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Title: The Bath Road - History, Fashion, & Frivolity on an Old Highway
Author: Harper, Charles G. (Charles George)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE BATH ROAD

    *       *       *       *       *


WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR.


THE BRIGHTON ROAD: Old Times and New on a Classic Highway.

THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD, and its Tributaries, To-day, and in Days of Old.

THE DOVER ROAD: Annals of an Ancient Turnpike.

THE EXETER ROAD: The Story of the West of England Highway. [_In the
Press._

    *       *       *       *       *


[Illustration: GEORGE THE THIRD TRAVELLING FROM WINDSOR TO LONDON, 1806.
(_After R. B. Davis._)]


THE BATH ROAD

History, Fashion, & Frivolity on an Old Highway

by

CHARLES G. HARPER

Author of "The Brighton Road," "The Portsmouth Road,"
"The Dover Road," &c. &c.


[Illustration]


Illustrated by the Author, and from Old Prints and Pictures



London: Chapman & Hall, Limited
1899
(_All Rights Reserved_)



Printed by
William Clowes and Sons, Limited,
London and Beccles.



TO E. T. COOK, ESQ.


_Dear Mr. Cook,_

_It was by your favour, as Editor of the_ DAILY NEWS, _that the very gist
of this book first saw the light, in the form of two articles in the
columns of that paper. It seems, then, peculiarly appropriate that these
pages--representing, in the measurements common to journalists and
authors, a growth from four thousand to some sixty thousand words--should
be inscribed to yourself._

  _Sincerely yours_,
  CHARLES G. HARPER.



_Preface_


_This, the fourth volume in a series of books having for its object the
preservation of so much of the Story of the Roads as may be interesting to
the reading public, has been completed after considerable delay. The_
DOVER ROAD, _which preceded the present work, was published so long ago as
the close of 1895, and in that book the_ BATH ROAD _was (prematurely, it
should seem, indeed) described as "In the Press." Attention is drawn to
the fact, partly in order to point out how quickly and how surely the
old-time aspects of the roads are disappearing; for, since the_ BATH ROAD
_has been in progress, no fewer than four of the old inns pictured in
these pages have disappeared, while great stretches of the road, once
rural, have become suburban, and suburban streets have been so altered
that they are in no wise distinguishable from those of town. It is because
they will preserve the appearance and the memory of buildings that have
had their day and are now being swept off the face of the earth, that it
is hoped these volumes will find a welcome with those who care to cherish
something of the records of a day that is done._

CHARLES G. HARPER.

  PETERSHAM, SURREY,
  _February, 1899_.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


SEPARATE PLATES

                                                                    PAGE

   1. GEORGE THE THIRD TRAVELLING FROM WINDSOR TO LONDON,
      1806. (_After R. B. Davis_)                          Frontispiece.

   2. COACHING MISERIES. (_After Rowlandson_)                          7

   3. PASSENGERS REFRESHED AFTER A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY.
      (_After Rowlandson_)                                            13

   4. THE "WHITE BEAR," PICCADILLY                                    23

   5. ALLEN'S STALL AT HYDE PARK CORNER, ABOUT 1756                   35

   6. HYDE PARK CORNER, 1797                                          41

   7. KENSINGTON HIGH STREET, SUMMER SUNSET                           47

   8. COLNBROOK, A DECAYED COACHING TOWN                             101

   9. AN ENGLISH ROAD                                                125

  10. MAIDENHEAD THICKET                                             131

  11. THE STAGE WAGGON. (_After Rowlandson_)                         139

  12. THEALE                                                         143

  13. WOOLHAMPTON                                                    147

  14. RAIL AND RIVER: THE KENNET AND THE GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY       151

  15. AT THE 55TH MILESTONE                                          155

  16. HUNGERFORD                                                     169

  17. MARLBOROUGH                                                    189

  18. FYFIELD                                                        195

  19. MARLBOROUGH DOWNS, NEAR WEST OVERTON                           199

  20. THE WHITE HORSE, CHERHILL                                      207

  21. THE OLD MARKET HOUSE, CHIPPENHAM                               211

  22. BOX VILLAGE                                                    225

  23. BATHAMPTON MILL                                                229

  24. PRIOR PARK                                                     247

  25. BATH ABBEY: THE WEST FRONT                                     261

  26. THE ROMAN BATH, RESTORED                                       265


ILLUSTRATIONS IN TEXT


  Old Village Lock-up, Cranford                           (_Title-page_)

  Sign of the "White Bear," now at Fickles Hole                       25

  The "White Horse" Inn, Fetter Lane. Demolished 1898                 30

  Courtyard of the "Old Bell," Holborn. Demolished 1897               32

  Hyde Park Corner, 1786                                              37

  Hyde Park Corner, 1792                                              39

  The "Halfway House," 1848                                           43

  "Oldest Inhabitant"                                                 50

  Thackeray's House, Young Street                                     54

  The "White Horse." Traditional Retreat of Addison                   55

  The "Red Cow," Hammersmith. Demolished 1897                         57

  Robin Hood and Little John                                          64

  The "Old Windmill"                                                  65

  The "Old Pack Horse"                                                67

  Kew Bridge, Low Water                                               69

  Cottages, supposed to have been the Haunts of Dick Turpin           72

  A Bath Road Pump                                                    85

  The "Berkeley Arms"                                                 86

  Cranford House                                                      88

  The "Old Magpies"                                                   90

  The "Gothic Barn," Harmondsworth                                    95

  Old Flail, Harmondsworth                                            96

  The County Boundary                                                 98

  Almshouses, Langley                                                104

  The Stolen Fountain                                                105

  Windsor Castle, from the Road near Slough                          106

  The "Bell and Bottle" Sign                                         133

  Palmer's Statue                                                    135

  Thatcham                                                           149

  Inscription, Newbury Church                                        157

  Old Cloth Hall, Newbury                                            160

  The last of the Smock-frocks and Beavers                           164

  Curious old Toll-house                                             165

  Hungerford Tutti-men                                               171

  Littlecote                                                         176

  The Haunted Chamber                                                178

  Roadside Inn, Manton                                               194

  Avebury                                                            201

  Silbury Hill                                                       202

  Cross Keys                                                         218

  The Hungerford Almshouse, Corsham Regis                            221

  Entrance to Box Quarries                                           224

  The Sun God                                                        233

  Roman inscribed tablet                                             235

  The Batheaston Vase                                                242

  "Sham Castle"                                                      249

  Old Pulteney Bridge                                                253

  Illustrations to Old Advertisements                           258, 259



THE ROAD TO BATH


  London (Hyde Park Corner) to--                                   MILES

  Kensington--
    St. Mary Abbots                                                1-3/4
    Addison Road                                                   2-1/2

  Hammersmith                                                      3-1/4

  Turnham Green                                                    5

  Brentford--
    Star Gates                                                     6
    Town Hall (cross River Brent and Grand Junction Canal)         7

  Isleworth (Railway Station)                                      8-1/2

  Hounslow (Trinity Church)                                        9-3/4

  Cranford Bridge (cross River Crane)                             12-1/4

  Harlington Corner                                               13

  Longford (cross River Colne)                                    15-1/4

  Colnbrook (cross River Colne)                                   17

  Langley Broom ("King William IV." Inn)                          18-1/2

  Slough ("Crown" Hotel)                                          20-1/2

  Salt Hill                                                       21-1/4

  Maidenhead (cross River Thames)                                 26

  Littlewick                                                      29-1/4

  Knowl Hill                                                      31

  Hare Hatch                                                      32-1/4

  Twyford (cross River Loddon)                                    34

  Reading (cross River Kennet)                                    39

  Calcot Green                                                    41-1/2

  Theale                                                          44

  Woolhampton                                                     49-1/4

  Thatcham (cross River Lambourne)                                52-3/4

  Speenhamland}
              }                                                   55-3/4
  Newbury     }

  Church Speen                                                    56-3/4

  Hungerford (cross River Kennet)                                 64-1/2

  Froxfield (cross River Kennet)                                  67

  Marlborough                                                     74-1/2

  Fyfield                                                         77

  Overton                                                         78

  West Kennet (cross River Kennet)                                79-1/4

  Beckhampton Inn                                                 81

  Cherhill                                                        84

  Quemerford (cross tributary of River Marden)                    86-1/4

  Calne (cross River Calne)                                       87-1/4

  Black Dog Hill                                                  88-3/4

  Derry Hill (Swan Inn)                                           90-3/4

  Chippenham (cross River Avon)                                   93-1/4

  Cross Keys                                                      96-1/2

  Pickwick ("Hare and Hounds" Inn)                                97-1/4

  Box                                                            100-1/4

  Batheaston                                                     103-1/2

  Walcot                                                         104-1/2

  Bath (G. P. O.)                                                105-3/4



The BATH ROAD



I


The great main roads of England have each their especial and unmistakeable
character, not only in the nature of the scenery through which they run,
but also in their story and in the memories which cling about them. The
history of the Brighton Road is an epitome of all that was dashing and
dare-devil in the times of the Regency and the reign of George the Fourth;
the Portsmouth Road is sea-salty and blood-boltered with horrid tales of
smuggling days, almost to the exclusion of every other imaginable
characteristic of road history; and the story of the Dover Road is a very
microcosm of the nation's history. Nothing strongly characteristic of
England, Englishmen, and English customs but what you shall find a hint of
it on the Dover Road. As for the Holyhead Road, it traverses the Midland
territory of the fox-hunting and port-drinking squires, and reeks of
toasts and conjurations of "no heel-taps;" the great North Road is an
agricultural route pre-eminently; the Exeter Road the running-ground of
some of the fleetest and best-appointed coaches of the Coaching Age; while
the Bath Road was at one time the most literary and fashionable of them
all.

The best period of the Bath Road was peculiarly the era of powder and
patches; of tie-wigs, long-skirted coats, and gorgeous waistcoats; of silk
stockings and buckled shoes; when the test of a well-bred gentleman was
the making a leg and the nice carriage of a clouded cane; when a grand
lady would "protest" that a thing which challenged her admiration was
"monstrous fine," and a gallant beau would "stap his vitals" by way of
emphasis. It was a period of rigid etiquette and hollow artificiality; but
a period also of a grand literary upheaval, and an era in which people
were not, as now, merely clothed, but dressed.

Bath at this time was the most fashionable place in all England. Did my
lady suffer from that mysterious eighteenth-century complaint "the
vapours," she journeyed to "the Bath." Did my lord experience in the gout
a foretaste of the torments of that place popularly supposed to be paved
with good intentions, he also went to Bath, in his private carriage,
cursing as he went; while the halt, the lame, the afflicted of many
diseases, came this way; some posting, others by stage-coach, and yet more
riding horseback. Every invalid, hypochondriac, and _malade imaginaire_
who could afford it went to Bath, for continental spas had not then become
possible for English people, and the nauseating waters of Aix, Baden, and
other places simply trickled unheeded away.

[Sidenote: _THE BEGGARS OF BATH_]

Every invalid, in fact, who could afford it, went to Bath, and the
mentally afflicted, who could not go, were sent thither; so that the
saying which is now become proverbial (and whose origin and subtle
innuendo seem in danger of being lost) arose, "Go to Bath," with the
rider, "and get your head shaved;" the lunatics who were sent to those
healing waters usually being thus tonsured. This derisive phrase was used
toward any one who propounded a more than ordinarily crack-brained
project. It is, perhaps, scarcely necessary to say that it has no sort of
connection with the modern music-hall vulgarism, "Get your hair cut!"

Another theory--but one more ingenious than acceptable--has it that the
phrase derives from Bath having always been a resort of beggars. What,
then, more natural, we are asked, than for one accosted by a mendicant to
recall this topographical notoriety, and bid the rogue "go to Bath"? For,
according to Fuller, that worthy author of the "Worthies," there were
"many in that place; some natives there, others repairing thither from all
parts of the land; the poor for alms, the pained for ease. Whither should
fowl flock in a hard frost but to the barn-door? Here, all the two
seasons, being the general confluence of gentry. Indeed, laws are daily
made to restrain beggars, and daily broken by the connivance of those who
make them; it being impossible, when the hungry belly barks and bowels
sound, to keep the tongue silent. And although oil of whip be the proper
plaister for the cramp of laziness, yet some pity is due to impotent
persons. In a word, seeing there is the Lazar's-bath in this city, I
doubt not but many a good Lazarus, the true object of charity, may beg
therein." The road, then, to this City of Springs must have witnessed a
motley throng.



II


The history of travelling, from the Creation to the present time, may be
divided into four periods--those of no coaches, slow coaches, fast
coaches, and railways. The "no-coach" period is a lengthy one, stretching,
in fact, from the beginning of things, through the ages, down to the days
of the Romans, and so on to the era when pack-horses conveyed travellers
and goods along the uncertain tracks, which in the Middle Ages were all
that remained of the highways built by that masterful race. The
"slow-coach" era was preceded by an age when those few people who
travelled at all went either on horseback, with their women-folk clinging
on behind them, or else were wealthy enough to be able to afford the keep
or hire of a "chariot," as the carriages of that time were named. That
sinful old reprobate, Samuel Pepys, lived in the last days of the
"no-coach" period, and saw the arrival of the slow coaches. He was one of
those who used a chariot, and his "Diary" is full of accounts of how, on
his innumerable journeys, he lost his way because of the badness of the
roads, which then ran through vast stretches of unenclosed, uncultivated,
and sparsely inhabited country, and were so fearfully bad that in many
places the drivers did not dare to attempt such veritable "sloughs of
despond," but drove around them over the hedgeless fields, thus making
new tracks for themselves. In this way the origin of the winding character
which many of our roads still retain is sufficiently accounted for.

[Sidenote: _THE "FLYING MACHINE"_]

The "slow-coach" era was, absurdly enough, that of the "flying machines,"
and in that era, with the year 1667, the coaching history of the Bath Road
may be said to begin, when some greatly daring person issued a bill
announcing that a "flying machine" would make the journey. It is not to be
supposed that this was some emulator of Icarus or predecessor of the
ambitious folks who for the last hundred years, more or less, have been
trying to navigate the air with balloons or mechanical flying machines.
Not at all. This was simply the figurative language employed to convey to
those whom it might concern the wonderful feat that was to be attempted
("God permitting," as the advertiser was careful to add), of travelling by
road from the "Bell Savage," on Ludgate Hill, to Bath in three days. But
here is the announcement:--

    "FLYING MACHINE.

    "All those desirous to pass from London to Bath, or any other Place on
    their Road, let them repair to the 'Bell Savage' on Ludgate Hill in
    London, and the 'White Lion' at Bath, at both which places they may be
    received in a Stage Coach every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which
    performs the Whole Journey in Three Days (if God permit), and sets
    forth at five o'clock in the morning.

    "Passengers to pay One Pound five Shillings each, who are allowed to
    carry fourteen Pounds Weight--for all above to pay three-halfpence per
    Pound."

The rush of fashionables to take the waters, and see and be seen, had
obviously not then commenced, since one crawling "flying machine" sufficed
to accommodate the traffic; and it was not until thirty-six years later
that it did begin, when Queen Anne (who, alas! is dead) resorted to "the
Bath" for the benefit of the gout. What says Pope?

  "Great Anna, whom Three Realms obey,
  Does sometimes counsel take, and sometimes tay."

If she had taken tea more consistently and drank less port, she would have
been just as great and not so gouty--and Bath would have remained in that
semi-obscurity in which it had long languished. No crowds of fashionables,
no truckling statesmen, no wits, would have hastened down the road and
peopled it so brilliantly had not Anne's big toe twinged with the torments
of the damned; and it seems likely enough that this book would never have
been written. Under the circumstances, therefore, the most appropriate
toast for the author and the Mayor and Corporation of Bath to honour is
that favourite old one, "High Church, High Farming, and Old Port for
Ever," especially the last, "coupling with it," as they used to say before
the custom of giving toasts died out, the honoured memory of Queen Anne.

Another three-days-a-week coach then began to ply between London and Bath.
In 1711 it had a rival, and five years later saw the establishment of the
first daily coach from London. Thomas Baldwin, citizen and cooper of
London, saw money in the venture, and, like the hero of one of Bret
Harte's verses, who "saw his duty a dead sure thing," he "went for it,
there and then." He would seem to have secured it, too, for he held the
road for many years against all rivals, and was, moreover, landlord of one
of the foremost hostelries on the road--the "Crown," at Salt Hill.

[Illustration: COACHING MISERIES. (_After Rowlandson._)]

His rivals were many, and, considering the popularity to which Bath soon
attained, they must all have done well. Indeed, the establishment of a new
coach to Bath would now appear to have been a favourite form of
speculation, and Londoners found many such advertisements as the
following:--

    "_Daily Advertiser._ April 9, 1737.
    "For Bath.

    "A good Coach and able Horses will set out from the 'Black Swan' Inn,
    in Holborn, on Wednesday or Thursday.

    "Enquire of WILLIAM MAUD."

[Sidenote: _COACHING MISERIES_]

The invalid who trusted himself to the stage-coach of that period had,
however, many risks to run. Doctors might recommend the waters, but before
the patient reached them he had to endure a two days' journey, and even at
that to bear a very martyrdom of bumps and jolts. For that was just before
the time when coach-proprietors began to announce "comfortable" coaches
"with springs," just as, a little earlier, they had laid great stress on
their conveyances being glazed, and (to skip the centuries) as railway
companies nowadays advertise dining and drawing room cars. Here are some
coaching woes:--

    "Just as you are going off, with only one other person on your side of
    the coach, who, you flatter yourself, is the last--seeing the door
    opened suddenly, and the landlady, coachman, guard, etc., cramming
    and shoving and buttressing up an overgrown, puffing, greasy human
    being of the butcher or grazier breed; the whole machine straining and
    groaning under its cargo from the box to the basket. By dint of
    incredible efforts and contrivances, the carcase is at length weighed
    up to the door, where it has next to struggle with various obstacles
    in the passage."

The pictorial commentary upon this text is appended, together with a view
representing passengers refreshed by being overturned into a wayside pond.

The first mail-coach that ever ran in England ran between London and
Bristol, and set out on Monday, August 2, 1784. Hitherto the letters had
been conveyed by mounted post-boys, often provided with but sorry hacks,
and always open to attack at the hands of any bad characters who might
think it worth their while to intercept the post-bags. This risk led the
more cautious persons, and those whose correspondence was of particular
importance, to despatch their letters by the stage-coach, although the
cost in that case was 2_s._ as against the ordinary postal charge of only
4_d._ for places between 80 and 120 miles distant.

[Sidenote: _THE FIRST MAIL COACH_]

A clever and enterprising man resident at Bath had noted these things.
This was John Palmer, the proprietor of the Bath Theatre. He not only
noted them, but devised a plan by which the post was rendered swifter and
more secure. The stage-coaches of that time took thirty-eight hours to
accomplish the journey between London and Bath, and, although safer for
the carriage of correspondence than by post-boy, were not so speedy.
Palmer had frequently travelled the roads, and he rightly conceived
thirty-eight hours to be too long a time to take for a journey of 106
miles. He drew up a scheme for a mail-coach to carry four inside
passengers, a coachman, and a guard, and to be drawn by four horses at the
rate of between eight and nine miles an hour. In this manner, he argued,
the journey between Bath and London should be accomplished, including
stoppages, in sixteen hours. This plan, which he made as an instance, to
be extended, if successful, to the other main roads throughout the
kingdom, he communicated to the General Post Office. Two years passed
before Palmer could get his proposals tried, but arrangements were
eventually made, agreements entered into with five innkeepers along the
London, Bath, and Bristol Road, for the horsing of the coach, and the
first mail despatched from Bristol to London, August 2, 1784. The mounted
post-boy's day was nearing its close, and by the summer of 1786, the trunk
roads knew him and his post-horn no more.

The mail-coaches enjoyed great privileges, of which the greatest was their
exemption from all turnpike tolls, and the right exercised by the Post
Office of indicting roads which might be out of repair or in any way
dangerous. By the year 1810, mail-coaches had increased so greatly that
the estimated annual loss of the various turnpike trusts on this exemption
was £50,000. And all the while the postal business was increasing by leaps
and bounds, although the price of postage was increased from time to time
to help supply the Government, which speedily came to recognize the
Department as a milch cow, and to demand increasing annual payments from
it, to help pay the costs of waging Continental wars.

Let us see what the postage between London, Bath, and Bristol was at
different periods. The charges were regulated by distances, and one of the
schedule measurements, "exceeding 80 miles and not exceeding 150 miles,"
just includes these two towns. We find, then, that it was possible to get
a letter conveyed that distance in 1635 for 4_d._, while a bulky package
weighing one ounce cost 9_d._ in transmission; not extravagant charges for
that far-off time, even allowing for the greater purchasing power of money
in the first half of the seventeenth century. Twenty-five years later the
scale was altered, and one could despatch a note for a penny less,
although it cost 3_d._ more for an ounce weight. From 1711 to 1765, the
scale was--

  Letter.      One ounce.
   4_d._       1_s._ 4_d._

and from 1765 to 1784 the charges were again raised, to 5_d._ and 1_s._
8_d._ respectively. Matters then went from bad to worse. In the beginning
of 1797, the figures were 7_d._ and 2_s._ 4_d._; while the climax was
finally reached at the beginning of this century, for on July 9, 1812, it
cost 9_d._ to send a note between London, Bath, or Bristol, and 3_s._ for
one ounce. A singular fact, in face of these repeated increases, was the
growth of the Post Office revenues. In 1796, the net profit was £479,000;
ten years later it had risen to considerably over one million sterling.
The Bristol profit on Post Office business was £469 in 1794-5, and at that
time the postmaster received a salary of £110 per annum. The Bath
postmaster's billet was the best in the service, for he received £150,
and, moreover, had the assistance of one clerk and three letter-carriers.

[Illustration: PASSENGERS REFRESHED AFTER A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY. (_After
Rowlandson._)]

Meanwhile the stage-coaches had increased greatly. It was about 1800 that
the "Sick, Lame, and Lazy"--a sober conveyance so called from the nature
of its passengers, invalids, real and imaginary, on their way to Bath--was
displaced by the new post coach that performed the journey in a single
day; and thus the comfortable, _and_ expensive, beds of the "Pelican" at
Speenhamland, where "the coach slept," began to be disestablished.



III


[Sidenote: _"GOD-PERMITS"_]

Our forefathers of the coaching age were properly pious. Desirous, when
they travelled, of a "happy issue out of all their afflictions," as the
Prayer-book has it--which in their case included such varied troubles as
highwaymen's attacks, being upset, or finding themselves snowed up, with
the extreme likelihood in winter-time of being severely frostbitten--they
made their wills, and fervently committed themselves to the protection
of Providence before starting and putting themselves in the care of
the coachman. Coach proprietors, for their part, always advertised
their conveyances to run "D.V.;" and the more slangy among our
great-grandparents were accordingly accustomed to speak of these coaches
as "God-permits." Express trains, which stop for nothing in heaven above
or the earth beneath, short of a cataclysm of nature, have relegated that
joke to the domains of archæology. Then, however, it had its poignant
side.

"The perils of the road in winter and foul weather," says one who braved
them, "were formidable. On one occasion I rode sixteen hours under a
deluging downpour of rain that never ceased for a single minute, and was
so crushing in its effect as to disable every umbrella on the roof before
the first hour had elapsed. On another occasion I started at six on a
winter's morning outside the Bath "Regulator," which was due in London at
eight o'clock at night. I was the only outside passenger. It came on to
snow about an hour after we started--a snowstorm that never ceased for
three days. The roads were a yard deep in snow before we reached Reading,
which was exactly at the time we were due in London. Then with six horses
we laboured on, and finally arrived at Fetter Lane at a quarter to three
in the morning. Had it not been for the stiff doses of brandied coffee
swallowed at every stage, this record would never have been written. As it
was, I was so numbed, hands and feet, that I had to be lifted down, or
rather, hauled out of an avalanche or hummock of snow, like a bale of
goods. The landlady of the 'White Horse' took me in hand, and I was thawed
gradually by the kitchen fire, placed between warm pillows, and dosed with
a posset of her own compounding. Fortunately, no permanent injury
resulted."

[Sidenote: _SNOWSTORMS_]

That was as late as 1816. Happily, although the term "an old-fashioned
winter," is one frequently employed nowadays to denote one of exceptional
severity, there is no reason to believe that such winters were less
exceptional then than they are now. But the great frosts and snowstorms of
those times belong to history, and although they only occurred (as they do
now) at considerable intervals, they bulk largely in the records of the
past.

The great snowstorm of December 26, 1836, dislocated the coach service all
over the country. The drifts on Marlborough Downs varied in depth from
fourteen to sixteen feet. The Duke of Wellington, who was travelling down
the road to the Duke of Beaufort's place at Badminton, arrived at
Marlborough on the Monday night, in the thick of it, and put up at the
"Castle." He was journeying in a carriage and four, with outriders, and
started again the next morning, to be promptly stuck fast in a wheatfield.
A number of labourers were procured, who dug him out.

On that memorable occasion, the Bath and Bristol mails, which were due at
those places on the Tuesday morning, were abandoned eighty miles from
London, the mail-bags being brought up by the two guards in a post-chaise
with four horses. For seventeen miles they had to come by way of the
fields.

Three outside passengers died of the cold when one of the stage coaches
reached Chippenham, and frostbites were innumerable.

But if all the untoward coaching incidents were recounted that befell upon
the Bath Road, this would resolve itself into a dismal record, and it
might then be supposed that coaching was invariably dangerous and
uncomfortable, which was not the case. One of the most singular of these
happenings was that in which a home-coming sailor was killed. A gunner
named John Baker was wrecked on board the frigate _Diomede_, off the coast
of Trincomalee, and narrowly escaped being drowned. Being picked up, he
recovered sufficiently to be able to take a part in the storming of that
place, and was sent home with the ship bearing the despatches. When he set
foot again in England, he must naturally have thought all dangers past;
but, coming up from Bath in January, 1796, the coach capsized at Reading,
and the unhappy gunner, who had survived all perils of battle and the
breeze, was killed.

A not dissimilar accident happened in July, 1827, when the Bath mail was
overturned between Reading and Newbury, through the horses bolting into a
gravel-pit. A naval officer was killed, and most of the passengers
injured.

[Sidenote: _FOGS_]

Although the latter accident happened in an age of very fast coaches, it
is a fact that disasters were actually fewer than they had been in more
leisurely times. The reasons for this increased safety in times when speed
was vastly greater may be found in the facts that the roads were better
kept, and the coaches better built. A whole series of Turnpike Acts had
been passed in the course of the previous fifty years, resulting in roads
as nearly perfect as roads can be, while the coachbuilder's trade had
become almost an exact science. Had it not been for the occasional
recklessness or drunkenness of drivers, and the winter fogs, there would
be little to record in the way of accidents. As it was, coachmen sometimes
(but very rarely) took a convivial glass too much; or, more often, raced
opposition coaches to a final smash; and then there were the "pea-soupers"
of fogs, which led the most experienced astray.

The following story belongs to the first quarter of this century, and is
told by one of the old drivers: "I recollect," he says, "a singular
circumstance occasioned by a fog. There were eight mails that passed
through Hounslow. The Bristol, Bath, Gloucester, and Stroud took the
right-hand road; the Exeter, Yeovil, Poole, and 'Quicksilver' Devonport
(which was the one I was driving) went the straight road towards Staines.
We always saluted each other when passing with 'Good night, Bill,' 'Dick,'
or 'Harry,' as the case might be. I was once passing a mail, mine being
the fastest, and gave my wonted salute. A coachman named Downs was driving
the Stroud mail. He instantly recognized my voice, so said, 'Charley, what
are you doing on my road?' It was he, however, who had made the mistake;
he had taken the Staines instead of the Slough road out of Hounslow. We
both pulled up immediately; he had to turn round and go back--a feat
attended with some difficulty in such a fog. Had it not been for our usual
salute, he would not have discovered his mistake before arriving at
Staines."



IV


One of the most striking differences between the coaching age and these
railway times lies in the altered relations between passenger and driver.
No railway passenger ever thinks of the man who drives the engine. He, in
fact, rarely sees him. The coachman, on the other hand, was very much in
evidence, and was not only seen, but expected to be "remembered" as well.
And "remembered" the old coachmen were, too: for half a crown each to
driver and guard was the least one could do in those times. How great a
tax this was upon the traveller may be guessed when it is said that the
coachman was generally changed about every fifty miles or so. The guard
would probably accompany the coach all the way to Bath, but on the longer
journeys there were at least two. There was a very simple formula used, as
a hint to passengers that a tip should be forthcoming. "I go no further,
gentlemen," the coachman would observe, putting his head in at the window.
A simultaneous dipping of the hands into fobs on the part of the
passengers resulted from this piece of information, and the coachman would
depart, richer by considerably over half a sovereign. Imagination does not
go to the length of picturing the driver or the guard of a train doing the
like.

[Sidenote: _TIPS_]

It is not, however, to be supposed that coach passengers greatly delighted
in the practice, even in those fine open-handed days. There were many who
could not afford it, and others who regarded it as an imposition. But they
tipped all the same, because, as Mr. Chaplin, the great coach proprietor
in those palmy days, observed, if they did not the guard and coachman
"would look very hard at them." Better to face a lioness robbed of her
cubs than a coachman defrauded of his tip. Passengers, therefore, resigned
themselves with a sigh to the expenditure, and travelled as little as they
possibly could. There can, indeed, be no doubt that tipping, grown to a
regular system, injured the coach proprietors' business; and it was
eventually, if not abolished entirely, at least shorn of its more
grandiose proportions. The first man to tackle the question was Thomas
Cooper. He was proprietor of a line of coaches running between London and
Bristol from 1827 to 1832. "Cooper's Old Company," he called his business.
He had originally been landlord of the "Castle Hotel" at Marlborough, but
gave it up and removed to Thatcham, where he took a cottage and built
stables for his coaching stud. Here he was practically halfway between
London and Bristol, and his day and night coaches stopped to dine and sup
at "Cooper's Cottage," as, with a sense of the value of alliteration, he
called it. All his advertisements bore the announcement, "No fees," and
the same pleasing legend was writ large on the backs of his coaches.

Cooper paid his coachmen and guards considerably higher wages, to
compensate them for the loss of their tips. He became bankrupt in 1832,
and sold his business to Chaplin, who afterwards, through his interest in
the railway world, obtained him the post of stationmaster at Richmond,
near London. From this position he eventually retired on a pension, and
died about fifteen years ago.

We all know the cantankerous passenger in the railway carriage who makes
himself objectionable in a variety of ways, but a coach was a much more
fruitful source of contention. Fortunately, however, it was not often that
the incident of the strong man in the Bath coach bound for London was
repeated. A corpulent person of prodigious strength tried to secure a
place in the mail, but, all the seats being booked, he was told that it
was impossible to convey him that night. Relying upon his strength and the
unlikelihood of any one daring to disturb him, he got in while the coach
was still standing in the stable yard, and waited. He had to wait so long,
and had dined so well, that he fell asleep, and the coachman, finding him
there, snoring, put his team into another coach, leaving the fat man in
peaceable possession of his seat. He awoke in the middle of the night,
still, of course, in the stable yard of the "White Lion" at Bath, while
the road echoed with the laughter of the coachman and his friends all the
way up to London.

[Sidenote: _"FULL INSIDE"_]

In that incident the passengers were fortunate. The "insides" were less to
be congratulated who bore a part in the memorable journey down to Bath
from Piccadilly with an extra passenger. It is of the Bath mail that the
story is told. Mail coaches carried four inside. One night, when the mail
was ready to start from Piccadilly, full up, inside and out, a gentleman
who wanted to go to Marlborough came hurrying up. He was well known to
coachman and guard as a regular customer; but, although they did not
want to leave him behind, there seemed to be no alternative. He solved the
difficulty himself by squeezing in as the coach started; and so, packed as
tightly as herrings in a barrel, they rumbled away, amid the muttered
curses of the original occupants. The misery of that journey may be better
imagined than described, and when the coach halted at the "Bear" at
Maidenhead, it might be supposed that the "insides" would have been only
too pleased to get out for a momentary relief when the guard appeared at
the door and made what was usually the pleasant announcement, "Time to get
a cup of coffee here, gentlemen." Did they get out? Oh no! They were so
tightly wedged that they dared not move, afraid lest they should not be
able to get in again. So they endured to the bitter end, and there can be
no doubt whatever that when Marlborough was reached, they "sped the
parting guest" with exceptional heartiness.

[Illustration: THE "WHITE BEAR," PICCADILLY.]

[Illustration: SIGN OF THE "WHITE BEAR," NOW AT FICKLES HOLE.]

The inn from which this coach started was the "White Bear," Piccadilly,
which stood, until about the year 1860, on the site now occupied by the
Criterion Restaurant. It was a curious old place, chiefly of wood, and had
a great effigy of a polar bear on its frontage. This "White Bear" sign is
still in existence, but rusticated to the lonely hamlet of Fickles Hole,
near Croydon, where it stands in the little garden of the "White Bear"
inn.



V


A very swagger stage-coach, the "York House," was started between Bath and
London in 1815, followed by a rival, the "Beaufort Hunt." The first-named
started from the "York House Hotel" at Bath; the "Beaufort Hunt" from the
"White Lion." Both were fast day coaches; and, perhaps because of racing,
the "Beaufort Hunt" was upset twice in a fortnight, soon after it had been
put on the road. It was a sporting age, but not so sporting that
passengers were prepared to risk life and limb in taking part in this
keen rivalry. Accordingly, the "Beaufort Hunt" fell upon evil times, and
the proprietor had to dismiss his too zealous drivers. He was, however,
fortunate in his new coachman, who was exceptionally civil and obliging,
and eventually regained the position of the coach, which, although it kept
up a furious pace of eleven miles an hour, remained for years a prime
favourite with the more dashing travellers along the road.

This and the other crack coaches, which continued running until the Great
Western Railway finally took them away on trucks, quite cut out the mails,
which, from being the fastest coaches on the road, soon came to occupy a
very middling position.

[Sidenote: _THE AUGUSTAN AGE_]

In 1821, the mail-coaches had reached a speed of nearly eight and
three-quarter miles an hour, including stoppages. They started from the
General Post Office at 8 p.m., and reached Bristol at 10 a.m. the
following morning. At the same period the two fast stage-coaches just
described were doing their eleven miles an hour, and in 1830 were actually
timed a mile an hour faster, while the mail was very little accelerated,
if at all. Some years later, indeed (in 1837), the Bristol mail was
wakened up, and performed the 121 miles in 11 hrs. 45 min., or at the rate
of ten miles and a quarter an hour, including changes, of which there were
fourteen. This was the fine flower of the Coaching Age on the Bath Road.
There were then about fifteen or sixteen day and night coaches between
London and Bath, and two mails, all running full. On June 4, 1838, the
Great Western Railway was opened as far as Slough, and the coaches ran
only between that place and Bath. In March, 1840, the railway was open as
far as Reading; and June 30, 1841, saw trains running between London,
Bath, and Bristol, and the road deserted.

The difference between those times and these is sufficiently striking to
demand some attention. Fares by mail were 4_d._ a mile; by stage-coach,
from 4_d._ to 3-1/2_d._ a mile inside, and 2_d._ outside. Or, if one
wanted to travel somewhat cheaper, and did not mind an all-night journey,
the fares by night coach were about 2-1/2_d._ and 1-1/2_d._ respectively.
The cost of travelling to Bath was therefore anything from 35_s._ down to
14_s._ To these figures 5_s._ or 6_s._ should be added, for coachmen and
guards always expected to be tipped, while something like half a sovereign
for refreshments was essential.

For those whose time was of no consequence, and whose pockets were not
well lined, there were the slow lumbering stage-waggons, which progressed
at about four miles an hour and stopped everywhere. The fare by these was
something under a penny a mile, and refreshments were correspondingly
cheap, for the landlords of the wayside inns, who despised this kind of
travellers, provided a supper of cold beef at 6_d._ a head, and a
shake-down of clean straw in the stable-loft at a nominal price.

If, on the other hand, one desired to do the thing in style, it was always
possible to post down. Only the great men of the earth did that, for the
cost was more than considerable, tolls alone for a carriage and pair
amounting to 9_s._ In fact, posting pair-horse to Bath would not have
cost less than £11. Nor would there then have been any advantage in pace,
for post-chaises generally attained a speed of ten miles an hour, when the
best coaches were doing twelve. Still, there were those who posted, ready
to pay, both in money and time, for their privacy; for the wealthy Briton
of that day was apt to be an extremely haughty and insufferable person,
and preferred to travel like a Grand Llama, even though he paid heavily
for it in coin and discomfort.

[Sidenote: _THE FIRST MOTOR-CAR_]

Almost the last scene in this "strange eventful history" of
road-travelling in the past was enacted in 1829, when Mr. Gurney's
"steam-carriage" conveyed a number of people from London to Bath. The
vehicle did not meet with the approval of the rustics, and at Melksham an
angry mob, armed with stones, assailed the travellers, loudly denouncing
the unholy thing. From Cranford Bridge to Reading, the speed was at the
rate of sixteen miles an hour, and so delighted were those concerned with
the result of the experiment that an announcement was made that "immediate
measures" would be taken "to bring carriages of the sort into action on
the roads." It has, however, been left to these last few years to
re-introduce the motor-car, with results yet to be seen.

Such was travel on the road in olden times. To-day one travels to Bath in
a fraction of the time at less than half the cost; the 107 miles railway
journey from Paddington occupies exactly two hours, and a third-class
ticket costs 8_s._ 11_d._

As these lines are being written, the last of the old coaching inns from
which some of the Bath stages started, is being demolished. The "White
Horse," in Fetter Lane, Holborn, fell upon evil days when railways
revolutionized its custom. Where Lord Eldon stayed in 1766, and whence
many another aristocratic traveller set forth, tramps and fourpenny
"dossers" found refuge. The "White Horse" inn became the "White Horse
Chambers"--not the kind of chambers understood in St. James's, but rather
the cheap cubicles of St. Giles's.

[Illustration: THE "WHITE HORSE" INN, FETTER LANE. DEMOLISHED 1898.]

[Sidenote: _DEPARTED GLORIES_]

Cary's "Itinerary" for 1821 (Cary was a guide, philosopher, and friend
without whom our grandfathers never travelled) gives no fewer than
thirty-seven stage-coaches which started from this old house. There was
the "Accommodation" to Oxford, at seven o'clock in the morning; the Bath
and Bristol Light Post coach, at two in the afternoon, arriving at
Bristol at eight o'clock the following morning; and the Worcester,
Cheltenham, and Woodstock coaches, which all travelled along the Bath road
to Maidenhead. Then there were the York "Highflier," a crack Light Post
coach, every morning, at nine o'clock; the "Princess Charlotte," to
Brighton; the Lynn, Dover, Cambridge, Ipswich, and other coaches too
numerous to mention in detail. It will, therefore, not be surprising to
learn that the stables of this busy hostelry were large enough to hold
seventy horses.

At the foot of the staircase, near the entrance, was the office, and
everywhere were long passages and interminable suites of rooms. But how
different the circumstances in later years! The vast apartment that was
the public dining-room became, in fact, a kind of socialistic kitchen.

There, when his day's work was done, the kerbstone merchant came to grill
the cheap chop he had purchased. There the professional cadger toasted a
herring, while his companions cooked scraps of meat or toasted cheese.

This part of Holborn was once famous for its old inns. Indeed, on the
opposite side of that main artery of traffic were the "Black Bull" and the
"Old Bell." There is nothing left of the first now except the great black
effigy of a bull with a golden zone about the middle of him, and beyond
the archway a courtyard which was once the galleried courtyard of the inn,
but is now just the area of a block of peculiarly dirty "model" dwellings.

[Illustration: COURTYARD OF THE "OLD BELL," HOLBORN. DEMOLISHED 1897.]

[Sidenote: _THE "OLD BELL"_]

What Londoner did not know the "Old Bell" Tavern, in Holborn, whose
mellowed red brick frontage gave so great an air of distinction to that
now commonplace thoroughfare. Among the last of the old galleried inns,
some of its timbers dated back to 1521. The front of the house was
comparatively juvenile, dating only from 1720. What its galleried
courtyard was like let this sketch record. The site was sold for £11,600,
and the house demolished, at the close of 1897, although its structural
stability was unquestioned, and the place a favourite dining and luncheon
house. Twenty-one coaches left that old house daily in the full flush of
the coaching age; among them two Cheltenham coaches, the coaches to
Faringdon, and Abingdon, Oxford, Woodstock, and Blenheim, all of which
went by the Bath Road so far as Maidenhead, where they branched off _viâ_
Henley. In addition, there was the stage which ran twice a day to
Englefield Green, branching off at Hounslow. The "Old Bell" could, indeed,
claim the credit of being the last actual coaching-house in London, for it
is only a few years since the last three-horsed omnibus was discontinued
that ran between it and Amersham, in Bucks. When the Metropolitan Railway
extension reached that place, the conveyance, of course, became quite
unnecessary, and the last remote echo of the genuine coaching age died
away.



VI


The Bath Road is measured from Hyde Park Corner, and is a hundred and five
miles and six furlongs in length. The reasons for this being reckoned as
the starting-point of this great highway are found in the fact that when
coaches were in their prime, Hyde Park Corner was at the very western
verge of London. Early in the eighteenth century Londoners would have
considered it in the country; and, indeed, the turnpike gate which until
1721 crossed Piccadilly, opposite Berkeley Street, gave a quasi-official
confirmation of that view. In that year, however, it was removed to Hyde
Park Corner, just westward of the thoroughfare now known as Grosvenor
Place, and so remained until October, 1825, when it was disestablished in
favour of a turnpike gate opposite the spot where the Alexandra Hotel now
stands. Beyond it--in the country--was the pretty rural village of
Knightsbridge, with a gate by the barracks; and, beyond that, the remote
village of Kensington, to which the Court retired for change of air, far
away from London and its cares!

From 1721 to 1825, therefore, we may well regard Hyde Park Corner as the
beginning of town. This was so well recognized that local allusions to the
fact were plentiful. For instance, where Piccadilly Terrace now stands was
an inn called the "Hercules' Pillars," a favourite sign for houses on the
outskirts of large towns, just as churches dedicated to St. Giles were
anciently placed outside the city walls. "Hercules' Pillars" was the
classic name for the Straits of Gibraltar, regarded then as the boundary
of civilization; hence the peculiar fitness of the sign.

On the western side of this inn, a place greatly resorted to by the
'prentice lads who wanted to take their lasses for a country outing in
Hyde Park, was a little cottage, long known as "Allen's Stall," which
stood here from the time of George the Second until 1784, when Apsley
House was erected on its site. The ground is said to have been a present
from George the Second to a discharged soldier named Allen, who had
fought under his command at Dettingen.

[Illustration: ALLEN'S STALL AT HYDE PARK CORNER, ABOUT 1756.]

[Sidenote: _ALLEN'S STALL_]

The story is a pretty one, and tells how the King was riding into Hyde
Park, when he noticed the soldier, still wearing a tattered uniform,
taking charge of the stall in company with his wife.

"What can I do for you?" asked the King, replying to the military salute
which the ragged veteran offered.

[Illustration: HYDE PARK CORNER, 1786.]

"I ask nothing better than to earn an honest living, your Majesty,"
replied the soldier; "but I am like to be turned away by the Ranger. If
your Majesty were to give me a grant of the ground my stall stands on, I
would be happy."

"Be happy, then," answered the King, and saw to it that Allen had his
request satisfied.

The stall became a cottage, where Allen and his wife lived until they were
gathered to the great majority, having in the meanwhile, it may be
supposed, done pretty well for themselves, since we find their son to
have been an attorney. The cottage was deserted, and the royal gift of the
land partly forgotten, so that the Lord Chancellor of that period was
granted a lease of the ground and began to build a mansion on it. Allen's
son had to the full that shrewdness which has made the name of "attorney"
so generally detested that those "gentlemen by Act of Parliament" prefer
nowadays to call themselves "solicitors." He waited until my Lord
Chancellor had nearly completed his house, and then put forward his claim,
finally obtaining £450 per annum as ground rent. He subsequently sold the
land outright, and so Lord Chancellor Henry Bathurst, Baron Apsley, and
Earl Bathurst, became the freeholder, and named his residence "Apsley
House." The mansion was purchased by the nation for the great Duke of
Wellington in 1820. It was, from its situation, long known as "No. 1,
London."



VII


[Sidenote: _MUD BULWARKS_]

Let us see what kind of entrance to London this was in olden times. In
Queen Mary's day the idea of a road leading so far as Bath seems to have
been considered too fantastic for common use, and this was accordingly
known as the "waye to Reading." In that reign, which was so reactionary
that many were discontented with it, and roused up armed rebellions, the
rebel Sir Thomas Wyatt brought his men thus far, having crossed the Thames
at Kingston and struggled through the awful sloughs between that place
and Knightsbridge. It seems quite likely that, but for the mud of those
miscalled "roads," the rebellion would have been successful, and the
course of history changed. But Wyatt's soldiers were utterly exhausted
with the march; and when the Londoners saw them, plastered with mud from
head to foot, they forgot their own discontent, and laughed at their
would-be deliverers, calling them "draggle-tails." So, dispirited and
contemned, they were easily disposed of by the Queen's troops, who, secure
behind their girdle of muck, had only to wait and slay them at leisure.

[Illustration: HYDE PARK CORNER, 1792.]

The lesson seems not to have been lost upon the authorities, and
accordingly we find this defence of dirt in existence up to the year 1842.
For nearly three hundred years this "splendid isolation" set an almost
impassable gulf between those who wished to get out of London and those
who wanted to come in; for in the year just mentioned we learn that
Knightsbridge was in so deplorable a state of neglect that it was
perfectly impassable for persons possessing a common regard for
cleanliness or comfort. Ankle-deep in mud and water, the pavement was
rendered additionally dangerous by two steps, forming a sudden descent, so
that those who were rash enough to attempt to pass that way in the dark
generally bruised themselves severely at the best of it; or, at the worst,
broke a leg or an arm.

But this was nothing compared with a former age, when Lord Hervey, writing
from Kensington, said the road was so infamously bad that he lived there
in a solitude like that of a sailor cast away upon a lonely rock in
mid-ocean. The only people who enjoyed this condition of affairs appear to
have been the footpads and the highwaymen, who had the very best of times,
until they were caught. Indeed, in the days when the stage-coaches
performed the then marvellous feats of travelling at anything from three
to five miles an hour, under favourable circumstances, the road could not
be considered safe after Hyde Park Corner was left behind; and records
tell of highway robberies, with the romantic accessories of blunderbusses
and horse-pistols, at Knightsbridge so late as 1799.

[Sidenote: _THE "HALFWAY HOUSE"_]

[Illustration: HYDE PARK CORNER, 1797.]

There was at that time, and until 1848, an old inn standing by the way,
near where are now Knightsbridge Barracks. This inn, the "Halfway House,"
occupied the exact site where Prince of Wales's Gate now gives access to
Hyde Park. Hereabouts lurked all manner of bad characters, who had
infested the neighbourhood from time immemorial, safe from the clutches
of the law both in their numbers and in the isolation created by the
almost bottomless sloughs of mud which then decorated what was, by
courtesy or force of habit, called the "road."

[Illustration: THE "HALFWAY HOUSE." 1848.]

At this spot, in April, 1740, the Bristol mail was robbed by a footpad,
who overpowered the post-boy and got off with both the Bath and Bristol
bags; while in 1774, three men were hanged for highway robbery here. But
the most thrilling and circumstantial story of highwaymen at this spot is
that which relates the capture of William Belchier, in 1750. There had
been numerous highway robberies in the neighbourhood of the "Halfway
House," and at last one William Norton, a "thief-catcher," was sent to
apprehend the man, if possible. He took the Devizes chaise at half-past
one in the morning of June 3, and when they had come to the place, sure
enough the robber was there, waiting for them, and on foot. He bade the
driver stop, and, holding a pistol in at the window, demanded the
passengers' money. "Don't frighten us," replied Norton. "I have but a
trifle; you shall have it." He also advised the three other passengers to
give up their coin; and, holding a pistol concealed in one hand and some
silver in the other, let the robber take the money. When he had taken it
the thief-taker raised his pistol and pulled the trigger. It missed fire;
but the robber was too frightened to notice that. He staggered back,
holding up both hands, exclaiming, "O Lord, O Lord!" Norton then jumped
out after him, pursued him six or seven hundred yards, and then caught
him. He begged for mercy on his knees, but Norton took his neck-cloth off,
tied his hands, and brought him into London, where he was tried, found
guilty, and hanged. The prisoner asked his captor in court what trade he
followed. "I keep a shop in Wych Street," replied Norton; adding, with
grim significance, "and sometimes I take a thief."

In Kensington Gore (which might have obtained its sanguinary name from
these encounters--but didn't) a certain Mr. Jackson, of the Court of
Requests at Westminster, was requested to "stand and deliver" on the night
of December 27, in the same year, by four desperadoes. And so the tale
goes on, with such curious side-lights on the state of society as are
afforded by the stories of how pedestrians, desirous of journeying from
London to Knightsbridge and Kensington, were used in those "good old
times" to wait in Piccadilly until there were gathered a sufficient number
of them to render the perilous journey safer. Even then they did not rely
only on their numbers, but went well armed with swords, pistols, and
cudgels.

[Sidenote: _TURNPIKE GATES_]

It is scarcely to be supposed that the turnpike-gates earned much money in
those times, when ways were foul and dangerous, and when the cut-throats
who lurked about that delectable "Halfway House" were in their prime.
Printed here will be found several views of the first gate, showing its
development from 1786 to 1797. It will be seen that a high brick wall then
bounded the Park. This was continued all the way, except where the houses,
low inns, and cottages on the north side of the road stood, and where
their successors stand to-day, to the eastward and westward of the present
"Albert Gate." That imposing entrance to the Park was made in 1846, and
the immense houses on either side--the "two Gibraltars," as they were
called--built. They were so called because it was thought they would never
be taken; but the one on the east side, now the French Embassy, was soon
let to Hudson, the Railway King. As mentioned just now, the "Halfway
House" stood where the Prince of Wales's Gate opens into the Park. It
stood there until 1848, when the ground was purchased for £3000, and the
house pulled down. If the owners had kept the land, their descendants
to-day could have sold it for a sum that would represent a handsome
fortune, as evidenced by the fact that a plot of ground of the same size,
on which Thorney House stood, in Kensington Gore was sold in 1898 for
£100,000. Thus does the value of land increase in the neighbourhood of
London.

In 1827, London and its neighbourhood began to be relieved of the incubus
of the turnpike-gates. In that year twenty-seven toll-gates were removed
by Parliament; eighty-one were disestablished July 1, 1864; and sixty-one,
October 31, 1865. Many others were swept away on the Essex and Middlesex
roads on October 31, 1866, while the remainder ceased July 1, 1872. The
first toll-gate which gave the traveller pause from 1856 to July 1, 1864,
on the Bath and Exeter roads stood in Kensington Gore, and barred the
roadway just where Victoria Road branches off. Many yet living can recall
the "Halfpenny Hatch," as it was familiarly known. At the time of the
Great Exhibition of 1851 the road was distinctly rural. It was that
greatest of all exhibitions which gave an impetus to building in this
neighbourhood. Up to that time London had not "discovered" Kensington, and
the highway was not a mere street, but looked as though the country were
round the corner, which, indeed, was very nearly the case. You could then,
in fact, well imagine yourself to be on the highway to somewhere or
another--a thing demanding more imagination to-day than most people are
capable of calling up.



VIII


[Sidenote: _OLD KENSINGTON_]

It may be as well to put on record in this place the Kensington of my own
recollection. My reminiscences of Kensington by no means go so far back as
the time when Leigh Hunt wrote his "Old Court Suburb," a book which
described what was then a village "near London;" but when I first knew
that now bustling place it was, if not exactly to be described as rural,
certainly by no stretch of imagination to be called urban. In those days
the great shops, which are no longer called shops, but "emporia," or
"stores," or "magazines," did not flaunt with plate-glass windows opposite
St. Mary Abbot's Church, nor, indeed, did the present building of St. Mary
exist. In its place was a hideous structure, erected probably at some
early period of the eighteenth century. It had windows that purported to
be Gothic, and a bell-turret that belonged to no known order of
architecture. It, and the now demolished old church of St. Paul,
Hammersmith, bore a singular likeness to one another. The present
generation can only discover what these unlovely buildings were like by
referring to old prints, because there are none other now existing in
London to which they can be likened; and a very good thing too. I can
recollect old St. Mary's very well indeed, and the days when the old
Vestry Hall was still a place for the transaction of vestry business are
quite vivid to me. In fact, at that time the Vestry Hall was somewhat new,
and where the imposing Town Hall now stands beside it there was a tall
building of very grimy brick, with quaint little figures of a boy and a
girl perched high up on brackets above, and on either side of, the door.
These little figures were represented as clad in a peculiar Dutch-like
uniform; the boy, I think, blue, and the girl a quite painful orange,
whenever they repainted her, which was seldom. This was, in fact, some
sort of charity school, and it was as dismal a place as all charitable
institutions were apt to be in our grandfathers' time, when it was
criminal to be poor, and eleemosynary establishments, in consequence, were
designed as much like prisons as might well be.

[Illustration: KENSINGTON HIGH STREET, SUMMER SUNSET.]

At the time of which I speak it was quite necessary to go to London to do
any save the most ordinary shopping, and if one had told the "oldest
inhabitant" that a time was presently coming when it would be possible not
only to order, but to purchase and take away on the instant, from
Kensington shops the rarest and most costly things that the heart of man
(or woman either, for that matter) could desire, that ancient individual
would have thought he was being told fairy tales.

[Illustration: "OLDEST INHABITANT."]

I knew that oldest inhabitant, who has been long since gathered to his
fathers. His was a quaint figure, and he was stored with many
reminiscences. He could "mind the time" when Gore House was occupied by
the Countess of Blessington, and when Louis Napoleon, then a young man
about town, was a frequent visitor to that somewhat Bohemian
establishment. Also he remembered the first 'bus to make its appearance in
Kensington. For myself, I certainly remember the time here when omnibuses
were few and far between. Now there are generally half a dozen waiting at
any time you like to mention by St. Mary Abbot's, which has become, in
omnibus slang, "Kensington Church," while the pavements are thronged by
fashionable crowds all day long and every day. Not least remarkable is the
long row of bicycles drawn up against the kerb opposite the aforesaid
emporia, in charge of a diminutive boy in buttons, the patrons of these
great shops being inveterate "bikists."

[Sidenote: _THE NEW KENSINGTONS_]

Now that towering hotels and flats have been built in Kensington High
Street, the old-time distinction of the "Old Court Suburb" is fast
becoming obliterated, and there are more Kensingtons than were ever
dreamed of years ago. North Kensington, and South and West
Kensington--which, shorn of these would-be aristocratic aliases, are just
Notting Hill, Brompton, and Hammersmith--were just so many orchards and
market-gardens not so many years ago; and I declare that it is not so long
since there was an orchard in Allen Street, off the High Street, where
red-brick flats now stand, while, in that chosen realm of flatland, Earl's
Court, the cabbages and lettuces grew amazingly. Cromwell Road was not
built at the time to which my memory harks back, and where the ornate
Natural History Museum now stands there was a huge gravel-pit, in which
were many ponds and swamps, where wild grasses grew and slimy newts
increased and multiplied greatly. Gore House, which had been Lady
Blessington's, was still standing in the early years of my recollection,
and the Albert Hall, which now occupies the site of it, was, consequently,
undreamt of. The last use to which it had been put was to be converted,
by Alexis Soyer, into a huge restaurant for the millions who frequented
the Great Exhibition of 1851, which I do _not_ recollect, thank goodness!

[Sidenote: _KENSINGTON HOUSE_]

There were other landmarks in the Kensington of my youth which have long
since been swept away. For instance, where Victoria Road joins the Gore
there was a tall archway leading to a hippodrome, or horse repository.
Where it stood there is now an extremely "elegant"--as they used to say
when I was younger--hotel. Even greater changes have taken place where the
Gore joins the High Street. Where that collection of palatial houses
called Kensington Court now stands, there stood years ago a huge old brick
mansion which in its last days experienced some strange vicissitudes of
fortune, among which its last two changes--into a school for young ladies,
and finally into a lunatic asylum--were not the least remarkable. There
was in those days a most dreadful slum at the back of this mansion, known
locally as the "Rookery." Londoners should know the history of Kensington
Court and its site, and how Baron Albert Grant, in the heyday of his
financial success, pulled down the old mansion, and built himself on its
ruins a lordly (and vulgar) pleasure-palace, which he called "Kensington
House." The memory of it springs fresh to this day, and it requires little
effort to recall the place as it stood, in all its pristine
pretentiousness, until 1880, or thereabouts. It was built by the
redoubtable Baron to shame Kensington Palace, which it exactly faced, and
if gilt railings, fresh white stone, and big plate-glass windows may be
said to have put the old Palace out of countenance, then Kensington Palace
was shamed indeed, but only with that very questionable kind of shame
which overtakes the poor patrician confronted by a swaggering, pursy
millionaire. At any rate, Kensington Palace is avenged, for not one stone
now remains of that pretentious house. It lay back some little distance
from the road, from which it was screened by a tall iron railing, with
gilded spikes and globular gas-lamps at intervals, of a type closely
resembling those in use on the Metropolitan and District Railways. It is
not a lovely type, but it is one still greatly favoured in the suburbs of
Clapham and Blackheath.

This ornate palisade of cast-iron, which pretended to be wrought, once
passed, a gravel drive led up to the house. Ah, that house! It possessed
all the flamboyant glories of Grosvenor Gardens and more, and was of a
style called variously by the building journals of that day, French or
Italian Renaissance. "Renaissance" is a term which, like charity, covers a
multitude of sins, and if you want to cloak a collection of architectural
enormities, why, you term it Renaissance, and, by implication, insult the
great French and Italian masters of the New Birth. It needs not to trouble
about the details of that house, save to say that polished granite pillars
were well to the fore, and that portentous Mansard roofs in fish-scale
lead coverings, with spikes, finished off its sky-line. For long years
Kensington House remained unlet, because of the immense sums its up-keep
would have entailed. Millionaires, South African and other varieties,
were not so plentiful years ago as they are now. So, after some years of
forlorn waiting for the occupier who never came, Kensington House, never
once inhabited, was at last demolished, and its materials sold. It is said
that the grand marble staircase went to grace the gilded salons of Madame
Tussaud's waxen court, and certainly the spiky railings, with their
gas-lamps, were sold to furnish an imposing entrance to Sandown Park
Racecourse, where they may be seen to this day by the cyclist who wheels
through Esher, down the Portsmouth Road.

[Illustration: THACKERAY'S HOUSE, YOUNG STREET.]

[Sidenote: _JOHN LEECH_]

There still stands, off High Street, the grimy double-bayed house, now
numbered 16, Young Street, but formerly No. 13, in which Thackeray wrote
"Vanity Fair;" but most others of the old literary and artistic haunts of
the "Old Court Suburb" have been demolished. "The Terrace"--that long row
of old-fashioned houses extending from Wright's Lane westward--was pulled
down but six years ago. Those houses were not beautiful, but they were at
least pleasingly old-fashioned, and in No. 6 lived and died John Leech, an
early victim of that peculiarly modern malady, "nerves." Some amazingly
up-to-date shops now occupy the spot.

[Illustration: THE "WHITE HORSE." TRADITIONAL RETREAT OF ADDISON.]

Long ago, the other old-fashioned houses on this side of the road lost
their forecourt gardens, over which other shops were built; and beyond the
memory of any one now living there stood a little country inn at the
corner of what is now the Earl's Court Road; a rural retreat called the
"White Horse," to which Addison withdrew from the cold splendours of
Holland House opposite. He had contracted an unhappy marriage with the
Countess of Warwick, the mistress of that splendid mansion, which happily
yet remains; but stole away to this more congenial haunt, and drank his
intellect away.

Beyond this, all was country road, in the coaching days, until Hammersmith
was reached. The first outpost of that now unsavoury place was a rural inn
called the "Red Cow," opposite Brook Green.



IX


[Sidenote: _THE "RED COW"_]

The "Red Cow," pulled down December, 1897, rejoiced once upon a time in
the reputation of being a house of call for the peculiar gentry who
infested the suburban reaches of the great western highways out of London.
It was not by any means the resort of the aristocracy of the profession of
highway robbery; but a place where the cly-fakers, the footpads, and the
lower strata of thievery foregathered to learn the movements of travellers
and retail them to the fine gentlemen who, mounted on the best of horses,
and clad in gorgeous raiment, occupied the higher walks of the art at a
safer distance down the road. The house was built in the sixteenth
century, and was a quaint, though unpretending roadside tavern with a
high-pitched, red-tiled roof. It possessed vast stables, for it was
situated, in early coaching days, at the end of the first stage out of
London. It may well be imagined, then, that the stable-yard was a scene of
constant excitement in the good old days, for here were kept a goodly
supply of strong roadsters for the coaches running to Bath, Bristol,
Wells, Bridgewater, and Exeter, and here the elegant samples of horseflesh
which had brought the coaches at a spanking pace from the "Belle Sauvage,"
on Ludgate Hill, were changed for animals who could do the rough work of
the country roads. They were not particularly fine to look at--especially
those used on the night coaches--and it was often a matter of surprise
that they were able to keep up the pace required, and that the greasy old
harness stood the strain. It has been said that in one of the
old-fashioned rooms of the "Red Cow" E. L. Blanchard wrote his "Memoirs
of a Malacca Cane." In the last thirty years or so of its existence the
"Red Cow" was a favourite pull-up for the waggoners from the market
gardens, who in the small hours of the morning rumbled past with piled-up
loads of fruit, vegetables, and flowers for Covent Garden, and halted on
their return for a refresher of bread and cheese and beer. Then, too, the
hay-carts used to halt here, and the sight of them, with the horses
drinking from the old wooden water-trough beside the kerb-stone,
underneath the swinging sign, was like a picture of Morland's come to
life, and agreeably leavened that general air of fried-fish, drink, and
dissipation which lingers in the memory as the most characteristic
features of modern Hammersmith.

[Illustration: THE "RED COW," HAMMERSMITH. DEMOLISHED 1897.]

The travellers who were whirled through this place in the Augustan age of
coaching were soon in the country again, on the way to Turnham Green,
along the Chiswick High Road. That fine broad thoroughfare is now bordered
by an almost continuous row of modern shops, erected, many of them, where
barns and ricks stood less than ten years ago. Such was the appearance of
"Young's Corner," indeed, until quite recently. That corner, let it be
said for the information of those not well acquainted with the topography
of the western suburbs, is the spot where the road from Shepherd's Bush
joins the highway. Let it further be placed on record, before "historic
doubts" have had time to gather about the origin of the name, that it
derives from a little grocer's shop kept at the north-east angle of that
junction of the roads within the recollection of the present writer, by
one Young, who has probably been long since gathered to his fathers, for
his Corner knows him no more, and a house-agent's shop, a brand-new
building (like all its neighbours), stands where the now historic Young
sold tea and sugar, and (let us hope) waxed prosperous in days gone by.

[Sidenote: _TURNHAM GREEN_]

Turnham Green lies ahead: a place historic by reason of a preliminary
skirmish in the Civil War between Cavaliers and Roundheads, and the
residence in the early part of the century of a peculiarly heartless
murderer. The passengers by the two-horsed "short-stages" which in the
first half of this century travelled from London to the outlying villages
and halted at the "Pack Horse and Talbot," doubtless were curious
regarding Linden House, near by, notorious from association with Thomas
Griffiths Wainewright, author and poisoner. He was born at Chiswick in
1794, and was a grandson of Dr. Ralph Griffiths of Turnham Green. He began
life by serving in the army, but presently took to literature as a
profession, and wrote voluminously in the magazines of that day. As an
author, although possessed of a sprightly wit, he would long since have
been forgotten had it not been for the sensational career of crime upon
which he entered in 1824. In that year he forged the signatures of his
trustees, in order to obtain possession of a sum of £2259. He induced his
uncle, Mr. G. E. Griffiths, of Linden House, to receive him there as an
inmate. Within a few months his relative died, poisoned with nux vomica,
and Wainewright came into possession of his property. In 1830 he persuaded
a Mrs. Abercromby, a widow lady, to take up her abode with him and his
wife at Linden House. She came with her two daughters and was promptly
poisoned with strychnine. After this he removed from the neighbourhood,
and embarked upon a further series of murders in London. Eventually
detected, he was convicted and transported for life to the Australian
colonies, where he is credibly said to have poisoned others. Murder by
poison was, in fact, an obsession with this man, although he was
sufficiently sane and sordid to select victims whose deaths would bring
him pecuniary advantage. Wainewright's _métier_ in literature was chiefly
art criticism, and his style narrowly resembles that of a revolting
person, now ostracised from Society, who also dabbled in Art and actually
wrote and published an "appreciation" of the poisoner some few years
since.

Linden House was pulled down some fifteen years ago, and its site is
marked by the modern villas of Linden Gardens. The recollection of it
brings a train of reminiscences.



X


[Sidenote: _SUBURBAN CHANGES_]

Reminiscences are soon accumulated in these times. It needs not for the
Londoner to be in the sere and yellow leaf for him to have known many and
sweeping changes in the pleasant suburbs which used to bring the country
to his doors, and the scent of the hawthorn through his open window with
every recurring spring. For myself, I am not a lean and slippered
pantaloon, on whose head the snows of many winters have fallen. The
crow's-feet have not yet gathered around the corners of my eyes; and yet I
have known many rural, or semi-rural, villages around the ever-spreading
circle of the Great City which in my time have been for ever engulfed in
the on-rolling waves of bricks and mortar. It is no effort of memory for
me, or for many another, to recall the market gardens, the orchards, the
open meadows, and the fine old seventeenth and eighteenth century
red-brick mansions, each one enclosed within its high garden walls, with
the jealous seclusion of a monastery, which occupied the sites where the
streets of Brompton, Earl's Court, Fulham, Walham Green, and Putney now
stretch their interminable ramifications, and are accounted, justly
enough, as London. Tell me, if you can, what are the bounds of London,
north, south, east, or west. Does from Forest Gate on the east, to
Richmond on the west, span its limits in one direction? and from Wood
Green on the northern heights, to Croydon on the south, encompass it on
the other? They may in this year of grace, but where will the boundary of
continuous brick and mortar be set ten years hence? and where will then be
the pleasant resorts of the present-day wheelman? They will all be ruined,
and not, mark you, ruined from the commercial point of view, for the
coming of the builder spells riches for the suburban freeholder, whose
land, in the slang of the surveying fraternity, has become "ripe." These
rustic places are, nevertheless, ruined from the point of view of the
lover of the picturesque, and when he sees the old mansions going, the
meadows trenched for foundations, and the lanes widened and paved by the
newly constituted vestry, he groans in spirit. I am, for instance,
especially aggrieved at the workings of modernity with Turnham Green.

I went to school there in the days when London was remote. We used to talk
of "going up to London" then. Do any of the present-day inhabitants of
Turnham Green, I wonder, speak thus? I imagine not. Turnham Green was then
as rural as its name sounds now. The name, alas! is all that remains of
its rurality, save, indeed, the two commons, the "Front" and "Back," as
they are called. No one now remembers, I suppose, that the so-called "Back
Common" is really Turnham Bec, even as the open space at Tooting remains
Tooting Bec to this day. It is so, however, and it is only through this
corruption that what is really and truly the original green of Turnham
Green is dubbed the "Front Common." You see the humour of it?

[Sidenote: _THE NEW SUBURB_]

Turnham Green remained countrified until the railway came and took a slice
off the so-called "Back Common," and built a station, and thus established
the first outpost of Suburbia. Then another railway came, and took another
slice, and a School Board filched another piece; and then great black
boards, with white letters, began to be planted in the surrounding
orchards, setting forth how "this eligible land" was to be let on building
lease. Presently men who wore corduroys and waistcoats with sleeves to
them, and leather straps round their trousers below the knees came along,
and, with much elaborate profanity, built what were, with much humour,
termed "villas" there. Streets of them, and all alike! After this, a
tramway was made along the high-road, starting at Hammersmith, and ending
at Kew Bridge. That tramway was amusing to us schoolboys, so long as the
novelty of it lasted. Our school--it had the imposing name of Belmont
House--faced the high-road, and it was our greatest delight of summer
evenings to throw pieces of soap at the outside passengers of the trams
from the bedroom windows. The expenditure of soap was tremendous, and
sometimes those "outsiders" were hit, whereupon there was trouble! There
was a gloomy old mansion opposite our school, called "Bleak House," and we
used to think it was the veritable "Bleak House" of Dickens's story. We
know better now. It still stands, but a furniture warehousing firm have
built warehouses on to it, and it is no longer romantically gloomy.

[Illustration: ROBIN HOOD AND LITTLE JOHN.]

The school has gone, too, where I learnt, and promptly forgot, Latin and
Greek; and a row of shops, with big plate-glass windows and great gas
lamps, have taken its place; and where we construed those dead (and
deadly) languages, the linen-draper's assistant measures out muslins and
calicoes. I have walked along these pavements during the last few days,
and have noted more changes. There used to stand, beside the road, on the
right hand as you go towards Gunnersbury, a little wayside "pub," with bow
windows, and a bent and hunch-backed red-tiled roof. It was called the
"Robin Hood," and an old-fashioned wooden post, supporting the swinging
sign, stood on the kerb-stone, beside a horse-trough. I remember the sign
well, for it had quite an elaborate picture painted upon it, representing
Robin Hood and Little John. I can see quite clearly now that the artist of
this affair obtained his ideas from the pictorial diplomas of the Ancient
Order of Foresters; but, at the time, I thought it a very fine painting.
The feathered hats impressed me very much indeed, although I always used
to wonder why those two magnificent fellows hadn't pulled up their socks.
It was some time before I discovered that they were not socks, but the big
bucket boots of romance. They have pulled this old house down, and have
built a glaring, flaring, gin-palace on the site of it, just as they did
some five years ago to the old "Roebuck," not far off. The sign is gone,
too, and wayfarers are no longer invited, if Robin Hood is not at home, to
take a glass with Little John. What would happen, I often speculated, if
both those heroes were away? Would, one take a glass, in that case, with
Friar Tuck or Maid Marian?

[Illustration: THE "OLD WINDMILL."]

[Sidenote: _OLD SUBURBAN INNS_]

There is an old inn still standing in this same high-road--most
appropriately, by the way, situated next door to the Police Station,
which, in its time, has extended hospitality to many a bold "road agent"
who found his living on the Bath and Exeter Roads. The "Old Windmill" is a
shy, retiring house which lies modestly some way back from the line of
houses fronting the road. It has an open gravelled space in front, and a
swinging sign on a post, which, together with an immense sundial on the
front of the house, proclaims that the "Old Windmill" dates back to 1717.
These are vestiges of the time when the Chiswick High Road was bordered by
hedges instead of houses. The house, although it wears a certain
old-world air, can scarce be called picturesque. The huge sundial just
mentioned, with its mis-spelled legend, "So Fly's Life Away," gives it an
interest, and so does the record of how one Henry Colam was arrested here
one night toward the close of last century, on the charge, "For that he
did molest and threaten certain of His Majesty's liege subjects upon the
highway, in company with divers others, still at large." Henry had, as a
matter of fact, "with divers others," attempted to rob the Bath Mail near
this spot. He failed in his enterprise, but Bow Street had him all the
same, and it does not require a very vivid imagination to conjure up a
picture of his end.

Another old inn, which still stands at Turnham Green, although greatly
altered, has a history not to be forgotten.

[Sidenote: _TREASON AND TREACHERY_]

At the "Old Pack Horse" (not by any means to be confounded with the "Pack
Horse and Talbot," a quarter of a mile nearer on the road to London)
assembled parties of the conspirators who, headed by their two principals,
named, oddly enough, Barclay and Perkins,[1] plotted the assassination of
King William the Third, on February 15, 1696. They were authorized by the
exiled James the Second to do the deed, and had planned for forty of their
band to surround the King's carriage as he returned from one of his weekly
hunting expeditions from Kensington Palace to Richmond Park. His coach,
they knew, would pass along a narrow, morass-like lane from the waterside
on to Turnham Green, near where the church now stands, and they were well
aware that, as it could at this point proceed only at a walking pace,
William would fall an easy victim. It chanced, however, that there were
traitors among their number, who informed the King's friends, so that on
two succeeding Saturdays, while they were expecting him, he remained at
Kensington. Many of the band were arrested, and six suffered the penalty
of high treason.

The spot where the proposed assassination was to have been consummated is
now known as Sutton Lane. At the corner of this suburban thoroughfare,
where Fromow's Nursery stands, the fate of England was to have been
decided.

[Illustration: THE "OLD PACK HORSE."]

The "Old Pack Horse" has been somewhat modernized of late years by
additions built out on the ground floor, but it remains substantially the
same building at which Jack Rann, the famous "Sixteen-string Jack" of
highway romance, may have taken a last drink with which to screw up his
courage just before setting out to rob Dr. Bell, the chaplain to the
Princess Amelia, in Gunnersbury Lane, near by. "Sixteen-string Jack" was
hanged for that job in 1774.

He was peculiarly unfortunate, for Turnham Green and Gunnersbury were
veritable Alsatias then, and those who travelled here should not have
mentioned so ordinary a happening as having their purses taken. Indeed, it
was so usual an occurrence that Horace Walpole tells us of a certain Lady
Brown who, visiting here, always went provided with a purse full of brass
tokens for the highwaymen. Imagination, conjuring up a picture of a Turpin
or a Claude du Vall riding away with a pocketful of guineas which, on
arriving home, he discovers to be counterfeits, provokes a smile.



XI


There are changes impending not far from here. Who that knows Kew Bridge
has not an affection for that hump-backed old structure, although it
presents many difficulties to the rider? Kew Bridge is doomed, and the
powers that be are going to pull it down and build another in its
stead--and one, it is almost unnecessary to add, not at all picturesque.
Farewell, then, to the suburban delights of Kew. They are going to
"improve" the river at Kew also--that river where, in summer time, the
steamers get hung up on the sandbanks for lack of water. Alas, then, for
the picturesque foreshore of Strand-on-the-Green!

[Illustration: KEW BRIDGE, LOW WATER.]

[Sidenote: _HIGHWAYMEN_]

The passengers by the Bath Flying Machine grew at this point a shade
paler. They generally expected to be robbed on Hounslow Heath, and their
expectations were almost invariably realized by the gentlemen in cocked
hats and crape masks, who were by no means backward in coming forward. The
fine flower of the highwaymen practised on the Heath, and they did their
spiriting gently and with so much courtesy that it was almost (not quite)
a pleasure to hand over those rings and guineas of which so plenteous a
store was collected every night.

Before, however, we come to Hounslow Heath, we have to cast a glance round
Brentford, a town which holds the proud position of the county town of
Middlesex. Foreigners might, in the innocence of their hearts, suppose
that London would hold that honour; but to Brentford, known from time
immemorial, and with the utmost justice, as "dirty Brentford," it has
fallen. Has Brentford risen to the occasion? It must sorrowfully be
admitted that it has not, and is a very marvel of dirt and dilapidation,
and--But no matter! Until quite recently it also possessed, in the church
of Old Brentford, the very ugliest church in England, which was so very
ugly that it used to be credibly reported that people came long distances
to see such a marvel of the unlovely. Alas! the church has been rebuilt,
and so Brentford has lost a claim to distinction.

But Brentford has the honour of being mentioned in Shakespeare, in a
passage whose allusions not all the efforts of antiquaries have been able
to explain, and distinguished itself in a peculiar way during the reign of
King William the Fourth, whom people used to call, for no very good
reason, Silly Billy. The King and Queen were expected to drive through the
town, on their way from Windsor to London, and the streets were decorated.
But the inhabitants spiced their loyalty with sarcasm, for hanging on a
line, stretched prominently across the road, was an old coat, turned
inside out, in allusion to His Majesty's uncertain policy. Not satisfied,
however, with this delicate way of calling him a turncoat, Brentford had
another insult ready a little way down the street. The King was generally
supposed to be very much under the influence of Queen Adelaide, and this
was more or less gracefully alluded to by a pair of trousers fluttering in
the wind like a banner suspended across the road. Their Majesties
testified their recognition and appreciation of Brentford wit by never
passing through the town again.

[Sidenote: _SORDID HOUNSLOW_]

A little further afield takes us to Hounslow, where John Jerry is busy
putting up those long streets of "villas," whose deadly sameness vexes the
soul of the artist. He has torn down the old houses, in one of which, or
rather, in several of which--for they had intercommunicating
passages--Dick Turpin was wont to hide when he was in refuge from the Bow
Street runners.

  "Bold Turpin vunce, on Hounslow Heath,
    His mare, Black Bess, bestrod--er;
  Ven there he see'd the bishop's coach
    Coming along the road--er."

Thus sang Sam Weller; but "Bold Turpin" would be hard put to it to
identify his suburban haunts now, and we, before our hair is grey, will
find those places strange which were so familiar the matter of a few years
ago.

[Illustration: COTTAGES, SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN THE HAUNTS OF DICK TURPIN.]

The town of Hounslow is as unprepossessing as its name, which is saying a
great deal. Its mile-long street, unlivened by any interesting features,
is dull without descending to the positively interesting unloveliness of
Brentford. Just as collectors prize old china whose shape and colouring
are frankly hideous to those who are not of the elect in those matters, so
the grotesquely dirty and ugly streets of Brentford have an interest for
the tourist who does not often come upon their like. Hounslow's is just a
commonplace ugliness. The curtailed remains of its once numerous and
extensive coaching inns are become, as a rule, low pot-houses, in which
labourers in the market-gardens that practically surround the town, sit
and drink themselves stupid in the evening; and the business premises and
private houses which alternate along the highway are either shabby old
places, not old enough to claim any interest on the score of antiquity; or
of a pretentious bad taste rather more difficult to bear with than the
dirty hovels and tumbledown cottages they have displaced. Here, indeed, is
the debateable ground between town and country. Rurality is (appropriately
enough) in its last ditch, while civilization has established a precarious
outpost beside it. Flashy "villas" jostle the market-gardeners' cottages;
and respectability sits self-satisfied in its prim Early Victorian
drawing-rooms, amid its chairs upholstered in green rep, its horse-hair
sofas and cut-glass lustres; while on either side the vulgar herd sits at
open windows in its shirt-sleeves, and smokes black and exceedingly foul
pipes, and gazes complacently upon the clothes hanging out to dry in the
garden.

[Sidenote: _HOUNSLOW'S COACHING DAYS_]

Hounslow presented a different picture before the opening of the railways
to the West. Two thousand post-horses were then kept in the town, and
coaches and private carriages went dashing through at all hours of the day
and night, so closely upon one another that they almost resembled a
procession. As the poet says, the pedestrian then forced his way--

  "Through coaches, drays, choked turnpikes, and a whirl
    Of wheels, and roar of voices, and confusion;
  Here taverns wooing to a pint of 'purl,'
    There mails fast flying off, like a delusion."

And, indeed, they have, like delusions, vanished utterly. So early as
April, 1842, a daily paper is found saying: "At the formerly flourishing
village of Hounslow, so great is the general depreciation of property, on
account of the transfer of traffic to the railway, that at one of the inns
is an inscription, 'New milk and cream sold here;' while another announces
the profession of the landlord as 'mending boots and shoes.'" The turnpike
tolls at the same time, between London and Maidenhead, had decreased from
£18 to £4 a week.

Yet Hounslow very narrowly missed becoming a great railway junction. That,
indeed, was its proper destiny when the coaching era was done and the
place decaying. Hounslow became the busy place it was in the days of
road-travel, because it commanded the great roads to the West. The Bath
and Exeter Roads, which were one from Hyde Park Corner as far as this
town, branched at its western end, and it was also on the route to
Windsor. It should thus have become an important station on the Great
Western Railway, and might have been, had not other interests prevailed.
It was the original intention of the Great Western directors, when the
line was planned by Brunel in 1833, to keep close to the old high-road to
Bath; but landed interests, both private and corporate, brought about
numerous deviations, and so Hounslow was left to its fate, and the Great
Western main line passes through Southall, two and a half miles distant,
instead.



XII


We will now press on to the Heath, for our friends the highwaymen are
anxiously awaiting us. Right away from the seventeenth century this spot
bore a bad repute, when one of the most daring exploits was performed on
its gloomy expanse. This was no less a feat than the plundering of that
warlike general, Fairfax, by Moll Cutpurse. The most capable soldier of
the age robbed by a woman highwayman, if you will be pleased to excuse the
Irishry of the expression! But, indeed, the Roaring Girl, as her
contemporaries called her, was the best man among the whole of that daring
crew, and to her courage, her cunning, and her ready wit she owed the
successful career that was hers. She wore the breeches in no metaphorical
sense, but through all her career habited herself in man's garments. Only
when she had amassed a fortune and had retired from "the road" did she don
the skirt.

[Sidenote: _CLAUDE DU VALL_]

It is sad to think that the greatest of all the brotherhood who made
Hounslow Heath and highway robbery synonymous terms was cut off in the
full tide of his success. At least, it seems so to us, although the
travellers of the period doubtless felt a certain satisfaction when Du
Vall was executed, on January 21, 1670. He was but twenty-seven years of
age, and already had become a star of the first magnitude. He was, in
fact, a master of the whole art and mystery of robbing upon the road, and
to this he brought the most perfect courtesy. Violence had no part in the
methods of this artist, and he would have scorned, we may be sure, the
ruffianly and even murderous acts of a later generation of the craft,
which not only despoiled travellers of their goods, but rendered the Heath
dangerous to life and limb. His chief exploit is classic, and is set forth
so eloquently, and with such an engaging profusion of capital letters, in
a contemporary pamphlet, that one cannot do better than quote it:--

"He, with his Squadron, overtakes a Coach which they had set over Night,
having Intelligence of a Booty of four hundred Pounds in it. In the Coach
was a Knight, his Lady, and only one Serving-maid, who, perceiving five
Horsemen making up to them, presently imagined that they were beset; and
they were confirmed in this Apprehension by seeing them whisper to one
another, and ride backwards and forwards. The Lady, to shew that she was
not afraid, takes a Flageolet out of her pocket and plays. Du Vall takes
the Hint, plays also, and excellently well, upon a Flageolet of his own,
and in this Posture he rides up to the Coachside. 'Sir,' says he to the
Person in the Coach, 'your Lady plays excellently, and I doubt not but
that she dances as well. Will you please to walk out of the Coach and let
me have the Honour to dance one Currant with her upon the Heath?' 'Sir,'
said the Person in the Coach, 'I dare not deny anything to one of your
Quality and good Mind. You seem a Gentleman, and your Request is very
reasonable.' Which said, the Lacquey opens the Boot, out comes the knight,
Du Vall leaps lightly off his horse and hands the Lady out of the Coach.
They danced, and here it was that Du Vall performed Marvels; the best
Masters in London, except those that are French, not being able to shew
such footing as he did in his great French Riding Boots. The Dancing being
over (there being no violins, Du Vall sung the Currant himself) he waits
on the Lady to her coach. As the knight was going in, says Du Vall to him,
'Sir, you have forgot to pay the Musick.' 'No, I have not,' replies the
knight, and, putting his Hand under the Seat of the Coach, pulls out a
hundred Pounds in a Bag, and delivers it to him, which Du Vall took with a
very good grace, and courteously answered, 'Sir, you are liberal, and
shall have no cause to repent your being so; this Liberality of yours
shall excuse you the other Three Hundred Pounds,' and giving the Word,
that if he met with any more of the Crew he might pass undisturbed, he
civilly takes his leave of him. He manifested his agility of body by
lightly dismounting off his horse, and with Ease and Freedom getting up
again when he took his Leave; his excellent Deportment by his incomparable
Dancing and his graceful manner of taking the hundred Pounds."

When this hero had gone the inevitable way of his fellows, he was buried
with great pomp and circumstance in the church of St. Paul, Covent Garden,
with a set of eulogistic verses for his epitaph. Unfortunately, the old
church was destroyed by fire and the epitaph with it.

[Sidenote: _HIGHWAY MURDERS_]

Mr. Nuthall, the Earl of Chatham's solicitor, too, who had been to Bath to
confer with his gouty and irascible client, was stopped in his carriage as
it was going towards London across this dreaded wilderness. The highwaymen
fired at him, and he died of fright. Two other notable murders by
highwaymen took place here--in 1798 and 1802--and bear witness to the
degeneracy of the craft. The first was Mr. Mellish, who was fired upon and
killed as he was returning from a run with the King's hounds. A Mr. Steele
was the other victim, and his assailants, Haggarty and Holloway, who had
planned the crime at the "Turk's Head," Dyot Street, Holborn, it is
satisfactory to be able to add, were hanged. The execution took place at
the Old Bailey, when twenty-eight persons among the crowds who had come to
see the sight were crushed to death. Up to the year 1800, the Heath was a
most famous place for gibbets. "The road," as a writer of the period says,
"was literally lined with gibbets on which the carcases of malefactors
hung in irons, blackening in the sun." Du Vall had a successor in Twysden,
Bishop of Raphoe, collecting tithes in rather a promiscuous way, by
turning highwayman in 1752. His career was a short one, for one of the
first travellers he bade "Stand!" on the Heath shot him through the body,
from which he died a few days later, at the house of a friend, from
"inflammation of the bowels," as the contemporary report, jealous for the
reputation of the dignified clergy, put it.

Shall I weary you by recounting more of these highway crimes? There was
Dr. Shelton, a surgeon, who flourished in the early thirties of last
century, and, deserting lancet and scalpel, took to the road and that not
more lethal weapon, the horse-pistol; though, to be sure, it was more for
show than use, for not Du Vall himself could have been more courteous.

That the poet who wrote of Bagshot Heath as a place "where ruined gamblers
oft repay their loss" might with perfect propriety have substituted
"Hounslow" will be readily seen when we mention Parsons, nearly
contemporary with Shelton, who robbed at Hounslow that he might gamble in
London. Parsons was the son of a "Bart. of the B.K.," as the Tichborne
Claimant would have phrased it; an Eton boy, at one time an officer both
in the Army and Navy, and the husband of a beautiful heiress. He made an
edifying end at Tyburn.

Then there was Barkwith, a mere novice, whose first sally led to a like
exit. He was the son of a Cambridgeshire squire, and manager to a
Lincoln's Inn solicitor. He had "borrowed" trust moneys wherewith to
satisfy some debts of honour; and so the hour of four o'clock in the
afternoon of a November day found him on the Heath, with a pistol in his
hand and his heart in his mouth, "holding up" a coach. The booty was but a
miserable handful of silver; but, being captured, he died for it, all the
same. Let us trust he did "the young gentlemen who belong to Inns of
Court" an injustice when, in his dying speech and confession, he warned
his hearers against them as "the most wicked of any."

[Sidenote: _"DARE-DEVIL SIMMS"_]

Then there was Dare-devil Simms--"Gentleman Harry," as his friends called
him--a midshipman who came up from deserting his ship in the West Country.
First borrowing a saddle and bridle, and then stealing a horse, he
commenced his career by robbing a post-chaise and the Bristol Mail, and
coming to London, soon became a noted figure on this stage. One night he
relieved a Mr. Sleep of his purse. The despoiled traveller bewailed his
loss bitterly, but Harry comforted him with the assurance that he would
have been robbed in any case; if not by himself, certainly by one or other
of the two who were waiting for him down the road. "But if you meet them,"
said he, "sing out 'Thomas!' and they will let you pass." The unfortunate
man went on his way calling "Thomas!" to every one he met, and narrowly
escaped being severely handled by some gentlemen who conceived themselves
insulted.

Presently Tyburn claimed Gentleman Harry also, and a career which had been
begun by transportation, and continued through such stirring adventures
as being sold for a slave, becoming a sailor and a privateersman, was
finally extinguished by the halter. A short life and a merry.

Strawkins, Simpson, and Wilson, too, helped to keep up the stirring story
of the road. They intercepted the Bristol Mail and left the postboy, bound
with ropes, at the bottom of a ditch on the outskirts of Colnbrook. They
were tracked down by the Post Office, and, Wilson turning King's evidence,
the first two were hanged. The Mail was then given an escort of Dragoons,
but highway robbery had too strong a spice of adventure for one of these
fine fellows to resist it. He accordingly pillaged the Bath Stage, and
suffered the appointed end in due course.

This catalogue of mine does not close until 1820, in which year four
confederates plundered the Bristol Mail. They had booked the inside seats,
and during their journey through the night forced open the strong boxes
placed under the seats, decamped with their contents, and were never heard
of again.



XIII


[Sidenote: _A STORY OF THE ROAD_]

One of the most diverting stories of Hounslow Heath, which serves to
relieve its sombre repute, is that which the late Mr. James Payn tells, in
one of his reminiscences. "The story goes," he says, "that early in the
century the landlord of Skindle's, at Maidenhead, was a strong Radical,
and could command a dozen votes; but his prosperity had a sad drawback in
the person of his son, a good-for-naught. During a certain Berkshire
election, a Tory solicitor was staying at this inn, and had occasion to go
to London for the sinews of war. His gig was stopped on his way back, on
Hounslow Heath, by a gentleman of the road.

"I have no money," said the lawyer, with professional readiness, "but
there is my watch and chain."

"You have a thousand pounds in gold in a box under the seat," was the
unexpected reply; "throw back the apron!"

The lawyer obeyed, but as the horseman stooped to take the box, the lawyer
knocked the pistol out of his hand and drove off at full gallop. He had a
very quick-going mare, and before the highwayman could find his weapon,
which had fallen into some furze, was beyond pursuit.

The next morning the lawyer sent for the landlord. "Yesterday," he said,
"I was stopped on Hounslow Heath. The man had a mask on, but I recognized
him by his voice, which I can swear to. I knew him as well as he knew me.
You had better speak to your son about it, and then we will resume our
conversation."

The landlord was quite innocent of his son's intended crime, but he had
reason to believe him capable of it. He went out with a heavy heart, and
when he came back his face showed it. "Well," he said, with a sort of calm
despair, "what steps do you intend to take, sir, in the matter?"

"None to hurt an old friend, you may be sure," answered the lawyer; "only
those twelve votes you boasted about must be given to our side instead of
yours;" which was accordingly arranged.

In those days, as will already have been seen, Hounslow Heath was a very
real place indeed. There was (as the journalistic slang of to-day has it)
"actuality" about that then solitary and barren waste, which is not a
little difficult to realize nowadays. The cyclist who speeds over the
level roads and past the smiling orchards and market gardens, finds it
difficult to believe that this was the sinister place of eighty years ago;
and, since there is no Heath to-day, is apt to come to the conclusion that
it must have been the very "Mrs. Harris" of heaths; a figment, that is to
say, of romantic writers' imaginations. Such, however, was by no means the
case. Where cultivated lands are now, and where suburban villas stand,
there stretched, less than eighty years since, a veritable scene of
desolation. Furze-bushes, swampy gravel-pits in which tall grasses and
bulrushes grew, and grassy hillocks, the homes of snipe and frogs, and the
haunts of the peewit, were the features of the scene by day; while, when
night was come, the whole place swarmed with footpads and highwaymen.

[Sidenote: _LORD BERKELEY'S ADVENTURES_]

At that time Lord Berkeley used frequently to stay at his country house at
Cranford, close by, from Saturdays to Mondays, and had twice been stopped
and robbed on his way before a third and last encounter, in which he shot
his assailant dead. On the second occasion, the door of his travelling
carriage was opened, and a footpad, dressed as a sailor, pointed a
fully-cocked pistol at him. The man's hand trembled violently, and while
my lord was producing what money he had about him, the trigger was pulled,
more, it would seem, from accident than intention. Happily, the pistol
missed fire. The man then exclaimed, "I beg your pardon, my lord," and,
recocking his pistol, retreated with his plunder.

After this escape, Lord Berkeley swore he would never be robbed again, and
always travelled at night with a short carriage-gun and a brace of
pistols. Thus armed, it was on a November night in 1774 that he was
attacked for the last time. He was going to dine with Mr. Justice
Bulstrode, who lived in an old house surrounded by a brick wall, near
where Hounslow's modern church now stands, and as the carriage was nearing
the town, a voice called to the postboy to halt, and a man rode up to the
carriage window on the left-hand side, thrusting in a pistol, as the glass
was let down. With his left hand Lord Berkeley seized the weapon and
turned it away, while with his right he pushed the short double-barrelled
gun he had with him against the robber's body, and fired once. The man was
severely wounded, and his clothes were set on fire, but he managed to ride
away some fifty yards, and then fell dead. Two accomplices then appeared,
but Lord Berkeley, and a servant on horseback who rode behind the
carriage, made for them, and they fled. It was then discovered that the
gang were all amateur highwaymen, and youths from eighteen to twenty years
of age, in good positions in London.

The Earl of Berkeley seems to have been somewhat unduly twitted about this
encounter. Society was quite resigned to seeing highwaymen hanged,
although it made heroes of them while they were waiting in the "stone jug"
at Newgate for that fatal morning at Tyburn; but it appears to have
considered the shooting of one of them an unsportsmanlike act.

Lord Chesterfield, however, should have been quite the last man to sneer
at the Earl on this score, for he himself was under a very well-deserved
public censure for having prosecuted Dr. Dodd, his son's tutor, for
forgery, with the result that the Doctor was hanged. Accordingly, when he
sarcastically asked Lord Berkeley "how many highwaymen he had shot
lately," it is pleasing to record that he was readily reduced to silence
by the retort, "As many as you have hanged tutors; but with much better
reason for doing so."



XIV


[Sidenote: _CRANFORD_]

It is just beyond Cranford Bridge that the pumps which are so odd a
feature of the Bath Road begin. They line the highway on the left-hand
side going from London, and are all situated in the same position as shown
in the illustration. They are of uniform pattern, and are placed at
regular intervals. These pumps are relics of the coaching age, but are
peculiar to the Bath and some stretches of the Exeter roads. Placed here
for keeping the highway well watered in the old days of road-travel, they
have evidently long been out of use; in fact, their handles are all
chained up. They recur so regularly that they might almost form part of a
new table of measurement, as thus:--

  63 paces             equal 1 telegraph-post.
  19 telegraph-posts     "   1 mile.
   2 miles               "   1 pump.
   1-1/2 pumps           "   1 pub.

[Illustration: A BATH ROAD PUMP.]

[Illustration: THE "BERKELEY ARMS."]

Cranford is a more picturesquely romantic place than any one has a right
to expect in the Middlesex of these latter days. That outlying portion of
the village which borders the high-road still wears the air of a tentative
settlement of civilization amid the wilds of the rolling prairie, and
might form a ready object-lesson for any untravelled Englishman who
desires "local colour" for the writing of an American romance in the
_genre_ of Bret Harte. And, indeed, the houses grouped around Cranford
Bridge were, some seventy years ago, built on the very borders of Hounslow
Heath, whose dreary and dangerous wastes only found a boundary here,
beside the still waters of the placid Crane. At Cranford Bridge stands
that fine old coaching inn, the "Berkeley Arms," and opposite the "White
Hart," which must have been in those times very havens of refuge in that
wild spot; and away up the lane to the right hand lies the village and
park, as pretty a spot as you shall find in a long day's march. Cranford
village is rich in beautiful old mansions set in midst of walled gardens
whose formal precincts are entered through massive wrought-iron gates.
Beside this lane is the village "lock-up," or "round-house," built in
1810, and now the only one of its kind left anywhere near London. The
rest have all been demolished, but "once upon a time" no village could
have been considered complete without one, or without the whipping-post
and stocks which were generally erected close at hand. Cranford, of
course, being situated in the midst of the alarums and excursions caused
by the highwaymen who infested the vicinity and kept the inhabitants in a
state of terror every night, had a peculiarly urgent need for such a
place, and it is, perhaps, because those gentry were such expert
prison-breakers, that this example is more than usually strong, the door
being plated with iron, and the small square window filled with sheet iron
pierced with small holes.

[Sidenote: _CRANFORD ROUND HOUSE_]

Cranford Park, near by, was a seat of the Earls of Berkeley, and is now
the residence of Lord Fitzhardinge, who is _de facto_ "Earl of Berkeley."
But the romantic scandals which arose from the fifth Earl having
eventually married a servant in his household, after she had borne him
several children, caused so much litigation about the succession to the
title that, although one of his sons, the Hon. Thomas Moreton
Fitzhardinge-Berkeley, was declared by a decision of the House of Lords to
be legitimate, he never assumed the title, for the reason that the barring
of his elder brother reflected upon his mother's good name. The whole
affair is exceedingly involved and mysterious, and it is therefore quite
in order that Cranford House should have the reputation of being haunted.

The house is a large rambling pile in the midst of the Park, overlooking
the sullen ornamental waters formed from the river Crane. The ancient
parish church stands close by. The chief or garden front of the house is
curiously like one of the old-fashioned houses that give so distinctive a
character to Park Lane, in London; having a double-bayed front with
verandahs. The aspect of such a house standing in the open country is
weird in the extreme.

[Illustration: CRANFORD HOUSE.]

[Sidenote: _THE CRANFORD GHOST_]

It was the Hon. Grantley Berkeley who first drew attention to the
"haunted" character of the house. He tells, in his "Recollections," how
one night when he and his brother had returned home late, they went down
into the kitchen in search of some supper, all the rest of the household
having retired to rest long before, and distinctly saw the tall figure of
an elderly woman walk across the kitchen. Thinking it was one of the
maids, they spoke to her, but she vanished into thin air, and a search
discovered nothing at all. The obvious comment here is that people
returning home late at night in those times very frequently saw things
that had no existence. The narrator's father, however, used to describe
how he saw a man in the stable-yard, and thinking he was some unauthorized
visitor in the Servants' Hall, asked him what he was doing there. The man
"vanished" without a reply; to which the rejoinder may well be made that
he might do so and yet be no ghost; the motive force being a sight of the
horsewhip which the Earl was carrying.

Cranford deserves notice from the literary pilgrim from the circumstance
that Dr. Thomas Fuller, the Fuller of the much-quoted "Worthies of
England," was chaplain to George, Lord Berkeley, who presented him to the
rectory in 1658. He lies buried in the chancel of the church.

Harlington Corner is the name of the spot, half a mile down the road,
where one of the many old roadside hostelries stands by a branch road
leading on the right to Harlington, and on the left to East Bedfont, on
the Exeter Road. The Corner, besides leading to Harlington, was also the
"junction" for Uxbridge, and here the slow stages set down or took up
passengers for that town. The fast coaches did not stop here, or were
supposed not to do so. Some of them, however, in defiance of time-bills,
halted at the "Magpies"--by arrangement, of course, with the
innkeeper--much to the profit of that house. One of these venal drivers
was neatly caught by Mr. Chaplin, of the once well-known coaching firm of
Chaplin and Horne. The coachman had with him on the box seat that day a
particularly genial passenger, who proved also to have a very intimate
knowledge of horseflesh. Pulling up at the "Magpies," where tables were
spread, showing that the coach was expected as a matter of course, he
winked at his passenger and invited him to refresh. Then, when all was, as
the poet would say, "merry as a marriage-bell," the unknown, like another
"Hawkshaw the Detective," revealed himself. He was Chaplin! The coachman
drove that coach no more!

[Illustration: THE "OLD MAGPIES."]

[Sidenote: _"ARLINGTON OF HARLINGTON"_]

Harlington, up the road to Uxbridge, was once the seat of the Bennets, one
of whom, Henry Bennet, was created Viscount Thetford and Earl of Arlington
in 1663, and lives in history as the "Arlington" of the Cabal. He selected
this village for one of his titles, but the 'eralds' College (as it
surely should have been called) made out his patent of nobility without
the "H," and so "Arlington" he had to become. Arlington Street,
Piccadilly, remains to this day, and the Dukes of Grafton, in whose
numerous titles this is merged, are still Barons "Arlington of Harlington,
in Middlesex."

After which we will hasten on, passing Sipson (a corruption of
"Shepiston") Green. Here we come upon the trail of messieurs the footpads
again, for the road between this inn and the humbler "Old Magpies," a few
hundred yards further on, is sad with the story of highway murder.



XV


The times of the highwaymen are, fortunately for the wayfarer, if
unhappily for romance, long since past, and many of the once-notorious
haunts of Sixteen-string Jack, Claude du Vall, Dick Turpin, and their
less-famed companions have disappeared before the ravages of time and the
much more destructive onslaughts of the builder. A hundred years ago it
would have been difficult to name a lonely suburban inn that was not more
or less favoured and frequented by the "Knights of the Road." Nowadays the
remaining examples are, for those interested in the old story of the
roads, all too few.

Perhaps this queer little roadside inn, the "Old Magpies," is the most
romantic-looking among those that are left. For one thing, it possesses a
thick and beetle-browed thatch which impends over the upper windows like
bushy eyebrows, and gives those windows--the eyes of the house--just that
lowering and suspicious look which heavy and bristling eyebrows confer
upon a man.

But it is not only its romantic appearance that gives the "Old Magpies" an
interest, for it is a well-ascertained fact that outside this house, so
near to the once terrible Hounslow Heath, the brother of Mr. Mellish, M.P.
for Grimsby, was murdered by highwaymen in April, 1798, when returning
from a day's hunting with the King's hounds.

He had started with two others from the "Castle" Hotel, at Salt Hill, for
London, after dinner, and the carriage in which the party was seated was
passing near the "Old Magpies" at about half-past eight, when it was
attacked by three footpads. One held the horses' heads while the other two
guarded the windows, firing a shot through, to terrify the occupants. They
then demanded money. No one offered any resistance, purses and bank-notes
being handed over as a matter of course. Then the travellers were allowed
to go, a parting shot in the dark being fired into the carriage. It struck
Mr. Mellish in the forehead. Coming to another inn near by, called the
"Magpies," the wounded man was taken upstairs and put to bed, while a
surgeon was sent for.

He came from Hounslow, and was robbed on the way by the same gang.
Additional medical assistance was called in, but this late victim of
highway robbery died within forty-eight hours.

[Sidenote: _SIR JOSEPH BANKS_]

The assassins were never apprehended, although Bow Street sent its
cleverest officers to track them down. Bow Street caught the smaller fry
readily enough, who snatched handkerchiefs and such petty booty, and
hanged them out of hand, while the more desperate villains generally
escaped. This is not to say that the Bow Street Runners were not vigilant
and zealous. Indeed, their zeal sometimes outran their discretion, as
instanced in their bold capture of Sir Joseph Banks, who was collecting
natural history specimens in the wilds. Sir Joseph, distinguished man of
science though he was, and a gentleman, was singularly ill-favoured, and
in this fact lies the chief sting of Peter Pindar's witty verses on the
subject--

  "Sir Joseph, fav'rite of great Queens and Kings,
  Whose wisdom weed- and insect-hunter sings;
    And ladies fair applaud, with smile so dimpling;
  Went forth one day amid the laughing fields
  Where Nature such exhaustless treasure yields--A-simpling!
  It happened on the self-same morn so bright
  The nimble pupils of Sir Sampson Wright,
  A-simpling too, for plants called Thieves, proceeded;
  Of which the nation's field should oft be weeded."

They seize Sir Joseph.

  "'Sirs, what d'ye take me for?' the Knight exclaimed--
    'A thief,' replied the Runners, with a curse;
  'And now, sir, let us search you, and be damn'd'--
    And then they searched his pockets, fobs, and purse,
  But, 'stead of pistol dire, and death-like crape,
    A pocket-handkerchief they cast their eye on,
  Containing frogs and toads of various shape,
    Dock, daisy, nettletop, and dandelion,
      To entertain, with great propriety,
      The members of his sage Society;
  Yet would not alter they their strong belief
  That this their pris'ner was a thief.

  "'Sirs, I'm no highwayman,' exclaimed the Knight--
  'No--there,' rejoined the Runners, 'you are right--
    A footpad only. Yes, we know your trade--
  Yes, you're a pretty babe of grace;
  We want no proofs, old codger, but your face;
    So come along with us, old blade.'

    *       *       *       *       *

  "Sir Joseph told them that a neighb'ring Squire
    Should answer for it that he was no thief;
  On which they plumply damn'd him for a liar,
    And said such stories should not save his beef;
      And, if they understood their trade,
      His _mittimus_ should soon be made;
  And forty pounds be theirs, a pretty sum,
  For sending such a rogue to Kingdom Come."

To the Squire, however, they took that distinguished member of Society,
who, of course, identified him at once, and bade them beg his pardon. This
they did--according to "Peter Pindar"--with a resolution in future not to
judge of people by their looks!



XVI


Just before reaching the roadside hamlet of Longford, fifteen miles from
Hyde Park Corner, a lane leads on the right hand to Harmondsworth, a short
mile distant across the wide flat cabbage and potato fields.
"Harm'sworth," as the rustics call it, is mentioned in Domesday Book,
under the name of "Hermondesworde;" that is to say, Hermonde's sworth or
sward, the pasture-land of some forgotten Hermonde.

[Sidenote: _THE "GOTHIC BARN"_]

Few ever turn aside from the dusty high-road to visit this old-fashioned
village, rich in old timber-framed houses, and possessing an ancient
tithe-barn which, standing next the church, was once part of an obscure
Priory established here. The "Gothic Barn" is built precisely on
ecclesiastical lines, with nave and aisles, and is the largest of the
tithe-barns now remaining in England, being 191 feet in length and 38
feet, in breadth. The walls are built of a rough kind of conglomerate
found in the locality, and called "pudding-stone," the flints and pebbles
distributed through the rock resembling to a lively imagination the
currants and raisins in plum-puddings. The interior of the barn is a vast
mass of oak columns and open roofing.

[Illustration: THE "GOTHIC BARN," HARMONDSWORTH.]

A relic of old country life may be seen hanging in this barn, in the
shape of a flail, now occasionally used for threshing out beans.

Very few people will understand the meaning of the old English word
"flail," because it is almost fifty years since that old-world
agricultural implement was in general use. Until steam was introduced as a
labour-saving appliance in agricultural work, corn was invariably threshed
out of the ear by wooden instruments like that pictured here, consisting
of two unequal lengths of rounded wood of the size of an ordinary
broomstick, connected by leathern loops.

[Illustration: OLD FLAIL, HARMONDSWORTH]

The farm hands who used this primitive contrivance grasped hold of the
longer stick, and, brandishing it about over their heads, brought the
hinged end down repeatedly on the wheat spread out on the threshing floor;
thus, with the expenditure of considerable time and muscular strength,
separating the grains from the ears. As the "business end" of the flail is
constructed so as to swing in every direction, it is obvious that the
mastery of it was only acquired with practice, and at the cost of sundry
whacks on the head brought on himself by the clumsy novice. Indeed, it is
an instrument requiring particular dexterity in manipulation.

Longford obtains its name from the marshy ford over one of the sluggish
branches of the Colne, which anciently spread over the road at this spot.
The ford was eventually replaced by the bridge, called "Queen's Bridge,"
which now carries the highway over the stream close by the old inn now
called the "Peggy Bedford," from a well-remembered landlady who kept the
house in coaching days, and died in 1859. The real name of it, however,
now almost forgotten, is the "King's Head." The spot is picturesque in the
grouping of gnarled old wayside trees with the quaint house and its
luxuriant garden; and more so, perhaps, because it comes as a surprise
from the hitherto unrelieved monotony of the flat road all the way from
Cranford Bridge.

[Sidenote: _COLNBROOK_]

In another mile and three-quarters the road reaches Colnbrook, in midst of
whose long street one of the numerous channels of the Colne divides the
counties of Middlesex and Bucks. The boundaries of English counties are
rarely marked for the information of wayfarers along the highways and
byeways of the country, but here the brick bridge over the Colne, built in
1777, has inscriptions which mark where the frontiers march together; and
when the Bath Road is crowded with cyclists on Saturday afternoons in
summer-time one or more can generally be found standing on the bridge with
one leg in each county.

There are no fewer than four channels of the Colne here, and the land all
round about is flat and waterlogged. The entrance to Colnbrook from London
is in fact quite a little Holland in appearance, where streams flow
sluggishly beside the road and are spanned by many footbridges that give
access to the gardens of the pleasant country cottages on either side. A
fine avenue of elms shades the road, and ahead is the cramped street of
Colnbrook with its mellowed red-brick houses and bright red-tiled roofs.
Colnbrook street is narrow to a degree, and it is surprising how the many
coaches that used to come tearing through at all hours of day and night
managed to escape accidents. There is reason for this narrowness, for
Colnbrook was originally built upon a stone causeway across the marshes of
the Colne, and nowhere else were there to be found solid foundations. The
original causeway may possibly have been Roman, for this is said to have
been the station of _Ad Pontes_, described by Antoninus in his
_Itineraries_. Staines, however, is more likely the site of it.

[Illustration: THE COUNTY BOUNDARY.]

[Sidenote: _THE "OSTRICH"_]

Colnbrook is probably the best example of a decayed coaching-town now to
be found in the Home Counties. Too remote from London for suburban
expansion to have affected it, the quaint street remains much as it was a
hundred, nay two hundred years ago. The last coach might have left
yester-year, so undisturbed appears to be the place. There are
coaching-inns here of vast size, ranging from the solid-looking "George"
with "eighteenth century" proclaimed plainly enough on its stolid face,
back to the "Ostrich," rambling, gabled, timber-framed, Elizabethan. They
would have you believe that this house stands on the site of one of the
old guesthouses established in the eleventh, twelfth, and succeeding
centuries along the roads by the good Churchmen of those times. The
original guesthouse here, however, appears to have been a secular
foundation, for it is recorded that in 1106, a certain Milo Crispin gave
it--"_quoddam hospitium in viâ Londoniæ apud Colebroc_"--to the Abbot of
Abingdon. The sign of the "Ostrich" is therefore a lineal descendant of
"_Hospitium_," _viâ_ "Hospice" and "Ospridge;" for, as we have already
seen, the letter H has ever been a negligeable quantity.

The original house is said by persistent traditions to have been the scene
of a dreadful series of abominable murders something of the "Sweeny Todd"
order. The West of England, even so far back as five hundred years ago,
was famous for its cloth, and along this road, with their bales and
pack-horses, journeyed the rich clothiers to and from the London market,
halting in their tedious travels at the inns on the way. The "Ostrich" was
one of these, and prospered exceedingly by the patronage of those jolly
merchants. The gold they carried, however, aroused the cupidity of the
innkeeper and his wife, who devised a murder-trap in one of the upstairs
bedrooms, by which the bed, which was placed above a trap-door, was tilted
up in the middle of the night, so that its slumbering occupant was shot
into a huge copper of boiling water, and so scalded to death. According to
this tradition, which itself is some hundreds of years old, thirteen
victims were thus disposed of, and the innkeeper waxed rich. There must
have been other accomplices, for, according to the story, the bodies were
kept until they formed a cartload, when they were heaped up, driven away
to the Thames at Wraysbury and thrown in. One, however, had fallen out by
the way, and whilst the criminals were disputing by the river-bank as to
what had become of it, they were observed by a fisherman who had been
hidden in the rushes while engaged in setting eel-bucks. He suggested that
the best thing for them to do was to throw in one of themselves, to make
up the number; to which sprightly wit they replied with a shower of
arrows. The fisherman then rowed away, with one of the arrows sticking in
his boat, and went with it into Colnbrook the following day. Outside the
"Ostrich" he was espied by the innkeeper's little son, who exclaimed, "You
have got one of my father's arrows!" The man and his wife were missing,
but were afterwards captured and hanged.

[Illustration: COLNBROOK, A DECAYED COACHING TOWN.]

This gory legend does not render Colnbrook the more attractive to the
stranger, but the Colnbrook folks are proud of it. Like the Fat Boy in
"Pickwick," they "wants to make yer flesh creep," and would have one
believe that the present "Ostrich" is the identical building--which it
isn't.

Another cherished tradition of Colnbrook is that King John stayed here on
his journey to Runneymede to sign the famous Magna Charta, the "Palladium
of English Liberties," as phrase-makers are pleased to call it. They still
show the stranger "King John's Palace," a quaint house which looks on to
the road, and is not so old as John's time by some three hundred years.
That, however, by no means discredits the story to the good folks of
Colnbrook.

A better ascertained historical event is the rising in favour of the
deposed Richard the Second in 1400, when forty thousand men from the West
Country lay encamped by the Colne, prepared to descend upon Windsor and
London, to seize the usurper, Henry the Fourth. But Henry, fleeing from
Windsor, raised an army in London; and between the rumours of his coming
and treachery in their own ranks, the partisans of Richard faded away.



XVII


[Sidenote: _TO SLOUGH_]

The long stretches of the Bath Road between this and Slough are nowadays
enlivened by few incidents or interesting places, although during the last
century, and well on into this, the highway was lively enough with
Royalties and their escorts, journeying between Windsor and St. James's.
The route taken on these occasions was generally through Datchet, and so
on to the Bath Road just here. An old print of this period shows us how
George the Third used to travel on this road to London, or to the unkingly
domestic life at Kew Palace, where the farmer-like reputation of that not
very brilliant monarch was sustained on boiled mutton and turnips, and
improving books.

[Illustration: ALMSHOUSES, LANGLEY.]

The hamlet of Langley Broom, one and a half miles on the way, is the
uninteresting offshoot, of the pretty village of Langley Marish (or
"Marshy Langley"), that lies just within sight of the road, and has some
delightful old red-brick almshouses, which, together with the ancient
library and painted room of Renaissance period in the church, render the
place worthy a visit. This is all there is to interest the stranger, with
the exception of a pretty peep towards Windsor Castle on the left hand,
within two miles of Slough, and near where Cary of the _Itinerary_ places
a spot he calls "Tetsworth Water," which does not appear to exist
nowadays.

[Illustration: THE STOLEN FOUNTAIN.]

[Sidenote: _A STOLEN FOUNTAIN_]

Slough is quite modern and unremarkable, but it is rapidly building up
legends of its own. There have, for instance, been many strange thefts on
the roads, from time to time, but none perhaps stranger than the
purloining, two years ago, of the drinking-fountain which used to stand at
the entrance to Slough, where the road branches off to Uxbridge. Until
some unusually acquisitive folk came along and carried it away with them,
there was at that corner a fountain of bronze and marble, fourteen feet in
height, the bronze upper part weighing nearly half a ton. It acted also as
a finger-post, directing strayed cyclists in the way they should go. The
good folks of Slough went to bed one night and saw their fountain standing
where it had been used to stand for years past; but in the morning, when
they arose and went forth about their business, the fountain was gone!
Nothing but the plinth was left. Some mad wag suggested that one of the
many cyclists who frequent the Bath Road had taken it home with him as a
memento of Slough; but it seems that a gang of original-minded thieves
made away with it for the sake of the bronze, which, when broken up, must
have brought them a good sum. At any rate, it seems quite beyond the
bounds of possibility that Slough will ever see its fountain again.

[Illustration: WINDSOR CASTLE, FROM THE ROAD NEAR SLOUGH.]



XVIII


It requires the specialized knowledge of a district surveyor to determine
where Slough ends and Salt Hill begins, although probably it would be a
shrewd guess to say that the roads which cross the Bath Road in the midst
of Slough, and go respectively left and right to Windsor and Stoke Poges,
form the dividing line. For all practical purposes, however, the places
are one. Salt Hill has decayed, rather than grown, while the town of
Slough (unlovely name!) is almost wholly a creation of the railway. Not
only strangers have noted the unpleasing name of the place, but some of
the inhabitants even endeavoured to change it a few years ago. The
proposition was to rechristen it "Upton Royal," Upton being a hamlet near
by, the "Royal" a bright idea of the local boot-lickers, who wanted to
emphasize the fact of their proximity to Windsor. The project fell
through.

[Sidenote: _A TRAGICAL DINNER_]

Many of the crack coaches halted at Salt Hill, where, at the "Castle" or
the "Windmill," they found accommodation of the very best. Salt Hill, in
fact, was a place which thrived solely on coaching, and the glories of it
are now departed. A tragical event clouded over the fair fame of the
"Castle" in 1773. It seems that on the 29th of March in that year, a
number of gentlemen forming the Colnbrook Turnpike Commission met there,
when the Hon. Mr. O'Brien, Capt. Needham, Edward Mason, Major Mayne, Major
Cheshire, Walpole Eyre, Capt. Salter, Mr. Isherwood, Mr. Benwell, Mr.
Pote, senr., and Mr. Burcombe attended and dined together. The dinner
consisted of soup, jack, perch, and "eel pitch cockt" (whatever that may
have been), fowls, bacon, and greens, veal cutlets, ragout of pigs' ears,
chine of mutton and salad, course of lamb and cucumbers, crawfish, pastry,
and jellies. The wines were Madeira and Port of the very best quality;
but, notwithstanding this elaborate spread, the company, we are told, ate
and drank moderately, nor was there excess in any respect. Before dinner,
several paupers were examined, and among them one most remarkably
miserable object. In about ten or eleven days afterwards, every one of the
company, except Mr. Pote, who had walked in the garden during the
examination of the paupers, was taken ill, and five of them soon died. It
was, at the time, supposed that some infection from the paupers had
occasioned this fatality, more especially as Mr. Pote, who was absent from
the examination, was the only person who escaped unaffected, although he
had dined in exactly the same manner as the others.

Some persons have compared this affair with the mortality arising from the
Black Assizes, but it should seem, by another account, that these
unfortunate gentlemen had partaken of soup that had been allowed to stand
in a copper vessel, and that, therefore, they died of mineral poisoning.
They lie buried in the little churchyard of Wexham, two miles distant,
where an inscription records the facts. That sad business quite ruined the
"Castle" Hotel.

But all the Salt Hill hotels were ruined when the Great Western Railway
was constructed. The first section was opened, from Paddington to Taplow,
on June 4, 1838, and those old hostelries at one blow found most of their
patrons taken from them. It is true that this disaster had been impending
since 1833, when the route for the new railway was first surveyed; but
after the victory of the opponents of the first Bill, when a public
meeting was held at Salt Hill to rejoice in the defeat of the railway
project, the innkeepers seemed to think that they could not come to much
harm. They were, however, bitterly disillusioned.

[Sidenote: _OPENING OF THE G.W.R._]

It is curious, nowadays, to look back upon the time when the Great Western
Railway was first built. The authorities of Eton College, together with
the Court, had effectually driven the railway from Windsor and Eton, and
the College people had also secured the insertion of a clause in the
Company's Act forbidding the erection of a station at Slough.
Notwithstanding this, however, trains stopped at Slough from the very
first. The Company did this by an ingenious evasion of the spirit, if not
the letter, of their Parliamentary obligations. By their Act they were
forbidden to _build a station_ at Slough, but nothing had been said about
trains stopping there! Accordingly, two rooms were hired at a public house
beside the line where Slough station now stands, and tickets were issued
there, comfortably enough. The Eton College authorities were maddened by
this smart dodge, and applied for an injunction against the Company, which
was duly refused.

This is not the only railway romance belonging to Slough, for the Slough
signal-box has had a romance of its own. The cabin was erected in 1844,
and one of the earliest messages the signalman wired to London by the then
wonderful new invention of the electric telegraph, was intelligence of the
birth of the Duke of Edinburgh. The following year a man named Tawell
committed a murder at Salt Hill, and escaped by the next train to London;
but information was telegraphed to town, and being arrested as he stepped
from the carriage at Paddington, he was subsequently tried and hanged. The
telegraphist warned the officials at Paddington to look out for a man
dressed like a Quaker. It is a singular circumstance that the original
telegraphic code did not comprise any signal for the letter "Q;" but the
telegraphist was not to be beaten. He spelled the word "Kwaker." Sir
Francis Head has recorded how he was travelling along the line, months
after, in a crowded carriage. "Not a word had been spoken since the train
left London, but as we neared Slough Station, a short-bodied,
short-necked, short-nosed, exceedingly respectable-looking man in the
corner, fixing his eyes on the apparently fleeting wires, nodded to us as
he muttered aloud, "Them's the cords that hung John Tawell!"[2]



XIX


It will not surprise those who are acquainted with the history of Bath,
and the crowds of rich travellers who travelled thither, to learn that
Hounslow Heath had not long been left behind before another highwayman's
territory was entered upon. This stretched roughly from Salt Hill, on the
east, to Maidenhead Thicket, on the west. It would, of course, have been
ill gleaning after the harvest had been reaped by the pick of the
profession on the Heath, and, as a matter of fact, the gangs who infested
Maidenhead Thicket and Salt Hill confined their attention to travellers
_returning_ from Bath. Hawkes was the chief of them, and his was a name of
dread.

[Sidenote: _THE "FLYING HIGHWAYMAN"_]

Hawkes, the "Flying Highwayman," who obtained that eminently descriptive
name from the rapidity with which he moved from place to place, levying
tribute from the frequenters of the Bath Road, was a darkly prominent
figure in the days of George the Third. His name perhaps is not so well
known as that of the more than half-mythical Dick Turpin, but it deserves
especial mention from the circumstance of his keeping the whole country
side between Hounslow and Windsor in terror for some years, and from the
cleverness of the disguises he assumed. Disguised now as an officer, or a
farmer; or again, as a Quaker, he despoiled the King's liege subjects very
effectively. His most notable exploit was enacted at Salt Hill.

A vapouring fellow, apparently from the sister island, who, according to
his own account of his antecedents, had been too frequently in action
with hosts of enemies to care for footpads and such scum, alighting from a
post-chaise, entered the wayside sign of the Plough, and laying down a
pair of large horse-pistols, called loudly for brandy-and-water.

Only one guest was in the room--a broad-hatted and drab-suited
Quaker--who, in the most sedate manner, was satisfying his appetite with a
modest meal. The traveller, swaggering in and laying down his weapons on
the table in such close proximity to the edibles, startled the man of
peace, who shrank from them in very terror.

"Oh, my friend," says the traveller, "'tis folks who fear to carry arms
give opportunities to the highwaymen. If they went protected as I do, what
occasion would there be to fear any man, even Hawkes himself?" And then,
with an abundance of oaths, he protested that not half a dozen highwaymen
should avail to deprive him of a single sixpence. The Quaker, meanwhile,
continued his humble refection, now and again glancing from his bread and
cheese at his most noisy and demonstrative companion, who drank his
brandy-and-water stalking up and down the apartment.

Presently, his drink exhausted, and his eloquence thrown away upon friend
Broadbrim--who he at once conceived to be so quiet because he had nothing
to lose--he unceremoniously turned his back and sat down upon a chair to
examine the valuables he carried about his person. Having satisfied
himself of their safety, he snatched up his pistols, and, with an
impatient exclamation, strode off to the bar, and was paying for his
liquor and gossiping, when the silent Quaker, who had by this time
finished his repast, passed out hurriedly and disappeared down the road.

[Sidenote: _THE HIGHWAYMAN AND HIS PREY_]

The boisterous traveller continued his conversation for a while with the
landlord, and then, re-entering his post-chaise, bade the postboy drive
fast, and holloa when a suspicious person approached. He threw himself
upon the seat after he had closed the door, stretched his legs as wide as
possible, and, planting his feet firmly, cocked his pistols, holding them
at arm's length with their barrels resting on the open windows.

The horses went on for about a mile, when the chaise entered upon a
heath--a very desolate-looking place, with never a house visible in any
direction: with nothing, indeed, to enliven the perspective save a
gallows, if such an object, with a rattling skeleton swinging in chains
from the cross-beam, can be so considered. The traveller gazed with a grim
satisfaction at this spectacle, for it seemed to him, as to the
shipwrecked sailor in the old story--an earnest of civilization.

But while he was musing on the long arm of the law, the rapid sounds of
horse's hoofs, sounding over the ragged turf of the heath, were heard, and
a voice was presently raised, commanding the postboy to stop. The chaise
was stopped suddenly, with a jolt and a crash, and a face, black-masked,
mysterious, horrible, appeared at the window, together with the still more
alarming apparition of the grinning muzzle of a horse-pistol. Then
followed the inevitable, "Your money or your life!"

The traveller had his weapons ready. Raising the muzzle of one to the
highwayman's head, he pulled the trigger, while his unexpected assailant
stood and laughed. Beyond a snap and some sparks from the bruised flint,
nothing happened. With a curse, he levelled the other pistol, and with the
same result. The man in the mask laughed louder. "No good, friend Bounce,
trying that game," said he, coolly; "the powder was carefully blown out of
each of thy pans, almost under thy nose. If thou dost not want a bullet
through thy head, just hand me over the repeater in thy boot, the purse in
thy hat, the bank-notes in thy fob, the gold snuffbox in thy breast, and
the diamond ring up thy sleeve. Out with them," he added, "in less time
than thee took when I saw thee put 'em there, or I'll send thee to Davy
Jones, and take 'em myself."

The muzzle of the highwayman's pistol was at his head--the trigger at full
cock. The flashing eyes that sparkled behind the mask showed the
unfortunate traveller that here was no man to be trifled with. He dropped
his useless weapon, and with considerable trepidation drew, one by one,
from their places of security the valuables mentioned by the highwayman,
who, when he had received them all, drew half a crown from the purse, and,
flinging it into the chaise, said, casting off his Quaker speech, "There
is enough to pay your turnpikes. And, harkee!" he added, in a more
peremptory tone, "for the future, don't brag quite so much." Turning his
horse's head, he disappeared, leaving the chaise and its occupant to
continue their journey. The latter speedily recognized that the Quaker was
none other than Hawkes himself.

[Sidenote: _AN ALE-HOUSE FIGHT_]

But this was the last exploit of Captain Hawkes. On the evening of the
same day a man in a heavy topcoat and riding-boots, splashed, and with
every appearance of having come off a long journey, entered the "Rising
Sun," at a village about twenty miles away. In one compartment of the
tap-room, on either side of a painted table, sat two ploughmen, in
smock-frocks, their shock heads resting on their arms, which were spread
out on the table near an empty quart pot. They were both snoring loudly.
The new-comer, having been served with a glass of gin and water, and a
long clay pipe, took no notice of the sleepers. In a few minutes one of
the rustics awoke, and, glancing vacantly about him, scratching his
carroty head, seized the empty pot.

He put it down, and, giving his companion a push that nearly sent him off
his seat, exclaimed, "Ye greedy chap! blest if ye ain't been and drunk up
all the beer while I were a-sleeping."

"Then ye shouldn't have been a-sleeping, ye fool," retorted the other,
grinning from ear to ear.

"I'll gi' ye a dowse o' the chaps if ye grin at me," shouted the man,
angrily.

"Haw, haw!" jeered the grinner, across the table. "'Twould take a better
man nor you to do it. And," he added, "if ye don't want a hiding, ye'd
better not try."

Up jumped the two chawbacons simultaneously, and rushed at one another
furiously. They rolled on the sanded floor, kicking and cuffing, while the
stranger sipped his gin and water and smoked placidly enough.

Presently, however, one of the combatants opened a clasp-knife, and made
as though he would stab the other. Seeing this, the quiet spectator rose
and seized the man's wrist in a powerful grip. But, quick as thought, his
own wrists were seized, and he was thrown to the floor, both men clinging
tightly to him. When he at length managed to rise, both his wrists were
handcuffed.

"Neatly managed, that!" exclaimed one of the pretended rustics, throwing
off his smock-frock and disclosing the red waistcoat of a Bow Street
Runner.

"You must acknowledge, Captain Hawkes, as how we've done you brown."

They searched their captive, and found two loaded pistols and a great
variety of valuables about him. Then they escorted him to a post-chaise,
which was in waiting; and the same night saw him in Newgate.

He made a quiet and composed end, like most of his kind. They knew their
risks, these dauntless enemies of society, and accepted death by
strangulation when it came with something of philosophy.



XX


And now for the plain, unvarnished narrative of one who travelled these
roads a century ago.

[Sidenote: _A STRANGER IN OUR GATES_]

When that simple-minded German, Pastor Moritz, who visited England towards
the close of last century, grew tired of London, he determined, he says,
to visit Derbyshire; and, making the necessary preparations for his
excursion, set out on June 21, 1782, for Richmond, though why he should
have gone to Richmond _en route_ for Derbyshire is difficult to
understand. He took with him four guineas, some linen, and a book of the
roads, together with a map and a pocket-book, and (for he had his
appreciations) a copy of "Paradise Lost."

Thus equipped, he enjoyed for the first time what he calls the "luxury of
being driven in an English stage," from which expression and our own
people's doleful tales of eighteenth-century travelling in England, we may
infer that the public conveyances of the Pastor's native land were
particularly bad. The English coaches were, according to him, viewing them
with the eye of a foreigner, "quite elegant." This particular one was
lined in the inside, and had two seats large enough to accommodate six
persons; "but it must be owned," he goes on to say, "that when the
carriage was full the company was rather crowded." By which we may gather
that the seats rather discommoded than accommodated.

The only passenger at first was an elderly lady, but presently the coach
was filled with other dames, who appeared to be a little acquainted with
one another, and conversed, as our traveller thought, in a very insipid
and tiresome manner. Fortunately, he had his road-book handy, and so took
refuge in its pages by marking his route.

The coach stopped at Kensington, where a Jew would have taken a seat, but
that luxurious conveyance was full inside, and the Israelite was too proud
to take a place amongst the half-price outsiders on the roof. This
naturally annoyed the travellers, for they thought it preposterous that a
Jew should be ashamed to ride on the outside. They thought he should have
been grateful for being allowed to ride on any side in any way, since he
was but a Jew. In this connection Mr. Moritz takes occasion to observe
that the riding upon the roof of a coach is a curious practice. Persons to
whom it was not convenient to pay full price sat outside, without any
seats, or even a rail. By what means passengers thus fastened themselves
securely on the roofs of those vehicles he knew not, but he constantly saw
numbers seated there, at their ease, and apparently with perfect safety.

On this occasion the outsiders, of whom there were six, made such a noise
and bustle when the insiders alighted, as to almost frighten them, and I
suspect the ladies were rendered horribly nervous by the only other man
who rode inside the coach recounting to them all kinds of stories about
robbers and footpads who had committed many crimes hereabouts. However, as
this entertaining companion insisted, the English robbers were possessed
of a superior honour as compared with the French: the former robbed only;
the latter both robbed and murdered, doubtless on the principle of that
classic proverb which assures us that dead men tell no tales.

[Sidenote: _THE HIERARCHY OF THIEVES_]

"Notwithstanding this," says our traveller, "there are in England another
species of villains, who also murder, and that oftentimes for the merest
trifles, of which they rob the person murdered. These are called footpads,
and are the lowest class of English rogues, amongst whom, in general,
there reigns something like some regard to character.

"The highest order of thieves (!) are the pickpockets or cutpurses, whom
you find everywhere, and sometimes even in the best companies. They are
generally well and handsomely dressed, so that you take them to be persons
of condition; as indeed may sometimes be the case--persons who by
extravagance and excesses have reduced themselves to want, and find
themselves obliged at last to have recourse to pilfering and thieving.

"Next to them come the highwaymen, who rob on horseback, and often, they
say, even with unloaded pistols, they terrify travellers in order to put
themselves in possession of their purses. Among these persons, however,
there are instances of true greatness of soul; there are numberless
instances of their returning a large part of their booty where the party
robbed has appeared to be particularly distressed, and they are seldom
guilty of murder.

"Then comes the third and lowest and worst of all thieves and rogues, the
footpads before mentioned, who are on foot, and often murder in the most
inhuman manner, for the sake of only a few shillings, any unfortunate
people who happen to fall in their way."

The coach arrived, one is glad to say, unharmed at Richmond, despite
forebodings of disaster; but the pirates on board (so to speak) demanded
another shilling of the Pastor, although he had already paid one at
starting.

At Richmond he stayed the night, and in the evening he took a walk out of
the town, to Richmond Hill and the Terrace, where his feelings during the
few enraptured minutes that he stood there seemed impossible for his pen
to describe. One of his first sensations was chagrin and sorrow for the
days wasted in London, and he vented a thousand bitter reproaches on his
irresolution in not quitting that huge dungeon long before, to come here
and spend his time in paradise.

The landlady of the inn was so noted for the copiousness and the loudness
of her talking to the servants that our traveller could not get to sleep
until it was very late; but, notwithstanding this, he was up by three
o'clock the next morning to see the sun rise over Richmond Hill. Alas!
alas! the lazy servants, who cared nothing for such sights, did not arise
till six o'clock, when he rushed out, only to be disappointed at finding
the sky overcast.

And now, having finished his breakfast, he seized his staff, his only
companion, and proceeded to set forth on foot. Unfortunately, however, a
traveller in this wise seemed to be considered as a sort of wild man or
eccentric creature, who was stared at, pitied, suspected, and shunned by
all. There were carriages without number on the road, and they occasioned
a troublesome and disagreeable dust, and when he sat down in a hedge to
read Milton, the people who rode or drove past stared at him with
astonishment, and made significant gestures, as who should say, "This is a
poor devil with a deranged head," so singular did it appear to them that a
man should sit beside the public highway and read books.

[Sidenote: _PILGRIM'S PROGRESS_]

Then, when he again resumed his journey, the coachmen who drove by called
out now and again to ask him if he would not ride on the outside of their
coaches; and the farmers riding past on horseback said, with an air of
pity, "'Tis warm walking, sir;" and, more than all, as he passed through
the villages, every old woman would come to her door and cry pitifully,
"Good God!"

And so he came to Windsor, where, as he entered an inn and desired to have
something to eat, the countenances of the waiters soon gave him to
understand that they thought our pedestrian little, if anything, better
than a beggar. In this contemptuous manner they served him, but, to do
them justice, they allowed him to pay like a gentleman. "Perhaps," says
Pastor Moritz, "this was the first time these pert, be-powdered puppies
had ever been called on to wait on a poor devil who entered the place on
foot." To add to this indignity, they showed him into a bedroom which more
resembled a cell for malefactors than aught else, and when he desired a
better room, told him, with scant ceremony, to go back to Slough. This, by
the way, was at the "Christopher," at Eton. Crossing the bridge into
Windsor again, he found himself opposite the Castle, and at the gates of a
very capital inn, with several officers and persons of distinction going
in and out. Here the landlord received him with civility, but the
chambermaid who conducted him to his room did nothing but mutter and
grumble. After an evening walk he returned, at peace with all men; but the
waiters received him gruffly, and the chambermaid, dropping a
half-curtsey, informed him, with a sneering laugh, that he might go and
look for another bedroom, for the one she had by mistake shown him was
already engaged. He protested so loudly at this that the landlord, who was
a good soul, surely, came, and with great courtesy desired another room to
be shown him, which, however, contained another bed.

Underneath was the tap-room, from which ascended the ribaldries and low
conversation of some objectionable people who were drinking and singing
songs down there, and scarcely had he dropped off to sleep before the
fellow who was to sleep in the other bed came stumbling into the room.
After colliding with the Pastor's bed, he found his own, and got into it
without the tiresome formality of removing boots and clothes.

The next morning the Pastor prepared to depart, needlessly annoyed by that
eternal feminine--the grumbling chambermaid, who informed him that on no
account should he sleep another night there. As he was going away, the
surly waiter placed himself on the stairs, saying, "Pray remember the
waiter," and when in receipt of the three-halfpence which our traveller
bestowed, he cursed that inoffensive German with the heartiest
imprecations. At the door stood the maid, saying, "Pray remember the
chambermaid." "Yes, yes," says the Pastor (a worm will turn), "I shall
long remember your most ill-mannered behaviour," and so gave her nothing.

Through Slough he went, by Salt Hill, to Maidenhead. At Salt Hill, which
could hardly be called a village, he saw a barber's shop. For putting his
hair in order, and for the luxury of a shave, that unconscionable barber
charged one shilling.

Between Salt Hill and Maidenhead, this very much contemned pedestrian met
with a very disagreeable adventure. Hitherto he had scarcely met a single
foot-passenger, whilst coaches without number rolled every moment past
him; for few roads were so crowded as was the Bath Road at this time.

[Sidenote: _THE PASTOR AND THE FOOTPAD_]

In one place the road led along a low, sunken piece of ground, between
high trees, so that one could see but a little way ahead, and just here a
fellow in a brown frock and round hat, with an immense stick in his hand,
came up to him. His countenance was suspicious. He passed, but immediately
turned back and demanded a halfpenny to buy bread, for he had eaten
nothing (so he said) that day.

The Pastor felt in his pocket, but could find nothing less than a
shilling. Very imprudently, I should say, he informed the beggar of that
fact, and begged to be excused.

"God bless my soul!" said the beggar, which pious invocation so frightened
our timid friend that he, having due regard to the big stick and the
brawny hand that held it, gave the beggar a shilling. Meanwhile a coach
came past, and the fellow thanked him and went on his way. If the coach
had come past sooner, he "would not," he says, "so easily have given him
the shilling, which, God knows, I could not well spare. Whether a footpad
or not, I will not pretend to say; but he had every appearance of it."

And so this unfortunate traveller marches off to the Oxford Road, and we
are no longer concerned with him.



XXI


A fine broad gravel stretch of highway is that which, on leaving Salt
Hill, takes us gently down in the direction of the Thames, which the Bath
Road crosses, over Maidenhead Bridge. The distance is four miles, with no
villages, and but few scattered houses, on the way. Two miles and one mile
respectively before the Bridge is reached are the wayside inns, called
"Two Mile Brook" and "One Mile House." Near this last is the beautiful
grouping of roadside elms, sketched in the accompanying illustration, "An
English Road." Half a mile onward, the Great Western Railway crosses the
road by a skew-bridge, and runs into Taplow station. Taplow village lies
quite away from the road, but has an outpost, as it were, in the old, with
the curious sign of the "Dumb Bell." Beyond this, the intervening stretch
of road as far as Maidenhead Bridge is lined with villas standing in
extensive grounds. Here the traveller renews his acquaintance with the
Thames, and passes over a fine stone bridge, built in 1772, from Bucks to
Berks. This bridge succeeded a crazy timber structure, which itself had
several predecessors. It is one of these early bridges that is mentioned
in the declaration of a hermit who obtained a licence to settle here and
collect alms. Such roadside hermits were common in the Middle Ages. They
were licensed by the Bishop of their diocese, and were often useful in
keeping bridges and highways in good order; the alms they received
being, indeed, very much in the nature of voluntary tolls for these
services. On the following declaration, Richard Ludlow obtained his
licence:--

[Sidenote: _AN EARLY TOLL-KEEPER_]

"In the name of God, Amen. I, Richard Ludlow, before God and you my Lord
Bishop of Salisbury, and in presence of all these worshipful men here
being, offer up my profession of hermit under this form: that I, Richard,
will be obedient to Holy Church; that I will lead my life, to my life's
end, in sobriety and chastity; will avoid all open spectacles, taverns,
and other such places; that I will every day hear mass, and say every day
certain Paternosters and Aves: that I will fast every Friday, the vigils
of Pentecost and All Hallows, on bread and water. And the goods that I may
get by free gift of Christian people, or by bequest, or testament, or by
any reasonable and true way, receiving only necessaries to my sustenance,
as in meat, drink, clothing, and fuel, I shall truly, without deceit, lay
out upon reparation and amending of the bridge and of the common way
belonging to ye same town of Maidenhead."

[Illustration: AN ENGLISH ROAD.]

There is, perhaps, no more delightful picture along the whole course of
the Bath Road than the view from Maidenhead Bridge up river, where the
house-boats, gay with flowers and Japanese lanterns, are gathered beside
the trim lawns of the riverside villas, with the gaily dressed crowds by
Boulter's Lock beyond, and the wooded heights of Clieveden closing in the
distance. Maidenhead shows the river at its most fashionable part.

It was at the "Greyhound" Inn, Maidenhead, that the unhappy Charles the
First bade farewell to his children, July 16, 1647. He was in charge of
his Roundhead captors at Caversham, and had been allowed to come over for
two days. The Prince of Wales was abroad, but the Duke of York, then
fifteen years of age; the Princess Elizabeth, two years younger; and the
seven-year-old Duke of Gloucester, were brought to him. The affecting
scene is said to have drawn tears even from Cromwell.

Maidenhead Bridge--the wooden one which preceeded the present
structure--might have been the scene of a desperate encounter, but
happened instead to have witnessed an equally desperate and farcical
devil-take-the-hindmost flight on the part of the Irish soldiers of James
the Second, who were posted here to dispute the passage of the Thames with
the advancing forces of William of Orange.

The November night had shrouded the river and the country side, when the
sound of drums beating a Dutch march was heard. The soldiers, who had no
heart in their work, did not remain to defend that strategic point, and
bolted. They would have discovered, if they had kept their posts, that the
martial music which lent them such agility was produced by the townsfolk
of Maidenhead, who, in spite of that national crisis, appear to have been
merry blades.



XXII


The "Bear" was the principal inn at Maidenhead in the coaching era, and
owed much of its prosperity to the unwillingness of travellers who carried
considerable sums of money with them to cross Maidenhead Thicket at night.
They slept peacefully at the "Bear," and resumed the roads in the morning,
when the highwaymen were in hiding.

[Sidenote: _MAIDENHEAD THICKET_]

Maidenhead Thicket is really a long avenue lining the highway two miles
from that town. It is a beautiful and romantic place, but its beauties
were not apparent to travellers in days of old. The sinister reputation of
the spot goes back for hundreds of years, and may be said to have arisen
from the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, when Reading Abbey
was despoiled. To that Abbey had resorted many hundreds of poor, certain
of finding relief at its gates, and when its hospitality had become a
thing of the past, these dependents simply infested the neighbourhood, and
either begged or stole. As a chronicler of that time quaintly said: "There
is great stoare of stout vagabonds and maysterless men (able enough for
labour) which do great hurt in the country by their idle and naughtie
life." In those times the Hundreds were liable for any robberies committed
within their boundaries; and in 1590 the Hundred of Benhurst, in which
Maidenhead Thicket is situated, had actually to pay £255 compensation for
highway robberies committed here. In fact, Maidenhead Thicket had for a
long time an unenviable reputation for highway robberies, with or without
violence, and the desperadoes had so little care whom they robbed that not
even the Vicars of Hurley, who came over to officiate at Maidenhead once a
week, were safe. This was so fully recognized that the Vicars of Hurley
used to draw an annual £50 extra on account of their risks.

In later years a farmer, whose name was Cannon, was stopped one night on
driving from Reading market. Two footpads compelled him to give up the
well-filled money-bag he carried with him, and then let him go, consumed
with impotent rage at his helplessness and the loss of his money.

Suddenly, however, he remembered that he had with him, under the seat of
the gig, a reaping-hook which he had brought back from being mended at
Reading. That recollection brought him a bright idea. Turning his gig
round, he drove back to the spot where he had been robbed, by a back way.
As he had supposed, the ruffians were still there, waiting for more
plunder. In the dark they took the farmer for a new-comer, until he had
got to close quarters with his reaping-hook, which they mistook for a
cutlass. The end of the encounter was that one footpad was left for dead,
and the other took to his heels. The farmer searched the fallen foe and
found his money-bag, together, it was said, with other spoils, which he
promptly annexed, and drove off rejoicing.

[Illustration: MAIDENHEAD THICKET.]

After these tales of derring-do and robustious encounters, the story of
the road becomes comparatively tame as it goes on and passes through
Twyford and Reading.

[Illustration: THE "BELL AND BOTTLE" SIGN.]

[Sidenote: _"BELL AND BOTTLE"_]

At the western end of Maidenhead Thicket, where, lying modestly back from
the road, stands one of the innumerable "Coach and Horses" of the highway,
the gossips of the adjacent Littlewick Green foregather and play bowls on
the grass. Then comes Knowl Hill, where an old sign, swinging romantically
from a wayside fir tree, proclaims the proximity of a curiously named inn,
the "Bell and Bottle." What affinity have bells for bottles, or bottles
for bells? "What," as the poet asks (in quite a different connection), "is
Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba?" But perhaps the original innkeeper was
something of a cynic, and thus paraphrased the well-worn conjunction,
"Beer and Bible." Unfortunately for the inquiring stranger, the origin is
"wrop in mistry."

Down below Knowl Hill, past a chalk quarry on the right, is yet another
inn--the neat and pretty "Seven Stars," to be succeeded at the hamlet of
Kiln Green by the "Horse and Groom," gabled and embowered with vines, and
facing up, not fronting, the road, in quite the ideal fashion. What the
country here lacks in bold scenery it evidently gains in fertility, for
the gardens of Kiln Green are a delightful mass of luxuriant flowers.

The road through Hare Hatch to Twyford is flat and uninteresting. Twyford
itself, an ancient place on the little river Loddon, is losing its antique
character, from being the scene of much building activity. An old
almshouse remains on the right hand, with the inscription, "Domino et
pauperibus, 1640."

The five miles between Twyford and Reading exhibit the gradual degeneracy
of a country road approaching a large town; as regards the scenery, that
is to say. The quality of the road surface remains excellent, and the
width is generous--a circumstance probably owing to the especial widening
carried out so far back as 1255, in consequence of the dangerous state of
the highway, which was then narrow and bordered by dense woods wherein
lurked all manner of evildoers.

Three miles from the town, and continuing for the length of a mile, is a
pleasant avenue of trees. The deep Sonning Cutting on the Great Western
Railway is then crossed, and the suburbs of Biscuit Town presently
encountered.



XXIII


"The run to Reading," I learn from a cycling paper, "constitutes a
pleasant morning's spin from London." I should like to call up one of our
great-grandfathers who travelled these thirty-nine miles painfully by
coach, and read that paragraph to him.

[Sidenote: _BISCUITS, SEEDS, AND SAUCE_]

Reading numbers over 60,000 inhabitants, and is rapidly adding to them.
This prosperity proceeds from several causes, Reading being--

  "'Mongst other things, so widely known,
  For biscuits, seeds, and sauce."

The town, of course, stands for biscuits in the minds of most people, and
the names of Huntley and Palmer have become household words, somewhat
eclipsing Cock's Reading Sauce, and the seeds of Sutton's; while few
people outside Reading are cognizant of its great engineering industries.
So much for modern Reading, whose principal hero is George Palmer.

[Illustration: PALMER'S STATUE.]

Mr. George Palmer, whose death occurred in 1897, enjoyed the distinction
of having a statue erected to him during his lifetime, an unusual honour
which he shared with few others--Queen Victoria, the great Duke of
Wellington, Lord Roberts, Reginald, Earl of Devon, and, of course, Mr.
Gladstone. Mr. Palmer's fellow-townsmen elected to honour him in this way,
and decided to have a statue which should be in every way true to life,
and show the man "in his habit as he lived"--one in which the clothes
should be as characteristic as the features. Our grandfathers would have
represented him wrapped in a Roman toga, but those notions do not commend
themselves to the present age, and so the effigy stands in all the
supremely _un_-decorative guise of everyday dress: homely coat, and
trousers excruciatingly baggy at the knees; bareheaded, and in one hand a
silk hat and an unfolded umbrella. This is possibly the only instance in
which these last necessary, but unlovely articles have been reproduced in
bronze.

Ancient Reading knew nothing of biscuits or sauces. It was the home of one
of the very greatest Abbeys in England. The Abbot of Reading ranked next
after those of Westminster and Glastonbury, and usually held important
offices of State. In the Abbey, Parliaments have been held, Royal
marriages celebrated, and Kings and Queens laid to rest. Yet of all this
grandeur no shred is left. There are ruins; but, formless and featureless
as they are, they cannot recall to the eye anything of the architectural
glories of the past, and the bones of the Kings have for centuries been
scattered no man knows whither.

There are pleasant stories of Reading, and gruesome ones. Horrible was the
fate of Hugh Faringdon, the last Abbot, who was, in 1539, with one of his
monks, hanged, drawn and quartered for denying the religious supremacy of
that royal wild beast, Henry the Eighth. The King had been friendly with
him not so long before, and had presented him with a silver cup, as a
token of this friendship.

[Sidenote: _THE KING AND THE ABBOT_]

One wonders if this unfortunate prelate was the same person as that Abbot
of Reading mentioned by Fuller. The Abbot of that story was a man
particularly fond of what have been gracefully termed the "pleasures of
the table." His eyes, as the Psalmist puts it, "swelled out with
fatness,"--and his stomach, too, for that matter. To him came one day a
hungry stranger, fresh from the appetizing sport of hunting. He had lost
his way, and craved the hospitality of the Abbey. That hospitality was
extended to him, promptly enough, and he was seated at the Abbot's own
table.

It will readily be guessed that this hungry stranger was the King. He had
wandered thus far, away from Windsor Forest and his attendants, and was
genuinely famished. The Abbot, however, had no notion who he was; but he
could see that this strayed huntsman was a very prince among good
trencher-men, and envied him accordingly. "Well fare thy heart," said he,
as he saw the roast beef disappearing; "I would give an hundred pounds
could I feed so lustily on beef as you do. Alas! my weak and squeezie
stomach will hardly digest the wing of a small rabbit or chicken."

The King took the compliment and more beef, and, pledging his host,
departed. Some weeks after, when the Abbot had quite forgotten all about
the matter, he was sent for, clapped into the Tower, and kept, a miserable
prisoner--not knowing what his offence might be, or what would befall him
next--on bread and water. At length one day a sirloin of beef was placed
before him, and he made such short work of it as to prove to the King, who
was secretly watching him, that his treatment for "squeezie stomach" had
succeeded admirably; so, springing out of the cupboard in which he had
secreted himself, "My lord," says he, "deposit presently your hundred
pounds in gold, or else you go not hence all the days of your life. I
have been your physician to cure you, and here, as I deserve, I demand my
fee for the same."

The Abbot was enlightened. He, as Fuller says, "down with his dust, and,
glad he escaped so, returned to Reading, as somewhat lighter in purse, so
much more merry in heart, than when he came thence."

Little remains at Reading to tell of the coaching age. Where are the
"Bear," the "George," the "Crown"? Gone, with their jovial guests, into
the limbo of forgotten things, almost as thoroughly as the civilization of
Roman Calleva--the Silchester of modern times--situated at some distance
down the road from Reading to Basingstoke, and whose relics may be seen
gathered together in the Reading Museum. To that collection should be
added a set of articles used in the everyday business of coaching. They
would be just as curious to-day as those Roman potsherds of a thousand
years ago.



XXIV


The Bath Road climbs, with some show of steepness, out of Reading,
presently to enter upon that stretch of nearly seventeen miles of
comparatively flat sandy gravel road which, for speed cycling, is the best
part of the whole journey. The surface is nearly always splendid, save in
very dry seasons, when the sand renders the going somewhat heavy, and the
cyclist may well be surprised to learn that it was here, between Reading
and Newbury, that Pepys and his wife, travelling in their own coach,
lost their way, entirely through the badness of the roads.

[Illustration: THE STAGE WAGGON. (_After Rowlandson._)]

[Sidenote: _THE "BERKSHIRE LADY"_]

In spite of these modern advantages, the road is quite suburban and
uninteresting until Calcot Green is passed, in two miles and a half. But
it is here, amid the pleasant, though tame, scenery that Calcot Park, the
home of the famous "Berkshire Lady," may be sought.

The "Berkshire Lady" was the daughter of Sir William Kendrick, of Calcot,
who flourished in the reign of Queen Anne. Upon the death of her father,
she became sole heiress to the estate and an income of some five thousand
pounds per annum. Rich, beautiful, and endowed with a vivacious manner, it
is not surprising that she was courted by all the vinous, red-faced young
squires in the neighbourhood; but she refused these offers until,
according to an old ballad--

  "Being at a noble wedding
  In the famous town of Reading,
  A young gentleman she saw
  Who belonged to the law."

We may shrewdly suspect that she not only "saw" him, but that they
indulged in a desperate flirtation in the conservatory, or what may have
answered to a conservatory in those times.

The "Berkshire Lady" was evidently a New Woman, born very much in advance
of her proper era. For what did she do? Why, she fell in love with that
"young gentleman" straight away, and so furiously that nothing would
suffice her but to send him an anonymous challenge to fight a duel or to
marry her.

Benjamin Child--for that was the name of the young and briefless (and also
impecunious) barrister--was astonished at receiving a challenge from no
one in particular; but, accompanied by a friend, proceeded to the
rendezvous appointed by the unknown in Calcot Park. Arrived there, they
perceived a masked lady, with a rapier, who informed the pair that she was
the challenger:--

  "'It was I that did invite you:
  You shall wed me, or I'll fight you,
  So now take your choice,' said she;
  'Either fight, or marry me.'
  Says he, 'Madam, pray what mean ye?
  In my life I ne'er have seen ye;
  Pray unmask, your visage show,
  Then I'll tell you, aye or no.'"

The lady, however, would not unmask:--

  "'I will not my face uncover,
  Till the marriage rites are over;
  Therefore take you which you will,
  Wed me, sir, or try your skill.'"

The friend advised Benjamin Child, Esq., to take his chance of her being
poor and pretty, or rich and--plain (those being the usually accepted
conjunctions), and to marry her, which he accordingly promised to do. He
had a reward for his moral courage, for the lady unmasked and disclosed
herself as the beautiful unknown with whom he had flirted at the wedding.
That they "lived happily ever afterwards" we need find no difficulty in
believing.

[Illustration: THEALE.]

Many stories were current locally of this Mr. Child. One, in particular
(certainly not a romantic one), related his great fondness for oysters, of
which he was in the habit of consuming large quantities; in fact, he is
said to have kept a museum of the tubs emptied by him, for one room in
Calcot House was fitted round with shelves, upon which these empty
mementos were arranged in regular order. It was his humour to show his
friends this unique arrangement as a convincing proof of his capabilities
in that particular branch of good living.

Upon the death of his wife, Calcot became unbearable to him, and he sold
it. But, curiously enough, nothing could induce him to quit the house, and
the new proprietor was reduced to rendering it uninhabitable to him by
unroofing it. Mr. Child then retired to a small cottage in an adjoining
wood, where he spent the rest of his days in retirement.

The Kendrick vault in the church of St. Mary, Reading, was exposed to view
in 1820, when, among the numerous coffins found, was one bearing the
inscription, "Frances Child, wife of Benjamin Child, of Calcot, first
daughter of Sir W. Kendrick, died 1722, aged 35." The coffin was of lead,
and was moulded to the form of the body, even to the lineaments of the
face. Mr. Child was the last person buried in this vault. His coffin, of
unusually large dimensions, is dated 1767.

[Sidenote: _THEALE_]

Two and a half miles from Calcot Green, and we are at Theale, a village
prettily embowered among trees, but possessing a large and extraordinarily
bad "Carpenter's Gothic" church, built about 1840, which looks quite
charming at the distance of a quarter of a mile, but has been known to
afflict architects who have made its close acquaintance with hopeless
melancholia. In fine, Theale church is a horrid example of Early Victorian
imitation of the Early English style.

And now the road wanders sweetly between the green and pleasant levels
beside the sedgy Kennet. Road, rail, river, and canal run side by side, or
but slightly parted, for miles, past Woolhampton and the decayed town of
Thatcham, to Newbury, and so on to Hungerford.

A short mile before reaching Woolhampton, there stands, on the left-hand
side of the road, quite lonely, a wayside inn, the "Rising Sun," a relic
of coaching times. They still show one, in the parlour, the old
booking-office in which parcels were received for the old road-waggons
that plied with luggage between London and Bath, and talk of the days when
the house used to own stabling for forty horses. A larger inn is the
"Angel," at Woolhampton, with a most elaborate iron sign, from which
depends a little carved figure of a vine-crowned Bacchus, astride his
barrel, carved forty years ago by a wood-carver engaged on the restoration
of Woolhampton Church. Tramps and other travellers unacquainted with the
classics generally take this vinous heathen god to be a representation of
the Angel after whom the inn was named.

[Illustration: WOOLHAMPTON.]

Woolhampton, once blessed with two "Angels," has now but one, for what was
once known as the "Upper Angel" has been re-named the "Falmouth Arms."
Although Woolhampton village possesses a railway station on the Hants
and Berks branch of the Great Western Railway, travellers will look in
vain for the name of it in their railway guides. If they will refer to
"Midgham," however, they will have found it under another title.
Originally called by the name of the village, it was found that passengers
and luggage frequently lost their way here in mistake for Wolverhampton,
also on the Great Western, and so the name had to be changed.

[Illustration: THATCHAM.]

[Sidenote: _THATCHAM_]

Three and a half miles from Woolhampton comes Thatcham, famed in the
coaching age for its "King's Head" inn, but now a decayed market town
which has sunk to the status of a very dull village. A battered stone, all
that remains of a market cross, stands in the middle of the wide, deserted
street, enclosed by a circular seat, bearing an inscription recounting the
history of the market, and the kingly protection which Henry the Third
afforded the place against the "Newbury men." But, kingly help
notwithstanding, the "Newbury men" have long since snatched its trade away
from Thatcham, which has become a village, while Newbury has grown to be a
town of 20,000 inhabitants. The only interesting object in the long street
is Thatcham Chapel, an isolated Perpendicular building, purchased for
10_s._ by Lady Frances Winchcombe in 1707. She presented it to a Blue Coat
school which she founded in the village.



XXV


Newbury, the "hated rival," is three miles down the road. Within a mile of
it in coaching times, but now not to be distinguished from the town
itself, is Speenhamland, the site of that famous coaching inn, the
"Pelican," whose charges were of so monumental a character that Quin has
immortalized them in the lines:--

  "The famous inn at Speenhamland,
    That stands beneath the hill,
  May well be called the Pelican,
    From its enormous bill."

Alas! how are the mighty fallen! The Pelican is no longer an inn, but has
been divided up, and part of it is a veterinary establishment.

[Illustration: RAIL AND RIVER: THE KENNET AND THE GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY.]

[Sidenote: _THOMAS STACKHOUSE_]

The most famous inhabitant of Newbury was that fifteenth-century clothier,
that "Jack of Newbury," whose wealth and public benefactions were alike
considered wonderful in his day. The most notorious inhabitant was that
scandalous Vicar of Beenham Vallance, near by, who flourished flamboyantly
here between 1733 and 1752. Candour compels the admission that the Rev.
Thomas Stackhouse, besides being the learned author of the "History of the
Bible," was also a great drunkard. That history, indeed, he chiefly wrote
at an inn still standing on the Bath Road near Thatcham, called "Jack's
Booth." He would stay there for days at a time, and write (and drink), in
an arbour in the garden, going frequently from this retreat to his church
on Sundays, where, in the pulpit, he would break into incoherent prayers
and maudlin tears, asking forgiveness for his besetting sin, and promising
reformation of his evil courses. But after service he was generally to be
seen going back to his inn. Here one day a friend found him and reminded
him that it was the day of the Bishop's Visitation, a circumstance which
he had quite forgotten. He went off, clothed disgracefully, and by no
means sober. "Who," asked the Bishop, indignantly, on seeing this strange
creature--"who is that shabby, dirty old man?" The vicar answered the
query himself. "I am," he shouted, "Thomas Stackhouse, Vicar of Beenham,
who wrote the 'History of the Bible,' and that is more than your lordship
can do!" The historian of these things says this reply quite upset the
gravity of the solemn meeting; and the statement may well be believed.

Camden says, "Newburie must acknowledge Speen as its mother," and Newbury,
in fact, was originally an offshoot from Speen, which was anciently a
fortified Roman settlement in the tangled underwoods of the wild country
between the Roman cities of Aquæ Solis and Calleva (Bath and Silchester).
The Romans called it "Spinæ," _i.e._ "the Thorns," a sufficiently
descriptive title in that era. The Domesday Book calls it "Spone." The
fact of Speen having been the original settlement may be partly traced in
the circumstance of its lying directly on the old road, while Newbury, its
infinitely bigger daughter, sprawls out on the Whitchurch and Andover
roads, which run from the Bath Road almost at right angles.

There are quaint houses at Newbury, and old inns; some of them, like the
"Globe" or the "King's Arms," converted into shops or private houses,
while others perhaps do a brisker trade in drink than in good cheer of the
more hospitable sort. There are the "White Hart," and the "Jack of
Newbury," with a modern front, and others. The Kennet divides the town in
half, and runs under a bridge which carries the street across its narrow
width, bordered with quaint-looking houses. Here is the old Cloth Hall, a
singular building, neglected now that the weaving trade has decayed; and
on the west side of the bridge stands the parish church with a small brass
in it to the memory of the great "Jack," and a very economical monument to
a certain "J.W.C.," 1692, just roughly carved into the stonework of a
buttress at the east end.

[Illustration: AT THE 55TH MILESTONE.]

[Illustration: INSCRIPTION. NEWBURY CHURCH.]

It is strange to think that only twenty-seven years ago (in 1872, as a
matter of fact), at Newbury, a rag and bone dealer who for several years
had been well known in the town as a man of intemperate habits, and
upon whom imprisonment in Reading Gaol had failed to produce any
beneficial effect, was fixed in the stocks for drunkenness and disorderly
conduct at Divine service in the parish church. Twenty-six years had
elapsed since the stocks had last been used, and their reappearance
created no little sensation and amusement, several hundreds of persons
being attracted to the spot where they were fixed. The sinful rag man was
seated upon a stool, and his legs were secured in the stocks at a few
minutes past one. He seemed anything but pleased with the laughter and
derision of the crowd. Four hours having passed, he was released.

[Sidenote: _"JACK OF NEWBURY"_]

It is impossible to escape Jack of Newbury in this the scene of his
greatness. "John Smalwoode the elder, alias John Wynchcombe," as he
describes himself in his last will and testament, in 1519, was the most
prominent of the clothworkers in the reigns of the Seventh and Eighth
Henrys. He is perhaps best described in the words of a pamphlet published
towards the close of the sixteenth century:--"He was a man of merrie
disposition and honest conversation, was wondrous well beloved of rich and
poore, especially because in every place where he came he would spend his
money with the best, and was not any time found a churl of his purse.
Wherefore, being so good a companion, he was called of olde and younge
'Jacke of Newberie,' a man so generally well knowne in all this countrye
for his good fellowship, that he could goe into no place but he found
acquaintance; by means whereof Jacke could no sooner get a crowne, but
straight hee found meanes to spend it; yet had he ever this care, that hee
would always keepe himselfe in comely and decent apparel, neither at any
time would hee be overcome in drinke, but so discreetly behave himselfe
with honest mirthe and pleasant conceits, that he was every gentleman's
companion."

This is so excellent a voucher for him that it is not surprising so
universal a favourite stepped into the shoes of his master's widow. She
was rich, and he with a plentiful lack of coin; yet though she had a
choice of suitors, including a "tanner, a taylor, and a parson," she set
her heart on Jack with something of the determination which characterized
the "Berkshire Lady" already referred to in these pages; and though he was
something loth, married him out of hand. We are not told that she
regretted it, but probably she did, for the stories have it that she was a
gossip and given to staying out late, while Jack stopped at home and went
betimes to bed. Once, when she returned at midnight, and knocked at the
door, he looked from his window and told her that, as she had stayed out
all day for her own delight, she might "lie forth" until the morning for
his. "Moved with pity," as the narrative says, but more likely because her
continual knocking kept him awake, he at last went down in his shirt and
opened the door, when "Alack, husband," says she, "what hap have I? My
wedding ring was even now in my hand, and I have let it fall about the
door; good, sweet John, come forth with the candle and help me seek it."

He "went forth" accordingly, into the street, and she locked him out! We
are not told what happened when he got in again.

He seems to have taken her loss, a little later, calmly enough, for he
speedily married again, and although "wondrous wealthie," he chose a poor
girl who lived at Aylesbury. A grand wedding it was when Joan (for that
was her name) and Jack were married. Her head, we are assured, was adorned
with a "billement of gold, and her hair, as yellow as gold, hanging downe
behind her." In fact, "Her golden hair was hanging down her back," as the
music-hall songster has it; which goes far to prove that the modern
_penchant_ for yellow locks has a respectable antiquity, and warrants
brunettes in using all the arts of the toilet to redress the errors of
Nature.

[Sidenote: _JACK AS ENTERTAINER_]

Jack of Newbury entertained Henry the Eighth here, and, wonderful to
relate, the floors of the house were covered with broad cloth, instead of
the then usual rushes. Also, he equipped a hundred of his workmen, fifty
as horsemen, and fifty armed with bows and pikes, "as well armed and
better clothed than any," and went with them to the Scotch war. The
"Ballad of the Newberrie Archers" tells us how they distinguished
themselves at Flodden Field; but it must be added that it is doubtful
whether they ever reached so far; which proves the ballad-maker--the
"special correspondent" of that time--to have been more eloquent than
truthful. That Jack was the principal man of his trade must be evident
from these facts and from the statement that he employed a hundred looms;
and a great deal more evident from his having been selected to head the
petition of the clothiers for the encouragement of trade with France. He
had a pretty taste in sarcasm, too, if his retort upon Wolsey, to whom it
had been referred, and who had delayed to answer it, is considered. "If my
Lord Chancellor's father," said he, "had been no hastier in killing
calves than he in despatching of poor men's suits, I think he would never
have worn a mitre." It is only necessary to remember that Wolsey was the
son of a butcher for the sting of this quip to be appreciated.

[Illustration: OLD CLOTH HALL, NEWBURY.]



XXVI


In 1531, and again in 1556, Newbury was the scene of martyrdoms; and in
1643 and 1644 the site of two battles between Charles and his Parliament,
both almost equally indecisive, and both remarkable for desperate courage
on either side.

[Sidenote: _FIRST BATTLE OF NEWBURY_]

The first battle was fought to the south of the town on September 18, and
was the culmination of a Royalist attack upon the Parliamentary army under
the Earl of Essex, on the march from Gloucester to London. Essex had
designed to lie at Newbury, the town being strongly for the Parliament;
but as he was marching across Enborne Chase on the 16th, his line was cut
by the appearance of Prince Rupert, who charged down upon him with his
dragoons. In this skirmish the Marquis de Vieuville was slain, and many
others of the Royalists. The battle thus forced on by the rashness of
Prince Rupert was one of the fiercest in the war.

The King was encamped near Donnington. Essex advanced and seized some
elevated ground, where his men were charged by the Royalist cavalry, at
whose head was the Earl of Carnarvon. Carnarvon had that morning measured
a gateway with his sword, to see if it were wide enough for the prisoners
who, with Essex at their head, they were to lead through it in the
evening. Although they cut up Essex's cavalry, Carnarvon himself fell in
that gallant charge, and was carried through the same gateway, a corpse,
that night.

It was the Parliamentary foot, the London train-bands, that saved the day,
which would otherwise have been a disastrous rout for their leader. They
withstood the cannonading and the impetuous charges of Rupert's horse,
and, with Essex himself among them, in a conspicuous white hat, drove back
the Royalist infantry. It was not until night had fallen that the contest
ceased. Six thousand were slain that day, and neither side had won. Essex
was so weakened that he retreated upon Reading the next morning.

He had nearly reached Theale when Rupert descended upon his rear like a
hurricane, and cut down many of his troops in a spot still called, from
this circumstance, "Dead Man's Lane."

The Royalists perhaps had slightly the better of the First Battle of
Newbury; but at what a cost! Carnarvon, the young Earl of Sunderland; and
Lucius Cary, Viscount Falkland, slain! Falkland was Secretary of State,
and a patriot whose feelings were above partizanship. He seems to have had
a presentiment of death, for he received the Sacrament on the morning of
the battle, saying, "I am weary of the times, and foresee much misery to
my country; but I believe I shall be out of it ere night." There is a
monument on Wash Common to him--

  "The blameless and the brave,"

who fell thus with his brothers-in-arms; and mounds still mark the places
where the dead were buried. The memory of this great battle has recently
been revived, for in 1897 its anniversary was celebrated, and wreaths and
crosses of evergreens were laid upon the monument and the tumuli.



XXVII


[Sidenote: _THE SECOND BATTLE_]

The Second Battle of Newbury was fought on Sunday, October 27, 1644. The
thickest part of it raged round Speen, on the Bath Road, and in the
gardens of Shaw House. This house, one of the finest mansions in
Berkshire, was built by Thomas Dolman, clothier, in 1581. He was evidently
something of a scholar, and worldly wise as well, for he knew that his
riches and his grand mansion would rouse envious talk. Accordingly he
caused Latin and Greek inscriptions to be carved over the entrance, which,
Englished, run--

  "Let no envious man enter here."

And--

    "The toothless man envies the teeth of those who eat, and the mole
    despises the eyes of the roe."

It is quite obvious that Thomas Dolman had been a great deal criticized
locally, and that the iron of that criticism had entered his soul.

His son became Sir Thomas Dolman, and it was his descendant, Sir John
Dolman, who garrisoned the house and entertained King Charles here on the
night before the second battle. A hole is still shown in the panelling of
the drawing-room, said to have been made by a shot fired at the King that
night when standing at the window; and a brass plate records the
circumstance in a Latin inscription.

[Illustration: THE LAST OF THE SMOCK-FROCKS AND BEAVERS.]

The parapets of Shaw House were lined with Royalist musketeers on this
occasion, and entrenchments thrown up in the gardens; but after a
stubbornly contested fight the Royalists were too weakened to retain the
position. Their ordnance and the wounded were left at Donnington Castle, a
mile away, and they fell back upon Oxford. Neither side had been sorry
when night fell and put an end to a hard-fought, but inconclusive, day;
and for their part the Parliamentary leaders were glad to see the King's
forces withdrawing by the light of the moon, and did not dare risk an
attack upon them.

It is not a little singular that during all this clash of arms the
Royalist governor of Donnington Castle held that stronghold, although
repeatedly attacked, from August, 1644, to April, 1646, and then only
surrendered when desired by the King to do so.

[Illustration: CURIOUS OLD TOLL-HOUSE BETWEEN NEWBURY AND HUNGERFORD.]

[Sidenote: _SPEEN_]

The road ascends to Speen, or, as it is often called, "Church Speen." The
present writer was climbing it when he overtook a countryman in a
smock-frock, to whom the steep gradient was evidently anything but
welcome.

"You're a regular Mountjoy, a' b'lieve," said the countryman, puffing and
blowing.

"A regular what?"

"A Mountjoy--a walker. But there; you bain't Newbury?"

I told him I certainly was not a native of that town.

"Well," said he, "you won't, never have heerd of 'un, p'raps."

It seems, then, that about fifty years ago Newbury boasted a pedestrian of
that name, who obtained such a great local reputation that he has become
proverbial with the country people, so that a "regular Mountjoy" is any
one who possesses good walking powers.

Church Speen passed, an undulating road leads past a curiously castellated
old toll-house to Hungerford.



XXVIII


It is at Hungerford, sixty-four miles from Hyde Park Corner, that one
leaves Berkshire and enters Wilts, coming into wilder and less pastoral
country. Hungerford town, however, is just within the Berkshire borders.
The constant Kennet flows across the road here, and is crossed by a
substantial bridge, from whose parapets anglers may be seen patiently
waiting to lure the wily trout from their swims. Fuller quaintly says:
"Good and great trouts are found in the river of Kennet nigh Hungerford;
they are in their perfection in the month of May, and yearly decline with
the buck. Being come to his full growth, he decays in goodness, not
greatness, and thrives in his head till his death. Note, by the way, that
an hog-back and little head is a sign that any fish is in season."

The chief street of Hungerford lies along the road to Salisbury, and the
cyclist who is intent upon "doing" the Bath Road without turning to
thoroughly explore the places along its course, consequently sees little
of the town beyond the few old mansions and cottages, and the old coaching
inn, "The Bear," which front the highway. Not much, however, is in this
case lost, for Hungerford contains little of interest, and were it not for
its singular Hocktide customs, and for the fact that it was the first town
to obtain the free delivery of letters between its post-office and the
houses to which letters were addressed, would scarce demand an extended
notice.

[Sidenote: _OLD POST-OFFICE CUSTOMS_]

The original plan of the General Post-Office, all over the country, was to
allow postmasters of country towns to demand a fee for delivery. Those who
expected letters were supposed to call for them. If they desired them to
be delivered, the additional fee was a penny or twopence, according to the
conscience or the cupidity of the postmaster, whose perquisites these fees
were. This applied to houses quite near post-offices, and even next door
to them. This extraordinary state of affairs was borne with for some time,
until at last several towns brought actions against the Post-Office to
decide if prepaid postage ought not to ensure delivery in the boundaries
of post-towns. Hungerford was selected by the Courts as a typical case,
and secured a judgment in its favour, Michaelmas, 1774.

Hocktide is a stirring time in this little town of less than three
thousand inhabitants. It is determined by Eastertide, and generally falls
in April. The odd observances derive their origin from the conditions
imposed by John of Gaunt, father of Henry the Fourth, who, in the
fourteenth century, conferred the rights and privileges of common-land and
fishing in the Kennet upon the town. To hand down the proof of his gift to
posterity, he presented with the charter a brass horn which bears the
inscription:--

  "John a Gaun did giue and
  grant the Riall of Fishing to
  Hungerford Toune from Eldren
  Stub to Irish stil excepting som
  Seueral mil Pound
        Jehosphat Lucas was Cunstabl."

Not this horn, but its seventeenth-century successor, is jealously
preserved in the Town Hall. It has a capacity of one quart.

[Sidenote: _HOCK TIDE_]

As an unreformed borough, Hungerford still enjoys the old-time custom of
appointing, in the place of Mayor and Corporation, a Constable, Portreeve,
Bailiff, Tithing-men, Keeper of the Keys of the Coffers, Hayward, Water
Bailiffs, Ale-tasters, and Bellman. The ceremonies begin on the Friday
before Hock Tuesday with a "macaroni supper and punchbowl," and are held
at the "John of Gaunt" inn. Tuesday, however, is the great day, when at an
early hour the bellman goes round the borough commanding all those who
hold land or dwellings within the confines of the town to appear at the
Hockney, under pain of a poll-tax of one penny, called the "head-penny."
Lest this warning should be insufficient, he mounts to the balcony of
the Town Hall, where he blows a blast upon the horn. Those who do not obey
the summons and refuse the payment of the head-penny are liable to lose
their rights to the privileges of the borough.

[Illustration: HUNGERFORD.]

By nine o'clock the jury are assembled in the Town Hall for the
transaction of their annual business, and immediately after they are sworn
in, the two tithing-men start on their round of the town. It is in this
part of the proceedings that most interest is taken, for the business of
the tithing-men is to take a poll-tax of twopence from every male
inhabitant and a kiss from the wives and daughters of the burgesses. This
is in recognition of the ancient powers of the Lord of the Manor, who had
peculiar rights over the property and persons of his "chattels," as the
people were once regarded.

[Illustration: HUNGERFORD TUTTI-MEN.]

The tithing-men are known as tutti-men; tutti being the local word for
pretty. They carry short poles as insignia of office, gaily bedecked with
blue ribbons and choice flowers known as tutti-poles; while behind them
walks a man groaning under the weight of the tutti oranges, it being the
custom to bestow an orange upon every person who is kissed, as well as
upon the school and workhouse children. The rights of office having been
duly vested in them by means of strange customs and exhortation, the two
favoured ones start off down the High Street on their kissing mission,
followed by the orange-bearer and greeted with the cheers of the assembled
people. One by one the houses are entered, and the custom observed both in
spirit and letter; nor is it confined to the young and comely, for the old
dames of Hungerford would deem themselves, if not insulted, at least sadly
neglected, were the tutti-men to pass their houses unentered. Usually
these officers find little difficulty in carrying out their pleasant
duties, but sometimes the excitement is increased by some coy maiden,
whose rustic simplicity prompts her to run away or hide. But as a general
rule the ladies of Hungerford show very little objection to the observance
of the ancient customs, so that the labours of the tutti-men are
considerably lightened.

Thus, amid laughter, merriment, and mock-seriousness, the fun is continued
until about half the borough is visited, by which time the tutti-men have
taken care that all the duty kisses that should gratify the ancient
inhabitants have been administered, as well as certain others that are
more a pleasure than a duty. Certainly they deserve well of the town, for
the tutti-men go through a good day's work by the time dinner is served.
Then, in accordance with the time-honoured precedent, the Chief Constable
is elected into the chair; the great bowl of punch is placed on the table
after dinner, and the various offices toasted and replied for. One is
drunk in solemn silence--that of John of Gaunt, the town's benefactor.
All the townspeople seem satisfied with their day's carnival, save,
perhaps, a crooning old burgher, who may occasionally be heard to extol
the good old days when the punch was strong and the newly-elected officers
went home in wheelbarrows.



XXIX


[Sidenote: _LITTLECOTE_]

From the everyday respectable dulness of Hungerford itself we will pass to
the exciting scandals which make up much of the story of Littlecote, that
gloomy and romantic Tudor mansion, which has become famous (or infamous,
if you will have it so) through the crimes and debaucheries of Will
Darell. There are two ways of reaching Littlecote from the Bath Road. The
most obvious way is by turning to the right when in the midst of
Hungerford town; the other, which is the more rural, is by a lane a mile
further down the road. Either will bring the traveller to that secluded
spot in the course of three and a half miles.

It stands, that hoary pile, in a wide and well-wooded park, sheltered
beneath the swelling Wiltshire downs and close beside the gentle Kennet,
whose stream has been fruitful of trout ever since "trouts" (as our
ancestors quaintly called them, in the plural) were angled for.
Littlecote, as we now see it, was built by the Darells in the closing
years of the fifteenth century, in whose early years it had passed from
the Colston family by the marriage of the heiress of the Colstons to
William Darell, son of Sir William Darell, of Sesay, in Yorkshire. A
descendant of this emigrant from the North Riding, the "Wild Will Darell"
of this blood-boltered history was born into an estate comprising an
ancestral home and many thousands of acres in the counties of Wilts,
Berks, and Hants, and might have been accounted fortunate had it not been
for the rather more than trifling circumstances of an unhappy up-bringing
which included a shameful treatment of himself and his mother by an
unnatural father; the paternal extravagances which had alienated much of
the property; the heavy charge made on the estate for the benefit of the
mistress of his brother, who preceded him in the estate; and, finally, the
crop of lawsuits into which he was plunged immediately upon succeeding to
this singularly-encumbered patrimony. At this interval of time it has
become quite impossible for serious historians to discriminate between the
facts and the--fancies, shall we call them?--of the Wild Darell story.
This difficulty does not arise from lack of patient research on the part
of Darell commentators, who have ransacked the Record Office to prove that
he was _not_ a villain of the most lurid kind, or the industry of others
who have searched among musty muniment chests to determine that he _was_.
It would, considering the fact of the records in the Littlecote muniment
room not having yet been explored for the benefit of these historic
doubts, be rash indeed for any one to pronounce definitely for either of
the very diverse views held of Darell as Villain, or Darell as Good Young
Man.

The story, which first became widely known through a footnote appended to
Sir Walter Scott's "Rokeby," is of a midwife summoned from the village of
Shefford, seven miles away, on a false pretence of attending Lady Knyvett,
of Charlton, near by, and of her being blindfolded and led on horseback in
the darkness of the night to quite another house, in one of whose stately
rooms lay a mysterious masked lady for whom her services were required.
The horrid legend then goes on to say that a tall, slender gentleman, a
lowering and ferocious-looking man, "havinge uppon hym a goune of blacke
velvett," entered the room with some others, and, without a word, took the
child from her arms and threw it upon a blazing fire in an ante-room,
crushing it into the flaming logs with his boot-heel, so that it was
presently consumed.

A prime horror, this, and rich in ferocity, mystery, and all the
incertitude that comes of age and conflicting testimony. Masked lady,
blindfolded nurse, burnt baby, taciturn and horrible stranger, what lurid
figures are these! and how royally abused for the possession of an
over-imaginative mind would be that novelist who should dare conceive
incidents so romantic!

[Sidenote: _WILD DARELL_]

Scott gleaned his traditions from the weird legends current in the
country-side. They had, when he first printed them, been the fireside
gossip of that district for over two hundred years, and of course in that
length of time had lost nothing in the repetition. For that reason we are
asked nowadays to discredit them altogether. We cannot, however, do that,
because there came to light some years ago the actual deposition to the
facts made by the midwife, Mrs. Barnes of Shefford, taken down on her
deathbed by a Mr. Bridges of Great Shefford, a magistrate, who was also a
cousin of Darell, and would not, it may well be supposed, be inclined to
spread any baseless gossip to the hurt of a family with which he was
connected. This deposition tells the story as already narrated. It does
not identify Darell or Littlecote, nor does it even hint the identity of
_any_ person or place. But the sinister discovery, some twenty years ago,
at Longleat, of an original letter from Sir H. Knyvett, of Charlton, to
Sir John Thynne, of Longleat, dated January 2, 1578/9 (about the time of
the midwife's confession), brings us to the original rumours pointing to
Darell's being the man and Littlecote the place.

[Illustration: LITTLECOTE.]

[Sidenote: _DEATH OF DARELL_]

There was then residing at Longleat a Mr. Bonham, whose sister was well
known to be living with Darell as his mistress, and this letter requests
that "Mr. Bonham will inquire of his sister touching her usage at Will.
Darell's, the birth of her children, how many there were, and what became
of them: for that the report of the murder of one of them was increasing
foully, and would touch Will. Darell to the quick." To that letter there
is no reply, and it remains uncertain whether Darell was ever arraigned
for murder and acquitted (as the story goes), or whether the rumours
simply were never crystallized into a definite charge against him. The
probability seems to be that he never was called upon to stand his trial.
It is quite certain, however, that the legend of his being haunted along
the roads by the apparition of a burning infant which startled his horse
so that Wild Darell was thrown and killed is a more or less pleasing
invention. Darell died quite peacefully in his bed, at Littlecote, eleven
years after the midwife's death, and was buried in the Darell Chapel at
Ramsbury, where he was laid to rest, October 1st, 1589. Notwithstanding
these well-ascertained facts, Darell is now, if we are to credit the
stories of the country-side, an apparition himself, and superstitious
rustics still fear to face the roads o' nights because of a Burning Babe
and a Spectral Horseman, who comes dashing down them at a terror-stricken
gallop, mounted on a horse of coal-black hue, with a breath like steam and
eyes like burning coals!

As for the elaborate embroideries added to the Wild Darell story from time
to time, there are many. According to these ingenious fictions, the
midwife counted the stairs of the strange house, and cut a piece out of
the bed curtains, which she carried away. By these means; by finding the
number of the stairs at Littlecote to tally with her counting, and by
fitting her piece of tapestry to a hole in the curtains of a bed at
Littlecote, we are told to believe the truth of the story. The singular
thing, however, is that Mrs. Barnes made absolutely no mention of these
things in her deposition. There remains, it is true, the fact already
alluded to, that the magistrate who took down the woman's statement was a
connection of Darell's, and might possibly have suppressed facts which
could point to his relative being concerned in the affair. Another story
is that upon Darell being arraigned (which in itself is uncertain), he
made interest with Sir John Popham, the Chief Justice, to procure an
acquittal.

[Illustration: THE HAUNTED CHAMBER.]

Now it is quite certain that Popham did not become Chief Justice until
1592, when Darell had been in his grave nearly three years, and could not
therefore have done so. He was, it is true, Attorney-General at the time
of Darell's supposed crime, and, _had_ there been a trial, and _had_ he
been bribed, could possibly have procured a _nolle prosequi_.

But Darell certainly made over the reversion of Littlecote to Popham in
1586, and Popham took possession upon Darell's decease. The story of this
transaction being the bribe in question we owe to Aubrey, the county
historian (or rather, the county gossip), who actually gives an account of
the trial and says, "Sir John Popham gave sentence according to law, but
being a great person and a favourite, he pronounced a _noli prosequi_."

More to the point is the fact that Darell, in 1583, offered Lord
Chancellor Bromley the then large sum of £5000 to be "his good friend."

Those who are interested in the Darell story are equally divided as to his
general character. One would have us believe that he was a Model Squire,
who fished for trout, took an enthralling interest in his flower-garden,
and if he did not always come home to tea (because tea not having at that
period been introduced, it was impossible to do so), was content with a
modest pint of claret at dinner, and spent the rest of the evening in
reading what improving literature was to be had in the Elizabethan age;
which, I fear, judging from the general character of the time, was of a
somewhat meagre nature.

[Sidenote: _THE REAL DARELL_]

The real Darell was not quite like that picture. We already know that he
had one mistress at Littlecote, and then there was Lady Anne Hungerford,
an elderly charmer, whom by some means Wild Will had seduced from her
husband, and whose letters, still preserved, to her "deare Dorrell" are
not so improving as the recipient's other reading. One learns from these
choice communications that Lady Anne had been accused of murder, adultery,
and trying to poison her husband; and, under the circumstances, it seems
quite likely that all these charges were well-founded, even though she
says that "luker and gaine makes many dissembling and hollow hearts"
(which sounds like one of the admirable copy-book maxims of our youth),
and that she anticipates being cleared from suspicion of these "vill and
abomynabell practiscis." Add to these hot-blooded intrigues the
extravagances which, together with his litigious disposition, served to
ruin his estate and to bring him into disfavour with his neighbours, and
we obtain the genesis of all the ill-favoured legends of this picturesque
figure of the Elizabethan era.



XXX


[Sidenote: _THE GREAT REBELLION_]

Littlecote had not done with stirring scenes when Darell was dead and the
Pophams took possession. The Great Hall, hung round with pikes, leather
jerkins, helmets, and cuirasses of Cromwellian times, serves to tell, in
its warlike array, of how the place became a rendezvous of the Roundheads
of this vicinity. These relics are the arms and accoutrements of the
Popham Horse, raised by Colonel Alexander Popham, whose own suit of armour
is still suspended here, over one of the doorways. A fitting place this,
then, for that gathering of the King's Commissioners who came to
Littlecote in December, 1688. The occasion was an historic one. James the
Second was tottering upon his throne, and the Prince of Orange, invited to
these shores to protect the civil and religious liberties of the nation,
had marched up with his Dutchmen from his landing in the West Country. No
man knew what would be the course of events, because not one of those
concerned in that memorable crisis knew his own mind, from the King and
his adherents on the one side, to the Prince and his partisans on the
other.

The two parties met at Hungerford on December 8. On the following day,
Sunday, the Commissioners dined at Littlecote, and then and there the fate
of the kingdom was settled, quite amicably. The old Hall was crowded with
Peers and Generals--Halifax, the judicious "trimmer," whose cautious
diplomacy guided the crisis through to its solution without bloodshed;
Burnet, Nottingham, Shrewsbury, and Oxford, all waiting upon events.
Halifax, the partisan of the King, seized the opportunity of extracting
from Burnet all he knew and thought. "Do you wish to get the King into
your power?" he asked the Bishop. "Not at all," replied Burnet: "we would
not do the least harm to his person." "And if he were to go away?" slyly
insinuated Halifax. "There is nothing so much to be wished," whispered the
Bishop, apprehending his meaning; and so James slunk away, and William of
Orange reigned in his stead.

For the rest, Littlecote is a veritable storehouse of art and antiquities.
The collection of ancient armour in the Great Hall is one of the finest in
England. Here, too, is Chief Justice Popham's chair, and the thumbstocks
which he used as a means of extracting confessions from petty offenders
with whom persuasion of the merely moral kind had failed. Then there is
the painting of Mr. Popham's horse, "Wild Dayrell," which won the Derby in
1855, and many interesting objects besides. First in point of interest,
however, is the Haunted Chamber, which is even now said to resound with
groans and imprecations; and is still very much in the same condition as
in Darell's day, although, to be sure, the fateful ante-room is now
divided from it. Darell's Tree, an ancient elm, patched and chained
together, is still to be seen on the south side of the house, carefully
tended; the legend running that Littlecote will flourish so long as its
hoary trunk holds together.



XXXI


But to return to the road, which presently comes to the charming village
of Froxfield, with its wide village green and great red-brick barracks of
almshouses, founded in 1686 by Sarah, Duchess of Somerset, for fifty
clergymen's widows, and perched up on a bank above the right-hand side of
the highway.

[Sidenote: _SAVERNAKE FOREST_]

Thence, nearly all the way into Marlborough, seven miles ahead, the road
lies through Savernake Forest and its outskirts, passing the loveliest
forest scenery in England. Nothing can compare for magnificence with the
massed beeches and oaks of Savernake, whose glorious alleys of foliage
extend for miles in every direction. These fine full-grown trees are
planted for the most part in a well-considered design, and radiate from a
central point in eight directions. These "Eight Walks," as they are
called, vary in length from four miles downwards, and lie to the south of
the road. The highway runs through the northern verge of the Forest, quite
open and hedgeless all the way, with two gates across it, about two miles
apart. The scenery is like nothing so much as a painting by De Wint or
Constable.

The Marquis of Ailesbury, to whom this noble demesne (the only Forest in
the possession of a subject) belongs, has his residence near the southern
boundary of the Forest, at Tottenham House, which is a singularly plain
building externally, and so reminiscent in name of the Tottenham Court
Road that it would have been exquisitely appropriate had the late Marquis
sold the estate to Sir John Blundell Maple instead of to Lord Iveagh.

I suppose the eccentricities of the late Marquis of Ailesbury will become
the subject of curious legends in the coming by-and-by. He was born out of
his time, and was a kind of "throw-back" to earlier types that flourished
when the Prince Regent and the Toms and Jerrys disported themselves in the
famous Corinthian manner.

The glades of Savernake still remain in the family, but were alienated to
Lord Iveagh, the man of Dublin stout, of whom the quaint Biblical conceit
was invented by some temperance wag: "He who is not for us is agin us.[3]
He brews XX." Lord Iveagh bought the estates and paid for them, but the
House of Lords refused to sanction the sale, and so Savernake still
belongs to the Brudenell-Bruces.

The late Marquis had a perfect genius for dissipating wealth. A "horsey"
man among the "horsey," his favourite companions were sporting men of the
more unrefined type, and he was hail-fellow with the cab-men and 'bus-men
of London. Radicals found in his career a text for their discourses and a
reason for abolishing the House of Lords as an hereditary chamber; and the
ballet-girls of the London theatres regarded him as all a Peer should be.
One who knew "Lord Stomach-ache," as he was playfully nicknamed before he
had succeeded to the Marquisate and was yet Lord Savernake, said--

"The wealth and colour of his lordship's language surprised me. I never
knew or heard a costermonger in the Dials with such a repertory. I saw him
once with a couple of choice friends on a costermonger's barrow, such as
is used for hawking fish or vegetables. One 'pal' had a 'yard of tin' (or
coaching horn), on which he tootled melodiously. His lordship wore a very
high collar, a blue birds-eye belcher fastened with a nursery-pin for a
necktie, a huge drab box-cloth coat with large mother-o'-pearl buttons, a
low-crowned, broad-brimmed coachman's hat, and a very tight pair of
trousers. It was raining, a pitiless, pelting drizzle, and as they pulled
up for drinks, he took off his heavy coat, and, placing it carefully over
the patient 'moke,' said to it, as he patted it, 'There y'are, Neddy;
that'll keep the bloomin' wet off you, old bloke, won't it?'"

For my own part, I think the latter part of that incident is the most
creditable thing on record in the "short and merry" life of poor
"Stomach-ache."

[Sidenote: _OLD TIMES ON THE ROAD_]

Savernake Forest left behind, the road descends steeply down Forest Hill
in the direction of Marlborough. This hill was one of the worst obstacles
met with between London and Bath in the old times, and its steepness was
then rendered more difficult by reason of the execrable surface of the
road. This is the experience of one travelling to London about 1816:
"Twenty times at least the eight horses came to a standstill, and had to
be allowed their own time before they would move. For more than half the
way up there lay an extensive encampment of gipsies along each side of the
road, forming a most picturesque scene with their wild figures, their
bright-coloured costumes, and dark bronzed skin; their white tents, and
the numerous columns of blue, thin smoke that curled upwards and lost
itself in the dense foliage. These stout vagabonds rendered us an
essential service; they cheered and lashed the horses, they pushed bodily
in the rear, and they climbed the spokes of the revolving wheels, to send
them round, with a recklessness and dexterity only acquired by long
practice. To compensate them for their labour, the coachman halted at the
top of the hill to give them a chance of trading; and then the women came
forward and did a little fortune-telling with the ladies, not without
joking and bantering on the part of the onlookers; while the younger
gipsies brought abundance of sweet wood-strawberries, dished up in
dock-leaves, than which nothing at the time could have been more welcome.

"During the first half of the journey to London our pace would not average
more than four miles an hour, and sometimes the tramps and wanderers of
the road would keep up with us for the hour together, especially the
pedlars and packmen, who would display their Brummagem wares, and now and
then effect a sale as we rumbled along."

A wide view extends from here, over the valley of the Kennet, with
Marlborough lying in its hollow, and the Wiltshire downs, stretching away
in bare rolling masses, in the direction of Swindon. Marlborough develops
itself slowly as one descends, and becomes lost for a time as the
panoramic view sinks out of sight.



XXXII


[Sidenote: _MARLBOROUGH_]

There are fine old inns at Marlborough; coaching inns, fallen from the
high estate that was theirs in the days when Pepys and Sheridan, my Lord
Chatham with his gout and his innumerable train of servants, and Horace
Walpole with his gimcrackery and his caustic comments upon the kind of
society in which he found himself upon the Bath Road, stayed here. No one
comes here nowadays with vast retinues of lackeys, and the man does not
exist, be he Peer or Commoner, who could dare be so offensive as that
haughty and insufferable personage, the aforesaid Earl of Chatham, who,
nursing his gout at the "Castle" Hotel in 1762, practically converted the
place to his own exclusive use, regardless of the comfort or convenience
of any one else. He would not stay at the "Castle," he said, storming at
the terrified landlord, unless all the servants of the establishment were
forthwith clothed in the Chatham livery. And so clothed they were, and the
"Castle" became for some weeks what it had been before the strange
workings of fate had converted it into the finest of all the inns along
the road to Bath--the private residence of a nobleman.

There are breakneck streets in Marlborough, for the town, although built
in the valley, has the entrance to its principal street carried round the
spur of a foothill so that one side of the thoroughfare is considerably
lower than the other, and the humorous among Marlborough's neighbours
declare that bicycles are the only vehicles that can be driven round by
the Town Hall without upsetting. But, in spite of what Cobbett says in his
"Rural Rides," that "Marlborough is an ill-looking place enough," this
street is the finest, broadest, neatest, and most picturesque of any along
these hundred odd miles of highway. Think of all the adjectives that make
for admiration, and you have scarce employed one that overrates the
dignified and stately air of the High Street of Marlborough. The width of
the road is accounted for by its having been used as a market-place; the
architectural character of the houses lining it is due to the fires that
devastated the town in 1653, 1679, and 1690, burning down the older
houses, and causing the town to be almost wholly rebuilt. Those were the
days of the Renaissance, and before the dwelling-house became frankly
unornamental and merely a brick or stone box for people to live in, with
window and door holes from which they could look or issue forth.

Thanks, then, to these fires, Marlborough is to-day a town of
architectural delights, while the older portion of the College is fully as
interesting, having been built on the site of the old Castle from designs
by Inigo Jones or his son-in-law, Webb. It is thus a noble view along the
High Street: the shops, which are interspersed among the private houses,
being here and there fronted with covered ways, forming dry walks in wet
weather; an arcaded Market House and Town Hall at the eastern end, and a
church closing the view in each direction.

[Sidenote: _ARCADIAN HUMBUG_]

Marlborough College is at the western end of this street, occupying the
fine mansion built by Francis, Lord Seymour, in time to entertain Charles
the Second, who with his Queen, his brother, and a crowded suite halted
here on his way to the West, in one of his Royal progresses. It became the
residence of that Earl of Hertford whose Countess had a gushing affection
for those tame poets of the eighteenth century whose blank verse was so
soothing to the senses and so absolutely restful to the mind--requiring
little mental exercise to write, and none at all to read. My Lady held
quite a poetic court, of which Pope, Dr. Watts, and Thomson were the
shining lights, and squirted amiable piffle about Chloes and Strephons
while her fine London guests strutted about the emerald lawns pretending
to be Wiltshire peasantry; the ladies wielding shepherds' crooks, and
leading lambs made presentable with much expenditure of soap and water, in
leashes of sky-blue silk; while the gallant gentlemen, more used, we may
be sure, to dining and drinking, learned to play upon oaten reeds, and
were quite idyllic and Arcadian. What an astounding time! and how
disgusted these fine folks would have been, had they been forced to fare
on the fat bacon and small beer of the real shepherds, instead of the
kickshaws and the port which helped them to sustain their affectations!
The spectacle of that vicious era, pretending to rural simplicity is,
perhaps, the most notable example of vice paying homage to virtue that may
be given. The folly of the age is almost inconceivable, but it is all
preserved for us and duly certified in its literature and in the pictures
of the school of Watteau; while this particular instance of it may be
voluminously read of in the records of the time, or be conjured up by a
sight of the winding walks and grottoes in the Castle gardens, where,
perhaps, Dr. Watts may have seen the original busy bee that gave him the
first notion of--

  "How doth the little busy bee
    Employ each shining hour,
  By gath'ring honey all the day
    From ev'ry opening flower."

[Illustration: MARLBOROUGH.]

Meanwhile, Thomson was sipping nectar (which is Greek for brandy-punch)
with my Lord Hertford, and babbling of other things than green fields. In
fact, the literary Lady Hertford found the poet of the "Seasons" to be a
drunkard, and he was not invited to any more of her parties.

The house passed at length to the Dukes of Northumberland, who neglected
it, and at last leased it to a Mr. Cotterell, an innkeeper, who with
prophetic vision saw custom coming down the road in an increasing tide.
Appropriately known as the "Castle," it remained an hotel until January 5,
1843, when its doors were finally closed, to be re-opened as the home of
the newly established "Marlborough College."

For nearly a century the "Castle" entertained the best society in the
land. Forty-two coaches passed through the town every day when it was at
the height of its prosperity, and a goodly proportion of their occupants
stayed here. Take, in fact, the lists of distinguished arrivals at Bath
during that time, and you have practically a visitors' list of the
"Castle."

Marlborough College was established in this house of entertainment, and
new buildings have been added from time to time; but the old "Castle
Hotel" may yet be traced from its characteristic architecture. Amid its
pleasant lawns and gardens rises that prehistoric hill on which
Marlborough Castle was built. Indeed, here, in this "Castle Mound," is the
very fount and origin of the town, whose very name is supposed to derive
from this earthwork, being the grave of the magician Merlin, who with his
enchantments is said to lie here still, until Britain shall be in need of
him again. "Merleberg," or "Merlin's town," is said to have been
Marlborough's first name, and the crest over the town arms still
represents the Mound, with a motto in Latin to "the bones of the wise
Merlin."[4]



XXXIII


[Sidenote: _THE KENNET_]

When the traveller leaves Marlborough he bids good-bye, for many miles yet
to come, to the pleasant forest groves, the rich, low-lying pastures, and
the fishful streams that have bordered the road hitherto. The valley of
the Kennet is, it is true, near by, and for the next six miles it may be
glimpsed, on the left, like some Promised Land of Plenty; but the road
itself is bare. The "green pastures and still waters" of the Psalmist,
indeed, you think when mounting gradually out of Marlborough you see the
pleasant water-meadows afar off as you toil up the shoulder of the downs,
passing a picturesque roadside inn, the "Marquis of Ailesbury's Arms,"
and the village of Fyfield on the way, with a glimpse of Manton village
down below, amid its elms and farmyards by the windings of the stream.

[Illustration: ROADSIDE INN, MANTON.]

Fyfield (how many dozens of Fyfields are there in England?) is tiny,
clean, and quaint, with a pinnacled church tower on to whose roof you look
down from the road, and may glimpse in a backward glance the whole of the
district traversed since Savernake Forest was left behind. There, in long
dark clumps upon the distant hilly horizon are the grand avenues of
that forest; the Bath Road descending from them like a white ribbon
into Marlborough town, whose houses are hid, only the church towers
shining white in the sun, against a green background. Ahead rises
unenclosed downland, with chalky, flint-strewn road, the unenclosed wastes
of green-grey grass, broken here and there with mounds, grass-grown too.

[Illustration: FYFIELD.]

[Sidenote: _MARLBOROUGH DOWNS_]

On the left hand, at the distance of half a mile, perhaps, rises the
church of West Overton, an offence here in its newness, for this road is
Roman, these mounds are ancient British graves, and everywhere, look in
what direction you will on these bleak and treeless wastes, are the
mysterious vestiges of a people who had no arts, no science, no
literature, who lived, in fact, a savage nomadic life, but who, for all
those disabilities, have left records of their passing that may well
remain when the civilization of to-day has perished. On these downs are
countless tumuli; in the hollows are unnumbered thousands of stones,
brought no one knows whence, or for what purpose, and the remains of
cromlechs may be seen that add to the complex puzzle of the wherefore of
it all. West Kennet village stands in the succeeding hollow, like some
shamed modern trespasser, amid these prehistoric remains which appear,
Sphinx-like, on the sky-line or stand lonely in the folds of the barren
hills.

The district seems to have been a metropolis of the prehistoric dead (if,
indeed, all these ruined stone avenues and circles are sepulchral), or
some vast open-air cathedral of a forgotten faith; if they have a
religious rather than a mortuary significance. For, but little over a mile
distant, are the remains of the so-called "Druid Temple" at Avebury, a
monument second only to Stonehenge in mystery, and a good deal more
impressive in appearance; while, frowning down upon the highway, and
standing immediately beside it, is that "greatest earthwork in Europe,"
Silbury Hill.

Avebury village stands on the road to Swindon, on the borders of
Marlborough Downs, and has been built within a great circle which appears
to have been approached by an avenue of standing stones. A few of these
may still be observed, standing beside the hedgeless road. Some idea of
the vast size and impressive aspect of this circular monument of those dim
ages before history began may be obtained when it is said that it consists
of an excavation 40 feet deep and 4442 feet in circumference, encircled on
the outer side with an earthwork 40 feet high, the whole enclosing nearly
29 acres. On the inner brink of this deep fosse there are now left
thirty-five huge stones out of the original number of about one thousand.
Nine of these are upright, ten thrown down, and sixteen buried. Traces of
pits show where the farmers of many years ago dug up the others and took
them away for building-stones or gateposts. Over six hundred and fifty
others are known to have been destroyed, the cottages of Avebury and the
roads having been built of their fragments. How the unknown builders of
this weird place could have brought these huge rocks, some of them
measuring fourteen feet in length, and all weighing many tons a-piece,
from unguessed distances, remains a mystery.

[Illustration: MARLBOROUGH DOWNS, NEAR WEST OVERTON.]

[Sidenote: _AVEBURY_]

The first mention of Avebury Temple is by Aubrey the antiquary. It was in
1648 that he first saw the place, which seems, curiously enough, to have
been until then quite unknown. He came upon it quite by chance, when
hunting, and must have been astonished at the discovery of so
extraordinary a place. His account of it led that kingly amateur of
science, Charles the Second, to visit Avebury on his way to Bath in 1668.
Pepys, too, going to Bath, unexpectedly happened both upon Avebury and
Silbury Hill, and viewed them and the sepulchral barrows that, crowned
with pine trees, look down from the hill sides, with an admiration not
unmixed with a superstitious dread.

[Illustration: AVEBURY.]

The road to Swindon goes straight through this great earthwork, and is
crossed midway by another; together, with part of the village built within
the circle, cutting it up lamentably.

[Illustration: SILBURY HILL.]

[Sidenote: _SILBURY HILL_]

Silbury Hill, which stands within sight, is a fitting pendant to these
mysteries. Antiquaries have contended together in referring both to
ancient Britons, Phoenicians, Danes, Saxons, and even Romans, and are
divided in opinion as to their object: whether they were intended for
Druids' or Snake-worshippers' temples, or whether they marked the last
resting-places of those slain in some great battle fought before the dawn
of history. That Silbury Hill stood here when the Romans came seems,
however, to be certain from the fact that the old Roman road from
_Cunetio_ to _Aquæ Solis_ (the existing Bath Road between Marlborough and
Bath), engineered along the whole of its course in a perfectly straight
line, swerves slightly from the south base of the hill, evidently to avoid
injuring it. A learned antiquary (but the most learned must be reduced to
the level of the most ignorant before these mute earthworks) considers
that Silbury was raised to commemorate a battle, probably Arthur's second
and last battle of Badon Hill. The same authority thinks Avebury to be a
burying-place of the dead slain in a great battle, and planned to show the
dispositions of the forces engaged on either side.

But Silbury remains inscrutable. It is wholly an artificial hill, somewhat
pyramidical in shape, and 170 feet in height. Its base covers five acres
of ground, and was once surrounded by a stone circle, of which scanty
traces are now left. The contents of it are estimated at 468,170 cubic
yards of earth. Repeated attempts have been made to pluck out the heart of
this mystery, but without success. So far back as 1777 it was mined from
above by a party of Cornish miners, who worked under the direction of the
then Duke of Northumberland and others, but nothing was discovered. Then
in 1849 it was tunnelled from the base to the centre, where a space of
twelve feet in diameter was examined, with the same disappointing result.
Antiquaries consequently regard Silbury with hungry and expectant eyes.

Just beyond this baffling relic stands the Beckhampton inn, where the
"coaches dined" and changed teams, and where the Bath Road divides into
the two routes; the right-hand road going through Calne, Chippenham, and
Box; the other reaching Bath by way of Devizes and Melksham. Some coaches
went one way and some the other. The crack coaches, including the
"Beaufort Hunt," went by the former, which is two and a half miles
shorter, and is the classic route, and always the one selected nowadays by
record-breaking cyclists.



XXXIV


The road between Newbury and Bath was in coaching days known as the "lower
ground." So far as physical geography goes, however, the land is a great
deal higher, and much more hilly than the "upper ground" between London
and Newbury, and it is not to be wondered at that accidents would
sometimes happen here. This, then, was the scene of an accident to a coach
driven by a gay young blade, one "Jack Everett;" an accident in which he
and an elderly lady passenger had a broken leg each. Both sufferers were
put into a cart filled with straw, and taken to the nearest surgeon. On
the road into Marlborough the coachman beguiled the tedium of the way and
the pain of his injured limb by saying to the old lady, "I have often
kissed a young woman, and I don't see why I shouldn't kiss an old
one"--and he suited the action to the words.

[Sidenote: _THE CHERHILL WHITE HORSE_]

Beckhampton inn, whose real sign is the "Waggon and Horses," is the place
mentioned by Dickens in the "Bagman's Story" in the _Pickwick Papers_. It
remains as old-fashioned to-day as ever,[5] but does not very closely
resemble the word-picture Dickens draws of it. He probably made
acquaintance with the downs and the inn only in passing on his way between
Bath and London in 1835. It stands at a spot where the road promises to
become more cheerful and less gaunt and inhospitable; but the promise is
not kept, the way going inexorably again along downs as bare as before,
for another two miles. All the way between here and Cherhill village the
"Lansdowne Column" is seen crowning the rolling hills to the left front.
Built within the ramparts of an ancient hill-fort of the Danes, who
encamped naturally enough in the most inaccessible position they could
find, this "column," which is an obelisk, is an exceedingly prominent
object in every direction. As one proceeds and turns the flank of the
hill, the strange sight of a trotting White Horse is seen carved in the
chalk of its swelling shoulder. This is not one of the ancient White
Horses that decorate the hillsides of some parts of the West County and
date from Anglo-Saxon times, but dates only from 1780, when it was cut by
Dr. Allsop, an eccentric physician of Calne. The site it occupies is said
to be the highest point between London and Bath, and the White Horse is
supposed to be visible for thirty miles--which there is no occasion to
believe. The figure measures 157 feet from head to tail, and the eye alone
is 12 feet in diameter. The way the figure was designed is just a little
curious.

No one could possibly have correctly traced the outlines of so huge an
affair, except by external aid, which probably accounts for the bad
drawing of the ancient examples. Dr. Allsop adopted the plan of stationing
himself on the downs in full view of the rough draft, so to speak, which
he had already staked out with flags, and of shouting directions to his
workmen by the aid of a speaking-trumpet.

The hillside is so steep at this point that when the White Horse was
restored in 1876, a workman was nearly killed by a truck load of chalk
descending upon him down the slope.

Passing this interesting spot and the village of Cherhill, which lies
hidden to the right of the road, the highway reaches Calne through its
suburb of Quemerford, along a flat road.

[Illustration: THE WHITE HORSE, CHERHILL.]



XXXV


[Sidenote: _CALNE_]

Calne (whose name be pleased to pronounce "Carne") is not a pleasing
place. Once the seat of a cloth-making industry, it has seen its trade
utterly decay, and is only now regaining something of its commerce in the
very different staple of bacon-curing. One does not contemn Calne on
account of its misfortunes, but it must always have been a slipshod place.
"Calne," according to Hartley Coleridge, who described his father's three
years' residence there, "is not a very pretty place. The soil is clayey
and chalky; the streams far from crystal; the hills bare and shapeless;
the trees not venerable; the town itself irregular, which is its only
beauty. But there were good, comfortable, unintellectual people in it."
With all of which one may agree; save that the "irregularity" of the town
is now rather sluttish than beautiful. As for the people, we are but
travelling the road, and Calne is only an incident on our way--the people
of it something less to ourselves, resembling, in fact, x, an unknown
quantity.

The outskirts of Calne are not prepossessing, nor does the long, stony
street of mean characterless stone houses that leads to the centre of the
little town alter the stranger's view. Calne, in fact, lying so near
Bowood, long the seat of the Marquises of Lansdowne, and being their
property, wears an abject, servile look. All that makes life worth living
is at lordly Bowood; only that which is mean and commonplace is left to
Calne. It seems (although one's prejudices are Conservative) as though
some vampire were seated near, sucking away the life-blood of the place.

There are two hills just out of Calne; Black Dog Hill, and Derry Hill, and
they lead the traveller through picturesque scenery, past one of the
lodges of Bowood, and so down into the flat alluvial lands where the Avon
flows, and now and again floods out all the dwellers in those levels. The
road down there is dreadfully dull to the pedestrian. To the cyclist, on
the other hand, who has for these miles past been struggling up hills he
cannot climb, and walking down others he dare not coast, the change is one
from a penitential pilgrimage to Paradise.

The entrance to the "ancient and royal" borough of Chippenham is hatefully
like that into Calne, whose paltry houses are reproduced there. The centre
of the town is, however, of a better character, although the streets are
cramped and narrow. A singularly foreign air is given to the place by its
balustraded stone bridge across the Avon, and if one cares to pursue the
Continental tone further it may be found in the huge factory near by,
where "Swiss" Condensed Milk, of the "Milkmaid" brand, is manufactured on
an immense scale. For the rest, its cheese and corn markets and
bacon-curing keep it very much alive, and a modern (and brutally ugly)
Town Hall, built in 1856, shows sufficiently well how trade has grown
since the time when the picturesque old Town Hall, still standing, was
built in the sixteenth century.

[Illustration: THE OLD MARKET HOUSE, CHIPPENHAM.]

[Sidenote: _MAUD HEATH'S CAUSEWAY_]

The most interesting thing in Chippenham is (to borrow a "bull" for the
occasion) outside the town. "Maud Heath's Causeway," a stone-pitched path
along the road that runs through the heavy clay lands beside the Wiltshire
Avon, extends for four and a half miles, from Chippenham to the summit of
Bremhillwick Hill. It was made under the will of Maud Heath, who died
about 1474, for the benefit of the market folk resorting to Chippenham,
who found the low-lying roads almost impassable in winter. Little is known
of this old-time benefactress, but legend supplies the lack of knowledge,
and the popular belief is that she was a market-woman who, finding the
road from Langley Burrell into the town in so dreadful a state, determined
to leave the savings of a lifetime for the provision of a stone causeway,
so that future generations might go dry-shod to market.

This causeway goes from the north-east side of the town, and continues
through Langley Burrell to Tytherton Kellaways, up the shoulder of
Bremhillwick Hill. The portion between Chippenham and Langley Burrell was,
for some unexplained reason, not constructed until 1852-3.

According to the inscriptions on the stone posts beside it, the Causeway
is held to commence at the Hill, and to end at Chippenham--

  "From this WICK HILL begins the praise
  Of MAUD HEATH'S gift to these highways."

At the other end, next Chippenham, where the road joins those from
Malmesbury and Draycott, is another stone, with the inscription--

  "Hither extendeth MAUD HEATH'S gift,
  For where I stand is Chippenham Clift."

Midway, on the bridge over the Avon, is another stone--a pillar twelve
feet high, erected by the Trustees in 1698, with the following facts
recorded on it:--

    "To the memory of the worthy MAUD HEATH, of Langley Burrell, Spinster:
    who in the year of grace, 1474, for the good of travellers, did in
    charity bestow in land and houses, about eight pounds a year, for
    ever, to be laid out on the highway and causeway, leading from Wick
    Hill to Chippenham Clift."

    CHIPPENHAM CLIFT. Injure me not. WICK HILL.

A statue of Maud Heath, a purely imaginary likeness of course, since no
portrait of her is known to exist, was set up on a pillar on the summit of
Bremhillwick Hill in 1838 by the Marquis of Lansdowne and a local
clergyman.

The pillar is forty feet high, and the seated statue on the top of it
represents Maud Heath in the costume of the period of Edward the Fourth,
with a staff in her hand, and a basket by her side. An inscription bids--

  "Thou who dost pause on this ærial height,
  Where MAUD HEATH'S Pathway winds in shade or light,
  Christian wayfarer in a world of strife,
  Be still--and ponder on the path of life."

The sentiments are admirable, if a little depressing: the verse atrocious.

[Sidenote: _IMPROVING SENTIMENTS_]

But worse remains. There are three dials on the pillar, with an
inscription on the side facing the rising sun--

  "VOLAT TEMPUS.

  "Oh, early passenger, look up, be wise:
  And think how, night and day, TIME onward FLIES."

Opposite Noon is the advice, "Whilst we have time, do good."

  "QVUM TEMPUS HABEMUS, OPEREMUR BONUM.

  "Life steals away--this hour, O man, is lent thee
  Patient to work the work of Him that sent thee."

For Evening the admonition is not a little alarming--if taken literally.

  "REDIBO. TU NUNQUAM.

  "Haste, traveller! the sun is sinking low;
  He shall return again--but NEVER THOU."

The passing wayfarer might well ask why he should never return along this
road!

The late vicar of Bremhill did these metrical paraphrases of the Latin
which led so tragically, but whose qualities, as verse, resemble the
average of the ordinary Pantomime librettist.

Maud Heath's charity is still in existence, and is now worth about £120
per annum, a sum amply sufficient for keeping her Causeway in repair.



XXXVI


Rowden Hill, a mile out of Chippenham, on the road to Bath, is a welcome
drop down into level land again, and would be enjoyable were it not for
the bad surface. It is while wheeling such hills and such road-metal that
one appreciates at the full the pluck and endurance of those early
cyclists who raced across them in the early seventies, making the pace on
the high bicycles of those times as gallantly as though the terrible
jolting they experienced was really enjoyable. That well-known body of
cyclists, the Bath Road Club, has numbered some good sportsmen and rare
flyers in its time, and though their pace reads ridiculously slow beside
that of these pneumatic-tyred days, the performances of those
half-forgotten racers were quite as fine, and, conditions being equal,
perhaps finer, than the record rides of recent seasons. There was a
time--in August, 1870, to be precise--when two cyclists--Gardner and
Fisher, did the double journey of 107 miles each way in five days, and men
looked upon them as marvellous riders; so perhaps they were, considering
the mechanical limitations of the machines they rode, whose like is not to
be seen nowadays save in collections of curios. Equally wonderful were
those stalwarts who cut away the hours, piece by piece, until their
performances were topped by "Wat" Britten on the "ordinary" in 1880, when
he did the double journey in 23 hours. There were those who then thought
the last word had been said in the matter of Bath Road Records. They must
have been astonished when R. C. Nesbitt's "ordinary" record was made on
August 1, 1891, when he covered the out and home course in 15 hrs. 40
mins. 34 secs. Improved methods of manufacture may have had something to
do with the smashing character of this new performance; but, even so,
consider the extraordinary efforts that must have gone toward getting
those figures, which cut Britten's by 7 hrs. 20 mins., and at the same
time secured one of the rare victories of the "ordinary" over the "safety"
pneumatic-tyred bicycle. For this grand ride defeated Mr. Lowe's, made on
a "safety," in 1891 by more than 30 minutes.

[Sidenote: _CYCLING HISTORY_]

But that was one of the last expiring efforts of the now obsolete and
miscalled "ordinary." It was speedily beaten by J. W. Jarvis, September
20, 1892, who put the figures at 15 hrs. 16 mins. 42 secs.--23 mins. 52
secs. better than the previous best. Then came that hardy Brighton Road
record-maker, C. G. Wridgway, whose ride of August 2, 1893, put the
clocking at 14 hrs. 22 mins. 57 secs.--a wonderfully heavy lowering of
figures. The following year Wridgway established records on both the
Brighton and Bath Road within a month; beating his record here of the
previous August by his ride on October 4, when he reduced his own time by
the astonishing margin of 1 hr. 27 mins. 43 secs.

Time was now cut so close that when W. J. Neasen, of the Anfield Club,
essayed the difficult task of lowering it, he only succeeded, on May 11,
1895, in getting inside Wridgway's time by 24 mins. 10 secs., the figures
then standing at 12 hrs. 31 mins. 4 secs. H. C. Horswill, of the Essex
Wheelers, then beat Neason's performance, in July, 1897, by 24 mins. 34
secs., to be succeeded finally by F. W. Barnes, who on October 30, in the
same year, performed the double journey in 11 hrs. 48 mins. 42 secs., and
still holds the record.

Among these records of the Bath Road must be mentioned the various essays
made by C. A. Smith, of the Bath Road Club, on tricycles. He rode to Bath
and back on a three-wheeler, July 16, 1891, in 16 hrs. 13 mins. 18 secs.,
thus establishing a record, which was beaten four years later--August 23,
1895--by F. Martin, by the narrow margin of 11 mins. 43 secs. These
figures in turn were lowered, August 5, 1897, by T. J. Gibbs, Bath Road
Club, who accomplished a record of 14 hrs. 18 min.



XXXVII


[Sidenote: _PICKWICK_]

And now we come, past the tree-shaded hamlet of Cross Keys, to Pickwick,
ninety-seven miles from London, situated at a turning in the road which
leads to Corsham Regis, half a mile distant, on the left hand. The
traveller, exploring this road for the first time, looks forward with
curiosity to seeing a place with so famous a name; but Pickwick, the
decayed coaching hamlet, can scarcely be said to "live up to" its
literary associations. Strictly speaking, it is not even decayed; but, now
that the coaches are no more, flourishes on the "Pickwick Brewery," which
makes a brave show down the road. It is an eminently prosperous-looking,
stone-built hamlet, a comparatively modern offshoot of the hoary Saxon
village of Corsham, which, once on the main road, was thrust into the
background when the mail coach came in, and the great highway to Bath was
cut on this route, half a mile away.

[Illustration: CROSS KEYS.]

It is a curious literary puzzle--How did the title of the "Pickwick
Papers" originate? It is a well-ascertained fact that, in 1835, Dickens,
then a reporter for the daily press, was sent to Bath to report a speech
of Lord John Russell's, that now almost-forgotten statesman being a
candidate for representing that city. The future novelist was then but
twenty-three years of age, a time of life when impressions of travel are
vivid and lasting. Journeying by coach, he had every opportunity for
observing places and people; and so it happened that when, a few months
later, the now historic publishing firm of Chapman and Hall offered him
the literary commission which resulted in the "Posthumous Papers of the
Pickwick Club," the story he produced derived many of its features from
his own experiences. His recollections had no time to fade, for in March,
1836, the first part of "Pickwick" was published, and others were well on
the way. It must ever be a matter of doubt whether Dickens noticed the
existence of Pickwick, the place. That he had noted the existence of
Moses Pickwick, the coach proprietor of Bath, is obvious enough from the
"Pickwick Papers," where Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller are taking their
seats for that City of the Waters.

"'I'm wery much afeerd, sir, that the properiator o' this here coach is a
playin' some imperence vith us,' says Sam.

"'How is that, Sam?' said Mr. Pickwick; 'aren't the names down on the
way-bill?'

"'The names is not only down on the vay-bill, sir,' replied Sam, 'but
they've painted vun on 'em up, on the door o' the coach.'

"'Dear me,' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, quite staggered by the coincidence,
'what a very extraordinary thing!'

"'Yes, but that ain't all,' said Sam, again directing his master's
attention to the coach door; 'not content vith writin' up Pickwick, they
puts "Moses" afore it, vich I call addin' insult to injury.'"

There were then, it will be seen, real Pickwicks living in Bath, and the
"Moses" Pickwick referred to was an actual person, the great-grandson of
one Eleazer Pickwick, who, many years before, had risen by degrees from
the humble position of post-boy at the "Old Bear," at Bath, to be landlord
of the once famous "White Hart" inn, which stood where the "Grand Pump
Room" hotel now towers aloft.

Now comes the long-sought-for connection between place and persons of
identical name. Eleazer Pickwick was a foundling. Discovered as an infant
on the road at Pickwick, he was named by the guardians, in accordance with
an old custom, after the place.

[Sidenote: _CORSHAM REGIS_]

Corsham, to which Pickwick belongs, is one of those places which it would
be almost an indignity to call a "village," while to name it a "town"
would be to give too great an importance to it. It is Corsham "Regis," by
virtue of having been a residence of the Saxon Kings; but the Great
Western has docked the kingly suffix, and if you were to ask at Paddington
for a ticket to Corsham Regis, it is to be feared that the booking-clerk
would not recognize the place under its full name.

[Illustration: THE HUNGERFORD ALMSHOUSE, CORSHAM REGIS.]

The townlet is a pleasing one, and, always excepting the new and ugly
stone villas recently built, it abounds with delightful specimens of
domestic architecture of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and mid-eighteenth
centuries; fine houses built of Corsham stone in a dignified Renaissance
manner, or in the earlier Tudor convention of gables and mullioned
windows. Corsham Court, the finest of all, standing in its nobly-wooded
park, is Elizabethan, and exhibits the merging of the two periods of
Gothic and Renaissance architecture. It was Lady Hungerford, widow of a
former owner of Corsham Court, who, in 1672, built the quaint Hungerford
Almshouse, close by.

For the rest, Corsham has little history. It was the scene of a mysterious
murder in 1594, when a gentleman, one Henry Long, was shot dead, while
sitting at dinner amid his friends, by Sir Charles and Sir Henry Danvers,
two brothers, who hailed from Dauntsey. The motive was never known, and
the assassins were never punished. Six years later, Charles was beheaded
for taking part in Essex's rebellion; which seems to be a kind of oblique
and fumbling retribution on the part of Providence for his crime. Henry,
however, prospered amazingly, and was eventually created Earl Danby,
flourishing all his life, as the wicked are, on good authority, supposed
to do, "like the green bay tree," and dying in the odour of sanctity,
"full of honours, woundes, and daies." He is commemorated in an eloquent
epitaph, written by the saintly George Herbert of Bemerton, more than ten
years before his (Danvers') death; a circumstance which would seem to
prove Herbert a hypocrite and Danvers peculiarly solicitous for his own
post-mortem reputation.

Corsham was the birthplace of Sir Richard Blackmore, physician to William
the Third, and poetaster, who, says Leigh Hunt, "composed heaps of dull
poetry, versified the Psalms, and, by way of extending the lesson of
patience, wrote a paraphrase of the Book of Job." What sarcasm!

But Blackmore was read in his day, just as Leigh Hunt was in his, and Fate
is sardonic enough (for who at this time reads Hunt's tedious stuff?) to
consign critic and criticized to one common limbo of neglect.



XXXVIII


[Sidenote: _THE BOX TUNNEL_]

From Corsham the old road used to lead precipitously up to the summit of
Box Hill and thence downwards by breakneck gullies, furrowed by rains, and
rich in loose stones, into Box. The modern highway goes modestly round the
shoulder of the hill. The village of Box has gained an adventitious fame
from the celebrated tunnel on the Great Western Railway, which pierces Box
Hill, and was, upon its completion, the longest tunnel in England.
Compared with later works, it sinks into quite minor importance; but it is
still an impressive engineering feat, whether you view it from the railway
carriage windows or from the highway. Its length is 3199 yards, or nearly
two miles, and the hill rises above it to a height of three hundred feet.
Its cost of over £500,000 is no less impressive.

A curious story is told at Box of a platelayer, employed in the tunnel
some twenty years ago, who with his gang worked there at night, and slept
at Box village in the day. After a while he became engaged to a girl in
the village, and the wedding-day was fixed. The vicar of Box, however, was
a stickler for red tape, and it appears that he found some technical
objection in the fact of the man not sleeping the night in the village.
At any rate, he would not perform the ceremony until the Bishop (of
Gloucester) compelled him to do so.

[Illustration: ENTRANCE TO BOX QUARRIES.]

[Sidenote: _BOX QUARRIES_]

At Box we are well within the stone district whose quarries have rendered
building-stone from the times of the Roman occupation until the present
day. The oolite which comes from here and from the Corsham quarries is a
fine grained stone, easily worked, and of a rich cream colour when freshly
wrought. As "Bath stone" it is famous, and has made Bath exclusively a
city of stone-built houses. In addition, it is sent to all parts of the
country, and even exported. The quarries of Corsham and Box are,
therefore, the centres of a large and important industry. Box Hill is a
mass of this stone, and the tunnel is consequently pierced through it.
Three of the quarries are situated in the hill, some of them of great
extent. The most extensive is driven into the flank of the hill like a
tunnel, and has over three miles of galleries laid with tram-lines: dark,
damp places, whose roofs are supported here and there by timber struts.
The coldness of these quarry tunnels is remarkably piercing, even in the
height of summer.

[Illustration: BOX VILLAGE.]

Box seems to have been a favourite country resort of the Romans, away from
the crowded streets of _Aquæ Solis_; for on the land that slopes down
toward the little Box Brook there have been found many Roman remains,
while, only so recently as 1897, the site of a Roman villa was excavated
near the south side of the church, with the result of unearthing a
complete ground-plan and such interesting relics as mosaic pavements and
votive altars.

It is a crowded village to-day, and rather by way of being a town. Lying
in a deep hollow, its stone-built houses climb steeply up both sides, with
a picturesque glimpse back from where the old village lock-up stands
beside the highway to the straggling cottages that line the old road down
the side of Box Hill.

Leaving Box we also, in the course of one mile, leave Wiltshire and come
into Somerset, with Bath but four miles distant. The Box Brook runs on the
right-hand side of the road, the Great Western Railway on the left. Soon,
however, the road bends to the right at Bathford, and we come to
Batheaston, once a village, but now merely a suburb of Bath, joined to
the city by continuous streets.

But there are pretty scenes just off these streets. Bathampton Mill, for
instance, just below, on the Avon, with views of the grand circle of hills
that enclose Bath.

The picturesquely broken and wooded elevation of Combe Down rises away on
the other side of the valley, with Prior Park nestled amid its hanging
woods, and the village of Widcombe beneath. At an elevation of five
hundred and fifty feet above the sea, it commands views not to be bettered
in all the country round. Down below, in the warm steamy atmosphere of the
Avon valley, one sees the railway entering Bath on its stone viaducts, and
the trains winding in and out along the sharp curves amid the clustered
houses. Bathampton lies below there, where the air is languorous and the
hillsides hold the heat of the sun. From that sheltered spot the view
backwards towards Bathampton Mill and the terraced houses of Batheaston is
delightful; the houses that turn their ugly side to the road showing from
here, amid their setting of green, like fairy palaces. Lower down the
valley the houses cluster more thickly, where the valley widens out into
the likeness of a great amphitheatre, and suburbs fade gradually into
Bath.

Then, coming to Walcot, the road finally loses all its character as a
highway, and tramways, omnibuses, and traffic of every description
proclaim the entrance to a populous city.

[Illustration: BATHAMPTON MILL.]



XXXIX


[Sidenote: _BATH_]

The story of Bath goes back some two thousand years, and has its origin in
the myths of ages, in which Bladud figures variously as discoverer and
creator of the healing springs. Serious historians are wont to exclude
Bladud, and his descent from Brute the Trojan, and Lud Hudibras, the
British King, from their pages, for the reason that Geoffrey of Monmouth,
the monkish chronicler, who first narrates these stories in his history of
Britain, was apt sometimes to confound chronicling with romancing. When,
therefore, he tells how Prince Bladud was an adept in magic, and placed a
cunning stone in the springs of this valley so that it made the water hot
and healed the sick who resorted to them, he is looked upon with a
suspicion that is deepened when he goes on to say that Bladud successfully
attempted to fly with wings of his own invention from Bath to London, and
only came to grief when London was reached, through the strings breaking,
so that he fell and was dashed to pieces on the roof of the Temple of
Apollo!

Nor is the better known legend of Prince Bladud, the leper, exiled from
his father's Court, universally accepted. According to that story, the
Prince wandered to where Keynsham now stands, where he became a swineherd,
and infected the pigs with his disease. Coming, however, into this valley,
the porkers rolled themselves into the hot mud, which then occupied the
site of Bath Abbey and the Baths, and were cured. Bladud perceiving this,
applied the remedy to himself, with the like result, and returned to his
home once more; building a city upon the spot in after years. This
happened B.C. 863, and there is a statue of King Bladud, as he afterwards
became, erected in the "Pump Room" in 1669; so that any one not
subscribing to the truth of this legend had better do so at once, in view
of this overwhelming evidence thus afforded.

[Sidenote: _ROMAN RELICS_]

We are on more certain ground when we come to the Romans. That great
people left too many evidences of their occupation of this island for many
doubts to be entertained as to where they settled, or when. Thus, when we
assign the close of the first half-century of the Christian era to their
discovery of the medicinal properties of these waters, we do so, not from
legend, but from the evidence of the buildings they have left behind. It
is singular that we do not, as a rule, lay much stress upon the Roman
occupation of Britain. Yet it lasted long, and was for nearly four
centuries what modern political slang terms "effectual." An advanced
civilization reigned here then, and Britain became both a populous and a
flourishing colony. The dealings of England with India in the present time
form a tolerably close parallel with Rome's conquest of this island, and
if we go further and liken the British who remained in the remote places
of Cornwall, Devon, and Wales to the fierce Afghans and Chitralis who have
troubled us on the borders of Hindostan, we shall by no means strain the
similitude. Bath--or rather _Aquæ Solis_, the "Waters of the Sun"[6]--as
well as being the one health-resort in Britain for the wealthy Roman
colonists who needed such a retreat, was to the Roman officer of that era
what Simla and the Hills are to our own military men in India--a place for
rest and the restoration of health after the rigours of a hard campaign;
with this difference, indeed, that to the Hills they go for coolness,
while at Aquæ Solis is the expatriated legionary found both healing
springs and a genial warmth after the bleak, inhospitable hills of the Far
West or the Farther North.

[Illustration: THE SUN GOD.]

Discoveries at Bath and in its immediate neighbourhood have proved that
there was a sanatorium for invalided officers on Combe Down, and we can
well imagine such being conveyed hither, to recover or to die, along the
road.

The Baths of the Romans were discovered in 1755, fifteen feet below the
surface of the ground; relics of a past magnificence; of a civilization
that expired in bloodshed and conflagration. It was in the year 410 that
the military forces of Rome left Britain. The weak Romano-British soon
retrograded, and, worse than all, the country split up into petty, and
mutually hostile, kingdoms. The Baths were neglected, the Arts decayed,
and in Britain generally there was not spirit sufficient to withstand the
marauding Saxons who finally overwhelmed the country and pillaged and
burnt _Aquæ Solis_, just as they had pillaged every other city. It was
after the sanguinary Battle of Deorham, A.D. 577, that the three cities of
_Glevum_ (Gloucester), _Corinium_ (Cirencester), and _Aquæ Solis_ fell,
spoils to the Saxon hosts under Ceawlin. You may search for the site of
that great contest at the village now called Dyreham, some fifteen miles
north-east of Bath, in Gloucestershire, and from its position it will be
at once evident that those three cities must immediately have fallen after
that fatal day. That was the cementing of the Saxon power in the West, and
a fitting end to a hundred and fifty years of incessant warfare. The
British never learned that union means strength; they never had the sense
to combine before a common foe, and so the fierce invaders met and
defeated them in detail, aided of course by their own fitness for the
fight, and by the British incapacity. The Britons were lapped in luxury,
and went drunk into battle, so that there was no possible hope for them in
fighting the hardy warriors from the North. The wars waged then were wars
of extermination, and neither persons nor places were spared. This proud
city was levelled with the ground, and the civilization of four hundred
years perished by fire in a day. Evidences of that dreadful time were
plainly to be seen when the Roman Baths were excavated. They are to be
seen even now, at the Museum, together with relics which prove the high
degree of civilization that had been attained.

[Illustration: MYSTERIOUS LEADEN TABLET DISCOVERED AT BATH.]

Among other marks of progress is an inscribed tablet with an inscription
which one authority declares to be the record of a "cure from either
taking the waters or bathing, certified by three great men;" while another
is equally positive that it is an "imprecation upon nine men, supposed to
be guests, who had stolen a tablecloth at the conclusion of a
dinner-party." The age of this tablet is fixed "between the second and
fifth centuries of the Christian era," which in itself seems to be a wide
enough margin. As if, however, this were not already sufficient, there are
others, learned in these things, who declare that this relic records how
a certain Quintus received 500,000 lbs. of copper coin for washing a lady
named "Vilbia"! We are left to take our choice between speculations
unfavourable to the personal cleanliness of that lady, or astonishment at
the mode and extravagance of the payment. There is, indeed, "another way,"
as the cookery books have it; but as that involves doubts about the
scholarship of professed antiquaries, this third resort may only be hinted
at in this place. Who shall decide where antiquaries disagree?

The Saxons were shy of the places they had burnt. Heathens that they were,
they generally believed the bloodstained ruins to be haunted by evil
spirits, and so built their settlements at some distance away. The site of
Bath seems to have been, to some degree, an exception. After lying waste
for over a hundred years, it was occupied again, for the fame of its
waters had not wholly died out: and "Akemanceaster," as the Saxons called
it, entered upon a new lease of life. At that period, too, the Roman Road
through Silchester, Speen, and Marlborough acquired its name of Akeman
Street; the names meaning, as some would say, the "Sick Man's Town," and
the "Sick Man's Road," from "aches" and the fame of the place, even then,
as a spot at which to cure them. This has been characterized as absurd,
and the derivation more plausibly held to be from a corruption of the
Roman word _Aquæ_ affixed to the word "maen," or "man," meaning "stone" or
"place," and joined to the word "cæster," a form of the Roman "castrum," a
fortification; the compound word thus obtained meaning "the Fortified
place at the Waters."

[Sidenote: _ROYAL VISITS_]

To follow the fortunes of Akemanceaster, or Bath, as it eventually became,
through the Saxon period to the present time would be an exercise too
prolonged for these pages. That Kings and Princes and ecclesiastics
visited it then we know, and that the Normans built a great Abbey church
where the present building of Bath Abbey stands is an easily ascertainable
fact; but all the comings and goings of the great ones of the earth during
the succeeding centuries would form but a bald catalogue. It is only when
we come to the middle of the seventeenth century that we need pick up the
thread of the narrative again, at the visits of the Queen of Charles the
First in 1644; of Charles the Second, the Duke and Duchess of York, and
Prince Rupert in 1663; the Queen of James the Second, 1687; and the
Princess Anne, 1692; and as Queen Anne, 1702. Truly, a brilliant list for
such a small place as Bath then was.

But these Royal visits did not greatly benefit the place, as we may judge
when we read that from 1592 to 1692, Bath had increased by only seventeen
houses. Why was this? I conceive it to have been owing to the
extraordinary apathy of the people of Bath, who had not provided the
slightest accommodation for those who then drank the waters. Of what use
was it for Sir Alexander Frayser, physician to Charles the Second, sending
all his patients hither instead of to Continental health-resorts like Aix,
if they had to drink the waters at a pump standing on the open pavement?
and imagine the delights of bathing when the Baths were open to the
public view, the said public delighting to throw dead cats, offal, and all
manner of nastinesses among the bathers!

A local doctor, named Oliver, took up these grievances in 1702, and the
Corporation then set about building a Pump Room. This was opened in 1704,
and the celebrated Beau Nash having been at about the same period
appointed Master of the Ceremonies, the Bath visitors' list showed a
decided improvement.

Let us see what the amusements at "the Bath" had been hitherto. The place
was devoid of elegant or attractive amusements, and the only promenade for
the fashionables who followed Queen Anne to this then outlandish town was
a grove of sycamores in which there was a bowling-green, and a band
consisting of two performers, playing a fiddle and a hautboy! The
courtiers who had deserted St. James's to follow her gouty Majesty to the
waters must have cursed their folly when they saw those sycamores and
heard that band!

Nash altered all this. He was no King Log, and accordingly soon procured a
band of music for the new Pump Room; an Assembly Room for the fashionables
to take "tay" or chocolate, to dance, play cards, or to gossip in; and
devised a code of manners, if not of morals, for the regulation of his
little world, which he ruled with a rod of iron. He regulated everything,
from the greatest festivities down to the smallest details of dress and
deportment, and not the late M. Worth himself was more autocratic as to
what should be worn. It is a familiar story how, the "Dutchess" of
Queensbury appearing at a dress ball in an apron (an article of dress
which, fashionable elsewhere, he had tabooed), he told her to remove it or
leave. The apron was one of point lace, and said to have been worth five
hundred guineas; but the Duchess removed it humbly enough, for had not
this mighty arbiter of fashions declared aprons "fit only for Abigails"
(by which name he meant maidservants to be understood), and who was she
that she should dispute such an authority? Then, when the Princess Amelia,
daughter of George the Third, begged him to allow another dance after
eleven o'clock, what did this potentate reply? Did he humbly grant the
request? Not at all; he refused, adding that the laws of Bath were, like
those of Lycurgus, unalterable.



XL


[Sidenote: _BEAU NASH_]

They say that Nash "made" Bath. That, however, is but partly true. Bath
was beginning to make its way when he appeared, and he simply exploited
the place. The Moment had come and brought the Man with it, and a tight
grip he retained over all fashionable functions for over fifty years. He
warred with the high-class rowdies who would have made the place a resort
of Mohocks, and elevated "Bath manners" into a school of conduct perfectly
well known and imitated, at a distance, in other parts of the Kingdom.
They were manners of the most elaborate kind, and if attempted nowadays,
it is difficult to conceive how the wheels of the world's business would
go round at all. When a meeting took place between a lady and a gentleman,
the gentleman inquiring, with a most elaborate bow, after her health, in
such terms as "I am vastly honoured to have the pleasure of seeing you; I
trust the salubrious airs of the Bath are keeping you in good health;" and
the lady replying, "I am much obleeged[7] by your thoughtful inquiries: I
protest I am mighty well," it took quite an appreciable time to descend
from those rarefied heights of courtesy and come down to the gossip and
scandals which were, we are told, among the principal pastimes of this
health-resort in the days of powder and patches.

[Sidenote: _SEVERE MEASURES_]

But Nash not only saw to it that his fashionable clients behaved
themselves. He had to contend with the camp-followers of fashion who
swarmed into Bath. Mendicants infested the streets and made the gorge of
those delicate eighteenth-century creatures rise with the sight of their
rags and diseases. Nash knew that if he did not administer his kingdom
severely, and if he allowed many of these stern realities of the world to
obtrude upon the sight of the fastidious, the new-found fortunes of Bath
would disappear, and his career with them. So, perhaps from an acute sense
of the necessity for self-preservation, rather than from any desire to
play the autocrat, he imposed his will so thoroughly that he became an
unquestioned ruler. He induced the Corporation, which had entrusted him
with these powers, to procure an Act in 1739 for the suppression of the
beggars. It begins by reciting that "several loose, idle, and disorderly
persons daily resort to the City of Bath, and remain wandering and begging
about the streets and other places of the said City, and the suburbs
thereof, under pretence of their being resident at The Bath for the
benefit of the Mineral and Medical Waters, to the great disturbances of
his Maj.'s subjects resorting to the said City. Be it enacted that the
Constables, petty Constables, Tything-men, and other Peace Officers of the
said City ... are hereby empowered and required to seize and apprehend all
such persons who shall be so found wandering, begging, or misbehaving
themselves, and them to carry before the Mayor, or some Justice, or
Justices, of the Peace for the said City; who shall upon the oath of one
sufficient witness, or upon his own view, commit the said person or
persons so wandering or begging, to the House of Correction for any time
not exceeding the space of 12 Kalendar months, and to be kept at hard
labour, and receive correction as loose, idle, and disorderlie persons."

So there was a reverse to the medal, and a very stringent government
prevailed behind the careless, butterfly existence of the age, when
literary squibs and lampoons and the gay personalities of Anstey's _New
Bath Guide_ formed the excitements of the Bath.

A curious relic of this artificial life is to be seen in the Victoria Park
in the "Batheaston Vase." This is the name given to a handsome antique
placed in a kind of classic temple. The vase was discovered at Tusculum,
Cicero's villa, near Frascati, and brought to England during the last
century by Sir John and Lady Miller, who then owned a beautiful villa at
Batheaston, one of the favourite resorts of the society of that day.
Decorated with garlands of bays, the vase was used at Lady Miller's
receptions as a depository for verses written by her guests. It was
presided over by one of the ladies of the party, posing as the Muse of
Poetry, who drew the poetic offerings from its recesses, and, reciting
them, crowned the authors of the best effort with bays. The opportunity
proved too tempting for some of the wilder spirits, who wrote verses of a
ribald and satirical character, better calculated to bring a blush to the
cheek of the Poetic Muse than to add to either the morals or the harmony
of those gatherings.

[Illustration: THE BATHEASTON VASE.]



XLI


[Sidenote: _RALPH ALLEN_]

Among this careless throng there were a few men of will and purpose. Ralph
Allen; the two Woods, father and son, architects; and, somewhat later than
them, John Palmer, were bold spirits who changed the aspect of Bath and
helped to revolutionize the communications of the country.

One of the greatest historical figures of Bath--perhaps even the greatest
figure of all--before whom Bladud, Prince of Britain, at one end of the
historic period, and Beau Nash at the other, sink into something like
insignificance, is that of Ralph Allen. And yet--so arbitrary is
fame--that for every ten who could recite you, off-hand, something of the
history and achievements of Allen, a hundred could recount the story of
Bladud or of Nash. This is not to say that Bath has forgotten her great
man. On the contrary, the citizens show you his "Town House" in Lilliput
Alley with no little pride, while his great mansion of Prior Park, to the
south of the city, and looking down upon it, remains to this day the most
princely edifice for miles around. But however mindful Bath may be of him,
and although his classic house on the hillside inevitably recalls him to
the memory of Bath people, the fact remains that Allen's is a name
comparatively unknown to Bath's visitors.

That he deserves a record in these pages must be conceded, for he it was
who first established a regular postal service between one provincial town
and another, and carried letters along the cross-roads, which, until his
time, had been utterly neglected by the Post-office.

It is a singular thing that to Bath should have belonged both Ralph Allen
and John Palmer; the men who respectively developed the postal service and
founded mail-coaches. It is true that Allen was not a native of Bath. His
father was an innkeeper at St. Blazey, in Cornwall, and in that far
western county he first learned the routine of a post-office, in the
early years of last century. He was eleven years of age when he was
placed with his grandmother, the post-mistress of St. Columb, and his
industry in keeping the accounts secured him the good word of the district
surveyor, who procured the lad an appointment as assistant to the
post-master at Bath. Fortune favoured him, and when the post-master died,
Allen was appointed in his stead. He had not long become post-master
before he matured a scheme for developing the "bye" and cross-road posts,
which should bring profit to himself and convenience the community. He
proposed to "farm" these posts and pay the Government an annual sum for
the privilege, leaving the direct posts between London and the provinces
in the hands of the Post-office. A "bye" post was one between provincial
towns; a cross-road post was one that lay off the half-dozen post routes
then existing.

It was in 1719 that Allen, then but twenty-six years of age, made his
proposal to the Government. The postage on those descriptions of letters
had hitherto amounted to £400 per annum. He was prepared to give £6000
yearly, and to work the posts for a period of seven years, in
consideration of receiving the whole of the revenue during that term. His
offer was accepted, and the contract took effect from June 21, 1720. How
Allen procured the funds for his enterprise is not known, but he must have
had substantial financial support, since his first quarter's expenditure
in establishing his system amounted to no less a sum than £1500, while the
salaries of the staff he got together totalled a further £3000 per annum.

Allen was a man of a modest and retiring habit, but with the greatest
confidence in himself. He needed all his confidence, and all the untiring
industry and vigilance that were his, for when three years of the seven
had expired he found himself a loser by a small amount, and when the
contract lapsed, his gain was quite inappreciable. Yet he renewed it for
another seven years, convinced that the better facilities he had provided
for the carriage of letters must needs lead to great developments. He was
right: the correspondence of the country grew, and in 1741 we find him
bidding £17,500 per annum for another term of seven years. He continued
thus until his death in 1764, in receipt, for many years, of an income of
not less than £12,000 a year on his post-office enterprise alone.

[Sidenote: _POSTAL SERVICES_]

Those were the times of the real post-boys. All letters were carried by
mounted messengers, since the stage-coaches then running (where they
existed at all!) were not fast enough, frequent enough, or sufficiently
safe for the purpose. A side-light is thrown upon the average "speed" of
these stage-coaches, not then considered speedy enough, by the onerous
condition in Allen's contract that the mails were to be carried by his
post-boys "at not less than five miles an hour."

Allen was in the forefront of Bath enterprise, and was associated with
John Wood, the elder of the two architects of that name, in rebuilding the
city. Before their time it had been a place of mean streets and winding
alleys, the out-at-elbows remains of Gothic times. As a result of their
labours, and the labours of their immediate successors, Bath renewed her
youth in a revived Classicism. Among the monuments of that time, Prior
Park is conspicuous. It was built by John Wood in 1743 for Allen, whose
great object in erecting this veritable palace was to demonstrate the
qualities of the building-stone on his Combe Down property. Here he
entertained some of the foremost literary men of his time: Pope, Fielding,
Warburton; and is enshrined by Fielding as "Squire Allworthy" in "Tom
Jones," and by Pope in the lines--

  "Let low-born Allen, with ingenuous shame,
  Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame."

The situation, and the front elevation of Prior Park, form together,
perhaps, the noblest grouping of classic architecture and romantic scenery
to be found in England. It was a time tinged with romanticism of an
artificial kind which generally showed itself in affected and
objectionable ways. But this artificiality was a matter of deportment
merely. Literature was practised then, and Architecture flourished in the
land.

[Illustration: PRIOR PARK.]

[Sidenote: _"SHAM CASTLE"_]

There is another work of Allen's crowning the hill at Bathwick, which
serves to show at once the romantic and the artificial signs of the times.
Allen looked out from the windows of his Town House upon the bare hilltop,
and thought how the view would have been improved had there been a ruined
castle showing against the sky-line. Accordingly he built such an one, and
there it is to-day; and if you don't know it to be a ruin built to order,
it is very impressive indeed--at a distance. If, however, you know it
to be a Sham Castle (which, by the way, is the name of it), romance
immediately flies, abashed. There it stands, on its wind-swept heights,
naked and unashamed; a frontage with nothing behind it; an empty mask,
with crossbow slits from which arrows never were discharged, and
battlements scarce more substantial than the pasteboard turrets that
furnish the stage in romantic drama. If hypocrisy be indeed the homage
that Vice pays to Virtue; then, by parallel reasoning, here is homage of
the most flattering kind paid to Gothicism by an age that above all things
prided itself on the way it fulfilled its classic ideals. It was a common
failing of the time; and possibly, if attention had been called to it, a
ready answer might have been found in the retort that "consistency is the
bugbear of little minds."

[Illustration: "SHAM CASTLE."]



XLII


But to return to the Beau, who seems to represent Bath more fully than any
other person connected with its history. In his old age Nash fell upon
evil times. Ruined by his own folly and extravagance, he had no
opportunities of retrieving the position, for he had lived to see the
friends of his more fortunate era pass away, and to witness the arrival of
a younger generation which regarded his laws with indifference, if not
with open contempt. His last years were eked out with the aid of a
pittance of £10 a month given him by the Corporation of the city for which
he had done so much, and a new Master of the Ceremonies presently reigned
in his stead.

In his declining days, Bath had altogether changed from the place it had
been when in the zenith of his power. It had, for one thing, grown out of
all knowledge, architecturally. The Grand Circus, parades, terraces,
squares, all manner of finely designed houses, had sprung up. Smollett, in
"Humphrey Clinker," makes Squire Bramble peevishly recount those changes,
and say, "The same artist who planned the Circus has likewise projected a
crescent: when that is finished, we shall probably have a star; and those
who are living thirty years hence may perhaps see all the signs of the
zodiac exhibited in architecture at Bath."

[Sidenote: _BATH SOCIETY_]

Then the select society of fifty years before had given place to a very
mixed concourse, if we are to believe the same authority: "Every upstart
of fortune, harnessed in the trappings of the mode, presents himself at
Bath, as in the very focus of observation. Clerks and factors from the
East Indies, loaded with the spoil of plundered provinces; planters,
negro-drivers, and hucksters, from our American plantations, enriched they
know not how; agents, commissaries, and contractors, who have fattened, in
two successive wars, on the blood of the nation; usurers, brokers, and
jobbers of every kind; men of low birth, and no breeding, have found
themselves suddenly translated into a state of affluence, unknown to
former ages; and no wonder that their brains should be intoxicated with
pride, vanity, and presumption. Knowing no other criterion of greatness
but the ostentation of wealth, they discharge their affluence, without
taste or conduct, through every channel of the most absurd extravagance;
and all of them hurry to Bath, because here, without any further
qualification, they can mingle with the princes and nobles of the land.
Even the wives and daughters of low tradesmen, who, like shovel-nosed
sharks, prey on the blubber of those uncouth whales of fortune, are
infected with the same rage of displaying their importance; and the
slightest indisposition serves them for a pretext to insist on being
conveyed to Bath, where they may hobble country-dances and cotillons among
lordlings, squires, counsellors, and clergy. These delicate creatures
from Bedfordbury, Butcher-row, Crutched-friars, and Botolph-lane, cannot
breathe in the gross air of the lower town, or conform to the vulgar rules
of a common lodging-house: the husband, therefore, must provide an entire
house or elegant apartments in the new buildings. Such is the composition
of what is called fashionable company at Bath."



XLIII


What, however, of the literary celebrities, visitors or residents, or of
the statesmen, the naval and military commanders, who were frequenting
Bath at the time when that jaundiced criticism was penned. Dr. Johnson was
then taking the waters, which are said by a later authority to taste of
"warm smoothin'-irons;" Gainsborough alternately painted and bathed; while
the Earl of Chatham and his still greater son; Nelson, Wolfe, Sheridan,
and Goldsmith, Wordsworth, Southey, Jane Austin, and Landor, helped to
sustain the repute of this, which Landor called the next most beautiful
place in the world to Florence, well on into the next century.

[Sidenote: _THE BATH OF LONG AGO_]

A diarist of over a century ago tells us how he went to Bath, and what he
saw and did there. This was the Reverend Thomas Campbell, a lively
Irishman (notwithstanding his Scottish name), who journeyed to England in
1775, and visited Johnson and other literary bigwigs in London, coming to
Bath on April 28, to take the waters. The coach set out from the New
Church in the Strand (by which, no doubt, Saint Mary-le-Strand is
indicated) at six o'clock in the morning, and came to Speenhamland
("Spinomland," says the clergyman in his diary), where they lay. The
country, he remarks, was very rich from London to this place, yet it was
so level that there was scarce a good prospect the whole way, unless
Clieveden, near Maidenhead Bridge could be so called.

[Illustration: OLD PULTENEY BRIDGE.]

When the coach resumed its journey the next day--the passengers,
doubtless, lightened in pocket by that "long bill" of the "Pelican" at
Speenhamland--the bleakness of Marlborough Downs communicated itself to
the air, and from Newbury to Cottenham,[8] a distance of nearly thirty
miles, the countryside was very bare of trees and herbage, in addition to
being the worst land this Irishman had seen in England, and certainly
swarming with beggars. For miles together the coach was pursued by them,
from two to nine at a time, almost all of them children. They were more
importunate than those of Ireland, or _even_ those in Wales. Poor Taffy!

When our traveller reached Bath he rejoiced greatly, and, the next day
being Sunday, went to the Abbey Church with other fashionables, and heard
a sorry discourse, wretchedly delivered. Afterwards, in the Pump Room,
where the yawning visitors were assembled, he met Lady Molyneux, who asked
him to dinner, where he spent the pleasantest day since he came to
England, for there were five or six lively Irish girls who sang and
danced, and did everything but agree among themselves. "Women," remarks
our diarist, "are certainly more envious than men, or at least they
discover it upon more trifling occasions, and they cannot bear with
patience that one of their party should obtain a preference of attention;
this was thoroughly exemplified this day. One of these, who was a pretty
little coquet, went home after dinner to dress for the Rooms, and her
colour was certainly altered on returning for tea; they all fell into a
titter, and one of them (who was herself painted, as I conceived) cried
out, 'Heavens, look at her cheeks!'" This, truly, was unkind, and more
certainly indiscreet. The young lady with the startling cheeks
subsequently sang a song, which somewhat surprised the clergyman, from its
breadth of idea, but the other ladies, and matrons too, "were kicking with
laughter." Presently they all went home, the ladies most affectionate
toward one another, and, says Mr. Campbell, "it is amazing what pleasure
women find in kissing each other, for they do smack amazingly."

[Sidenote: _A TORY PROPHECY_]

The worthy clergyman seems to have been introduced to the less dignified
circles of fashion. The general tone of the more exclusive sets was by no
means so lively, for it was about this time that the Indian nabobs, the
Civil servants, the retired officers of the Army and Navy and the East
India Company began to discover Bath and to settle there, filling the
place with Toryism and grumblings about "the services going to the dogs,
sir." Here is a Tory prophecy, not yet verified: "There is one comfort I
cannot have at Bath," said the Duke of Northumberland in 1779. "I like to
read the newspapers at breakfast, and at Bath the post does not come in
till one o'clock; that is a drawback to my pleasure." "So," said Lord
Mansfield, "your grace likes the _comfort_ of reading the newspapers--the
_comfort_ of reading the newspapers! Mark my words. A little sooner or
later those newspapers will most assuredly write the Dukes of
Northumberland out of their titles and possessions, and the country out of
its king. Mark my words, for this will happen."

As a prophecy, it may readily be conceded that this is an extremely bad
shot, and that Lord Mansfield by no means, either figuratively or
literally, inherited the mantle of Elijah. A hundred and twenty years have
passed since then, and there are still dukes who have not been reduced to
sweep crossings or keep chandlers' shops. True, if they have not come down
so far in the world, it is in some cases owing to American dollars; but
that is not the doing of the newspapers, one way or the other. As I have
just remarked, that was a Tory prophecy, and though my Toryism is, I
trust, of the most mediæval and crusted kind, and wholly beyond cavil, it
may frankly be admitted here that the Party never has shone in prophecy.
Nor, for that matter, has any party. The only seers are the
leader-writers, and they never see beyond their noses.

So Principalities and Powers and Titles are at least as powerful as ever
they were, and--cynical fact--certain newspaper proprietors have been
raised to the House of Peers; a thing, we may be sure, that Lord Mansfield
never contemplated.

Many other things, however, have happened in the meanwhile. Agitation does
not pay so well as it did. The newspapers which were to do such dreadful
things have greatly increased in number, if not in power, and the contents
of them have changed radically; other times, other manners, as a glance at
even the advertisements of that date will prove.



XLIV


[Sidenote: _OLD ADVERTISEMENTS_]

The advertisement columns of a paper just over a century old often afford
amusement to those who come upon them. The manners and customs of those
times and these are so different that the very quaintness of our
forefathers' attitude of mind brings a smile upon our faces, although
those eighteenth-century forbears of ours were really very serious people
indeed, and took life, for the most part, like a dose of medicine, while
we are apt to go to the other extreme and take it like champagne. No doubt
our great-great-grandfathers would think the most sedate of us not a
little wild could they witness how we live to-day, while, in our turn, we
look back upon their times, and think times and people alike brutal. We
wonder what sort of people they were who could, in this England of ours,
offer a "Black boy for sale--docile and obedient. Answers to the name of
Peter." Yet such advertisements were common on the front page of our
newspapers once upon a time. Slavery was then a matter of course, and to
have a black page for her very own was my lady's hall-mark of "quality."
Sometimes such advertisements were embellished with little figures
supposed to represent nigger-boys.

The race of African negroes has either improved in good looks since then,
or else the engravers of that day were not very careful in portraiture.
But, indeed, black pages were almost as common as pet dogs, and were
advertised in very much the same way, and these blocks were not portraits
at all, but just printers' stock illustrations. The printer of a hundred
years ago kept a curious little assortment of advertisement blocks. If a
ship was about to sail for the colonies, it was advertised for weeks
beforehand, and in a corner of the announcement was placed something that
purported to be an illustration of the vessel. It generally looked like a
Spanish galleon strayed from the Armada of two hundred years previously,
and passengers would have been quite justified in not booking berths on so
antiquated an affair.

But perhaps the most amusing advertisements are the "Run away from his
Home" and the "Stolen" varieties, also adorned with illustrations. It
speaks very little for the morality of that age when we say that the
ordinary newspaper printer also kept these blocks in stock.

And, indeed, they seem to have frequently been required. Here is one
example out of many in the newspapers of that age:--

    "STOLEN
    Out of the Stable of ROBERT COLGATE,
    The 24th instant August, 1780

    [Illustration]

    A black horse, rising five years old, thirteen Hands and a Half High,
    Star in his forehead, small Ears, Mane stands up rough, being lately
    rubbed off, long Tail, hangs his Tongue out often on the Road, good
    Carriage; also a good Saddle, marked Barnard, with Spring Stumps.

    "Whoever gives Information, so that the Said Horse may be had again,
    shall receive TWO GUINEAS REWARD."

It would scarcely be possible to identify the stolen horse from the
accompanying cut. He has no long tail, as described in the advertisement,
and his tongue _doesn't_ hang out. Moreover, he is burdened with a quite
imaginary thief, who has a property devil whipping him on. The "awful
example" hanging from the gibbet appears to be made of bolsters, and to
have had, not a drop too much, but scarcely enough.

The party with hands bigger than his head, who is here seen striking a
dramatic attitude, is not a Howling Swell, although he wears his hair
parted in the middle. Appearances here (as usually was the case in the old
advertisements) are deceptive, and so far from being a Swell, Howling or
otherwise, he is really a Heartless Villain, for he is one of two
labourers who have--

    "RUN AWAY.

    [Illustration]

    And left their families chargeable to the Parish of CLAVERTON,

    THOMAS GARNER, Labourer, about five feet seven or eight Inches high;
    wears his own Hair, of a light Brown Complexion; hath lately, or is
    now belonging to the Militia.

    "And EDWARD BROWNING, Labourer, about five Feet four or five Inches
    high, wears his own Hair, of a dark complexion; was one of Lord
    North's Soldiers in the last War.

    "Whoever will apprehend either, or both of them, and conduct them to
    the Parish Officers of Claverton aforesaid, shall receive HALF A
    GUINEA for each or either of them, and THREEPENCE per Mile for every
    Mile they shall travel with them."

History does not relate whether or no these gay deceivers were ever
captured. If those who sought them relied upon the illustration, it would
seem quite likely that they never were!



XLV


[Sidenote: _THE ABBEY_]

The Abbey is the very centre of Bath. Round it cluster the Municipal
Offices, the Baths, and the Pump Room, and along the broad pavements
invalids are drawn in Bath chairs--one of the five articles with which
the name of the City is indissolubly linked. When Bath chairs, Bath chaps,
Bath stone, and Bath buns are no longer so distinguished, then will come
the final crash. One need not insist so greatly upon Bath Olivers, because
they are not in every one's mouth, either literally or figuratively;
although, to be sure, they are much more exclusively a local product than
"Bath" buns; while "Bath" bricks are not made at Bath, but at Bridgewater.

The surroundings of Bath Abbey are strikingly Continental in appearance,
for that great church stands in a flagged _place_, instead of being set in
a green and shady close, as usually is the case in England. Its
surroundings have always been thronged, from the time when the Flying
Machines crawled, to when the last of the mail coaches drew up in front of
the "White Lion," in the Market Place hard by, or at the "White Hart,"
which stood until 1866, where the "Grand Pump Room" Hotel now rises. The
story of the Abbey is too long for these pages; but it is remarkable at
once for being one of the very latest Gothic buildings in the country; for
its possessing windows so large and so many that it has been called the
"Lantern of England;" for its central tower, which is not square, being
eleven feet narrower on its north and south sides than those to the east
and west; and for the prodigious number of small marble and stone memorial
tablets on its interior walls--tablets so many that they gave rise to the
famous epigram by Quin:--

  "These walls, so full of monument and bust,
  Shew how Bath waters serve to lay the dust."

Quite distinguished dust it is, too. Noblemen and dames of high degree;
Admirals of the Blue, the White, the Red; legal, and military, and
clerical dignitaries, and all manner of Civil servants, mostly of the
mid-eighteenth century, and chiefly hailing from India and the Colonies,
as described with much pomp and circumstance on their cenotaphs which so
thickly cover the walls, and spoil the architectural effect. "The Bath,"
was the solace of their kind, returning from the Tropics with nutmeg
livers, gout, and autocratic ways. At "the Bath" they resided on half-pay,
drank the waters, supported the local doctors, quarrelled with their
neighbours, and consistently damned all "new-fangled notions," until death
laid them by the heels.

[Illustration: BATH ABBEY: THE WEST FRONT.]

There must have been--if we are capable of believing their epitaphs--some
paragons of all the virtues in those times, and Bath seems to have claimed
them all. Here, for instance, is Alicia, Countess of Erroll, "in whom was
combined every virtue that could adorn human nature." She died young; the
world is too wicked for such.

[Sidenote: _"JACOB'S LADDER"_]

Bath Abbey is remarkable in one respect far above all the minsters and
cathedrals of England. As you stand facing the great West Front, which
looks so grim and grey upon the stony courtyard that stretches before it,
you see, flanking the immense west window, two heavy piers, terminating in
turrets. On these piers are carved the singular representations of
"Jacob's Ladder" that have given the Abbey a fame even beyond the merit
of its architecture. From near the ground-level, almost to the turrets,
this curious carving stretches, battered long years ago by the fury of an
age which prided itself on its enmity to "superstitious images," and
reduced by the further neglect of more than two hundred years to an almost
shapeless mass. The origin of this curious decoration is found in the
vision of Bishop Oliver King, who restored the then ruined Abbey in 1499.
In this vision, by which he was induced to undertake the great work, he
saw angels ascending and descending a ladder, and heard a voice say, "Let
an Olive establish a Crown, and let a King restore the Church." He
interpreted this as a Divine injunction to himself to repair the Abbey,
and accordingly commenced the work; dying, however, before it was
completed. The "ladders" have sculptured angels on them, while on the wall
above the arch of the great window is represented a great concourse of
adoring angels, with a figure of God in glory in their midst. Many of the
figures have their heads knocked off; but the whole of this sculpture is
shortly to be restored.



XLVI


Bath entered upon a dead period about 1820. For a long while the newer and
more easily reached glories of Brighton had taken the mere fashionables
away, and even the waters were less favoured. Continental wars had ceased,
and unpatriotic Britons flocked to foreign spas instead; Bath looking
idly on and letting its customers go.

[Illustration: THE ROMAN BATH, RESTORED.]

It was some ten years later that Dickens visited Bath. From what he saw
there he drew his portraits of place and persons in the "Pickwick Papers;"
and the impression after reading them is undoubtedly one of faded
gentility.

So it remained until after the visit of the British Association in 1864,
when the advice of the scientific men to the Corporation--to bring back
business by providing more up-to-date accommodation--was laid to heart,
and improvements begun. Since then the City has steadily climbed back
again to the favour of invalids and the medical profession, and new Baths
and all manner of modern appliances, a new railway station, and an air of
an enlightened modernity, bid fair to keep Bath successful against all
foreign competition for a long time to come.

[Sidenote: _MODERN BATH_]

Since this Renaissance of thirty-five years ago was begun, many things
have happened at Bath. Roman remains, more extensive than ever the bygone
generations suspected, have been discovered, and excavations have lain
bare baths long covered up by shabby and altogether undistinguished
buildings. Judicious restoration has preserved the great Roman Bath, long
a scene of wreck and shattered stones, and has brought it into use again.
This restored Bath affords perhaps the most picturesque view in the City,
for from its margin one may gaze upwards and see to great advantage the
beautiful tower of the Abbey soaring aloft; its late Gothic architecture
contrasting piquantly with the classic elegance of that restored
bathing-place, while the reflections of the columns deep down in the quiet
pool give a singularly complete sense of restfulness.

All this modern prosperity is, no doubt, very gratifying, but prosperity
means much building, and Bath has now its suburbs; uncharted stretches of
new villas, isolated, or in streets, that climb the hillsides of Combe
Down, Beechen Cliff, and Lansdowne, and help to destroy Macaulay's
well-known, if something too overdrawn, architectural picture of Bath, as
"that beautiful City which charms even eyes familiar with the masterpieces
of Bramante and Palladio, and which" (horrible literary solecism!) "the
genius of Anstey and of Smollett, of Frances Burney and of Jane Austen,
has made classic ground."

Bath, indeed, was a jewel set in midst of her picturesque amphitheatre of
rocky and wooded hills; but now that those hills and those woods are being
covered with houses whose architecture is less calculated to "charm the
eyes familiar with the masterpieces of Bramante and Palladio" than were
the buildings of a century and a half ago, the setting of the jewel is by
way of becoming tarnished. Now, also, it has been reserved to these times
of cheap railway carriage of goods for brick houses to be seen at Bath;
the one place in the world where brick never had an opportunity until
these latter days of the "combine" of the allied "Bath Stone Firms," which
has raised the price of Bath stone, so that in certain cases it has been
found cheaper to bring bricks from the Midlands to build houses in Bath
than to use the stone quarried on the spot. So, in the wilderness of new
suburbs, the traveller who is whisked away by rail to Bristol may see, to
his astonishment, amid the stone houses, rows of the most undeniable
red-brick villas. And thus has come the spirit of what the late Professor
Freeman was pleased to call "modernity" over Bath, once the peculiar
preserve of stone and Classicism.


The End



INDEX


  Ailesbury, Marquis of, 183-185

  Allen, Ralph, 242-250

  "Allen's stall," 34-38

  Anne, Queen, 6, 237, 238

  Apsley House, 34-38

  Arlington, Earl of, 90

  Avebury, 198-203


  Banks, Sir Joseph, 93

  Bath, 2-15, 228-270

  Batheaston, 227, 242

  ---- Vase, 241

  Bathford, 227

  Bathampton, 228

  Bath stone, 223-227, 268

  Bathwick, 246

  Beckhampton, 203-205

  Berkeley, Earls of, 82-84, 87, 89

  "Berkshire Lady," the, 141-145, 158

  Bladud, Prince, 231, 243

  Box, 203, 223-227

  ---- Hill, 224, 227

  ---- Tunnel, 223

  Brentford, 70


  Calcot, 141-145

  Calne, 203, 206, 209

  Cherhill, 205-207

  Chippenham, 17, 203, 210-215, 253

  Chiswick High Road, 58, 65

  Church Speen, 153, 165, 166

  Coaches:--
    "Beaufort Hunt," 26, 204
    "Flying Machines," 5, 69, 260
    "Light Post" coach, 30
    Mail coaches, 10, 11, 17-19, 27
    "Regulator," 16
    "York House," 26

  Coaching era, 4-33, 204

  ---- fares, 5, 28

  ---- miseries, 9, 15-19

  Coaching notabilities:--
    Chaplin, Edward, 21, 90
    ---- and Horne, 90
    Cooper, Thomas, 21
    Everett, Jack, 204

  Colnbrook, 97-103

  Colne, River, 96-98, 103

  Corsham Regis, 218, 221-223, 224

  Cranford, 82, 85, 86-89

  ---- Bridge, 29, 84, 97

  Cross Keys, 218

  Cycling records, 215-218


  Darell, William, 173-182


  Froxfield, 182

  Fyfield, 192


  Great Western Railway, 27, 74, 108-110, 124, 134, 149, 221, 227

  Gunnersbury, 63, 68


  Hammersmith, 58, 63

  Hare Hatch, 134

  Harlington, 89-91

  ---- Corner, 89

  Harmondsworth, 94-96

  Henry VIII., 13-138

  Highwaymen, 40-45, 56, 67-69, 71, 74-84, 87, 91-94, 111-116, 118, 129

  Hock-tide, 167-173

  Hounslow, 19, 71-74, 92

  ---- Heath, 69, 71, 74-84, 86, 92, 111

  Hungerford, 146, 166-173

  Hyde Park Corner, 33-40, 74, 94, 166


  Inns (mentioned at length):--
    "Bear," Maidenhead, 25, 129
    "Bell and Bottle," Knowl Hill, 133
    "Black Bull," Holborn, 31
    "Castle," Marlborough, 17, 21, 187, 192
    ----, Salt Hill, 92, 107
    "Greyhound," Maidenhead, 127
    "Halfway House," Kensington, 40, 43, 45
    "Hercules' Pillars," Hyde Park Corner, 34
    "King's Head," Longford, 97
    "Magpies," 90
    "Old Bell," Holborn, 31-33
    "Old Magpies," 91
    "Old Pack Horse," Turnham Green, 66-68
    "Old Windmill," Turnham Green, 65
    "Ostrich," Colnbrook, 99-103
    "Pack Horse and Talbot," Turnham Green, 59, 66
    "Peggy Bedford," Longford, 97
    "Pelican," Speenhamland, 15, 150, 253
    "Red Cow," Brook Green, 56-58
    "Robin Hood," Turnham Green, 63-65
    "Waggon and Horses," Beckhampton, 203-205
    "White Bear," Piccadilly, 26
    "White Bear," Fickles Hole, 26
    "White Hart," Bath, 260
    "White Horse," Fetter Lane, 16, 30
    "White Lion," Bath, 22, 26, 260
    "York House," Bath, 26


  Jack of Newbury, 150-154, 157-161


  Kennet, River, 146, 152, 166, 186, 193

  Kensington, 34, 40, 44, 46-55

  Kew Bridge, 68

  Kiln Green, 133

  Knightsbridge, 34, 40, 44

  Knowl Hill, 133


  Langley Broom, 104

  ---- Marish, 104

  Littlecote, 173-182

  Longford, 94, 96


  Maidenhead, 33, 122, 124-130

  ---- Thicket, 111, 129-133

  Mail coaches established, 10

  Manton, 194

  Marlborough, 22, 26, 182, 186-193, 204

  ---- College, 188, 192

  ---- Downs, 17, 197-201, 205, 253

  Maud Heath's Causeway, 213-215


  Nash, Beau, 238-240, 243, 250

  Newbury, 18, 138, 146, 150-166, 253

  ----, battles of, 161-165


  Old-time travellers:--
    Campbell, Rev. Thomas, 252-255
    Moritz, Pastor, 116-123


  Palmer, George, 135

  ----, John, 10, 242, 243

  Pickwick, 218-221

  Postage of letters, 10-15, 167

  Prior Park, 243, 246


  Quemerford, 206


  Reading, 18, 29, 130, 134-138


  Salt Hill, 92, 106-111, 122

  Savernake Forest, 182-185, 194

  Sham Castle, 249

  Silbury Hill, 198-203

  Sipson Green, 91

  Speen, 153, 165, 166

  Speenhamland, 150, 253

  Stackhouse, Rev. Thomas, 153


  Taplow, 108, 124

  Tetsworth water, 105

  Thatcham, 21, 146, 149, 153

  Theale, 145, 162

  Turnham Green, 58-68

  Turnpike gates, 11, 34, 45, 73, 166

  Twyford, 130, 134


  Wainewright, Thomas Griffiths, 59

  Walcot, 228

  West Kennet, 197

  ---- Overton, 197

  "Wild Darell," 173-182

  Woolhampton, 146-149

  Wyatt's Rebellion, 38


  "Young's Corner," 58


PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BECCLES.



FOOTNOTES:

[1] Stranger still, the chief informer was named Porter.

[2] Tawell had poisoned his sweetheart, who, before dying, had time to
denounce him to her friends. They pursued him to the station, but when
they arrived there the train had gone. The telegram sent was in these
words:--

"A murder has just been committed at Salt Hill, and the suspected murderer
was seen to take a first-class ticket for London by the train which left
Slough at 7.42 p.m. He is in the garb of a Quaker, with a brown great-coat
on, which reaches nearly to his feet. He is in the last compartment of the
second-class carriage."

At Paddington he took a City omnibus, but the conductor was a policeman in
disguise, and dogged his footsteps from one coffee-house to another, which
he is supposed to have entered for the purpose of setting up an _alibi_.
At length, as he was stepping into a lodging-house in the City, the police
tapped him on the shoulder, with the question, "Haven't you just come from
Slough?" Tawell confusedly denied the fact, but he was arrested, with the
result already recounted.

[3] Lord Iveagh's name is Guinness. Unfortunately for the thoroughness of
the jest, there are but thirteen chapters in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

[4] It was about 1630 that the town of Marlborough obtained a new grant of
arms in place of its old shield of a "Castle _argent_, on a field
_sable_." The new shield, still in use, is heraldically described as--"Per
Saltire, gules and azure. In chief, a Bull passant, argent, armed or. In
fess, two Capons, argent. In base, three greyhounds courant in pale,
argent. On a chief, or, a pale charged with a Tower triple-towered, or,
between two Roses, gules. Crest--On a wreath, a Mount, vert, culminated by
a Tower triple-towered, argent. Supporters: two Greyhounds, argent." These
arms are intended to perpetuate the memory of the ancient custom in
Marlborough of the aldermen and burgesses presenting the mayor for the
time being with a leash of white greyhounds, a white bull, and two white
capons.

[5] "There are many pleasanter places, even in this dreary world, than
Marlborough Downs when it blows hard; and if you throw in beside a gloomy
winter's evening, a miry and sloppy road, and a pelting fall of heavy
rain, and try the effect, by way of experiment, in your own proper person,
you will experience the full force of this observation."

The traveller's horse stopped before "a road-side inn on the right-hand
side of the way, about half a quarter of a mile from the end of the
Downs.... It was a strange old place, built of a kind of shingle, inlaid,
as it were, with cross-beams, with gabled-topped windows projecting
completely over the pathway, and a low door with a dark porch and a couple
of steep steps leading down into the house, instead of the modern fashion
of half a dozen shallow ones leading up to it."

[6] That the Romans knew the city we call Bath as _Aquæ Solis_--the
"Waters of the Sun"--we learn from the ancient history of Britain. A
highly interesting light upon this is furnished by the sculptured stone
discovered some years since, and now in the local museum, which shows a
decorative representation of the head of the Sun God from whose face
radiate sun-rays, alternately with serpents.

[7] Once the recognized pronunciation of the word. The great Duke of
Wellington was probably the last who spoke it thus.

[8] He meant Chippenham.





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