edward Rutt.  While the circulation of books amongst its
members was one of the primary objects of the Club--for which purpose
its existence has continued down to the present time--it was chiefly as
an intellectual forum or debating club that it is of interest here to
notice.  From this point of view it fairly reflects the influential
position of the dissenting body in Royston towards the end of the last
century, and that growing tendency to the discussion of abstract
principles in national affairs which prevailed more or less from the
French Revolution to the Reform Bill, but especially during the last
few years of the last century.

In Henry Crabb Robinson's Diary, for the year 1796, there occurs this
reference to the great debates at the Club's half-yearly meetings:--

"There had been established at Royston a Book Club, and twice a year
the members of it were invited to a tea party at the largest room the
little town supplied, and a regular debate was held.  In former times
this debate had been honoured by no less a man than Robert Hall.  * *
To one of these meetings my brother was invited, and I as a sort of
satellite to him.  There was a company of forty-four gentlemen and
forty-two ladies.  The question discussed was--'Is private affection
inconsistent with universal benevolence?'"  This question, it seemed,
was meant to involve the merits of Godwin's Political Justice, which
was making a stir just then, and among those who took part besides the
writer of this diary were Benjamin Flower, editor and proprietor of the
_Cambridge Intelligencer_, and also four or five ministers of the best
reputation in the place.  "Yet," adds the writer, then a young man but
fluent speaker, "I obtained credit, and the solid benefit of the good
opinion of Mr. Nash."  Among other names was that of George Dyer,
author of a History of Cambridge, and a biography of Mr. Robinson,
successor to Robert Hall, at Cambridge, a biography which Wordsworth
pronounced to be the best in the language.

At least on two occasions the celebrated Robert Hall, then a Baptist
minister at Cambridge, attended the Club and took a leading part in the
debates.  From one of the old minute books of the Club [for a perusual
of this book I am indebted to Miss Pickering, whose father's shop in
John Street was the depôt of the Club till recent years] for the years
1786-90, I find that on two occasions the question for debate stands in
the name of Mr. Hall, and the subjects were, on the first
occasion--"Does extensive knowledge of the world tend to increase or
diminish our virtue?" and on the second occasion the subject
was--"Whether mankind are at present in a state of moral improvement."

{28} At the monthly debates it was the practice of the Club, having
debated some stated subject, to vote upon it, and enter the result in
the margin of the minute book, and many of these entries are curious
and instructive.  Against the second question standing in the name of
the famous preacher, there is no such entry, but against the first, the
opinion of the forum seems to have been that an extensive knowledge of
the world tends to diminish our virtue, but it was only by a "majority
of 1" that this opinion was arrived at.

This old minute book throws some interesting light upon the
intellectual attitude of a large number of thoughtful men upon various
public questions and social problems.  The majority of the entries in
the book are in the handwriting of the venerable Edward King Fordham,
the Royston banker, whose long life covered more than the whole period
selected for these sketches.  The following resolution shows the _modus
operandi_ of the institution known as the forum, which was a very
general institution both in the Metropolis and in many centres in the
country--"It was unanimously agreed that a question or subject shall be
proposed for discussion or debate, every club night, as soon after
eight o'clock, as the book business is finished.  The question to be
proposed on a preceding meeting, and balloted for (if required by any
member) before admitted in the list for discussion."

Then follow, through page after page of the old book, questions put
down for discussion, and in most cases the opinion arrived at.  Among
the names in which questions stand are E. K. Fordham, Joseph Beldam,
senr., Wm. Nash, Elias Fordham, James Phillips, Samuel Bull, Valentine
Beldam, John Fordham (Kelshall), John Walbey, Wm. Wedd, Robert Hall,
Mr. Crabb, Mr. Tate, Richard Flower, Mr. Carver, Mr. Jameson, Mr.
Barfield.  These were some of the men who figured in the intellectual
tournaments of the time.  Let us glance at a few of the questions
debated and the result, and we shall get some idea of the subjects
which engaged men's attention, and what they thought upon them.  The
subjects cover a great variety of matters, and frequently were as wide
apart as the poles in their nature.  Here are the first two questions

"Whether a General Enclosure will be beneficial or prejudicial to the

"Whether Hope or Fear be the most powerful incentive to Action?"

I venture to transcribe a few more questions at random, with the
decision of the forum upon them.

"Whether it be right for the Legislature to make Laws to punish
prophane swearing?--James Phillips.--Determined."  [That is, determined
that it was right.]


"Whether free Inquiry is not upon the whole beneficial to Society
though it may be attended with some ill effects to Individuals?--E. K.
Fordham.--Determined unanimously for full inquiry."

"Whether a Candidate for Parliament ought to engage to support any
particular measures in Parliament previous to his election?--He ought."

"Whether it would be better to maintain the Poor of this Kingdom by
Charity or Rate?--By Charity."

"Whether Publick or Private Punishments are to be preferred in a Free
Country?--Publick Punishment preferred, August 27th, 1787."

"Whether a Man can or cannot be a real Christian, and at the same time
a gentleman in the World's esteem?--Joseph Beldam, senr.--Can 13,
Cannot 11."

"Whether the Art of expressing our thoughts by written characters is
not superior to any other art whatever?--John Walby."

To the above question is given the very curious answer--15 for Writing,
9 for Agriculture.  Evidently there were some farmers of the old school
in the forum!

The character of the schools of the period is reflected in the

"Whether a Public or a Private Education for youth is to be
preferred?--Unan. for a private one, in favour of virtue."

"Whether the use of well-composed forms, or extempore prayer in
dissenting congregations be most agreeable to the Dignity of Religious
worship, and the general Edification?--2 for Forms, 16 for Extempore."

"Which is the greater Evil, to Educate Children _above_ or _beneath_
their probable station or Circumstances?--5 above Circumstances, 9

Here we get a hundred years' old opinion that in effect it is better to
educate children above their probable station and let them take their
chance in the competition of life than to educate them below it.  This
was evidently a vigorous reforming opinion for those days, considering
that Board Schools were yet nearly a hundred years off!

Fifty years even before the Reform Bill it was possible to get such an
opinion as the following upon the suffrage:--

"If we could get a Reform in Parliament would it be expedient or just
to exclude any Order of subjects from giving their vote for a
Representative in the House of Commons?--John Fordham (Kelshall).--Yeas
2, Noes 7."  That is seven out of nine were in favour of universal

Here is an instance of the logical and discriminating faculties which
these forums called forth in such a high degree:--

"Is good sense or good nature most productive of Happiness--taking both
the Individual and Society into the Account?--Good Nature to
Individuals 13, Good Sense to ditto 8; Good Sense to Society 19, Good
Nature to ditto 1."


The foregoing answer is a very nice discrimination and involved a
"reasoning out" which is in striking contrast with most modern debates
in which the facts can be read up from various almanacks.  The meaning
of it is of course that good nature between man and man and good sense
in general society are most productive of happiness.

The following is quoted of a different type:--

"Which of the three learned Professions--Law, Physic, or Divinity--has
been most useful to Society?--Law 7, Physic 1, Divinity 9."

This was rather hard upon the doctors, it must be confessed, but, then,
society had no reason to be very grateful to a class of men who in
those days dealt so largely in bleeding, blistering and purging!  It
would be interesting to know what sort of a vote would be given on such
a question now.  Probably it would be found that the doctors had pulled
up a bit during the last hundred years.

Here is another on the State and individual opinion:--

"Has the State a Right to take Cognizance of any Opinions whatever,
either civil, political, or religious?--A, 6; N, 12."

The following shows the financial insecurity of the times:--

"Ought country Banks to be encouraged in Great Britain"--A majority of
more than two to one were of opinion that they ought not!  This was in

There were, of course, topics of a more strictly controversial kind,
bearing upon tithes, Church Establishment, Test Acts, &c., the
discussion of which was natural enough to a body constituted as the
Royston Book Club was, chiefly of Dissenting ministers and wealthy
adherents in their congregations.  I have, however, quoted enough to
show that it was not merely a sectarian conventicle, but a forum for
intellectual debate in its fullest sense.  Upon this point the
following three questions may be added:--

"Is there any foundation in fact for the popular Belief of Ghosts and
Apparititions [sic]?--J. Phillips.--Y, 15; n, 26."

If fifteen men of education voted for the Ghosts can we wonder at the
stronghold they had among the common people, and that it has taken the
hundred years which have elapsed to get them generally disestablished?

"Whether Old Bachelors ought to be most pitied, envied or blamed?"--No
verdict, probably the bachelors were in pretty full force and resented
the liberty implied by the question!

"Whether Good Sense, with a deficiency of Good Temper, or Good Temper
with a deficiency of Good Sense, be preferable in domestic life?--W.
Nash.--12 in favour of Good sense, 14 Good Temper."

That the debates were often characterised by considerable freedom of
thought and utterance is evident from other sources, as when the gifted
young barrister of Bury St. Edmunds (Henry Crabb Robinson) {31} by his
outspoken sentiments in one of the debates, and admitted leanings to
Godwin's philosophy, brought down the reproof from the great Robert
Hall upon his friend Mr. William Nash, for receiving the young
barrister of freedom of opinion on friendly terms into his family at
Royston.  But the family of the quiet and eminently respectable country
lawyer appear to have had no cause to regret the enduring friendship of
the brilliant young conversationalist, who afterwards became an
intimate friend of Wordsworth, Southey the Laureate, and the Lake
School, with Goethe, Madame de Staël, and many other great names in the
world of letters and art, and even had the offer of the Chancellorship
of the Duchy of Sax Weimar.

At such a time, however, these debates did make a good deal of stir, in
fact "as the members were credited with holding what at that time were
called dangerous principles, their meetings used to cause a great
excitement in the place."

The peculiarity of these debates was the prevailing discussion of
general principles.  The region of practical politics for many of the
coming questions was as yet almost half-a-century off, and having no
effective means of influencing many matters which did, nevertheless,
touch their daily lives very closely, they turned their attention
inwards to the mental exercise of debating abstract questions of high
philosophy and of morals.

The Book Club continued its meetings at the Green Man from 1761 until
1789, in which year it was "agreed to go to the Red Lyon," and from
that time, during the remainder of the last and the earlier years of
the present century, it continued to meet at the Red Lion, in the same
room, curiously enough, which had accommodated the old Royston Club,
and the two extremes of social and public life I have indicated, were
in turn brought under the same roof!  To many of the old habitués of
the place under the older institution this use of their place of
meeting by "traitors, republicans and levellers," as they would have
called them, would have been little short of desecration, and that it
was possible for two such institutions to have existed for some time at
least side by side, can only be explained by the fact that one was an
institution reflecting the prevailing belief of the town at that time,
while the other brought together many of the county families of the old

The only person living who ever attended one of the Book Club's
debates, I believe, is Mr. Henry Fordham, who can just remember
attending one meeting at the Red Lion towards the end of the Club's
debating period.

Have we degenerated since the period of this stiff and vigorous
debating of our great grandfathers?  Would it be possible now to bring
together forty or fifty ladies and gentlemen all eager for debating
questions of moral philosophy, and public justice?  Has the age of {32}
plain living and high thinking completely deserted our local life, and
left us comparatively high living and plain thinking instead?  The
conditions of life have so greatly changed that the comparison need not
be pressed home, yet these are questions which naturally arise after a
glimpse at the old Royston Book Club.

That the education of that day was very exact is afforded by the
announcement of Mr. Jeremiah Slade, the keeper of a boarding school at
Fowlmere in 1766, which reads:--"Young gentlemen genteely boarded and
instructed in the art of true and correct spelling, and of right
pronunciation; reading English with a true emphasis, writing all the
most useful hands with accuracy and freedom and elegance; arithmetic in
all its branches in the most concise manner with its application to
trade and commerce," &c., &c.



In these days, when so much is heard in favour of coming back to the
Parochial area as the unit of local government, it may be of interest
just to glance back at the condition of things when, in the last
century, the parish vestry was almost omnipotent, and controlled all
sorts of things, from a pauper's outfit, or from marrying a pauper, to
the maintenance of the fire engine, the repair of the Church, and the
wine used at the Communion!  The oldest materials I have found
available for obtaining a glimpse of the Parochial Parliament at work,
both in Royston and neighbouring parishes, have been the Royston parish
books, and sundry papers and accounts which have come under my notice
belonging to neighbouring parishes.

It was customary for everyone attending a vestry to sign his name or
make his mark, a good old custom worth continuing in every parish
vestry--and it was no uncommon thing to find from a dozen to fifteen
names entered.  Parish business was not in those days the dry affair it
often is in these days of "getting together a quorum."  If the truth
must be told, our forefathers in the good old times had a way of
preventing its being "dry," and the parish accounts I have no doubt in
every village in the district as well as in Royston, still record the
unvarnished tale!  The custom was for the clergyman to announce in
Church on Sunday the day and hour of meeting of the vestry--generally
on a Monday--and also the subject which was to engage the attention
{33} of the vestry.  Monday morning came and with it the tolling of the
bell to summon the vestry, but this was only the letter and not the
spirit of the Local Parliament, which was forthwith adjourned from the
Church to a more convenient and also more congenial time and place,
viz., at six o'clock in the evening "at the house of William Cobb, at
the sign of the Black Swan," or some other name and house as the case
might lie.

The general practice of holding meetings by adjournment from Church
seems to have been framed on the principle of giving all the publicans
a turn, for in the seven years, 1776-82, the vestry meetings for
Royston, Herts., were held at twenty-two different inns or
public-houses.  Here is a typical entry which explains the whole system
prevailing during last century:--

"Ordered that this meeting be adjourned to this Day Month at 4 o'clock
at Church, and from thence to be adjourned to some public-house to
finish the business for the month, during the Cold Weather."

In this way the tradesmen of the town, or the farmer, the blacksmith
and tailor in the village, relieved from the cares of the day,
assembled in the evening on the sanded floor of the old inn, and,
studiously furnished by Boniface with long Churchwarden "clays," puffed
away, until, through the curling fumes which arose from the reflecting
group of statesmen, parochial projects loomed large and a little
business was sometimes made to go a long way!  The "licker" and the
fumes inspired sage talk on mild politics, and of enhanced prices to
come, some war that was talked of "in Roosia or som'er out that
country," mixed up with reminiscences of wars that had been, and the
rare prices that had ruled in Royston Market!

There was a blunt honesty and an entire absence of squeamishness in
these public servants of the good old days, and what was considered
necessary and proper on such occasions, both for their own proper
dignity and "the good of the house," they did not hesitate to order,
and for the benefit of posterity down went the candid acknowledgment in
the parish accounts----

                                                                 L  s. d.
  Paid at a vestry at Rogersis for licker  . . . . . . . . . .   0  3  0
  Paid Danl. Docwra what was spent at Easter Monday  . . . . .   0  5  0

Danl. Docwra not only kept a public-house in Royston, but also at this
time (1771) was rated for a bowling green as well, and it is possible
that the Parochial Hampdens and their officers, like Drake and the
Spanish Armada, prepared for work by a little play.  As to the amount
of "licker" necessary for the efficient control of parochial affairs I
find that the villages had sometimes a different standard, for an entry
in the Therfield parish papers gives ten shillings as the amount spent
at a town's meeting, and a similar amount was entered for Barkway.
Strange as it may appear in these days of Government auditors, {34} the
parish officer then debited something to the parish account at every
turn of his official duty.

Here is one way in which they managed a Parochial Assessment--

"Ordered that six of the principal inhabitants of Royston look over all
the estates in the town, and each send in his own estimated list of
their ratable value to a special meeting, and from those different
lists form a revised list of assessment to be afterwards stuck on the
Church door, allowing objections to be made, and if necessary amending
assessments accordingly, first calling in the assistance of Mr.
Jackson, of Barkway, the land surveyor."

The assessment was evidently a low one, for the highest amount paid for
a shilling rate was 18s., and the lowest 1s. 6d.  As to the property
assessed, wool-staplers and maltsters were the principal items.  A
shilling rate for Royston, Cambs., produced about one-fourth of what it
does now.

The year 1781 marked a new era in the local Parliament for Royston,
both for the improved local authority then instituted and for the unity
of the town.  This was brought about by what, for want of a better
name, I will call the Act of Union, by which the divided parish of
Royston in Herts. and Cambs. was made one for local government
purposes, with one vestry, one clerk, and one beadle, but with separate
overseers and churchwardens.  The management of the business under this
Act of Union was placed in the hands of a Committee, consisting of the
churchwardens and overseers, and of eight gentlemen for the
Hertfordshire side, and three for Cambs.  The new local parliament was
made up of the following:--For Hertfordshire, George North,
churchwarden, Henry Andrews (the astronomer), and Wm. Cockett, the two
overseers; Tuttle Sherwood, churchwarden, and Thomas Moule and Thomas
Watson, overseers for the Cambs. side; and the following elected
members, viz., for _Herts._, John Phillips, Michael Phillips, Edward
Day, Wm. Nash, Samuel Coxall, Thomas Wortham, William Stamford, junr.,
and Thomas Watson; for _Cambs._, Joseph Beldam, William Butler and John

The above Act of Union was passed as an experiment, and the Parliament
was to be a triennial one, at the end of which period either party was
at liberty to withdraw, but as a matter of fact it was formally renewed
every three years and continued at least until 1809.  The first act of
the new local authority was to appoint Henry Watson as vestry clerk at
a salary of five guineas a year, to decide that no poor should be
allowed out of the Workhouse, only the casual poor, and also that

"All meetings to be at the Church at toll of Bell, and adjourn as they
think proper * * their expenses from the Overseer at each meeting not
to exceed a shilling."

If this meant a shilling each member it looked like "Rogersis'" bill
for "licker" going up, but if for all the members together it {35} was
decided retrenchment as well as reform.  Among others who were parties
to the agreement, but not in the first committee, were:--John Cross,
John Warren, John Hankin, John Trudgett--what a lot of Johns they had
in those old days!--Peter Beldam, Robt. Leete and Danl. Lewer.  The new
Local Parliament had not been in existence long before it began to set
its house in order for business and framed other rules for its conduct.
Instead of being a mere vestry with a chairman waiting for a quorum, it
became an active local body, and, thanks to its methodical five-guinea
clerk, actually had its meetings convened by sending out printed cards,
as appears by the following entry:--

"Ordered that 500 Printed Cards be got from the Printing Office at
Cambridge for the purpose of calling the Committee."

There was no printing office in Royston till the beginning of the
present century.  Another innovation was more sweeping, and that was
that the custom of meeting at the inns of an evening was, at least for
a time, abandoned.  The meetings were held at Whitehall, at the top of
the High Street, and to make things smart and business-like, a dozen
strong chairs were bought for the use of the Committee room.  There was
also a rule about attendances, and any member failing to put in an
appearance was fined sixpence, and if he happened to be the overseer,
the enormity of his offence was marked by a fine of a shilling--"unless
a note be sent to the meeting" [explaining cause of absence].  Here was
a model authority, the like of which the town of Royston has never had
since, considered as a working body, and having a due regard to the
light in which things were then regarded as compared with the present

In glancing at some of the things for which the Parochial Parliament
was responsible, I must ask those readers who, though not resident in
Royston, may take an interest in these pages, to bear with me while I
refer to a matter which exclusively affects some of the townspeople of
Royston.  As it was, whether rightly or wrongly, brought into the
parish accounts for Royston, Cambs., for many years during the last and
the present century, it may be convenient here to make some reference
to the property in Melbourn Street, Royston, Cambs., now generally
known as the Cave House and Estate, and its management during the
period of which I am writing.  In the first place then, it has really
nothing whatever to do with the Cave, as a property, excepting for the
accidental circumstance that nearly at the end of last century the then
occupier of the Town House, as it was called, Thomas Watson by name,
and a bricklayer, set his men to work during the hard winter of 1790,
at cutting the present passage down through the solid chalk into the
Cave from the house by which it is now entered.  An interesting
advertisement of this event which I have {36} found in the Cambridge
University Library is given below.  It bears the date 1794.


"T. Watson respectfully informs the public in general and the
antiquarians in particular, that he has opened (for their inspection) a
very commodious entrance into that ancient Subterraneous cavern in
Royston, Herts., which has ever been esteemed by all lovers of
antiquity as the greatest curiosity of the kind in Europe.  T. Watson
hopes that all those who may think proper to visit the above Cave will
have their curiosity gratified to the full extent.  The passage leading
to it is of itself extremely curious, being hewn out of the solid rock.

"N.B.--It may be seen any hour of the day."


Since that time this old charity estate has become so closely
associated with the Old Cave--which, by the way, is really nearer to
the houses on the opposite side of the street--that the shop now
occupied by Mr. G. Pool, on the east side of the gate entrance is {37}
generally described as the Cave House, and the tenant for the time
being has become invested with the office of curator of this old
antiquity, while the shop on the other side of the gateway (Messrs.
Whitaker's tailoring department), though equally a part of the estate,
is not often spoken of in connection with the Cave.

[Illustration: Illustration of a portion of the Interior of Royston

Any account of the Cave itself would be quite foreign to the purpose of
these Sketches, but it may be of interest to those readers who are not
aware of the variety of curious and ancient carvings which adorn its
walls, to give a glimpse of the interior, showing a portion of the
figures.  The part selected for the following illustration is that
showing the High Altar, the Saviour extended on the Cross, with the
Virgin Mary on the one side and the beloved disciple on the other, the
bold figure to the left being St. Catherine and her wheel; the group of
figures below this are supposed to refer to Richard Coeur de Lion and
Queen Berengaria, but a further description would be out of place here,
{38} suffice it to say that for this, and the foregoing illustration of
the staircase cut by Watson in 1790, I am indebted to an excellent
series of photographs of the interior of the Cave and its carvings,
recently taken by Mr. F. R. Hinkins.  For a full account of this
interesting antiquity the reader is referred to the book by the late
Mr. Joseph Beldam, a shilling edition of which is now published with
numerous illustrations.

The so-called "Cave" property, left for the benefit of the inhabitants
of Royston in Cambridgeshire, dates back about ten years before the
dissolution of the Monastery.  It was originally the Old Ram's Head
Inn.  William Lee, of Radwell, Herts., was the owner of the house in
the time of Henry VIII., and by his will bearing date 8th day of
October, 1527, he, among other bequests and directions of a local
character made the special bequest which follows:--

"And as to the disposicon of all my Lands and Tenements which I have
within the counties of Hertford and Cambridge, ffirst I will that such
persons as be ffeoffees to my use imediately after my Decease shall
deliver estate in fee of and in my Tenement in Royston called the
Ramm's head, to certain honest persons as shall be named and appointed
by mine executors to the performance of this my last Will and
Testament.  I will that the yearly profitts of the said Tenement, the
Lord Rent, reparcons, and other charges deducted and allowed, then the
Rent thereof comeing nere every year to be taken and retained by two of
the Antient of the said ffeoffees and putt in a Box Locked, and so to
remaine in the safe custody of the said ffeoffees unto such time as any
manner of Tax, Subsidie, and whatsoever any manner of other charges
shall be granted unto the King or his heirs, Kings of England by Act of
Parliament, and then the Money so coming of the Rent of the said
Tenement to discharge and acquit all such Persons as then shall dwell
in the said Towne of Royston, that is to mean within the side of
Cambridge, every man and person after their porcon, and I will the said
two ffeoffees, or their heirs, shall at the end of every three years
make a true and faithful accompt of the revenues of the said Tenement
to the Prior of the said Monastery, or to his successors Priors, and
when it shall happen any great sume to remaine in the said Box then I
will that part of the said sume, that is to witt, all that is more than
four Pounds, shall be disposed in deeds of charity amongst the poor
Inhabitants within the said Towne of Royston by the good Discretion of
the said Prior and successors."

Little thought William Lee that within less than a dozen years
Monastery and Prior would be no more, and still less that the time
would come when no tax or subsidy to the King should be levied directly
upon the inhabitants of the town.  The beneficial interest of the
townspeople in the trust, however, remained, and the question arose
how, in the absence of any such levies and charges upon the {39}
towns-people by King and Parliament, as were common enough in his day,
the provisions of the benefactor's will were to be interpreted.

During nearly the whole of the reign of George III., and also during a
part of that of George II., the Parochial Parliament for Royston,
Cambs., made short work of that knotty point, by simply treating the
Estate as parish property; the houses were let and rents collected by
the Overseers, and the revenue is duly entered in the year's parochial
balance sheet, with the names of the tenants, while the feoffees seem
to have stood by and tacitly approved of so simple an arrangement.

The Charity is still in the hands of feoffees, and at the time of
writing this a new scheme for its administration is under the
consideration of the Charity Commissioners.

Naturally an important part of the functions of the Parochial
Parliament was that of providing for those who could not, and often for
those who would not, provide for themselves.  In many villages this had
to be done by the Churchwardens and Overseers meeting after service in
the Church on Sunday afternoons.  In Royston, however, and probably in
the larger villages, the business was transacted in pretty much the
same way as the Vestry business already referred to.

Whether in the villages or the town the "indoor" relief of the poor was
at best like a system of farming on short leases; indeed, "farming the
paupers" was the usual description of it, and the Vestry advertised,
not for a master of the Workhouse, but "a Workhouse to let," was the
very common form of announcement when the Overseers were in want of
someone to "farm" the paupers.

What a village Workhouse was like may be gathered, by making due
allowance for the difference in population, from the following
particulars of the palatial establishment which did duty at Royston
during the last, and for a third of the present century.  It stood on
the west side of the Warren next the London Road (now Godfrey's
terrace).  It was a thatched building, occasionally mended with clay
from the clay pit in the Green Walk valley.  It had no water supply of
its own, for the parish paid Daniell Ebbutt 5s. a year for the use of
his well in 1774, raised to 7s. 6d. in 1777; while in 1805, water cost
L4 a year; probably purchased of the water carrier at the door.  It had
a garden, for the parish paid, in 1772, for "Beans and Tatos" to plant
in it.  There was also a pig-sty attached, and the whole place was
insured against fire for only 10s. a year premium, for L250 on the
building and L50 on the contents.

The Workhouse children were taught to spin, and had the decided
advantage of being taught to read and write, apparently, for their
"schooling" cost the parish 2d. a head, paid to Henry Watson.  The {40}
Workhouse was regularly visited by two members of the Committee
appointed in rotation to that office.  In villages the Workhouse
administration was open to the inspection of any ratepayer.  Before the
union of the two parishes in Royston there was a separate Workhouse for
Royston, Cambs., situate in the Back Street.  For a time after the
union, two houses were used in Royston, Herts.--the "Old House" and
"Whitehall."  A Workhouse master or contractor, for feeding, clothing,
employing, and taking care of the poor, generally did this for a fixed
lump sum up to a given number, with about 2s. per head above that
number, or a price per head all round, he taking their labour.  The
lowest figure I have found was that paid at Royston, Herts., in 1781,
and at Barkway in 1792, when in each case the contract was for only 1s.
4d. per head!  There was not much to be made out of that, and in bad
times there was sure to be an application to be released from the
contract or for compensation.  In fact the parish had more difficulty
about that one subject of contracts for "farming" the paupers than any
other thing.  If they got a good man he soon found that it was not
worth his while to stay; if they got one satisfied with the price he
did not improve the paupers or give them much for the money.  Here is
an offer by the Royston Joint Committee in 1784, and a kind of dilemma
not uncommon under the old poor-law:--

"Order'd to offer Mr. Kennedy at rate of 2s. a head for fifty persons
certain, and if more, to pay at same rate, he to provide three hot meat
dinners every week."

Mr. Kennedy, like a sensible man, declined the offer.  It was then
ordered to advertise for a successor to Mr. Kennedy, but Mr. Kennedy
did not feel disposed to be succeeded, and declined to quit the House
without notice!  A candidate came all the way from Grantham, but on
arrival declined, and Mr. Searle, another candidate from Wisbech,
accepted it, and something like an Irish eviction scene ensued.  Mr.
Kennedy, installed at Whitehall, was obdurate, and with two rival
masters even the paupers were in a dilemma and inclined to "take
sides."  Some evidently stood by the old master, and the Committee gave
these notice that "if they did not get out of the place and provide
themselves with homes within a month they would be turned out."
Failing to get Mr. Kennedy out of Whitehall, the Committee turned their
attention to the Old House on the Warren again, and a deputation waited
upon Mr. Kennedy and asked him "if he would be so obliging as to let
the parish officers remove the oven, coppers, and the rest of the goods
[parish property!] from Whitehall to the Old Workhouse" at or before
Lady Day when the lease of Whitehall expired.  But Mr. Kennedy was
master of the situation and his appointment included the hire of the
house, and the dead-lock continued.  The parish so far {41} humbled
themselves as to offer Mr. Kennedy, if he would leave, to pay him
anything he desired for his trouble, and "to provide him with lodging
at any Inn in the town he might think proper."  Mr. Kennedy was given
till "next Sunday" to reply, and he then sent a message, apparently by
one of the paupers, obstinately stating that he "had thought of all the
inconvenience he could that would attend him in complying with what the
gentlemen requested him to do" and that "Mr. Kennedy could think of
nothing but his agreement."  Another attempt with a substantial bonus
was held out, but Mr. Kennedy was not to be conciliated.  Two days
afterwards another ruse was tried by a notice to Mr. K. that there was
a complaint about the clothing of the paupers as being "unfit for
publick appearance at Church," and that they "appointed Mr. Bunyan to
appraise the clothes and fixtures."  The redoubtable Mr. K. was again
equal to the occasion, and refused Mr. Bunyan admission!  Eventually he
vacated the premises upon the time of his appointment expiring, when
Mr. Bunyan's valuation went against Mr. K. to the tune of about L50,
for the recovery of which Mr. K. was threatened with Mr. Day, the
attorney, but somehow covered his retreat and disappears from our view!

As to the treatment of paupers, this was so far considerate that a set
of new rules framed in 1785 were actually submitted to the paupers for
"hearing their objections to the rules," which were then "settled
between the Committee and the paupers"!

Where, in some of the surrounding parishes, the parish officers catered
for the paupers in the "House," entries for "bacca" and "snuff" (bought
by the parish) are as frequent as tea and sugar in the accounts.  In
some cases, as in the parish of Barkway, the Workhouse and care of the
poor were let to a labouring man.  Thus in 1771--

"Thomas Climmons, labourer, agreed to farm the Workhouse and maintain
the poor of the parish of Barkway, undertaking to provide good
wholesome eatables and drinkables and decent wearing apparel for L143
for one year.  All persons paying rates being entitled to inspect the
place.  Signed, Thomas Climmons, his mark."  Thomas Jordan, blacksmith,
signed a similar agreement with "his mark" in 1776, as did William
Clearing, labourer, with "his mark" in 1777.

Of the kind of characters the old Workhouse contractors had to deal
with, and of the state of things to which the laxity of oversight
sometimes reduced the establishment, the following is interesting.  It
is a minute of the Royston Joint Committee in the year 1794--

"At this meeting Mary May, Eliz. Flindall and Mary Lucas, spinsters,
appeared before the Committee and promised to do the work now set them
by Mr. Searle, and promised to behave well, and in future not to swear,
or sing any improper songs, which if they do, Mr. Searle is desired to
have them put in the Cage and kept with Bread and Water {42} until the
Visitors or Committee release them, which is not to be done until the
paupers are convinced that they are not to be wholly _Mrs. of the

The manner of giving out-relief was pretty much of a piece with that in
the Workhouse, though had it been administered by efficient and
independent officers it would have been both humane and sensible, as
based upon the principle of helping those who helped themselves.  But,
unfortunately, the weaker side of human nature was too strong, and the
system pauperised scores of people in order to prevent their becoming
paupers, if I may be excused a couple of paradoxes.  The object of
out-relief seems to have been to help all sorts of people in all sorts
of ways to tide over a temporary difficulty, but unfortunately these
temporary difficulties multiplied so fast on the hands of the parish
Overseer as to become chronic, and that officer became the father of
the parish, and the dispenser of all sorts of things from out of the
parish cupboard.

The claims upon the Parish Overseer were constant and of the most
varied character.  Were Joe Thompson's children ailing?  Then the
Overseer sent in the parish doctor to bleed the poor little mites,
though they might ill spare the vital fluid, and the cost of the
process to the parish, when a quantity were operated upon, was 6d.
apiece, as appears by the Therfield parish accounts, though individual
cases of "letting blood" were usually charged a shilling each.--Was
"Nat Simmons' gal" short of a petticoat?  Then, the Overseer provided
the needed article.--Had widow Jones broken her spinning wheel or her
patten ring?  Then the cooper and the blacksmith were called in by the
Overseer to repair the mischief.--Was "Old Nib"--they had a curious
habit of calling nicknames in the parish books of last century!--was
"Old Nib" short of capital for carrying on his business of buying
doctors' bottles?  If so, a small instalment was forthcoming from the
Chancellor of the Exchequer.  Had even the respectable journeyman
carpenter cut his finger?  Then he too got a grant upon signing a
promissory note.  In this way the casual disbursements of the Overseer
amounted to a considerable sum, and covered the greatest variety of
claims for help--from paying a person's rent, or taking clothes out of
pawn, to mending leather breeches or supplying cabbage plants for the
paupers' gardens!

The comparative isolation of the rural folk was aggravated by the old
laws of settlement.  To nine men and women out of ten, and to
ninety-nine children out of a hundred, the world was bounded almost by
the parish, and the parish a man belonged to was an important
consideration in those days.  Indeed, Sir Mordaunt Martin, a kind of
Canon Blackley of the last century, proposed a scheme for fining a
farmer a half-penny a day for every man he employed not belonging to
{43} the parish! also that all males above 18 in default of paying 2d.,
and females 3/4d. or 1d. a week for a rainy day, should be committed to
prison.  Then, a man could not leave his parish and go to live, or even
lodge while at work, in another parish without a licence; that is to
say a certificate setting forth the parish to which he legally
belonged.  If he did he was liable to be taken before a magistrate by
the Overseers and Churchwardens, and if a man "intruded" (that is the
word used in the old informations) in this way into a parish not his
own, he was liable to be taken back again, not because he was a pauper,
but simply on the ground that he was "likely to become chargeable."
Not half a bad way of keeping out objectionable characters!

Cases are entered in the Royston Parish books of young men working at
Cambridge having to come to the parish officers at Royston for their
certificates before they could remain and lodge in Cambridge!  A common
resolution by parish vestries was one directing the Overseers to
inquire if there were any persons in the parish not belonging to such
parish and without certificates.  In many parishes, as at Barkway, old
lists are still preserved of persons licensed, so to speak, to come
into or go out of the parish to live.  In this way the old parish
authorities always had a hold upon a man or woman instead of waiting,
as in the present day, until it becomes necessary to hunt up their
settlement, and with no machinery for getting at them when once they
get away.  It may seem strange that a Royston man or woman could not
cross over the road, say in Melbourn or Baldock Street, and change
houses without a parish licence, and yet this was the legal effect of
this old restraint.

Here is a specimen of such a removal over the road:--

"These are therefore in His Majesty's name, to require you, the said
Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the said parish of Royston,
in the county of Hertford, to remove and convey the said E---- H----
from out of your said parish of Royston, in the county of Hertford, to
the said parish of Royston, in the county of Cambridge, and her deliver
to the Churchwardens and Overseers there, &c."

We have seen that the poor of Royston, Herts. and Cambs., were treated
as of one parish at the end of last century, but in the beginning of
the present century there was a hitch in the arrangement, and the
machinery for conveying the paupers "over the road" came into force
again, with this difference, that instead of the removal of an
individual pauper there was a whole exodus to be provided for, which is
thus recorded:--

"Ordered that the paupers in the Workhouse belonging to Royston,
Cambridgeshire, should be taken to-morrow (Nov. 4) to their own parish
and presented to the Overseers of the Poor, and if they refuse to
receive them to take the sense of the parish upon it on Monday at


One cannot help lingering in imagination over that comical exodus, with
the head man of the parish of Royston, in Hertfordshire, leading in
procession the whole band of paupers belonging to Royston,
Cambridgeshire, back out of Egypt, or the old Workhouse on the Warren,
down the High Street, over the Cross, to be handed over to the head man
of Royston, Cambs., to whom they belonged!  There was old Widow B----
in pattens and a part of a red cloak; "Old Nib" in his greasy
smock-frock, little Gamaliel in mended leather breeches, and he of the
one arm who gave no end of trouble by stealing down to the "Red Lion"
to beg of the passengers on the coaches--a limping, shambling,
half-serious, half-comic, procession, worthy of a Frith!  But what were
the Cambs. officials to do?  They had no promised land, no house in
which to accommodate the immigrants!  I think it is doubtful whether
they accepted them, and whether that momentous event of "taking the
sense of the parish" really came off I am unable to say.

The Royston Parochial Parliament had control of the Fire Brigade.  The
Fire Engine, or rather the engines--for there were two engines in those
days as well as now--were kept in the Church-yard, and in 1781 we find
this note on record as to their use and management:--

"Ordered that the person who has the care of the Engine be allowed five
shillings for himself, if on any alarm of fire he gets the Engine out
of the Church-yard in good time, and one shilling each for the
assistants, not exceeding six; and that if he plays the Engine at a
Fire he be allowed 10s. 6d. and his assistants 2s. 6d. each."

They had a blunt but sagacious method of dealing with incompetence as
appears by this further order:--

"And in case the Engines, or either of them, shall be unfit for working
at any time when called for, that a new person be appointed."

Vagrancy was dealt with by a system of "passes," by which they were
able to pass through and obtain lodgings in places in the county, at a
county charge, worked through the parish Overseer.

Naturally one of the things that perplexed the minds of parish
vestrymen during the last century was not how disease might be
prevented, but what were the most favourable circumstances under which
the usual run of accepted diseases could be passed through!

Small-pox was considered as one of the fates, and, like cutting your
teeth, the sooner over the better!  On this principle it was no
uncommon thing for persons when advertising for servants, &c., to add
this precaution--"One who has had small-pox preferred."  Here is a
specimen advertisement:--

"A lady's Woman, a very creditable person of about 63, and has had
Small Pox."


Among sanitary matters, the propagation of modified small-pox by
inoculation was the foremost question in the practical politics of the
parish vestry.  For this form of small-pox, introduced to forestall the
natural visitation of the disease, persons would come distances from
the rural districts to the towns--about as the moderns go abroad to
take the baths--to pass through the process, and their presence in the
town was sometimes objected to.  On one occasion we find the Royston
Vestry assembled for the purpose of "considering the improper way
practised by several people (not parishioners of Royston) having their
families inoculated for the small-pox, and remaining in the town during
their illness, and the impropriety of the surgeons encouraging such
proceedings.  Agreed that the surgeons be waited upon with a request
that they will not in future inoculate any person in their own houses
unless such person so inoculated be removed in a proper time."

In 1788 this old question of inoculation brought together the largest
attendance at any Vestry in Royston for a century, excepting perhaps
that upon Church rates in later years.  This Vestry was held in the
Parish Church "for the purpose of taking into consideration and finally
settling the business respecting the small-pox and the inoculating the
poor of the town at the parish expense."  Whereupon, says the old
record, "The parish divided upon the question and there appeared
twenty-five for inoculating the parish at the parish expense, and
seventeen against it.  It is therefore ordered," &c.

In fifteen years the inoculating majority had disappeared, for in 1803
upon the question of small-pox _versus_ cow-pox, a meeting was held to
consider "whether a general inoculation with the _cow-pox_ should
immediately take place in this town, which was agreed _nem. con._"

At the end of the century we thus see that the question of a small-pox
prophylactic was wavering between the monstrous assumption that
everybody must necessarily have small-pox, and had better set about it,
and the milder notion of vaccine as an antidote, if the real thing
should come.  The old custom of variolation had not been discarded, and
the experience of the Gloucestershire milkmaids had not crystalized
into the form of vaccination to be handed down by Jenner.  At the
beginning of the century we find this item:--

"Order'd that there is no necessity for a General Inoculation, there
being no small-pox in the town (except in the Pest House), and that the
Overseers are hereby order'd to suspend the Business of a General
Inoculation _either with the Cow or Small-Pox_."

In general sanitary matters the local Parliament meant very well, but
the remedy for a grievance was a long way off.  The constable was the
Inspector of Nuisances, and he must have sometimes come across heaps of
dung in the street.  If he did find such a nuisance he had {46}
instructions "to make presentment to the Quarter Sessions if need be?"
A very dignified, but still a slow rate of getting the town clean, Mr.

There was one respect in which the pauper of the last century was made
equal with the prince--whatever his vicissitudes in life he was bound
to be buried in wool when he died.  They might "rattle his bones over
the stones," but he was certain to get his pound of wool to be buried
in, not as an act of consideration to the pauper, but as an important
piece of that extensive legislation for the encouragement of the
woollen industry which figures more often in the Statute book of this
realm than any other subject.  With every funeral was required an
affidavit that the deceased when buried was it "not wrapped up in any
suit, sheet, or shroud, but what was made of sheep's wool only."  A
carpenter's bill for a pauper's funeral generally read "for a coffin
and a pound of Woole for A.B.," with frequent items for beer, as "for
beer for laying out old Grig, and putting him in the coffin," "laying
out, one pot of beer," "putting in coffin, one pot of beer," and
"carrying to church, two pots of beer," &c., &c.

The casual disbursements of a parish afford, both for their subject
matter and style, a variety of curious entries.

The years 1769 to 1773 afforded abundant evidence of the terrible
prevalence of what are now considered preventible diseases.  Over and
over again as a reason for temporary relief being granted, the phrase
is added "Bad with feaver," or "A Bad Feaver," and many are the entries
which refer to Small-pox.

Of relief in kind perhaps the following item is one of the most
original in the history of the Poor-law:--

                                               L  s. d.
  Gave James D---- for an Ass  . . . . . . . . 0  8  0

to which is added that the Overseer paid to Mr. Beldam this J. D.'s

A system which afforded a man a house rent free and provided him with a
donkey for his business was, to say the least, rather different from
Guardians in the leading-strings of the Local Government Board!

Nick names in the old parish accounts are abundant and also many
Christian names not often used now.  Thus:--Peg Woods, Nel J----, Old
Nib, Royston Molley, Old Grig, and Hercules Powell.  The last named was
the Parish Constable in 1780, and he had a name at least calculated to
warn off offenders!

One common characteristic of these entries of the Overseers, but more
especially in the Parish Constable's accounts, was the extraordinary
liberty taken in the spelling of words!  In a general way Dogberry,
especially, was a spelling reformer, in so far as he went in for a
phonetic spelling, but many entries occur in old constable's accounts
which are governed by no principle ever yet laid down by scholars, with
the {47} result very often that it would be impossible to settle what
the word intended could be but for the comparative study of it, as it
turns up in a variety of literary dress in different documents always
with the same context.  Here is the result of a little investigation
into the handling of one of the commonest of the long words which found
their way into the old Parish Constable's bills:--Diblegrates,
dibcatkets, dibelgrates, dibhegrats, dipplatakets, dibicits, diblicits,
dibblegats, dublicits, duplicates.

It took the Parish Constables of Therfield 37 years to solve the
problem of spelling that word of three syllables! and the honour of
spelling "duplicates" correctly belongs to one, John Groom, who was
Parish Constable for Therfield in 1801.

One of the most frequent items in the Churchwardens' accounts for
parishes in this district, during the last half of the eighteenth
century, was that of vermin killing, and entries for polecats and
hedge-hogs were jumbled up with items for bread and wine for the
communion, &c.!  Why the farmers should have had such an antipathy to
hedge-hogs I am not aware, considering the amount of good the modern
naturalist finds them doing.  About the middle of the last century any
person killing a hedge-hog in Therfield and taking it to the
Churchwarden received 4d. for his trouble, and 21 hedge-hogs were paid
for in 1788.  The price after this went down to 2d. for a hedge-hog and
4d. for a polecat, but at Barkway the price of a hedge-hog was still
4d., while at Nuthampstead the price for sparrows, as appears by "the
sparrow bill," was 3d. a dozen.



There were two other officials besides the Overseer and Church-warden,
the dignity of whose office entitles them to a place of honour in these
sketches--viz., the old Parish Constable, and the Parish Beadle.

To understand what the old Parish Constable was in relation to the
public peace we have to consider him as embodying most of the functions
of the present county policeman, and a variety of other matters, some
of which now fall upon the Relieving Officer, the Recruiting Sergeant,
and Overseer.  All this helped to place him in a position of some
dignity and importance, which he conceived entitled him to advise even
magistrates and parsons on their duty!  Over the Parish Constable was a
Chief Constable for each hundred, through whom he was in touch with the
Quarter Sessions.  Unlike the Parish Constable, {48} however, the Chief
Constableship of the hundred was a life appointment.  When the police
force came into existence the gentlemen holding the office of Chief
Constable of the hundreds were pensioned off, and, in support of the
popular notion of the longevity of pensioners, it may be of interest to
add that some of these old superannuated Chief Constables' pensions
were still running in Cambridgeshire until recent years; indeed, I am
not sure that the payments have all ended even yet.  In this county,
too, the old Parish Constables are still appointed annually; but their
glory has long since departed.

The Parish Constable was essentially an emergency man, and the manner
in which he "rose to the occasion," forms a curious and interesting
chapter of parochial history.  If occasionally, like his prototype in
"_Much ado about Nothing_," he, on the clerical side of his office,
made a slip, and committed an offender to "everlasting redemption," and
put down "flat burglary" for perjury, still he did manage to acquit
himself of his task in a practical sort of way, though always with a
tender regard for his own comfort when on duty.

The office of the old Parish Constable was not quite adapted to the
modern idea of police work.  Until a crime was committed the old
constable had no reason to bestir himself, and when a crime was
committed he was hampered in many ways.  With a drunkard and a brawler
he had the stocks ready to hand, but when a great crime was committed
such as sheep-stealing--fearfully common, notwithstanding the dread
penalty of the law, in the last and also the present century--the
constable had no convenient telegraph office from which to warn his
brother officers round the whole country side.  He had therefore to
resort to the homely process of carrying the intelligence himself, and
such items as

                                               L  s. d.
  for carrying a hue and cry to Anstey . . . . 0  0  4

represented the highest point of Dogberry's intelligence department.
From one Parish Constable to another the news was carried, like the
fiery cross over the Border, until the whole country round was aware of
what had occurred, and, as one might expect, the criminal himself had
often got fairly away.

Those parishes lying near the coach roads sometimes had a good share of
this carrying the hue and cry, and searching for criminals.  Thus in
Therfield parish in 1757, we find the constable making this charge:--

  for Sarchin the Parish upon Account of the mail     L  s. d.
    being robedd . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  0  1  0

This was the Caxton mail bag, and the "sarchin the parish" appears to
have created a profound impression upon the inhabitants, possibly from
the awful penalty for such an offence which young Gatward of the Red
Lion, at Royston, had suffered only a few years before.  {49} The story
of the searching of the houses of Therfield for the missing mail bag
has been handed down even within the memory of persons still living.

The search appears to have been fruitless, but the truth could wait
even a hundred years; for, about thirty years ago some workmen, who
were digging at a spot at the entrance to the village by the Royston
road, actually dug up the brass label of the "Caxton letter-bag," and
thus confirmed the suspicions of those who had fixed upon the village
on the hill as the neighbourhood towards which the stolen mail-bag had
been carried by the robbers of that far-off time.

But though the Parish Constables were not an organised force of
permanent officials, there was something like a system, and on special
occasions of a heavy calendar at the Assizes or Quarter Sessions, we
find the Parish Constables drafted to be on duty at Hertford or
Cambridge, even though they had no business from their own parish.
Thus as late as 1823, when the celebrated trial of Thurtle and Hunt
took place at the Hertford Assizes, the Therfield Parish Constable's
accounts for the year contain this entry:--

Thomas Lacey, constable to the parish of Therfield, for attending the
Assizes at the trial of Probet hunt and turtle--

                                                      L  s. d.
  expense heating and Drinkin Lodgin . . . . . . . .  1  5  0
  allowance for 6 days . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  1 10  6

There also appears to have been a sort of gathering of the clans and a
dinner once a year, and in every parish account I have seen Dogberry
credits himself with having--

                                                      L  s. d.
  Paid at the constables' fiest  . . . . . . . . . .  0  2  6

But, however useful and dignified an official the old constable was in
emergencies affecting the public peace, it was on the civil side of his
work that his duties often became the most interesting, when, as was
the case in most villages where no beadle was kept, he combined the
duties of that office with those of the policeman; and in no respect
does he figure in so interesting a light as in the pleasing function of
arranging paupers' marriages and seeing that they were carried out.
The motive for all Dogberry's finesse in match-making diplomacy was
connected with the old parochial settlement.  If one of the fair sex
was likely to become troublesome to a parish our friend Dogberry made
it his business to get hold of the responsible swain, and by
persuasion, bribes, and threats, managed to bring the parties together,
get them through the marriage ceremony, and himself (the constable)
earned the lasting gratitude of the parish for having got rid of a
pauper, settlement and all!  The pecuniary consideration involved was
so important that when the bride was of one parish and the bridegroom
of another, a good dealing of manoeuvring between the rival
constables--the one to force on and the other to prevent the
match--took place, and when the successful constable did manage to
bring the parties together, the {50} parish benefitting by the process
could afford to be liberal, and Dogberry, and his "aid," and the
wedding pair, had a merry time of it while the credit of the parish
lasted.  So much of a bargain-making was this marrying a pauper that it
is not unusual to find such entries as these in the parish books of
last century--

                                                      L s.  d.
  Gave W---- a wife, cost  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3 19  6
  By expenses attending, Marrying, Mary D----,
   and sending her away  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  1 17  6

When a pauper had brought about trouble under the Bastardy Laws
Dogberry first used the arm of the law by apprehending him, and then
the subtle methods of diplomacy by marrying him.

Interesting are the detailed accounts of the old weddings carried out
under the superintendence of the Parish Constable.  Here is one from
the parish of Therfield--

  Therfield Parish dr. to H. Hodge.
  Etin and drinkin at John Hollensworth's weddin.
  Aug.  8  3 folks suppor  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  0  2  0
   "    9  3 folks brakfarst . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  0  1  6
   "    "  3 deners  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  0  3  0
   "    "  3 suppors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  0  2  0
   "   10  3 brakfast  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  0  1  6
           To Beer for the Hol Time  . . . . . . . . . .  0 13  4
           2 Cunstablers' time, 2 days . . . . . . . . .  0  8  9
           2 nits (nights) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  0  6  0
           Pad at Sam Green's Cheppine . . . . . . . . .  0  2  8
                                                          2  0  9
             In another hand is added  . . . . . . . . .  0 19  3
                                                         L3  0  0

Here is a picture of a very interesting state of things!  The little
party that persuaded John Hollensworth to marry the fair one, who was
expected otherwise to be a trouble to the parish, evidently went off to
Buntingford on August 8th to get there in time for the great event on
the morning of August 9th, and, after spending the day in the manner
indicated by this hotel bill, remained till the 10th and left after
brakfarst.  But even the responsible pair of "Cunstablers" failed to
get by Sam Green's, at Chipping, without spending that 2s. 8d., and
arrived home late at night on the 3rd day, in what condition the record
says not, but so much to the satisfaction of the parish that their
diplomacy was apparently rewarded by a substantial bonus of 19s. 3d.
being added to their bill!

There are many other journeys to Buntingford on a similar errand
recorded in the parish accounts of Therfield.  In one case in 1774 the
bounty of L3 3s. 3d. was given to the man for taking the woman, and the
total of the "Cunstabler's" expenses in this little expedition was L8
19s. 2d.  The details of this account contain a remarkable run of {51}
items for Quarts of Beer, "beer for parish ofesers," &c., and of the
whole account of 40 items 19 of them are beer!

In one case the expense of marrying a Barkway woman to a man at
Clavering cost L6 0s. 11d., and of this amount L3 4s. 11d., was spent
in eating and drinking; L1 18s. 2d. at ye Bull, at Barkway, before the
party started, and the remainder at the Fox and Hounds at Clavering.
The carriers made a good thing out of these little transactions, for
there is one case from the parish of Barkway where the carrier charged
a bill of L1 3s. 6d. for conveying the bride and bridegroom and
Dogberry to the altar!  But in this case the bill was for taking Sam
Smith and his future wife to London, and they did the thing in style!
First, the constables of Barkway and Therfield and their "aids" had to
apprehend the bridegroom; in the next place the marriage had for some
reason to come off in London, and before the ceremony was completed the
bill paid by the parish ran up to L6 11s. 8d.  Some interesting details
of this wedding are given below:--

  The parish of Barkway to John Beale (constable).
  For the Expenses for haveing Saml. Smith and         L  s. d.
    is wife to London  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2 12  6
  Paide at home before whe whent out with him,
    for the gold Ring  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   0  6  0
  Paid at the Angel for Drink  . . . . . . . . . . .   0  1  0
  Paide for two Letters from W. Bullen . . . . . . .   0  1  0
  Paide for a heade [Probably "aid"] coming
    from Buntingford . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0  1  0
  Paide Thos. Climmons three Days Jorney for
    going to London  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0  4  6
    and three Days Jorney for my Self  . . . . . . . . 0  7  6
  Eatin  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0  5  0
  Drink  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0  9  0

The degree of fervour with which the constable and his "aid" drank the
healths of the bride and bridegroom may be inferred from the large
proportion for drink.  Something must of course be allowed for a
festive occasion such as this, when Dogberry could afford to waive a
little dignity and be sociable!  But he did not always need this
incentive, and could even discharge the responsible office of having a
prisoner "in hold," and at the same time carry off a respectable
quantity of malt liquor.  Take the following illustration--

The parish of Barkway, dr. to James Brown while R. R. was in hold.

  1793. Jan. 17 To Dinner for Consbl. and 2 Aids and    L  s. d.
                  prisoner . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  0  2  8
                Do. Supper for do.   . . . . . . . . .  0  2  0
         "   18 Do. breakfast for do.  . . . . . . . .  0  2  0
                Do. for Dinner for do. . . . . . . . .  0  2  8
                To Beer  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  0 14 10
                                                        1  4  2

{52} This little transaction covered 24 hours, from dinner time one day
to dinner time the next, inclusive, and while the four meals only cost
the moderate sum of 9s. 4d., the Beer came to 14s. 10d., or 3s. 8 1/2d.
each man, and, as the price was about as now, each man drank 22 pints
of beer!

That this little weakness was not peculiar to the parish of Barkway is
clear from the accounts in other parishes.  Yet the account was allowed
and passed without any Government auditor!

The duty of keeping watch and ward in most places during the last
century, and a part of the present, was almost as important a civil
function as were the police functions of the old constable, if only for
the reason that fires were extremely common, and the buildings of
materials which led to fires of a destructive character when they did

[Illustration: DOGBERRY "ON DUTY."]

In the village constable were merged some of the functions both of
policeman and beadle.  The function of "watch and ward" had, however,
no official representative in the villages, where in times of special
risk, when incendiary fires were too common, the principal inhabitants
took their turn in keeping watch.  To find the Parish Beadle in the
full-blown dignity of his office we must therefore go to the towns, to
Royston for instance, where we shall find Mr. Bumble in all the stately
pomp of cocked hat, great coat with a red cape, and gold lace, breeches
and hose, and a staff with the royal authority of Georgius {53} Rex
emblazoned thereon!  A full figure, and an interesting character,
worthy in every way of the old Georgian era; in a corporation, as
important in his own estimation as Mayor and Corporation combined;
elsewhere, as we shall see, he was sometimes reduced to the humiliating
condition of having to be "generally useful."

To our modern notions it must, I think, seem strange that it was
necessary for him to unburden his official conscience every hour of the
night by the ringing of his bell and calling out the hour and state of
the weather!  We have no right, however, to laugh at our forefathers
about a matter of this kind, who might, I daresay, very well laugh at
some of our modern customs.  We must bear in mind that there was no
policeman on beat at that time, and, considering how much one may get
reconciled to by the force of habit, it is quite possible that the
people of the Georgian era slept the more soundly for these nocturnal
interruptions--rested more peacefully upon the assurance which was thus
conveyed, however indistinctly, to their minds, that while they slept
their town and property were safe from the marauder, and safe from fire
so far as a dignified, not over-paid, and I daresay sometimes not very
wide-a-wake individual could make them so!

Royston was probably the only place in this district which employed a
beadle, bellman or watchman, as a permanent official.  The first
account of such an appointment, that I can find from existing
documents, is for the year 1783.  This year there was a special
arrangement made of a temporary kind to meet an emergency, or to
relieve the old Bellman.  At any rate, in August of that year, it was
agreed in public Vestry to appoint an assistant watchman for six months
at eight shillings a week (no mention in his case of coat and hat,
&c.), to attend at the same hours as the old Bellman (Spicer), who was
then receiving nine shillings a week, besides outfit.  The wages were
then paid partly out of "subscriptions of the gentry and partly from
the Church rate."  Spicer, the "Old Bellman," as he was called, in
contradistinction to his assistant, continued to hold office after this
for about fourteen years, and then, after an evidently long period of
service, resigned the office through some little delinquency, and we
find the Vestry engaged in the important business of appointing a new
Beadle, Bellman or Watchman, the record of which will afford us a good
opportunity of learning something of what the duties of the office
were.  The Beadle combined in his office a number of duties, including
one which he must have felt a little _infra dig_--I mean the office of
scavenger!  The following is the record referred to:--

"At a Publick Vestry held at the Parish Church of Royston, the 24th day
of April, 1787, pursuant to public notice given in Church yesterday,
for the purpose of choosing a proper man to serve the office of Bellman
and Scavenger for this Town in place of William Spicer, who {54}
resigned his place at Church on Easter Monday."  [The Easter Vestry had
had under their consideration complaints of Spicer's conduct, and there
was a full meeting now assembled.]

"It is Agreed upon _nem. con._ that the Place and Business of a Bellman
and Scavenger is to go about the Town in the Night as Bellman, from
Lady Day to Michaelmas Day from the Hours of Eleven o'clock at Night
until four o'clock in the Morning, and from Michaelmas Day to Lady Day
from the Hours of Eleven o'clock at Night until five o'clock in the
Morning, and to ring his Bell every time he calls the Hour, and to do
his Utmost endeavour to prevent any Robery to be done in the Town.

"And as Scavenger to Devout his whole time in the Day to Keep all the
Streets, Lanes, and Drains in the Town Clear; and not to Suffer any
Dirt to be in Heaps in any part of the Town, and to his utmost
Endeavour to prevent any Paupers to Beg about the Town, but forthwith
to apprehend them and send them out of the Town.

"And to assist the Constables in any business that shall be required to
be done in the Town, and any other Business the Parish Officers and
Committee shall think proper.

"And for such Service he, the Bellman, shall receive from the
Churchwardens, weekly and every week, the sum of ten shillings.

"And the Bellman now appointed shall receive from the Town a New Bell,
Real, and Staff, One New Great Coat with a red Cape, and a New Hatt,
and likewise a New Cart fit for the purpose of taking up Dirt from the
Streets; all to be returned to the Churchwardens in good repair in case
of vacating his office."

This agreement, subject to a month's notice in writing, was to remain
in force until the next Easter "except the Bellman shall be found Drunk
when on Duty, then the Bellman to be immediately discharged from his

The candidates for the office at this time were John Hagger and Joseph
Clarke, and Hagger was appointed.

The duties set forth above were those belonging to Mr. Bumble, as
Bellman, to call out the hour and state of the weather at night, and as
Scavenger to keep the streets clean by day.  The other side of his
office is slightly hinted at by the reference to assisting the
Constable, and in fact it was the day duty which embraced the peculiar
dignity of beadledom.  He was the man who had to look after the
behaviour of the paupers, could in quiet times occasionally "thrash a
boy or two to keep up appearances" without much questioning, and though
not possessing the penal authority of the Constable, had a great deal
of the detective tact to exercise in preventing unseemly brawls, &c.
At the Royston Fair the Beadle's was a notable figure, and of this kind
of duty the {55} following instruction to Spicer, the old Bellman and
Beadle in 1791, may be quoted--

"Ordered that the Bellman be desired to go round the Fairs every Fair
Day and if he finds any person or persons using or attempting to make
Use of any kind of Gaming in the Fair that he immediately prevent if he
possibly can, otherwise to apply forthwith to a Constable for that

In 1803 the old Bellman and ex-Beadle Spicer, who had been called upon
to resign in 1797, was appointed the town Scavenger at a salary of 2s.
a week!  How are the mighty fallen!  Spicer had probably become a
pauper, and, to add to the degradation and humiliation, the quondam
wearer of the scarlet cape, cocked hat, and royal staff, had, at a
later meeting, his 2s. a week for scavenging taken off because he had
neglected his duty, and he was dismissed from this humble office!
Whatever was his failing the official decline of Spicer was as pathetic
as that of Mr. Bumble's surrender of all his "porochial" dignity to the
charms of Mrs. Corney in _Oliver Twist_!

On the subject of the powers of the Beadle as Scavenger a curious and
significant resolution was found necessary in 1788, when it was--

"Order'd that the Scavenger Do keep the Streets clean and not suffer
any heaps of Dirt to lye, and that any person who thinks proper shall
be at liberty to take Dirt or Dung from the Streets at any time after
it has laine one Day."

In other words, if a person allowed dung to be in the street for more
than a day he might lose it altogether and find it carried away on to
somebody else's garden.  A very effective way of enlisting the
co-operation of the public in keeping the streets clear of all
offensive matters.  The condition of things made some such drastic
measures necessary at a time when the effect of unsanitary conditions
was not very much thought of by individuals.  Upon this point the state
of the Pest House on the Warren, set apart for the reception of persons
suffering from infectious diseases, was reported upon in the following
terms; "One of the rooms had been used as an henhouse, but in other
respects clean."  For the credit of those receiving the report,
however, it should be added that it was "Ordered that the room should
be cleaned and not be used for that purpose any more."

The last of the race of Beadles for the town of Royston was John Ward,
who will probably be remembered by some readers of these pages.  He had
the honour of receiving the highest wage I have found paid to that
office, viz., 12s. a week, besides the outward panoply which gave to
the office its pompous gravity.  For years there is no more familiar
item in the parish accounts than that of "John Ward, Beadle, 12s."  In
1832, however, when the air was so full of reforms {56} of all kinds,
John Ward, Beadle, lost part of his emoluments.  His weekly stipend
became reduced to 9s., apparently because the office of Scavenger was
again made a distinct office, to which James Shepherd was appointed at
6s. a week.  Shortly after this the office became a thing of the past,
and John Ward, Beadle, disappears from our view, to join the company of
the last minstrel, the last fly wagon, the last stage coach, and the
last tinder-box!

  For well-a-day! their date was fled,
  His pompous brethren all were dead,
  And he, neglected and oppress'd,
  Wished to be with them and at rest.
      *      *      *      *
  Old times were changed, old manners gone,
  A "Peeler" filled the Beadle's throne!



The gloom which shrouded the night and morning, the death and birth, of
the two centuries, and its terrible consequences to the people of this
country, together form an event which has no parallel in our modern
history, nor, with the possible exception of the famine years in the
fourteenth century, in any known period of our history.  The whole of
the last quarter of the eighteenth century has been very well described
as a period of high prices, low wages, and of unparalleled suffering.
The war dragged on, and to make matters worse, the century closed with
a most disastrous run of bad seasons.  Prices continued to rise to an
alarming height, and with it popular discontent increased so much that
George III. was mobbed, hooted, and pelted on his way to the House of
Lords!  The Bank of England stopped payment in 1797, and among country
banks which did the same was Wisher's Bank at Cambridge.  Consols went
down to 47 7/8.  With each succeeding bad season prices continued to
rise.  Those who could keep corn for the rising market reaped their
reward, not alone of extraordinary prices, but of a storm of popular
indignation, against both farmers and corn dealers, and the farmers
were threatened, and in some cases actually had the precious ricks of
grain burned, because it was alleged they had created an "artificial


The century closed with one of the most severe winters (1799-1800)
known for many years, and the suffering was intense.  In 1800, the
harvest was spoilt by incessant rains, and during the next year wheat
reached 184s. per quarter in Mark Lane, the 4 lb. loaf went up to 1s.
10 1/2d., or about 2s. 6d. of the present money value, and other
articles, including meat, almost in proportion.  After the disastrous
harvest of 1800 the year of 1801 became the "memorable year of
scarcity," in which some wheat was sold as high as 25s. a bushel, and
the average official price is given at 119s. 6d. per quarter.  The
average in Royston was a little below this, but both here and at other
Hertfordshire markets the price occasionally went up to 24s. a bushel.
In November, 1800, Parliament, by means of bounties, practically
guaranteed to every person importing foreign wheat that he should be
paid 100s. per quarter for it, and proportionate rates for barley, rye,
oats, flour, rice, &c.  That the foreigners did not send much, even on
these terms, is shown by the straits to make the wheaten flour hold
out.  Not only did the poor suffer and have to put up with such bread
as they could get--and a large part of it was made of barley-meal,
rice, &c.--but all classes suffered.  Those who "farmed the paupers"
pleaded to be released from their contracts or for special
compensation; proprietors of Boarding Schools, or "Academies," as they
were generally called, had to modify their terms and to plead for
compensation, while the King on his throne found the Civil List
insufficient even with that Spartan order adopted by His Majesty,
George III., that the bread in his household was to be made of meal and
rye mixed, and that the Royal family were to eat the same bread as
their servants.

The first traces of the hard times which closed the century occur in
Royston as early as 1795, but the worst part had not come yet.  In the
following year (1796) we find the principal inhabitants in public
meeting assembled, at the Red Lion, passing sumptuary laws binding
themselves to economy in the use of wheaten flour, with a view to
reduce the consumption of wheat.  The meeting set forth its opinion in
the following statement, or pledge:--

"We, the undersigned, impressed with a sense of the evils which may be
experienced by His Majesty's subjects in consequence of the deficient
supply of wheat unless timely and effectual measures are taken to
reduce the consumption thereof; Do hereby jointly and severally pledge
ourselves in the most solemn manner to Execute and maintain to the
utmost of our Power, the following Resolutions, _and also most
earnestly recommend the same to be adopted in our respective

"To reduce the usual quantity of wheat consumed in our families by at
least one-third, either by limiting to that extent the quantity of {58}
fine wheaten Bread used by each, or consume only mixed Bread of which
not more than two-thirds shall be made of wheat; also if necessary
prohibit in our families the use of wheaten flour in pastry; also
resolved that all Bread given away by public charity or used in the
Workhouse shall not contain more than two-thirds parts of Wheat; also
recommended to Bakers to use same proportion in supplying the Public;
also that Overseers do not allow any Families Collection from the
parish who do not commonly use the aforesaid kind of Bread.

"Agreement to remain in force until fourteen days after opening of next
session of Parliament, unless before then price of wheat falls to 8s.
per Winchester Bushel.

"Signed by Thomas Shield (vicar), J. Wortham, John Cross, Wm. Sparke,
Saml. Maling, George Careless, John Trudgett, Thomas Cockett, Wm.
Cockett and Thos. Watson."

In November, 1799, a Vestry was called "to consider the best means of
relieving the poor during this very hard time."

"It was agreed that farmers and others employing labourers of this town
will provide for and take care of such Men, so that such Men or their
Familys be any ways Chargeable to the parish, and that a subscription
be raised for the relief of poor widows, and such as have no Masters,
and any Deficiency wanting for the latter description of people be
supplied out of the rates."

The farmers and other employers, however, did not respond sufficiently,
and in the following month (December, 1799) another vestry meeting was
held, at which it was--

"Unanimously resolved that as the present unusually high price of
nearly all the necessary provisions of Life are manifestly beyond the
power of the labouring poor to purchase by their ordinary Wages in
sufficient Quantities for the support of their Lives and the
maintenance of their Families, some effectual Assistance and Relief
must necessarily be given to them."

In January, 1800, the winter being especially severe, we find a soup
kitchen was fitted up, and in February another difficulty arose with
the Workhouse master "being unable to provide for paupers according to
contract on account of extraordinary high prices of provisions."

By April the demands upon the Overseers and Committee had become so
incessant that Robt. Hankin was appointed assistant to the Overseer at
a salary of six guineas a year.  Some of the ratepayers stood out for
meeting the emergency without falling so much upon the rates, and at
the above meeting when a rate was produced to be signed for the purpose
of defraying the expense of the soup kitchen "A division arose, the
majority being in favour of the rate being signed."


With the approach of winter, things became critical, and in November we
learn that--

"A Quantity of Rice having been provided by several gentlemen of this
town who have generously offered to give up the same to the Parish at
Prime cost; Resolved that the offer be accepted and that the same be
paid for by the Overseers for the benefit of the Poor."  A Committee
was formed for dispensing the same.

At this time nearly the whole of the labouring population must have
been upon the parish or next door to it, and the suffering rate-payers
made one more appeal to the farmers, for in November, at a meeting on
the subject--

"It was resolved that it be recommended to the Farmers of this Town to
allow their Labourers such wages as may prevent them from becoming
chargeable to the Parish, and it is also recommended that such Men as
belong to the Parish be employed in Preference to others."

This feeling was apparently prompted by the knowledge of the fact that
the farmers were reaping a harvest out of the famine, while other
ratepayers, such as the small tradesmen, were suffering as well as the
poor.  It was not, however, every farmer who had any wheat to sell at
the famine prices then ruling, and hence any uniform plan of raising
wages became hopeless.  The course taken by the farmers and others to
whom these appeals were made, was, to say the least, unfortunate, and
led to no end of trouble in after years.  The parish was obliged to
step in, and to save the people from starvation, fixed a kind of
minimum scale of income upon which each family could subsist, according
to the number in family and the price of bread, and simply made up the
difference between the wages and the standard.  The effect of this was
to pauperise for the time the whole labouring population, and that the
ratepayers, employing no labourers themselves, had to help to pay for
those who did!

In the evidence collected by Sir Frederick Eden in 1795 as to the
earnings and cost of maintenance of labourers' families, six families
were taken from the parish of Hinxworth, representing Hertfordshire,
and the earnings of each family averaged 12s. 6 1/2d., and their
necessary expenditure exceeded their receipts by L22 3s. 6 1/2d., or
about 9s. a week, which would have to be made up out of the rates.

Of the peculiar hardship which thus grew up a correspondent in the
_Farmers' Magazine_, for 1800, says:--"The present period to this class
(small shopkeeper, &c.) who has a cow, and while he has it cannot have
relief, is truly distressing, but as for the labouring people, _they
are all on the parish funds_."  It was stated in Parliament that
farmers were making 200 per cent. profit!  The probability is, however,
that the great majority of farmers had little or no corn left to sell.
{60} Here is a communication apparently from a farmer, to the same
magazine, from a provincial market:--

"I am truly concerned to inform you that the price of grain advances
every succeeding market day and that there is no prospect whatever of a
fall.  Wheat 23s. to 25s. per bushel.  A number of principal fanners
convened by the Mayor had agreed to sell their wheat at 21s. per
bushel.  Not long adhered to, for while I and others were selling at
that price others were getting 28s., and so the matter dropped.  Price
of bread now almost out of reach of the poor; we have subscribed sums
of money to purchase butcher's meat and potatoes for distribution,
leaving them to buy bread with money received from the parish.  As for
rice as substitute, it, like everything else, has advanced to double
the price.  Herrings are strongly recommended by the Government."

Even barley bread was not easy to obtain, and we further learn that (by
April, 1801) "the state of the poor cottager is now truly deplorable,
for though barley may still be had it is at an enormous price, and it
is impossible for labourers to provide for their families at such
prices.  It is to corn merchants and dealers in grain whose very
existence they have been taught to curse and deprecate that the good
people of this country must now look for near five months to come for
subsistence."  "If we have not an early harvest, God knows what will be
the consequences," is another remark of a correspondent!

The old tales of "barley bread as black as your hat," which many
persons living have heard their grandfathers speak of, were no mere
tradition, but a stern hard fact, and whenever, in that terribly
anxious spring time of 1801, the poor could get a scrap of bacon, a
dish of tops of slinging nettles was by no means an uncommon resort to
eke out the means of a precarious existence.  It is hardly an
exaggeration to say that the harvest of 1801 was looked forward to with
as great a degree of anxiety as ever the children of Israel looked for
a sight of the Promised Land!

What the memorable year of scarcity really was in a locality like this
is best understood by means of the poor rate.

The poor rate in Royston was very heavy during the previous twenty
years, averaging about six or seven shilling rates in a year.  In the
old Parish Books are preserved all the rates made, and the months in
which they were made, for Royston, Herts., and from these entries it is
possible to trace the effect of the scarcity for each year.  In 1796
there were ten shilling rates made, in 1797 nine, in 1798 (a more
favourable year than the others) eight, after which it went up with
bounds.  In 1799 the rates rose to eleven, and in 1800 to eleven 1s.
rates and three of 2s. each, or 16s. in the pound.  In 1801 the demands
became so pressing that to have collected the requisite amount in
shilling rates {61} would have necessitated the making of a fresh rate
almost every fortnight all through the year!  The Overseers therefore
made out the rates in 2s. at a time, and for that memorable year of
scarcity eleven 2s. rates were necessary for the relief of the poor, or
a rate of 22s. in the pound!  A shilling rate produced about L42 for
Royston, Herts., at that time (now it is about L200), and the total
amount of rate required for that single year was L944 15s. 2d., or more
than three times the average of even the scarce years of the two
previous decades!  The Overseers for these memorable years were Thomas
Wortham and E. K. Fordham for 1800, and Joseph Beldam and John Phillips
for 1801.

In some places in Essex the rate was as high as 48s. in the pound for
the year 1801, or more than twice the amount of the rent of the
property rated!

The highway rates, levied upon the land to make up the tolls sufficient
to repair the turnpike road from Royston to Caxton, were in arrear for
1801 and the whole of the next year!

To understand the effect of the misery upon the whole of the people,
War had brought Napoleon to the front in a manner which caused many in
England to take a gloomy view of the future, and to express the opinion
that "the sun of England's glory is set"!  While British ships were
upholding British heroism in the Mediterranean, the hungry mass of the
people at home were paying more attention to the sun in the heavens and
the promise of harvest.  Happily the season promised well, and in
Royston the religious bodies held special meetings in July and August
for prayer and thanksgiving for the encouraging signs of a bountiful
harvest, which was shortly afterwards gathered.  Then to add to the
sense of relief their came the joyful tidings "Peace with France," on
printed bills pasted on the sides of stage coaches passing through our
old town, by which means the glad tidings passed through the country
like a gleam of sunlight into many a home, and brought about a sudden
and extraordinary reaction from despair to hope!  In a very short time
corn went down to a comparatively low rate, and the poor rate for
Royston, Herts., went down to L355 18s. 3d., or little more than
one-third of the previous year!

Though, as we shall see, the shadow of Napoleon was shortly to settle
again over even the local life of England with a new terror, yet that
short-lived burst of joy, if it did not quite close, gave a brighter
turn to a bitter crisis in which the people of this country were
pressed down by want and war, and may be said to have subsisted upon
barley bread and glory!

The memorable re-action from the scarcity and suffering already
described, in the peace rejoicing of 1802, had scarcely died away in
our streets before, in 1803, the action of Napoleon aroused suspicion,
and {62} our old Volunteers (to be referred to presently) found
themselves called upon in earnest, for "the magnanimous First Consul,"
suddenly changed into the "Corsican Ogre" with a vengeance!

  The firmament breaks up.  In black eclipse
  Light after light goes out.  One evil star
  Luridly glaring through the smoke of War,
  As in the dream of the Apocalypse,
  Drags others down!

War broke out and Napoleon formed a great camp at Boulogne for invading
England.  This aroused a remarkable outburst of patriotism, and led to
the enrolment of an army of three hundred thousand Volunteers.  We, who
sometimes discuss, merely as a theory, the possibility of an invasion
of England, can form a very inadequate idea of how terribly real was
the Napoleonic bogie to our great-grandfathers!  They knew that "Boney"
was a character who would stop at nothing in carrying out his designs,
and so it came about that the shadow of that collossal stride of the
Corsican adventurer, darkened the homes in every town, village, and
hamlet in this land, and you cannot even to this day turn over the
pages of old parish records, or stir the placid waters of old men's
memories, without finding traces of this old ghost which Wellington
wrestled with so terribly on the fields of Waterloo!

There was, in Napoleon's work, an over-mastering will to accomplish, at
whatever cost, the purpose he set himself, and our great-grand-fathers,
with all their contempt for the French, had the sense to recognise
something of what Wellington afterwards so well expressed of the man,
Napoleon Buonaparte,--"I used to say of him that his presence on the
field made a difference of forty thousand men."

Of more interest even than the enrolment of the Volunteers were the
measurers taken for local defence and for the protection of the civil
population and property--the women and children and livestock.  This
was taken up as a complete organization, county by county, hundred by
hundred, town by town, and village by village.  In the month of July,
1803, we find the Deputy-Lieutenants of Cambridgeshire, thirty-four in
number, meeting at Cambridge, and adopting an address to the King,
expressing determination to support him in the war with France.  Sir
Edward Nightingale, Bart., of Kneesworth House, presided.  It was
resolved to adopt the measures indicated for establishing a system of
communications throughout each county, and also for rendering the body
of the people instrumental for the general defence in case of an
invasion.  Also that the several hundreds in the county be formed into
divisions with a lieutenant over each, to report to, and act in concert
with the County Lieutenancy, that the lieutenant for each division {64}
appoint an inspector for each hundred, and that the inspector for each
hundred appoint a superintendent for each parish.  For the division of
the county formed by the union of the hundreds of Armingford (Royston
district), Longstowe, Wetherby and Thriplow, Hale Wortham, Esq., was
the responsible lieutenant.


A similar meeting was held at Hertford, and men were called to arms
between the ages of 15 and 60, and in all towns and villages there was
nothing but swearing in and drilling of soldiers, to resist the
impending invasion, by which it was said that England was to be divided
among the French--"the men all to be killed and the women saved."

In accordance with the above mentioned county scheme each parish had
its Council of War, so to speak, at which men more accustomed to "speed
the plough" found themselves in solemn conclave discussing such
strategical proposals as the local circumstances of each neighbourhood
seemed to suggest for arresting the onward march of the invader when he
had landed, as it was feared he would.  Necessity was the mother of
invention, and what the farmer class wanted in military knowledge, they
made up for in practical sagacity directed to the intensely personal
ends of protecting their own homes and families, their herds and stacks
from the ruthless hands of the coming hosts!  It was naturally expected
that Napoleon would land and enter England from the South or East, and
that in the latter case the inhabitants of Hertfordshire and
Cambridgeshire would, in the event of a flank movement through the
Eastern Counties for London, be among the first to bear the brunt of
the devastating march!  The horror of the expected invasion was
intensified a thousandfold by the Englishman's attachment to his home
and family, and deliberations of the village councils often showed less
regard for the national scheme of defence than the protection of their
homes and property in the time of trial coming upon them.  They set to
work devising means of local defence as real and as earnest as if every
village was already threatened with a state of siege!

This is clear from an intelligible means of local defence which was
taken in this neighbourhood.  The expectation that "Boney" and his
"Mounseers" were coming from the South or East, naturally suggested the
expedient of arranging for the transport of non-combatants, and live
stock away farther Northward.  The expedient was arranged for by the
villages around Royston along the Old North Road; and a plan had been
devised that as soon as tidings arrived that Buonaparte had landed,
each village was to assemble their live stock at a common centre in the
village, and then unite with those from other villages.  Thus the route
for the removal of stock was settled, until it was expected that quotas
from each village would make one united common herd wending {65} its
way Northward to a safer distance from the ravaging hordes!  One seems
to see that terrified exodus----

  Now crowding in the narrow road,
  In thick and struggling masses.
      *      *      *      *
  Anon, with toss of horn and tail,
  And paw of hoof and bellow,
  They leap some farmer's broken pale,
  O'er meadow-close or fallow!

From chronicles in the British Museum I am able to supplement the
foregoing arrangement in force in Cambridgeshire by more definite
particulars of the organized precautions to be taken in counties lying
nearest the coast as soon as the presence of the Invader became known.
As a preliminary, returns had to be made as to the driving of
live-stock farther inland away from the coast "in order that
indemnification might be estimated for such as could not be removed."
The removal of stock and unarmed inhabitants was to be effected after
the following fashion:--

First in order were to go the horses and wagons conveying those persons
who were unable to remove themselves; then (2nd) cattle; and (3rd)
sheep, and all other live-stock; intelligent and active persons to be
set apart to superintend these measures.

With regard to the unarmed inhabitants, generally, the arrangement was
that they were to "form themselves into companies of not less than 25
or more than 50, the men to come provided, if possible, with pickaxes,
spades, and shovels, billhooks and felling axes, each 25 men to have a
leader, and for every 50 men a captain in addition."  For the purposes
of transport, the nobility, gentry, and farmers, were requested to sign
statements showing how many wagons, horses, and carts, they could place
at the disposal of the nation in an emergency.  Similar returns were
required from millers and bakers as to how much flour and bread they
could supply.

Turning once more from documentary evidence, to the recollections
handed down from parents to children, I am reminded that the
inhabitants of Bassingbourn and other villages were farmers first and
soldiers afterwards; for, having settled the momentous issue of
providing for the safety of their families and herds, these village
yeomen joined with others in seeking means for thwarting the too ready
advance of "Boney's" legions.  It is said that as a last resort it was
intended to cut down the trees standing by the sides of the North Road,
felling them across the road, so as to impede the march of Napoleon's
artillery!  For how long these efforts could have withstood the march
of the legions who crossed Alpine heights, or for how long that great
caravan of non-combatants and live-stock could have {66} out-distanced
the invaders, could not have been very re-assuring questions, nor have
I been able to find out what was to be the destination of the

It is true that if the worst fears were realized our great-grandfathers
in this district would have had some little warning, for did not the
old coach road to the North pass through our town and district? and did
not the old semaphore stand there on the summit above Royston Heath,
waiting to lift its clumsy wooden arms to spell out the signal of the
coming woe by day?  By night was the pile for the beacon fire, towards
which, before going to bed, the inhabitants of every village and hamlet
in the valley turned their eyes, expecting to see the beacon-light
flash forth the dread intelligence to answering hills in the distance!
Only the simple act of striking a flint and steel by night, or lifting
of the arm of the newly invented semaphore telegraph by day, seemed to
separate the issues of peaceful rural life and the ruthless invasion of
War!  The dread was a real and oppressive one, such as we cannot
possibly realize to-day!

But, amidst the fearful presages of War and Invasion, the affair had
its lighter side, and provoked not a little of comedy and burlesque.
In the Library of the British Museum there is an extremely interesting
collection of squibs! satirical ballads, mock play-bills, &c., upon the
expected appearance of Buonaparte, with caricatures by Gillray and
others.  In searching through such a collection, it is difficult to
stay the hand in making extracts, but a few must suffice.  In one the
First Consul is styled "the new Moses," and there is a list of his Ten
Commandments; in another there is a Catechism as to who is Buonaparte,
with not very flattering answers.  In others there are sketches of the
imaginary entry of Napoleon with graphic scenes of pillage, &c., and
again adaptations of theatrical language, such as--

"In rehearsal, Theatre Royal of the United Kingdom.  Some dark, foggy
night, about November next, will be attempted by a Strolling Company of
French Vagrants, an Old Pantomimic Farce, called Harlequin's Invasion,
or the Disappointed Banditti."

In others, M. Buonaparte was announced as Principal Buffo, "being his
first (and most likely his last) appearance on the Stage!"  Perhaps the
best of this ephemeral literature were lines which found their way in
lighter moments into the songs on our village greens; and, sung to the
fine old air of the "Blue Bells of Scotland," helped for the moment to
banish anxiety over some alehouse bench!

  When, and O when, does this little Boney come?
  Perhaps he'll come in August!  Perhaps he'll stay at home;
  But it's O in my heart, how I'll hide him should he come!

and so on through a number of stanzas.


But though there was a light side, out of which the humorists of the
period made a market, the Napoleonic scare was no laughing matter for
the poor people, who had nothing to gain and everything to lose, by
even the possibility of the thing.  We, who, in these peaceful times,
are apt to swagger about Britannia ruling the waves, cannot perhaps
realize what it meant to have this great military genius sitting down
with his legions of three hundred thousand opposite our shores, keenly
watching for and calculating our weakest point of defence!  What should
we think if, in every cottage home in this district, it was necessary,
on going to bed at night, to be prepared for a sudden alarm and
departure from all that was dear to us in old associations; if our
little children, before retiring to rest at night, took a last look in
fear and trembling to the hills above Royston Heath, where the beacon
was ready to flash out the portentious news to all the country round,
and asked "is it alight?"--if each little one had to be taught as
regularly as, if not more regularly than, saying its prayers, to pack
up its little bundle of clothes in readiness for the dread news that
Boney had indeed come!  Yet all this is only what really happened to
our great-grandfathers in that terrible time of 1803!

It may be of interest to glance at the means taken for repelling the
invader should he make his appearance.  This was no mere machinery of
conscription, such as under other circumstances might have been
necessary, for a spirit of intense patriotism was suddenly aroused,
fanned into flame by stirring ballads, such as the following, to the
tune of "Hearts of Oak"----

  Shall French men rule o'er us?  King Edward said No!
  And No said King Harry, and Queen Bess she said No!
  And No said old England--and No she says still!
  They will never rule o'er Us--let them try if they will!

In all parts of the country, where Volunteers and Loyal Associations
had not already been formed, these sprung up with one common purpose so
finely expressed by Wordsworth--

  No parleying now! in Britain is one breath,
  We all are with you now from shore to shore.
  Ye men of Kent, 'tis Victory or death!

Even little boys in the streets, as Cruikshank has told us, formed
regiments, with their drums and colours "presented by their mammas and
sisters," and made gun stocks with polished broom-sticks for barrels!
It is a singular circumstance and comment upon the much smaller extent
to which our food supply depended upon foreign countries then than now,
that, in the midst of all this perturbation and impending evil, wheat
was selling in Royston market as low as 32s. per load!

Even before the eighteenth century had closed Napoleon had been
suspected of designs upon England, and among the local Volunteers {68}
enrolled for service against a possible invasion, according to their
numbers none were more conspicuous for public spirit than the Royston
and Barkway men, enrolled under the command of the militant clergyman,
Captain Shield, vicar of Royston.  The following notice of the temper
and disposition of the Corps and their Commander is characteristic:--

"The Royston and Barkway Loyal Volunteers, commanded by Captain Shield,
have unanimously agreed to extend their services to any part of the
military district in case of invasion."

The Rev. Thomas Shield, vicar of Royston, 1793 to 1808, was evidently
both a courageous and patriotic townsman, for among the characteristics
of him which come down to us is the statement that he would ascend the
pulpit wearing his surplice over his uniform, and having finished his
sermon would descend from the pulpit, slip off his surplice, and march
to the Heath at the head of his company of Volunteers for drill on a
Sunday afternoon!  "A gallant band of natives headed by their military
Vicar, the Rev. Thomas Shield, in full regimentals, and accompanied by
good old John Warren, the parish clerk and music-master, as leader of
the Band, marched through the streets on Sunday afternoons to the sound
of the fife and the drum, and all the little boys in the place learned
to play soldiers."  I have been unable to verify this to the letter,
but something approaching it, though not on a Sunday, took place on one
memorable occasion, when the ceremony of the presentation of colours
was performed in 1799, of which I give some particulars below:--

Thursday, 1st August, 1799, was a memorable day in the history of this
Corps and a great day for Royston; the event being the presentation of
colours to the Corps by the Honourable Mrs. Peachey, in the presence of
a very respectable company.  At 11 o'clock the Corps, attended by
Captain Hale's troop of Hertfordshire Yeomanry, were drawn up on the
Market Place, where Mrs. Peachey was accompanied by Lady Hardwicke,
Lord Royston, and other noble ladies and gentlemen.  Mrs. Peachey, in
an elegant speech, referred to the day as the anniversary of Nelson's
great Victory, and feeling sure that the Captain of the Corps would
receive the colours with the elevated zeal and Christian spirit best
suited to the solemnity of their consecration.  Captain Shield was
equal to the occasion, and in a strain of oratory in keeping with his
patriotic spirit, accepted the colours in suitable terms, and,
addressing the men, said:--"At a most important crisis you have stood
forth against an implacable enemy in defence of everything that is dear
to us as men, as members of society, and as Christians!  With a
reliance therefore on your zeal, with a confidence in your virtuous
endeavours, I commit this standard to your care, and may the Lord of
Hosts, and the God of Battles, make you firm and collected {69} under
every trial, and securely under it to bid defiance to the desperate
enterprises of those who may rise up against us"!

After the ceremony of presentation the company marched to Church, where
the Colours were consecrated by prayers, read by the Rev. Mr. Bargus,
vicar of Barkway, and the Prebendary of Carlisle preached a powerful
sermon.  The local choir of fiddles and clarionets, &c., was not equal
to so great an occasion, and a choir of singers from Cambridge
attended, and chanted the Psalms and sang the Coronation Anthem.  A
cold colation given by the Rev. Captain followed, and the Volunteers
marched to the Heath, where "they performed their manoeuvres and firing
with great exactness."  At five o'clock a company of 200 ladies and
gentlemen, exclusive of the Corps, sat down to a "handsome dinner" on
the Bowling Green [at the Green Man] in a pavilion erected for the
purpose.  Here we are told that "loyal and appropriate toasts kept the
gentlemen together till eight o'clock, soon after which they joined the
ladies at the Red Lion, where the evening was concluded with a very
genteel ball."  The old chronicle adds a curious complimentary note
upon the moral and spectacular aspects of the day.  "So much
conviviality, accompanied with so much regularity and decorum, was
perhaps never before experienced in so large a party."  Two bands of
music, the Cambridge Loyal Association Band, and the Royston Band, were
present, and we further learn that "the number of people that were
assembled in Royston on this day is supposed to be greater than is
remembered on any former occasion."

The identical colours presented by Mrs. Peachey are still in existence,
and are in the possession of Mr. Rivers R. Smith, whose father was a
member of the band.

The above was not the only occasion upon which Captain Shield and his
soldiers kept the town to the front, for, on the anniversary of the day
of the presentation of colours in 1800, they wound up the century with
another note of patriotic defiance of Buonaparte, by holding a field
day on Royston Heath, and then, after dining together upon the Bowling
Green as before, spent the evening with their guests, and wound up with
"an elegant ball" at the Red Lion.

Having thus foreseen the evil day, and got together a well disciplined
body of men, the Rev. Thomas Shield kept up an _esprit de corps_, and
had frequent field days with his men on the Heath.  This universal
soldiering and heralding and closing the day with bugle, fife, and
drum, naturally had a great effect in stirring the life of the people,
but such an institution could not, any more than its modern example,
exist long upon patriotism and applause.

Mr. Thomas Wortham, the treasurer to the Corps, found that the Royston
people came out well with their money and equipment for {70} repelling
the invader.  E. K. Fordham's name appears in the list for L25; the
Rev. Thomas Shield for L10 10s., and "personal service"; William Nash
L10 10s.; John and James Butler for L5 5s. each; Waresley and Fordham
L5 5s.; Thomas Cockett "two stands of arms and accoutrements complete"
[what kind, not specified], and others followed suit.

Royal reviews and grand hospitalities were common in the Metropolitan
district, such as the Grand Review in Hyde Park, but perhaps the most
memorable in which the Hertfordshire Volunteers took a part was the
Grand Review of the Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers in Hatfield Park,
on the 14th June, 1800, in the presence of the King and Queen and other
members of the Royal Family, Cabinet Ministers, and a host of
distinguished people, whom the Marquis of Salisbury entertained at
Hatfield House with such splendid hospitality that the entertainment
cost L3,000.  Forty beds were made up at Hatfield House for the
accommodation of visitors.  The general company must have been immense,
for carriages and wagons, gaily decorated, "extended in a line for
three miles in length," and the scene was brightened "by the presence
of the ladies wearing white dresses."  The hospitality for the men
under arms was on the most generous and famous scale.  About seventeen
hundred men sat down at 17 tables, laid out on the Western side of the
House.  The following is a list of the good things placed upon the
tables upon that memorable occasion:--80 hams, 8 rounds of beef, 100
joints of veal, 100 legs of lamb, 100 tongues, 100 meat pies, 25
edge-bones of beef, 100 joints of mutton, 25 rumps of beef roasted, 25
briskets, 71 dishes of other roast beef, 100 gooseberry tarts, &c., &c.

The commissariat appears to have been at the "Salisbury Arms," for this
part of the hospitality, where we learn that there were killed for the
occasion:--3 bullocks, 16 sheep, 25 lambs.

Inside the historic building of Hatfield House the scene was worthy of
the occasion too, for here, in King James' Room, King George and the
Royal Family sat down to a sumptuous dinner, while the banquet for the
Cabinet Ministers and others extended to 38 covers, and the whole
affair engaged the services of 60 regular servants, and 60 extra
waiters were employed for the occasion besides.  Such a gathering
inside and outside the home of the Cecils as that of 1800 has scarcely
been equalled since, excepting perhaps by that of royalty in the
Jubilee year of Queen Victoria in 1887.

The following was the muster of Volunteers with their captains
assembled at this memorable review:--

Royston and Barkway, captain, Rev. Thomas Shield, 70 men; Hertford,
Captain Dimsdale, 103; Hatfield, Captain Penrose, 77; Ware, Captain
Dickinson, 76; St. Albans, Captain Kinder, 74; {71} Hitchin, Captain
Wilshere, 70; Bishop Stortford, Captain Winter, 58; Cheshunt, Captain
Newdick, 48; Hunsdon, Captain Calvert, 39; and Wormley, Captain Leach,

In accordance with the plan of drafting the Volunteers out for
permanent duty in other districts, we find in 1804 the Royston and
Barkway Corps, under command of Captain Shield, doing 23 days permanent
duty at Baldock, concluded by the firing of three excellent volleys in
the Market Place.  Having completed this patriotic duty, they were
reviewed by Colonel Cotton, and afterwards dined together on the
Bowling Green, and "the day was concluded with the utmost conviviality
and harmony."  The Bassingbourn Corps (afterwards incorporated with
Chesterton) in like manner went on permanent duty at Newmarket; an
event which was followed by a review on Foxton Common by General
Stewart, when, "at the end of the town they all mounted in wagons
stationed there to receive them, and drew together a great part of the
beauty of the town to witness the scene," and were afterwards
hospitably entertained by Mr. Hurrell.

The efficiency of the men got together in defence of their homes and
kindred was generally spoken highly of in the records of the times, but
I am sorry to add that in one case a drummer belonging to the Royston
Volunteers was tried by Court Martial and sentenced to receive 50
lashes for absenting himself without leave, but the rev. captain,
though a stern disciplinarian, had a tender heart and fatherly interest
in his men, for we further learn that "when the proceedings of the
Court had been read to the Corps, and everything prepared for the
execution of the sentence, Captain Shield the commandant, after an
impressive address to the Corps and the prisoner, was pleased to remit
the punishment."

Upon the subject of Volunteer marksmanship a little piece of
statistical information in the British Museum, referring to the Boston
Volunteers, shows the capacity of the men for hitting the target (no
question of Bullseyes!)  The total number of men firing was 108 and,
after several rounds each, the number of men who had actually hit the
target was 37, the number of those who did not hit the target 71--not
quite Wimbledon or Bisley form!

Though the immediate danger of an invasion passed away by Boney having
other work on his hands, the French were afterwards in evidence in a
different capacity, for as many as 23,600 French prisoners were at one
time maintained in different parts of England, a famous centre for them
being Norman Cross, between Huntingdon and Caxton.  They lingered here,
now amusing their hosts with representations of Molière's plays; now
making fancy articles in straw, &c., some of which are still to be
found in many houses in Cambridgeshire.  {72} Companies of them were
even so far indulged as to be shown over the University buildings at
Cambridge previous to resuming their march through Royston, en route
for Chatham and Tilbury, to be returned home to France!

At last, Buonaparte's reign of fighting seemed over, and with his
retirement to Elba there was such a peace-rejoicing as comes only once
or twice in a century.

  Come forth ye old men, now in peaceful show,
  And greet your sons! drums beat and trumpets blow!
  Make merry, wives! ye little children stun
  Your grandames ears with pleasure of your noise!

At Cambridge, Marshall Blucher was lionized, and here, as elsewhere,
the celebrations were on a grand scale.  At Royston it was one of the
social land-marks of the first quarter of the century.  The peace
rejoicings took place here on June 29th and 30th, 1814.  On Wednesday,
about 12 o'clock, the Under Sheriff of the county, preceded by a band
of music--and such a band of music! made up of some thirty or forty
players on instruments--followed by a numerous cavalcade, proceeded
first from the Bull Hotel to the Cross, and there the proclamation was
first read.  The procession then returned to the Market Hill, where it
was read a second time, and from thence to the top of the High Street,
where it was read for the last time.  In the evening, "brilliant
illuminations" took place with transparencies and variegated lamps.  On
the following day (Thursday) the bells rang merry peals, and at one
o'clock about nine hundred of the inhabitants sat down to a good dinner
on the Market Hill.  At four o'clock the gentlemen and tradesmen sat
down to an excellent luncheon on the Bowling Green at the Green Man
Inn, after which many appropriate toasts were given by the chairman,
Hale Wortham, Esq.  At intervals the Royston Band, "who very politely
offered their services," played some popular pieces.  To conclude the
day's festivities, a ball was given at the Assembly Room at the Red
Lion.  I believe the only person now living who remembers sitting down
to that famous dinner on the Market Hill is Mr. James Jacklin, who was
then a very little boy with his parents.

The rejoicings were unbounded and images of "Boney" were carried about
in almost every village on donkeys or men's shoulders, and afterwards
burned on the village green.  No one dreamed that Waterloo was still in
store, but alas it soon appeared as if all this patriotic eloquence,
and peace rejoicing, would have to be _un_said, for in a short time
there came the alarming news that Napoleon had escaped from Elba and
was returning to France!  He did return, and so did Wellington!
Waterloo was fought and won, but, the English people having, as the
Americans say, been a little too previous with {73} their rejoicings
over Elba, made less of the greatest battle of the century than they
might otherwise have done.

So passed away a figure which had troubled the peace and conscience of
Europe for a generation, the tradition of whose expected advent on our
shores did for many a year after discolour the pages of our country
life, like some old stain through the leaves of a book, and the old
Bogie which frightened children in dame schools only disappeared with
the Russian scare which set up the Russian for the Frenchman in Crimean



By the fireside, in health and disease, and in the separations and
contingencies of family life, we must look for the drawbacks which our
great-grandfathers had to put up with during that remarkable period
which closed and opened the two centuries, when great changes ever
seemed on the eve of being born, yet ever eluded the grasp of the
reformer.  What a sluggish, silent, nerveless world, it must have been
as we now think!  On the other side of the cloud, which shut out the
future, were most of the contributories to the noisy current of our
modern life--from express trains and steam hammers to lucifer matches
and tram cars!  Steel pens, photographs, postage stamps, and even
envelopes, umbrellas, telegrams, pianofortes, ready-made clothes,
public opinion, gas lamps, vaccination, and a host of other things
which now form a part of our daily life, were all unknown or belonged
to the future.  But there were a few other things which found a place
in the home which are not often met with now--the weather-house (man
for foul weather and woman for fine)--bellows, child's pole from
ceiling to floor with swing, candlestick stands, chimney pot-hook,
spinning wheel, bottle of leeches, flint gun, pillow and bobbins for
lace, rush-lights, leather breeches, and a host of other things now
nearly obsolete.  In the better class houses there was a grandfather's
clock, and possibly a "windmill" clock, but in many villages if you
could not fix the time by the sun "you might have to run half over the
village to find a clock."

One of the primal fountains of our grandfathers' domestic comforts was
the tinder-box and flint and steel.  Without this he could neither have
basked in the warmth of the Yule-log nor satisfied the baby in {74} the
night time.  But even this was not sufficient without matches, and, as
Bryant and May had not been heard of, this article was made on the
spot.  In Royston, as in other places, matches were made and sold from
door to door by the paupers from the Workhouse, by pedlars driving dog
carts, or by gipsies, and the trade of match-makers obtained the
dignified title of "Carvers and Gilders."  At by-ways where a tramp, a
pedlar, or a pauper, did not reach, paterfamilias, or materfamilias,
became "carver and gilder" to the household, and made their own
matches.  In one case I find the Royston Parish Authorities setting up
one of the paupers with a supply of wood "to make skewers and matches
to sell."


The tinder-box, like other household requisites in all ages, was
sometimes very homely, sometimes of "superior" make.  The above
illustration is of one rather out of the common, and the artist has
brought the different parts together rather than showing the process,
for the lid would have to be removed before the tinder beneath could be
fired.  The most common form of tinder-box was an oblong wooden box, of
two compartments, one for the tinder and the other for flint and {75}
steel.  At Elbrook House, Ashwell, is one, in the possession of Edward
Snow Fordham, Esq., said to be two hundred years old.  The process of
getting a light by means of the tinder-box involved a little manual
dexterity and mental philosophy--if the fugitive spark from the
striking of the flint and steel set alight to the tinder, well; you
then had simply to light your clumsy sulphur-tipped skewer-like
"match," and there you were!  If the tinder happened to be damp, as it
sometimes was, and the spark wouldn't lay hold, you were not one bit
nearer quieting the baby, or meeting whatever might be the demand for a
light in the night time, than was an ancient Briton ages ago!  When the
modern match was first introduced as the "Congreve" the cost was 2s.
6d. for fifty, or about 1/2d. each, and when, a few years later, the
lucifer match was introduced, they were sold at four a penny!  Now you
can get more than four well-filled boxes for a penny!

In the first quarter of the century the supply of fuel was very
different from now.  By slow and difficult means did coal arrive.
Cambridge was the nearest centre for this district, and thence the coal
used in Royston was obtained.  Tedious and troublesome was the process
of dragging it along bad roads, and between Cambridge and Royston this
made a difference of about 7s. per ton in the price.  Farm labourers,
when agreeing for their harvest month, generally obtained, either by
bargain or by custom, the right of the use of one of their master's
horses and carts after harvest for a day to fetch coals from Cambridge.
Another concession made by the farmer to the men was that each man was
allowed after harvest a load of "haulm," or wheat stubble, left in the
field from reaping time.  This "haulm" was useful not only for lighting
fires with, but, like the bean stubs, for heating those capacious brick
ovens in the old chimney corners, in which most of the cottagers then
baked their own bread.  Sometimes the stage wagoners brought a "mixed"
cargo, and put coals into their wagons to fill up, and undersold the
dealers (at less than 13d. a bushel), and the practice was complained
of at Cambridge, more especially respecting Royston and Buntingford

It may seem strange now to speak of persons, even at a hospitable
board, having taken too much salt, carefully replacing some of it, upon
economical grounds; but, considering that there was then a duty of a
guinea a bushel upon this necessary article, it is not surprising.  Our
grandfathers paid about 6d. a pound for their salt; the commonest
calico was 10d. a yard, and printed calicoes 2s. 2d. per yard.  In 1793
the average price of sugar, wholesale, was 66s. 7 1/2d. per cwt.,
exclusive of duty.  Between 1810 and the Battle of Waterloo were many
times of scarcity, with wheat varying from 100s. to 126s. a quarter,
and some in Royston market reached 20s. a bushel.  As to clothing,
there were very few ready-made clothes, and the village tailor was a
man of importance {76} when leather breeches and smock frocks were in
general demand.  A smock frock, washed till it was quite white, was as
common a sight then as was the scarlet cloak worn by our
great-grandmothers, but both these familiar sights have disappeared as
completely as the yellow leather top boots, to be seen on Sundays up
till fifty years ago in the Churchyards of rural England.

[Illustration: A LADY OF THE PERIOD.]

The vagaries of fashion at the beginning of the century were of almost
inconceivable variety and extravagance; not only the ladies, but
dandies of the opposite sex wore stays for the improvement of the
figure, and curled their hair with curling irons!  Though wigs had
almost gone out of fashion, hair powder had not.  In a former sketch a
figure of a lady in the earlier years of the reign of George III. was
given.  The above is another specimen of head gear at a later period of
the same reign.


Trades necessarily followed fashions, and, when snuff-taking was almost
universal, the manufacture of gold, silver, and baser metal
snuff-boxes, was a thriving trade.  A hair dresser's shop up to the end
of last century was also different in appearance from one to-day, and
was furnished with perukes, or wigs for all sorts of heads.  At Upwell,
in the Fen, in 1791, a wig caught fire in such a shop and "before the
fire could be put out thirty-six wigs were destroyed."

Luxuries were much more limited than now, and many things then regarded
as such have since got placed in a different category.  At the end of
the last century a pianoforte had not figured in any Royston household,
but it came at the beginning of this century when Lady Wortham as she
was always styled--as the daughter of Sir Thomas Hatton, Bart., and
wife of Hale Wortham, Esq.--became the owner of the first piano at
their house in Melbourn Street (now Mr. J. E. Phillips').

Newspapers were among the luxuries of the household, and their
circulation was of a very limited character.  When, for a town of the
size of Royston, two or three copies did arrive by a London coach the
subscribers were generally the principal innkeepers--the Red Lion, the
Crown, and the Bull--and to these inns tradesmen and the leading
inhabitants were wont to repair.  The only alternative of getting a
sight of the paper was that they could, on ordinary occasions, have it
away with them at their own homes upon paying a penny an hour for its
use.  On special occasions when any great foreign event became
known--for papers contained but little home news--the competition for
the paper was an exciting event, the above arrangement was hardly
elastic enough to meet requirements, and crowds gathered about in the
inn yards on the arrival of a coach to learn some momentous piece of
intelligence with more or less accuracy from post-boys and others, who
in their turn had heard it from somebody else whose friend had been
able to communicate it with the authority of having actually "seen it
in the paper."  The essence of the news required was generally victory
or defeat in battle, or trials at Assizes, and could soon be told.  The
supply of papers was limited pretty much to the _Times_ and _Morning
Chronicle_ from London, while the _Cambridge Chronicle_ was then the
principal local newspaper.

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer derived a revenue from the stamp
required for each newspaper (as well as upon advertisements) the
lending of a newspaper was looked upon in the light of smuggling, and
an Act was passed providing that "any person who lends out a newspaper
for hire is subject to a penalty of L10 for every offence."  But I fear
that with even this terrible inducement to buy your own paper, and the
natural zeal for the spread of knowledge of a man like Henry Andrews,
the astronomer, as agent for the sale of newspapers in our {78} town,
very few copies were actually bought, and that most of the "news" which
could not be obtained from the coaches was obtained by the Royston
tradesmen in that illicit manner of lending and hiring, though
forbidden by law!

Work and wages, closely connected with the condition of home life, did
not present a very cheerful picture.  The labourer, and all engaged in
husbandry, had much longer hours than now.  An old writer on husbandry
says, "the dairymaid should always be up in the morning between three
or four o'clock."  The young fellows living "in service" on the farm
had never done till it was time to go to bed, and, having but very
little if any money to spend and nowhere to go, a short interval for
supper by the kitchen fire was about the only recreation they enjoyed
to vary their lot.

It was a time when there was little room for squeamishness as to the
conditions under which men laboured--when little boys, instead of
brooms, were sent up ill-constructed chimneys, with no sense of remorse
from their employers, who in their turn had probably commenced business
by going up themselves and saw no reason against the practice.  At a
later date, however, there was a great stir made about this practice,
which led to its coming before a Committee of the House of Lords.  One
of the Payment family--who then, as now, carried on the business of
chimney sweeps in Royston and its neighbourhood--was called as a
witness to give evidence before the Committee of the House of Lords.  I
am credibly informed that the member of the Royston firm was at first
rather alarmed at the prospect, thinking no doubt that he was about to
be called to account as a "climbing boy," but when he found what was
the nature of his errand, that his evidence was considered of so much
value by the House of Lords, and that it meant a few days' holiday in
the great city provided for him free of expense, the incident was one
to be remembered with pride.  A few courageous spirits set to work
raising subscriptions to provide "machines," as now used, instead of
"climbing boys," but, incredible as it may seem, met with a good deal
of opposition at first, both from householders and master sweeps.
Among those who took up the question was Mr. Henry Fordham, then a
young man at Hertford.

Let me conclude this reference to sweeps with a story from this
district, vouched for by the old newspapers at the time, viz., that in
one of the villages in the district was a chimney sweep who had sixteen
sons all following the same occupation!

Among outside agencies which broke in upon the old domestic life of the
period none was more potent or omnipresent than the tax-gatherer.  You
could not be born, married, or buried, without the consent of the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, so to speak; for there was at the end of
the last century a 3d. tax upon births, marriages, and burials, and it
{79} appears that the clergy were allowed a commission of 2s. in the L,
for the collection of the tax.  Among the objections to it was that the
poor man could not sometimes pay it without borrowing the money, and
yet was made equal with the rich in regard to the amount.  Even
occupiers of cottages had to pay the window tax, unless exempt by the
receipt of parish relief, but, by many thoughtful men of the time, its
application to agricultural labourers was looked upon with disfavour.

About the end of the last century there was hardly anything that a man
could see, taste, handle, or use, that was not taxed--windows, candles,
tobacco pipes, almanacs, soap, newspapers, hats, bricks, domestic
servants, watches, clocks, hair powder, besides nearly every article of
food!  All these in turn came under the hands of the Chancellor of the
Exchequer, till, as Sydney Smith said, "the school-boy had to whip a
taxed top, the youth drove a taxed horse with taxed bridle along a
taxed road; the old man poured medicine, which had paid 7 per cent.,
into a spoon that had paid 15; fell back upon a chintz bed which had
paid 22 per cent., and expired in the arms of an apothecary who had
paid a licence of L100 for the privilege of putting him to death; and
immediately his property paid 2 to 10 per cent., and his virtues were
handed down to posterity on taxed marble."

The extravagant vagaries in the fashions of dressing the hair formed a
tempting point for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to come down upon,
and the tax in the form of "hair-powder certificates," at the rate of a
guinea a head, occasioned perhaps more commotion in fashionable circles
than any other tax.  It was a profitable source of revenue owing to the
great use of hair-powder, and at the same time its disuse would mean a
gain in the supply of flour, of which it was largely made, for
consumption.  Short hair, or "crops," soon came into fashion as a means
of evading the tax and "dishing" the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a
re-action which was responsible for the following parody of _Hamlet_:--

  To crop, or not to crop, that is the question:--
  Whether 'tis nobler in the mind, to suffer
  The plague of powder and loquacious barbers;
  Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
  And, by the scissors, end them?

From the old Royston Book Club debates of last century it will be
remembered that I quoted the result of a vote upon--which of the three
professions, of divinity, law and physic, was most beneficial to
mankind, and that the doctors could only get one vote, against a
respectable number for law and divinity.  I ventured to suggest that
the bleeding, blistering and purging at certain seasons was probably
responsible for {80} the low estimate of the medical profession, and of
this may be given the following example--

In 1799, the parish doctor's bill for the Therfield paupers contained
twelve items for "blisters," eight for bleeding (at 6d. each!), and in
another, eight for "leeches."

There was a much more detailed account given in the old doctors' bills
of a century ago than in the curt missives which are now usually
limited to the "professional attendance" with which the old bills
began, and the "total" with which they finished; "bleeding, blistering,
leeches, vomits, julep, boluses," &c., were all duly accounted for.
The following is a _bonâ fide_ doctor's bill of 1788, delivered to and
paid by a resident in one of the villages of this district:--

                                        s. d.
  Bleeding----Daughter . . . . . . .    1  0
  A febrifuge Mixture  . . . . . . .    2  4
  Bleeding----Self . . . . . . . . .    1  0
  A Cordial Mixture  . . . . . . . .    2  4
  A Diuretic Tincture  . . . . . . .    1  6
  Two Opening Draughts . . . . . . .    2  0
  The Mixture repd . . . . . . . . .    2  4
  Bleeding----Daughter . . . . . . .    1  0
  Two Opening Draughts . . . . . . .    2  0
                                    L0 15  6

The item "Bleeding----self" is a trifle ambiguous, but probably it was
the parent and not the doctor upon whom the operation was performed!

Inoculation has already been referred to, but I may here state that the
first account I have seen of professional inoculation for the smallpox
in Royston is the announcement in the year 1773 of--"George Hatton,
surgeon, apothecary and man-mid-wife in Royston, who, with the advice
of his friends and the many patients whom he has inoculated, begs leave
to acquaint the public that he will wait upon any person or family
within 6 or 7 miles from Royston, and inoculate them for half-a-guinea
each person, medicines and attendances included, and, that the poor may
have the benefit of his practice, a proper allowance will be made them
and diligent attendance given."

Bills of the same period show that the charge for this species of
inoculation "when a quantity was taken," as in the parish bills, was
2s. or 2s. 6d. each person.  The advantage claimed for spreading the
disease of small-pox out of the rates by means of inoculation was that
if you had it as the result of inoculation only one person in 300 died,
but if you had small-pox by infection, eight out of every hundred died.
It may be of interest to add as a general fact upon health and
diseases, that in 1792, out of 20,000 burials the following were the
proportions of deaths from the leading diseases:--Consumption 5,255,
convulsions {81} 4,646, dropsy 3,018, fevers 2,203, small-pox 1,568,
measles 450, "teeth" 419.  The deaths under two years of age were
6,542, or one-third of the whole!  The classification was not so exact
in those days as it would be now, but the race has improved a little in
regard to infantile mortality and consumption.

In coupling the doctor and the body-snatcher, at the head of this
chapter, I did not really mean to convey more than the general
association of human experience in the periods of sickness and the
close of life.  If there was a closer association of these two
characters in the later Georgian era, it is, at least, a satisfaction
to be able to write of such things entirely in the past tense.  At a
time when even to maintain the decencies and comforts of domestic life
was often a struggle with untoward surroundings, it may seem to show a
desire to load the past times with more than their share of trials and
misfortunes, to suggest that the most painful of all experiences of the
times was reserved for the end of life; that the ordeal of the
separation from friends by death was embittered, and intensified,
beyond anything in more modern experience, yet it is certain that the
revolting business of the "body-snatcher" did, for some years, between
1815 and 1830, brood over many a village in this district like a cruel

The reception of bodies, or "subjects," from country or town burying
grounds for the dissecting rooms of London and other hospitals, became
almost a trade, not altogether beyond the commercial principle of
supply and demand.  Generally about two guineas was the price, and
students would club together their five shillings each for a "subject."
In the face of such facts it would be idle to suggest that the
tradition of that mysterious cart, moving silently through the darkness
of night on muffled wheels towards our village churchyards, was merely
a creature of the imagination.  The tradition of that phantom cart
which lingered for years had a substantial origin as certain as the
memory of many persons still living can make it!  In many of the
villages around Royston, as indeed in other districts, the terror of it
became such that not a burial took place in the parish graveyards, but
the grave had to be watched night after night till the state of the
corpse was supposed to make it unlikely that it would then be
disturbed!  The watch was generally kept by two or three men taking it
in turns, generally sitting in the church porch, through the silent
hours of the night armed with a gun!  The well-to-do were able to
secure this protection by paying for it, but many a poor family had to
trust to the human sympathy and help of neighbours.  Under a stress of
this kind probably some brave Antigone watched over the remains of a
dead brother, and certainly it was not uncommon for husband and wife to
face the ordeal of sitting out the night till the grey light of
morning, in some lone church porch, or the vestry of some small
meeting-house--watching lest the robbers of {82} the dead should come
for a lost son or daughter!  Over the grave of some poor widow's son,
or of that of a fellow workman, volunteers were generally forthcoming
to perform this painful office.

Though the law was seldom invoked, there must have been numberless
cases in which bodies were stolen, cases in which the modest mound of
earth placed over the dead had mysteriously dropped in, and the
outraged parents or relatives, not unnaturally perhaps, turned with
bitter revengeful thoughts to the London and other hospitals of that
day--whether justly or unjustly God knows!  Around the parish
churchyards of Bassingbourn, Melbourn, and especially Therfield and
Kelshall, the memory of unpleasant associations lingered for many years
after the supposed transactions had passed away; nor was it merely an
experience peculiar to isolated village churchyards.  On the contrary
it was customary, even in the Royston church-yard, surrounded as it is
and was then by houses--with the Vicarage house then actually in the
church-yard, in fact--it was customary for relatives to sit in the
Church porch at night and watch the graves of departed friends!

Of actual occurrences of robbing the graves there is the story of a
woman living in one of the villages on the hills not far from Royston,
when on her way home, accepting a ride with a neighbour, only to find
to her horror that the driver had a dead body in his cart!  As to the
allegations that stolen bodies did find their way to hospitals for
dissecting purposes, there is a well authenticated story of a case in
which a Roystonian was recognised in the dissecting room of a London
hospital!  A doctor, whose name would, I daresay, be remembered by some
if mentioned, and who was in the habit of visiting a family in Royston,
and knew many Royston people, upon entering the dissecting room of one
of the London hospitals, at once recognised a "subject" about to be
operated upon, as a person he had frequently seen in Royston, a
peculiar deformity leaving no possible doubt as to her identity!

Excepting when the natural dread of it came home to bereaved families,
there was no very strong public opinion on the subject; the law, which
came down with a fell swoop upon many classes of small offenders, was
too big an affair for dealing with questions of sentiment, and as there
were no little laws of local application readily available, the
practice was too often connived at where examples might have been made.
In some things our grandfathers may have had the advantage over this
hurrying age, but the reverent regard for the dead, and the outward
aspect of their resting place, is assuredly not one of them.




All the old punishments, from the Ducking Stool to the Stocks,
proceeded upon the appeal to the moral sense of the community, and up
to the middle, or probably nearer to the end of last century, the
summary punishment of offenders took place, both in village and town,
in the most public manner possible.  Near the Old Prison House,
standing a little eastward of the summit of the Cave, in Melbourn
Street, which did duty for both civil parishes of Herts. and Cambs.,
stood the Royston pillory and also the stocks, but towards the end of
the century the pillory disappeared, and stocks had to be set up in
each parish.  I can find no record of any actual punishments by the
Melbourn Street pillory, but one of the last cases of punishment by
pillory took place at Hertford, and was witnessed by Mr. Henry Fordham.
Closely connected with, and as a part of the stocks was the whipping
post, and this was very freely used until about 1800.  In 1804 a
prisoner was sentenced at Ely to be publicly whipped, besides
imprisonment.  In 1786, I find that George Rose was brought from
Cambridge to Royston and whipped at the stocks.  What his offence was
is not stated, but that whipping was no trifle may be inferred from the
following laconic entry in the Royston parish books:---

"Relieved William C----, his back being sore after whipping him."

The offender had his wrists put through the rings on the upright posts
of the stocks, which formed the whipping posts, and in this position he
was flogged on his naked back "till his body was bloody."  Vagrants had
no small share of this kind of punishment.  The following entry occurs
in the Barkway parish papers:--

  Hertfordshire to Witt.

    To the Keeper of the House of correction at Buntingford.
    This is to require you to Whip Elizabeth Matthewson upon her
    naked Body, and for so doing this shall be your warrant.

  G. Jennings.

In 1798 an item in the accounts for the same parish is charged for "the
new iron for the whipping post."

{84} The stocks for Royston, Cambs., stood in the middle of the broad
part of Kneesworth Street, nearly opposite the yard entrance of King
James' Palace, and just in front of some dilapidated cottages then
occupying the site of Mr. J. R. Farrow's shop.  Here they remained as a
warning to evil doers till about 1830 or 1840.  In Royston, Herts.,
after the abolition of the central prison-house in Melbourn Street, a
cage was erected with stocks attached on the Market Hill, on the east
side nearly opposite the Green Man, but they were removed at a later
date to the Fish-hill, when an addition was made to the west side of
the Parish-room, for the purpose, where the fire engines are now
placed.  An estimate in the parish books for the erection of a cage and
stocks in Royston, Herts., at a cost of L10, in the year 1793, may
perhaps fix the date at which each parish provided its own means of
punishment of wrong-doers.

Though drunkenness was a vice infinitely more prevalent than it is
to-day, it was not because local authorities did not at least show the
form of their authority, but simply because they had no very efficient
police system to back it up.  It was customary for instance for the
publican to have a table of penalties against "tippling" actually
posted up in his licensed house, so that both he and his customers
might see what might be the consequences, but as they often could not
read they were probably not much the wiser, except for a common idea
that the Parish Stocks stood outside on the village green, or in the
town street.  The common penalty for tipplers continuing to drink in an
alehouse, was that such persons should forfeit 3s. 4d. for the use of
the Poor, and if not paid to be committed to the stocks for the space
of four hours; for being found drunk 5s., or six hours in the stocks.
As to swearing, a labourer was liable to be fined 1s. for every oath, a
person under the degree of a gentleman 2s., and for a gentleman 5s.

In times of disturbance, as at village feasts, it was no uncommon thing
to see the stocks full of disorderly persons--that is, with two or
three at once--and occasionally the constable's zeal in the use of this
simple remedy outran his discretion.  At the Herts. Assizes in 1779,
before Sir Wm. Blackstone, a Baldock shoemaker, named Daniel Dunton,
obtained a verdict and L10 damages against the chief and petty
constable of Baldock for illegally putting him in the stocks.

There was, of course, an odd and comic side about the stocks as an
instrument of punishment, which cannot belong to modern methods.  An
instance of this was brought home to the writer in the necessary
efforts at ransacking old men's memories for the purpose of some parts
of these Glimpses of the past.  I was, for instance, inquiring of an
old resident of one of our villages as to what he remembered, and
ventured to ask him, in the presence of one or two other inhabitants,
the innocent question--"I suppose you have seen men put in the stocks
in your {85} time!" but before the old man could well answer, a younger
man present interposed, with a merry twinkle of the eye--"Yes, I'll be
bound he has, he's been in hi'self!"  I am bound to say that, from the
frank manner in which my informant proceeded to speak of persons who
had been in the stocks, the younger man's interruption was only a joke,
but it taught me to be cautious in framing questions about the past to
be addressed to the living, lest I should tread upon some old corns!

There was this virtue about the Parish Stocks, that it was a wholesome
correction always ready.  It was not necessary to caution a man as to
what he might say, before clapping him in the stocks.  Nor was much
formality needed--he was drunk, quarrelling, fighting, or brawling, it
was enough; and the man who could not stand was provided with a seat at
the expense of the parish.  Indeed, I am told that in one parish, near
Royston, a farmer, who was himself generally in the same condition,
finding one of his men drunk, would remark that one drunken man was
enough on a farm, and would bundle the other drunkard off to the stocks
without the least respect for, or care about, informing a magistrate

The Parish Stocks were, as may be supposed, sometimes tampered with,
and became the medium of practical jokes, of which, perhaps, the best
story on record is that of a Chief Justice in the stocks.  The story is
as follows:--

Lord Camden, when Chief Justice, was on a visit to Lord Dacre, his
brother-in-law, at Alely in Essex, and had walked out with a gentleman
to the hill where, on the summit by the roadside, were the Parish
Stocks.  He sat down upon them, and asked his companion to open them,
as he had an inclination to know what the punishment was.  This being
done the gentleman took a book from his pocket and sauntered on until
he forgot the Judge and his situation, and returned to Lord Dacre.  The
learned Judge was soon tired of his situation, but found himself
unequal to open the stocks!  He asked a countryman passing by to assist
him in obtaining his liberty, who said "No, old gentleman, you were not
placed there for nothing"--and left him until he was released by some
of the servants who were accidentally going that way!  Not long after
he presided at a trial in which a charge was brought against a
magistrate for false imprisonment and setting the plaintiff in the
stocks.  The counsel for the defendant made light of the charge and
particularly of setting in the stocks, which, he said, everybody knew,
was no punishment at all!  The Lord Chief Justice rose, and, leaning
over the Bench, said, in a half whisper--"Brother, were you ever in the
stocks?"  The Barrister replied, "Really, my Lord, never."--"Then, I
have been," rejoined his Lordship, "and I do assure you, brother, it is
not such a trifle as you represent!"


One cannot refrain from expressing a lingering sense of regret over the
last of its kind, whether of the last of the Mohicans, or the last
minstrel.  The parish of Meldreth, I relieve, stands alone in the
Cambridgeshire side of the Royston district as still possessing the
visible framework of its old Parish Stocks, thanks to the commendable
interest taken in the preservation of old time memorials by Mr. George
Sandys, of Royston, by whom the Meldreth Stocks were some time ago
"restored," or, rather, the original pieces were brought more securely
together into one visible whole.  The parish of Meldreth, too, affords,
I believe, one of the latest, if not the latest, instances of placing a
person in the stocks, when, some forty or fifty years ago, a man was
"stocked" for brawling in Church or some such misbehaviour.  These
stocks, when they were renovated by Mr. Sandys, had lost the upper part
which completed the process of fastening an offender in them, but such
as they then were will be seen in the illustration on the opposite
page, which is reproduced from an excellent photograph taken by Mr. F.
R. Hinkins, of Royston.  The original upper part has since been found
and placed in position by Mr. A. Jarman, of Meldreth.


Some other things deserve to be mentioned as old penalties besides
actual punishment for crimes.  One of these was the penalty for _felo
de se_, so well described by Hood in his punning verses on Faithless
Nelly Gray and Ben Battle, the soldier bold, who hung himself, and--

  A dozen men sat on his corpse,
  To find out how he died;
  And they buried Ben at four cross-roads,
  With a stake in his inside.

In 1779, John Stanford, who hung himself at the Red Lion, Kneesworth,
was found to be a _felo de se_, and was "ordered to be buried in a

In 1765, the coroner's inquest who sat upon the body of one, Howard, a
schoolmaster of Litlington, who, "after shooting Mr. Whedd, of
Fowlmere, cut his own throat," found a verdict of _felo de se_, upon
which he was ordered to be buried in the high cross-way, but whether a
stake was placed through the body, either in this or the Kneesworth
case, is not stated.  The custom of burying a _felo de se_ at four
cross-roads continued long after the barbarous and senseless indignity
of driving a stake through the body was discontinued, and persons still
living remember burials at such spots as the entrance to Melbourn, and
at similar spots in other villages.  Another penal order was for the
body to be "anatomised" after execution, as in the case of a man named
Stickwood for murdering Andrew Nunn, at Fowlmere, in 1775.

Sometimes as an alternative penalty for crimes was the system of
enlistment for the Army and Navy, with which may be coupled the
high-handed proceedings of the "Press-gang."  The Press-gang {88} was
practically a recognised part of the machinery of the State.  The law,
as to recruiting, sanctioned what would now be considered most
tyrannical proceedings; justices of the peace were directed to make "a
speedy and effectual levy of such able-bodied men as are not younger
than seventeen nor more than forty-five, nor Papists."  The means for
enforcing this, not only along river-sides, but often in inland country
villages, was often brutal, and led to determined resistance and
sometimes loss of life.  There is a story in Cornwall of a bevy of
girls dressing themselves up as sailors, and acting the part of the
Press-gang so well that they actually put their own sweethearts to
flight from the quarries in which they were working!

The dread of compulsory service was so great that the lot might fall
upon men to whom the name of war was a terror.  One case of this kind
occurred in a village near Royston in which two men were drawn to
proceed to Ireland for service, and one of them actually died of the
shock and fright and sudden wrench from old associations, after
reaching Liverpool on his way to Ireland!

On the subject of pressing for the services, the following
characteristic entry occurs in the Royston parish books for the year

"Ordered that the Wife of March Brown be permitted to leave the House
as she says her husband is Pressed and gone to sea, and that she came
to the parish for a few clothes only, as she can get her living in
London by earning two shillings a Day by making Breeches for Rag fair."

Though the stocks and the gallows may seem a long way apart, yet they
were really very near in the degrees of crime which linked them, and
what now would appear a minor offence, had inevitably linked with it
the "awful sentence of the law."

At the Bury St. Edmunds Assizes, in 1790, 14 persons received sentence
of death.  The extraordinary number of persons who were hung as the
Assizes came round will be best understood by some figures of death
sentences for the March Assizes, 1792:--Hertford 2, Cambs. 4, Bedford
4, Northampton 5, Chelmsford 4, Oxford 2, Thetford 2, Bury 6, York 17,
Exeter 16, East Grinstead 3, Derby 2, Nottingham 2, Leicester 2,
Gloucester 6, Taunton 3, Kingston 12.  At one only of the above Assizes
the number of prisoners of all kinds for trial was 85.  In June, 1785,
twenty-five persons were sentenced to death at the Old Bailey, and 15
of them were hung together the next week.  In 1788 there were 81
capital convicts awaiting execution in Newgate, and in 1792 thirteen
prisoners were sentenced to death for horse-stealing and lesser
offences at a single sessions in London!

At the Herts. Assizes in 1802, John Wood, a carpenter, of Royston, was
ordered to be transported for fourteen years for having some forged
bank notes concealed in his workshop.  In the same year, {89} at the
Cambs. Assizes, William Wright, a native of Foxton, was sentenced to
death and executed at Cambridge, for uttering forged Bank of England
notes.  At the Hertford Assizes, in 1801, William Cox, for getting fire
to a hovel of wheat at Walkern, was sentenced to death.  Among other
oddly sounding capital offences, I find that a man named Horn was
sentenced to death at the Hertfordshire Assizes in 1791 for stealing
some money from the breeches pocket of a man with whom he had slept.
At the Cambs. Assizes, in 1812, Daniel Dawson was tried for an offence
of poisoning a mare the property of William Adams, of Royston, and was
sentenced to death, and executed at Cambridge about a fortnight

Sheep-stealing, horse-stealing and highway robberies, were the chief
offences with which capital punishment was connected, and associations
were formed to prosecute offenders.  The parishes of North Herts. were
especially notable for sheep-stealing cases.  In 1825, at the Herts.
Spring Assizes, a man named Hollingsworth was indicted for stealing 55
sheep and 17 lambs, the property of William Lilley, at Therfield.  The
jury found the prisoner guilty and "the awful sentence of the law was
pronounced upon him," so says the Chronicle--and at the July Assizes in
the same year, Francis Anderson, for stealing one ewe lamb, the
properly of Edward Logsden, at Therfield, was found guilty and
"sentence of death was recorded."  At the Cambs. Assizes in 1827,
George Parry was indicted for sheep-stealing at Hauxton, and the judge
"passed the awful sentence of death," remarking that the crime of
sheep-stealing had so increased that it was necessary to make a severe

One of the most remarkable adventures of the pursuit of horse-stealers
in this district occurred in 1822, and actually formed the subject of a
small book [now before me] bearing the following curious title:--

"The Narrative of the persevering labours and exertions of the late Mr.
Owen Cambridge, of Bassingbourn, Cambs., during his search for two
horses, stolen from his stable in October and November, 1822; during
which search he very unexpectedly found a pony which had been stolen
from the stable of his neighbour, Mr. Elbourne; Printed by particular
request.  The Royston Press: Printed, published, and sold by J. Warren."

If the reader is inclined to smile at a book with the strangest title
that perhaps was ever put upon a title page, it should be said that the
adventure recorded in this little book of thirty-two pages is really a
most remarkable one, than which no "Bow Street Runner" of those days,
to say nothing of the modern police officer with the advantages of
railways and telegraphs, had a stiffer task of detective work, or ever
more distinguished himself for perseverance, energy and resource, than
did Mr. Owen Cambridge in this memorable affair with its innumerable
{90} journeys by coach to London, and to almost all the fairs in the
home counties, at a cost of upwards of L200.  The result was that many
other crimes were brought to light, and a gang of horse-stealers was
broken up; two of them were sentenced to death at the Beds. Assizes,
and the one who stole Mr. Cambridge's horses was sentenced to death at
Cambridge, but, upon Mr. Cambridge's plea for mercy for the prisoner,
sentence was commuted.  It is perhaps worth placing on record that
after the extraordinary searches, covering several weeks in London and
elsewhere, Mr. Cambridge found the thief at home in his garden in
Oxfordshire, passing as a respectable horse-dealer.

Perhaps the most interesting case of a local character of capital
punishment for highway robbery with violence and sheep-stealing
combined, was one which occurred to a Royston gentleman, for which it
is necessary to travel a dozen years beyond the reign of George III.

At the Cambridge Summer Assizes in 1832 was tried a case of highway
robbery and sheep-stealing, which was one of the last cases of sentence
of death being inflicted for these offences.  The accused were John
Nunn, Simeon Nunn, the younger, and Ephraim Litchfield, labourers, of
Whittlesford.  The facts as deposed to at the Assizes were briefly
these:--The late Mr. Henry Thurnall, of Royston, was in that year an
articled clerk to Messrs. Nash and Wedd, solicitors, Royston, and was
frequently in the habit of going from Royston to his then home at
Whittlesford, to spend the Sunday.  On this occasion business in the
office had detained him later than usual, and he started from Royston
to drive home in a gig about 11 p.m. on the Saturday night.  Near the
plantation between Thriplow and Whittlesford parish two men rushed out,
seized the reins and said, "We want all you have," and just as he
jumped out of the gig to defend himself a third man struck him and
knocked him down and stunned him.  A further struggle, however, and
more blows ensued, and he was able in the struggle to identify the
three men, who did not leave him till they had made him stand up with
his arms extended, rifled his pockets, and then, left him covered with
blood and fainting on the road, not knowing who it was that they had
been robbing.  Mr. Thurnall was able to walk home, though bleeding very
much, and after dressing his wounds, he, his father and others, watched
for the accused, and seeing them returning at dawn to their homes, the
men dropped sacks they were carrying, and these sacks were found to
contain each a fresh-killed sheep from the fold of Mr. Faircloth.  At
the next Cambs. Assizes, as stated above, all three were found guilty
and sentenced to be hung.  Mr. Thurnall pleaded for the lives of the
men, who belonged to his own parish, but the Home Secretary, Lord
Melbourne, wrote that their case was too bad to admit of any mitigation
of the punishment, and the day was appointed for their execution.  The
poor fellows were desirous {91} of seeing Mr. Thurnall, and he went to
Cambridge gaol to take leave of them, and they thanked him for his
exertions on their behalf, and assured him that had they known him on
the night of the robbery nothing would have induced them to attack him!
Shortly afterwards their sentence was commuted to that of penal
servitude for life.  The counsel for the prosecution in this painful
case was Mr. Gunning, a well-known name in Cambridgeshire, and it may
be of interest to add that I have gleaned the above facts from the
brief used by counsel on that occasion, which has been kindly placed at
my disposal by Mr. H. J. Thurnall.

One of the most painful cases of capital punishment for small offences
occurred in Royston about 1812-14, when quite a young girl from
Therfield, living in service in a house now let as an office in the
High Street, Royston, robbed her employer of some articles in the
house, and was sentenced to death at Hertford, and hung.  This case
created a profound impression in the town, and for many years
afterwards the case "of the poor girl who was hung" was remembered as
an instance of the severity of the law.

The time came when this wholesale sentence of death for various
offences became more a question of the letter of the law than a
satisfaction of the public sense of justice, and out of a batch of
prisoners receiving sentence of death the Judge often reprieved the
majority, and some of them before leaving the Assize town.  The result
was that though in many cases there was hope when under sentence of
death, there was a large number of persons, often young people, placed
under dreadful suspense.  The most striking case of the kind in this
district was that of the fate of a Melbourn gang of lawless young men.
About 1820, several desperate young fellows linked themselves together
and became so bold in terrorising the inhabitants as to openly express
their intention to provide themselves with fire-arms and use them
rather than be taken.  Eventually their time came, when they broke into
the house of a man named Tom Thurley, a higgler, living near the mill
stream.  The properly they stole was nothing of great value--chiefly
some articles of clothing, &c.--and they were disturbed at their game
and had to bolt.  In order to get rid of the evidence against them they
hid the stolen things in the spinney which then grew where the
gas-house now stands, just by the mill stream bridge.  They were
arrested, and at the Cambridge Assizes five or six of them were
sentenced to death!  The result of the trial produced a deep impression
in the village.  The sentence was afterwards respited and they were
transported for life; their last appearance in the village being when
they rode through on the coach bound for London, and thence to the
convict settlement.  One or two others were transported for other
offences soon after, and the gang was completely broken up.  {92} Of
the convicts, two sons were out of one house--one of the old parish
houses which then stood in the churchyard.

Forgery was an offence punished with death, and one of the latest cases
was that of a young man from Meldreth parish, who went up in 1824 as
clerk in Mr. Mortlock's warehouse in Oxford Street, forged his master's
signature to a cheque, was sentenced to death and hung at Newgate,
despite the exertions of his employer to save his life.

We sometimes hear, in these days of advanced education, that we are
educating young people beyond the station they can possibly attain, and
that we may find the cleverness expend itself in forging other people's
names and signatures to obtain money without that honest labour by
which their parents were content to earn a livelihood.  The evidence,
however, is altogether the other way.  The number of forgeries
committed before national education began, notwithstanding the fear of
being hung for the offence, was incalculably greater than it has ever
been since.  In the matter of bank notes alone, the number of forged
motes presented at the Bank of England in 1817 was no less than 31,180.
By 1836, the number of forged notes presented had dwindled down to 267.
The number of executions for the whole country for the three years,
ending 1820, were 312; for the same period, ending 1830, only 176; and
by 1840 they had decreased to 62.  Many of these sentences were the
results of crimes committed in the revolt against the introduction of



In glancing at the manners and customs which prevailed during the later
Georgian era, I find several matters arising out of what has gone
before, waiting for notice.

Prison discipline was evidently very different from our notion of it,
for in 1803 we find prisoners in the Cambridge County Gaol stating that
they "beg leave to express their gratitude to the Right Hon. Charles
Yorke for a donation of five guineas."

If these little indulgences could be obtained in a county gaol it may
be imagined that the parochial cage sometimes lent itself to stratagems
for the benefit of the prisoner.  At the old cage on the west side of
the present Parish-room in Royston, Herts., many persons living
remember some curious expedients of this kind.  While the prisoner was
waiting {93} for removal to the Buntingford Bridewell (situate in the
Wyddial Lane not far from the river bridge) to undergo his fortnight of
such hard labour as the rules of that curious establishment
exacted--while waiting in the Cage the prisoner's friends would help
him in this way.  Above the door of the Cage were some narrow upright
openings, and through this a saucer was inserted edgewise, the prisoner
took it and held it, while, by means of a teapot and the thrusting the
spout through the openings, a good "drink" could be administered,
according to the appetite of the prisoner!

In a former chapter, reference was made to the penal side of obtaining
men for the Army, and I may here mention that an instance of the
all-powerful operations of the Press-gang was actually brought home to
an old Roystonian, who, while crossing London Bridge, was seized and
made to serve his seven years!  Though the regular mode of enlistment
had less of this arbitrary character it was, nevertheless, often very
burdensome in our rural districts and led to some curious expedients
for meeting its demands.  The Chief Constable of the hundred served a
notice upon the Overseers, and sometimes the number required was not
one for each parish, but a demand was made upon two parishes.  As in
1796 the Chief Constable served an order upon Barkway and Little
Hormead acquainting them that one man was to be raised between them,
and that the Overseers were to call a meeting of the principal
inhabitants to consider "the most speedy and effectual means of raising
the said man."

This system of allowing discretion as to how the said man, or men, were
to be provided, sometimes did not answer, for in 1796 the parishes of
Little Hormead and Barkway are jointly credited with paying "the sum of
L31 0s. 0d., being the average bounty and fine for their default in not
providing their quota of men for His Majesty's Army."

The following, under date 1796, will show how the parish generally set
about raising the said "man."


Wanted immediately, one man for the parish of W----, Cambridgeshire, to
serve either in the Army or the Navy.  Apply to the Overseers of the

In some cases twenty-five pounds and a silver watch were offered.
Under more urgent circumstances when men had to be drawn by lot, the
hardship which must often be occasioned was got over by men joining a
sort of insurance society against compulsory service.  With
head-quarters in London and agents in the provinces, this society, upon
the payment of 5s. 6d., gave a receipt guaranteeing to provide the
requisite bounty to purchase a substitute in case the men so insuring
should be drawn for the Army or Navy, and a large number paid into it.


In 1812 a Ware notice reads: "A bounty of 16 guineas for men and L12
1s. 6d. for boys, offered for completing His Majesty's Royal marines."

Two entries in the Royston parish books show that in 1795 the sum of
L43 18s. 1d. was paid to defray expenses in providing two men for the
Navy; and in 1806, a further sum of L18 "for not providing a man for
the Army."

Sometimes cavalry were drawn for, but the system of drawing for men by
lot chiefly applied to the Militia, for which purpose the parish
constable was to present to the justices "a true list in writing of all
men between the ages of 18 and 45 years, distinguishing their ranks and
occupations, and such as laboured under any infirmities, in order that
the truth of such infirmity might be inquired into [for they frequently
did feign infirmities!] and the list amended."  The drawing took place
at Arrington (at the "Tiger"), and at Buntingford, and the old
constable's accounts show frequent entries of "caring the list of the
milshe" (militia) to Buntingford or Arrington.

Accommodating soldiers on the march was more burdensome to the civil
population than now, because they were not only billeted in the town
but their baggage had to be conveyed from place to place by farmers'
wagons, &c., requisitioned by the chief constable, through the petty
constables, who frequently went as far as Wallington and outlying
parishes to "press a waggon" for this purpose, a system which was
responsible for such curious entries as these:

  Paid the cunspel for hiern of the bagges wagon for 82 Rigt. to
    Hunting [Huntingdon] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   1  5  0

Other entries were such as

  Going to Wallington to Press a Waggon to Carry the Baggage
    from Royston to Stotfold, a part of the 14th Redgment  . .   0  5  0

  Going to Bygrave to Press a Cart to Carry three Deserters
    from Royston to Weare, Belonginge to the Gards . . . . . .   0  5  0

It was customary not merely for soldiers to be billeted in our old town
_en route_, but they were quartered here for much longer periods.  Thus
in 1779 we learn that Regiments from Warley Camp were ordered into
winter quarters--the West Suffolk at Hitchin, Stevenage and Baldock,
and the West Kent at Royston, Stotfold and Walden, and in 1780 the
Cambridgeshire Militia were ordered into winter quarters at Royston and

Coming to matters more affecting the civil population, elections,
voters and voting afforded as great a contrast compared with the
present as in anything that has gone before.  Possibly the ripest stage
of the old wine of political life was during the last ten years of the
old pre-Reform era, just before the new wine began to crack the old
{95} bottles; but though the best glimpses of actual election work
should be deferred to a later chapter, there are some incidents
belonging to the early years of the century which cannot be well passed

At the first glimpse of the old order one is struck with the intensely
personal end of political life, if such a word may be used.  What
therefore by courtesy was called an election of a member of Parliament,
was more a question of who a man was than of what opinion he held, if

This was how an election was often managed in the old time, when a man
needed a large fortune to face a contested election:--

"At a very respectable and numerous meeting of the freeholders of the
county [Cambridge] at the Shirehall on Monday last, in pursuance of
advertisement, for the High Sheriff to consider the proper persons to
represent them in Parliament, Sir John Hynde Cotton proposed Charles
Yorke, Esq., brother of the Earl of Hardwicke, and was seconded in a
very elegant speech by William Vachell, Esq.  General Adeane was next
nominated by Jeremy Pemberton, Esq., who was seconded by the Rev. Mr.
Jenyns, of Bottisham, and both nominations were carried unanimously."

The address returning thanks for the election was inserted in the same
paper as the above account of the meeting, and the affair was ended!

If a candidate had thoughts of contesting an election he had to
consider not merely whether he held political opinions likely to
command a greater support from the electors than his opponent's, but
whether he could afford to spend as much money upon the contest!  It
was not customary to hold meetings in every place as now.  County
meetings were the order of the day, but Roystonians were not shut out
of the fray which attended elections.  The candidates, or their
friends, came round to secure the vote and interest of the voter; at
the same time giving the latter a ticket for himself and several for
his friends.  On going to Cambridge or Hertford, as the case might be,
the holders of the tickets found any of the public-houses of _their
colour_ open to them, and the Royston voter and his friends, or the
village voter, often did not return till after several days'
jollification, and other accompaniments of an election in the good old
times, when beer and wine flowed like a fountain!

The old style of election address was a very different thing from the
political catechism which the unfortunate candidate has to put himself
through in these days.

"If I should be so happy as to succeed in this the highest object of my
ambition, I will faithfully discharge the important duties of the great
trust reposed in me, by promoting to the utmost of my power your
Welfare and Prosperity.  I am, &c."


Such was the sum and substance of nearly all the election addresses in
the pre-Reform Bill period.  As easy as applying for a situation as a
butler or confidential clerk was obtaining a seat in Parliament, given
plenty of money and a few backers.

It is possible to read through whole columns of these addresses without
finding expressions of opinion upon political questions, or any
reflection of what was taking place in public life at the time!  Happy
candidates! whose political capital was all sugar and plums; and who,
haunted by no dread of that old scarecrow of a printed address with a
long string of opinions bound to come home to roost, looking out in
judgment upon you in faded but still terribly legible printer's ink
from every dead wall--at least, had only to get past that rough batch
of compliments, "the tempest of rotten eggs, cabbages, onions, and
occasional dead cats," at the hustings, and you were a legislator
pledged simply to "vote straight!"

Fortunately for the candidate the freeholders, who were entitled to
vote and could at a pinch put their own price upon their votes, and get
it, were not numerous.  The poll for the county of Cambridge would, at
a General Election, now, I suppose, be about 25,000, but in 1802, at a
very warm contest, the poll was only 2,624.  In the General Election
that year, which was contested in Cambridgeshire, the parish of Great
Abington, out of 47 inhabited houses, sent three freeholders to record
their votes at Cambridge, and Little Abington, out of 34 inhabited
houses, polled four freeholders at the same election.

In the old days of "vote and interest" the canvass was regarded as a
much more certain criterion than to-day.  Thus in 1796 a Hertfordshire
candidate issued an address in which he candidly stated, "After a
success upon my first Day's Canvass equal to my most sanguine
Expectations, I had determined to stand the Poll, but finding myself
yesterday less fortunate, I have resolved to decline," &c., &c.

One advantage about an old fourteen days' contest was therefore that if
a candidate found that he could not secure enough votes he could retire
from the contest and "needn't buy any."

Before the passing of the Reform Bill, Elections were not only
protracted and attended with open bribery, revelry, rowdyism, and
popular excitement, but the machinery for arriving at the wish of the
constituency was also of a very rough and ready kind.  If, for
instance, a voter was objected to, the sheriff's assessor, a barrister,
was found sitting in a room adjoining the hustings for the pin-rose of
hearing and deciding the claim, the objecting and affirming party being
allowed to appear before such assessor by counsel.  The following
incident is, I imagine, almost, if not quite, unique in electioneering
annals, and could only have been possible under the protracted
contests, and the system of revision of claims which has just been
mentioned.  It occurred in {97} the Cambs. contested election for 1802,
and is thus recorded in the _Cambridge Chronicle_ for that year.

"At the late election for this county a very singular circumstance
happened.  A voter died immediately after his return home, and his son
came the third day [of the Election] and voted for the same freehold,
which was allowed by both parties."

The condition of the rural peasantry a hundred years ago fell
immeasurably short of the opportunities for recreation afforded at the
present time, but there were not a few bright spots in the year, which,
whatever we may think of the manner of the enjoyment, did afford very
pleasant anticipations and memories to even the peasant folk in the
villages.  By custom these periodical feasts, for they generally
resolved themselves into that, became associated with certain seasons,
and of these none held a more important place than the annual
Michaelmas "Statty," that is, the annual statute fair, of some central
village or town where, to quote an old Hertfordshire ballad,

  There's dancing and singing
  And fiddling and ringing,
  With good beef and pudding,
  And plenty of beer.

Hither came the lads and lasses just free from a year's hiring and--the
lads with whip-cord or horse-hair banding round their hats to indicate
their accomplishments with horses, &c.--ready to enter upon a fresh
engagement with the old or with a new master for the coming twelve
months.  Sturbitch fair is not the only place which has been proclaimed
by dignified officials, for in the old time many country fairs, which
had no Mayor and Corporation to fall back upon, were thought of
sufficient importance to engage the services of the Town Crier or
Beadle, and in some places this was the kind of proclamation that
ushered in the fair:--

  O yez!  O yez! the fair is begun,
  There shall be no arrest, till the fair is done.

Arrest for debt should, I suppose, be understood, for the Stocks
invariably received as much company as they could hold on such

In some cases the "Statty," or fair, was proclaimed by printed notice
issued by the chief constable of the hundred, and others even by those
responsible for obtaining situations for pauper children, to whose
interest it was that such a convenient means of bringing people
together should be kept up.  In the year 1788 I find the Royston Parish
Committee passing this resolution:--

"Ordered that for the future such Boys and Girls as are in the
Workhouse and fit for service be taken to the Neighbouring Statutes for
the purpose of letting them for service."


Generally each printed announcement by the Chief Constable of
a statute fair for hiring within his hundred concluded with the
intimation--"Dinner on Table at two o'clock, price 2s. 6d. each."  From
the last named item I conclude that the dinner on the table was
intended for employers who could afford the 2s. 6d., and also, I
believe, for the parish constables of the hundred whose "2s. 6d. for
the constabel's fest" so frequently occurs in parish accounts.  A
number of these announcements before me all end in a similar strain,
but I give one specimen below--

  will be held at the
  On FRIDAY, the 23RD of SEPTEMBER, 1796,
  _THOMAS PRIOR, Chief Constable._
  Dinner on the Table at Two o'clock.

May-day observances may perhaps appear a too hackneyed topic for a
place in these Glimpses, and yet they were very different from present
day observances.  The "May-dolling" by children in the streets of
Royston as every first of May comes round is clearly a survival of the
more picturesque mummeries of the past.  There is this in common, in
all the procession of Mayers through the ages, that their outward
equipment has always sought some little bit of promise of greenery from
nature's springtide, and rather a large piece of the human nature which
runs to seed in the oriental "backsheesh"--a picturesque combination of
blessing and begging.  The "Mayers' song," and its setting in this
district, was something like the following:--At an early hour in the
morning a part of the townspeople would parade the town singing the
Mayers' song, carrying large branches of may or other greenery, a piece
of which was affixed to the door of the most likely houses to return
the compliment.  Sometimes delicate compliments or otherwise were paid
to the servants of the house, and, if not in favour with the Mayers,
the former would find on opening the door in the morning, not the
greeting of a branch of "may" but a spiteful bunch of stinging
nettles!--a circumstance which caused servants to take a special
interest in what they would find at their door as an omen of good

During the day the Mayers' procession went on in a more business-like
form, with sundry masked figures, men with painted faces--one wearing
an artificial hump on his back, with a birch broom in his hand, and the
other in a woman's dress in tatters and carrying a ladle--acting the
parts of "mad Moll and her husband."  Two other men, one gaudily
dressed up in ribbons and swathed in coloured bandages and {99}
carrying a sword, and another attired as a lady in a white dress and
ribbons, played the part of the "Lord and Lady."  Other attendants upon
these followed in similar, but less imposing, attire.  With fiddle,
clarionet, fife and drum, a substantial contribution from the
townspeople was acknowledged with music and dancing, and a variety of
clownish tricks of Mad Moll and her Husband.

We thus see that the chubby-fisted little fellows who, not possessing
even a doll, rig out a little stump of an old sailor or soldier, or
even a bunch of greenery on a stick, as well as the girls who now
promenade their dolls of varying degrees of respectability, have an
historical background of some dignity, when, on the morning of the
first of May, they line our streets and reflect the glories of the past
to an unsentimental generation which knows nothing of "Mad Moll and her

The following are some verses of the Mayers' song--

  Remember us poor Mayers all,
  And thus we do begin,
  To lead our lives in righteousness,
  Or else we die in sin.
      *      *      *      *
  A branch of May we have brought you,
  And at your door it stands,
      It is but a sprout,
      But it's well budded out.
  by the work of our Lord's hands.
      *      *      *      *
  The moon shines bright and the stars give light,
  A little before it is day;
  So God bless you all, both great and small,
  And send you a joyful May!

Plough Monday and its interesting connection with the return of the
season for field work of the husbandman, and its modern relic of
perambulating the streets with a plough for largess, has practically
passed away as a custom and has long since lost its sentiment.  Another
curious observance connected with the harvest was in full swing at the
time of which I am writing; viz., the "hockey" load, or harvest home.
Many persons living remember the intense excitement which centred
around the precincts of the farmhouse and its approaches, when it was
known that the last load of corn was coming home!  Generally a small
portion, enough to fill the body of the cart, was left for the last
load.  Upon this the men rode home, shouting "merry, merry, harvest
home," which was a well understood challenge to all and sundry to bring
out their water!  Through the village the light load rattled along at a
great pace, while from behind every wall, tree, or gatepost along the
route, men, women and even children, armed with such utensils as came
ready to hand, sent after the flying rustics a shower of water {100}
which continually increased in volume as the hockey load reached the
farm-yard, where capacious buckets and pails charged from the horse
pond brought up a climax of indescribable fun and merriment!

The next in order of the seasons, manners, and customs are the summer
and autumn feasts and fairs.  Of the fair held at Anstey, the following
is an announcement of seventy years ago--

  A Tea Kettle to be Bowled for by Women.
  A Gown to be Smoked for by Women.
  A Shift to be Run for by Women.
  A Share to be Ploughed for by Men, at Mr. Hoy's
    at the Bell, at Anstey.

How far smoking by women was a habit, or how far it was a device
to contribute to the fun of the fair, cannot very well be
determined--probably there was in it a little of both.  The following
poetical announcement is another type--

  _A Muslin Gown-piece_, with needle work in,
  For Girls to run for; for the first that comes in:
  To _Sing for Ribbons_, and _Bowl for a Cheese_;
  To _Smoke for Tobacco_, and _Shoot_--if you please;
  For a _Waistcoat_ or _Bridle_, there's Asses to run;
  And a _Hog to be Hunted_, to make up the fun!

The regulation of licensed houses was not quite so strictly attended to
under the Dogberry _régime_ as we have it to-day.  On the occasion of
the Royston fairs, more particularly Ash Wednesday, and I think
Michaelmas, a tippler could obtain beer at almost any house around the
bottom of the Warren, and even when the supervision became less lax,
within the memory of many persons living, the private residents had got
so much accustomed to the practice, that they kept it up by a
colourable deference to the law which led them to sell a person a piece
of straw for the price of a pint of beer and then give them the beer!
So rooted had this habit become under the laxity of the old system that
many persons, I believe, deluded themselves with the belief that
somehow or other they were only exercising their birthright conferred
by charter in ages that are gone!  Charters did sometimes grant some
curious things, but I believe I am right in saying that the charters
conferred upon the monks, who were the original governors of Royston,
contain no such easy way of evading the licensing laws of the 19th
century!  This kind of thing happened at other "feasts" and looks a
little more like barter than charter.

In some other respects, however, the old Dogberry _régime_ was more
strict than the present.  Thus for the Fifth of November in {101} the
first quarter of this century we find the following for Royston--

"Ordered that notice be given that the law will be enforced against all
persons detected in letting off squibs, crackers, or other fireworks in
the street or any other part of this town, and that the constable be
ordered to inform against any person so offending."

Stage plays were not unknown, and whether by strolling players or some
local thespians "She stoops to Conquer" was a favourite among ambitious
flights, with a lively tail end of such tit-bits as "Bombastes
Furioso," "The Devil to pay," and "The transformations of Mad Moll," &c.

Intimately bound up with manners and customs was, of course, the
lingering belief in witches, fairies, brownies, drolls, and all the
uncanny beings which George Stephenson's "puffing billy" has frightened
away into the dark corners of the earth!  The subject is too broad for
general reference here, but there are a few local remnants of the
"black arts" which stamped their devotees as being in league with the
evil one.

During the last century, when such large numbers of felons for various
crimes found their way to the gallows, there appears to have been an
idea prevalent that if any woman would agree to marry a man under the
gallows he would be entitled to pardon, and under the influence of this
curious notion, a man executed at Cambridge in 1787, just before the
fatal moment arrived, seeing a woman in the crowd whom he knew, called
out to her "Won't you save my life?"  This tragic fashion of popping
the question was not effectual in this case, for the man was hung!

The use of charms for curing diseases was of course in operation.
Perhaps the most unique of these was the plan apparently adopted by the
"celebrated skilful woman at Shepreth."  Who the skilful woman of
Shepreth was I am unable to say, but we may perhaps infer the nature of
her fame and skill from the fact on record that a man, who was said to
be one of her descendants, did in 1774, when called in to see a butcher
who had run a meat hook into his hand, carefully dress the offending
hook from day to day with healing ointment, &c., and left the man's
hand alone till it got so bad that a surgeon was called in and had to
perform an operation!

There were later examples of the remarkably skilful woman of
Shepreth--the "wise woman" at Fulbourn; "The wise woman in the Falcon
Yard," at Cambridge; and I have no doubt almost every village had at
least by repute its wise woman who could, for a consideration, unravel
all mysteries about stolen property, malicious injuries, and a host of
things amenable to the black art often vulgarly called witchcraft, in
the name of which perfectly innocent creatures had in a previous age
got a ducking in a horse pond, if nothing worse!


When pretenders of this stamp, and more innocent and less designing
individuals, who were guilty of nothing worse than an imperfect use of
herbal medicine, were suspected of evil influences, it is not
surprising that the studious who ventured to investigate the mysteries
lying beyond the common run of information should get a share of that
peculiar homage which ignorance paid to knowledge.  There were, here
and there, individuals, the record of whose eccentricity opens up for
us vistas into the marvellous domain of magic and mystery which cast
its glamour of romance over the old world of the alchemist in pursuit
of the philosopher's stone.  One of the most remarkable of latter-day
disciples of Peter Woulfe, of whom some interesting particulars are
given in Timbs' _Modern Eccentrics_, has a peculiar claim to notice
here, if only for having for many years pursued his studies and
experiments in the neighbourhood of Hitchin.

As late as 1825, twenty years after the death of Peter Woulfe, who was
thought to be the last of the true believers in alchemy, Sir Richard
Phillips visited an alchemist at Lilley, near Hitchin, named Kellerman,
who was believed by some of his neighbours to have discovered the
philosopher's stone, and the universal solvent!  His room was a
realization of Tenier's "Alchemist."  The floor was strewed with
retorts, crucibles, alembics, jars, and bottles of various shapes,
inter-mingled with old books.  This worthy had not only bettered all
the work of his predecessors, but had, after repeated failures, at last
made gold; and, what was more, he could make as much more as he
pleased, even to the extent of paying off the National Debt!  In
justification of his singular pursuits, Kellerman quoted Roger and
Francis Bacon, Paracelsus, Boyle, Boerhave, Woulfe, and others, and
claimed that he had discovered the "blacker than black" of Appollonious
Tyanus, which was the powder of projection for producing gold!  It
further appeared that Kellerman had lived in these premises at Lilley
twenty-three years, during fourteen of which he had pursued his
alchemical studies, keeping eight assistants to superintend his
crucibles, two at a time relieving each other every six hours; that he
had exposed some preparation to intense heat for many months at a time,
but that all his crucibles had burst except one, which Kellerman said
contained the "Blacker than Black."  One of his assistants, however,
protested that no gold had ever been found; and so, even persevering
old Kellerman, the last of his race, who dared to speculate with the
iron horse just behind him, disappears from the scene, discredited by
the Phillistines, who calculate but never dream!




One of the most interesting, as well as significant things about
old-time studies, is the evolution of industry, from the stage, when
each domestic hearth was a factory of some sort, to vast cotton mills
and iron foundries.  Time was when the wool from the sheep's back was
made into cloth in every house in Royston, then the finishing processes
of fulling and dyeing were made a business of elsewhere, then with the
introduction of machinery the hand-loom disappeared from our cottages
to special centres; next the spinning disappeared; then the combing,
and last of all the wool-sorting went too, leaving nothing but sheep
shearing of what was a complete local industry, with as many centres as
there were formerly houses to work in and families to work.

The only thing that is dimly visible in these Glimpses, of that
universal woollen industry, is the picturesque figure of our
great-grand-mother at the spinning wheel--not merely as a piece of
domestic economy, but as a wage-earning tool employing children as well
as adults, just as straw plaiting became in this and the adjoining
Bedfordshire district when the spinning industry disappeared.

In 1768, the first year in which any disbursements are mentioned in the
Royston parish books, the first item was the granting of a spinning
wheel to Nan Dodkin by the Vestry.  Weaving proper had ceased at this
date, but a great deal of business was done in Royston towards the end
of last century in the "hemp dressing, sack weaving and rope making
branches," as I learn from an auctioneer's announcement of a property
sale in 1773.

During the reign of George III. hand-spinning was an industry
throughout this district, and at most cottage doors in the villages
could be seen wheels busily turning, up to about 1825.  The pay was not
great, but the employment was more seemly than that of dragging mothers
of families and young girls into the fields as one often sees {104}
them at the present time.  The evidence of the spinning industry is
conclusive from the parish accounts alone in such entries as--

"Ordered that Thomas C---- and his family be permitted to leave the
Workhouse, the Overseers to buy them a pair of old blankets and a new

"Ordered that the Overseers of Herts. Buy and Lend to the widow S---- a
wheel for the purpose of setting her boy to work."

                                              L  s. d.
  Spinning Wheles for the Widow D----  . . .  0  2  9
  Paid for spinning 17 lb. of flax . . . . .  0 17  6
  To mending a weel  . . . . . . . . . . . .  0  0  8
  14 new, Spendels and wool for G----'s family

The parish accounts in the villages show that wool for spinning was
supplied in small quantities, apparently by small shop-keepers who took
the yarn, which was again bought by the dealers and sent away for
weaving to the newly established mills--pretty much in the same way as
the straw plaiting industry was managed in after years.

Occasionally spinners were dishonest, and spun short measure, and
associations were formed for punishing the offence.

In every better class house a wheel was found by which the mistress
would spin the yarn, which was then sent away to be woven into the
family linen, and a very necessary part of the preparation for married
life was this spinning of a supply of yarn and sending it away to the
weaver.  A full chest of table linen was as precious to the farmers'
wives as Mrs. Tulliver found hers, and home-spun linen was as much a
matter of pride as the cheese-making itself; so much so that servants
in farm houses were invariably placed at the wheel to fill up their
spare time.

The earnings of the poor spinners could not have been very great, for
in Essex in 1770 "a stout girl of fifteen or sixteen" was not able to
earn above 6d. a day.  When the industry disappeared as a wage-earning
employment, parochial Workhouses turned their attention to teaching
children straw plaiting, and plaiting schools were subsidised by
overseers for this purpose.

Wool-combing, the next process of employment, was better paid, but
later on this too disappeared from our town and neighbourhood, owing to
the march of inventions, leaving the last stage of the industry, viz.,
the wool-sorter's occupation, which continued some time longer.  This
process of sorting was one which required an experienced eye to detect
the different qualities of fibre, and nimble fingers to separate them.
A fleece of wool was thrown open on a bench and an expert would, with
surprising speed and dexterity, separate the fibre into about four
different qualities and throw them into as many baskets standing by to
receive them.  After this, as in the combing days, it was sent off by
the {105} Wakefield wagons to the mills in the North, and buyers
continued to visit Royston, and wagons load up here, until about the
middle of this century, the last of the wool-staplers being Mr. Henry
Butler, whose warehouse was in Kneesworth Street, where Mr. Sanders'
coachbuilder's yard now is.  With the appearance of the railway our
"spinning grandmothers" were a thing of the past.

Agriculture in the Georgian era differed somewhat in its appliances,
but the philosophy of it was pretty much the same as it is now.  Oxen
were occasionally used for team labour and were shod like horses; wheat
was universally reaped with a sickle, and as universally threshed with
a flail, the bent figure of the wheat-barn tasker being a familiar
object in the "big old barn with its gloomy bays and the moss upon the
thatch."  An honest pride he took in his work and has found a fit
memorial in the delightful _Sketches of Rural Life_ by Mr. Francis
Lucas, of Hitchin, who says of the tasker and his work--

  Then let our floors send up the sound,
  Of the swinjel's measured stroke,
  It makes the miller's wheel go round,
  And the cottage chimneys smoke.

One of the most interesting things about rural life was the common
herding of the cattle, which, until the Enclosures Act came, had
probably gone on from the time the Domesday Book was written, or
longer.  All through the ages there is the picturesque glimpse of the
old herdsman with his horn, each morning and evening from May to
October, making his procession to the common land of the village, past
homesteads, from whose open gates the cow-kine, in obedience to the
blast of the horn, walk out and join their fellows, and at evening the
herd in returning dropped its ones, twos, and threes at every farmyard
gate--like children going to and from school!  The animation among the
cattle in and about every farmyard in the village, when, after six
months' silence, the herdman's horn was heard once more, was a sight to
remember, and a remarkable instance of the sagacity of animals!

Farmers' wives were accustomed, up to the beginning of the present
century, to attend the market to sell their cheese and butter, as in
Derbyshire they do now, and the work connected with the accidental
discovery of the Royston Cave, it will be remembered, was for the
accommodation of these good dames.

Farmers at this time had few new notions or agricultural shows to set
them thinking, but farmed according to "the good old ways," leaving to
here and there a gentleman farmer, farming his own land, such
hair-brained schemes as went contrary to them, their plea being that
"farmers did not rear the worse turnips nor were longer fatting their
oxen without book knowledge than they would be with it."


But it is when we come to market prices for the farmer's produce that
we get, I suspect, at the root and origin of the smooth-sounding phrase
of the "Good old times when George the III. was King."  Of the enormous
influence of peace or war upon prices then, and the excitement which
news of the one or the other stirred in the breasts of farmers and
landlords as they gathered in groups in the yards of the Hull, or the
Red Lion, on Royston market days, let the following picture testify--

[Illustration: READING THE NEWS.]

Below are given a few years of average prices of farmers' produce in

                        AVERAGE PRICES.

                 Wheat.      Barley.       Oats.
  Year.           s.  d.      s.  d.       s.  d.
  1785           43   1      24   9       17   8
  1790           54   9      26   3       19   5
  1795           75   2      37   5       24   5
  1799           69   0      36   2       27   6
  1800          113  10      59  10       39   4
  1801          119   6      68   6       37   0
  1802           69  10      33   4       20   4
  1805           89   9      44   6       28   4
  1809           97   4      47   0       31   5
  1810          106   5      48   1       28   7
  1812          126   6      66   9       44   6


The year 1812 was a famine year, but, after this time, prices never
rose so high, ranging for wheat from 75s. in 1814, and 96s. in 1817 to
44s. in 1822.  Though the landlords took their share and nearly doubled
rents between 1790 and 1804, the farmer had reason to remember the good
old times if the following story of a Hertfordshire farmer in 1807 be

"A wealthy Hertfordshire farmer not long ago made application to one of
the clerks in the Bank of England for the loan of L800, and offered to
deposit with him, as a security, a bank note of L10,000, which he then
held in his hand!  The clerk refused him, saying that such a thing was
unusual, at the same time told him he would change it for lesser notes.
This, however, did not satisfy the farmer, who still persevered.  At
his own request he was waited upon by one of the directors, who readily
lent him the sum he required; and at the end of eight days he returned,
according to his promise, and repaid the money.  When he was asked why
he had such an attachment to that particular note, he frankly replied,
'Because _I have the fellow of it at home_!'"

The old style of farmer had the laugh on his side in the matter of
balance sheets compared with the farmer of to-day.  Here is one under
date 1770 for a farm of 300 acres at a rental of L240 (the average rent
in this district appears to have been about 12s. to 15s. an acre, but
was more than doubled by the end of the century).  It was stocked and
worked with 10 cows, 150 sheep, 30 oxen, 12 horses, four servants and
boys, eight labourers (average L20 a year each), and two maids.  In the
annual expenditure is put down the modest allowance of L100 for
house-keeping of the farmer and his family (exclusive of servants), and
the total then comes out at

  Year's produce . . . . . . . . . . .   L1,599  13  0
  Expenditure  . . . . . . . . . . . .   L1,146   0  0
      Profit . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   L453  13  0

Trade was not so much an every day affair in those days as now, but
persons obtained their supplies in large quantities and on special
occasions.  In harvest time therefore little was doing at the shops,
and the tradesmen in the High Street were accustomed to form themselves
into neighbouring groups of four or five, and, taking up their position
outside their shops, smoked their pipes, while one of their number
would read the news, nearly always coloured at that time by the doings
of Napoleon, or the French.  About the beginning of the century, Mr.
William Henry Andrews, son of the astronomer, as a man having the most
talent for reading, was in particular request at these quiet siestas
between the intervals of trade.


They discussed agriculture and the weather with a relish over their
"sixpennyworth," and often laid wagers as to the result of the harvest.
Here is an item in Royston--

"1795.  Aug. 25--Mr. Bottomley lays S. Coxall sixpennyworth that the
price of a quartern loaf will be as low as sevenpence the best sort in
two months--24th Oct. paid."

Who had to pay there is little doubt, for the bet was a rash one in a
season which had seen wheat at 113s. in that very August.  The crop did
not realize Mr. Bottomley's expectations, for the official average for
the year was 75s. 2d. per quarter, from which we infer that Mr.
Bottomley paid his "sixpennyworth."

Royston Market is spoken of in official announcements at the end of
last century as "an exceedingly good market town."  Though the market
was open, the inns and inn yards were freely resorted to, especially in
inclement weather, and the Green Man Yard was made to do duty to some
extent as a Corn Exchange, for in 1785 when the house was to let, we
find it stated that it had "large garden and stables and ten corn
shops."  Barley was the chief item of sales, and it is said as much as
4,000 quarters has been sold here in a single day.

I do not happen to have found any earlier official statistics of corn
sales in Royston market, but for the year ending July, 1839, I find the

                                      Total          Per qr.
                                      amount.     avge. price.

  Quantity.                          L   s.  d.     L  s.  d.
  Wheat--21,554 qrs.   . . . . .  78,233 10  0      3  12  7
  Barley--6l,556 qrs.  . . . . . 122,402 13  0      1  19  9

Here then we get a sale of 1,200 quarters of barley a week and between
400 and 500 quarters of wheat per week.

Time was when the Royston market had commenced at a late hour, as it
does now, but owing to the necessity of being late home, or the felt
want of a jovial gathering at the market ordinary in times when the
farmer himself worked and needed one day's relaxation, the fiat for
change went forth on the 23rd October, 1782, and the hour was changed
from 3 p.m. to 11 a.m.--an arrangement made possibly with a view to the
pleasures of the market ordinary, and one under which, at any rate,
that institution flourished most famously for fifty years or more.

At one time the grain was "pitched," that is brought to the town in
bulk and stored at the various inns ready for sale in the market.  The
attendance of farmers, maltsters, and corn buyers was so large that the
whole of the open space of the Market Hill was covered by crowds of
buyers and sellers of farm produce, presenting a busy scene more worthy
of the past traditions of the market than anything seen now.  {109} The
market beginning then in good time, by mid-day most of the business was
finished, and, regularly at one o'clock there came out of an upper
window of the Green Man, the well-known form and features of Mrs.
Smith, the landlady, ringing a hell with all the energy and promptitude
of one who had evidently been accustomed to have that summons respected
and as promptly responded to!  The bell from the Green Man is answered
by that from the Bull and the Red Lion, and the trio goes on ding dong,
ding dong!  The current of business and bargain-making slackens; plump
portly farmers in top boots, millers in grey suits almost flour-proof,
maltsters carrying riding whips--all the busy assembly of men of shrewd
common sense and well filled nankeen purses suddenly puts up its sample
bags, drops its business air, and, like boys out of school, melts away
in three different directions according to individual preferences.  For
behind that well understood signal of the bells is the typical
institution then in its palmiest days--the "Market Ordinary."  Leaving
the market to the cheap jacks and ballad mongers, the solid element of
the market day gives a jovial account of itself in the market rooms of
the well-filled hostelries--now learning from the paper the news, so
far as it concerned prices and the continuation of war--now discussing
crops with a loyalty to the three-course system which no enclosures had
yet upset--now with equal loyalty toasting "the King, God bless him,"
and generally disposing of enough liquid to make the ride home behind
Dobbin a self-satisfied consummation, finding expression in snatches of
the old chorus--

  To plough and to sow,
  And to reap and to mow,
  And to be a Farmer's Boy!

Ah, me! who would not be jolly with a good market this week and the
prospect of higher prices next?--with the guarantee of the State that
the farmer should not have less than 70s. a quarter, and the certainty
of higher prices if the war lasted!  But these farmers in the leather
breeches and top boots--these self-satisfied men are already in the
fading glory of the "Good Old Times"--always applying those words, in
so far as they have any meaning at all, chiefly to the farming and
land-owning classes.  Before the century is much older we shall see the
same class harrassed, embarrassed, and eaten up by a rotten and immoral
poor law system, about to be mended, and their prospect of high prices
growing less and less, as sliding scales and all artificial props are
removed out of the way of things finding their own level--down, down,
down towards the present unsupportable level of prices when the
consumer has as complete a monopoly of advantages as had the producer
in the old days!

But it was not only of the results, but of the place itself also, that
the farmer had a pleasant memory.  So much attached were its habitués
{110} to the old style of an open corn market that when, in later
times, the Corn exchange came, many complained that they could not tell
a good sample of corn in a building like that, so well as in the open
air.  Indeed, so wedded were they to the old custom of open market that
when the Corn Exchange was erected by the then Lord Dacre, they showed
such an obstinate preference for the open market and the convenience of
the inns, that they refused for some time to use the new building
provided for them!  But they got used to it--those that were left to
carry on the business of a market, whose traditions, nay, whose
history, speaks to us of a former greatness and reputation for trade,
in the centuries that are gone, which we can hardly now understand.



The prospect of Royston from its surroundings was, at the beginning of
the century, singularly bleak and uninviting in winter time.  Of the
many plantations which now beautify the vicinity of the town, and
afford such pleasant walks, not one tree had got on end.  The London
Road, from the top of the town to the sylvan spot now known as the
"Seven Rides," had not a single tree near it, and only one solitary
bush standing out on the hill-top against the sky-line, on the summit
of what was then a very steep hill through which the cutting has since
been made.  The hills on the Newmarket Road, which have also since been
cut through, were equally bare and monotonous in colour, at least
during most of the year; and the Heath was then destitute of those
graceful patches of charming spring and autumn natural tints which the
plantations of to-day give to the neighbourhood of the Church Hill, &c.
Some of the trees along by the Ivy Farm on the Haldock Road had been
planted, but that was about all there was towards that pretty setting
of the old town in tree and foliage, which is such a pleasing view,
especially when seen from the hills around the town.  The plantations
near the Heath were carried out by the late Mr. Henry Thurnall, by
direction of the trustees of Mr. George Fordham, and those about the
Green Walk by the Lord Dacre of those days, who also erected, at the
summit of the hill, a kind of summer house which was so badly
appreciated by the public that it was taken away.  I trust we may at
least write respecting these advantages--other days, other manners.


The same open and exposed character, which left Royston in a semicircle
of bare hills, was also common to the surrounding parishes where the
land still lay in strips, with green baulks between, so that a 300 acre
farm was not unfrequently in four or five hundred strips, scattered
about the parish, one in this furlong or "shot," and one in that.  The
country surrounding Royston on the line of Icknield Street, was not
only unenclosed, but much of it was heath country--extending from
Whittlesford to Royston on the one hand, and from Royston to Odsey on
the other, and it is a pleasure to add that this fine stretch of open
country presented in the spring a perfect picture of golden yellow
gorse blossom!

The four entrances to the town by the four ancient roads were also very
different seventy years ago from their present appearance, with regard
to habitations.  On the London Road on the east side was the Rabbit
Warren, and not a single house from the present Vicarage site to
Gatward's Pond, excepting the old Workhouse where Godfrey Terrace now
is, and the Old Pest House just beyond Mr. Whitehead's stone works.
For the rest, the Rabbit Warren sloped away into the valley (now
gardens), where school-boys met and fought out their differences!  Here
was the old claypit, a curious geological feature embosomed in the
chalk.  Paupers and rabbits were the only inhabitants of this end of
the town on the cast, and on the west the first house was, as now, the
old "Horse Shoes," on the bank.  The last house on the Melbourn Road
was the turnpike near the Institute.  In Baldock Street there was
nothing on the south side beyond Messrs. Phillips' brewery, and on the
north side nothing beyond the Fleet, then a private road-way to the
lime kiln and clunch pit, in the occupation of Mr. S. Eversden, now
forming the picturesque dell in the grounds of the Rookery (Mr. Henry
Fordham's).  Royston, in Cambridgeshire, consisted only of a few houses
beyond the old Palace, the house now occupied by Dr. Archer, then a
boarding school kept by Mrs. Raynes, being the last house in Royston,
Cambs.  Now almost a town has sprung up beyond this spot, upon what
were then open fields.  This house occupies part of an old burial site
around which centres a little mystery and a solid part of the history
of our old town.  It must suffice here to say that what was in the
early years of the century a school for teaching the young idea how to
shout, has twice been the residence of a doctor, while beneath its
foundations have rested for centuries the ancestors of those who were
being tutored and physicked, and that a few years ago upon the removal
of earth for enlarging Dr. Archer's house, so many human remains were
disturbed that on the wall of the old cellar (then being enlarged) was
a skull of some poor Yorick of the Middle Ages in which a live bat had
taken up its abode!


A few old sites and buildings may be here mentioned.  The County Court
occupies what was then a tinker's shop and a farm-yard behind; the
pedal stone of the ancient Cross, now in the Institute garden, was then
at the back entrance to the Bull Yard, near Mr. Innes' shop, having
been removed from the Cross a few years before; the market place could
only be approached from the High Street, through the inn yards.  Of the
ponds of Royston, Gatward's Pond, on the Barkway Road, was open and
unenclosed.  It was not a very savoury bath, but in its turbid depths
so many boys used to disport themselves, that it was commonly remarked
in the district that Royston had no water, and yet more boys learned to
swim here than anywhere else in the district.

The other more notable ponds were those in Kneesworth Street, the first
where the piece of waste ground now is at the boundary between
Kneesworth and Royston (Cambs.) parishes, and one lower down the same
street.  The pond which gave the most rural aspect to the north end of
the town was that in front of the White Bear public-house, at the top
of the present Gas Road; a genuine country pond, with a rail around by
that part of it next the road--which was then narrowed to half its
present width--and on the north side a long baulk or mound about four
feet high upon which was a group of trees.

The overturning of one of Lord Hardwicke's carts, laden with boxes,
into the pond, and sundry immersions of customers from the White Bear
in the night time, led to its abolition by the Turnpike Trust about

The Old Vicarage House stood in the Churchyard, with a public footpath
through the churchyard in front of it, and the present Church Lane at
the back.  The old malting in Kneesworth Street, now Mr. Francis John
Fordham's coach-house and stables, played an interesting part in the
town life--a place of worship, an academy, and a reformer's trysting
place.  At one end of the old barn-like structure the "Ranters" or
Methodists met for worship, at the other, later on, the late Mr. John
Baker conducted a school, and in this room, reached by a ladder, the
first Free Trade meeting was held in Royston, when, it goes without
saying, the Manchester men, coming within the smell of malt and near a
market which had flourished like a green bay tree under the _aegis_ of
Protection, had a warm reception in this, the only _room_ they could
get in the town!

But what would a town be without its Town Hall as the heart and centre
of its official life?  Such a building Royston has for many years
possessed in the modest red-brick building known as the Parish Room, on
the Fish Hill.  In this case, however, it was not the original purpose
for which the building was erected.  It was built about the year 1716
for the purposes of a school house, and by the contributions {113} of
gentlemen of the town and country round.  It thus became something of a
public institution from the first, but when apparently its uses as a
school-house became less beneficial to the town it was applied to
general parochial purposes.  The traditions of the pedagogue were,
however, not easily got rid of, for even when the parish had evidently
got into the regular custom of using it for meetings, there was at
least one person they had to reckon with who stood out stoutly for
whatever privilege the original foundation gave him for continuing to
teach the young idea how to shoot!  The result was that a conflict of a
semi-legal character arose over the use of the building as to the right
of Henry Watson who was then using the room under a rather uncertain
tenure, but in harmony with the traditions of the place.

The outcome was that the Vestry triumphed, and the room was put in a
proper state of repair for the use of the parish.

The streets of the town were the natural drains feeding the stagnant
ponds.  Not only was the Church Lane an open drain, but the piece of
Back Street, between the Cross and Kneesworth Street, was an open
ditch, across which was a plank bridge into the back way of the "Coach
and Horses."  The High Street had no paving, but only a rough raised
path running along next the shops.  The condition of the street was
such that ladies generally wore pattens and clogs, which were home-made
at Mr. Goode's, and it was no uncommon thing to see gentlemen wearing
them also; indeed, this was a much more common sight than to see a
gentleman wearing a moustache, which was viewed as a curiosity then.
The only person in the town and district then keeping a carriage was
Squire Wortham, in Melbourn Street.

But very little was done in the way of cleaning the streets and the
drainage was simple, natural, and unaided by art.  A few years later,
however, about 1824, a beginning was made towards an improved state of
things, and a man was employed to sweep the streets periodically with a
besom at the munificent salary of 36s. 4d. a year!  Over the seventy
years that have intervened, this pioneer of our town improvements
stands out clear and notable with his four-penny besom and basket.
That he did good honest work with his birch there is credible testimony
in the parochial balance sheets of the period, wherein appear frequent
entries, at first of 4d. and then of 5d. each, for new besoms, as the
value of that commodity advanced with the greater enlightenment and
more sweeping reforms of the times!

To the same period, the latter part of it, we owe the beginning of that
general system of the "petrified kidney" style of pavement which still
lingers in places.  Twopence-half-penny a bushel the material cost our
forefathers! but what, in trials of patience and of temper, have they
not cost the unlucky Roystonians who were destined to walk upon {114}
them for so long and with so little hope of change?  It was a cheap way
of serving posterity, but assuredly not a kind one, for the evil of it
is that they never wear out!  Farmers and others paid their highway
rates in kind, that is by carting materials, &c., and of this
"composition" according to scale, there were seven farmers in Royston
availing themselves.  The first piece of stone paving in our streets
was commenced near the Cross in 1836.

During the earlier years of the century there were no street lamps in
our town of any kind, but people were commonly met in the streets on
their way to Church, Chapel, or to the shops, carrying a lantern and,
in dirty weather, "clicketting along in pattens."

The shop windows were lighted with candles, if at all, and candles were
placed upon the counters, with, of course, the necessity of a pause in
the casting up of an account or serving a customer, to snuff the
candle!  Later, when gas came--in July of the year 1836--there was
here, as elsewhere, some prejudice against its adoption, and some
observations on the practical advantages of the employment of coal gas,
were addressed to the inhabitants of Royston by Mr. W. H. Nash,
secretary to the committee of the Royston Gas Company, and printed and
circulated.  The price charged for gas was at first 12s. 6d. per 1,000
feet, and consequently it was an uphill work to supersede the tallow
candle and snuffers of our grandfathers!

Water was hawked round the streets at so much a pailful, though a few
wells were open to use on payment, such as that at the White Lion, and
especially the Hoops.  The subject of allotments for the labourer is no
new thing, for across the space of sixty years come the stentorian
tones of the Royston Bellman to which we may listen with advantage and
perhaps derive a lesson from what followed upon his message--

"Oyez, Oyez, Notice is hereby given that the industrious poor, both
single and married of this parish, who are desirous of hiring a small
piece of land, are desired to apply at the Vestry Room on the Fish
Hill, to have their names entered to ascertain what each person would
like to have."

The result was that Mr. Valentine Beldam let 11 acres of land near
Larman's, or Lawman's Way, at the upper end of the town, to the
Overseers at 30s. an acre, and it was re-let in roods, half-acres and
acres at the same price to labourers.

For a time the scheme answered well and the state of each man's
allotment was reported upon to the Vestry; but in 1835 it was found
that "in consequence of the land hired of Mr. Valentine Beldam, and
others, being so badly farmed and the rents generally so far in arrear,
that the said land should be given up to the proprietors."


As to the trade of country towns, there were many more actual makers of
things than now, such as tailors and bootmakers, patten makers,
maltsters; and there were several academies, as the schools for the
middle class were called.  Thus in Royston there were the
following:--Rev. Samuel Cautherley, and also Mr. Yorke, Melbourn
Street; John Kent, (gentlemen's boarding,) Back Street (now Mr. A.
Gosling's); Mrs. Towne, wife of the minister at the New Meeting in
Kneesworth Street (1804); Mrs. G. H. Raines, Ladies' School, Melbourn
Street (and also at one time in the house now Dr. Archer's in
Kneesworth Street); Henry Watson, Day School, Fish Hill, (under the
Vestry Room).

The old Post Office at the time of the Battle of Waterloo, was at a
cottage on the London Road, opposite White Hall, and was kept by Mrs.
Daintry and her daughter.  The number of letters was very small and one
delivery and collecting of the money for them about ten o'clock in the
morning was sufficient.

Though mail bags were despatched at different hours of the night
according to the arrival of the mail coaches, it was thought
unnecessary for anyone to be on night duty, but the postmaster, or
postmistress, would appear at an upper window in a night cap and let
down the mail bag by a stout cord with a hook at the end, from which
the coachman would take it.  The old rope and hook with which this used
to be performed through a small window at the old Buntingford Post
Office (late Mr. Charles Nicholls) are, I believe, still in existence.

Just before the introduction of the Penny Post we find the Post Office
in Melbourn Street (master, Mr. Thomas Daintry) closed at ten o'clock,
but letters were received "between that hour and eleven on payment of
sixpence each"!  At that time, however, there was an arrangement known
as the "Royston Penny Post," comprising the parishes of Barrington,
Fowlmere, Foxton, Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Thriplow.

The posting and delivery of a letter was a different affair then from
now.  Envelopes and postage stamps had not been invented.  The postage
was paid by the person receiving the letter, and it did not depend upon
the weight of the letter at all, but upon how many sheets it contained.
Two very small sheets or small pieces of paper would count as two
letters and double postage, but an immense sheet of foolscap, or even
folio size, containing many times the writing of the other two, would
only count as one, and letters were as a consequence often curious
looking documents.

As to the cost of postage of a letter the following were the rates
prevailing between Royston and the places named:--Cambridge 4d., London
7d., Norwich 8d., Huntingdon 6d., Newport 10d., Brandon 8d., Cheshunt
7d., Bedford 6d., Buntingford 4d.  In the few cases {116} where persons
had friends in America, a letter to them cost 2s. 2d.; to Gibraltar the
cost was 2s. 10d., Malta and the Mediterranean 3s. 2d., postage in
these cases being prepaid.  The charge was based upon a scale according
to the distance, commencing with 4d. not exceeding 15 miles.  The
transmission of money was "by wagon," and instead of a creditor asking
for a remittance by return of post it was "by return of wagon."

Of the old Inns in Royston it may be of interest to add that the Red
Lion ball-room continued to be a centre of fashionable gatherings
until, with the decay of the posting and coaching business for which
the Red Lion had been chiefly famous, the Bull Hotel (the same owners)
became the leading house.  The Red Lion was afterwards given up, the
ball-room, with its associations going back to the Old Royston Club,
was removed and re-erected as the present ball-room or billiard-room of
the Bull Hotel, while its rampant lion which had presented a bold face
to the High Street for more than a century, was removed to a higher
position on the top of Reed Hill, where it now does duty, and has given
a sign to the house standing there.  Here, for the sake of auld lang
syne, it gets a bright new coat of paint now and again, and worthily
holds its own as the last relic of a famous old inn, around which so
much of the public life of the town and neighbourhood had revolved for
some generations!

The Bull was originally the "Black Bull," and the Boar's Head the "Blue
Boar's Head."  The Bull had stabling for a hundred horses.  The Green
Man was a sign that explained itself when, at the beginning of the
century and for some years afterwards, upon an angular sign on the
front of the inn, with faces two ways, was the painted figure of a man
in the green habit of the archer and forester.  The "Jolly Butchers" or
"Ye three Butchers," on the Market Hill, and the "Catherine Wheel," in
Melbourn Street, have ceased to be inns.

Such was the outward shell of Royston in the hectic flush of the "good
old times."  The taking of the census recently suggests a word with
regard to the population of the town and how it was ascertained in
times gone by.  At least, at one decade (1821) the Overseers were paid
a penny per head for taking the population.  In 1801 the population was
only 1484, and in 1831 it was 2008.  Further particulars of the
population of the town and of the villages in the neighbourhood will be
found in an appendix at the end of this book.




When the reforming spirit which brooded over the two centuries touched
the subject of education, its advocates became enthusiastic!  Here is
what an old writer said in 1806 about a proposal to establish evening
schools for the instruction of farm servants:--

"We should hear the humble countryman talk of the heroes of old, catch
the patriotic inspiration from the action of his great forefathers,
while wisdom would extend her protecting hand and claim the nation for
her own"!

However much we may be inclined to smile at this grandiloquent prophecy
of the fruits of an evening school, in the light of present
difficulties of instilling four standards into the bulk of the
childhood of the nation, it is impossible to move a step among the
footprints of the common people of sixty years ago without finding how
enormously the progress of education has transformed the face of
society, though not quite on the classic lines of the old writer just

Of education for children in the villages there was none at the
beginning of the century.  Over and over again the answers to the
Bishop of Ely's questions in 1791, show that there was no school in the
parish, and, as Sunday Schools were not generally established till many
years afterwards, it may safely be said that during the first few years
of the present century, not one person in ten of the labouring
population could read, much less write.

The Sunday School movement, the real beginning of the education of the
people, both secular and religious, commenced at a very early date in
several parts of Hertfordshire, but in the beginning these schools were
very different from what is now understood by that term.  So far as
Royston is concerned I believe the Nonconformists generally claim that
they were the first to start a Sunday School in the town--that the
first Sunday School was established in connection with the Old Meeting,
now John Street Chapel.  If by a Sunday School is meant what it now
means--the voluntary service of lay workers in teaching the children,
this may be true, but taking the word in its more general sense of
teaching children on Sundays, the first step of which I can find any
{118} record would be that taken by the Church people.  In July, 1808,
there occurs this entry in the Royston vestry minute book--

"At this Vestry it is considered that the Churchwardens Do put the
Galary in proper Order for the Reception of the Children belonging to a
Sunday School."

From the wording of this minute it is evident that the Sunday School in
question had just been established, and this is confirmed by what
follows in the same book--

"Boys to be admitted at the age of 6 years and continue to 12, girls to
be admitted at the age of 6 years and continue to 14."

"The Masters to receive the scholars at 9 o'clock in the morning and to
go with them to Church at 11.  The scholars are to return to school at
2 and go to Church at 3 and return from Church to school, and _continue
there till between five and six o'clock_"!

"The master, H. Watson, jun., to be paid six guineas a year for his

This Sunday School was established during the incumbency of the Rev.
Samuel Cautherley, a name still honourably connected with Sunday School
work in the town.

Henry Watson, who was appointed master of the Sunday School, had also
the picturesque duty to perform of wielding his ten-foot wand over the
heads of the scholars during divine service at Church, and for this
purpose would walk up and down the aisles, and if any unfortunate
youngster did anything wrong, down came the wand, whack, upon the--no,
not upon the boy's head but upon the back of the seat, for the boys
generally could dodge it!

One of the earliest Sunday Schools established in Hertfordshire was at
Hoddesdon (1790) of which the following rules will perhaps be read with
interest by some youthful readers who think an hour in school a trial
of patience--

"The Children are to appear in the School-room at Eight o'clock in the
Morning during the Summer Months, and at nine in the Winter, and again
both Summer and Winter at Half-past Two o'clock in the Afternoon, with
clean Face and Hands, Hair combed, and decently clothed according to
the Abilities of their Parents; to proceed to Church, and from thence
to School, there to remain receiving Instruction till Six o'Clock in
the Evening!

"The Teachers shall receive One Shilling per Score; and have an
Assistant when the Number requires it."

"Children not coming to School in time, are to wear a Mark inscribed
Idle Boy or Girl, in large Letters, during Church, and the whole or
part of the School Time.

"Children behaving ill to wear a Mark of Naughty Boy or Girl."


The Old Meeting Sunday School, established in 1813, appears to have
been brought into the shape of an institution by the earlier efforts of
the Misses Nash, daughters of Mr. Wm. Nash, a noted lawyer, whose name
is mentioned elsewhere.  These ladies first conducted a class for girls
in their own house.  The school at the Old Meeting was started with the
following Committee of Management:--Rev. John Pendered (their
minister), James Pigott, William Clack, William Smith, William Field
Butler and Henry Butler, and the first Sunday scholar on the old
register I notice was the late Mr. John Norman, the naturalist; Mr.
James Jacklin being also among the earliest scholars.

The Sunday School at the New Meeting (Kneesworth Street Chapel) was
established later by the efforts of Mr. Stallabrass, a wool stapler,
living in Melbourn Street.  The distinction of paid Church school
teachers and voluntary teachers at the Chapels appears to have been
kept up for at least 20 years after the schools were established, for
in 1831 a return was required to be made by the Overseers to the House
of Commons of all schools in their parishes, and from the return made
on that occasion by Thomas A. Butterfield and Philip Craft (overseers),
I give the following:--

"Three Sunday Schools--one Church School with 55 scholars, and two
Dissenters' Schools with 204 scholars.  A lending library attached to
both Dissenting Schools.  In the two Dissenting Sunday Schools the
children are taught by gratuitous teachers.  Church Sunday School
supported by voluntary contributions; master's salary seven guineas per

The above return enables us to compare the growth of Sunday Schools in
the town, and the most striking fact is that while at first the Chapel
Schools were by far the larger, the later figures show a great increase
in the Church Sunday School in particular, and of Sunday scholars in
general.  In 1831 we see that the Church had only 55 scholars; in 1890
it had 405; in 1831, the two Independent Schools had 204 between them,
now they have about 420.  In 1831, the total scholars in Sunday Schools
in Royston was 259, now, including Wesleyan School, the number is about
900.  To get an exact comparison about two-thirds of the present
figures should be taken, as the population of the town in 1831 was very
nearly (not quite) two-thirds of what it is at present.  This basis
would give us 600 scholars now against 259 sixty years ago.  Those who
think we may be losing our hold upon the children must remember that we
have all this advantage plus the elementary education of the day
schools, as compared with sixty years ago, and a comparison with eighty
years ago would of course be even more in favour of the present.

By the year 1840 the relative position of the Sunday Schools as to
scholars was, Church School 92, the three Dissenting Schools {120}
264--viz., New Meeting 154, Old Meeting 85, and Unitarian 25.  By 1831,
out of a population of 2,258, there were 1,313 who could read and write.

Coming to Day Schools we find from the same Parliamentary return for a
date somewhat beyond that assigned me, viz., 1831, the following
particulars, as questions and answers, are given--

What number of Infant Schools, if any?  One public Lancastrian School,
53 in attendance, 70 on the list; children may enter at a
year-and-a-half and remain till 6 or 7--mistress L30 a year.

What number of Daily Schools?  One Lancastrian, 53 in attendance, 90 on
the list; enter at 6 years of age and remain as long as their parents
please to let them--mistress 12s. a week.

Total number of schools of all kinds, 16.  Three Boarding Schools and
for day pupils; one for males 30 scholars, one 25 scholars (7 males, 18
females); one 15 scholars, (3 males, 12 females); one 27 scholars (4
males, 23 females); one 26 (male) scholars; six schools for both sexes,
3 to 8 or 10 years of age.

What number of schools confined nominally or virtually to the
Established Church?  Only one Sunday School as above.

What number of schools confined nominally or virtually to any other
Religious Denominations?  Four--Infant, Lancastrian and two Sunday
Schools (Independents).

Of the sixteen schools in the town, of which details of fourteen are
given above, none had many pupils; some were virtually dame schools,
where the teaching was not often a very elevating process; and too
often appealed to the motive of fear, either of a black dog in the
cellar or of the assurance that Buonaparte was coming!  Education of
the well-to-do was much more local than now, owing to the expense and
inconvenience of travel, hence the large number of private schools.

Of the first Day Schools where any considerable number of children
attended before the present series of public schools was established,
the evidence goes to show that they were of the dame school order,
remembered best in after years, not by the amount of erudition
acquired, but by some of the elder boys who went little errands over
the way to the "Fox and Duck" (now the house occupied by Mr. H. Clark,
Market Hill), and from the facts that the article they returned with
having, by special injunction, to be placed behind the door, that the
worthy dame soon afterwards repaired to that corner of the room, the
more knowing of the scholars were apt to draw certain conclusions as to
the somnulent condition of their instructress and the easy terms upon
which a truant boy could get off by going that little errand!  But the
limited means placed at the disposal of those engaged in the education
of children then, compared with our millions of Government grant of
to-day, do not allow us to judge too harshly of results.


Even where there was some endowment it was generally on too small a
scale to do much for a general system of education.  At Melbourn the
first school of this kind assembled in a quaint room at the top of the
Church porch!

At Barkway, where the Duchess of Richmond's endowment led to a free
school, this was of so limited a character that in the Commissioners'
report as late as 1838, the endowment was only L10 0s. 4d., to which
was added L5 from the town lands, L5 from the rent of the town house,
besides which the tolls of the annual fair, varying from 3s. to 5s.,
were also applied to education, and together seven boys and five girls
were being educated at the Free School out of a population of a
thousand souls, and this was only one year before the National Schools
were started in 1839!

The germ of public elementary education in Royston is associated with
the present Infants' School and with the honoured name of Miss Martha
Nash.  The present Infants' School was established in 1832.  The land
upon which it was built was given by Lord Dacre, and funds for the
building were obtained chiefly from a very successful bazaar under the
patronage of the then Lord and Lady Dacre.

The original trustees of the School were:--Edward King Fordham
(Royston), Wedd William Nash, John Phillips, John Edward Fordham, John
George Fordham, Valentine Beldam, John Beldam, John Butler, Thomas
Butterfield, William Hollick Nash, Joseph Pattison Wedd, William Field
Butler, James Piggot and Thomas Pickering.

The British School was established in 1840, and the building erected on
land the gift of Lord Dacre; the National School was commenced in the
same year and the school building also erected on land given by Lord
Dacre.  The following is a list of the first trustees of the British
School:--Wedd William Nash, John Phillips, John George Fordham, John
Butler, Joseph Pattison Wedd, John Medway, S. S. England, F. Neller, W.
F. Butler, John Pendered, Henry Butler, William Hollick Nash, T. S.
Maling, James Piggot, James Richardson, William Simmons and Thomas A.

I am unable to give the corresponding list of the first trustees of the
National Schools, but the following names occur as being present at a
meeting soon after the school was founded, and several of them were no
doubt trustees, viz., Rev. J. Whiting (vicar), John Phillips, William
Nunn, Henry Thurnall, G. Smith, ---- Brown, sen., R. Brown, and D.

Whatever weight may be attached to the circumstance itself, or to the
oft-repeated complaints that religious worship and religious beliefs
have not so strong a hold upon the minds of men now as in the past, all
the evidence available points unmistakably to the fact of an enormous
increase in the habit of attending public worship at the {122} present
time compared with a hundred years ago, even when the constable went
his rounds in our streets to look up defaulters about the town, and
"particularly at the Cross."

There was a marvellous difference in the state of the Established
Church at the end of the last Century and to-day.  It is a very rare
thing now to see a parish without a resident clergyman, but then,
clergymen often held two or more parishes without residing in either.
In 1791, for instance, the Vicar of the two parishes of Great and
Little Abington lived in a house of his own at Thriplow.  The truth is,
says an old writer under date, 1789, "that most of the Churches within
ten miles of Cambridge were served by Fellowes of Colleges."  In some
cases the Curates hastened back to dine in hall.  In this way the
Curates would come out to the parish to a service, to a wedding, a
funeral, or a day's shooting, and often served two or three parishes in
this free and easy fashion, and it became necessary to limit the
service in each parish to alternate Sundays.

Upon this subject and upon the character of the services in many
village Churches of the time, I am indebted to a very good
authority--MS. reminiscences by the late Mr. Henry Thurnall--for the
following: "Neither Whittlesford, Sawston, Great Shelford, Newton,
Hauxton, Barrington, or Chishill, had a resident minister."  As to the
character of the Psalmody practised in the Churches, the same authority
says:--At Duxford, John and Thomas H---- performed on two bassoons
anything but heavenly music; at Shelford old John M----, the clerk,
used to climb up a ladder into a high gallery and there seating
himself, often quite alone, and saying "let us sing to the praise and
glory of God by singin' the fust four vusses of the 100th psalm, old
vusshun';" and he put on his spectacles and read and sung each verse,
frequently as a solo accompanying himself on a bass-viol, said to have
been made by himself!  At W---- old V---- set the tune with a cracked
flute, and on one occasion, when reading the 26th verse of the grand
104th Psalm, he said:--"There goes the Ships, and there is that
Lufftenant [Leviathan] whom thou hast made to take his pastime therein."

In an extremely interesting book of reminiscences, which may be
cordially recommended to the notice of the reader,--"What I Remember,"
by Adolphus Trollope, brother of the famous novelist, Anthony
Trollope--there are some interesting glimpses of a Parish Church and
its services in one of the villages in this district at the beginning
of this century.  The Trollopes were related to the Meetkerkes, of
Julians, Rushden, and the entertaining author of "What I remember,"
was, at the time of Waterloo, the expected heir to Julians, and of
Adolphus Meetkerke, Esq., the then head of the family.  Young Trollope
visited Rushden as a boy and gives us a graphic picture of family life,
Church services, and the squire of the village {123} playing the part
of Sir Roger de Coverley.  The house-keeping at Julians, we are told,
was in the hands of "Mrs. Anne," an old maiden sister of the squire,
who, though a prim, precise little woman, sometimes came down to
breakfast a little late, "to find her brother standing on the
hearth-rug, with his prayer-book open in his hand, waiting for her
arrival to begin prayers to the assembled household.  He had a
wonderfully strong rasping voice, the tones of which were rarely
modulated under any circumstances.  I can hear now his reverberating,
'Five minutes too late again, Mrs. Anne'  'Dearly beloved brethren,'
etc.; the change of person addressed, and of subject having been marked
by no pause or break whatever, save the sudden kneeling at the head of
the breakfast table; while at the conclusion of the short, but never
missed prayers, the transition from 'Amen,' to 'William, bring round
the brown mare after breakfast,' was equally unmarked by pause for
change of voice or manner."

To this is added a glimpse of the villagers assembled in Church under
the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Skinner.  "Whether there was any clerk or
not I do not remember," says Mr. Trollope, "but if any such official
existed, the performance of his office in Church was not only overlaid
but extinguished by the great rough 'view-holloa' sort of voice of my
uncle.  He never missed going to Church, and never missed a word of the
responses, which were given in far louder tones than those of the
Vicar.  Something of a hymn was always attempted, I remember, by the
rustic congregation; with what sort of musical effect may be imagined.
* * * * But the singers were so well pleased with the exercise that
they were apt to prolong it, as my uncle thought, somewhat unduly, and
on such occasions he would cut the performance short with a rasping
'That's enough!' which effectually brought it to an abrupt conclusion.
The very short sermon * * * having been brought to an end, my uncle
would sing out to the Vicar, as he was descending the pulpit stairs,
'Come up to dinner, Skinner!' and then we all marched out while the
rustics, still retaining their places till we were fairly out of the
door, made their obeisances as we passed."

In this glimpse we miss the genial face of Sir Roger, but there is
nothing in it inconsistent with the village squire of the Spectator,
Indeed, Mr. Trollope says of the old squire, "He was a good man too,
was old Adolphus Meetkerke; a good landlord, a kindly natured man, a
good sportsman, an active magistrate, and a good husband."

He was evidently a regular attendant to his magisterial duties on the
Royston Bench, for his clean, linear, and well-written signature turns
up frequently in the Royston parish books.  The Meetkerkes descended
from a famous Dutchman, Sir Adolphus Meetkerke, who was at one time
ambassador to England.


Before the Tithe Commutation Act was passed, a very curious piece of
work in the harvest field was the paying of the parson by the tithe man
going round among the shocks of corn and placing a green bough in every
tenth shock, &c., for then the tithe was collected in kind--the tenth
shock, hay-cock, calf, lamb, pig, fowl, pigeon, duck, egg, the tenth
pound of butter, cheese, and so on through all the products of the
land.  The inconvenience of this clumsy system was often greatly felt,
when a farmer was compelled to delay the carting of his corn simply
because the tithe man had not been round to set out the tithe corn,
while on the other hand it was obviously impossible for the clergyman
to get the work all done at once to suit all parties, and thus when a
Commutation Act came it was a great relief alike to the clergyman and
the farmers and landowners, and did away with a longstanding cause of
strife and litigation, especially in a town like Royston, where a
farmer might have tithable produce in several parishes.

Sometimes the tithe owner found an attempt to impose upon him some of
the lean kine, and that the tenth of its kind had a way of differing
somewhat from the other nine!  When, for instance, in the last century,
Canon Weston was away in Durham, his curate, at Therfield, on going to
Brandish to tithe the ringe-wood, found the woodman over anxious for
him to begin counting at a certain spot, where the cutting commenced,
but suspecting that the ringes had been cooked a little, the wily
curate examined them and found every tenth, from the woodman's way of
counting _fell upon a very thin ringe_!  Remonstrances followed and the
"tenths" were made up to the same condition of plumpness as the rest,
and the curate received the commendation of his superior for so well
looking after his affairs!

Since the date to which the foregoing state of things refers, the
Established Church has had an awakening which has taken a real hold
upon and has been influenced by the laity, and has recognised that it
has a mission to the people rather than an official routine, facts
which are not without significance in their bearing upon what follows
with regard to the town of Royston, and the relative positions of the
Church and Dissenting bodies.

A hundred years ago the Nonconformists included most of the wealthy
families in the town and neighbourhood.  The pulpit at the Old Meeting
(Independents) erected in the narrow part of Kneesworth Street in 1706
was occupied at least once a year by Robert Hall, the great Baptist
preacher then at Cambridge, who was a not unfrequent visitor at the
houses of Edward King Fordham, the banker, and William Nash, the lawyer.

One of the principal events in the religious life of the town at the
end of last century was the division of the congregation of
Independents at the Old Meeting.


The origin of the New Meeting, as it was called, was a very small one,
and does not look at first like a very serious split in the old
congregation.  An old paper, still in existence, written apparently and
read at the opening of the New Meeting, states that "in the year 1791 a
few of us met at a friend's house a few weeks for prayer and the
reading of the Word of God; our numbers soon increased and then we met
in a barn for a considerable time.  We went on till the year 1792, and
our numbers still increasing we erected this meeting."  At this time
the Rev. Mr. Atkinson was the minister.  It is evident, however, that
the new movement grew apace, and some interest began to be taken in it
in the town, for on 24th February, 1791, we find J. Butler laying J.
Beldam a bottle of wine "that the New Meeting House will be begun in
six months at Royston."  Evidently Mr. Butler won his bottle of wine,
for on the 2nd of May, in the same year, the contract for the new
building, to be afterwards known as the "New Meeting" (Kneesworth
Street) was signed.

It is interesting to note the plain, inexpensive kind of building which
suited persons assembling for public worship compared with to-day, for
the amount of the contract for erecting the building "in a workman-like
manner" was only L320.  This contract was between John Stamford,
carpenter and builder, on the one part, and on the other part the
following gentlemen who were the first trustees:--Samuel Luke, of
Royston, Cambs., maltster; William Stamford, Royston, Herts., maltster;
George Fordham, the elder, and George Fordham, the younger, both of
Kelshall, gentlemen; Robert Hankin, Royston, Cambs., draper; Thomas
Wells, Royston, Herts., grocer; Thomas Trigg, Bassingbourn, yeoman;
Samuel Walbey, Royston, Cambs., maltster; William Coxall, Bassingbourn,
gentleman; John Abbott, Royston, Herts., breeches-maker; Abraham Luke,
Royston, Cambs., yeoman; and John Goode, Royston, Herts., carpenter.

It was for a lath and plaster structure without galleries, and was
opened apparently in 1792.

The Old and New Independents continued to work side by side, the new
overtaking the old, till 1841, when a serious fire happening on the
premises of Mr. Warren, builder, near the site of the present John
Street Chapel, advantage was taken of the opening thus made, and the
site was purchased for a new Chapel from Mr. John Phillips, who, at the
same time, by pulling down part of the premises facing High Street,
threw open the present thoroughfare, which henceforth obtained the name
of John Street, after Mr. Phillips.  The new Chapel, erected on the
north side, was built by Mr. Warren, at a cost of between three and
four thousand pounds, and re-placed the old chapel in Kneesworth
Street, which afterwards became converted into dwelling-houses (Mr.
Higgins' shop and houses adjoining).  The new Chapel, opened in {126}
1843 by the Rev. Dr. Binney, as preacher on the first Sunday, and
Edward Miall, who afterwards became the Liberationist M.P., on the
next, has an imposing front elevation which it may be of interest to
state is taken from the celebrated Ionic Temple on the south bank of
the Ilissus at Athens.

The last meeting house of the Society of Friends in Royston was in
Royston, Cambs., on the East side of Kneesworth Street, the burial
ground of which still remains, with tombstones to the memory of Quaker
families of former days.  The old meeting house stood back from the
street, reached by a narrow passage between the cottages, with the
small burial ground and a row of lime trees in front.

During the first quarter of the century a house in the yard behind Mr.
Hinkins' shop was registered "for preaching in the Calvinistic
persuasion of Dissenters in Royston, Hertfordshire"; for so runs the
written application to the magistrates for the place to be registered
as a preaching place.

Something of the old Puritanic feeling still prevailed in the town
among the Dissenters against amusements as late as the end of the first
quarter of the present century.  Whether it was from the recollection
of what popular amusements had been, or against worldliness in general,
I know not, but there is a curious instance on record, where, in 1825,
a townsman named Johnson, had his membership at the New Meeting called
in question for having joined a cricket club in the town!  The
offending member defended himself from what he considered the injustice
of expulsion, by stating that he saw no evil in cricket, and that the
members of the club were "moral men," and that ministers and others had
been known to join cricket clubs.  The general body of members in
meeting assembled, however, refused to relax their view of it, and
decided upon his expulsion, but afterwards relented so far as to allow
Brother Johnson to resign, which he did.

Political meetings belonged more to large centres than they do
now--chiefly to the county town--but lest there should be any doubt
about what was the prevailing political bias in the town during the
first quarter of the century, it has been placed on record that Royston
was called "Radical Royston."  This soubriquet was probably earned by
the large amount of "reforming" spirit which we have seen was thrown
into the discussion of abstract questions by Roystonians of the time.
They probably earned it by their protests rather than by their policy.
Politics in public meeting were in fact in a bad way at the end of the
reign of George III., when it was made unlawful for anyone to call a
public meeting exceeding fifty persons, for the purpose of deliberating
upon any public question excepting such meetings were called by the
Lord Lieutenant, Sheriff, Mayor, or other officials responsible for
good order.


When George IV. came to the throne and divided the opinion of the
country upon the subject of his treatment of Queen Caroline, the boys
shared the prevailing differences of sentiment and became "Kingites" or
"Queenites," and occasionally settled their differences in pitched
battles after the manner of boys in all ages, in some cases actually
wearing their colours--purple for the King and white for the Queen.
The prevailing sentiment was, however, in Royston so much for the
Queen, that "the first gentleman in Europe," notwithstanding his
patronage of and comrades in the prize-fighting ring, could hardly find
enough champions for a fight, even among the boys.

In later years Chartism reached Royston and caused a flutter in the
breasts of those concerned with the _status quo_, for it appears that
one Joseph Peat had "held forth" by permission of the landlord at the
"Coach and Horses."  The Magistrates had a meeting to prevent the
spread of Chartism in consequence of this event, and the landlord was
sent for and cautioned that if he allowed such a thing again he would
lose his licence.

The beginning of all positive work set about by negative process is
slow, and this, I suppose, would apply to keeping outside a
public-house, for the Teetotal folk in Royston--handicapped, as in
other places, by a name that has ever prejudiced and hampered a public
movement--found out this to their cost.

They did not lack stimulants when they first began to hold meetings,
for the opposition camp came to the meeting, took care to come
provided, and, fortifying themselves with bottles of beer, raised so
much clamour that the recently enrolled policeman had to try his hand
at checking intemperance and some broken heads rewarded his exertions.
The publicans generally attended the meetings in good force and between
the rival parties, instead of applause there was sometimes breaking of
windows if nothing worse.  The British School was one of the first
public rooms used for these meetings.

Of popular entertainments, as we now understand them, there were very
few, not one where we now have a score, and until the erection of the
British School no suitable building.  It must not, however, be supposed
that the town was entirely without the means of occasional recreation.
The Assembly Room at the Red Lion was still a place of importance for
public assemblies, and, for some years before Queen Victoria came to
the throne, this room was the scene of some creditable displays of
local talent.  This talent took the thespian form, and the tradesmen of
the town, banded together as the Royston Theatrical Amateur Society,
were accustomed to draw the _elite_ of the town and neighbourhood into
3s. and 2s. 6d. seats (nothing less!) while they placed on the boards a
rattling good version of _Bombastes Furioso_ and other pieces in
popular favour at the time.


Reference has been made to the reluctance of the Parish
Authorities--once bitten, twice shy--to let the Parish Room again as a
School after the legal difficulty about getting rid of the tenant, but
to their credit be it said they made an exception in favour of
music--with a proviso.  The late Mr. James Richardson, when a young
man, it is on record, applied to the Parish Authorities "on behalf of
several persons forming a Musical Band of this Town, that they may be
allowed the use of the Vestry Room to meet and practise in."  "Allowed
providing they pay the constable to attend and see that everything is
left secure and to prevent the boys annoying them or doing mischief to
the premises."

Music, though confined to a few choice spirits beneath fustian and
smock frocks in village as well as town, played a much more important
part with our grandfathers than is commonly supposed.  It may seem a
rash statement to make that in some respects we may have degenerated.
If we play or sing with better tune or finish it is because we have
better appliances, not better brains nor more devoted hearts for music.
I am afraid that some of our extensive cultivation of music is a
sacrifice of fond parents on the altar of the proprieties, whereas our
grandfathers had a soul in their work, and the man with his heart in
his work--whether scraping a fiddle, ploughing a furrow, writing an
epic, or fighting a battle--must, by all honest men, be awarded the
palm.  In this over-riding of music as a hobby there is a danger that
the salt may lose its savour, for if there is any individual more to be
pitied than another it is the so-called musician standing up to play
according to the rules of art with no response from the inmost soul of

I do not think, at any rate, that those of our grandfathers who
directed their attention to the fiddle, bass-viol, flute, clarionet, or
trombone, could be fairly considered to lay under such reproach, for
though their music may have been sometimes flat and sometimes sharp, it
was always natural and congenial in the highest degree.

These old fellows took down such instruments as they had, not as so
many do now, because it was "the thing" to learn music, but because
music had found them out for having a love of it, and of the pleasure
derived from meeting in a homely circle of kindred spirits.  Their
instruments were often most dissimilar, but their spirit was one!

There was a good deal of free masonry and companionable relations
existing between these old handlers of musical instruments, and as we
hear them in imagination, rattling away round the old spirited fugues
which had been carefully "picked out" with quill pen and ink into their
old cheque-book shaped "tune books"; or, as we see the picturesque
group, now with countenances beaming with delight over some well turned
corner which brought up the rear, now mopping their {129} brows with a
bright red handkerchief, or touching up the old fiddle, after a smart
finish, as a man pats a favourite horse, it is not difficult to
discover how it was that here and there, and in many places, music took
care of itself so well when other things were at a low ebb!

Saxhorn, trombone, flute, cornopean, clarionet, bassoon, fiddle,
bass-viol, and others as various as the dress, trades, and characters
of the individuals, made up the old chords of long ago; so well hit off
by a writer (J. W. Riley) in the _Century Magazine_:--

  I make no doubt yer _new band_ now's a competenter band,
  And plays their music more by note than what they play by hand,
  And stylisher, and grander tunes; but somehow--_any_ way
  I want to hear the _old_ band play!

These old players on instruments were nearly always found in the Church
or Chapel Choirs.  Thus in the early years of the century John Warren
performed the double duty of bass-viol player and parish clerk at the
Royston Church, and later on a rather full band of instruments led the
service.  A similar, but less organized state of things was found in
some village Churches.  It was the time when the wooden pitch-pipe was
in its full glory.  This was a square wooden implement, with a scale on
one of its sides, upon which the leader blew the key-note, and then
running up the octave with his voice--off they went to the tune of some
old Calcutta, Cardiff, or other piece of arduous fugal work!

The disappearance of these old village choirs, in which the village
blacksmith, the baker, the tailor, and other natives played on the
clarionet, bass-viol, bassoon, flute, trombone, and all kinds of
instruments, while other grown-up men took their "parts" in those
wonderful old fugues that seemed to make the song of praise without
end--the absence of all this means a certain loss of that passion for
music which has never been thoroughly recovered!

We have many more players and singers now than in the past, but not,
perhaps, the same proportion of lovers of music for its own sake.




Among winter recreations skating was hardly known, and not at all as an
amusement for ladies, but then what a glorious pastime was that of
sliding!  Very few young people can slide on the ice now as the boy in
1800-20 could do.  In summer cricket was played, but, as in all the
multiplied facilities for acquiring skill and knowledge, to-day the
youthful cricketers have the best of tools, while their grandfathers
had a home-made bat, or even a pale, and as for stumps, they generally
grew in the neighbouring hedge till wanted, and the scoring book, in
the form of a notched stick, came from the same quarter!  But even at
that time some "grand matches" sometimes came off, and nearly always
for high stakes, as the following notice will show.

The earliest announcement of a grand match in this district, I have met
with, is the following for the year 1771--

"Tuesday, se'n night, a match at Cricket was played between the
gentlemen of Saffron Walden and Stanstead Abbots, for 44 guineas, when
the latter were bungle beat, that is, 51 notches in one innings."

What is the precise meaning which the old chronicler meant to attach to
the phrase "bungle beat" in this instance, I must leave to lovers of
the game to determine for themselves.  But it was customary to play for
much higher stakes than the above.  Thus, in the memorable year of
scarcity of 1801 when people were longing for the deliverance of

"A cricket match was played at Stanstead Marsh, Herts., between 11
gentlemen of Homerton and 11 of Stanstead, for 500 guineas.  The
Homerton side won by 15 runs."

Another thing these old cricketers did which may be commended to the
modern clubs--they set about the game as if they meant to finish it.
"Stumps to be pitched at _nine o'clock_" says the announcement of a
fifty-guinea match between Hertford and Hoddesdon in 1812.  I have
found no record of a match of this description for high stakes on
Royston Heath, but cricket was undoubtedly played there, especially a
few years later than the above dates.


Of other forms of sport, the meets of Squire Wortham's harriers were
notable events, and especially on such occasions as "The Little Fair
Day"--the second day of Royston Fair--when they were taken to the top
of the "One Hill" on the Heath, where the meet attracted not only a
large number of the regular followers of the hounds, but a great many
irregular ones as well; and, under the management of "Old Matt," the
huntsman, with the stentorian voice, whose holloa could be heard at
Therfield by persons in Royston, the chase excited no little interest
and excitement.  Thriplow Heath was also a favourite place of meeting
for Squire Wortham's harriers, and, among the many horsemen who
followed the pack, a notable figure was that of Sir Peter Soame, of

[Illustration: THE HUNT BREAKFAST.]

Sir Peter was a dark, handsome man, of great muscular power and
activity.  It was commonly said that he could plant a dozen hurdles
only a yard apart and clear them one at a time.  As a horseman he had
few equals, and was famous for the condition of his horses, which were
the best turned out in the hunting field, and Sir Peter himself made a
notable figure in his skin-fit leather breeches.  It was the fashion
then {132} to wear the hunting breeches so tight that it would have
been impossible to get into them but for the expedient of hanging them
in the cellar or some damp place overnight!  Even then, to put them on
was no child's play, and Sir Peter, it is said, used to put his on by
sliding down the bannister!  In this way he got into garments which
fitted him like a second skin, and, regardless of the dampness of them,
rode out in the pink of condition, on the best horse in the district!
Unless reports did him injustice, the sporting baronet was devotedly
attached to the bottle, and more than once came to grief when driving
his pony home from Cambridge, when he would be picked up by one of the
"fly" wagons and given a lift to the Black Horse at Fowlmere.  Of Sir
Peter in other sporting aspects more will be said presently.

The Heath appears to have been associated with other forms of sport,
from the following lines taken from a local poet, to whose picturesque
descriptions and facile handling of the heroic measure, I must be
indebted in this chapter.  I refer to a book entitled "Visions of
Childhood," by W. Warren Butler, of Barkway, printed and published by
John Warren in 1843.  Of one questionable form of sport on the Heath,
he writes--

  Here on this very spot, here have I seen
  Such bloody deeds performed upon the ground;
  And men have search'd the secret coverts round,
  Where ev'ry harmless rabbit could be found.
      *      *      *      *      *      *
  The innocent collection in a sack,
  Are carelessly slung round their murd'rer's back
  And one by one let loose with joy they fly;
  This moment they are free--the next they die,
  The savage hound set on amidst the fray,
  Seizes and tears their little lives away,
  While laughter from all sides his valour draws,
  And even fair ones pat him with applause.

As to other kinds of sport, it may be mentioned that sportsmen then not
only managed with flint guns, but were often mounted on ponies; for,
while the open field system enabled them to mark and follow the birds
in any direction, it often meant a longer journey for a bag than under
more modern conditions of sport, while dogs played a much more
important part in sport than to-day.

Then, it was no uncommon thing for the inhabitants of this, as of other
districts, to go a long distance to be present at some sporting event.
As late as 1831, every available horse, cob or donkey, that could be
mounted was ridden to Newmarket, where about 20,000 persons assembled
to witness Osbaldiston's astonishing feat of riding two hundred miles
in ten hours, or twenty miles an hour on horseback for ten successive
hours, for one thousand guineas!  He was allowed {133} eight horses for
changes, standing constantly saddled for him to jump off one on to the
other, and on again in his flying career at each time round the
"Beacon" course of four miles.  The feat was accomplished in a little
less than the ten hours.

To come back once more to sport on Royston Heath in the years
immediately following George III.'s reign, I find the following with
reference to the revival of the Royston Races, which had flourished so
famously during the last century under the name of the Odsey Races.

In the spring of 1827 it is recorded that the Heath "was much crowded
to witness a match between a mare, the property of Sir Peter Soame, of
Heydon, and a horse, the property of Mr. T. Berry, of Hertingfordbury.
Other matches were run by hunters belonging to those present; and, at a
subsequent meeting in July, arrangements were made for a regular
programme, and a cup for competition the following year; and from that
time the races continued for many years."

The revived Races were held every year on the 14th May, whereas the old
Odsey Race meeting was in September.  Among the stewards appear the
names of Lord Hardwicke, Mr. Brand, Mr. Delme Radcliffe and Mr.
Barnett, while Mr. George Smith was the treasurer and clerk of the

In 1836, when Lord Hardwicke and Mr. Brand were stewards, it is stated
that there were from five to six thousand persons present, and as to
the character of the gathering, we are told that--

"The usual attendants at all amusements of this kind were there, and
succeeded in victimizing a few who were green enough to fancy they had
a _chance of increasing_ their funds on the race-course."

Genteel at first, with a grand-stand erected on the course and numerous
booths for refreshments, these Races became in less repute as time went
on and were associated with many disagreeable incidents.  Of the
general characteristics of the scene of these Races in their best days
during the present century, Mr. Butler's poem gives us a vivid picture.
The preparations for the event are shown, where

  Many a pole stripp'd of its native rind,
  Bears a pink flag, that rattles in the wind;
  And all the rustic villagers around
  Behold with wond'rous eyes the hallow'd ground,
  And often pause to view the massive roll,
  Bear down the turf, and level round the goal.

Of the morning of the Races and the concourse of people coming in from
all points of the compass, we get a glimpse

  For ten miles round, each village yields
  Its bumpkin swains, and labour quits the fields.
      *      *      *      *      *      *
  Full many a smock shines white as driven snow,
  With pea-green smalls, whose polished buttons glow.
      *      *      *      *      *      *
  Nor they alone the glorious sight to share,
  Their master's family will sure be there.
  Lo! the old wagon, lumb'ring on the road,
  Bears on its pond'rous sides the noisy load.
  Lopp'd is the vig'rous tree, its spreading boughs
  Cling to the sides, and shade their vacant brows.

Other characters, too, of the dandy type are coming in

  For many a sprightly Cantab springs to view,
  Borne swiftly on upon his licens'd steed,
  That all the day ne'er knows what 'tis to feed;
  Cantabs and bumpkins, blacklegs wend along,
  And squires and country nobles join the throng!
      *      *      *      *      *      *
  Loud sounds the knotty thong upon the backs
  Of poor half-starv'd and kennel-smelling hacks.

In this fashion the noisy streams feed the growing crowd, as it nears
the "painted landmark," where

  With what delight they view, the colours fly,
  That flap and flutter 'neath a windy sky.

Then we get a glimpse of the gentleman jockey as he "quits the just

  Strutting along equipp'd in vest of silk.
      *      *      *      *      *      *
  Full many a hat is doff'd as he draws near,
  For gentlemen themselves turn jockeys here.

We see him sitting there on his mount "impatient for the start, while
by his side, with equal pomp his lofty rivals ride," and anon the
signal is given, and they are off!  "Bending thousands raise a rending
cry," and the incidents which accompany the exciting event are well
described in the following lines--

  And while all eyes are fixed upon the goal,
  The skilful lads from town are on the prowl,
  Swift fly the steeds along the even green,
  Bored by the bloody spur, and quickly seen
  The champion full in front, and as he goes
  He wins by half a head, or half a nose;
  Then betting fair ones fumble for their purse,
  Eager the trifling wager to disburse.
  Alas! they've nothing hanging by their side,
  Save but the string by which the bag was tied,
  For through the silken dress a gash is seen,
  Where the pick-pocket's impious knife hath been!

But others besides the fair sex were sufferers from the same cause,
while the "thimble-player" plied his trade and secured the attention of
some countryman with "cash in his fob and forward with his prate."


But old balances of this sort had a way of getting righted, and many
will remember the scene here depicted--

  Thinking all safe, the sharper wends his way,
  But soon his foolish dupes get up a fray.
      *      *      *      *      *      *
  So the poor mortal, by the raging pack,
  Receives the heavy throng upon his back,
  Until he sinks, exhausted by their rage,
  And finds, perchance, a lodging in the cage!

Such were the Royston Races during the present century.  Their
abolition some twenty years ago, and the scenes of disorder and of shop
robberies in the town, which had marked the moribund stage of their
course, are too familiar to most Roystonians to need further notice

From Royalty, down to the smallest stable or errand boy in the land,
prize-fighting, or "the noble art of self-defence," as it was
grandiloquently styled, was really looked up to as a manly and worthy
spectacle during the first quarter of the present century, and a little
later.  When the Prince Regent, afterwards George IV., did not think it
beneath his royal dignity to pet and encourage professional "bruisers,"
to attend the prize-ring, shake hands with Tom Cribb, the champion, or
drive through the streets with a celebrated boxer in his carriage; and,
when Gully, the champion, could be returned as a member of Parliament
for Pontefract, it is not surprising to find the craze descending
through all ranks of society.  I am obliged to introduce into these
Sketches something of this "seedy" side of the early years of the
century, because, for good or evil, the neighbourhood of Royston was
frequently the scene of some of the more notable contests in the

Farther back, about the middle of the reign of George III., these
contests appear to have been almost entirely free, not only from any
interruptions from the magistracy and the constable, but also from any
risk of it.  The result was that most elaborate arrangements were made
not merely for the convenience of the combatants, but more especially
with a view to make it a spectacle not unworthy of an arena of a Roman
amphitheatre of old.  Thus, in 1789, on February 11th, when _Johnson_
and _Ryan_ gave their patrons at Rickmansworth, Herts., a set-to which,
we are told, "was prodigiously fine," it was found that four thousand
persons had subscribed their guineas, half-guineas, and crowns, and so,
as it was impossible for the event to come off in the yard of the Bell
Inn, a stage was erected round the sides of a gravel pit in the bottom
of which the fight took place.  The "door money" was divided equally
between the combatants, and amounted to 512 pounds.

In later years it was usual to select some spot where the combatants
and their friends could, if interrupted by any Justice of the Peace
more courageous than his fellows, speedily cross over into {136}
another county and another jurisdiction.  For this purpose few parts of
the country offered better facilities than the neighbourhood of
Royston; especially such spots as Noon's Folly, near the borders of
three counties--Herts., Cambs., and Essex--or Royston Heath, from which
it was easy to cross over from Herts. into Cambs.  This precaution was
not often really needed, for the magistrate and the constable either
did not appear or were themselves passive spectators of the exciting
scene.  One exception may, however, be made, for I believe Mr. John
George Fordham (father of Mr. Henry Fordham) had the courage to go and
interfere with a fight on the Heath, and when they adopted the tactics
of crossing over into Cambridgeshire, thinking he was not a magistrate
for that county, he crossed over after them.

Sir Peter Soame, of Heydon Grange--whose father, Sir Peter Soame, was a
gentleman of the Privy Chamber in the Royal household of George III.
(in 1798)--has been mentioned as a prominent figure in the hunting and
racing world in this chapter.  He was also often the chief promoter of
encounters in the prize-ring in this district.  His residence at Heydon
was the scene of many a roistering gathering of the sporting
fraternity, and the baronet was such a practised hand himself, that in
the event of the fighting men not turning up according to appointment
he would himself step into the ring and challenge anyone present if
need be, rather than allow the spectators to go away disappointed.

There is a story of Sir Peter told by Mr. Cross in his _Autobiography
of a Stage Coachman_, which, being, on both sides, of a local
character, may be worth repeating here.  On one occasion a local
butcher, named Mumford, who had the reputation of "the fighting
butcher," went to Sir Peter's house, just as he had some guests to
dinner, to demand payment of a small sum of money.  The sporting
baronet was equal to the occasion; asking his guests to excuse him a
few minutes, he went down into the kitchen, saw the butcher, and asked
him if he was not the "fighting butcher."  The applicant acknowledged
that they did call him by that name.  "Well then," replied the baronet
"that is the amount you say I owe you, and we will see who is to have
it," depositing the money to be handed over.  The terms were agreed to,
sawdust was brought into the kitchen, and the butcher and baronet
stripped and set to, with one or two of the servants to see fair-play.
The fight was furious at the outset, but the butcher was soon defeated
by the superior science of the baronet, and he had to depart without
his money, after which Sir Peter joined his guests in the dining room,
as if nothing had occurred!

Perhaps the most memorable event in the prize-ring that ever happened
in this neighbourhood was the contest between Jem Ward and Peter
Crawley, for the championship, on Royston Heath, on the 2nd {137}
January, 1827.  The event was the occasion of tremendous excitement,
and the concourse of people was enormous.  Of the popular aspect of the
event on the morning of the fight, the following graphic reminiscence
is taken from some autobiographical notes by the late Mr. John Warren,
who, however, was too young to know anything further of the event.

"I remember when I was a little boy that the neighbourhood of Royston
was the scene of many prize-fights.  That between Ward and Crawley for
the championship took place when I was a youngster.  Early in the
morning our High Street was so full of people that you could walk on
their heads.  My father would not allow me to go on the Heath to
witness the prize-fight; so I went to the top of our garden, where I
could hear the roar of voices and fancied I could hear the blows!"

This famous "milling" came off on the Heath at the lower end of the
cricket ground somewhere near the spot selected for the Jubilee tea in
1887.  Cambridge and neighbouring towns sent their thousands of
visitors, coaches were loaded and over-loaded, while the villages were
nearly emptied.

The greatest precaution appears to have been taken to secure a spot
where no interruption would be likely to take place, and with this end
in view two places were appointed, one on Royston Heath, and the other
at Heydon Grange, the seat of the boxing baronet, Sir Peter Soame.  But
whichever spot was to be fixed upon, Royston was the rendezvous.  Jem
Ward, the champion, made his head-quarters at the Red Lion, and Crawley
and his friends stopped at "a road house about two miles from Royston."
The extraordinary ferment of interest and anxiety in Royston as to
where the event was actually to come off was kept up till even the
morning of the day!  To increase the uncertainty, the parties actually
got two rings, and one of them was put up at the famous fighting
rendezvous near Heydon Grange, as a ruse; but there was little need of
such a precaution.  The rumour of the erection of the ring near Heydon
Grange got wind, and away went an excited avalanche of human beings,
helter-skelter, over fields and hedges that winter's morning, for
Heydon Grange, only to find themselves disappointed, and under the
necessity of running back as fast as tired legs and panting lungs would
carry them!  In at least one case a Royston spectator lost his life by
the excessive exertion and over-heating!

Upon the site of the battle, at the lower end of the cricket ground,
about ten to fifteen thousand persons were assembled, including all
classes of society from post-boy to nobleman.

The fight came off about mid-day amidst the utmost excitement and
enthusiasm.  In an age when fighting was reckoned among the "fine
arts," Ward was allowed to be "the finest fighter in England."  The
{138} rapidity of his movements "gave amazing advantage for the display
of his inimitably fine science," says the writer of the account in the
_Cambridge Chronicle_ for 1827.  "On taking the champion's belt many
sprung up in bravado, but none in arms sufficiently hardy to dispute
his well-earned honours.  At length, Peter Crawley got backed against
him.  Crawley was a giant and stood 6 feet, 2 inches, while Ward was 5
feet, 9 inches, and stout and active."

I am not going to describe the scene further, beyond the remark that
the fighting was a furious and tremendous onslaught upon each other, so
that in the space of twenty-six minutes, and after eleven rounds, both
men were perfectly exhausted, and in a wretched plight.  Crawley had
his cheek laid open and both eyes nearly closed, and Ward could not

In this short space the two pugilists had reduced themselves to the
pitiable condition of simply mauling each other, hugging each other,
and because Crawley just managed to _push_ Ward down and he could not
rally in time, the champion lost his belt!

The scene as described by eye witnesses, of whom there are very few
living, as well as from the facts on record from which I have quoted,
must have been a brutal one as we now look upon such things, though it
was considered a grand and memorable spectacle to thousands of those
assembled on our fine old Heath!

Jem Ward, who was generally looked upon as a little above the ordinary
run of pugilists in intelligence and education, lived to an old age,
and died only a few years ago.

The frequency of these pugilistic encounters naturally had some effect
upon, and was reflected in the local life of the period, and the amount
of fighting at fairs and village feasts was in striking contrast with
the rarity of such exhibitions now-a-days.  The undergraduates from
Cambridge gloried in being mixed up with, and promoting such scenes of
disorder, and it is well-known that in the "Town and Gown rows" at
Cambridge, they sometimes engaged some well-known champion--such as
Peter Crawley, who defeated Jem Ward, on Royston Heath--to do the
"slogging."  They would attend village feasts in such company, and when
their riotous conduct had provoked the young men of the village to a
general row, these professionals set-to and often made short work of
the fray.  It was in one such exhibition at the Melbourn feast in the
early years of the century that J. King earned the title of the Royston
champion, and, for a time, gained more than a local repute.

The undergraduates were bent upon their old game, led by the Hon.
George Fitzwilliam, then of Trinity College, and accompanied by two
noted pugilists, "Soapy Dan" and a big black man named Mahone.  After
the men of light and leading from the University had {139} run a course
of outrageous conduct towards all and sundry that came in their way,
there was the customary general fight, and the two pugilists played
terrible havoc among the Melbourn young fellows, till, to the surprise
of the visitors, one of the Melbourn party, J. King, came forward,
floored "Soapy Dan," and next had a regular set-to with the great black
man, whom, after a sharp fight, he vanquished also, to the amazement of
the Honorable George.  The latter had staked ten guineas on the issue,
which he handed over to the Royston champion, took a mighty fancy to
him, and "took him in hand."  He brought him to London, where, after a
short training, he met Jack Power at the noted fighting rendezvous of
Mousley Hurst, on an issue of L50 a side.  The battle was a terrible
one, and though the Royston, or rather Melbourn, champion, was the
least skilful of the two, he fought for 47 rounds before giving in to
his better-trained antagonist, and practically closed a fighting career
which was as surprising as it was brief.

Better remembered perhaps by some who are still living, was a notable
prize-fight which, though it carries us a little beyond the era of the
Georges, cannot be passed by in these Glimpses of the past, as it
affords a striking instance of the fascination which the prize-fighting
ring had over many young men of good birth and education, and marks
what was practically the disappearance of these exhibitions from this
locality.  This was the fight between "Owen Swift," a practised hand,
and "Brighton Bill," otherwise William Phelps, a young man of only
twenty years of age, who had seen little of such encounters and was
believed to have been deserving of a more useful career than that which
was so suddenly cut off by the fatal fight which, in the year 1838,
caused many persons in this neighbourhood to look with shame upon, and
to turn with disgust from such exhibitions.  The combat took place near
Noon's Folly, on the Newmarket Road; Barkway, on the Cambridge coach
road, being the head-quarters of the pugilists.  It created an immense
amount of interest, and, after a brutal exhibition, the unfortunate
young man from Brighton simply allowed himself to be pummelled to
death, the outcome being an inquest and a trial for manslaughter at the
Herts. Assizes.

The evidence given at the inquest, held at the Wheatsheaf, Barkway,
throws a very interesting light upon the spirit in which such
exhibitions were regarded by the public, and also upon the attitude of
the supposed representatives of law and order, who in those days seemed
to go with the majority and throw aside the official mantle whenever it
was inconvenient.

Upon this point, the evidence given by Mr. John Parr, the high
constable for the parish of Barkway, is especially interesting.  This
official candidly admits in his evidence that he saw the deceased on
the {140} Saturday before the fight, believed he was there for the
purpose of fighting, that it was generally reported the fight was to
take place on Melbourn Heath, and that Owen Swift was to be deceased's
antagonist.  On the Tuesday, witness went to see the fight, and admits
the soft impeachment that he was not there for the purpose of
preserving the peace, but went as a spectator!  Did not see any
magistrates or constables present.  There were at least three thousand
persons present.  Saw deceased and Swift enter the ring and saw them
fight for an hour-and-a-half.  Saw nothing like foul play, and did not
hear anyone call out "shame" when deceased was carried from the ring
and put into a carriage.  Saw deceased at the Wheatsheaf, Barkway, next
day, when he could not speak, and appeared insensible.  Saw him again
on Thursday and Friday, on which latter day he found him dying, and he
expired ten minutes after witness entered the room.

The evidence of Lee, the post-boy, who rode one of the "wheelers" to
the fight, showed that the Marquis of Waterford's carriage was there,
but he did not see the Marquis.

The jury, after hearing the evidence of Mr. James Balding, surgeon, of
Barkway, who attended Brighton Bill--and made a post mortem, with the
assistance of Dr. Hooper, of Buntingford--returned a verdict of
manslaughter against Owen Swift and against the seconds, "Dutch Sam,"
otherwise Samuel Evans, Francis Redmond, Richard Curtis, and "Brown,
the go-cart-man," for aiding and abetting the said Owen Swift.  The
jury had the courage to add this significant rider:--"The jury feel
themselves called upon to express their deep regret and concern that
the magistrates of the adjoining counties of Cambridgeshire,
Hertfordshire, and Essex, did not interfere to prevent the breach of
the peace, so notoriously expected to take place for some days
previously, and also for the fact that a prize-fight having taken place
at the same spot about twelve months since without their interference."

This pointed reference to a former supineness of the representatives of
the law was not altogether undeserved, for, on that occasion, the same
Owen Swift had fought near the same spot against Lazarus (on June 1st
in the previous year) for two hours, and extending over 105
rounds--evidence of itself that the "fancy" men had it all their own
way in this happy corner of no-man's-land.

That there was no attempt to disguise the object of the gathering is
shown by the fact that the fight took place so near the turnpike road
that "the stage coaches drew up as they passed, for some time, to allow
the drivers [and the passengers!] to indulge in witnessing the
spectacle."  Indeed, it is recorded that the spot and time of the
encounter were publicly announced two days beforehand.


It was said to be the third fatal fight in which Owen Swift had
engaged, while Phelps had only fought once before, and so brutal was
the onslaught, that it is said bets were offered and taken on the
ground, that both men would die in consequence of the injuries
received!  Swift was hastily got out of the way, and it was asserted
that as soon as his friends in London knew of the fatal result, four
expert fellows were sent off with a view to recover the body to defeat
the ends of justice by preventing an inquest, a reward of L500 being
offered had they succeeded!

The seconds were arrested, but Swift got away to France.  When one of
the seconds, indicted as Redmond, was placed at the bar, nobody could
identify him--and it is said that this was believed to be due to his
manipulation of beard, &c.--but the other seconds were identified.

The case came on for trial at the Hertfordshire Assizes in the same
year, before Mr. Sergeant D'Oyley.

John Parr, the constable, (and a saddler) said that he saw 60 or 70
rounds fought, and that ten or twelve were fought that he did not see.
There were "persons of high consideration" there, and many gentlemen's

One of the defendants' counsel, in the face of the awful experience of
the misled and gentlemanly young Phelps, had the hardihood to
"energetically contend for prize-fighting, which, in the opinion of
many, formed that national character of courageous fairplay which was
the pride of the nation."

The jury found the prisoners guilty, but "recommended them to mercy."

Evidence of character was given, but it amounted to this, that the
defendants "were quiet, good humoured people, who never took advantage
of anyone."

They were sentenced to three months' imprisonment with hard labour, and
"seemed overjoyed with the leniency of the Court."

In his interesting _Autobiography of a Stage Coachman_, Mr. Cross, who
for many years drove the Lynn coach, says he saw the young man Phelps
both before and after the fight, and gives the following graphic and
pathetic incident.  The Lynn coach, on leaving Kingsland Road, picked
up three passengers, and upon its being mentioned that the coach had
some fighting men inside, a clergyman, who was riding on the box, and
whose wife, a young and beautiful lady, was inside, protested against
allowing such company to sit in the coach with his wife; and, says Mr.
Cross, his mind was set at rest by two coarse-looking fellows in rough
great coats getting on the outside, and a well-dressed gentlemanly
young man getting in.  Upon the husband assisting his lady out, she
asked him who was the gentleman who got in last; for {142} his
conversation had been extremely interesting, and she was sure by his
general information he must be a gentleman of distinction at the
University.  Dressed in an elegant suit of black, and displaying on a
delicate white hand a diamond ring, he took his place at the table at
the inn for refreshments on the road, and, his manners corresponding
with his appearance, no one could suspect him of being a fighting man.
"Reader, this was the man known as 'Brighton Bill'--his real name I
never knew, but that he was of respectable parents, and intended by
them for a better calling I was convinced.  When two days afterwards I
saw his contused and distorted countenance, the only part visible from
under the bedclothes, at the 'Wheatsheaf,' at Barkway, when he was
deserted by all, and had no friend or relative near to watch over his
fast-departing spirit, I could not restrain a tear.  I silently, as I
descended the stairs, invoked a curse on such barbarous practices, as
well as on the authors of his death!"

If the writer of the above was correct in the identity of the dying
pugilist with his cultured passenger, his parents or friends never came
forward to recognise him.  He was buried in a corner, the lower corner,
of the Barkway Churchyard, and the only trace of him is in the Parish
Register, which tells the simple fact of the death of William Phelps,
of Brighton, Sussex, aged twenty years.



Many readers, whose lives carry them back before the "forties," taking
their stand beneath the broad gateway or pebbled court-yard of our old
inns--the Red Lion, the Bull, or the Crown--would require a very slight
effort of memory to recall the exhilarating spectacle of the arrival
and departure of the stage coach of fifty or sixty years ago.  Such a
person will once more hear in imagination the cheery coach horn at the
town's end; and, watching for only a minute, he knows what to
expect--yes, there around that critical corner at the Cross, come the
steaming leaders, then a handful of reins, the portly form of the
coachman, and then the huge embodiment of civilization itself comes
{143} swinging round the corner like a thing of life!  Clattering up
the High Street! the driver pulls them up promptly at the Lion, or the
Bull, and performs that classic feat of swinging his lusty eighteen
stone from the box seat with an easy grace which is the envy of every
stable boy in the town!  He sees once more the busy scene of bustle and
animation as the steaming horses are replaced by other sleek animals
fresh from the stables, and the old coach rolls on for another stage of
the journey.

This, the ideal view of locomotion in the palmy days of stage-coaching,
was really an evolution from something much less smart and efficient.
Of that interesting evolution of the older locomotion, our old town, by
the necessity of the route, saw most of the varied phases, for during
many years of the century coaches rattled through our streets with
kings, queens and princes, duellists and prize-fighters, daring
highwaymen and Bow Street runners, romantic lovers off to Gretna Green,
and School boys--poor little Nicklebies off to a Squeers'
Academy--jostling inside the body of the lumbering coach, or dangling
their legs from the roof as outsiders!

In glancing at the salient points of this evolution as it passed before
the eyes of our grandfathers, it may be necessary to go back to the
"composite" order of locomotion with the mixture of goods and passenger

A journey to London, or a distant town, for the purpose of trade or a
visit, was a tedious experience full of discomfort.  Following the
sturdy caravan of pack-horses, the lumbering coaches, and broad-wheeled
wagons of last century came the "fly wagons" in the early years of this
century, and with them the possibility of poor people once in a life
time getting a few miles from home, in case of absolute necessity.  The
old tilted fly-wagon was used not only for taking up and delivering
goods too heavy to go by coach, but persons who could not afford the
coach fare of 3d. a mile or thereabouts, would find a place wedged in
among the goods at the back of the tilted wagon, sometimes packed away
in straw to keep warm.  In this way, a whole family, placed under the
necessity of moving to a distant part, a comparatively rare occurrence
though, have had to remain doubled up in a cramped position day and
night, while the slow-going wagon creaked along its ponderous way, till
the younger members of the family party peeped out of their hole and
caught sight of the splendours of "the lights of London," in the long
rows of oil lamps which then illuminated Kingsland Road, by which
London from the north was entered, and anon the rendezvous at the
"Vine," or "Four Swans," in Bishopsgate, was reached, to the intense
relief of all!

In this primitive style, many a small tradesman has journeyed up to
London, and, having transacted his business, has returned in the same
manner two or three days afterwards.


Fly-wagons and vans travelled from London daily for Buntingford,
Royston, Cambridge, Fakenham, Boston, Stamford, York and Edinburgh.
Nearly all wagons on this road made their point of arrival and
departure in London at Bishopsgate Street--the Four Swans, the Vine,
and the Catherine Wheel being the usual inns.

The amount of goods traffic from Royston by these wagons was very
considerable, especially by the Wakefield wagons which conveyed the
wool from the combers in Royston to the Yorkshire Mills.

[Illustration: THIRD-CLASS TO LONDON.]

The coaching traffic at the beginning of the present century,
corresponded pretty much with express and stopping trains of the
present day.  There were what may be called "main line" coaches from
London, through Royston to Edinburgh by the North Road (as well as by
other great roads through the Kingdom), and the "branch line" coaches,
such as those from London to Cambridge, Norwich, Fakenham, &c., and
from London to Ipswich, a route that figured so prominently in the
memorable adventures of Mr. Pickwick.  The North Road through-coaches
did not change horses at Royston, but at Arlington, at the Hardwicke
Arms, and again at Buckland at the first farm house (now Mr.
Kestell's).  The coaches were horsed at Arrington by Mr. Meyer, then
the landlord of the Hardwicke Arms, who also supplied horses for the
stage from Arrington to Caxton.

As to the time occupied on the road, every age has its own standard of
enterprise and progress.  Thus in 1806 a writer in an old {145}
magazine breaks out into the following eloquent strain over the
smartness of those times:--"Who would have conceived it possible fifty
years ago that a coach would regularly travel betwixt London and
Edinburgh, near 400 miles, in less than three days!"  From our
standpoint one is tempted to rejoin "who would have conceived it
possible 80 years ago that an express train would travel regularly
between London and Edinburgh in 8 1/2 hours!" but perhaps the future
may laugh at such a boast!  Still, that three days' journey by the old
coaches was in reality a great thing, and one to be proud of, and as
these "main line" coaches rattled through the pebbled streets of our
old town they were looked upon with pride as a part of our national

With regard to what may be called the branch line system of the
coaching traffic, we are too apt to think of coaching as a means of
through communication by the great routes mentioned to appreciate, at
this distance of time, the vast amount of enterprise, and of horse
flesh and vehicles brought into the coaching and posting service, to
connect places lying off the main routes--places which were served,
down to very many of the villages, either by a coach under the
management of local persons, or by the system of fly-wagons and van
traffic, which brought goods and passengers from distant places at such
intervals as could be arranged and worked at a profit.

At the end of the reign of George III. the coaches passing through or
near Royston were:--"The Royston Mail," "The Cambridge Auxiliary Mail,"
"The Cambridge New Royal and Patent Mail," "Cambridge Union Coach,"
"Safety," "Tally-ho"; "Telegraph" and "Lynn Union" (both through
Barkway); "Lord Nelson" (Lynn), "Edinburgh and Newcastle Mail," "York
and Edinburgh Mail," "The Lord Wellington," "The High Flyer," "The
Fakenham Mail," "The Fakenham Patriot," and the "Stamford Coach."  The
Cambridge coaches changed horses at Royston (or Barkway, according to
the route taken) and Buntingford.  Mr. Ekin, of Cambridge, horsed the
coaches from Cambridge to Royston, and the other distance from Royston
to London was horsed by London men.

From the foregoing list the reader will see that the old coaching days
meant no small amount of life and animation, and, for certain trades,
money and business, to towns situated as Royston was.

For the palmy days of stage-coaching we must travel a little beyond the
era of the Georges, even of the last of them; for at the time when the
railway came the coaching traffic of this country had reached a pitch
of perfection which was unknown at any previous period in its history,
and for smartness and efficiency and for the vast extent of its
operations it was an institution of which the English people had every
reason to be proud.


A parliamentary return for 1836 shows the highest speed attained by
mail coaches in England to have been 10 5/8 miles per hour, in Scotland
10 1/2, and in Ireland 9 1/8.  That there were still some terribly bad
roads for some of the cross-country mail coaches is shown by the fact
that the slowest speed was 6 miles in England, 7 in Scotland, and 6 7/8
in Ireland.

Royston saw some of the smartest coach-driving on the road.  Six or
seven coaches and three mails passed through the town up and down every
day.  Posting business was conducted with great spirit by the two rival
inns--the young Bull and the older Red Lion, each having half a score
of post horses in their stables, and one pair always standing harnessed
ready to take "first turn out."  These demands upon the principal inns
made it impossible for the coach-horses to be stabled there and they
occupied stables at various places in the town, but were brought up
generally at the Red Lion or the Bull for the changes.

One of the chief characteristics of the old coaching days was the close
association of coaches and coachmen with, and keen interest taken in
them by, the inhabitants of the towns through which the principal coach
routes passed.  Royston had its full share of such associations, the
institution coloured all our local life, from the pauper or cripple who
begged of the coach passengers, to the local gentry who were expecting
their newspaper.  There was thus always something exhilarating and
stirring about the arrival of the stage coach.  It had within it so
many possibilities.  It might contain some great "Parliament man,"
runaway lovers, or stealers of bank notes, and it always brought some
news.  Intimately associated with the life and habits of the
townspeople were the coaches travelling between London, Royston and
Cambridge, the persons in charge of which, and many of the passengers
using them, being known to the townspeople, whilst the names and merits
of the rival coaches were known to the smallest boy in the parish.


It seems strange in these days that there should have been so much
interest centred in these flying channels of civilization.  I have
mentioned the "Safety" and "Tally-ho," two coaches driven through
Royston from Cambridge to London and back.  These were well-known as
rival coaches--rivals in time, for each went up in the morning and back
in the evening, and, what is more interesting, they were also rivals
in, and between them there was a keen competition for, popular favour;
so much so that one might almost describe them as the aristocratic and
democratic coaches.  There is sufficient reason for making this
distinction between them in the fact that the Royston people of those
days (1820-25) did, in the absence of anything more exciting to divide
their thoughts and preferences in the quiet daily round of their lives,
manage to set up a sort of party-distinction, not {148} exactly on the
lines of Whig and Tory, but, strange as it may seem, by the names of
"Tally-ho," and "Safety."  From the smallest boy to the oldest man in
Royston and the district, the inhabitants showed sufficient leanings
one way or the other to be classed as "Tally-ho" men or "Safety" men.
By these rival coaches men swore, pledged themselves, and regulated
their watches--those who had any.  But the "Tally-ho" and "Safety"
party-cries came out more especially amongst the boys, for when
"Tally-ho" and "Safety" boys met, it was a case of "when Greek meets
Greek," with frequent fights!  The two rival coaches thus became the
means of sharply dividing popular sentiment, with many who had never
enjoyed a seat on either of the champion coaches!

About 1825 the rivalry between "Tally-ho" and "Safety" was at its
merriest, and ten years later other coaches had appeared upon the
scene.  Thus in 1839 the following were the coaches, and their places
of call, passing through Royston:--The "Star," from Cambridge, daily,
calling at the Red Lion, Royston, and destined for Belle Sauvage,
London; the Cambridge "Beehive," up and down alternate days, the Bull,
Royston, and the Catherine Wheel, Bishopsgate Street, and White Bear,
Piccadilly; the Cambridge "Telegraph," daily, the Red Lion, Royston,
and the White Horse, Fetter Lane; the "Rocket," daily, the Bull,
Royston, and White Horse, Fetter Lane; the "Wisbeach," daily, the Bull
Hotel, Royston, and Belle Sauvage and Golden Cross, London; the
"Stamford," up and down alternate days, the Crown, Royston, and the
Bell and Crown, Holborn; the "Wellington," from York, the Queen
Victoria, Royston (now the Coffee Tavern), and the Bull and Mouth,
London; the "Rapid," daily (including Sunday), the Red Lion, Royston;
Edinburgh and York mail and the Cambridge mail, daily, the Red Lion,
Royston, for the General Post Office, London.

The times at which these coaches arrived at Royston followed in fairly
consecutive order like a railway time table--thus of the up coaches the
"Star," 8.20 a.m., "Beehive," 11.30, and so on up to the "Rocket," at
4.30, while the Edinburgh and Cambridge Mails passed through at 1 and 2
in the morning; the return journeys were of course chiefly towards the
evening.  The usual time from Royston to London was 44 hours, excepting
the York mail, in the night time, which reached the General Post Office
within four hours after leaving the Red Lion, at Royston.

One of the coaches in the above list, the "Star," naturally leads one
from coaches to coachmen.  I am not aware who was the driver of the
"Tally-ho," but of the rival coach, the "Safety," the driver was Joe
Walton, the driver of the "Star" at the later date mentioned above, a
famous coachman in his day who lived to see, and curse from {149} his
box that "iron horse," which was destined to break up the traditions of
the road.

It was the general testimony of those who had ridden behind him, or
beside him on the box, that Joe Walton had few superiors on the road as
a driver of a stage coach, especially for the manner in which he would
handle his "cattle," and pull his coach through the streets of the
Metropolis.  He was, however, daring to a fault, but a strong will and
an iron nerve could only have enabled him to carry that heavy handful
of reins for ten hours at a stretch--fifty miles up and fifty miles
back on the same day, all through the season.  This was no child's play!

He was a driver who was not easily turned aside by difficulties or
obstacles in the way, and has been known to conduct his coach across
"hedges and ditches" when snow blocked up the highways.  The firm grip
of his position was sometimes apparent to those who encountered him on
the road.  Woe-betide any inefficient or sleepy driver whom Joe had to
pass on the road, for a heavy smack from his whip was often as
effectual a cure as the modern roundabout process of dragging the
sleepy teamster before the magistrates and extracting a few shillings
from his earnings!

At a recent dinner at Cambridge, Professor Humphry, who came to
Cambridge to commence what has been a brilliant career by a journey on
the "Star" coach, lightly hit off Joe Walton, the driver of the "Star,"
as a man who "used to swear like a trooper and go regularly to Church."

Joe Walton was also a man who could show off his powers on the box, and
did not like to be beaten.  In 1827, finding, just as he was leaving
Buntingford with the "Star" coach, that the "Defiance" was cutting out
the pace in front of him, he put his "cattle" to it with a view to pass
the "Defiance;" but by one of the horses shying at the lamp of the
coach in front, Walton's coach was overturned and he and a passenger
were injured.  Again in 1834, Joe overthrew the "Star" coach not far
from Royston, on the 2nd September, but it would almost seem that the
fault was as much in the "Star" as in Joe's daring style of driving,
for again on the 30th September it was overthrown on the Buntingford
and Royston road, when it was being driven by Sir Vincent Cotton.
Every inch a coachman, Joe Walton felt the bitter slight upon his high
calling, when at last, with the introduction of the railway, his
journeys were curtailed to the miserable make-shift of driving only as
far as Broxbourne to meet the iron horse, whose approach Walton would
hail with a memorable emphasis, and a more forcible than polite "Here
comes old Hell-in-harness!"

Other men on the North Road, though having less of Walton's rough grip
of their calling, were noted for their urbanity and general {150}
intelligence.  A place of honour among these was well deserved by
Valentine Carter, the son of a Hertford coach-proprietor, the driver of
the "Rocket," already referred to, and of the "Royston Coach" from
Cambridge to Ware, as a connection with the Great Eastern Railway
(1845-50), and in after life known as the genial landlord of the George
Hotel, Buntingford.  At the time of his death he had reached his 85th
year, and when his remains were interred in the Layston Churchyard only
a few years ago it was well said of him that "a more upright, truthful,
and honourable man never lived."

Another man of some note on the London and Barkway road was Thomas
Cross, the driver of the Lynn coach, to whose interesting volumes, "The
Autobiography of a Stage Coachman," I have previously referred.  The
Cambridge "Telegraph" was, at one time, driven by a type of man whose
character found expression in the soubriquet of "Quaker Will."

The difference between the risk of accidents on a coach and in a
railway train has been well put by the old stager who asked the
question--"If you meet with an accident by a coach and get thrown into
a ditch, why there you are! but if you meet with an accident when
riding by train--where are you?"

A few coaching adventures may be worth mentioning.  Thus in 1803 it is
recorded that--

On Saturday morning, early, the Wisbeach Mail from London coming down
Reed Hill, between Buckland and Royston, was overthrown by the horses
taking fright, by which accident one woman was killed on the spot and
some other passengers slightly hurt.

On one occasion the Hertford coach met with a very alarming accident
when overloaded with 34 passengers, nearly all of whom were severely
hurt.  A shocking accident, from top-loading, occurred in 1814 to the
Ipswich coach, on the top of which the Rev. Gaven Braithwaite, Fellow
of St. John's College, Cambridge, was crushed to death as the coach
entered the gateway of the Blue Boar Inn, in that town.

Sometimes a coach was overturned with ludicrous results.  Thus the Lynn
coach, when being driven through Trumpington, on one occasion was
overturned against the wall of a cottage.  It so happened that the good
house-wife was washing at the time; it further happened that her door
was standing wide open, and it also happened that the ladies on the
coach were pitched into the open doorway of the cottage, and one of
them was pitched into the tub of soapsuds!  In 1834, as soon as the day
coach from Wisbeach to London, through Cambridge, arrived at the White
Hart Inn, Cambridge, it was seized by the Excise officers and taken to
the Rose and Crown, where it remained some days "in confinement," owing
to the interesting circumstance that smuggled brandy was "on board."


Of the personal adventures of those in charge of the coaches and their
hardships, the late Mr. James Richardson used to tell a graphic story
to the effect that one winter's day he was waiting at the Cross,
Royston, till the coach came in from the North.  The townspeople were
more than usually interested owing to the severity of the weather.
This particular coach changed horses at the Old Crown, and when the
vehicle rattled up the street it was noticed that the horn did not
sound, and, on pulling up, the driver went sharply round to scold the
guard.  Poor fellow!  He was found frozen to death, fast on his perch!

Sometimes the passengers by coach found themselves in contact with
rough characters.  In 1825, for instance, the Lynn coach contained
three men being taken up to London for trial on a charge of burglary.
When ascending Barkway hill the three men took advantage of the slower
pace of the coach and began to descend with a view to escape, but the
attendant immediately brought a pistol to their faces and one who had
actually got off the coach was "persuaded" to get up again by the
determination of their attendants to "have them in Newgate this night
either dead or alive."  They got them there alive and they were

In the coaching days of this century the old highwaymen had for the
most part disappeared, but a notable instance was afforded in this
district in which the Mellishs, then residing at Hamels Park, were
concerned.  There were really two incidents, one in which Colonel
Mellish fired at a highwayman and killed him, and in the other Captain
Mellish was robbed, and as the highwayman rode away, not satisfied with
his triumph, he turned and fire at the carriage, and the ball passed
through the window and killed Captain Mellish!

Mr. Cross, the driver of the Lynn coach, gives an instance of three
rival coaches on the road, of which he was driving one, and that a race
for the lead resulted in accomplishing one stage at the extraordinary
pace of 20 minutes and a few seconds for an _eight miles course_,
which, if timed correctly, was at the rate of _24 miles an hour_!  But
three of his opponents' horses never came out of the stable again!

One of the most alarming stage coach accidents in England was that
between the Holyhead mail and the Chester mail near St. Albans in 1820.
There had been a race between the two coaches from just this side
Highgate, to near St. Albans.  When going down a hill both
drivers--Perdy, of the Holyhead, and Butler, of the Chester coach--put
their horses into a furious galop, the velocity of the coaches
increasing at every step.  There was plenty of room, but as Butler
found the Holyhead gaining a little upon him, it is said he wildly
threw his leaders in front of his rival's and the coaches were
immediately upset with a terrible collision.  A man named William {152}
Hart was killed and others had their limbs shattered.  The drivers were
put upon their trial at the Hertford Assizes before Baron Gurney, and
were found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced each to one year's

Railway passengers are at least tolerably free from the "begging
nuisance," but not so the passengers by stage coaches when the coach
pulled up for the change of horses, as the following entry in the
Royston committee book for 1815 will show:--

"Ordered that Notice be given to John T---- and J. B---- if they are
found begging in the street from the Coaches that their pay is to be
taken off."

One curious indication that the end of the coaching era was approaching
was afforded by the invention of steam coaches.  Thus we find in 1839
that "Hancock's steam coach" came through Royston for the first time,
being seven hours coming from London, including stoppages.  Rather a
slow rate from the agency which was to annihilate horse coaches!

One of the arguments against railways was that there would no longer be
employment for horses, and yet just before railways were heard of one
man stood at the Old Tyburn Turnpike and received the toll and issued
tickets for the whole of the Oxford Street traffic!  What a picture
that old Tyburn turnpike man would form now, standing there in his
white apron with its two pockets, "one for half-pence and one for
tickets," and assessing the great volume of Oxford Street traffic of
to-day!  Yet the disappearance of coaches from our highways did make a
very considerable difference to old towns like Royston, where, next to
malting, the posting business was the most important in the town.  As
to the effect of the decay of coaching upon towns on the great coach
roads, it is said that the town of Barnet had been accustomed to keep
upwards of 1,000 horses in its stables, and Hounslow, on the Great
Western Road, 2,500 horses!

Coaches and coach horses are not the only things which have disappeared
from our high roads.  One of the things to be met with on the roads in
1800-20 was the velocipede.  It was not unlike in form the "Safety"
bicycle which is so universally met with on our roads to-day, with a
trifling difference which made long and rapid journeys out of the
question.  The fact is the mechanical genius of Englishmen, which has
made such enormous strides during the century, had not then found out
that it was possible to use the solid earth as a fulcrum and at the
same time to leave the feet and legs free.  A horse used its feet to
draw a coach and why not a man!  So the velocipede was constructed for
the rider's feet to just reach the ground, and by pressing first one
foot on the ground and then the other he managed in this undignified
attitude, to propel the thing along!


Another characteristic thing about the old locomotion was the dog
cart--small carts used by pedlars and others drawn along the high roads
by a dog or dogs.  Sometimes these old pedlars would drive to Royston
market with their "carriage and pair" of dogs in rattling style!  This
sight was very common during the last century and lingered to about the
end of the coaching days.  In the _Gentleman's Magazine_, for 1795, a
writer says: "I have sometimes seen two dogs yoked one on each side of
a barrow drawing regularly and well, similar to ploughing.  Their feet
being tender, to prevent their being foot-sore, they should have some
sort of shoeing; perhaps leather would be properest."

So well established had the use of dogs for drawing carts become that
the subject came before Parliament about fifty years ago.  An old
magazine of this date gives a kind of petition to Parliament, drawn up
by a village schoolmaster and signed by three small hucksters, setting
forth, like the three historic tailors of Tooley Street, the injured
sense of the "people of England" at the prospect of an interference
with the use of dogs, and praying for the suppression of horses and the
protection of the small trader's dog, "because the dog carts of poor
people were continually, almost, and sometimes quite, run over by these
rough beasts [horses], and that this tyranny and wilfulness is very
difficult for the poor man to bear, who may have as good a spirit as
any coachman, although he is not so high up"!

From as late as about 1855 there comes to the writer a vision of a
pedlar, muddled with drink, riding home in his little square box cart
and the faithful dog drawing the cart and the man as well, and also a
faint echo of "shame" from some bystanders.  Verily the fable must in
those days have been true, that when the goddess Fidelity was lost
among men, after long searching, she was found in a dog-kennel!

A picturesque part of the old system of locomotion was, of course, the
turnpike.  The keepers of toll-gates found their principal customers in
the numerous coaches and the wagons which travelled up and down the
main roads, for the farmers could, and frequently did, by a little
mutual contriving, manage a cross-cut by their field-ways on to the
main road on the town side of a toll-gate, as in the case of
Bassingbourn and the Baldock Road into Royston.  For the wagon traffic,
which conveyed much heavy merchandise, the older toll-gates had a
weigh-bridge attached to them so that the weight might be ascertained
and charged according to their scale.  In later times the regular
coaches generally ran through without being stopped, and paid the toll

The turnpike-road to Caxton--or rather from Royston Cross to Wandesford
Bridge in the county of Huntingdon, of which the southern part from
Royston to Kisby's Hut formed one Trust, is said to have been the first
turnpike-road in England.


Certainly the various Acts of Parliament for its repair and maintenance
date back to the time of Queen Anne, if not earlier, and, after turning
up in Acts all through the reigns of the Georges, ended with the Act of
1822 under which the old Trust was managed in the times of the modern
coaching days.  The traffic never was sufficient to maintain the road
without resorting to a rate upon the neighbouring lands, owing to the
diversion of a good deal of the coaching and wagon traffic at Royston
for Cambridge, and the Trustees were often in great straits, and on the
horns of a dilemma--if they charged enough toll to pay their way, the
traffic was driven off the roads; if they modulated their charges the
roads went to the bad.

Money was advanced by private individuals upon the security of the
tolls, and the road between Royston and Arrington was always in debt
and dirty.  So bad was it that the mail coaches were delayed, the
Postmaster-General came down upon the trustees, and Mr. McAdam, the
surveyor to the trustees (at a salary of L50 per annum), whose hands
were full of surveying at that time in various parts of England,
reported that though the road was "not indictable at common law, it
certainly was not in a fit condition to travel upon, at the speed which
the excellent regulations of the Post Office require."  "It required
fourteen hundred tons of material and one thousand pounds value in
labour to put it into a proper condition, at a cost of L7,500, or about
L500 a mile"!

That this state of insolvency was not due to tolls being too low is
evident from the fact that a petition was presented to the trustees,
setting forth that the tolls were so high as to drive the traffic off
the road.  Eightpence per horse at both gates was a considerable sum
between Royston and Kisby's Hut.  Again and again the bankrupt
condition of the road, both in solidity and finance, was submitted to
the Postmaster-General and the Treasury Authorities in the hope of
getting some relief from that quarter, and in 1833 the Trustees,
despairingly, stated that upon the success of their application for a
subsidy (including L1,500 to cut through Arrington Hill), depended the
question of keeping open "this most important line of general

Between 1790, when the Kneesworth toll bar produced about L5 a week,
and 1820, there was a considerable increase in the traffic on the
roads, and the highest figure reached was in 1828, when the amount
realized from the Kneesworth and Caxton toll gates was L1,367 for the
year.  As coaching declined, the turnpike receipts fell off so much
that by 1847 the Kneesworth and Caxton toll-gate receipts had dwindled
down, in twenty years, from L1,367 to L282 a year!  That the railway
did not knock all the horses off the road, but on the contrary brought
them on for other purposes, is evident from the fact that after the
establishment of a railway station at Royston the above toll-gate
receipts went up again in the next twenty years to L600 a year!


The Wadesmill Turnpike Trust (from Royston to Wadesmill) was a much
more profitable road, as it included some of the Cambridge as well as
the North Road traffic.  Indeed, for three years before the London Road
hill was cut through, the tolls from Royston to Wadesmill were let to
Mr. Flay for L4,090 per annum, and in 1839 after the cutting was
finished, they were let for L4,350, the highest sum ever made under
this Trust.

With the disappearance of the last of the toll-gates the last relics of
the old coaching days vanish.  Antiquated such an expedient may
seem--placing bars across the road--yet the system did enable some very
notable improvements to be carried out in cutting through high hills at
an expense which modern highway authorities would never dream of.
Then, they not only secured the desirable result that all who used the
roads should pay for them, but helped to preserve the balance of trade
between towns and villages, for, no sooner were gates abolished than
many heavy users of the roads got off almost scot free of contributing
to their maintenance, and the town tradesman could afford to send his
carts round and compete with, and, as a natural consequence, to
annihilate many small village shop-keepers who had flourished under the
old _régime_.



Over the dark night of the 18th and the dull grey morning of the 19th
century there was this remarkable feature, that while the local records
show how deplorable was the condition of the people, there was at the
head of the affairs of the nation a perfect galaxy of great men, such
as the public life of this nation had perhaps never known.  There were
Fox, Pitt, Sheridan, Burke, Wellington, Wilberforce, Nelson, Canning,
Brougham, Lord Chancellor Eldon--whose greatness was only tempered by
the fear that the sun of Great Britain would set if a Catholic was
allowed to sit in the House of Peers,--the Duke of York--whose speech
against Catholic emancipation was printed in letters of gold and sold
by our local stationers,--the great Lyndhurst (four times Lord
Chancellor) Palmerston, Lord Derby, who, from a maiden speech about
lighting Manchester with gas, rose to be "the Rupert of Debate,"
Macaulay--the brilliant Buntingford school boy who went stamping
through the fields of literature with an _éclat_ which made him one of
the giants of the coming century,--O'Connell, the Liberator; and
Grattan, of Irish {156} Parliament fame.  All these great names made up
a reflection of the glories of Ancient Greece and Rome in the arena of
debate.  They shone like stars in the firmament, helping to make the
common people content to dwell in the night by the glittering panoply
they threw over the public life of the nation.  Men and women forgot
their grievances in the contemplation of great names whose owners did
not then, like the statesmen of to-day, come down to the level of the
common life to be jostled on railway platforms.

It is only when one looks into the details of local life that it is
possible to realize the sharp contrast of great men and little
happiness for the people, or how terrible must have been the strain for
the whole nation to have existed under such conditions without a

The marvel is that Parliament with so much talent in its foremost men
should have been powerless to deal with the weakness outside, or that
the brilliant leaders should have been content to reach such an
eminence by so rough and thorny a path; but the great forces which have
been liberated within this century had not then set men's energies
free, and they were pretty much confined to, and did not see much
beyond, the narrow way along which they were toiling.

Parliamentary Reform, for which more enlightened men here and there had
for fifty years been asking, was the first setting of the tide which
was to penetrate and revolutionize all our local life.  Early in the
present century when the then Lord Dacre contested Cambridgeshire, and
had the audacity to advocate Parliamentary Reform and Civil and
Religious Liberty, he was called the Fire-Brand, and he had few
supporters when, in 1810, he moved for an inquiry into the state of
Parliamentary representation.

The amount of political literature and printers' ink used in the
agitation for "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill," was
perhaps unparalleled in the history of English electioneering.  Some of
it, to say the least, was not very refined, but it expressed very well
the prevailing state of things which the "Bill" was destined to upset.
The electors of Herts. and Cambs. were not unlike those of Stafford who
said "Now, Gronow, old boy, we like what we have heard about you, your
principles and all that sort of thing.  We will therefore all vote for
you if [slapping their breeches pockets]--you know what we mean, old
fellow, and if not, you won't do for Stafford!"  Though the candidate
did not trouble himself much about his "principles and that sort of
thing, you know," his opponents generally managed, in the form of
squibbs of a more or less elegant turn, to supply the deficiency.  Here
is a specimen of a Hertfordshire squib [after other promises put into
the mouth of a candidate]--

"Lastly, I engage to hire all the bullies, blackguards, bankrupts,
blacklegs, bum-bailiffs, and even the gipsies in the neighbourhood,"
&c.  {157} This and much more of a scurrilous character appeared in
large type with the printer's name in bold letters!

It is curious to note how the desire for Parliamentary Reform took hold
of all classes of the people, and during that stormy period, when the
Commons were engaged in passing and the Lords in repeatedly rejecting
"the Bill," Parliament was watched by its constituents, through such
imperfect channels as were open to them, in a manner which had never
been known before.  Here is a local incident which is vouched for by an
eye witness.  On a certain division in the House, Mr. Adeane, the then
member for Cambridgeshire, walked out of the House without voting, and
shortly after when he was canvassing in Shepreth village, one, old
Jerry Brock, met him with this brusque little speech:--"Muster Adeane,
I've heerd say that when a sartin motion agin the Bill was made, you
walked out o' the House o' Commons without votin.  Now I'll just thank
you to walk out o' my house!"

In December, 1832, following the passing of the Reform Bill, three
Liberal Members each were returned for Hertfordshire and
Cambridgeshire, to the first reformed Parliament--for Hertfordshire,
Sebright, Calvert and Alston, and for Cambridgeshire, Townley, Childers
and Adeane, but with the great issue of the Corn Laws looming in the
distance, these agricultural counties gradually went round, and in 1841
all the representatives of the two counties were Conservatives.  In
Cambs., Yorke, Allix and Eaton, were returned without a contest, and in
Herts., Grimston, Ryder and Smith, were returned, Alston one of the old
members being defeated.  In 1847 Mr. Trevor (the late Lord Dacre)
turned the tide in Herts. by recovering one of the seats, but it was
not till 1859 that a seat was gained for the Liberals in Cambs.--a seat
afterwards held by Mr. Brand (the Speaker), the late Viscount Hampden,
whose death everyone laments.  It was in the election of the first
reformed Parliament that Royston first had a polling place.

We can hardly realize what the passing of the Reform Bill meant in the
estimation of almost all classes of the people in country districts,
but a pamphlet published by J. Warren, Royston, in 1832, in order that
"everyone may have in his possession a faithful report of so glorious a
triumph," affords us some interesting glimpses of the effect of the
passing of that great measure upon our local life.  Here is a summary
of the record for Royston:--

"The struggle for so grand and important a measure having at length
terminated in favour of the wishes of the people, the inhabitants of
Royston were determined to commemorate it in that respectful way, so
glorious a triumph in passing the Reform Bill into law, really
deserved; consequently a committee was formed, and a subscription
collected of L130 without difficulty, with a promise of more if wanted.
{158} A band was sent for from London, then on Thursday morning the
bells were set ringing and the musicians struck up with the beautiful
air, 'Away, away to the mountain brow,' in the street, which so struck
the ears of the people that they really forgot all business."

"Twenty tables were admirably arranged, covered and fenced in on the
green where the horse-fair is kept.  Some 1,400 of the towns-people
headed by the band filling the street from one end to the other and
forming a most imposing spectacle besides innumerable spectators, the
windows on both sides of the street crowded, so that it is supposed
there was not less than 3,000 pleasant faces to be seen at one time."

The scene at the great booth which accommodated the assemblage was an
imposing one too with its outward banners flying:--"Reform Festival,
1832," and "Triumph of Liberty "; while at the head of the tables were
mottoes galore:--"The people's Triumph," "Grey, Brougham," "Althorpe,
Russell," "The King and people united must prevail," "No slavery," "The
House of Dacre," "Townley and Reform," "Speed the plough," "England's
wealth, the working classes," "Our aim is peace, our end is victory,"
"Sebright, Calvert," "Duncombe, Currie," "We unite to conquer," "God
save the King," &c., &c.  With three carvers, three waiters and a
tapster to each of the twenty tables, the eager 1,400 could hardly wait
for grace from the Rev. Samuel Cautherley (vicar of the parish), before
the set-to upon the beef and plum pudding "with good brown stout."  The
cloths being removed, "the pipe fillers amply produced their fruits,
and the tapster regulated his tap which continued to run freely," while
the carvers and waiters were having a set-to in the Market House.  Tea
followed, and what with tobacco, snuff, peals of bells and the music of
the band, the poor continued to enjoy themselves until nine o'clock,
when the illumination of the town began, and by ten o'clock at night
the streets "with their coloured lamps and candles and transparencies
had a most beautiful appearance."

The second day, Friday, 116 of the principal inhabitants sat down to
dinner at the Red Lion, Mr. John George Fordham, then of Odsey (father
of Mr. Henry Fordham), presiding, and supported on his right by Mr. J.
P. Wedd, and on his left by Mr. E. K. Fordham, the venerable banker.
Toasts came thick and fast, and all shared the enthusiasm of "this
proud moment of conscious victory when the march of ages is
over-stepped by the exertions of a day."

  We kindle not war's battle fires;
  By union, justice, reason, law,
  We claim the birth-right of our sires:
  We raise the watchword liberty,
  We will, we will, we will be free!


In this strain the oratory flowed, from the reformers--the Chairman,
Mr. Wedd, Mr. E. K. Fordham, who re-called the first reform meeting he
attended in that very room forty years before, and the Rev. J. Horseman
(rector of Heydon).

The third day, and still the reforming zeal had not spent itself, and
the musicians were still in tune, and on Saturday joined in witnessing
a cricket match on the Heath, with a cold dinner.  Unfortunately for
the older cricketing reputation of the town it is recorded that "owing
to their having had two amusing days previous there was too much work
in the game of cricket for their performance to be worth recording, and
so threw away their bats and balls and retired to the Indies who were
preparing a social cup of tea, making altogether a party of about 100."

"They then returned to the town headed by the Band, and concluded in
the High Street by playing and singing in full chorus the grand
national anthem of "God save the King," while the bells rang the old
Constitution out and the new one in!  Thus ended three days such as the
inhabitants of Royston never before witnessed, and probably never will
again."  Other towns in the district--Hitchin, Biggleswade, Ware,
Baldock, &c.,--also had their celebrations, and among the villages
there was a "spirited little set out" at Meldreth, where 750 were
provided with dinner, and the musical amateurs of the village and
neighbourhood with their "violins, clarinets, horns, &c., which they
were using to the best of their knowledge, gave youthful spirits to the
aged, and so well was the commemoration of the Reform Bill conducted
that it was much admired by all who witnessed it.  In the evening they
all, ladies and gentlemen and poor, about 400 in number, had a reel
together, and concluded the evening in a very amiable manner, wishing
success to reform."

At the present time when comprehensive schemes of Old Age Pensions are
talked of which may, if carried out, transform much of the present
character of relief of the poor, it will perhaps be of interest to
glance at the state of things just before the introduction of the
present Poor-law had worked a complete parochial revolution.

There is, I imagine, a general impression amongst us, when we ever turn
our thoughts back to the subject, that the remarkable shaking of the
dry bones during the Reform Bill period, which culminated in the great
measure of 1832, was merely a matter of politics--that John Bull was
only buying a new broom to sweep away here and there an Old Sarum, and
dust the benches of St. Stephen's for new company and--_voilà tout_!
the nation was reformed at a stroke!  Yet that was not all by any
means.  In most of the rural districts of England there were parishes,
not here and there, but parishes by shoals, presenting a state of
things more rotten and more demoralizing than anything that the annals
of Borough-mongering could furnish.


Then the great bulk of the poor people in our villages held to the
sentiment expressed in the lines--

  Come let us drink, sing, and be merry,
  For the parish is bound to maintain us!

When the ratepayers began to assert themselves the pauper element broke
out in open riot and incendiarism.  Then came severe penal measures,
Poor-law commissions, and an awakening of the national conscience to
the fact that there was something besides political Old Sarums to
reform if the salt in John Bull's family cupboard was not to entirely
lose its savour.  A state of things was disclosed in many villages in
rural England at which the more thoughtful stood aghast, for under the
sacred name of charity, laziness and immorality, unblushing and
impudent, were found to be feeding the stream of pauperism and eating
out the vitals of our country life.

At the root of the domestic and social ruin which the old Poor-law was
silently but surely spreading through our villages, lay the two
principal factors of labour and public morals--the farmers paying low
wages and the parish making up the difference according to the number
of a man's family, and the lax way in which bastardy was dealt with by
the parish.

As to Royston, in 1831, when the Commissioners were appointed to
inquire into the laws affecting the relief of the poor, there were
fifty agricultural labourers in the town; wages nine or ten shillings a
week without beer; the magistrates required an allowance to be made
from the rates to make up earnings, according to the number in family,
but, it is added, that "this system is objected to by this parish."

"The desire to build the largest number of cottages upon the smallest
space and with no ground attached was strongly condemned," but the seed
had been sown and the harvest is still with us.  Upon the subject of
making up a labourer's pay out of the parish funds, and the labourer
looking to the Overseer to pay him when he was not at work, a
remarkable test case occurred in Royston, of which I transcribe the
following particulars from the parish books--

"There is a difference of opinion existing between the parishioners of
this parish and some very respectable and intelligent magistrates
acting for this neighbourhood.  The magistrates think it is within
their jurisdiction (if they are convinced of its necessity) to order
Overseers to pay money to able-bodied labourers in full employment by
private individuals, in order to make up their earnings to a sum
considered by the magistrates necessary for the support of their

This the parishioners seemed inclined to resist, and it is added--"the
parishioners consider that if the Overseer be ordered to make up the
wages of one farmer's labourers, he may be ordered to go round the
parish and make up the wages of every labourer.  It would then be the
{161} interest of every master to lower his wages and throw as much of
them as possible on to the poor rates.  The poor rates might thus be
enormously increased and those ratepayers not employing labourers might
be crushed."

Upon this subject the parish officials and two of the local
magistrates, the Rev. H. Morice and Rev. T. Sissons, got into conflict;
for we learn from a communication to the Commissioners, that the
Royston Select Vestry, refusing to add to a labourer's pay, the
Overseers were actually summoned before the magistrates for
Hertfordshire to show cause why they should not make him an addition to
the pay he received in full employment.  Two labourers, John James and
Joseph Wood, of Royston, having been refused additions to their wages
by the parish, applied to the magistrates in Petty Sessions, and the
magistrates making a verbal order upon the Overseers to make up the
wages to a certain sum, the Assistant Overseer put it off until he had
seen the Select Vestry.  A few days after, he says he was taking a ride
with one of the Overseers and met the Rev. Henry Morice driving his
carriage with the man Wood riding behind.  Observing them, he pulled up
and said, "Mr. Docura, here is this man Wood who says that you refuse
to relieve him as we ordered you on Wednesday last!"

Mr. Docura admitted the fact, upon which the rev. gentleman said, "I
wish I had given you a written order!"

Mr. Docura: "If you had, I have orders to resist them to the utmost."

The Rev. T. Morice upon this, in the presence of Wood and another
labourer, exclaimed in a violent passion, "it would serve you right if
your town was burnt down; you richly deserve it!" and then ordered the
man Wood to come to him at some other time.

A few days afterwards the Overseers received a summons to appear at the
Rev. Thomas Sissons', at Wallington, to show cause, &c.

The Overseers naturally resented being dragged to Wallington, and wrote
a letter asking for the case to come before the ordinary Sessions at
Royston, as one of the Overseers was ill.

The suggested alteration was not acceded to, however, and one of the
Overseers and the Assistant had to go to Wallington before the Rev.
Thos. Sissons and Rev. John Lafont.  The magistrates first tried to
persuade the Overseer by appealing to his feelings, and then to
intimidate by pointing out the consequences of his refusal to comply
with their order, but he was proof against both, and said if they
thought proper to make an order he was under the necessity to say that
he must refuse complying with it.  Upon which they gave him till
Wednesday to consider, and if he did not comply by that time they would
certainly give an order and enforce it.


They had orders to appear again on the Wednesday, "but for some
unaccountable cause the men did not appear, to the joy, apparently, of
the Magistrates and Overseers, since which time they have not tried to
enforce it, but we have since had good reason to suppose that they have
not either forgotten or forgiven us."

So ended the attempt to enforce a legal right to supplement wages,
which was acted upon in all the surrounding parishes.

Everything seemed to conspire to make the labourer a pauper even if he
would aspire to independence, until, through early and improvident
marriages, the lax treatment of bastardy, &c., paupers became a glut in
the market so to speak, and, finding the doles less satisfactory in
consequence, discontent, riot, and incendiarism, manifested themselves
in many places; hence the inuendo of the Rev. Mr. Morice, the
magistrate, about the town being burnt.

At Gamlingay the Overseer was summoned before a Magistrate six miles
off because he had a difference with the paupers about their parish
pay.  On the day of their attendance something prevented the case being
heard, and on their return to Gamlingay, all together, they passed the
house of another magistrate about two miles from home when the Overseer
said, "Now, my lads, here we are close by; I'll give you a pint of beer
each if you'll come and have it settled at once without giving me any
more trouble about it."  The proposal was rejected without hesitation!

It may be appropriate here to give a few instances of the way in which
paupers were pampered, and extracts from the Commissioners' report as
to how the old system of relief worked in the villages--

"An inhabitant of a large village near Newmarket has taken out a
certificate for killing game and actually goes out shooting with his
pointer and gun, although at this time he has 3s. weekly allowance from
the parish as a pauper, and during last year received 4s. 6d. weekly."

In one small parish containing 139 persons, only 35 of them, including
the clergyman and his family, were supporting themselves by their own

In many villages the expenditure in out-relief--chiefly in orders upon
village shops for flour, clothes, butter, cheese, &c.--amounted to from
L2 to L3 per head of the population, that is, a village with a
population of a thousand persons would expend L2,600 a year in
"relieving" pauperism.

It seems incredible, yet it is in black and white in the Commissioners'
Report, that at Westoning, in Bedfordshire, there was scarcely an
able-bodied labourer in the parish in the employment of private
individuals who was not at the same time receiving his allowance from
the parish!


As to rent and taxes from cottage property, under such circumstances
these too often had to be paid or remitted by the parishes.  Thus the
Royston Overseers state:--"We have omitted rating the cottages to the
number of 99, occupied by labourers and low mechanics, owing to the
difficulty of collecting the money and the ill-will it engendered
amongst the cottagers towards the parish authorities."

"Order'd that Mr. Simons apply to the justices and inquire of them
whether they can compel labourers who have decent earnings to pay their

The following incidents are mentioned from Over in Cambridgeshire:--

"A widow with two children had been in receipt of 3s. a week from the
parish, and was able to live upon this.  She afterwards married a
butcher, and still the allowance of 3s. for the children was continued.
But the butcher and his bride came to the Overseer and said 'they were
not going to keep _those children_ for 3s. a week, and if a further
allowance was not made _they should turn them out of doors_ and throw
them on the parish altogether.'  The Overseers resisted; the butcher
appealed to the Magistrates, who recommended him to make the best
arrangement he could as the parish was obliged to support the children"!

The law and its administration, on behalf of the parish, actually put a
valuable premium on bastardy.

The Parish Beadle was tempted to bribe the young woman to lay an
information against someone in another parish, "a compulsory marriage"
was brought about and the woman and bastard, and all future liability,
were sometimes got rid of at one stroke!  A Parish Beadle, in addition
to looking after little Oliver Twists, often had these delicate
negotiations to manage, and whether Mr. Bumble was able to ingratiate
himself with 'Mrs. Corney' or not, he often did a good stroke of
business for his parish in the matrimonial market, when, as I have
mentioned in an earlier chapter, a labourer could not even go into
another parish to work without a certificate from the parish he
belonged to.  In the report of the Commission, to which I have
referred, occurs this significant little item:--

"A Beadle in a small district assured me he had alone effected fifty
marriages of this description in the course of a few years."

The labour market was the parish, and this was completely disorganised
and demoralised.  The old law of settlement made it practically
impossible for labour to find the best market.  Even if a young man had
an offer of a situation in another part of the country at double wages
he would often refuse to go lest he should "lose his parish," or it
might be that the parish where he was asked to go was considered a
"bad" parish compared with his own.  Each parish {164} was thus
considered as a sort of freehold, with a family cupboard bound to
provide for nil its children.

It was almost impossible for any individual farmer to stand out and
follow an independent course, for if he paid his men full wages he
would also, as a ratepayer, be paying part of the wages for the other
farmers in the parish.  In some cases the masters combined with the men
and gave false certificates as to the amount of their wages in order to
get more "make up" from their parish.

The farmer preferred to employ men with large families to keep them off
the parish, but single young men, finding they were not wanted,
contracted early and improvident marriages, to make sure of being
"provided for by the parish."  Population increased to beyond the
requirements for local industry; the law of settlement was squeezed to
the utmost against removals, and thus the farmer was creating the
Nemesis he was seeking to flee from.

In many cases wages were as low as 8s. per week, the difference being
made up according to the labourer's increasing family, and "if he makes
more, still he receives his allowance in order that industry may not be

At Over on one occasion, Mr. Robinson, the overseer, refused payment to
men who would not keep their proper hours at work upon the road.  "They
complained to the Bench at Cambridge, and beat him as usual," so says
the report, and not only that, but they returned home wearing favours
in their hats and button-holes, and in the evening collected in a body
before Mr. Robinson's house and shouted in triumph!

The report for the parish of Bottisham showed that the effect of the
scale for single young men when not working, or receiving less wage
than the scale, was that one family, consisting of man, wife, and seven
children, were entitled to and were at that time receiving 19s. 6d. a
week (over and above their earnings) from the parish, several of the
sons being grown up!

"At Little Shelford," says the Commissioner, "a worse case than this
was given me by the Acting Overseer, of one family, a man, wife, and
four sons, living together, receiving 24s. weekly from the parish"!

The effect of this pauperising system could not fail to be very
disastrous--it placed a direct premium upon idleness, as a man was sure
of a living from the rates even if he did not work, and also a bounty
upon wages, or an inducement for the farmer to pay a much lower wage
than he could afford.  The ultimate effect of both these circumstances
was that there was such a large amount of pauper labour that it became
necessary, in order to relieve the rates, to take care that such labour
should be employed before any other.  In some cases the unemployed men
were actually put up to auction, or rather {165} their labour, and an
instance is mentioned in the Commissioners' report of ten men in one
parish being knocked down to one farmer for five shillings, and that
out of a body of 170 men, 70 were let in this manner!  The parish also
meddled and muddled in the labour market by making a contract with some
individual to have certain work performed by the paupers at a given
price, the parish paying the paupers.  The making of the Newmarket Road
Cutting, near Royston, was an instance of this.

Parochial affairs presented this extraordinary condition of things that
for the industrious, thrifty man who was desirous of laying up
something for a rainy day, there was no hope!  Take the following,
which I copy verbatim from the Commissioners' report--

"We have already quoted from Mr. Cowell's report a letter from Mr.
Nash, of Royston, in which he states that he had been forced by the
Overseer of Reed to dismiss two excellent labourers for the purpose of
introducing two paupers into their place.  Mr. Nash adds that of the
men dismissed, one,

"Was John Walford, a parishioner of Barley, a steady, industrious,
trustworthy, single man, who, by long and rigid economy, had saved
about L100.  On being dismissed, Walford applied in vain to the farmers
at Barley for employment!  _It was known that he had saved money, and
could not come on the parish, although any of them would willingly have
taken him had it been otherwise_!  After living a few months without
being able to get any work he bought a cart and two horses, and has
ever since obtained a precarious subsistence by carrying corn to London
for use of the Cambridge merchants; but just now the current of corn is
northward and he has nothing to do; and at any time he would gladly
have exchanged his employment for that of a day labourer, if he could
have obtained work.  No reflection is intended on the Overseers of
Barley; they only do what all others are expected to do; though the
young men point at Walford and call him a fool for not spending his
money at a public-house as they do; adding that then he would get work"!

A somewhat similar instance is supplied to the Commissioners by Mr.
Wedd who is spoken of in the report as "an eminent solicitor of

Here is another case:--"A man without children in this neighbourhood
emerged from poverty and bequeathed many pecuniary legacies, some L100
apiece, and others larger and smaller, to a number of agricultural
labourers who were his distant relatives.  As soon as the legacies are
paid the legatees would not be able to obtain any employment in
husbandry until the legacies are spent!  The employment in this parish
is all wanted for those who from deep poverty can claim it of the
Overseers, and these legatees will have no {166} title to claim
employment till they have reduced themselves again to poverty by having
spent all their legacies!"

It was not, however, so much in favour of the farmer as the system
might seem, for they got the worst of the labour--of the two whom Mr.
Nash was obliged to take in the above instance, one killed a valuable
mare, and the other he was obliged to prosecute for stealing corn--for
the farmer was obliged to take his share of the unemployed labour, and
often had a dozen idle worthless men on his hands at times when five or
six would have done the work.

Those of us to whom the memory of the bent-backed figure of the
"wheat-barn tasker" in every village, is now but a dim vision of the
past, can hardly realize how bitter must have been the feeling when the
threshing machine came to do away with the flail.  A simple matter it
may seem, yet the peasant revolt which it brought about was for the
time more universal, and more effective, than Wat Tyler's rebellion,
because, without Wat Tyler's organization, it found a means of working
in every village.  To the mind of the labourer this uprooting of the
habitual daily work of a thousand years, taken in connection with the
coming movement against allowing the labourer to go to the overseer to
make up his wages out of the rates--these things together presented to
his mind an outlook which was bad enough to arouse the sluggish mind of
the peasant in every village.  So he set about upon a course of
retaliation and unreasoning revenge.  The threshing machine was
threatening their work, and so upon the threshing machine wherever they
found it the labourers set with a vengeance.  The effects of that
vengeance are traceable in the criminal returns for the period.  Thus
the number of criminals for trial for malicious offences against
property, which for the previous five or six years had scarcely
averaged fifty a year, in the year 1831 went up at a hound to a total
of 1,245, of which no less than 921 were for "destroying threshing
machines."  Riots, incendiarism, and sending letters threatening to
burn houses, &c., also went up almost to a corresponding extent.

One or two local examples of pauper insolence and tyranny may be given
from the Commissioners' report:--

"The tone assumed by the paupers towards those who dispense relief is
generally very insolent and often assumes a more fearful character.  At
Great Gransden, the Overseer's wife told me that two days before my
visit, two paupers came to her husband demanding an increase of
allowance; he refused them, showing them that they had the full
allowance sanctioned by the magistrates' scale; they swore, and
threatened he should repent of it; and such was their violence, that
she called them back, and prevailed on her husband to make them further
allowance.  Mr. Faircloth, by a stricter system, reduced the rates at
Croydon; he became unpopular among the labourers, and after {167}
harvest they gathered in a riotous body about his threshing machine and
broke it to pieces.  At Guilden Morden, in the same neighbourhood, a
burning took place of Mr. Butterfield's stacks to the amount of L1,500
damage.  Mr. Butterfield was Overseer, and the Magistrates have
committed, on strong circumstantial evidence, a man to whom he had
denied relief, because he had refused to work for it.  I have found
that the apprehension of this dreadful and easily perpetrated mischief
has greatly affected the minds of the rural parish officers, making the
power of the paupers over the funds provided for their relief almost
absolute as regards any discretion of the Overseers."

Report of Mr. Power, Assistant Commissioner for Cambs.:--

"If an Overseer refuses relief, or gives less than the pauper thinks
himself entitled to, he (the Overseer) was liable to be summoned before
Justices to defend himself against the charge of inhumanity and
oppression, and unhappily the applicant, who has been refused relief,
has frequently recourse to a much more summary remedy than the
interference of the Magistrates.  The tribunal which enforces it sits,
not at the Petty Sessions, but at the beershop--it compels obedience,
not by summons and distress, but by violence and conflagration.  The
most painful and the most formidable portion of our evidence, consists
of the proof that in many districts the principal obstacle to
improvement is the well-founded dread of these atrocities."

But worse than mere insolence of words were the acts of lawlessness and
crime which prevailed.  These items occur in a number of typical
questions and answers in the report of the Commissioners, extracts from
which I give below, with the name of the Overseers or other

BOURN (Mr. Whittet.)

The poverty which compelled the farmer to use the threshing machine,
bore down the labourer to unprecedented distress, and drove him to


The lawlessness, &c., here was "Chiefly attributable to a long course
of bad execution of the Poor-laws.  The cause of the riots and fires
was chiefly the cruel policy of paying the single men much below the
fair rate of wages.  The object of the riots and fires was the same,
not the wanton destruction of property, but to obtain higher wages
which was too generally the result.

"Immediately after the fire at Guilden Morden, in 1831, I went to the
parish and found the farmers assembled in Vestry, the very morning
after the fire, consulting what they had better do to put their
labourers in a better state by raising their wages.  I remonstrated
with them upon the impolicy of doing it then, as it would be a bonus
for such wickedness."  [William Metcalfe and William Wedd.]



John Burr (churchwarden) gives this answer:--

"Keep up the price of labour or there will be always cause to fear."  A
very fair echo of the Guilden Morden farmers' sentiments referred to


Dissatisfaction at the decreased parish allowance tended to produce
these acts of insubordination.  [Gamaliel Docura, Vestry Clerk and
Assistant Overseer.]


The fires were lighted up by malice in the breasts of the labourers
because the farmers pinched them in their wages; the riots may be
called an effort to recover their former rate of wages, and answered
their object.  [Robert Withers, Land Agent.]


At Stotfold the late Mr. John George Fordham, of Royston, with a
foresight and courage that did him lasting credit, used his influence,
at personal risk to himself, in suppressing the riots.

During the years of 1830-5, a period of great discontent ensued, and
incendiary fires continued to be of alarming frequency.  Ashwell and
Bassingbourn suffered severely.  Of the former it is said that nearly
all one side of the place was burned, and of the latter, in the course
of three or four years, most of the farm homesteads were destroyed.

The fires at Shelford deserve notice here, on account of the remarkable
circumstances surrounding them.  In the first place the perpetrator,
John Stallan, was the last man executed for the crime of arson, and in
the second place his conviction was brought about by a strange piece of
circumstantial evidence.  Stallan was a labourer of respectable
character and in constant work, and became one of the men attached to
the fire engine.  The fire in respect to which he was convicted, was
discovered in time for the owner to run to it and pull out some of the
thatch, and with it came out a ball of rag, and in it a piece of
ignited tinder.  This was found on examination to be made up of
material including a piece of a lady's dress of which the pattern was
distinct, and was found to be a piece of a dress given by a Mrs.
Headley, to Stallan's wife, the remaining part of the dress being found
in his cottage!  He was arrested, and at first tried to fix the taking
of the rag for the tinder upon a half-witted lad, but being unable to
shield himself behind this subterfuge, he next went so far as to try
and fix the crime upon his own wife, and again in this he conspicuously
failed, and at the Cambs. Assizes was convicted and sentenced to be
hung, and was executed in December, 1833, after confessing that he had
been the author of all the ten Shelford fires, and that his only motive
for {169} committing the crimes was _to get the ale and the money he
received for helping to extinguish the fires_!

Under such a condition of things as that described above, the farmer
had considerable difficulty in getting any insurance offices to insure
his produce.

One notable riot occurred at Fowlmere (about 1833-35).  Warrants were
obtained for the apprehension of the ringleaders, and for executing
this warrant the Earl of Hardwicke, as Lord Lieutenant, came to Royston
and swore in about twenty special constables, whose ornamental staves
sometimes turn up now amongst local curiosities.  These constables went
over to Fowlmere on horseback, under the command of a justice of the
peace, Mr. Hawkins, who then lived at the Priory, and was an uncle of
Mr. Justice Hawkins.  On arriving at Fowlmere the posse of armed
"specials" found most of the labouring population of the village--male
and female--assembled in the open space near the Swan, armed with
sticks and other weapons, prepared to resist the execution of the
warrant!  After some persuasion and the reading of the Riot Act, a
skirmish ensued, in which sticks, fire-irons and shovels, mixed with
constables' staves, produced some cuts and bruises, and some torn
clothes.  Eventually the party of the law triumphed, the ringleaders
were secured, and marched off under escort of the special constables to
Cambridge gaol.

Out of the parochial inertia and the demoralization, discontent and
lawlessness, which we have seen springing up, a full crop, from the old
Poor-law, the Commission of 1831 presented a report which left no
alternative but a sweeping measure of reform of the parochial life if
England was to be saved from its own children, who, living a
parasitical life, were eating away the vitals of that upon which they
thrived.  Salvation from within the parish was now well-nigh
impossible.  So the new Poor-law of 1834 swept away the parish as a
unit of Poor-law administration--the Churchwardens and Overseers were
no longer to meet after service in Church to consider applications for
relief or the apprenticing of pauper children.  The new order provided
for grouping a score, more or less, of such parishes into a Union, with
some uniform system of administration which should be less dependent
upon the circumstances and prejudices of an individual parish.

The Royston Union was formed in 1835, consisting of 29 parishes in
Herts., Cambs., and Essex, as at present.

The first chairman was John Bendyshe, Esq., J.P., of Kneesworth, and
John George Fordham, Esq., was vice-chairman.  Mr. Henry Thurnall was
appointed Clerk (an office he continued to hold for forty years), Mr.
Thomas Wortham, auditor, and Mr. J. E. Fordham, of Melbourn Bury,


For the purposes of the administration of relief, the Union was at
first divided into three districts, or divisions as they were called,
and a relieving officer for each was appointed at L80 a year salary.
This arrangement, however, only lasted a short time, and a
re-arrangement was made dividing the Union into two districts as at
present, with a Relieving Officer for each at a salary of L120 a year.

Previous to the erection of the "Central Workhouse," as it was at first
called, the Guardians held their meetings weekly at the Red Lion Inn,
on Fridays, and the first meeting held on 3rd July, 1835, lasted, we
are told, from ten o'clock in the morning to four o'clock in the

One of the first acts of the new Authority was to secure a suitable
site for the erection of a Workhouse upon, and having secured of Mr.
Luke his meadow in Baldock Street, plans were drawn up by Mr. William
Thomas Nash for a building to accommodate 350 inmates; the contract for
the building was obtained, and carried out by Mr. Gray, of Litlington,
and a loan of L7,700 was obtained from the Loan Commissioners.

Before the new order of things had gone far, and ere the walls of the
Workhouse were up, the paupers of the old school set up a sort of
vested interest in the old order, became dangerously discontented at
the prospect of having to work, and the ill-advised action of
individuals fanned this into a flame of indignation under which the
pauperised element in the villages was encouraged to look upon the
great central Workhouse arising on the borders of Royston Heath as a
sort of bastille, where for the misfortune of being poor they were to
be shut away from their kith and kin, and no longer to have any claim
upon the Overseer for that convenient subsidy of "making up" whenever
they did not think well to work.  So strong did the feeling become that
there were disturbances in several parishes, especially in the two
Mordens, where the opprobrious Relieving Officer met with anything but
a friendly reception on his first visits, and certain individuals from
that parish, on applying for relief, found that the supply was cut off
until it was safe for the Relieving Officer to enter their parish!

About the same time a dreadful fire occurred at Bassingbourn which was
so closely associated in the popular mind with the prevailing
discontent that the services of a "Bow Street Runner" to scour the
district in search of the incendiary were paid for out of the rates.
Efforts were made to reconcile the inhabitants in the villages to the
new order of things, and for a very sensible letter or address to the
inhabitants which was written (and printed and circulated) by the late
Mr. Henry Thurnall, the writer was specially commended by the Poor-law


Another active and sagacious worker in the cause of popularising the
reform was Mr. John George Fordham (the vice-chairman of the Board),
who did not hesitate to pay repeated visits to all parts of the
district during the riots already described, and endeavoured by every
reasonable means to quell the popular irritation which had existed for
some time before the formation of the Union in anticipation of the new
Poor-law.  For similar services to these, Mr. Fordham had already
received the thanks of Lord Verulam, Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire,
and was placed on the Commission of the Peace as a magistrate for
Hertfordshire, the first Nonconformist to be made a county magistrate
for Herts.  By the time the new Central Workhouse at Royston was built,
the worst forms of popular discontent would have subsided but for the
action of one or two individuals of note upon whom it is fitting that a
few words should here be bestowed.

The principal agents were two clergymen in the district--the Rev.
Thomas Clack, curate of Guilden Morden, and the Rev. Frederick Herbert
Maberley, curate of Bourn, Cambs., who had for some time convened
meetings of agricultural labourers in their own and surrounding
parishes, and harangued them upon the supposed horrors of the new
_Poor-law Prison_ to which they would be consigned if they did not rise
as one man to stand up for their rights!  Growing bolder in their
agitation these gentlemen conceived the design of calling a monster
meeting from all the parishes belonging to the Royston Union, to be
held on Royston Heath in front of the unfinished building.  An attack
upon, and the demolition of the building, was freely talked about and
expected, and from the temper which had been already displayed in
former riots, the event was looked forward to with some anxiety!  The
handbill convening the meeting was of an inflammatory kind, and the new
Board of Guardians thought it necessary to call a special meeting of
their body at the Red Lion to decide what should be done.  The outcome
of this meeting was that the Clerk (Mr. Thurnall), Mr. W. T. Nash, and
Mr. John Phillips were appointed a deputation to wait upon the Poor-law
Commissioners and upon the Home Secretary, to see what measures they
would advise, for the Parish Constable and the Beadle, and the swearing
in of special constables was about all that the local authority could
muster for the preservation of the peace.

This deputation waited upon Lord John Russell, then Home Secretary,
with the result that an inspector and a sufficient police force were
promised to be despatched from London to Royston on the day before that
announced for the meeting.  Letters were also sent to the Lord
Lieutenants of both counties, and to the promoters of the meeting,
warning the latter of their responsibility should any serious
disturbance occur.


The day appointed for the meeting was Wednesday, 22nd June, 1836.
Inside the unfinished building on the morning of that day there is a
strange and an anxious company assembled--the Earl of Hardwicke, Lord
Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, is there, several local Magistrates,
several of the Guardians, and a posse of about a score of Metropolitan
police (the County police, as we now know them, had not then come into
existence), all assembled to await the threatened storming of the
bastille, as the new Workhouse was called by the agitators!  It was
market day and the town and neighbourhood of Royston were in a
considerable state of alarm and excitement, in consequence of the
expected meeting.  The handbill convening the meeting had been freely
circulated, calling upon the labouring population to "come in
thousands" and assemble opposite the new _Poor-law Prison_!  This
address was signed by the Rev. H. F. Maberley.  The Magistrates of the
division issued a caution to the people, and this was placarded about
the neighbouring villages, warning all persons that if any breach of
the peace took place, every individual present would be liable to be
apprehended and punished according to law.  As a further precaution, "A
most efficient body of police" was sent down under the command of
Inspector Harpur, as stated above.

Meanwhile there was, we are told, by the old chronicler, [_Cambridge
Chronicle_] "a deep feeling among the upper and middle classes of
society, that imminent danger to the public peace was to be apprehended
from a meeting of the labourers called to petition on the subject of
the new Poor-law opposite a new unfinished house of considerable
extent, by a handbill characterising the new building as a new Poor-law
Prison, and therefore no one chose to interfere in the discussions of
the meeting."

"The labourers, with a large proportion of women and children,
continued to arrive in wagons, carts, and on foot, all through the
morning, and they sat down opposite the Workhouse on the road side."
Being questioned they said "They expected they had come to pull down
the Workhouse, but they were waiting for the gentlemen who called the
meeting"!  They "appeared to consider their object one of ordinary
duty, as they spoke without excitement or intemperate language."  Soon
after 12 o'clock the clerical champion, Rev. H. F. Maberley, arrived,
accompanied by the Rev. T. Clack, curate of Guilden Morden, and they
soon commenced the great business of demonstrating, but possibly from
hearing of the Home Secretary's reinforcements, they assembled the
people on the Heath a distance of a quarter-of-a-mile from the
Workhouse, and Mr. Clack opened the proceedings in a jubilant strain
with a Scriptural quotation, "This is the day the Lord has made; we
will rejoice and be glad in it."  Some 1,500 persons, of whom at least
two-thirds were said to have been {173} women and children, listened to
the harangue "with listless indifference," possibly because words did
not pull the building down.  The Rev. H. F. Maberley declaimed against
separating old men and women and the prospective hardships of the new
order of things.  The whole proceedings lasted several hours, and a
storm of rain did not help the ardour of the crusaders.

At the conclusion, however, the people drew the rev. gentlemen in a
wagon through some of the streets of the town and the threatened storm
passed off without any breach of the peace occurring.  The chronicle of
the time says:--"The labourers went away apparently dissatisfied with
the result, having learned nothing to instruct them," and "the whole
was the completest failure ever experienced as to any public meeting."
The Guardians laid the matter before the Bishop of the Diocese as to
the conduct of the clergymen named, but in the general satisfaction at
the peaceful ending of the affair, things gradually settled down into
the system as we now know it.

The old parish Workhouses were sold, pulled down, or otherwise dealt
with, and the proceeds were in some cases invested in Consols and still
appear occasionally as an item to the credit of the parish in parochial
balance sheets.  The Royston Parish Workhouse on the Warren was sold by
auction and realized L315, leaving, after expenses and the paying of a
parish loan, advanced by Mr. Phillips, a balance of L166.

The new Workhouse was commenced in October, 1835, upon the site of an
old barn the property of Mr. Luke, which had just been blown down.  It
was finished in September, 1836, the Royston paupers being removed from
the old Workhouse on the Warren and those from the villages brought in,
notwithstanding the indignation of the Revs. Maberley and Clack.

For some years the new system was the subject of not a little hostile
criticism and the meetings were not always harmonious.

The Poor-law expenditure under the old system and the new showed a
striking contrast.  For the whole country before the new system, and
for the last two years under the old, the amount of the poor-rate was
L6,913,883, and for the two years immediately afterwards the rate was
L4,381,185, showing a reduction of more than one-third of the
expenditure.  In some cases in the rural districts the figures were
much more remarkable, and in one parish in the Buntingford Union the
expenditure for the last year under the old system was L800, and the
first under the new it was less than L300.  It may be that--

          Who holds a power
  But newly gained is ever stern of mood.

Even so, there was certainly plenty of room both for reform without
hardship, and considerateness with economy.


It is mentioned in the Parliamentary returns that in the Royston Union
in the winter of 1834, the number of able-bodied men maintained during
the winter out of the poor-rate was 361, whereas in the month of
December, 1836, after the new system had got into operation, there were
only twelve applications for "work or money."  All these had orders for
the House, which were accepted by seven of them, two of whom stayed in
only two days, three only stayed in three days, and two, seven days
each.  The amounts spent in relief of the poor at earlier periods, in
the reign of George III., were as follows:--In 1801 (the year of
scarcity), L4,017,871; in 1813, it had risen to L6,656,106; and in each
of the years, 1818-20, the figures reached L7,000,000, a figure which
was not again reached till 1832.

The late Mr. Henry Thurnall, though then but a young man, took an
active part in collecting evidence for the Poor-law Commission in this
district, and also in reconciling the working men to the new order of
things, and he was the author of a pamphlet in the form of an address
by a working-man to working-men, addressed to "The Labourers of
England," from which it appears that in some places the new Relieving
Officer was at first so unpopular that he was pelted when he came into
the villages to pay out his relief money!



With the abolition of the old Poor-law the Parish Constable, as he was
understood in the Georgian era, found a large part of his occupation
gone.  Those important journeys of Dogberry on the delicate errand of
marrying off young couples who promised otherwise to be a trouble to
his parish, with all the pleasant suppers, breakfasts, dinners, and
beer at inns on the road, of which the reader has been afforded some
evidence in the parish accounts of the last century--all this
interesting part of the village Dogberry's parochial dignity passed
away, and there were even rumours that the constable would no longer be
entrusted with the hue-and-cry after criminals into neighbouring
parishes.  Verily the world was getting turned upside down in these
reforming days!

But before we come to the actual disestablishment of Dogberry there are
a few other matters affecting parish life which were getting ready to
be reformed.  There were, for instance, tramps even in those {175}
days, and, like paupers, they knew upon which side their bread was
buttered, and how to turn the prevailing system to the best account.
They were accommodated at the public houses, and the publicans sent in
their bills to the Overseers.  If a tramp wished to take it easy and
stay a few days at a comfortable hostelry he did so, and it went down
in the publican's bill against the Overseer.  Sometimes this sort of
thing was carried a little too far, as at Royston in 1829, when the

"Ordered that W. Wilson's bill be paid and caution him, with others who
lodge vagrants, that in future their bills will not be allowed if they
suffer them [that is of course the vagrants and not the bills] to
remain more than one night without an order from the Overseer."

But to return to Dogberry and his blue-coated successor.  There was a
good deal of opposition at first to the idea of a police force under
the management of a county body.  The idea of disestablishing the
parish beadle and the constable was distasteful in itself, and the
notion that they could be improved upon was rather laughed at.  For
years after the "men in blue" came upon the scene they were known as
"Peelers," and have hardly got rid of the "Bobby" part of Sir Robert
Peel's name even yet.

So divided was public opinion on the subject that the Hertfordshire
Quarter Sessions only adopted the new system by one vote--the vote, as
it turned out, of Mr. John George Fordham, of Royston, who had been but
recently appointed a magistrate, and, I think, went on this occasion
and voted for the first time in this division.  No man knew better the
need of a change, or the general ineffectiveness of the parish
constable in the face of the disturbances which had for some years
previously been witnessed in many villages.  What the first cost of the
"man in blue" was I am unable to say, but the first report of the
Constabulary Force Commissioners contained the following estimate for a
police force for Hertfordshire:--

  1 Superintendent at L200 per annum
  8 Sergeants at L1 2s. 6d. per week
  80 Constables at 17s. 0d.  "   "
  Clothing for 88 men at L5 16s. 5d. per annum
  Total cost . . . .  L5,132 4s. 8d.  "    "
  1 man to 4,480 acres, and 1,610 persons.

It may be of interest here to make a comparison with to-day, and this
shows, I think, that in place of one superintendent there are seven,
besides a chief constable, that there are 7 inspectors, a rank unknown
in the above estimate, 19 sergeants against 8 fifty years ago, and 136
constables against 80 of fifty years ago, with a considerable
improvement in pay, viz., from the 17s. estimate of fifty years ago to
the 21s. 7d. to 27s. 5d., according to class--the present pay for
constables in the Herts. Constabulary.


We are sometimes reminded of a tendency to extravagance in county
expenditure in Hertfordshire compared with Cambridgeshire.  I do not
know how far this may have held good historically, but certainly there
is evidence of it when the policeman came.  A few years after the
establishment of the forces for Herts. and Cambs. the latter county had
70 police at an annual cost of L4,359 3s. 1d., and Hertfordshire had 71
police at a cost of L5,697 8s. 0d.

The new system was not so sudden a commencement as we may suppose, and
at first depended upon the inhabitants meeting the expense if they
wished for the luxury of a policeman in their midst.  Hence in 1837 it
was recorded that "in consequence of petty thefts and depredations
committed in Baldock, it has been proposed that a police officer should
be stationed there and a subscription has been set on foot by the
inhabitants for that purpose."

In 1839 four policemen were sworn in for Royston and the neigbourhood,
and yet two years afterwards, in 1841, some persons in Royston appear
to have signed a petition against having a force of rural
police--against allowing to the village the same police protection that
the town and neighbourhood had already obtained for itself.  These
were, however, exceptional cases, and the system of a county force soon
became general.  The fact is that the old parish constable was a rough
and ready means of dealing with the social and domestic sides of law
and order, but on the criminal side he was of little use.  He could
clap a brawling man in the stocks, or use his good offices in marrying
a pauper and getting her off the rates on to those of another parish,
but when it came to a question of serious crime he was useless beyond
carrying forward the "hue and cry" from his own to the next parish.

But the greatest of all the forces at work, breaking the life of the
Reform period from its old moorings, had already begun, and
Stephenson's triumph over Chat Moss had determined the great transition
in the social life and customs between the Georgian and Victorian eras.

At first the nearest railway station to Royston was Broxbourne on the
Great Eastern, and in order to shorten the driving journey to London,
gentlemen and tradesmen rose early in the morning and drove from places
in Cambs. and North Herts, to Broxbourne to join the new conveyance,
the engine of which frightened the passengers as it drew up at the
station!  It was not an uncommon sight I am told to see a muster of all
kinds of vehicles drawn up in rows at Broxbourne from all parts of the
north-east of Hertfordshire, and there left to await their owners'
return.  The start had, of course, to be made at a very early hour in
the morning to get to Broxbourne by eight or nine o'clock--"30 m.p. 8"
(30 minutes past 8), was the manner of printing the first time tables.


As to the accommodation, at first the guard of a train in some cases
sat perched on a back seat of the last carriage outside! like a cab
driver, but things had already begun to improve a little at the time I
am writing of.  Here is a description by one of the old Royston
travellers of a journey from Broxbourne to London.

"At first the 3rd class carriages were open, like cattle trucks, and
without seats, and when seats were added they were very rough ones.
Later on the open carriages were improved by placing iron hoops over
the top and tarpauling over these, something after the fashion of a
railway van in our streets now.  A smartly-dressed young man in his
Sunday best, desiring to appear to great advantage in London, would
find his white waistcoat--which was generally worn in those days--a
very sorry spectacle, after standing in an open carriage and catching
the smoke of the engine, from which there was no protection!  On one
occasion there was a very great pressure in the train up from
Broxbourne to London, and one of these 3rd class carriages with the
iron hoop and tarpauling roof over it was so full that the pressure on
the wheels and consequent friction began to produce sparks and then
smoke!  All the passengers were in a terrified state!  Some of them set
to work trying to tear the tarpauling away from the roof in order to
communicate with the guard, but unfortunately the tarpauling seemed to
be the strongest part of the carriage, and it appeared to be a case of
all being burned to death before the train stopped!  At last one young
fellow becoming more desperate, got his head through the top of the
carriage--that is through the tarpauling--and had his high top hat
carried away by the breeze; but succeeded in getting sight of the guard
perched on behind.  When the train came to the next station there was a
general stampede and most of the passengers refused to go any further.
A few of them were obliged to go on, and the reduced weight and
lessened friction removed all further danger."

After the above period the Great Northern Company came upon the scene
in Hertfordshire; but frightened not a few people by the formidable
character of its undertaking near Welwyn, for before the famous
Digswell Viaduct had spanned the picturesque valley of Tewin, or the
tunnels had pierced the last barrier of the hills, it is said that many
persons who had invested heavily in Great Northern shares, began to
tremble in their shoes, owing to the enormous expense, and a person
with enough foresight and judgment might have bought up, for a small
amount, shares enough to have made him a wealthy man for the rest of
his life!

The railway did not touch the neighbourhood of Royston until much of
the novelty of the change, and also of the opposition to it had passed
away.  The opposition to it here was therefore one of a competitive and
interested character, rather than of prejudice against {178} George
Stephenson and his iron horse.  Owing to the opposition of Lord
Mornington in the interest of the Great Eastern Railway Company, the
Royston and Hitchin Railway was prevented running into Cambridge, and
ran only as far as Shepreth, hence the joint use of a part of the line,
after it was carried on to Cambridge.

The first effect of a railway in any neighbourhood was felt upon the
conveyance and upon the price of the necessities of life.  Reference
has already been made in an earlier sketch to the difficulties of
getting coals from Cambridge, thirteen miles along bad roads to
Royston, and it may be added that the first year after the railway to
Royston was opened, the price of coal was so much reduced that the gain
to the townspeople was calculated to be sufficient to pay all the rates
for the year!

The shares of the Royston and Hitchin Company, whose work of
construction involved much less difficulty than the part of the main
line already referred to, were at one time sold at a discount though
carrying a guaranteed six per cent. dividend, and they are now worth, I
suppose, about 80 per cent. more than they cost.

The accommodation at first was not as luxurious as it is now.  Some of
the carriages on this line, were at first open at the sides like cattle
trucks, and at a pinch on market day cattle trucks were attached and
the passengers stood up in them!

      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

Having already exceeded the bounds of time and space contemplated for
these Sketches, and travelled a little beyond the period indicated by
the title, the writer might here, in a few words, have taken leave of
his task, but for the fact that he finds himself still in possession of
a small collection of troublesome "fragments," some of them of peculiar
interest, which would not lend themselves very readily to being
classified or blended together into any of the foregoing chapters.
These fragments are chiefly short paragraph records of local events, on
a multitude of topics, and therefore must be treated as such, and
thrown as far as possible into chronological order.

1745.  Cooper Thornhill, of the Bell Inn, Stilton, near Huntingdon--in
whose house, from the hands of a relative, Mistress Paulet, originated
Stilton cheese--this year achieved a remarkable feat of horsemanship by
way of Royston to London; riding for 500 guineas from Stilton to
London, 71 miles, in 3 hours and 52 minutes.

1748.  In this year, on August 18th, occurred a fire which is memorable
in the annals of Barkway.  The record preserved in the parish papers
consists chiefly of the accounts of the losses, but it is sufficient to
show that there must have been nineteen houses burned, {179} and, as
the losses were for small amounts, probably nearly all of them cottages.

I give a few of the articles and items of loss and expense--

A publican and farmer lost "hogsheads bare"; L9 in wine, L16 in "sider"
(cider), 42 cheeses, silver spoons, "a chest of lining [linen] L20,"
and claimant's sister lost in "lining" and other things L7, and there
are "30 trenchers," earthenware and wooden dishes, &c., &c.

  John Sharp--my Lost at the fier as Folows--
    In weat  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   0  7  0
  housal goods to the valuer . . . . . . . . . .   3  0  0
  In wood to valuer  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   0 12  0
                                                  L3 19  0
  Expense at Royston for two Engins and Buckets    1 10  0
  Expense at Buntingford for Engine and Bucketts   0 15  0
                                                  L2:05: 0

1785.  On the 16th June, 1785, there was a fire at Biggleswade, which
in the space of less than five hours burnt down one hundred and three
dwelling-houses and nine maltings.  The want of water and the rapidity
of the flames, with the falling of the houses, being so dreadful,
little good could be done till evening, when the fire was happily
stopped.  Upwards of 60 houses in the middle of the town were burnt
down, with all the shops, warehouses, stables, &c., adjoining.  It is
generally supposed to have been wilfully occasioned.

1786.  June 3rd, the Roy-stone, at Royston, was removed from the Cross
to the Market Hill by order of G. Wortham, surveyor.  [Removed to
present site in Institute Garden, 1856.]

There was a remarkable frost in 1786, when among other fatal results of
the rigour of the season, a maltster named Pyman, of Royston, when
returning home from Kelshall, was frozen to death, and a butcher's boy
taking meat from Royston to Morden met with the same fate.

1787.  In 1787 the following awful visitation of divine vengeance
befell a man near Hitchin, in Hertfordshire.  He had applied to a
Magistrate, and informed him that he had been robbed by such a
gentleman.--"The Magistrate told him that he was committing perjury,
but the miscreant calling God to witness, that if what he had advanced
was not true, he wished that his jaws might be locked and his flesh rot
on his bones; and, shocking to relate, his jaws were instantly
arrested, and after lingering nearly a fortnight in great anguish, he
expired in horrible agonies, his flesh literally rotting on his bones."

1788.  A burial ground as a present for winning a law-suit may seem an
odd acknowledgment, but this was what happened in Royston {180} during
last century, when, in 1788, the following obituary notice was
published which explains itself--

"Died in the Workhouse in Royston, Thomas Keightly, and on the
following Friday his remains were interred in the family burying ground
in the Churchyard of that parish.  He was the eldest son of the late
Wm. Keightley, Esq., of that place, who some years ago, to his immortal
honour, stood forward on behalf of the parish, and at his own expense
supported a very litigious and expensive law-suit, which he gained and
for which the said parish as an acknowledgment made him and his
posterity a present of the aforesaid burying ground."

What the law-suit was about I am unable to say.

The following remarkable incident is taken from an old newspaper, the
_Cambridge Intelligencer_--

1794.  June 15th.  On Wednesday last a son and two daughters of the
Widow Curtis, of Wimpole, in this county, were returning from Royston
Fair in a one-horse tilted cart.  They were stopped in the street at
Royston by a concourse of people surrounding some recruiting sergeants
who had been parading the streets with a flag and playing "God Save the
King."  The young man, being in liquor, attempted to drive through the
crowd.  The horse reared up, being frightened by a musket let off close
to him, the young man whipped the horse and struck some persons who
obstructed the cart.  This aroused the courage of the sons of Mars, who
thrust their swords through the tilt of the cart, which alarmed the
young women who leaped from the cart, and, fainting away, were carried
to a house at a trifling distance.  The soldiers, not satisfied with
the exploit, wreaked their anger upon the horse by stabbing it with a
bayonet in such a manner that the poor animal died in a few minutes.
During the tumult, one of the sergeants threatened a tradesman in the
town, a person of unsuspected loyalty, that if he did not say "God Save
the King," he would run him through the body.  To which he replied with
the spirit of a Briton--"You may stab me if you dare, but no man shall
make me say 'God Save the King' only when I please."

1797.  Among the numerous parishes in Cambridgeshire which, at the
close of last century, adopted Enclosure Acts was the parish of
Harston, and in this case the preliminary formalities were attended
with an extraordinary manifestation of feeling.  The owners of the
property in the parish gave notice of their intention of applying to
Parliament for an Act to allot and divide the parish.  A person of the
name of Brand was sent over on horseback from Cambridge to post the
requisite notice on the Church door at Harston.  But a crowd of persons
assembled to prevent this being carried out.  The man was roughly
handled, his horse kicked, and his coat torn, and he "found it
necessary to get away as fast as he could."  A warrant was issued for
{181} the leader named Norden who assaulted Brand, and a great crowd of
persons assembled to prevent Norden's apprehension.  The officer of the
law on the one side was protected by nine cavalry who were around, and
on the other hand the rioters were armed with pitchforks and whatever
they could lay their hands upon.  The officer and his cavalry escort
got hold of Norden when in the field, but were followed on the road to
Cambridge by the rioters, who, however, were afraid of the fire of the
soldiers, and no lives were lost.  Norden was committed to the Quarter
Sessions, and on acknowledging his offence he got off with three
months' imprisonment.

1799.  On the 8th of February, 1799, there was a tremendous snowstorm
which caused much suffering to travellers.  Coaches and wagons were
buried in the snow and lives were lost.  It was the same storm that
overtook Elizabeth Woodcock on her way from Cambridge Market to
Impington, and buried her alive for eight days.  The snow was drifted
so high in the neighbourhood of Baldock that fifty men were employed on
the North Road to dig out several wagons and carriages buried there.
Passengers by coach had a fearful time of it, and what it was like in
the neighbourhood of Royston may be gathered from the following
testimony to the action of a Roystonian--

"The humanity of Mr. John Phillips, common brewer of Royston, during
the late severe weather deserves the highest commendation, particularly
on Saturday last.  Being informed that the York and Wisbech Mail
Coaches were set fast in the snow two miles from Royston, about five
o'clock in the morning, he despatched several of his men and sixteen
horses to their relief, and in the course of three hours conveyed the
coaches safe to Royston, to the great joy of the passengers, coachmen,
and guards, some of whom would probably have perished had it not been
for Mr. Phillips' humane assistance."--_Cambridge Chronicle_, February
14th, 1799.

1807.  Between this year and 1814, for the particular year is
uncertain, Louis XVIII. of France paid a visit to Royston and descended
into the Old Cave.  Louis, while in exile in England from 1808 to 1814,
a part of the time occupied Gosfield Hall, near Braintree, Essex, and
it was while here, apparently, that he came over to Royston to see the

On the 25th October, 1809, was the Jubilee of the reign of George III.
I am not aware of anything being done in Royston, but if there was it
was probably a half-hearted affair and contrasting greatly with the
happy augury of the Jubilee of the reign of Queen Victoria in 1887.

1809.  In June, 1809, Daniel Lambert, the famous fat man, was weighed
at Huntingdon and was found to weigh 52 stone, 1 lb.--14 lb. to the
stone.  A few days afterwards he arrived from Huntingdon at {182}
Stamford where he was announced for exhibition, but he died about nine
o'clock the following morning.

1814.  On January 14th, the deepest snow that had been known for 40
years began--was some days falling--and continued on the ground for
five weeks, and in places drifts were 15 feet deep.  The frost
continued for 12 weeks, till March 20th.  On the 8th of the month of
January the frost was of almost unexampled severity.  A fair was held
on the Thames where a sheep was roasted.  A card printed on the Thames
during that strange winter fair is now in the Royston Institute Museum.
Houses were in many cases snowed up, and the difficulties of traffic
were enormous.  Large gangs of labourers toiled at mountains of snow in
order to open up the coaching routes.  When the frost was 20 deg. below
freezing point, Benjamin Dunham, seventy years of age, was found frozen
to death between Barrington and Harlton.

The armed burglar was in evidence during the last and early years of
the present century as a terror to householders, with this difference
from the present system, that the offenders generally went in gangs.
One notable event of this kind is connected with the residence of
Squire Wortham (now Mr. J. E. Phillips) in Melbourn Street, Royston.
The party, approaching from the Dog Kennel Lane in rear of the
premises, disturbed the housekeeper, a Mrs. Cannon.  She in her turn
called out to Old Matt, the huntsman, but that worthy slept so soundly
that she could not wake him; meanwhile the burglars seemed about to
effect an entrance, when the redoubtable Mrs. Cannon secured a
blunderbuss and, firing out of the window in the direction of the
visitors, they made off.  It was generally believed that the
housekeeper shot one of the burglars, and years afterwards this was
verified in a curious way by one of the party who, just before he died,
made a confession to Mr. Stamford, then living at the Old Palace, to
the effect that he was one of the party and that one of them was shot.

1826.  On December 16th, a woman 61 years of age, "undertook for what
the public of Royston chose to give her, to walk 92 miles in 24
consecutive hours--that is, starting from the White Lion in the High
Street and walking through the town, half-a-mile in and half-a-mile
out.  She began her journey at 9 minutes after 4 on Friday afternoon
(the weather unfavourable, the street excessively dirty and the boys
rather troublesome) and completed her task at 3 minutes after 4 the
next afternoon, having 6 minutes to spare."

1831.  In 1831, with the uneasiness caused by the appearance of the
cholera morbus at Sunderland and elsewhere, a great scare was
occasioned in Royston, and the sanitary state of the town at last got
an overhauling, when the result showed what a terrible state of things
had prevailed in the town during the first decades of the century.
{183} Mr. E. K. Fordham, the veteran banker and reformer, was the first
to set the ball rolling, and a regular scheme of house to house
visitation was resorted to.  A committee was appointed, and the town
was divided into four parts, each committee to report to the Select
Vestry.  The state of things disclosed by that report now seems almost
inconceivable.  The Committee's work had a salutary effect, and this
burst of zeal for the public health proceeded so far that a proposal
was carried unanimously that a Board of Health be formed "for the more
effectual removal of nuisances, and obtaining assistance from the
Central Board should the cholera morbus unfortunately break out in this
town."  With the disappearance of all danger of the cholera morbus
however the "Board of Health" fell through, but the effect of the
enlightenment which it led to as to the condition of the town was not
altogether lost.  The cholera was then considered a new epidemic, and
it broke out at Sunderland and carried off many thousand lives in the
year.  Hence the alarm spread to inland towns, the inhabitants of
which, like Royston, had their eyes opened to things little thought of
before, and that great principle of cause and effect took root in
regard to public health, which led up to the Public Health Acts of the
present day.  It was on this visitation that Kingsley in his "Two Years
Ago" gives such a graphic description of the terror caused by the
appearance of the cholera, in the treatment of which he makes his hero
Tom Thurnall take a notable part.  Whether cholera actually appeared in
the district I am unable to say, but I find an item for Royston, Cambs,
"Cholera bills, &c., 14s. 3d."  Probably this was part of the expense
of the steps above described.

Some years after the above date, when vaccination had got established,
a valiant Royston champion of the good old cause inoculated her family
with small-pox.  She was brought up at the Bull before the magistrates,
who, evidently reluctant to punish her, asked if she would promise not
to do the like again, to which she adroitly made answer that she could
promise them this, that if she did do it again she would not tell
anyone.  This was not quite a recantation, and so the old lady had to
go to Hertford gaol for seven days, and a crowd of people saw her off
out of the town--one of the first victims of that law of compulsion of
the individual for the public good which was to be a characteristic of
the coming legislation.

1833.  In this year the Royston Institute was founded under the name of
the Royston Mechanics Institute.  In 1855 the present building was
erected partly on the site of the old turn-pike house, and it was
opened in 1856.

1834.  The lowering of Burleigh's, or Burloe's, Hill, Royston, by
digging a cutting through, was begun about this time.  The trustees of
the Baldock and Bournbridge Turnpike Trust made a special contract by
{184} which the parish contracted to do the work for L250, the parish
taking any risk of loss and any chance of profit on the transaction,
and the work to extend over two years.  Men who applied to the Overseer
were set upon it, and there was a strike against 4d. per yard, the
price fixed for the labour by Mr. Wm. Smith, the surveyor for one part
of the work, and the Vestry stood by the Surveyor and decided that any
men who refused to do it at that price should not be employed by the

The labourers refused to work at it, and "as the magistrates sanctioned
the offer of work at this hill as an answer to applicants for relief,
the labourers who would have been relieved for want of employment have
found work from private employers instead of living on compulsory
relief from the parish.  Labourers living out of the parish, and
_threatening to come home_ unless out-allowance was paid them, having
been answered that there was two years' work provided for them, have
altered their intention of coming home and have subsisted on their own
resources."  And so the Parochial Pharaohs, as the paupers regarded
them, by practical common sense and a strong grip of the handle,
managed to make the rough places plain, and the sturdy vagabonds--for
many of the old paupers of these times deserved the name--with their
threats to "come home to their parish," were kept at a safe distance on
the horizon by the ring of picks and mattocks!

1835.  In this year occurred the fire at Hatfield House in which the
Marchioness of Salisbury was burnt to death; an event which created a
great sensation in all parts of the county, the Marchioness having been
quite a public character, and was, in fact, at one time mistress of the
Hertfordshire Hounds, then called "_Lady Salisbury's_."

One of the strangest incidents connected with the old highway traffic
of sixty years ago, was the mishap which occurred to an old stage wagon
with three horses abreast, a team of eight, at Royston about 1835 or
1836, on a Saturday night, or rather Sunday morning, in November.  The
incident was cleverly described by a versifier in the columns of the
_Herts. and Cambs. Reporter_ some years ago, but it is only necessary
here to say that the wagon was travelling up to London, and reached
Melbourn all right.  Here, however, the sleepy teamster got his
ponderous team too near a huge sign-post in the village, when

  The ornamental sign by tricks,
  Amongst the ropes came firmly fixed.

The sign-post was torn up and fixed immovably between the wheels and
the wagon, and in that position was carried aloft, as "slowly the eight
big Lincoln steeds" continued their wonted course towards Royston.
Before day-light that town was reached, the driver still unconscious of
the curious appendage to his load.  "Rounding the {185} corner at the
Cross" the strange projection crashed into the windows of the shops to
the consternation of the inhabitants, as

  House after house was ripp'd and torn.
      *      *      *      *
  Plant-pots and plants alike were strown,
  And gilded names in swaths were mown.

Some thought it was an earthquake, and others that the end of all
things had come.  Amongst the terrified shopkeepers, George Rivers, the
witty thespian, is credited with exclaiming:--

  "The windows and the frames are gone,
  And all the house is tumbling down"!

Not till the wagon reached the Warren did that and the old sign-post
part company, and even then the sleepy driver wended his ponderous way
towards Buntingford in blissful ignorance of the devastation he had
wrought upon the shop windows!  "Nor did he learn the strange affray
till he returned another day."

1836.  The great snowstorm of 1836 was even more memorable than the two
preceding storms of 1799 and 1814, for its suddenness, its extent, and
the greatly increased number of stage-coaches "on the road" at that
time, which suffered from the interruption of traffic.  It commenced to
snow on the night of Christmas Eve (Saturday) and snowed all day on
Sunday, and the next day.  No snowstorm in Great Britain for the
previous hundred years equalled it in violence and extent.  On the
evening of the 26th, after it had been snowing for 48 hours, the wind
increased to a hurricane, and in the night the fall of snow was from
four to six feet, while the drifts were from 20 to 30 feet in depth,
and the condition of all exposed to it was appalling!  The storm spread
all over Europe, and in this island all communication was cut off for
nearly a week.  No coach got through from Cambridge till the following
Thursday.  Many a Christmas party that Christmas were minus their
guests, for coaches were "snowed up" all over the land, and, but for
the timely shelter of inns and private houses, many of the passengers
must have perished.  There were three coaches almost within sight of
each other placed _hors de combat_ in and near Royston.  One coach was
actually stuck fast in the snow at the Cross, in the centre of the
town; another just below the present railway bridge, and another at the
bottom of the Kneesworth Hill.  These coaches were the Edinburgh Mail,
the Boston Mail, and the Stamford Coach, and were all on their way to
London at the time.  The unfortunate passengers were obliged to spend
the Christmas holidays in Royston as best they could, and the mails
were sent forward on horseback as soon as practicable.  For a whole
week no mail coach went into, or came from, London through Buntingford
and Royston.  Between Royston and Wadesmill, on the portion of the
North Road known as the {186} Wadesmill Turnpike Trust, the
difficulties of opening up communication were of the most formidable

Near the gates at the entrance to Coles Park, Westmill (now the
residence of R. P. Greg, Esq.), there were drifts 20 feet deep, and the
labour of cutting through the snow between Royston and Wadesmill, was
believed to have cost no less than L400, and so great was the loss to
the toll-keepers that the Turnpike Trust found it necessary to
compensate Mr. Flay, the lessee, to the extent of L200 for the loss of
toll through this unexampled interruption of traffic.  It may be of
interest just now to mention that the above remarkable storm was
followed by a serious epidemic of influenza.

1837.  Following the important undertaking of cutting through Burloes
Hill on the Newmarket Road, came the great work of cutting through the
hill on the London Road, south of Royston.  The undertaking was begun
in 1836, the contract price for the work in this case being L1,723.
This work proved more difficult in one sense than that of the Newmarket
Road, from the fact that the coaching and other traffic was so much
greater along this road and that the work had to be adapted to the
continuation of this heavy traffic.  The passage of coaches over the
temporary roadway was not of the smoothest, and it is said that one
passenger became so alarmed that he jumped from the coach, being afraid
it would upset, and in doing so broke his leg.  The Turnpike Trust,
being responsible for the state of the road, though not for the
passenger's want of courage, made him a compensation of L50 for the

In 1837 the coronation of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, was worthily
celebrated in Royston.  There were free dinners for the townspeople on
the Market Hill, with bands of music, and the principal residents dined
together at the Bull Hotel afterwards--much the same as in the
celebration of the jubilee of Her Majesty's reign fifty years
afterwards in 1887.

1840.  In this year the Royal Agricultural Society held their second
annual show on Parker's Piece, Cambridge, and, as an illustration of
how such exhibitions have advanced since then, it may be mentioned that
at the show of the "Royal" at Oxford in the previous year there were
only fifty exhibits of live stock and twenty-three of implements, and
the exhibition at Cambridge brought not very many more.

1842.  During the winter months of this year a mail-coach driver was
killed near the turnpike, Mill Road, Royston, by the coach being
overthrown owing to the snow.

In the same year the Rev. J. Snelgar, vicar of Royston, hung himself in
his own rooms at the residence (now Mr. Walter --ale's) [Transcriber's
note: several characters missing from Walter's surname] near the Sun
Inn, at the top of Back Street.



1843.  Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Consort visited Wimpole and
Cambridge this year, passing through Royston on their way to Cambridge.
Triumphal arches and other signs of welcome were erected in most of the
towns and villages on the road from London to Cambridge.  Of these
outward manifestations of loyalty, the illustrations here given
appeared at the time in the _Illustrated London News_, which, now
claiming to be the father of illustrated journals, was then in its
infancy and only about one year old.  Three triumphal arches were
erected in Royston; one at the entrance into Royston opposite the
residence of Mr. Hale Wortham, one at the Cross, and another at the
Institute, with no end of bunting down the streets.  Goods were removed
from shop windows and spectators took their places.  There was an
enormous concourse of people to see the young Queen and her royal
consort.  It had been arranged to run up a flag upon a flag-staff on
the top of the London Cutting as soon as the royal carriage was seen
coming down Reed Hill, as a signal for the bells to commence ringing.
This was in charge of Mr. Hale Wortham, in whose absence for a few
minutes some mischievous boys ran up the flag signal, which set the
Church bells ringing, and placed the whole concourse of people on the
tiptoe of expectation and excitement long before the Queen's arrival,
with a corresponding tax upon their patience.  A tremendous gale was
blowing, which played havoc with the linen and devices on the arches
and tore down the flag-staff and pinnacle to which it was attached on
the tower of the Parish Church.  When the carriage came, however, {188}
it was at a very great speed.  By the arrangement of the Earl of
Hardwicke a regular military escort was dispensed with as soon as the
county of Cambridge was reached.  In Melbourn Street a large body of
horsemen, including many gentlemen of Royston, was assembled, which was
in fact lined by them, for the purpose of falling in by threes as the
royal carriage passed.  During a pause the Earl of Hardwicke went up to
the carriage and spoke to the Queen and the Prince Consort.  The royal
carriage was escorted by soldiers and members of the Herts. Yeomanry as
far as the borders of Herts. at Royston, where members of the Cambs.
Yeomanry were to take their places.  The carriage travelled at such
great speed that though the Herts. Yeomanry, mostly farmers and others
used to hunting and well mounted, easily kept their places, yet the
Cambs. men, including Fen men more heavily mounted, soon found
themselves actually dropping off, and many of them were left hopelessly
behind when the journey was renewed en route for Trinity College,
Cambridge.  Those left behind were able to come up at Melbourn where
there was a change of horses.


At Melbourn the scene was a memorable one as the mounted horsemen and a
vast crowd of people from the whole neighbourhood gathered around the
old historic elm tree, where the change of horses took place.  Such a
crush of mounted horsemen had never been seen in the village.  Upon the
gigantic branch of the old elm tree, which then extended right across
the road, some loyal Melbournites, short of bright coloured flags
usually employed on such occasions, had spread a huge tarpauling upon
which was a loyal motto of welcome.  This curious piece {189} of
bunting naturally attracted some attention, and some of the yeomanry
escort attending Her Majesty and the Prince, were heard to remark that
it was "a very coarse piece of loyalty," but evidently the young Queen
and her royal consort, accepted it at its intended worth, and what was
wanting in elegance, was made up by sincerity and the enthusiasm of the
people.  It is fair to add that Melbourn had its triumphal arch as
appears by the contemporary illustrations in the journal from which
those at Royston and Buntingford have been obtained.

[Illustration: WIMPOLE MANSION.]

The following reference to this event occurs in a book entitled
"Recollections of Military Life and Society," by Lieut.-Col. B. D. W.
Ramsay:--"In the autumn of 1843 we were despatched on escort duty with
Her Majesty and Prince Albert, between Hertford, Cambridge, Royston,
and Wimpole, Lord Hardwicke's place.  On arrival at Wimpole, where I
commanded the escort, I received a despatch from the Horse Guards
directing me to give up the escorting of Her Majesty from Royston to
Wimpole to whatever yeomanry might present themselves.  This I received
one afternoon, and on the following day Her Majesty was to arrive, and
no yeomanry had made their appearance.  I therefore determined to ride
out to Wimpole and see Lord Hardwicke.  * * * On arriving there I saw
Lord Hardwicke standing in front of the house with his agent, an old
naval officer and shipmate.  Lord Hardwicke frantically waved me off
saying, 'I do not want to see you.  Why do you come to torment me
before my time?  To-morrow you must all come.'  This he said in a
melancholy voice.  Upon which I deemed it advisable to introduce myself
as he had evidently forgotten me.  The Dowager Lady Hardwicke was my
grand aunt.  * * * When I made myself known nothing could exceed his
kindness.  'God bless you {190} my boy,' he said, 'Come and stay as
long as you can, and drink all my champagne; but don't bother me about
military matters.  You know I am a blue-coat, and don't care about
them.'  I said, however, 'I must know if any yeomanry are coming, in
order to make the necessary arrangements.'  'Of course they'll come;
don't bother me,' was all I could get out of him.  And then he snatched
a book out of his agent's hands, and said 'Look here; here are my
accounts balanced for the year--not a penny to spare; and here are all
you fellows coming.  However, you are all welcome.  Enjoy yourselves;
but for goodness sake don't bother me.'  So I decamped.  I returned to
Royston late in the evening but still no yeomanry."  The yeomanry
arrived about ten o'clock at night, however, and the writer gives an
amusing account of the dispute over changing escorts, the yeomanry
officer insisting that the change should be made at the Inn where the
change of horses was made, and the writer states that he with all the
dignity of a cornet of twenty years of age, said he would do no such
thing, but that the change should be made on the confines of the county
some distance outside the town.  The yeomanry officer remonstrated
saying that the Queen's carriage would then be travelling at a great
rate and it would be difficult to change escorts as his men had never
practised it.  The young cornet said that that was his affair, and
insisting upon the letter of his instructions, the change of escort was
made at the county boundary, the leaders of the Queen's carriage were
thrown down in the process, and the only consolation that could be
offered to Prince Albert's inquiry for the cause was the instruction
from the Horse Guards, and that the spot was the confines of the county
of Cambridge, and the struggling mass of horsemen His Royal Highness
saw were the yeomanry who had presented themselves!  The writer adds
"My orders being explicit there could be no answer to this.  But query,
ought I to have been so particular as to the letter of the law?
Certainly the Lord Lieutenant of the County, Lord Hardwicke, thought
_not_, as he slapped me on the back and called me an impudent




From our present stand-point there is just a touch of pathos in the
thought of many aspiring Englishmen of the Georgian era passing away on
the eve of momentous changes, privileged only to see indications of the
coming times and not to enter into possession.  But there is one
element which qualifies this sentiment of regret in breaking with the
anticipations of the good time coming.  It must be so for all
conditions of men.  Have we not still to look forward, as we pass out
of the age of steam into the more subtle and wonderful age of
electricity, to a time when there may be greater wonders yet in store!
And so to every man who reaps a harvest from other men's labours comes
the old lesson of the responsibility for continuing the seed-sowing.

Of those whose lives have spread over the last eighty years it has been
well said that "to be borne in one world, to die in another, is, in the
case of very old people, scarcely a figure of speech," so marvellous is
the difference between the surroundings of their cradle and their
grave.  Standing by the Janus at the portals of the two centuries, what
a contrast was presented in the backward and forward views!  Backward
we have seen, in these glimpses of the past, men struggling with
difficulties and passing away with the seed-sowing; forward, we see
other men enter the promised land and reaping the harvest, for which
others had toiled; backward we have seen in our villages, men passing
toilsome lives in the circumscribed daily round of their native parish,
from which it was almost impossible to break away, or within the few
miles of that little world which seemed to end where the earth and sky
appeared to meet, and beyond which was a _terra incognita_; forward we
see the children from the same villages playing in merry groups on the
sands of that wonderful sea-shore of which their fathers had only heard
in song and story; and so through the many phases of the daily life of
the people.

With much that is admittedly still lacking in the village life and its
hold upon the people, the condition of the youth of an agricultural
district presents as great a contrast to-day with that of the youth of
eighty years ago, as any other condition of life can show.  Then, he
trudged from the farm house to his daily round of toil, in his stiff
leather breeches, from the field back to the stable, from the stable to
the kitchen fire-place, then to bed, and up again to the stable and the
field--week in, week out, with, in many cases, not a penny to spend
from year's end to year's end; hearing no music and seeing no {192}
brightness excepting the fiddle and the dulcimer, and the dance and the
shows at the neighbouring "statty" (statute fair) at Michaelmas once a
year.  His master had absolute control of his life and actions, and
sometimes would enforce it with the whip-stock.  But now the farm lad
has the hardihood and the right to summon his employer before a
magistrate, goes to "Lunnon" at holiday time, walks with a stick, wears
a buttonhole in his _coat_, and, _mirabile dictu_! has been seen to
ride home from his work on a "bone-shaker"!  In place of the old bent
figures in smock-frocks, there are spruce young fellows in black coats;
in place of the old indoor farm service, its hearty living, but liberty
to thrash a boy, there is freedom of contract, and, I daresay,
sometimes an empty stomach; instead of an absolute indifference to the
moral character of the labourer, the farmer is waking up to the fact
that a steady sober man is worth more than the frequenter of the

But there is a _per contra_ in all this.  Bad as the times were at the
beginning of the century, when the flint, steel, and tinder box, was
the only means of striking a light, there were not seen so many boys in
the street contracting a bad habit of smoking as may be seen to-day.
There was of necessity much less smoking than now, for the habitual
smoker was obliged to light up before leaving home, or go into a house,
or trust to meeting a fellow smoker with a pipe alight on the road.
But we have gained something in outward decency in the decrease of the
filthy habit of chewing tobacco, and in the now still greater rarity of
the habitual snuff-taker.

Perhaps the most remarkable, and certainly the most humiliating item,
in the _per contra_ account set off against extraordinary advancements
all round in the outward conditions of the life of the villager, is to
be found in the fact that the cottage home--the fountain head of
character--has in the great majority of cases absolutely stood still.
The old cottage homes of England with all their poetic associations,
have, in too many cases, not only not improved, but, with their low
mud, or brick floors, cold-beds, rather than hot-beds, of rheumatism,
have remained just as when they were occupied by the great-grandfathers
of the present generation, excepting that they have grown older and
more dilapidated.  The evil of huddling families into such hovels is
aggravated by the altered condition of life for the labourers' boys,
who can no longer, as of yore, find a home in the more roomy
farm-house.  It may be a hard thing to say perhaps, but the evidence
seems irresistible that though there may be notable instances to the
contrary, in too many cases where the old clay-bat and thatched
habitations have escaped the devouring element of fire, the housing of
the labouring man's family is much worse than it was sixty years ago.
Is it surprising that a spirited youth or girl, with all the stimulus
of immensely improved conditions of life around them, should be drawn
away from the old moorings?


Perhaps in no respect have the changes of time been greater than in the
political world, and yet there is a little of the _per contra_ even
here.  Not only are political opinions freely uttered now for which a
man would have found himself in Newgate a hundred years ago, but Bills
of all kinds are introduced into Parliament with perfect safety to the
person of the member proposing them, such as our forefathers would
never have dreamed of advocating, even though they were sometimes
called bad names for their advanced political views.  In the old days
the rural voter got a jollification, a drinking bout, and some hard
cash for his vote; now he can almost obtain an Act of Parliament.
Still, it is better than bribery, I suppose.

In writing this I do not in any sense hold a brief for the past as
against the present, but in contrasting these different phases of life
one is bound to acknowledge that we have lost a few things which would
have been well worth preserving.  We have gained untold social
advantages, but we have in too many cases lost the priceless treasure
of individual contentment; we have gained a great many things that have
been labelled with the sacred name of freedom, but only too often to
bow down to false notions of respectability; we have been emancipated
as communities from the brutal display of sport and pastimes which have
been referred to in the earlier part of these pages, but in too many
cases only to substitute a more subtle form of gambling about names of
things printed in the newspapers, without any such excuse for the
interest taken as our forefathers had in the excitement which was
actually before their eyes; we have gained untold advantage in the
spread of knowledge, and the means of access to a wealth of
intellectual treasures such as our forefathers never dreamed of, but
have too often allowed our reading tastes to degenerate into nothing
more solid than the newspaper and a few literary _bon-bons_.

There has been both a levelling up and a levelling down in the matter
of education, for it is doubtful whether tradesmen and others called
middle-class people are so well educated--I mean so thoroughly
educated, for they know more things but fewer things well--as men were
a generation ago, if we consider education on the abstract and
intellectual side.

We are perhaps a little too apt to think that there is nothing for us
of to-day, but to bless our stars that we were born in the 19th
century; yet if we who carry "the torch of experience lighted at the
ashes of past delusions" have escaped from the mists and the shadows
along the way which our grandfathers toiled, the responsibility for
bettering their work is all the greater.

We may not be able to close this wonderful 19th century with any
practical realization of all the dreams of ideal citizenship which made
up the last expiring breath of the 18th century.  But we have {194}
gone a long way in that direction, and happily it has been along a
roadway, toilsome and rough at times, upon which there is no need for
going back to retrace our steps.  Standing now, on the higher ground to
which the exertions of our fathers, and the forces which their work set
in motion for our benefit, have brought us, we see down into the
valley, along the rugged way we have come, abundant reason why men
often misunderstood each other--they could not see each other in any
true and just light.  But just as the heavy material roadway along
which the old locomotion was shifting a hundred years ago, from horses'
backs on to wheels, has become firmer, broader, lighter, and freer by
the cutting down of hedge rows and hindrances which shut out the
sweetening influence of light and air; so along the highways of men's
thoughts and actions there has been an analogous process of cutting
down boundaries and removing hindrances which divided men in the past,
until we see one another face to face.

It may be that some few distinctions will be preserved after all the
modern political programmes have been played out, but let us hope that
the hedges which divide men will be kept well trimmed and low.  For,
after all, it is impossible to gather up these old voices of a past
time, or to look back over such a period as that which has been passed
in review by these sketches without recognizing that if men will only
stand upright, whatever their station, and not stoop to narrow the
horizon of their view, they must see how broad, and how fertile in all
human, homely and kindly attraction, are the common heritage, the
common work, the common rest and the common hopes of men, compared with
the narrow paths within high party walls--whether of religious creeds,
social grades, or false notions of what is respectable--within which
men have too often in the past sought to hide themselves from one
another.  The hard lot of the village labourer to-day is not what it
was, is not what it will be; the discomforts for all classes remaining
from those of seventy years ago look now very small, and may yet look
smaller; and history, even the local history of a country town and its
neighbouring villages, though it moves slowly, shows foot-prints for
the most part tending one way and justifying the old hopeful belief

    Life shall on and upward go,
  Th' eternal step of progress beats,
  To that great anthem, calm and slow,
    Which God repeats.




In the following table is given the population of 45 parishes in the
Royston district, viz., of the Royston and Buntingford Poor-law Unions,
situated in the counties of Herts., Cambs., and Essex, for each decade
from 1801 to 1891.  In them the reader will be able to trace the growth
of the rural population during the middle of the century, and its
remarkable decline during the last twenty years, the economic effects
of which have led to the cry for bringing back the labourer on to the
land, instead of his drifting away to aggravate the social problem in
London and other populous centres.


                    1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891
  Ashwell            715  754  915 1072 1235 1425 1507 1576 1568 1556
  Barkway            699  686  771  859 1002  986  940  932  782  761
  Barley             494  593  695  704  789  870  808  714  614  574
  Chishill, Great    309  298  353  371  466  532  473  432  129  140
  Chishill, Little    71   55   71  106   96  105  110  110  129  140
  Heydon             246  272  272  259  324  368  270  265  257  221
  Hinxworth          228  243  247  295  328  347  320  313  297  289
  Kelshall           179  180  208  251  276  326  318  286  249  241
  Morden, Guilden    428  489  570  675  808  931  906 1059  959  819
  Morden, Steeple    430  483  614  645  788  889  912 1018  981  810
  Nuthampstead       152  172  222  249  289  302  281  254  217  207
  Reed               164  158  214  232  260  277  224  224  189  206
  Royston, Herts.    975 1309 1474 1272 1431 1529 1387 1348 1272 1262
  Royston, Cambs.    356    *    *  485  566  532  495  453  440  439
  Therfield          707  692  872  974 1224 1335 1222 1237 1175  996

* In the Census of 1801 and 1811 Royston, Cambs., was taken with
Royston, Herts.


  Abington Pigotts   177  201  233  259  232  238  228  197  180  169
  Barrington         348  343  483  485  533  596  563  727  621  583
  *Bassingbourn      828  878 1042 1255 1419 1919 1933 2239 2121 1828
  Fowlmere           420  448  541  547  609  597  560  603  542  543
  Foxton             322  304  368  408  452  459  405  413  415  436
  Kneesworth         120  104  171  191  191  229  280  491  596  801
  Litlington         350  418  505  622  722  790  693  768  674  568
  *Melbourn          819  972 1179 1474 1724 1931 1637 1759 1803 1649
  Meldreth           444  452  643  643  723  776  735  757  781  713
  Shepreth           202  253  320   ..  353  321  339  376  373  375
  Shingay             42   50   86  112  137  142  128  118   90   74
  Thriplow           334  319  371  417  477  521  502  522  463  442
  Wendy              109  111  134  125  151  154  128  136  136  127
  Whaddon            221  213  318  339  345  340  319  384  348  341

* Parts of these parishes are in the township of Royston.



                    1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891
  Austey             387  371  440  417       465  473  412  391    *
  Ardeley            484  563  617  599       630  574  563  495  464
  Aspeden            364  367  455  560       539  577  671  613  658
  Broadfield          31   26   23   10         8   19   26   19   **
  Buckland           300  288  343  373       384  385  362  358  367
  Cottered           339  343  410  436       437  470  456  379  357
  Hormead, Great     467  513  564  576       601  660  631  519  431
  Hormead, Little    103   94  112  107        87  103  143  127  116
  Layston            799  907 1014 1093      1220  998 1086 1071  889
  Meesden            122  138  164  158       185  163  181  189    *
  Rushden            253  287  333  342       321  291  276  270  225
  Sandon             595  580  646  716       770  771  809  763  728
  Throcking           58   45   69   76        54   97   63   74   **
  Wakeley              7    8    9    7         9    4    4   10  ***
  Wallington         224  219  210  213       254  238  250  191  133
  Westmill           328  365  415  418       380  353  337  361  348
  Wyddial            181  175  225  243       245  213  199  202  289

* in the Census of 1891, Anstey and Meesden were taken together, and
had a population of 574, or 6 less than the two parishes together in

** Throcking and Broadfield were also taken together, giving a
population of 73, or 20 less than in 1881.

*** Wakeley has ceased to be a separate parish.

[Transcriber's note: there were no entries in the 1841 column.]

The population of the town of Royston can only be arrived at by adding
together the number of the parts of surrounding parishes making up the
township of Royston.  At the last two Censuses these parts have been
enumerated separately, but not in the earlier decades, with the
exception of 1801 and 1831, particulars of which are given below.

  1801.                    Houses.   Houses empty.   Persons.

  Royston, Herts.           193           13           975
     "     Cambs.            77            3           356
  Bassingbourn               25            0           120
  Kneesworth                  3            0             9
  Therfield                   4            1            24
                            ---           --          ----
      Totals                302           17          1484

There were no inhabitants in Melbourn parish, Royston, at the above
Census of ninety years ago, and it will be seen that all the
inhabitants within 153 were in Royston parish proper.

1811.--The Census of this period showed very little difference from the
figures for 1801, and of that of 1821, I have only the particulars for
the two parishes of Royston, Herts., and Cambs., which gave 1,479
persons against 1,331 for these two parishes in 1801.


The most interesting and complete Census of the town was that of the

                                    Houses    Houses
            1831.         Houses.   empty.   building.   Persons.

  Royston, Herts.          244        3         4          1272
     "     Cambs.          102        4         0           485
  Bassingbourn              35        1         0           157
  Kneesworth                 6        1         0            49
  Therfield                  9        0         0            44
  Melbourn                   1        0         0             1
                           ---        -         -          ----
       Totals              397        9         4          2008

The following are the Census returns for the township of Royston for
1881 and 1891.

                         1881.    1891.    Increase.    Decrease.
  Royston, Herts.        1272     1262        --           10
     "     Cambs.         440      439        --            1
  Bassingbourn part       445      472        27           --
  The Workhouse           145      101        --           44
  Kneesworth part         461      682       221           --
  Melbourn part           190      213        23           --
  Therfield part          183      150        --           33
                         ----     ----       ---           --
       Totals            3136     3319       183           --

The interest of the foregoing figures lies in the fact that there was
during the first thirty years of the century a great increase in the
Hertfordshire part of the town, and scarcely any increase in the
Cambridgeshire part, whereas the tendency has now been reversed in so
remarkable a manner that against only 9 persons in Kneesworth parish,
Royston, in 1801, there are now 682.



  Allotments, 114
  Andrews, Hy., astronomer, 34, 107
  Anstey Fair, Rural Sports at, 100
  Arrington, coaching at, 144
  Arrington-hill, 154

  "Bacca" and snuff for paupers, 41
  Banks stopping payment, 56
  Barkway, Day School at, 121
    --Milestones near, 15, 16
    --Terrible fire at, 178, 179
    --Volunteers of, 68
    --Whipping post at, 83
    --Workhouse at, 40
  Barley, "Fox and Hounds" at, 18
  Bassingbourn, 24, 65
    --Incendiary fires at, 170
    --Strange narrative of horse-stealing at, 89
    --Volunteers of, 71
  Beacon fires, 66, 67
  Beadle, dignity and duties of, 53, 54
    --The, and Bastardy laws, 163
    --Emoluments of, 55
  Beldam, Joseph, senr., 28
    --Valentine, 27
  Biggleswade, dreadful fire at, 179
  Bishop Stortford, Volunteers of, 71
  Blucher at Cambridge, 72
  Body-snatching, horrors of, 81
  Bowling Greens, 24, 69
  Bow Street Runner, 170
  Buntingford, Bridewell at, 93
    --Mails from, 115
    --Pauper Weddings at, 50
    --Queen & Prince Albert at, 187
    --Roads, 12
  Burying at four cross-roads, 86
  Butler, Henry, woolstapler, 105
    --John, 27
    --W. Warren, and his rhymes, 132-135
  Butcher, the, and the Baronet, 136

  Cambridge "Chronicle," 15
    --Coach, 10
    --Undergraduates and village rows, 138, 139
  Cambridgeshire Members of Parliament, 157
  Cannon, Mrs., Old Matt and the Burglars, 182
  Capital punishment, painful case of, 91
    --Sentence of death for theft at Melbourn, 91
  Carter, Valentine, stage-coach driver, 150
  Caxton, 71
    --Coaching to, 144
    --Gibbet, 13
    --Mail robbery, 48
    --Turnpike, the, 153, 154
  Cave Estate, Royston, 35, 37
  Census, manner of taking, 116
    --Returns of, in Appendix, 195, 196, 197
  Charles I. at Royston, 7
  Chartism at Royston, 127
  Chimney sweeps' climbing boys, 78
  Chipping, 12
  Cholera-morbus, the, alarm in Royston 60 years ago, 182, 183
  Coaching Accidents, 149, 150
  Coaches, begging from, 152
    --London to Edinburgh, 145
    --Palmy days and speed of, 146
  Coals brought from Cambridge to Royston, 75
  Cock-fighting, 23
  Cooper Thornhill's Ride, 178
  Cottage homes of England, dilapidation of, 192
  Crabb Robinson's Diary, 27
  Cricket in the 18th Century, 130
  Cross, Thos, stage-coach driver, 150
    --Autobiography of, 136-141
  Cruikshank, 67

  Dacre, Lord, 110
    --Lord and Lady, 121
  Daintry, Mrs. and Thomas, 115
  Day Schools, 120
  Death Sentences 100 years ago, 88
  Dogberry, Marrying the Paupers, 49, 50, 51
    --Reporting nuisances, 55, 66
  Dogs and Pedlars' Carts, 153

  Education in Villages, 117
  Electioneering in Herts., 156

  Farmers and the Labourers, 58
    --and Famine prices, 59
  Fire Brigade of last Century, 44
  Fly Wagons, 6
    --Journey to London, by, 143
  Flower, Benjamin, 27
  Food, Prices of, 75
  Fordham, E. K., 70
    --Edward Snow, 75
    --Henry, 7, 31, 78
    --John George, 168, 169, 175
  Forgery, Death sentences for, 92
  Fowlmere, Riot at, 169
  Foxton, Volunteers at, 71
  Free Trade, First meetings in Royston, 112
  French prisoners, 71

  Gallows, The, 88
  Gamlingay, Overseers and paupers at, 162
  Gas, first prices of, 114
  Gatward, James, and the Gibbet, 12, 13
  George III., his reign, 1
    --Fashions in times of, 76
    --Hooted and mobbed, 56
    --Jubilee of, 181
  George IV., and his Queen--Kingites and Queenites, 127
  Gransden, Pauper tyranny at, 166
  Guilden Morden, incendiary fires at, 167

  Hall, Robert, at Royston, 27
  Hardwicke, the Earl of, and the Queen's visit, 188, 189, 190
    --and Royston Races, 133
    --Lady, 21, 68
  Harston, enclosure riot at, 180, 181
  Hatfield, Royal Review at, 70
  Hauxton, sheep stealing at, 89
  Hertford, pillory at, 83
  Heydon Grange, prize-fighting near, 137
  Highwaymen, 151
  Highways, condition of, 8, 10
  Highway robbery, 90
  Hinxton, burning Pain's effigy at, 26
  Hinxworth, labourers' earnings, 59
  Hitchin, awful visitation at, 179
  Hue and cry, 48

  Influenza, following great frost in 1836, 186
  Inoculation, 80

  Jacobin, 4, 26
  Jacklin, James, 72
  James I. at Royston, 8
  "John Ward, beadle," 55

  Kellarman, alchemist of Lilley, 102
  Kneesworth and Caxton toll proceeds of, 154

  Lambert, Daniel, the fat man, 181
  Letters, postage of, 115
  Louis XVIII., at Royston, 181

  McAdam and the North Road, 154
  Mail coach driver killed, 186
  Market ordinary, the, 109
  Melbourn, the Queen and Prince Albert at, 188
  Meldreth and its Stocks, 86
  Memorable year of scarcity, 57
  Mordens, the, 24

  Napoleon Buonaparte, 5
    --Shadow of, 56
    --Threatened invasion by, 61
  Nash, William, 7, 27
  Newspapers, how obtained, 77
  Noon's Folly, and its prize-fights, 136, 139
  Nuthamstead "Sparrow hill," 47

  Odsey Races, the, 22
  Old Matt, the huntsman, 131
  Old music and musicians, 128, 129
  Old Poor-law, the, 32
  Open corn markets, 110

  Packhorses, 6, 7
  Parish Clerks, 122
    --Constable, and his accounts, 46
    --Herdsman, the, 105
    --Leaving without certificate, 43
    --Workhouse, how managed, 39
  Parliamentary Reform, 29, 156
    --Rejoicings at Royston, 157
  Parochial Assessment, 34
    --Parliament, the, 32
  Pattens and Clogs, 113
  Paupers, 40, 41, 42, 44, 46
  Peachey, the Hon. Mrs., 68
  Pedestrian feat by a woman, 182
  Phillips, John, 181
  Pickering, Miss, 27
  Pillion, the use of, 7
  Police, the new, 174, 175, 176
  Poor-law Reform, 159
    --Making up wages, 161
    --Memorable scene on Royston Heath, 172, 173
    --Objection to Central Workhouse, 170
  Poor-law Pauper tyranny, 166
    --Riots and stack firing, 167, 168
  Poor-rate of 22s. in the L at Royston, 61
  Posting and Posthorses, 146
  Press Gang, and terrors of, 86, 88
  Prize-fighting, 135, 136
    --Melbourn Champion, 137, 138
    --Brighton Bill, 138
    --Ward and Crawley fighting for the Championship on Royston Heath, 137
  Public Worship, 122
  Puckeridge Statute Fair, 98

  Queen Victoria's Coronation, rejoicings at Royston, 186
    --Jubilee, 70
    --and Prince Albert at Royston, 187, 188

  Radical Royston, 126
  Railway, first use of, 176, 177
  Revolution, the French, 2, 3, 4
  Richardson, James, 151
  Royal Show, Cambridge, 1840, 186
  Royston, Badger-baiting at, 23
    --Book Club and Debates at, 26, 31, 79
    --Burloes Hill cut through, 183, 184
    --Cave opened, 36, 37
    --Coaching at, 143-145, 148
    --Early Temperance work, 127
    --18th Century bye-laws in, 25
    --Fair tippling at, 100
    --King James' stables at, 22
    --Market, 67, 108
    --Old Royston Club and its members at, 19, 20
    --Pillory at, 83
    --Races, 133
    --Red Lion, social gatherings, 21
    --Stocks at, 83
    --Volunteers of, 70
    --Whipping post at, 83
  Rushden, A. Meetkerke of, 122

  Salisbury, Marchioness, burnt to death, 184
  Semaphore on Royston Heath, 66
  Sheep stealing, death sentences for, 89
  Shelford fires, death sentence for, 168
  Shepreth, skilful woman of, 101
  Shield, Capt., the Rev. Thomas, 68, 71
  Small-pox, a recommendation, 44
  Snelgar, Rev. J., 186
  Snowstorms, memorable, 181, 182, 185
  Soame, Sir Peter, 131, 132, 136
  Stocks, a Lord Chief Justice in, 85

  "Tally-ho" and "Safety" Coaches, 146, 148
  Taxes on marriages, &c., 78
  Therfield, searching for mail, 49
  Threshing machines, breaking of, 166
  Thurnall, Henry, and the highwayman, 90
    --Commended by Poor-law Commissioners, 171
  Thurnall, H. J., picture by, 18
  Thurtle and Hunt, trial of, 49
  Tinder Box, the, 73, 74
  Tithes collected in kind, 124
  Turpin, Dick, traditions of, 13, 14

  Velocipede, the, 152
  Volunteers, associations of, 67

  Wadesmill Turnpike, 155
  Wagon and sign post, the, 184, 185
  Walton, Joe, coachdriver, 148, 149
  Warren, J., 68, 157
  Window tax, 79
  Witches, 101
  Wheat, 28s. a bushel, 60
  "Wheatbarn tasker," the, 166
  Woodcock, Elizabeth, buried alive in the snow, 181
  Wortham, Lady, 77
  Wortham, Squire, 131
  Wrestling matches, 24

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fragments of Two Centuries - Glimpses of Country Life when George III. was King" ***

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