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Title: From the North Foreland to Penzance
Author: Holland, Clive
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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[Illustration: PORTSMOUTH. H.M.S. ST. VINCENT]





_All rights reserved_

  _To the Most Noble
  K.P., P.C., Commodore of the Royal Yacht
  Squadron, with his Permission, this Book of
  the South Coast is inscribed_


In the following pages, dealing with the most important or most
picturesque of the harbours and seaports of the South Coast from the
North Foreland to Penzance, no attempt has been made either to give
“guide book information” which can be easily obtained elsewhere; or to
afford technical sailing directions, soundings, or nautical information
of the type to be found in such books as Cowper’s admirable “Sailing
Tours,” “The Pilot’s Guide,” or in the Admiralty Charts. Rather has
it been the object of the author to deal with the picturesque side of
the various places described, and to give something of their story and
romance, both past and present.

That the coastline covered by the present volume has much of interest
few will deny. It is, indeed, the one which has played the most
strenuous and historic part in the history of our Island Kingdom.

In times of war it has experienced all the terror and excitement which
comes in the train of outgoing battle fleets and incoming victorious
galleons, men-of-war, and privateers. In times of peace it has known
not a little of the romance of wrecking, smuggling, and the pure joy of
life which is borne inland by soft, salt breezes and cleansing winds.
Of its beauty those can tell who like ourselves have coasted along
its varying shores of high chalk cliffs, shingle, sand, and fretted
granite. Indeed, where salt water meets land there must ever be
something worth seeing, recording, and depicting.

A special element of interest attaches to the work of the artist whose
sympathetic pictures adorn the book, in that for many years he has
been associated with the sea and the Southern Coast, and has voyaged
many thousands of miles upon the great waters. His work will speak for
itself, but it seems singularly appropriate that a practical yachtsman
should illustrate a work of this character.

Of necessity the writing of a volume like the present one, covering in
a comparatively brief space a large field, has entailed much research
as well as knowledge gained by visits, in some cases on many different
occasions, to the places dealt with and described. And it is equally
impossible to avoid mentioning and saying a great many things which
have been said before, and in a sense using material already contained
in existing books dating from Domesday, Leland, Hakluyt, and Hals to
the most recent of modern times, and also county histories.

The author’s thanks are more especially due to Messrs. A. & C. Black
for kind permission to make use of material, the inclusion of which
was unavoidable, relating to the history of Dorset ports and havens
in particular, previously appearing in somewhat different form in his
book “Wessex,” of which they hold the copyright; to W. K. Gill, Esq.,
for permission to make use of material, collected by him from various
ancient sources, contained in his interesting booklet “Sketches of the
Past of Poole”; to the proprietors of the Homeland Association Ltd.,
for a like permission to make use of the substance of matter contained
in several of their excellent “literary” guides, more especially
relating to Sussex, Devon, and Cornish ports; to Commander the Hon.
Henry N. Shore, R.N., the author of that interesting and exhaustive
volume “Smuggling Days and Smuggling Ways” for valuable help and
information; and to a number of friends and others for information
willingly afforded on the occasion of our visiting the various places

Amongst other books which have been consulted for details regarding
ancient historical events of a local character and customs may be
mentioned those of the Rev. John Prince, of Berry Pomeroy, Devon;
Jonathan Couch’s “History of Polperro”; Mr Arthur H. Norway’s “History
of the Post Office Packet Service between 1793 and 1815”; Mudie’s
“History of Hampshire”; “The Illustrated History of Portsmouth”; “The
History of the Civil War in Hampshire”; J. D. Parry’s “Coasts of
Sussex” (1833); Mr Montagu Burrows’s “Cinque Ports”; “The Complete
History of Cornwall”; and many smaller pamphlets published from 1700
to 1845. Use has also been made of the old files of “The Hampshire
Independent,” “The Dorset County Chronicle” and other local newspapers,
and the Records of various towns.



     I. The North Foreland, Ramsgate, Deal, Dover, Hythe,
          and some other Cinque Ports                         _Page_ 1

    II. Newhaven, Shoreham, Littlehampton                           40

   III. Portsmouth, Ryde, Cowes, Yarmouth                           72

    IV. Southampton, Beaulieu River, Lymington                     112

     V. Poole, Swanage, Weymouth, Portland                         142

    VI. Bridport, Lyme Regis, Axmouth, Sidmouth                    173

   VII. The Coast to Teignmouth, Torquay, Brixham                  190

  VIII. Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Plymouth and the Sound             225

    IX. St Looe, Polperro, Fowey, Mevagissey, and some Coves       267

     X. Falmouth, Gerrans, St Mawes, Penzance                      301


  Portsmouth: H.M.S. St Vincent                         _Frontispiece_
  South Foreland                                        _Facing p._ 10
  The Outward Mail, Dover                                           18
  Beachy Head                                                       50
  Low Tide at Littlehampton                                         64
  Portsmouth: Entrance to Harbour                                   86
  Fareham                                                           92
  Cowes: Summer                                                     98
  Yarmouth, I.O.W.                                                 108
  Southampton                                                      120
  The Needles                                                      130
  Poole Harbour                                                    150
  The Nothe, Weymouth                                              162
  Bridport                                                         174
  Lyme Regis                                                       178
  Fishing for Mackerel off Exmouth                                 194
  Torquay Harbour: Entrance                                        212
  Brixham                                                          222
  Dartmouth                                                        230
  Kingsbridge                                                      246
  Cremill Point, Plymouth                                          254
  Plymouth Breakwater                                              262
  Looe                                                             276
  Fowey                                                            286
  St Anthony’s Lighthouse, Falmouth                                304
  Falmouth: Flushing Side                                          316
  Helford Creek                                                    322
  Heavy Weather off Land’s End                                     326
  A Breeze off the Lizard                                          328
  Penzance                                                         332

From the Foreland to Penzance

Chapter I

The North Foreland--Ramsgate--Deal--Dover--Hythe, and some other Cinque

The great headland, famous as the North Foreland, dazzling white on a
bright summer’s day, and grey when the weather is cloudy; capped with
green turf which is by turns, according to the season, the greenest
and the least green in England, is familiar to all who have gone down
Channel from the Thames estuary, and to many who have only crossed it.
On the summit of this historic and impressive cliff, at whose foot, by
turns, lap the waves of a quiet sea and rage the surges of winter’s
gale, stands the lighthouse which has an interest to all seafarers
beyond its saving power and guidance, in that it is in fact the oldest
along the coast. Though much altered and enlarged, its present tower
is substantially the same as the one commenced in the reign of the
Merry Monarch in 1663. So that for nearly two and a half centuries
the light has shone forth over the waste of waters as one old writer
says “for the guidance of mariners, as a token of human kindness, and
incidentally to the glory of God.”

Many historic events have taken place off the North Foreland, but none
perhaps of greater moment than the fierce naval battle between the
English and Dutch fleets on June 2, 1653, each numbering close upon 100
vessels, though the latter had some numerical superiority. Then in
sight of “all who thronged the headland the great fight went on between
the big shipps until the Dutchmen were beaten.”

The English had already gained a victory over the Dutch off Portsmouth
a few months before, and now the fleet under the command of Blake,
Monk, and Deane, whose name as a naval commander, is, we imagine,
almost unknown to the majority of his countrymen of the present day,
inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Dutch, six of whose best ships
were taken, eleven sunk, and the remainder driven to take shelter in
Calais Roads. This engagement was one of a series which took place in
the home waters during the years 1652-1675.

On one’s way round to Ramsgate one passes Broadstairs--now a favourite
summer resort--which in the middle of the sixteenth century was a place
of some importance, having ninety-eight houses, eight boats and other
vessels from two to eighteen tons, with forty men employed in the
seafaring industries; and its famous church of Our Lady, on passing
which in ancient times we are told vessels “lowered their topsails and
wafted their ‘ancients’ in salute.”

Ramsgate Harbour, however, is not an ideal place in which to make any
prolonged stay. It is not commodious; nor is it distinguished by what
is termed “every modern convenience.” The outer basin is little more
than mud at low water, and the inner--well, most people avoid docks if
there is a chance of having fresh and sufficient water under a yacht’s
keel. But Ramsgate itself is an interesting and historic town, and is
situated on the Isle of Thanet, which literally teems with romantic
memories of the past. Those of the sea rovers of the Cinque Ports, the
sturdy seamen of the Elizabethan age, the bold and daring smugglers of
the Georgian and early Victorian eras.

Ramsgate is undoubtedly of very ancient origin. Even in pre-Roman times
it was probably a place of some importance and consequence. Indeed,
the numerous remains which have from time to time been found in the
neighbourhood, more especially on the East Cliff, go far to prove the
contention that in the days of the Roman occupation it served as a
kind of outer port or station to Rutupiae. Its position was such as to
enable it to defy the silting up, as well as those other changes which
were destined as the ages went by to stultify and destroy some of its
immediate neighbours and sometime rivals. Though the haven afforded
was too small and not well protected enough to attract to it any great
measure of the trade that flowed up Channel to London from even early
times, Ramsgate has for many centuries been a fishing port, and a place
of some considerable moment to the Isle of Thanet itself. Even in the
early years of the fourteenth century it was a town of some size, and
it had one great possession in the fine old church of St Lawrence which
dates from the reign of King John.

There are indeed so many romantic and historical memories connected
with Ramsgate that the story of them is difficult to condense within
reasonable limits. Just across the bay, in the meadows of a farm, more
than thirteen centuries ago, landed St Augustine, a peaceful conqueror.
Near this spot, six and a half centuries before, the world-conqueror
Julius Cæsar had grounded his galleys, and his soldiers--fired by the
example of a standard bearer--had leaped into the water, forcing a
landing in the face of the menacing and oncoming Britons.

There in the year 597 amid the water meadows stood the Saint, with the
River Stour flowing between him and the Saxon King who had come down to
see what manner of man Augustine might be, but had “entreated the Saint
to approach no closer lest he should be a magician and work the King
ill” until he had satisfied himself that he (Augustine) was no wizard.
The running water between in those times was held to be a sure bar to
the exercise of magical arts. When the King had satisfied himself that
the Saint and his followers were not to be feared he crossed over the
river, and sat and listened to what they had to say. Every one knows
the story. How St Augustine “came to stay.” How in the end the King
who had received him with friendliness and hospitality was driven out
of his own. And then, to come further down the ages, the ease-loving
descendants of St Augustine and his monks were themselves told to
depart by another King, less mild mannered and hospitably inclined
than the Saxon Monarch of a thousand years before. “Bluff King Hal”
would have none of them, though, perhaps, it was neither their morals
(or want of them) nor their pride that chiefly induced him to make the
clean sweep of them that he did.

Westward from the harbour and in the valley lies Minster, concerning
the founding of which there is a monkish legend of some interest.
After King Egbert had murdered his cousins and “buried them under
his throne” he, doubtless fearing they might prove troublesome, was
seized with remorse. As so often happened in those remote days his
remorse, and desire that his lady cousin, whose brothers he had thus
foully murdered, should forgive him, was turned to good account by
Mother Church, who from history appears to have made a pretty constant
practice of profiting by rich sinners and bleeding those who others
bled. The lady in question agreed to consider the matter settled if
the King would but give her (this was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s
solution) as much land as a hind could run over, so that she might
found a monastery to her murdered brothers’ memory. Egbert, who,
tradition asserts, had been much disturbed meanwhile by ghostly
visitants, agreed; and the religious house was duly founded.

The daughter of the foundress, named Mildred, ruled over the community,
and afterwards was canonized. But the monastery was not destined to
remain long undisturbed. A band of Danish pirates landed, attacked,
and burned the institution to the ground, and carried off to a more
secular life the prettiest of the virgin nuns they found incarcerated.
Possibly some of them found their new circumstances less dull than
their old life of seclusion. A little later Canute gave the land
on which the monastery had stood to the Priory of St Augustine at
Canterbury. Then arose a difficulty. St Mildred being long dead had
been left by the Danish marauders where she lay buried. They had,
indeed, no use for the bones of saints or dead womenfolk. And now
the Abbot of Canterbury wished to remove the body to his church. The
people of Thanet naturally opposed the idea. St Mildred was their most
valued and cherished possession. Pilgrims came to visit her grave, and
when pilgrims came there were material advantages accruing. The Saint
herself appears to have refused this “translation” to Canterbury. But
in the end she was not proof against the gentle and logical wooing of
the Abbot of St Augustine’s, and she went away with him or he carried
her off, whichever way one may read a story that is not quite clear in
this regard. The men of Thanet followed to Canterbury with a view to
recovering their property; but were unsuccessful, and St Mildred “did
many wonderfull workes and miracles at that place.”

Richborough Castle hard by is a fine ruin, and has great interest for
those to whom the dim and obscure ages of national history appeal.
The remains of this old fortress of the time when Romans held sway
in Britain are amongst the most interesting in the South of England.
It has been frequently referred to by writers of that period, under
its Roman designation of Rutupiae, and was the castle of an important
town or settlement until the recession of the sea did away with its
usefulness as a place of habitation for seafaring people.

One can well imagine the effect of its massive towering and
threatening walls upon the Saxon pirates of the days when Rutupiae was
in its prime, and formed, with the castle of Regulbium or Reculver,
the defences and wards to the entrance of the then wide and navigable
Wantsum. But like so many of the outposts of civilization of those
latter days of Imperial Rome’s world-wide sway, it was destined to be
abandoned. And when the last legion marched in A.D. 436 to the coast
to depart over seas never to return, it was not long ere the invading
Anglo-Saxon pirates took and sacked the great stronghold of Rutupiae,
and practically destroyed its very fabric.

Ramsgate of late years has in a measure come to the front as a holiday
resort, but to most seafarers along the coast it will always be the
past of the town rather than the present that will possess abiding
interest. Until comparatively recent years it continued to bear its
share of the burdens attaching to the Cinque Ports; and even nowadays
is in a measure under the control of Sandwich, its ancient head, and as
a “vill” of the latter submits to the jurisdiction of its recorder. It
is one of the ancient non-corporate members of the Cinque Ports.

In coming down Channel to Dover one passes several historic towns
connected with the ancient Confederacy, consisting originally of
Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, Romney, and Hastings, to which were afterwards
added Rye and Winchelsea (making seven, notwithstanding which the
old French and original name has always been retained), but none of
these can nowadays be looked upon in the light of harbours. We may,
perhaps, as well here as anywhere else whilst passing the old-time port
of Sandwich, with its “limbs” Deal, Walmer, Kingsdown and Ringwold,
spare a little space for a brief sketch of the Cinque Ports as a
whole. The Confederacy, which came to be known under that designation,
cannot fail to be of interest to all Britons as being the undoubted
germ of the Royal Navy, in those far-off times when the Channel was
a frequent battle-ground, and these ancient ports loomed large in
history. Originally brought into existence by Saxon monarchs, they were
afterwards constituted by William I and succeeding kings, who required
them to supply ships for the defence of the coasts. The Charter dated
1278 of Edward I is the real basis upon which their liberties are
founded. This charter, the earliest which has now actual existence,
settled many outstanding grievances, and conferred several important
new privileges in addition to confirming the old ones. The essential
part runs “And it is by this deed made clear that they shall possess
their liberties and acquittances henceforth in the fullest and most
honourable manner that they and their forerunners have ever had in
the times of the Kings Edward the Confessor, William I, William II,
King Henry our great-grandfather, and the Lord King Henry our father,
by reason of the Charters of these aforenamed kings, as those said
Charters, in possession of the Barons.” Then follows a statement that
these same ancient grants and Charters had been seen by the King.

There is, unfortunately, no space at our command to mention in detail
the many interesting customs in connexion with the Cinque Ports. One
of those most prized in the Middle Ages was the carrying of a pall or
canopy of silk over the head of the King at the coronations, extended
tent-wise by four long lances attached to the four corners held by four
barons of the Ports. They were, we are told by Roger de Hoveden, on the
occasion of the coronation of Richard I, “followed into Westminster
Abbey by a whole crowd of earls, barons, knights and others, cleric and

As will have been gathered from the Charter to Edward I, the
Confederacy is of very ancient origin, and in fact had an existence
prior even to the reign of Edward the Confessor. At any rate, it is
clear from existing records, traditionary beliefs, and historical
data, that William of Normandy was well alive to the usefulness
and importance of the Cinque Ports as a means of keeping open the
communicating link of Channel seaway with his Duchy; as well as for the
general defence of the Kingdom of England, over which he had come to
reign, against the periodical incursions of Danish and other pirates.
Henry III by an ordinance dated about 1229 stated in clear terms what
he required of the Confederacy. It was ordered that the latter should
supply--what for those times must be considered the large number of--57
ships; each having for crew 21 men and a boy. And these were to serve
the King for not less than 15 days in every year at their own costs
and charges, and so long after the said period of fifteen days as
contingencies might require. But in the event of an extended term of
service payment was to be made. One gathers what is probably not a very
inaccurate idea of the relative size and importance of the different
towns at that period from the number of ships each supplied. We find
Dover sent 21, Winchelsea 10, Hastings 6, and Hythe, Sandwich, Rye, and
Romney 5 each.

But to supply ships for the defence of the realm against the King’s
enemies was not a burden without compensations. Many special privileges
were granted to the towns from time to time, amongst them were those of
self-government, the privilege for the freemen to carry the title of
“barons,” and the freedom to trade without paying any toll with every
corporated town in the kingdom. The inhabitants, too, were exempt from
military duties or service. The honour of bearing a canopy over the
King and Queen (mentioned by Shakespeare, and re-asserted so recently
as at the time of King Edward VII’s coronation) we have already
referred to.

Although much of the history of these seven ancient towns, which
ultimately formed the Cinque Ports, is unhappily lost to us, the
existing records or customals give the student a very good idea of
the life of the various periods to which they have reference. One, not
the least interesting, was that of giving notice of the need to elect
a mayor by a trumpeter at midnight. And woe betide him who refused to
take the necessary oath of allegiance to the Ports and the Sovereign.
Any who did was promptly ejected from his house, which was forthwith
sealed up. At Dover the punishment was even more severe, as the house
was generally pulled down.

Another custom, which obtained at both Romney and Hythe, was the
presentation by the corporations of those towns of “porpuses”
(porpoises) to the lord’s table at Saltwood. We have never, so far as
we know, tasted porpoise. It may be good; but, as the American said of
another dish, “it sounds strong.”

Amongst the purely medieval institutions in connexion with the Cinque
Ports, the Romney Play in those far off times had a great reputation,
“drawing crowdes of folk from the other townes, and from afar off in
Kent and Sussex,” to witness its representation. There are frequent
references to it in the Lydd records; and in the Port papers one finds
the accounts and costs relating to these old-time pageants, even
the prices paid for “wigges,” false beards, erection of the stage,
“floats,” the scenery, costumes, and the labour of the scribe, who
appears to have in a measure united the office of author with that of
stage manager. The Play was a municipal undertaking, like those of
other famous towns. The subjects of the Plays varied somewhat, but
the majority appear to have been at least founded upon a religious or
sacred basis, or to have been a monkish interpretation of some legend,
and were in fact Old Mysteries.

It is difficult to look upon the Romney of to-day and believe that
Leland, who visited it in the reign of Henry VIII, was correct
in stating that it had been a good haven “yn so much that withyn
remembrance of men shyppes have cum hard up to the towne, and cast
ancres yn one of the churchyardes.” He goes on to say, too, that at
the period of his visit the sea was “two myles from the towne, so sore
thereby decayed that wher ther wher 11 great paroches and chirches
sumtyme, is now scarece one....”

Most of the Cinque Ports were destined ultimately to decay from the
same reason--recession of the sea, caused by what is known as the
“Eastward Drift.” And the last great part that they played in the naval
history of England was their gallant conduct when the Spanish Armada
threatened our shores. Then we find that the ancient spirit, which had
animated them in Norman times, flamed up once more--the final flicker
of expiring consequence--as of old “to its full height of medieval
patriotism”; and, we are told by the same authority, “though their own
vessels were poor little craft, the Ports contrived to raise among
themselves the sum of £43,000, and to ‘set out’ with that money a handy
little squadron of thirteen sail, which did its duty under the orders
of Lord Henry Seymour.” Thirteen sail would to some seem ominous; but
evidently the Cinque Ports folk were not superstitious. Tradition
asserts that these men, who amongst other things, and in addition to
sending the thirteen ships to Drake’s Armada Fleet, watched the coast
in their poor little craft and “crayers,” also prepared the material
for the fire-ships which were destined to bring about, though not
actually to accomplish, the final disintegration of the Spanish Fleet.
That they contributed their fair share of powder and shot, and energy
in manning and manœuvring the ships they had supplied there is ample
evidence. They in due course received the special thanks of Queen
Elizabeth for their services, and also for the part they played in the
lodgement, victualling, and transporting over seas of the troops for
her French and Portuguese expeditions, which had so much to do with the
final checking of Spain’s power for harm against England.

[Illustration: SOUTH FORELAND]

Various legislative measures of modern times have taken away from the
Cinque Ports many of their ancient privileges, but they still retain
the one of being quite independent of county jurisdiction in many
important particulars. The office of Lord Warden is an honorary one
and has been at various times held by many of the most distinguished
statesmen of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Amongst those who
have held the post may be mentioned William Pitt, Lord Palmerston, the
Duke of Wellington, Earl Granville, the Marquis of Salisbury, and Lord

On our way to Dover, however, to return to our course, we must pass
Sandwich, “the settlement on the sand,” which during the fifteenth
century had been gradually declining until towards the end of Henry
VIII’s reign it was but a ghost of its former self. Considering Henry’s
quarrel with the Holy Father at Rome it was somewhat an irony that
the final blow to Sandwich’s prosperity as a port was dealt it by the
sinking in the fairway of a large ship owned by the Pope. Over this the
sand and mud collected rapidly, practically blocking the channel, and
causing the downfall of what was at one time one of the chief ports in
the south.

Off Deal one truly sails over the graves of men. Many and many a
gallant ship (some of historic note) has brought up in the Downs, and
alas! failed to find substantial holding ground when the critical
moment arrived. This was the case on November 26, 1703, when the
English fleet took shelter there, and during one night of a great gale
lasting fourteen days a large number of ships, mostly with all hands,
were lost by driving on the Goodwins, including the _Stirling Castle_,
_Mary_, and _Northumberland_, each of 70 guns.

Of these fatal and historic sands, nowadays happily well-provided with
lights, a poetess has written:

      What wealth untold
    Far down, shining through their stillness lies!
    Thou hast the starry gems, the burning gold,
    Won from ten thousand royal argosies.

      Yet more, the billows and the depths have more!
    High hearts and brave are gathered to thy breast!
    They hear not now the booming waters roar,
    The battle thunders will not break their rest.
    Keep thy red gold and gems, thou stormy grave--
      Give back the true and brave.

Deal, indeed, has continued to exist as a place of some importance
almost entirely because of its propinquity to the Downs, and the
consequent presence of numbers of ships. In the old days, too, the
town was the scene of many smuggling exploits and affrays between the
pressgang which used to periodically raid the place, and carry off
“most of the sturdy seamen manning vessels weather bound in the Downs,
much to their own and their captain’s chagrin.” It was, indeed, one of
the most profitable of all Kentish towns for such operations.

Walmer with its historic and ivy-clad Castle, the official residence
of the Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle,
stands above the low-lying shore line, one of the three castles which
anciently kept the Downs. Both Deal and Walmer, the former with its
long pier, have latterly become holiday resorts of the usual type.
A shingly beach in both cases stretches in front of rows of modern
lodging and apartment houses which face the sea. It is generally
supposed that it was on the beach between Deal and Walmer that in
July, 1495, the impostor Perkin Warbeck, with a handful of followers
numbering about 600 in all, attempted to land. Nearly a third of the
“invaders” were taken prisoners by the trained bands of Sandwich, and
were afterwards executed chained together two and two, and their bodies
disposed of for hanging in chains all along the coasts of Kent and
Sussex. “Where they rotted to the terrifying of all for many yeares.”

It is an incident not entirely without humour that Perkin Warbeck
should have chosen to disembark some of his “force” within a mile or
two of the spot traditionally identified as the landing place of Cæsar,
where also the great Napoleon intended to land.

The coast now increases in height until one reaches charming St
Margaret’s Bay, with a few houses almost standing on the beach itself,
and others blinking at one from the cliff above. A favourite resort for
picnics, but affording unsatisfactory shelter. On the summit of the
cliff and a short distance inland stands a fine Norman church worth
visiting, if time permits, from Dover. From the top of the cliff there
is one of those unrivalled panoramas to which the higher portions of
the Kent and Sussex coasts so admirably lend themselves. It extends
over the far stretching expanse of Channel, south, east, and west; with
the sea traffic of an Empire passing almost at one’s feet.

There is a curious story with an Eugene Aram flavour about it
concerning a murder of long ago which was committed by a soldier on the
road into Dover from St Margaret’s. He appears to have been of a hardy
as well as a murderous nature, for after committing the crime he stuck
the walking stick, with which he had killed his comrade, in the earth
in a field, boasting that he was sure to escape detection until the
stick took root. The latter was of sycamore wood. The soldier went on
foreign service, and did not return (so the story goes) for some years.
He came along the road which had for him such a tragic memory, and was
astounded to find that the stick had grown into a tree. This discovery
so horrified and unnerved him that he promptly went back to Dover and
gave himself up to the authorities.

The South Foreland is now close on our starboard bow--that magnificent
headland which the veteran nautical novelist Mr Clark Russell says is
“surely the most incomparable of all vantage grounds for the marine
dreamer. It is not only that every fathom of the gleaming water that
the eye wanders over is vital with historic tradition, and rich with
the most romantic of the hues which give to our own national story the
shining complexion it wears; it is still the busiest of old maritime
highways; fifty oceanic contrasts fill every hour....” There are,
indeed, many types of craft still to be met with and seen in the Downs,
from “the dainty clipper model in iron, lifting an almost fairy-like
fabric of wire rigging and soaring yards, and swelling snow-white
canvas to the skies” to “the huge ocean passenger steamer, noiselessly
thrusting her nose through it faster than a gale of wind could have
thundered an old line-of-battle ship along.” Then, sometimes, too,
there are the white-winged yachts bound for Dover Harbour after a run
out into the Channel, or from the Thames estuary bound much farther
westward to Cowes, or even Dartmouth or Penzance. Or the Thames barge
hugging the coast; a tramp rust-red, and high out of the water in
ballast, till she looks like nothing so much as a long, deep cigar
box, rounded at both ends, and with a funnel stuck far astern or in
the middle, as the builders may have thought best; or sometimes a
smart _chasse marée_, the like of which in the old days did service as
privateers out of Calais, or as smugglers out of Boulogne, Dunkirk, or

We are inclined to agree that there is no strip of open water like the
Channel off Deal and Dover for interest and variety.

On rounding the towering and magnificent South Foreland one gets one’s
first glimpse of Dover when coming from the eastward. It is not very
satisfying until one has actually entered the Bay, which is one of
the finest artificial havens in the world. It has been the custom in
the past of those who simply pass through Dover on their way to or
from the Continent to decry it. We could produce more uncomplimentary
remarks concerning the “ugliness,” “poverty,” “dullness,” etc., of
Dover (perhaps written by those to whom a Channel swell had been less
than kind) than of almost any other place of which we have personal
knowledge. But to those who approach “the ancient town of Dover with
its many memories, its commanding castle, its impressive pharos”
leisurely from the sea on a fine day, we can conceive of no feelings
being aroused than those of interest and admiration. There is something
eternal in the appearance of this sole true survivor of the famous
Cinque Ports, which makes it possible for one to realize that much of
what one sees, at all events at a first glance, is what has been looked
upon by countless generations from the time when Cæsar’s eagle eye
rested upon Shakespeare’s Cliff, and travelled up the valley which lies
snug in the shelter of and runs inland between the two o’er-topping
cliffs. But whilst we may linger amid historic memories Cæsar passed on
to an easier landing a little way further up the coast.

When one is snugly inside the breakwater, things begin to assume
greater distinctness. There is the Castle and pharos still, but in the
serried rows of houses, the Marine Parade along the front, the pier
on which are numerous trains made or in the process of making up, and
the air of bustle, one begins to realize that Dover’s greatness has
not entirely departed, and that one has come to a prosperous and not a
decaying port, a lively garrison town, a naval depôt of consequence,
a commercial centre for miles round, and a popular holiday resort.
And when one contemplates the vast harbour works, which have cost
upwards of three and a half million pounds sterling and enclose a
water space measuring upwards of 610 acres, one can easily see that
Dover’s future may be as useful, as brilliant and as prosperous as
has been her past. In this huge haven, which is entirely free from
rocks or sandbanks, the largest battleships afloat can anchor in safety
under the protection of the countless heavy guns of the forts. Already
there is a flotilla of submarines stationed here, and the roadstead is
full of life and movement from sunrise to sunset. The harbour has two
excellent and adequate approaches, one between the Admiralty Pier and
Southern Breakwater, 800 feet in width; the other between the Southern
Breakwater and the Eastern Arm 600 feet in width.

Dover is nowadays a capital port for yachtsmen. The town is historic,
picturesque, and quaint. It has just the narrow streets on a somewhat
larger scale that one meets with in the smaller ports in Cornwall down
west. Streets which seem as though squeezed in “where never such were
meant to be,” with the two hillsides over-topping them as though thrust
aside in high dudgeon. Then inland there is the newer and perhaps
smarter town, with villa residences scattered on the sides of the Dour
valley, and delightfully situated.

Up above the harbour stands the Castle, a grey, grim survival of an
heroic age. It has been fortified from time out of mind. And there
are yet existing, notwithstanding all that has been done to add to it
and restore it, traces of both Roman and Saxon defences. It was this
important fortress, with the not less essential “well of water in it,”
that weak Harold undertook to deliver up to William of Normandy as soon
as the breath should pass out of Edward the Confessor’s body. But a
few days after the Battle of Hastings, which took place on October 14,
1066, and resulted in the defeat of Harold and the slaying of upwards
of 30,000 men, William captured the Castle, and appointed as Constable
his half-brother, Odo of Bayeux. Most of the walls and towers are of
Norman date, and are probably the work of John de Fiennes, the second
Constable. The massive and well-preserved keep dates from the reign of
Henry II, and other portions of the Castle are of various subsequent

One of the most shameful events in connexion with the story of the
Castle is that of King John’s submission there to Pandulph, the Pope’s
legate. Three years after this event, in the spring of 1216, Louis
VIII of France, who had come over convoyed and supported by a powerful
fleet under the command of Eustace the Monk, was before Dover Castle
to besiege it after having landed at Stonor and captured Hastings and
Rye. He also burnt Sandwich, which refused to yield to him. Some of his
force joined with that of the revolting barons, and not only overran
Kent, but even penetrated to London, of which they took possession.
The garrison of Dover we are told was to the last degree inefficient,
feeble, and ill-provisioned. But the commander poor, harried King John
had placed in it, with jurisdiction over the Cinque Ports generally,
was one of the most able and strongest men of his age, Hubert de Burgh
by name. To his courage, resource, and endurance must be placed the
credit of the successful defence of the last hope of England against
the establishment of a French sovereignty. At length Louis, finding
himself unable to reduce the Castle or persuade De Burgh to yield,
raised the siege. He had failed; and his father’s remark was justified,
“By the arm of St James, my son then has not obtained one foot of land
in England.”

Whilst Louis was being driven from his quarry the fleet under Eustace
was dispersed and almost destroyed; partly through the gallant efforts
of the ships and seamen of the Cinque Ports, and partly by a tempest.
Next year, however, Blanche de Castile, Louis’ wife, and a bold and
enterprising princess, got together a fleet of “over-powering strength,
full of knights and soldiers,” which was as before put under the
command of Eustace, the renegade Cinque Port Monk, who had learned
what he knew of seamanship and daring from those he was about to
attack. But Hubert de Burgh and the men of the Ports in the forty ships
lying in Dover Bay were not to be frightened by Eustace, that “pirata
nequissimus” (most vile pirate) as the chroniclers of the time not too
harshly label him. They decided that it was essential that he should
be beaten at sea. If he were to effect a landing the troops he brought
might turn the tide of battle and a foreign yoke yet be borne by

There are, fortunately, several fairly full and good accounts of this
ancient sea battle, in which the courage and seamanship, destined ever
to distinguish the men of the Cinque Ports, was splendidly exemplified.
The French fleet (we are condensing and modernizing one of the best of
the accounts which have come down to us) consisted of upwards of one
hundred vessels, and the command of the troops with which they were
crowded had been given to one Robert de Courtenay, a distinguished
knight, connected (so ’tis said) with the Royal house of France itself.


They trimmed their sails from Calais towards the mouth of the Thames,
but the ever-watchful De Burgh and his bold men had descried their
coming from the heights above Dover, and at once weighed anchors,
and hastened (though the wind was light) to meet them. They did not,
however, because of their much inferior size and numbers, deliver a
direct attack, but kept their “luff”--a sea term used at that period
even as nowadays--till they were nearer France than England. The French
commander, unable to comprehend this manœuvre, called out tauntingly
that the English thieves were bound for Calais in anticipation of
finding it undefended, and in preference to fighting and being
defeated. But he was destined soon to discover his error. When well
to windward the English ships suddenly put their helms hard up, and
bore right down on the French. The latter, quite unprepared for this
startling development in the attack, were thrown into confusion.
They were apparently too heavily laden to be easily manœuvred; and
although, to do him justice, Eustace fought his ships well, they had
no chance from the outset of coping successfully with the splendidly
handled and lightly burdened English vessels. One can imagine something
of the fight from these old chronicles, which say that some of the
French vessels were run down (though on more than one instance the
English boat suffered severely in “ramming” her opponent) and sunk;
others were grappled with and boarded much to the discomfiture of the
enemy, as De Burgh’s men had been told to jump aboard and cut the
halliards so that the sails fell upon the Frenchmen and incommoded
and entangled them. It might be thought that these tactics were good
enough to ensure a victory, but the men of the Cinque Ports left
nothing to chance, and in addition to the usual methods of offence
had laid in a stock of quicklime, which as they sheered alongside (of
course to windward) was thrown with blinding effect in the faces of the
Frenchmen, who lined the sides of their vessels to repel the boarders.

The combined result of these ingenious methods of attack supported
by courage and address was a complete victory. It is said that only
fifteen ships escaped--probably the leading vessels with which the
English did not come up. The general was taken a prisoner; and,
unfortunately for him, Eustace himself was found hidden on the ship
of Robert de Courtenay, and was dragged from his place of concealment
in the hold by a bastard son of King John. In those days justice did
not tarry long on the way. There was a sharp sword ready. And there on
the deck the renegade was summarily beheaded, “and ys blood ran yn ye
scuppers, and thence ynto ye sea.”

Many gallant French knights, we learn, sooner than suffer capture,
which was otherwise inevitable, leaped into the sea in their armour and
speedily sank.

It is satisfactory to know that the spoil taken and the ransoms
obtained for the French nobles who were captured were such as to
“greatly enrich the seamen, so that for the rest of their days they
could dwell in comfort.”

A picturesque and impressive touch was lent to the homecoming of the
victors, who were met by a great procession of bishops and clergy, who
had anxiously watched the issue of the fight from the summit of Dover
cliffs. Seldom we may readily believe was a victory more welcome, for
with this crushing naval defeat and the destruction of his force for
invasion Louis was compelled to relinquish all hope of ascending the
throne of England. And to ensure his escape to France he made a treaty
which finally disposed of any claim he thought he possessed.

The Cinque Ports folk of that age learned in a rough school, and it
is perhaps little to be wondered at that occasionally, when truces
of a temporary character had been entered into between this country
and France or Spain, they failed to observe them with any degree of
promptness or completeness, but went on “plundering and harrying their
natural enemies the French,” until the King had on several occasions to
interfere, and call them to book.

It is, doubtless, to these acts, and others brought about by general
orders issued by different Sovereigns in succeeding reigns, that the
charges of piracy which have been levelled in the past and by some
present-day writers against the men of the Cinque Ports are traceable.
Matthew Paris, amongst other historians, charges them distinctly not
only with piracy on the French, but with robbing and murdering their
own fellow countrymen. A careful examination of the circumstances and
facts leading up to this charge leads one to think that they were
possibly guilty. But it must be remembered in extenuation that the
age in which Paris lived was a lawless and disturbed one. The orders
received by the men of the Cinque Ports were frequently of a general
character to carry fire and sword along the enemy’s coasts, and it is
little to be wondered at if the hardy seamen who frequently fought
at long odds were not the most scrupulous of victors, and sometimes
failed to discriminate to a nicety between legal and illegal predatory
warfare. The very freedom of the privileges they enjoyed as citizens
of the Ports made them less accountable than they doubtless otherwise
would have been to the King’s properly constituted authority. Certain
it is that on several occasions in the Middle Ages the men of the Ports
were not backward in entering into a little war of their own, to their
immediate and great advantage. They were pirates in just the same way
as were the men and adventurers of the Devon and Cornish ports, and the
French hailing from Morlaix, St Malo, and other Norman and Breton ports
in those times.

It is, however, impossible to inquire further into this fascinating
period of our naval history. In the records of the Cinque Ports which
still exist there is enough material for a score of romances. Suffice
it to say that the same adventurous spirit which made these seamen
in medieval times such stout and successful defenders of the narrow
seas caused them in a later age to rank amongst the most daring and
resourceful as well as the most successful of smugglers.

But to return to Dover Castle, in whose history, indeed, is enshrined
that of the town itself. At the outbreak of the Civil War between
Charles and his Parliament it was garrisoned by Royalists. The story
of its capture reads more like a piece of pure romance than actual
fact. But here is the tale. It occurred to an enterprising handful of
Roundheads, led by a citizen of Dover named Dawkes or Drake, to attempt
the taking of the fortress. Their plan, simple in the extreme, was to
climb up the steep cliff on the sea side, which it was not thought
necessary to guard, and thus surprise the garrison. Accompanied by a
score or so of fellow Roundheads, Dawkes succeeded in scaling the
cliff face and surprising the Royalists, who hastened to surrender
under the impression that the attack was supported by a strong force.
Never, perhaps, fell so strong a place so easily, save when treachery
had something to do with the matter, and in this case it was lack of
courage and information, not the work of traitors, which led to the
garrison’s undoing. Thus fell Dover Castle to a handful of enterprising
Puritans; and although the King made repeated attempts to recover
possession of so commanding a fortress, he did not succeed, “the
strongest Royalist force being easily repulsed by those that were

At the Restoration, however, Charles II found Dover citizens among the
most loyal and enthusiastic to bid him welcome back to his own again.
It was the effusiveness of the greeting given him which caused the King
to remark to one of his courtiers, “Oddsfish, man, these good folk
appear so happy to see us that surely it was our own fault we did not
come before.”

Pepys tells us that the Mayor solemnly presented the King with
a handsomely bound copy of the Bible! A present regarding the
appropriateness of which many members of the Court must have had grave
doubts. One can imagine with what inward amusement the pleasure-loving,
gallant Charles declared to the cheering, banner-waving throng
surrounding him that the Bible was “the thing of all others he loved
most in the world.”

Just forty-eight years later Dover cliffs were thronged to see a fleet
pass on its way, whither the people who strained their eyes to catch a
glimpse of it did not then know. It was that of William of Orange come
to free them from the weak tyranny of James II, and as it passed in
line with the Castle the nearest ships saluted the English flag which
floated in the breeze on the Keep, and far away across the grey waters
of the Channel could be seen the smoke of the Calais guns returning
the salute of the French flag by the Dutch ships on that side. Thus
sailed over practically the same water the argosies of peace just as
had sailed a century before those of Spain and of war. The eyes which
gazed out at them were not those of aforetime; but the same spirit of
anxiety doubtless animated most of the watchers on the headland.

A century later, when Napoleon was gathering his legions and his
transports at Boulogne for the invasion of England, Dover was still
a busy place. “There was a constant stir in the town,” we are told,
“made chiefly by the coming and going of couriers between it and
the metropolis, and the activity of those engaged upon the works
of defence, and the presence in our midst of many thousands of
volunteers.” Not that all was business, for with the military and the
additional civilian element came the ladies, all, however, prepared
to take instant flight on the rumoured, let alone actual, approach of
that great bugabo, Napoleon, and where they came there was sure to
be junketing and gaiety, even in the midst of the stern preparations
for _la guerre à l’outrance_. Post shays, mail coaches and private
carriages, as well as transport wagons and carriers’ carts, made the
road from Dover to London busy night and day; and along the sea-front,
as well as in the narrow streets of the town itself, were to be seen
fashionable ladies and their beaux “gossiping, and often shivering in
simulated horror at the mention of the terrible name which just then
filled all minds,” so that Dover was almost at times like Hyde Park.

It is unnecessary to add that the fortifications of the Castle
underwent a thorough overhauling, thereby being immensely strengthened,
and ever since that time, almost from year to year, additions and
modern improvements have been made until it is not too much to say that
they are now amongst the most efficient and powerful in the world.

And up above one, as one lies at anchor, amongst the most modern and
destructive of weapons, with its muzzle directed seaward, stands that
beautiful piece of ordnance known as Queen Elizabeth’s Pocket Pistol.
It is no less than twenty-four feet in length and was cast at Utrecht
in 1544, and presented by the Dutch to the Queen. The inscription which
it bears in Low Dutch finds a popular but inaccurate translation in the
well-known couplet:

    Load me well and keep me clean,
    I’ll carry my ball to Calais Green

A rough literal translation, however, reads somewhat as follows:

    Men call me breaker of rampart and wall;
    ’Tis true over hill and dale I can hurl my big ball.

In the Castle and town of Dover there are several interesting old
buildings and churches. The Castle Church of St Mary is of the greatest
interest, more especially to architects and antiquarians, as it is
undoubtedly one of the oldest ecclesiastical buildings in the country.
It is thought to stand on the site of the Roman Prætorium, and by some
authorities is stated to incorporate within its walls some portions of
that ancient structure, which was converted to the uses of a Christian
church in the third century. Previous to its restoration (one might
also add rescue) in 1860 by Sir Gilbert Scott it was used as a coal
cellar! The ancient Roman pharos (which had its fellow on the western
heights and served to guide the Roman galleys to port from Gaul across
the Channel) stands close to the church. Nowadays it is roofless and
ivy-clad, and much of the ancient work is obscured by later masonry,
but it forms an interesting and romantic object for all seafarers. It
was for a considerable period used as a belfry, but its bells were (so
the story goes) filched by Sir George Rooke, the capturer of Gibraltar,
who carried them off to Portsmouth and had them melted down!

In the town itself both St Mary’s and St James’s Churches are worth
attention, the latter more particularly as it was anciently the
place at which the old Cinque Ports Court of Admiralty used to meet.
The Maison Dieu in the same street, now forming a portion of the
municipal buildings, was founded by the famous and gallant Constable
of Dover, Hubert de Burgh, in the reign of King John, for the use
and entertainment of pilgrims, soldiers, and seamen returning from
abroad or foreign service. The foundation had a resident master and
several brethren and sisters attached to it, and was in the Middle Ages
extremely wealthy. After its suppression by Henry VIII the hall, the
only remaining portion of the ancient buildings, was set apart for use
as a brew house, and at a later period was used as a naval victualling
store. It was acquired in 1834 by the Corporation, and restored in
1860. The stained glass windows and portraits of the kings of England,
Lord Wardens, and others in the building are worth examination.

Of modern Dover not much need be said. It differs in its main
characteristics little from the usual garrison town, and possesses
most, if not all, of the advantages and disadvantages of such places.
If the harbour were not so fine, and the historic interest so enduring,
we fancy few pleasure seekers on blue water would make it a port of

From Dover to Rye (passing Folkestone, Hythe, and New Romney) is a
matter of twenty-seven miles. Once outside the harbour a straight
course can be laid for Dungeness, eighteen miles distant. Folkestone
Harbour is a pleasant one, and the town is lively and bustling. The
proximity of Shorncliffe Camp (used by Sir John Moore of Corunna fame)
adds materially to the life of the place. The approach from the sea,
after passing along miles of shore, gradually decreasing in height and
mostly pebbly, is pleasant and picturesque. And in the famous Leas,
which may be said to be “the Hoe” of Folkestone, the town possesses
one of the most pleasant and healthful promenades on the south coast.

Although Folkestone is mentioned in the Domesday Book as a fishing port
called Folchestan, it has even more ancient history attaching to it.
Nowadays its harbour is a busy one, for it is one of the cross Channel
traffic ports, and although many who merely pass through may remember
the town chiefly for its passenger traffic it has a great goods traffic
also. In the warehouses along the quay, where the cargoes which have
been unloaded are examined and the duties levied by the Custom House
officials, we have seen merchandise from almost every quarter of the
globe, both manufactured and raw material. Silks and velvets from
Lyons; gloves, boots, hats from Parisian houses, artificial flowers and
feathers from the same; ostrich feathers from South Africa in their
queer-looking cardboard tubes; bales of woollen and cotton goods;
watches from Switzerland; pottery and metal work from Austria; wines
from France and Italy; and perfumes from Paris, from Italy, and from
the famous manufactories at Grasse in the south of France--in a word,
everything which goes to meet the demands of modern life and modern
luxury. Then there is the daily trade of the Continent--the flowers,
fruit, eggs, and vegetables which arrive nightly in huge consignments
and make the quays such scenes of life and bustle. Yes, Folkestone is a
busy and interesting seaport as well as a pleasant harbour and holiday

But everything is not quite modern in Folkestone. There lies to
the north of the Outer Harbour an old town, of whose existence
comparatively few of the thousands of visitors who come to it or pass
through it annually know anything. Those who love the old rather than
the new; narrow alleys and quaint architecture, rather than wide
streets, broad promenades, up-to-date shops and prim villas, will find
here a mine of interest, like the famous author of _The Ingoldsby
Legends_, who writes: “Its streets, lanes and alleys--fanciful
distinctions without much real difference--are agreeable enough to
persons who don’t mind running up and down stairs; and the only
inconvenience at all felt by such of its inhabitants as are not
asthmatic is when some heedless urchin tumbles down a chimney, or an
impertinent pedestrian peeps in at a garret window.”

Folkestone is still a fishing port, though the industry is not what it
used to be. In recent years there has been a revival of those ancient
medieval ceremonies of blessing the sea and thanksgiving for the
harvest of the sea which were anciently so common.

In the latter years of the eighteenth and the first four decades of
the nineteenth centuries, however, smuggling was with many of the
fisherfolk a much more popular means of obtaining a livelihood than
fishing. The whole of the outer portion of the town was honeycombed
with cellars, secret passages, and “tub holes,” in which the contraband
goods were stored until they could be finally and profitably disposed
of. The nearness of Folkestone to the French coast made frequent trips
across possible, and the smugglers were doubtless favoured by the
laxity which was said to prevail amongst the coastguards on the Kentish
and Sussex coast at the period when smuggling was at its height.
For some years previous to 1831 a blockade of the coast had been
instituted, and for a time smuggling was “under a cloud”; but on the
removal of the blockade in 1830 there was a great revival, in the Deal,
Walmer, and Folkestone districts especially. Many flagrant cases of
connivance occurred in the two years immediately following the removal
of the blockade, and numbers of men were dismissed from the preventive
service. That the bribes given by the smugglers and their agents were
substantial was, of course, natural, seeing that the rewards for
seizures were so high. We are told in several records[A] that as much
as a thousand pounds was not infrequently shared amongst the officers
and men of a coastguard station after the capture of a big cargo, the
lowest share, that of the boatmen, being some £85 to £90. Little wonder
need be experienced then when it is stated that “many a sentry on night
duty could reckon on seeing £40 by keeping his eyes shut.” A way of
expressing the case of a truly Hibernian character. Women confederates
of the smugglers were frequently employed to corrupt the men of the
preventive service, and so common a practice had this become that a
special order was issued along the Sussex and Kent coasts which is
substantially as follows: “Having reason to believe and fear that an
attempt will be made to corrupt our men through the medium of females,
it is ordered that patrols hold no communication when on duty with any
person, either male or female.”

      [A] _Smuggling Days and Smuggling Ways_, by the Hon. H. N.
          Shore, R.N.

But the Kentish and Sussex smugglers did not stop at bribery or
corruption. If it was felt that either an informer had been at work, or
that the coast was too well guarded to make a successful run possible,
it was the practice of the smugglers to make their arrangements to
assemble in force sufficiently strong to overpower the patrol and then
the cargo was run under the “preventives’” very noses. As a rule, the
“runs” made upon the Kentish and Sussex coasts were what was known
as “direct.” That is to say, the boats which brought over the goods
were sufficiently small or of sufficiently light draught to permit of
their being beached or brought close inshore without the necessity (as
was the case further west) of transhipment of the bales and tubs into
smaller boats to be rowed ashore. The type of craft most in favour in
the Deal and Folkestone districts were galleys, rowing ten or twelve
oars and very fast, which could easily make the cross Channel passage
in three or four hours in favourable weather. Or what were known as
“tub-boats,” mere shells, which would not ride out a gale, knocked
together out of the flimsiest and cheapest materials, and consequently
of so little value (compared with the cargoes they conveyed) that
they were frequently abandoned after the run, and were never troubled
about in the case of a surprise, but left to their fate and to capture
with little distress on the part of their owners. As a rule, these
“tub-boats” were towed across Channel by French luggers, which left
them when they had been brought within a mile or two of the coast, when
sweeps were got out and the flimsy but heavily laden craft were brought
inshore or beached.

Amongst the most famous of the larger smuggling craft of the district
may be mentioned the _Black Rover_, of Sandwich, which had a most
ingenious method of concealing goods in tin cases; the _Isis_, of Rye,
which was fitted with a false bow; and the _Mary Ann_, of the same
place, fitted with a false keel. A Folkestone boat taken in 1828 was
found to have a most ingenious concealment “running from the stern to
the transom, and from keel up to the underpart of the thwarts.”

How profitable smuggling was few people nowadays, we fancy, realize.
There is, of course, the vague knowledge surviving that great fortunes
were made by the most successful smugglers, but the amount of profit
upon a single successful run is not generally known.

A very common practice was for a number of people to “club” together to
provide the funds for a “run,” which generally ruled at £1 per “tub.”
Some would, say, take fifty shares (i.e., “tubs”); others more or less
as the case might be. The captain of a likely vessel was engaged to
make the trip for a lump sum varying in amount according to the size of
the cargo, seldom, however, falling much below £100. Then the men of
the crew would have to be paid from £25 down to £10 a piece, according
to the amount involved and the demand for men at the time. In France
the “tubs” would cost from 17s. to 18s., and each English sovereign was
worth in purchasing value about twenty-one shillings; but, taking it
all round, to the persons engaged in financing the run the cost would
amount to £1 per “tub,” the difference being taken by the captain for
incidental expenses, such as sinkers, rope, food for crew on trip, etc.
Then there would be an additional £1 to pay for each “tub” successfully
“run” and delivered to the adventurers. The total cost was thus about
£2 per tub; the value of each on this side of the Channel _had the
duty been paid_ £6 to £6 5s. Then it should not be forgotten that the
spirit was so greatly above proof (generally 70%, and sometimes as high
as 180%) that it could be diluted to twice, three, or even four times
its bulk, so that each “tub” would ultimately produce from £12 to £20.
Or in profit--less, of course, the amount paid to the captain and men
of the boat--£10 to £18 per tub according to the amount of dilution
which the strength of the original spirit allowed. On a cargo of 200
“tubs” or more it will be easily seen that the profit to be divided
was enormous, and if the venture was that of a single individual
half-a-dozen successful runs would almost make his fortune.

In the event of a cargo being seized the loss was in a very much less
proportion. It consisted merely of the £100 paid the captain, the
amount paid the men in the boat, and £1 per tub. It is little wonder
then that, in the days to which we refer, smuggling was rife all along
the coast from the North Foreland to Penzance.

How prosperous the smuggling trade of Folkestone was in the early years
of the last century may be gathered from the following statement made
by an old smuggler of Lydd. This old man used frequently to run across
Channel in one of the smuggling galleys, taking with him a quantity
of English guineas (which could easily be disposed of at Gravelines,
Calais, or Boulogne for twenty-five to thirty shillings apiece), the
proceeds of which he would invest in a cargo of tobacco, silk, lace,
and spirits. In this way he made, if the “run” were successful, a
double profit. On occasion, too, he would obtain valuable information
regarding the movements of the French fleet, and then on his way back
across the Channel he would run alongside any English man-o’-war he
came across, and let them know all he had been able to learn. This same
smuggler used to say that in those times guineas were so common amongst
the smuggling fraternity that they used to play pitch and toss with

A not uninteresting light upon the way in which Napoleon financed his
wars is to be gathered from the following statement, which is taken
from O’Meara’s _Napoleon at St Helena_: “I got bills on Vera Cruz,
which certain agents sent by circuitous routes ... to London, as I
had no direct communication. The bills were discounted by merchants
in London, to whom ten per cent, and sometimes a premium, was paid as
their reward.... Even for the equipping of my last expedition after
my return from Elba a great part of the money was raised in London.”
Napoleon also added that the gold was brought over to France by the

There also would appear but little doubt that the smugglers were few of
them above selling information to the French of the movements of the
English fleet, the mobilization of troops, and the progress of works
for the defence of the country from invasion. At all events, Napoleon
abundantly testified that he was kept informed by them of “every
important occurrence and movement of the enemy (English) by these men.”

Their treachery was suspected by the authorities, but we believe
comparatively seldom discovered and brought home to the traitors.

No wonder then that Folkestone old town is, or certainly was but a few
years ago, a nest of ingenious hiding-places, relics of the smuggling
days, which were often so cleverly constructed that their discovery was
only made when a beam had been removed, or alterations had to be made,
and sometimes not until the house in which they were was entirely
pulled down.

There are, of course, many smuggling stories connected with Folkestone
houses. One of the best is as follows: On a certain night in November
in the year 1826 a cargo had been successfully run between Hythe
and Folkestone by a noted smuggler, and a portion of it had been
brought into the latter town and safely secreted. However, one of the
Folkestone coastguards got wind of the fact, and in the very early
morning appeared with a strong band of “preventives” in the street in
which the smuggler’s house stood. Their summons did not at once meet
with an answer, but at length, after repeated hammerings on the door
and shutters of the windows of the ground floor, which noise aroused
the whole street, Nancy Morris, the daughter of the smuggler, thrust
her head from the upper window and, rubbing her eyes as though aroused
out of sleep, inquired what was wanted.

“Open in the King’s name!” exclaimed the officer in command. “And look
sharp about it, my lass, or ’twill be the worse for you, and your old
fox of a father.”

Nancy did not hurry downstairs, but after a few moments the door was
opened, the “preventives” streamed into the kitchen, and then, seeing
no one save the girl and a child, a boy of about twelve asleep in a
nook by the fire, several of the men went upstairs. No one was to be
discovered, however. But the officer was not satisfied. He decided
to remain on guard himself, and, after whispering to two or three
of his men (for smugglers were at times rough customers to manage
single-handed) to be handy if required, he sat down to pass the time as
best he might. Nancy was pretty; the coastguard lieutenant was a sailor
man. Nancy was also resourceful, and a gentle flatterer to boot. And so
it is little wonder that the lieutenant succumbed to her charms, drank
her health, fell incontinently into a doze, which, by reason of Miss
Nancy’s having drugged the cognac, became a deep sleep. And then down
the chimney, at a signal from his clever daughter, crept sturdy William
Morris, choking a bit with the smoke, but otherwise no worse. A few
moments later a trap was lifted in the floor of the back-kitchen and
the smuggler disappeared. Nancy let down the flap, re-sanded the floor
carefully, and returned to attempt to arouse the unwelcome guest.

By the time he was brought to himself and to a knowledge that he had
most probably been tricked, William Morris was sitting comfortably in
the parlour of a house several hundred yards away, having reached that
haven of refuge at first by an underground passage leading to a near-by
house, and afterward by a back alley.

The lieutenant had nothing to boast of, and as there was not much to
his credit at all in the adventure he kept his own counsel. Nancy was
profuse in her expressions of delight at his “nice rest.”

“Sir,” said she, “you must indeed have needed it sadly.”

And we can well imagine her laughter when the house door closed after
her crestfallen guest.

It was not till comparatively recent years that this old house was
pulled down, and the connecting passage, “tub hole,” under the back
kitchen floor, and the hiding-place in the chimney stack, about 7 ft.
by 2 ft. by 3ft., were disclosed.

Many more like yarns were current years ago, but we must up anchor and
set our faces once more westward.

The coastline from Folkestone onwards decreases in height, but
Dungeness lies ahead, known as the most dangerous of all headlands
between the North Foreland and Spithead. As we drop Folkestone astern
and cruise along the pleasant shore, with the high range of the Downs
behind it inland, one passes Hythe of historic memory, now a clean,
modern town, though no longer a port; and behind it Saltwood, with the
ancient tower breaking through the encompassing woods. Here it was
that the murder of the great Archbishop Thomas A’Becket was planned,
and hence the murderers, headed by one Ranulf de Broc, owner of the
stronghold, set forth on their dastardly mission. It was to the castle
also they afterwards returned to find (so tradition tells us) that the
table set in the great hall for their entertainment and refreshment
declined to bear the viands, whilst the torches kindled to give them
light turned sickly and flickered out.

Soon Dungeness looms ahead with the wide stretching Romney Marsh,
beloved in ancient times by outlaws, and in later ones the rendezvous
of the most desperate and successful of the Kentish smugglers, on our
starboard quarter. Reminiscent of Holland, and having its saving dyke
in Dymchurch Wall three miles long, it was in the early years of the
last century a wild desolate expanse so given over to the smugglers
that they were powerful enough to make one parson at least give
them the freedom of one of the aisles of his church as a store for
contraband. But the parsons of those days were not above receiving a
“tub” which had never paid duty for themselves, and a bale of silk or
lace for their wives and daughters.

The Romney Marsh has been, from time immemorial, the refuge of
malefactors in the broadest sense of the word. Here, in Saxon times,
doubtless hid recalcitrant thanes and vassals; and in the Middle Ages
those who had put themselves outside the protection of the Church, or
had broken the law; later, some of the pirates of the Cinque Ports,
whose predatory expeditions at times were on the point of embroiling
not only the fisherfolk of the adjoining coast upon which they preyed,
but even the two nations to which they belonged; afterwards hunted
Royalists took refuge here until some opportune moment for escaping to
France presented itself: then, later still, in the early Georgian era,
those who adhered to the Stuarts met and plotted and drank “to the
King over the water”; and, but a little later still, escaped prisoners
of war were secreted in its midst till the smugglers, who were
generally concerned in their escape, could arrange on some favourable
night to convey them across Channel. What stirring romances could be
written of the dark and secret doings of Romney Marsh?

Once round Dungeness, however, and Rye is before one. It is not
nowadays much of a port, indeed, as such its greatness has departed,
leaving it a quaint, old-world place, with an air of the seventeenth
and early eighteenth centuries hanging about it. It is almost
impossible to believe that once it was a flourishing and important
place, one of the seven head ports--not merely a “limb” of the
Confederacy--and capable as late as the reign of George II of affording
a haven of refuge for large ships.

There is delightful country in the immediate vicinity, for Rye is
at the confluence of the valley of the three streams, the Rother,
Tillingham, and Brede. In the architecture of Rye, if one has ventured
into its harbour, which is nowadays difficult of entrance and exit,
one finds some delightful bits of almost medieval date: hoary roofs
and towers and moss-grown walls. It is difficult to believe that once
the “French walked the streets, slaying all they could meet with,
afterwards burning the houses.” Just as they did, we may remark, at
Sandwich, Winchelsea, Yarmouth, Dartmouth, and many another town upon
our south coast. No one who comes into Rye Haven should leave it
without going up to Rye town and inspecting the ancient parish church,
which shares with several others the distinction of being the largest
in England. In it is the oldest clock in the country, and the North
Chapel is an exquisite piece of thirteenth-century work.

Off Rye and Winchelsea took place on August 29, 1350, the great fight
between the fleet of Edward III and the Spaniards (L’Espagnols sur
mer), in which the latter, superior in size and numbers, were defeated
with a loss of twenty-six out of their forty large ships. From
Winchelsea Queen Philippa anxiously watched the varying fortunes of the
day. She had more than an impersonal interest in the result, for in the
thick of the manœuvring vessels, where the fight was fiercest, we are
told was the ship on which were the King himself and his two sons.

The Winchelsea at which William the Conqueror landed in 1067, with its
seven hundred houses and more than two score inns, was swept away by
the sea, although the site on which it stood was destined once again in
the course of the centuries to emerge as dry land. The commencement of
the disasters which ultimately overwhelmed the town is thus described
by an anonymous (?) author much quoted by Grose and others: “In the
month of October, 1250, the moon, upon her change, appearing exceeding
red and swelled, began to show tokens of the great tempest of wind that
followed, which was so huge and mightie, both by land and sea, that
the like had not been lightlie knowne, and seldome, or rather never,
heard of by men then alive. The sea forced contrarie to his natural
course, flowed twice without ebbing, yeelding such a rooring that the
same was heard (not without great wonder) a farre distance in from the
shore.” We are further told that the sea was strangely phosphorescent,
and that the mariners could not save their ships, “three tall ships
perishing without recoverie, besides other smaller vessels.” And,
moreover, several of the churches and some three hundred of the houses
were “drowned.” Though, doubtless, frightened, the inhabitants did not
desert their stricken town. Perhaps they would have been wiser had
they done so, for thirty-seven years later, on February 4, 1287, the
remaining portion, to all intents and purposes, was (to use Holinshed’s
quaint word) “drowned.”

The new Winchelsea, which has, in a measure at least, come down to
us at the present time, was speedily commenced under the patronage
of Edward I himself. Into this town, and through its then prosperous
streets, marched 3,000 French three-quarters of a century later, in
1359, “to its great harme and terrible destruction.” This was not by
any means the last time that the hereditary enemies of the inhabitants
of the Cinque Ports landed, for they were successful then, and again
in 1378, after having been driven off two years before by the militant
Abbot of Battle Abbey with great loss. These French attacks were, to a
large extent, retaliatory measures for those of the men of Winchelsea;
and at last, in consequence of the piratical doings of the latter, we
are told by Pennant, Prince Edward attacked the town, took it by storm,
and put to the sword all the chief offenders, saving the rest, to whom
he granted much better terms than they had any right to expect.

Now Winchelsea is suffering from the gentle decay which seems to
envelop rather than attack places which have once been ports and are so
no longer by reason of Nature’s want of kindliness. Amidst its pleasant
houses and pretty gardens, in which all flowers that love the sun and
the salt air of the coast flourish amazingly, one seems to breathe the
atmosphere of somnolent repose, tinctured with the salt which rests
upon lip and cheek to tell of the not far distant sea which once lapped
the foot of its now vanished castle.

Winchelsea’s fine church, dating from Edward I’s time, was unhappily
destroyed by the French, who left only the chancel and side aisles
standing. This fragment, isolated in the midst of a green God’s acre,
is, however, well worth visiting. The roof beams of the building are
said to have been made from the timber of wrecked or dismantled ships,
“stuff the like of which is seldom nowadays found,” as a well-known
antiquary puts it.

The chief glory of the church, however, lies in the marvellously
carved canopied tombs of those merchant princes and admirals of the
Cinque Ports of long ago, Gervaise and Stephen Alard, grandfather and
grandson. There are few, if any, finer in Sussex.

The old Grey Friars Priory, or what was left of it, was the habitation
in Georgian times of two brothers, George and Joseph Weston by name,
who, whilst apparently pursuing the peaceful and respectable avocations
of country gentlemen, were actually highwaymen, the terror of the
Kentish and Sussex high roads and those of counties further afield,
and, withal, were daring and successful robbers of coaches. They were
eventually “taken” and ultimately hanged, amid much excited interest,
at Tyburn. It is they and their adventures which form the basis of
Thackeray’s unfinished romance, _Denis Duval_, which he wrote on the
spot in a house standing near the churchyard.

Thackeray, in a letter to the editor of the _Cornhill Magazine_, in
which he gives a good many interesting details of the incidents upon
which his story is founded, whilst referring to other Winchelsea and
Rye characters, says of the Westons: “They were rascals, too. They
were tried for robbing the Bristol mail in 1780, and, being acquitted
for want of evidence, were tried immediately afterward on another
indictment for forgery; Joseph was acquitted, but George was capitally
convicted.” Joseph was not destined to escape, however, for, as the
novelist goes on to say, “Before their trials they and some others
broke out of Newgate, and Joseph fired at and wounded a porter who
tried to stop him on Snow Hill. For this he was tried and found guilty
on the Black Act, and hung along with his brother.”

It was in the churchyard of Winchelsea that John Wesley, who was almost
always travelling about the country, preached his last open-air sermon,
in 1790, under the shelter of the great tree on the western side, “to
many folk,” we are told, “some few of which were converted so that
tears ran a-down their cheeks.”

And thus the greatness of Winchelsea, stranded as it is from the
lapping of the channel surges, though the boom of them when angry can
be heard, is of the past.

Chapter II


The coast to Newhaven from Rye, if not exactly pretty, becomes once
more attractive, and after Fairlight Point the Downs come seaward
again, and the coast-line for a considerable distance is once more
formed by bold chalk cliffs.

Though Hastings has no longer a harbour and is not, as formerly in the
long ago, a port, one must devote to this historic town and ancient
Cinque Port at least a passing notice.

Of all the chief towns of the Cinque Ports there are fewer records
relating to Hastings than of any other, and this is, perhaps, not to
be greatly wondered at when one remembers that at the commencement of
the nineteenth century it had sunk from its old-time greatness to the
position of a small fishing village. The town will, however, whatever
the variation of its fortunes, always remain a “great name in history”
because of its association with one of the crises of the world’s
evolutionary progress, the Battle of Hastings. Even in early British
times there seems no reason for doubt that Hastings was a strongly
fortified place, the “forts” being placed on the East Hill as well as
on the Castle Hill. The castle was either Roman in its origin or was
erected on foundations already existing and belonging to a much earlier

Hastings has also historic interest from figuring in the famous Bayeux
tapestry under the name of Hastingaceastra. If further evidence were
required of the very ancient existence of the place it is afforded by
the very considerable discoveries of Roman pottery, coins, and other
relics which have from time to time been made. The original name of
the district was Rameslie, and at one time it evidently formed part
of the property attached to the Abbey of Fécamp. At the time of the
great Survey, the results of which are recorded in the Domesday Book,
the place possessed no less than five churches and five score of salt
pits or salterns. Under Saxon rule it undoubtedly rose to a position
of great importance, and this notwithstanding the fact that it was
repeatedly attacked and ravaged by hordes of Danish and other pirates,
who did not, however, succeed in gaining any permanent footing. In the
time of Athelstan it was of sufficient note to share with Gloucester
and Lewes the distinction of being a “mint” town. The more modern name
of Hastings is reputed to have been derived from the famous Danish
pirate Haestinga, who for a time established a fort or stronghold near
the spot.

But as one writes of Hastings, the scene which the white cliffs
witnessed on that October morning, 1066, comes insensibly before one’s
eyes, when from across the Channel came a fleet of low, long galleys,
some under sail and with curious high stems and sterns, most of them
with two or three short straight masts like those of luggers, whilst
others had strange devices upon their prows, or shields ornamented with
crests and coats of arms hung out along their bulwarks.

Fortunately for the voyaging host the sea was calm and the wind blew
from a favourable quarter, for the transports of those times were not
easy to manage in a gale or contrary wind. At length they drew in close
with the land, the prows of the smaller vessels grated upon the sand
and shingle of the beach, and then the busy scene of landing both men
and horses ensued. William the Norman had come to claim the throne of
England, and, with Harold and the English fleet away in the north, had
landed without opposition.

He pitched his tents, built himself a wooden castle, and then set about
the ravaging of the country round about, till Harold should appear with
the English to give him battle.

In hot haste, Harold, Godwin’s son, marched back to London, calling
upon his nobles and relatives, Edwin and Morcar amongst the number, to
join him; but the two latter held back. Then Harold, having gathered
the men of London and Kent and many of the country folk to his
standard, marched to meet William, and, reaching Senlac, “lay there
on the hillside by a hoar-apple tree.” Gurt, his brother, prayed him
to retire again on London, after wasting the country between William
and that place, so that the latter could get neither fodder for his
horses nor food for his men. Good advice, doubtless, as Harold himself
admitted, adding, however, “I was made King to cherish this folk. How
shall I lay waste this land of theirs? Nor does it befit an English
King to turn from his foes.”

Every one knows the story of the “feasting” English and the “praying”
Normans, though whether it be true or not, who shall say? Just as
every one knows how went the day on the “bloody heights of Senlac,
where, after the attack had been made by a Norman minstrel, who rode up
against the English singing a war song of Charlemagne, the last Saxon
King, his two brothers, the flower of English fighting men and nobles
to a great multitude fell.”

William refused the body of slain Harold to his mother, who pleaded for
it, even if she paid its weight in gold; but when Edith Swan’s-neck,
whom Harold had loved, found it beneath a heap of slain, the Norman
conqueror, his chivalry and perhaps even his sentiment touched, gave
it to her, telling them to bury it on the face of the cliff with the
words, “He kept the shore well while he lived, let him keep it now he
is dead.”

Though this is the supreme historical event connected with Hastings,
many times during the reigns of our Norman Kings was the place to
witness the assemblage of huge bodies of fighting men. Here in 1094
were gathered at the command of William Rufus no less than 20,000 men
for the avowed purpose of transhipment to Normandy. They were, however,
disbanded, and the men were deprived by agents of the King of the pay
of ten shillings given them, “which great sum in all was duly forwarded
to the King, at whose behest it had been filched!” A truly Royal piece
of chicanery.

In the fourteenth century the town, which had sprung up to some
considerable importance, was raided by the French, sacked, and burned.
But by the fifteenth it had grown up again to be a large place with a
considerable military force attached to it. By the sixteenth it had
received a charter and had a mayor and twelve jurats, a harbour of
some size, and a considerable trade in shipbuilding. No traces of the
inlet once existing now break the coast-line, and the closest search
meets with no reward in discoveries of antiquity. The first Hastings
lies fathoms deep under the sea, the second has passed away, and in the
third one has the modern town with its long lines of boarding-houses
and hotels lining the sea-front. Not very picturesque save when seen
at night brilliantly lit, with the numberless fishing boats carrying
riding or other lights twinkling like huge glow worms in the foreground.

Hastings during the latter part of the eighteenth and early years of
the nineteenth centuries was one of the most notorious places along
the whole Sussex coast for smuggling, on account of its convenient
landing-places. The lawless Hawkhurst gang, to which reference will
later be made, had several of its members hailing from the town, and
the bands of smugglers in the immediate district were bold to a degree,
often (as we are told) daring to land their cargoes of contraband under
the very noses of the preventive men whose duty it was to frustrate
such attempts. Wrecking, too, was an occasional variation of occupation
for the smugglers, and several vessels are known in the first decade
of the last century to have been lured to destruction by false lights
shown on the cliffs.

The smugglers extended their operations far inland, daring to take
their cargoes as far as Brede and other places for storage. Brede
Place, which was one of their resorts, once the home of the Attefords,
but afterwards that of the Oxenbridges, has several weird legends
connected with it. Not the least uncanny is the story of one Sir
Goddard Oxenbridge, who died in 1557, we should imagine little lamented
by his neighbours. This owner of the manor, besides being a reputed
dealer in the “black arts,” had so strong a liking for human flesh
that children of the neighbourhood were constantly disappearing, to
the grief of their parents and the “engorgement of this terrible
ogre-like being.” For babies this Sir Goddard, who, we are informed,
was of great stature and “flourished amazingly on his diet of human
flesh,” had an especial partiality. Further, “neither bow, nor arrow,
nor axe, nor sword, nor spear could slay this redoubtable giant, but
some of the country people about here succeeded at length in making him
drunk and in sawing him in half with a wooden saw!” A truly marvellous
performance in good keeping with the rest of the tale!

But whether the legend of Sir Goddard Oxenbridge has any real
foundation on fact or not, there is little doubt that soon after his
death the place acquired so evil a reputation (owing to the appearance
of his ghost, “with dripping jaws” and “an uncanny light from his
eyes”) that people of a nervous and even those usually of a bold
disposition avoided it. The ingenious smugglers of Hastings and the
neighbourhood in the eighteenth century were not slow to appreciate
the advantages afforded by this gloomy and ruinous old manor house,
and they not only sedulously cultivated the idea that Brede was
haunted but “put up some other very pretty tales amongst the country
folk to dissuade them from approaching the house,” and in addition
showed ghostly and mysterious lights. These tactics were so eminently
successful that for some years the smugglers retained undisturbed
possession of the place, using it as a storehouse for their goods.

There is reputed to be an underground passage leading from the house
to the church--a distance of about a mile--but this has not of recent
years, nor for all we know ever, been entered nor the existence of
it proved. The disappearance of two revenue men was attributed to
the Brede Place gang, and in the eighties of the eighteenth century
the house was attacked and raided in the smugglers’ absence by the
“preventives” in search of their missing comrades. Nothing, not even a
tub or bale, was, however, then discovered, only an old man, who was
as deaf as the proverbial adder and, it is very likely, as wise as the

Close to the house is a bridge which bears the name of “Groaning
Bridge.” Tradition asserts that it was near here that Sir Goddard was
sawn in half, and that the noises which are sometimes heard after dusk
are his lamentable cries. Another tale is that it was in the hollow
beneath the bridge that some of the smugglers used to hide at nights,
and by making “most horrible and terrifying noises and groans so
successfully prevented the further advance of any intending intruder
towards the house.”

Onward from Hastings to our next port, Newhaven, one passes several
of the ancient “limbs” of the Cinque Ports, Pevensey, one of the
eight corporate members, the most important. No longer a port, the
little town lies nearly a mile inland from the sea, which once almost
washed the walls of its fine and impressive castle, set on a mound and
surrounded by a rush-grown moat, and visible from afar.

Pevensey is nowadays, too, divided by stretches of flat marshy fields
from the Channel, and has little of interest remaining save the
traditions of its historic past as a Cinque Port “limb,” the jokes
which are recorded against its municipal rulers, and the fact that it
undoubtedly occupies the site of Anderida of the Romans. The remains
of the Roman walls, which surround the Norman castle of Robert de
Moreton, half-brother of the Conqueror, give to the place an interest
not exceeded even by that of Lewes or Richborough. Here was once a
city or at least a great settlement bordering upon that great, widely
extending forest of Anderida, once covering the Weald of Sussex, which
was probably as large, though perhaps not so famous, as the New Forest
of Hampshire. The departure of the Roman legions was the signal for
piratical descents upon our coasts, and the Saxons under Ella landed on
the shore near Pevensey, and slew every Briton they came across.

Pevensey Castle has had a stirring and chequered history. Its stalwart
walls, now ivy-clad and crumbling, have survived many an attack in
those ages when the strongholds of nobles were called upon to resist
not alone the assaults of foreign invaders, but also those of English
nobles making private war; and within its walls have languished many
whose names are written on the page of history for better or for worse.
Brave Queen Maude held the place against the forces of Stephen, and
only yielded when brought face to face with famine; and it has had yet
another brave woman defender (ranking with Lady Bankes, of Corfe, in
Dorsetshire) for the Lancastrians in the last year of the fourteenth
century, Lady Joan Pelham.

As one writer has put it, “she wielded her pen not less readily than
she commanded and directed the sword.” In a letter to her husband--a
model of tenderness and felicitous expression--she says, “My dear
Lord,--I recommend me to your high Lordship, with heart and body and
all my poor might, and with all this I think (of) you, as my dear Lord,
dearest and best beloved of all earthly Lords.... I heard by your
letter that ye were strong enough with the grace of God for to keep
you from the malice of your enemies. And, dear Lord, if it like you to
your high Lordship that as soon as ye might that I might hear of your
gracious speed, which God Almighty continue and increase. And my dear
Lord, if it like you to know my fare, I am here laid by in manner of
a siege with the county of Sussex, Surrey, and a great parcel of Kent,
so that I may not go out nor no victuals get me, but with much hard.”
Then, in the concluding paragraph, we get a sight of the tender heart
of a devoted and loving woman, the same in all time and stress, and not
variable at all. “Farewell, my dear Lord,” writes the beleaguered Joan
Pelham, “the Holy Trinity keep you from your enemies, and soon send
me good tidings of you.... By your own poor J. Pelham.” And then the
superscription, “To my true Lord.” July 25, 1399.[B]

      [B] Rendered into modern English from Brydge’s Peerage,
          vol. v, C.H.

A few years later and Edmund, Duke of York, was imprisoned here; and
Queen Joan of Navarre, widow of the Duke of Bretagne, and second wife
of Henry IV, was also confined here for a period of more than eight
long years. The former appears to have been “an uncommon grateful
prisoner,” for he is said to have left his gaoler a legacy of £20!

In Pevensey town in the sixteenth century lived a jester (professional
or otherwise we have not succeeded in discovering), Andrew Borde, a
monk, said to be the original “Merry Andrew,” and the author of two
ancient works, still known to the few, called the _Boke of Knowledge_
and _The Wise Men of Gotham_. His witticisms were apparently not seldom
directed against the municipal authorities of Pevensey. On one occasion
he makes the Mayor assert, with much access of dignity, “Though Mayor
of Pevensey I am yet but a man,” and accuses a Pevensey jury of having
brought in a verdict of manslaughter against a yeoman charged with
stealing a pair of leather breeches!

Another detailed account of this latter event says that when the man
had been brought in guilty of stealing the breeches by the jury,
and they were informed that the theft was a capital offence, they
were astounded and unwilling to hang the man and so adjourned the
Court, dispatching a messenger hot haste to Thomas Willard, Esq., of
Eastbourne, the town clerk, to beg his opinion whether it would be
possible to reverse the present verdict and bring in a fresh one. It
happened that Lord Wilmington, with the Chief Baron of the Exchequer,
was at dinner with Mr Willard when the messenger arrived, and upon
Mr Willard telling these two gentlemen the nature of the message he
had received, the Chief Baron (as a joke, one must suppose) said,
“Instruct them to reverse the present verdict and bring in another of
manslaughter.” To this advice Lord Wilmington also assented, and Mr
Willard advised accordingly, with the humorous result we have already

Whilst yet another Mayor, who received an important letter by special
messenger whilst engaged in the occupation of mending the thatch on
his pig’s stye, on attempting to read the communication upside down,
“was so long a-doing it” that the messenger at last ventured to hint
respectfully that if he would attempt to read his letter as did
ordinary folk he would make speedier progress towards mastering the
contents. The reply must have been crushing, “Hold your tongue, sir!”
exclaimed his worship with asperity, “understand that while I’m Mayor
of Pevensey I hold a letter which end up I choose.”

Andrew Borde’s fame as a mirth provoker was so widespread that we
find King Edward VI himself came to visit him. The room which by
tradition is pointed out as that in which the youthful Sovereign had
the interview with his father’s old physician is nowadays somewhat of a
show place, and the house itself is a quaint one.

It is but five miles from Pevensey to Eastbourne, clean and
smart-looking even from a distance at sea, and made yet more attractive
to the vision by the charming wooded slopes of Paradise which form
its setting or background; but there is no harbour or haven, and, in
addition, Eastbourne is too new to have much history.

Two miles south-west of the town rises Beachy Head, the last of the
Downs headlands--rugged, impressive, magnificent, almost sheer in
places, and green-capped with close-cropped turf. In former times there
have been many wrecks on its wave-washed base, till the Belle Tout
lighthouse came in 1831 to fling across the dark waters its saving
light, and the more powerful and more modern one at the base of the
cliff, near what is known as Parson Darby’s hole, was erected in 1902
to take its place.

Possibly Beachy Head, which towers above us as we sweep round it, but
at a respectful distance from the race off the south ledges, with
perhaps a flock of tourists on its summit, having the semblance and
proportions of flies so far above the water are they, has inspired more
poetry than any other headland of the south coast. Most are cognizant
of Mr Swinburne’s beautiful ode “To a Seamew,” which is, alas! too long
for quotation, and would be spoiled by omission of a single stanza. But
from Richard Jefferies’s “The Breeze on Beachy Head” one can cull some
vivid lines, and by them bring the headland to the mind’s eye though
so far from it. “But,” he says, “the glory of these glorious Downs is
the breeze.... It is air without admixture. If it comes from the south,
the waves refine it; if inland, the wheat and the flowers and grass
distil it. The great headland and the whole rib of the promontory is
wind swept and washed with air; the billows of atmosphere roll over
it.... Discover some excuse to be up there always, to search for stray
mushrooms ... or to make a list of flowers and grasses; to do anything,
and, if not, go always without any pretext. Lands of gold have been
found, and lands of spices and precious merchandize; but this is the
land of health.”

One remembers, too, the description of the headland in _King Lear_.
The truth of which, down to the smallest detail, seems to prove beyond
question that Shakespeare himself must have visited the spot and have
drunk in the salt sea breeze and felt the glorious sun as have other
poets and writers.

And thus, as we leave the gleaming headland astern, we make for
Newhaven by way of Seaford. The latter has by far the more attractive
history, as should naturally follow the distinction of being a “limb”
of the Cinque Ports. The cliffs are very fine all along to Seaford,
and once a haven of refuge came very near being made at Cuckmere close
by, but the advantages or claims, or both, of Portland further west

It was on the water between Beachy Head and Newhaven that on June 30,
1690, De Tourville, Admiral of the French fleet, having gained valuable
information from a Lydd publican of the division of the English and
Dutch sea forces, bore down upon the latter and gave them battle.
Outnumbered though they were--the French had eighty-five ships to the
Hollanders’ thirty--the Dutch fought gallantly, but suffered a heavy
defeat; whilst the English ships to leeward were unable to come to
their allies’ assistance until the victory had been virtually won.
The English admiral, Lord Torrington, afterwards nearly shared the
fate meted out to Admiral Byng sixty-seven years later, but, although
committed to the Tower and tried, to William of Orange’s keen disgust
he was acquitted.

[Illustration: BEACHY HEAD]

Seaford has indeed a chequered history. Like its other stranded
neighbours amongst the Cinque and other Ports of the Confederacy, it
once possessed its harbour, formed by the Ouse, known even in Roman
times. And it sent two representatives to Parliament in the year 1300.
Two years later it was commanded to furnish King Edward with a ship
for his French expedition, two ships for the King in 1336, and five
but eleven years later, so that its growth at that period must have
been rapid; but in the reign of the Third Edward the decline of the
place was equally marked. It ceased to send members to Parliament,
and, with its haven rapidly silting up and the town suffering constant
attacks by the French, the place and its inhabitants were soon in evil
case. In the reigns of the last-named King and those of Richard II and
Henry IV it was repeatedly sacked and burned, and so discontented did
the people become with the want of assistance and protection afforded
them, more especially in the reign of weak Henry VI, that they were
ripe for rebellion, and when Jack Cade appeared they joined him almost
to a man.

From this period onwards the Ouse now rapidly filled up, so that there
was soon but the mere semblance of a port, and finally the river
changed its course, found an outlet near the village of Meeching, and
ultimately, in the sixteenth century, formed a harbour at Newhaven,
in the mere name of which the downfall of neighbouring Seaford is
succinctly told.

The French were not, however, content to leave the poor sea-deserted
place alone. They made one of their periodical descents upon it in
1545. But on this occasion, with the assistance of gallant Sir Nicholas
Pelham, the invaders were beaten off with heavy loss, the event being
commemorated upon the worthy knight’s tomb in the following somewhat
halting lines:

    What time the French sought to have sack’t Seaford
    This Pelham did repel ’em back aboord.

In 1640 Seaford was once more empowered to send representatives
to Parliament, and later on amongst those who from time to time
represented what had become a Treasury Borough we find William Pitt the
elder and George Canning.

The wreckers and smugglers of Seaford during the latter half of the
eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth century were scarcely less
notorious than those of Hastings, Rye, and other places on the Sussex
coast. Many a vessel was lured to destruction, and many a cargo run
almost in sight of the authorities who existed to put down these
malpractices. From a letter of a gentleman of Stafford, Sussex, to
one of the newspapers on September 18, 1783, we extract the following
account of smuggling as it then existed. “There is,” he writes, “a most
convenient port, about a mile from Seaford, for smugglers to land their
goods, and so daring are they become, that a dozen or more cutters may
frequently be seen laying-to in open day.” On Tuesday evening, between
two and three hundred smugglers on horseback came to Cookmere, and
received various kinds of goods from the boats, “till at last the whole
number were laden, when, in defiance of the King’s officers, they went
their way in great triumph. About a week before this upwards of three
hundred attended at the same place, and though the sea ran mountains
high, the daring men in the cutters made good the landing, to the
surprise of everybody, and the men on horseback took all away.”

It is chiefly from such extracts as that which we have just made that
any clear idea can be obtained regarding the prevalence of smuggling
and the daring tactics of the smugglers of those times.

The prospect of a French invasion in 1803 and 1804 made Seaford and
the immediate neighbourhood a scene of unwonted activity. We are told
that the Commander-in-Chief, His Royal Highness the Duke of York, and
Major-General Lennox issued orders, which were received by the colonel
commanding in the district, to the effect “that the French, should they
succeed in crossing the British Channel (not English Channel, mark
you), would certainly attempt a landing in Seaford Bay,” and the orders
went on to say that a strict and vigilant watch was to be kept up in

The conduct of the farmers in the neighbourhood in putting up and
“finding for” large numbers of troops for a lengthy period was greatly
commended by one Lieutenant-Colonel Frith in the following year
(1804), and the officers of His Majesty’s First or North Battalion of
Hampshire Militia, which had been concentrated in Sussex, on leaving
Alfriston. The letter from the lieutenant-colonel in question expresses
that “They feel that they have been received as brethren engaged in one
common cause, the defence of their country, and all that it contains
most near and dear.”

Although the French never succeeded in crossing the Channel in force
and effecting a landing in Seaford Bay or anywhere else, it is somewhat
startling to read such an extract as the following, also taken from a
newspaper of the period: “Dec. 28, 1807. On Saturday morning last a
daring attempt was made by a French privateer to capture two loaded
colliers, lying off Seaford.... The enemy succeeded in capturing and
sending away one, and was proceeding to take possession of the other.
The latter, however, fortunately mounted two or three swivels, a
well-directed discharge from which, it is supposed, gave an unexpected
quietus to several of the assailants.”

Little wonder need there be if folk along the coast went uneasily to
their beds in those days, “fearing” (as one picturesque if somewhat
reckless writer says) “lest they should wake from their peaceful
slumbers to find their throats cut by the French.”

The doings of bold John Whitfield, the notorious smuggler, who for
his crimes and constant evasions of the Revenue laws was ultimately
outlawed, and made his peace by presenting King George II with a
parcel of his choicest wines, “than which the King is said to have
declared he never drank better,” would fill a book; but, robbed of his
picturesqueness and romance, the said Whitfield was, we believe, a
sorry villain, and not above murdering a stray “preventive” were he to
come athwart his schemes.

However, Seaford of to-day is very different from Seaford of the early
years of the last century. Now it is just a pleasant little town
nestling at the foot of the Downs, well-sheltered from northerly,
north-easterly and north-westerly gales, and yet, from its exposure to
the south and west, enjoying warm and invigorating breezes by turn.

It has few objects of interest in the usually accepted sense of
the term, but in Church Street under one of the houses is a most
interesting and ancient crypt, which is by some supposed to have
had some connection with the Hospital of St Leonard, whilst other
authorities think that the crypt once formed a part of the ancient
Courthouse or Town Hall. The vaulting ribs are of plain design, and the
bosses of the Early English type. This is one of the most important
relics of ancient Seaford. Unhappily the church was allowed, during the
later part of the eighteenth century, to fall into a terrible state of
disrepair. Much has from time to time been done to restore it, but the
restorations and additions have not invariably been done judiciously or
with knowledge.

Newhaven, though a good harbour--in fact, the only real haven of
refuge of any consequence or ease of entrance between Folkestone and
the Wight--is not a place in which to waste much time. The town is
picturesque in parts (as, indeed, are most ports), but it is not much
frequented by any save those brought hither by business or stress of
weather. Although, even as Meeching, its old name, it finds no mention
in the Domesday Book, there is little doubt that it is a place of
some antiquity, for there are early Norman traces in the architecture
of its church, and also the remains of an encampment with high
earthworks on the land side near the shore on the west bank of the
river. The modern town which has sprung up on the banks of the Ouse
as one of the cross Channel ports dates its origin to the great storm
in the year 1570, during which the course of the river was changed
from its Seaford outlet to a more direct confluence with the sea at
Meeching. In the year 1881 the town was made a port, and since then
has gained considerable standing as one of the most frequented places
of embarkation for France and as a depôt for a considerable amount of
Continental trade.

It was here that in 1848 Louis Philippe and his Queen, Marie Amelie,
landed after escaping from Tréport in a fishing lugger under the
unromantic and not easily distinguished names of Mr and Mrs Smith.
The Royal fugitives were welcomed by a well-known Sussex character,
William Catt by name, who was not only a prosperous miller but a noted
fruit-grower. They afterwards took rooms at the Bridge Hotel, kept, as
it happened, by a Mr Smith, which circumstance, we are told, “caused
his ex-Majesty some considerable amusement and laughter.”

The town has the distinction (like Kingsbridge in fair Devon) of
manufacturing “a local tipple of some potency.” The original brewer,
Thomas Tipper by name, after whom the concoction, “Newhaven tipper,”
is known, died in the merry month of May, 1785, at, as it was reckoned
in those times, the early age of fifty-four. The epitaph on his tomb,
after reciting various virtues, declares:

    The best old stingo, he both brewed and sold,
    Nor did one knavish act to get his gold;
    He played thro’ life a very comic part,
    And knew immortal _Hudibras_ by heart.
    Reader, in real truth, such was the man,
    Be better, wiser, laugh more if you can.

Local tradition asserts that the said Thomas Tipper was a good friend,
too, of the local smugglers; but this in the times in which he lived
would not invalidate his claim to have never done “one knavish act to
get his gold.” His brew, we are told, was prepared with, and owed its
“peculiar charm of flavour” to, brackish water, and it is more, we
believe, than a mere tale that George IV, whilst at Brighton, imbibed
it freely and with no particular harm. One authority goes so far as to
assert “with great satisfaction.”

The church of Newhaven is not only interesting, but has a very
beautiful situation on the hillside above the town. The one peculiarity
in its architecture which strikes one at first sight is the position of
its tower placed at the eastern end, while to the east of the tower is
placed a fine semicircular apse--which has its counterpart, with other
features as well, in the church of Vainville in Normandy--in which one
of the small Norman windows can be seen. The pointed windows are of
considerably later date.

The interior stone work, where it has not been carelessly and
inappropriately restored, is good. The tower chancel is a very fine
piece of work, and has been less disfigured than other portions of the

This ancient church might well have been a “sailors’ chapel,” such as
one finds in places on the North Devon coast and so frequently along
the opposite coast of Normandy; but, so far as one can tell, it had no
special significance in this respect, though in the churchyard is an
obelisk to the memory of Captain James Hanson, a companion of Vancouver
on his voyage round the world, who was drowned with over one hundred
officers and men by the casting away of his ship, the sloop of war
_Brazen_, off the Ave Rocks in the year 1800.

The coast-line, when one has got out of Newhaven and has laid a course
for Shoreham eleven miles distant, is first a series of lofty chalk
cliffs, with breezy uplands stretching inland, and then three or
four miles of Brighton and Hove shore and sea-front. A long line of
houses, hotels and mansions of so distinct a character that, so far
as we know, Brighton is never, at least by seamen, mistaken for any
other south-coast town. Of “London by the Sea,” as it has been called,
there is neither occasion nor space to speak in detail, but that it is
of very ancient origin, though at the present day so ultra-modern,
there can be little reasonable doubt. The Burrell MSS tell us that
“there are three Roman castra, lying in a line over-thwart the Downs
from Brighthelmstone to Ditchelling, from south to north. The first,
a large one, called the Castle, about a mile from Brighton eastward,
and a mile from the sea.” The name is by some supposed to have been
derived from Brighthelm, Bishop of Wells, who was afterwards translated
to the Archbishopric of Canterbury, and in a volume called _The Family
Topographer_ occurs the following statement, “Brighthelm was slain on
the down immediately above Brighthelmstone, to which place he gave
his name.” Upon what authority this statement is made, or whether it
was Brighthelm the Archbishop or some other of the fairly numerous
Brighthelms who figure in history in Saxon times, we have been unable
clearly to discover.

The one important, authentic and romantic incident in connexion with
Brighthelmstone is the escape of Charles II from the fishing village,
which it then was, to the French coast after many wanderings subsequent
to the Battle of Worcester.

The town suffered, as did so many others, from the attacks of the
French, and in the year 1545 they made a descent upon it in force.
Holinshed gives a very full and detailed account of their proceedings
as follows: “In 37 Henry VIII, 1545, July 8, the Admiral of France,
Mons. Donnebatte, hoisted up sailles, and with his whole navy (which
consisted of two hundred ships and twenty-six gallies) came forth into
the seas, and arrived on the coast of Sussex, before Bright Hampstead,
and set certain of his soldiers on land to burn and spoil the country;
but the beacons were fired, and the inhabitants thereabouts came down
so thick that the Frenchmen were driven to their ships with loss of
diverse of their numbers, so they did little hurt there. Immediately
hereupon they made to the Isle of Wight, when about two thousand of
their men landed, and one of their chief Captains, named Chevalier
Daux, a Provençois, being slain with many other, the residue, with
loss and shame, were driven back again to their gallies.... They
disanctioned (disanchored), and drew along the coast of Sussex, and
a small number landed again in Sussex, of whom few returned to their
ships, for divers gentlemen of the country, as Sir Nicholas Pelham and
others, with such power as was raised upon the sudden, took them by
the way and quickly distressed them ... they turned stern, and so got
them home again without any act achieved worthy to be mentioned.” As
this same account goes on to say, “The number of Frenchmen was great,
so that diverse of them who were taken prisoners in the Isle of Wight
and in Sussex did report they were three score thousand.” Unless this
estimate was purposely and grossly exaggerated, the force was one of
the largest ever launched against these shores.

A most interesting and curious map, dated “1545 Julye 37 Hen. VIII,”
is in the Cottonian Library, and was apparently drawn for the chief
purpose of exhibiting the attack to which we have just referred, and
to afford a plan of the coast, with the possible end in view of the
establishment of fortifications and defensive works. It is quaintly
illustrated, and upon the sea are more than twenty ships, the largest
with four masts, several three, some two, and the remainder one, upon
which is hoisted a huge lateen sail. The decks of the larger ships
are raised in two or more tiers at both bow and stern like those of
the Roman galleys, and each ship is flaunting half a score of flags
and pennons. Some have huge _fleurs de lis_ in gold on blue, others a
red cross on white. On the sea, towards the west side of the map, is
inscribed the following curious and, we fear, inaccurate information:
“Shypes may ride all somer tem in a myle the towne in V fathome water.”
On the eastern side of the map is the following inscription regarding
the doings of the French: “Thesse grete shyppes rydeng hard abode
shore by shoting into the hill and wallies on the towne, so sore
oppressed the towne that the countrey dare not adventure to resscue it.”

Then, as regards the land portion of this curious map, at the bottom
of the sea near “Hoove” is written, “Upon this west pte may lond C.M.
p’sones (100,000 persons) unletted by any p’vision there.” On the hills
are several “wynde mylles,” and above them “the becon of the town”
blazing away in a dish-like cresset on a high pole. Many of the houses
shown are on fire, and a spot is marked by the following announcement,
“Here landed the galeys.”

There is on the producer’s part of this map a delightful and utterly
reckless disregard for what is commonly known as perspective. The
roads are in most cases drawn as though absolutely perpendicular,
necessitating the most acrobatic feats of the inhabitants who
pass along them. As for the “galeys,” some of them have performed
somersaults on landing on the beach, whilst others are tumbling
backwards. The houses are drawn rather smaller than the people who live
in them, and there are other equally entertaining anachronisms; but
this curious production probably served its main purpose, for defensive
towers were built and other steps taken to frustrate any further
depredations which might be attempted by the French.

Brighthelmstone had its “quiver” at the thought of the Armada, a little
less than half a century later. During a false alarm in 1586, when a
fleet of fifty sail appeared in the offing, great activity was shown
by the inhabitants, who immediately dispatched a messenger to Lord
Buckhurst, lord lieutenant of Sussex, telling him of the suspicious
vessels, and he promptly assembled all the men he could muster, “with
their armes,” and took up a position between Brighthelmstone and
Rottingdean. By nightfall we are told his force numbered 1,600 men, and
was later on reinforced by the addition of a body of Kentish men. As
the fleet made no movement to attack nor any demonstration of hostile
intent, at last a fishing boat or two, “with bold men who feared
neither death nor capture,” put off from the beach to reconnoitre.
They then discovered that the supposed Armada was but the Dutch wine
fleet from Spain, held back by the unfavourable direction of the wind
from proceeding to their destination up Channel, and thus, so far as
Brighthelmstone is concerned, ended its doings with the Armada.

In the terrific storms of December 27, 1703, and in 1705,
Brighthelmstone suffered so severely that it is scarcely too much to
say that it was ruined. So greatly also did it decline in the next few
years that in 1725 the author of _A Tour Through Great Britain_ speaks
of the place as “a poor fishing town, old-built on the very edge of
the sea,” and goes on to say that it has a likelihood of being soon
entirely swallowed up owing to the rapid encroachment of the sea.

With Brighton, as it came to be called later on, in the days when it
was emerging from decline and obscurity to flourish under the Georgian
patronage it received, and with the Brighton of to-day, which is one
of the great seaside resorts of the world, there is neither necessity
nor space to deal. We must on to Shoreham, the quaint little fishing
village of smuggling days, now threatened in the near future with
development as a seaside resort. Here there is a haven into which one
can run in stress of weather, although few, we imagine, would choose to
remain in it longer than necessary.

In the old smuggling times it was notorious, and even in the present
day there are “tub holes” in not a few of the older houses, and not
many years ago, in a house near by the church, one such was brought
to light when the back part of the building was pulled down. It was
connected with the shore by a passage, long ago filled up at its
seaward end, and in the latter were found more than a score of “tubs,”
and several packages of tea and lace. Of the spirit one who was there
states “it was by no means bad, over-woody, perhaps, but still by no
means entirely spoiled and certainly not undrinkable.” Of the tea none
was of use, and the lace was much rotted, notwithstanding the thick
oilskin covers to the bales, and in most instances the rats had made
use of it for nesting purposes. In the centre of two bales, however,
some yards were found undamaged, which, as the lace was well on for a
century old, more than paid for the alterations which the owner of the
house was making.

But even Shoreham, straggling and uninteresting as it mostly is
nowadays, has figured in what has been called “rustling and purple
romance” in the past, for was it not from Shoreham, or, at all
events, hard by, between it and Hove, that Charles II escaped? The
story of Charles’s wanderings is so well known that there is no need
to recapitulate them here, but there is a most interesting document
entitled, “The last act, in the miraculous Storie of his Mties escape;
being a true and perfect relation of his conveyance, through many
dangers, to a safe harbour; and out of the reach of his tyranicall
enemies, by Colonell Gounter; of Rackton in Sussex; who had the
happiness to bee instrumentall in the business (as it was taken down
from his mouth by a person of worth a little before his death),” which
in the part referring to the King’s movements at Shoreham is, we think,
worth quotation.

We are told that on the evening before his escape, “At supper, the King
was cheerful, not showing the least signe of feare or apprehension of
any daunger....” The boatman and also Charles’s host were present at
supper, the latter waiting upon the King, and then afterwards “the
Coll. (Colonel Gounter) began to treat with the boateman (Tettersfield
by name, afterwards referred to as Tattersall), asking him in what
readiness he was. He answered he could not of (get off) that night,
because for more securitie he had brought his vessel into a breake,
and the tyde had forsaken it, soe that it was on ground.... The King,
then opening the wenddowe, tooke notice, that the wind was turned and
told the master of the Shipp. Whereupon because of the wind and a
cleere night, the Coll. offered 10ll (ten pounds) more to the man to
gett off that night. But that could not bee. However they agreed, he
should take in his company that night. But it was a great business that
they had in hand, and God would have them to knowe soe, both by the
difficulties that offered themselves, and by his help, he afforded to
remoove them.”

When, however, all was thought to be settled, the boatman demanded the
insurance of his vessel, and, after some demur, Colonel Gounter agreed
to this, he placed the figure at £200. Obtaining a promise of this, he
yet appears to have raised difficulties in the way of a start, much
to the Colonel’s fear and annoyance. The Colonel then appears to have
taken a stand by telling the man that there were other boats to be
had, more especially after the man had declined to move unless he had
Colonel Gounter’s bond for payment of the money.

Then we are told, “In this contest the King happily interposed. Hee
saith right (said his Matie) a Gentleman’s word, especially before
witnesses, is as good as his bond. At last [delightful phrase!] the
man’s stomach came downe, and carrie them he would, whatever became
of it, and before he would be taken, hee would run his boat under
the water. Soe it was agreed that about tooe in the morning they
should be aboard. The boateman in the meane tyme, went to provide for
necessaries, so he (the Colonel) persuaded the King to take some rest.
He did in his cloaths, and my Ld. Willmot with him, till towards twoo
of the morning. Then the Coll. called them up, showing them how the
tyme went by his watch. Horses being ledd by the back way towards the
beach. They came to the boate, and found all readie. So the Coll. tooke
his leave, craving his Maties pardon if anything had happened through
error, nor want of will or loyaltie.... The Coll. abided there,
keeping the horses in a readiness in case any thing unexpected had

“At 8 of the clock I (the Colonel) saw them on sayle and it was
afternoone before they were out of sight. The wind (O Providence) held
very good till the next morning, to ten of the clock brought them to
a place in Normandie called Fackham (Fécamp), some three miles from
Havre de Grace. 15 Oct. Wenseday. They were no sooner landed, but the
wind turned and a violent storm did arise soe much that the boateman
was forced to cutt his cable, lost his anchor to save his boate, for
which he required of me 8ll, and had it. The boate was back againe at
Chichester by Friday to take his fraught.”

Then follows a significant note, “I was not gone out of the towne of
Brighthelmstone twoe houres but soldiers came thither to search for a
tall black man 6 foot and 4 inches high.”

Accounts vary as to whether the King actually came to Shoreham at all.
By some it is thought that the day or two previous to his coming to an
inn at Brighton were spent at Ovingdean at the house of a Mr Mansell
about three miles from Brighton, or what is now Kemp Town.

That the King did not always, after his Restoration, remember those who
had been of service to him during the period of his adversity is proved
by the story that even Tattersall was forgotten. The old seaman took a
curious way of reminding his Sovereign of his neglect. He sailed the
boat in which he had carried Charles to Fécamp up the Thames and moored
it off Whitehall. The hint was taken. Charles directed that the brig
should be taken into the Royal Navy as a fifth-rate ship of war, and
renamed her the _Royal Escape_. Tattersall himself was duly appointed
captain with a substantial salary, and a pension in addition of £100
per annum, an amount equal in value to about £380 of present-day
money. This was also for several generations paid to Tattersall’s

An ivy-clad cottage on Southwick Green is still pointed out as that in
which Charles slept on the night before his escape to France. It is
known as King Charles’s Cottage, but how far tradition is to be relied
upon in this instance we are unable positively to assert.

Shoreham harbour formerly was of much greater area than nowadays, when,
as one writer puts it, “Nature has been too kind to Shoreham folk by
giving them too much land, by taking from them most all the water save
that which lies in the channel of the Adur.” In former times, indeed,
Shoreham had some reputation for the building of fast-sailing luggers
and other craft, many of which, in the last half of the eighteenth and
early years of the nineteenth centuries, were engaged in smuggling
ventures and privateering.

And who could blame the descendants of the men who suffered so much
in early times from the attacks of their neighbours across Channel if
they profited by the purchase of their goods in the shape of cognac and
lace, or, at a pinch, helped themselves without purchase when the two
countries found themselves at war?


Shoreham privateers were not a whit less skilfully handled and bravely
fought than those sailing out of larger and more famous ports of the
west country. The town, in Armada times, had furnished a fair share
of ships and men with which to fight the Spanish Dons, and the spirit
which animated the local seamen of the Elizabethan age was not “dead
bones” in those of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as is
shown by the extraordinary exploits of a certain Captain Gyffard. He
was an enterprising man this Captain Gyffard, who when he was ashore
(which was not, we are told, very often) had his anchorage at West
Blatchington, while he did his seafaring and fitting out at Shoreham.
That he was a man of great ambitions we gather from the fact that he
had a scheme by which the then Duke of Buckingham was to finance him,
and share the spoil. There appeared something dangerously like piracy
in the detailed scheme of the worthy captain, and the Duke failed his
man. But Captain Gyffard found money and men, and after all many a
goodly prize was towed by him into Shoreham.

Another worthy of the town, a certain Captain Scrass, had less nicety
of judgement regarding the right of others than we could have liked.
One day, whilst cruising in search of plunder aboard his ship, the
_Dolphin_, he espied a Dutch man-o’-war standing up Channel with a
prize in tow, which proved to be a Swansea barque. Scrass gallantly
went to the rescue, recaptured the Welsh ship and promptly set sail,
and towed her in triumph to Shoreham; but, mark you, as his own prize!
Poor Powell, her master, was in dire distress, but, notwithstanding
his arguments and appeals, Scrass “froze on to his prize,” and refused
to give her up, and even her dispossessed captain’s appeals to the
Admiralty, made over and over again, had no effect, and he never
appears to have received either justice or satisfaction.

Shoreham has had the dubious honour in the past (to be accurate, in
1770) of having its returning officer for Parliamentary elections
summoned to the Bar of the House to give an account of his misdeeds.
It happened in this way. The Borough in those days sent two
representatives to Parliament, and it occurred to a body of ingenious
souls that these elections might be made the source of much profit
to themselves, so they formed themselves into an organization called
the Christian Club! It met at the inn for the reputed purpose of
transacting charitable and other highly commendable business. The
members were not summoned by the usual means of letters or verbal
notice, but by the hoisting of a certain flag on the inn. The funds
by which the members used to grant assistance to each other were the
proceeds of “rigged” elections. In those days there were comparatively
few electors, so that most were members of the Christian Society;
but at last their real object was discovered. One of the defeated
candidates lodged a petition, and it was then found that the Returning
Officer had calmly secured the election of the gentleman who enjoyed
(on the payment of an agreed and substantial sum) the good will of
the Christian Society members, by the simple expedient of disallowing
the votes recorded for his opponent. It is said that this revelation
of corruption helped materially the passing of the great Reform Bill.
However that may be, the Returning Officer was severely censured, the
right of voting was extended to every forty-shilling holder in the Rape
of Bramber; and as a punishment no less than eighty-five (or about
three-fifths) of the Shoreham “free and independent” electors were

It is New Shoreham that most people see, and that usually passes under
the name of Shoreham. The old Shoreham, with its interesting and fine
Norman church, is but a tiny place nowadays, famous chiefly for its
wooden bridge over the Adur leading to the old smuggling inn known as
the Old Sussex Pad, which was burned to the ground a few years ago, and
was once the haunt and hiding place of the most notorious smugglers
of the district, and literally honeycombed with secret chambers, “tub
holes,” and recesses for the stowing away “of humans when there was a
hue and cry, and smuggled goods.”

New Shoreham Church, dating from about 1100, is one of the finest
in Sussex. It was once attached to the Abbey of Saumur, to which
foundation it was presented by William de Braoze, Lord of Bramber....
It is around this church of St Mary that by far the oldest and
most picturesque portion of the little town is found. Here the
eighteenth-century houses, grey and time worn, and perhaps a little
sedate in appearance, are grouped so that they form a little colony
of ancient things by themselves, and have a charm which few fail to
appreciate. In one of them once lived a certain Captain Henry Roberts,
a Shoreham man, who accompanied Captain Cook on several of his voyages,
and ultimately died of fever at sea. In others dwelt several merchants
of distinction at the end of the eighteenth century, whose wealth
rumour asserted was not unconnected with smuggling, privateering, and
the slave trade.

Two poets of great distinction have found inspiration at Shoreham (and
how many artists with brush and colours we wonder?), and have written
of the old church, and the shallow, yellow, and almost currentless
stream, which when the tide has rushed Channel-ward is little more
than a large ditch, and leaves a great expanse of sand, mud flats,
and oyster beds uncovered. The fine poem _On the South Coast_ in
_Astrophel, and other Poems_, by Mr Swinburne is too long for complete
quotation. Here, however, is a portion which calls up Shoreham to the

    Rose-red eve on the seas that heave sinks fair as dawn when the
        first ray peers;
    Winds are glancing from sunbright Lancing to Shoreham, crowned with
        the grace of years;
    Shoreham, clad with the sunset, glad and grave with glory that
        death reveres.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Skies fulfilled with the sundown, stilled and splendid, spread as a
        flower that spreads,
    Pave with rarer device and fairer than heaven’s the luminous
    Grass-embanked, and in square plots ranked, inlaid with gems that
        the sundown sheds.

    Squares more bright and with lovelier light than heaven that
        kindled it shines with shine
    Warm and soft as the dome aloft, but heavenlier yet than the sun’s
        own shrine:
    Heaven is high, but the water-sky lit here seems deeper and
        more divine.

But one must not linger by the way, for the harbour itself, as we have
already said, is not one to remain over long in.

And so up anchor and away with the ebb down the coast; flat and
uninteresting now, though in the background at first rise pleasant
heights, with Lancing College buildings and Chapel amid some trees on
the slope of a ridge above the Adur. That strange conglomeration of
derelictions from duties manifold converted into the semblance of quite
imposing and sometimes artistic habitations known as “Bungalow Town”
is soon passed; and then the serried rows of houses marking Worthing
sea-front soon lie stretched out along the low, shingly shore. But
there is nothing here to detain us, for Worthing has not much history
that concerns us, and is not a port (though a pleasant spot enough
and picturesque) with the conspicuous clump of trees marking ancient
Chanctonbury Rings to the north, and we are bound for the last haven
we shall enter before dropping anchor in the busy waters of Portsmouth

Littlehampton is a quaint port on the River Arun, which is so
delightful from just beyond Ford Junction onwards. All the way to
Pulborough one has flower-decked fields, old and ruined castles,
picturesque villages, and historic manor-houses to cause one to stray
from the river’s bank on exploration bent. Of course, there is no great
depth of water much above Arundel for even small craft; though fairly
large vessels can get up as far as Arundel town bridge.

Formerly Littlehampton, which has a narrow but picturesque entry past
the jetty with its lighthouse, and the windmill in the background, was
a place with trade of some considerable importance, which the rise of
Newhaven much injured.

The place, like Shoreham, has attracted many artists, amongst them
that charming painter of truly English rural landscapes Mr B. W.
Leader, R.A. The town should be celebrated if for nothing else for its
sunsets. “Out of Italy,” exclaims one enthusiastic artist, “I have seen
no sunsets with such a range and splendour of tints as at Littlehampton
in Sussex.”

The town can, however, also lay claim to some antiquity, for an
allusion to it appears in the Domesday Book, proving that it was then a
place within the usual meaning of the word. But even before then it was
known as “Hanton,” was held in Anglo-Saxon times by one “Countess Goda,
and furnished land for one plough, with two cottars and one acre of
meadow.” For long from its position near the mouth of the Arun it was
known as the Port of Arundel, the estuary being in ancient times much
wider than one would now imagine. In former times the town seems to
have attained to considerable size and importance, owing chiefly to the
trade between it and the Conqueror’s Duchy and the passage to and fro
“of many notable knights and commoner folk.”

It was here that William Rufus landed in 1097 after one of his
periodical visits to his Duchy. And to Littlehampton came some of the
prisoners from Crecy, brought hither across seas by Richard FitzAlan,
the 13th Earl of Arundel, in 1347. He was wise to bring them if the
story is true that their “ransoms were of so great a summe that they
served to paye for the building of the Great Hall at Arundell,” and
other additions.

Another Richard FitzAlan (his grandson), in the reign of Henry IV,
brought no less than eighty French ships captured in the Channel, and
laden with 20,000 tuns of wine, into the port; which Froissart averred
made it possible to purchase in London the best wine for fourpence a
gallon! And at Littlehampton? Well, small wonder that “men and wenches
were merry, and had full stomachs and light hearts for many a day

Many other strange things and important personages throughout the
centuries were landed at this little Sussex port, amongst them “a
great wale,” and Philip Howard, who, after having been taken on the
high seas, was brought to Littlehampton, and conveyed thence to London,
the Tower, and the scaffold.

Its trade in the Middle Ages would appear from contemporary accounts of
its houses, buildings and population, and maps to have been much larger
than the size of the place would lead one to presume. In 1672, however,
it had only its church, manor house, and fourteen other dwelling
houses, and a few warehouses. But during the succeeding hundred years
several attempts were made to improve the harbour, and the depth of
water over the bar, and from the _Grub Street Journal_ of January 1,
1736, a copy of which, framed and glazed, is now in the possession of
one of the inhabitants, we learn “The new Harbour at Littlehampton
in Sussex was opened on Monday, and there was 7 feet of water at
half spring tide, and 9 feet when the tide was highest, and in all
likelihood it will prove the best harbour on that coast.”

But these high hopes were destined to be unrealized, and Littlehampton
has made practically no progress as a port during the last hundred
years, though its popularity as a pleasant and pretty holiday resort
is ever increasing. It was to the Earl of Surrey in 1790 that the town
owed its start as a health resort, and after Surrey House was built
other fashionable folk resorted hither.

There is still a certain amount of shipbuilding done; but we have
never of late years seen any vessel on the stocks approaching in size
the craft of 900 tons which were formerly launched. And we fancy the
industry--perhaps because of the greater use of steam--is a declining
if not a dying one.

With the demolition of the old parish Church of St Mary in 1826 to
provide a larger building Littlehampton’s sole really ancient building
disappeared. The modern (old style) building does not commend itself
to the fastidious in architecture; although it scarcely, perhaps,
entirely merits the uncomplimentary epithets which have been applied to
it from time to time by architects and others. In it there are a few
interesting relics, and fragments of the fine earlier building which
was Transitional Norman in character. They include the Norman (some say
pre-Norman) font, of bowl-shaped design which fitted it for immersion.

But if the town itself nowadays has to rely rather upon its modern than
its old-time attractions, it can boast of a neighbourhood wonderfully
rich in beautiful scenery, and historic memories and buildings. A
week or even more at Littlehampton can be well spent in visiting such
places as Arundel; lovely North Stoke, where the Arun winds at the foot
of wooded hills most delightfully; South Stoke; Amberley, with its
beautiful church, churchyard, and fine castle; Felpham; and Clymping,
with its fortress church, to name but a few.

Most leave the picturesque little port with regret and carry away
memories of its sands, edged most delightfully with grass lawns, and
backed by pleasant residences.

From Littlehampton onward to Selsey Bill the coast is flat and utterly
without scenic interest, though its story is rich with romance.
Millions of sea birds feed in the marshes of the Bill, and its
immediate neighbourhood, but the seals which are said to have given it
its name are those of long ago. Once round the Bill, and Portsmouth is
right ahead, with the Wight winking at one in the shimmering haze of a
bright summer day.

Chapter III


It is not too much to say that the approach to Portsmouth by sea from
the east on a fine summer day, with the Isle of Wight rising from
amidst the waste of waters right ahead, looking like a piece of agate
gleaming through the sun-born haze, is one of great beauty.

On such a day, indeed, Selsey Bill, and the low-lying, much-broken
coast which stretches between it and Southsea Castle, with Hayling
Island, in shape like a deformed foot, dividing the entrances to
Chichester and Langstone Harbours, seems almost to melt into the sea

In the many creeks of these harbours there are picturesque spots well
worth exploring by those who have the time, and for whom the open
sea does not possess greater attractions. Of the inlets indicated,
Bosham is by common consent the most beautiful as well as one of the
most frequented; it can be reached fairly easily, but trouble awaits
those who venture in anything larger than a dinghy up beyond the
creek. In Bosham Reach many a Danish galley has ridden at anchor,
and with the village are linked names great in the dim past ages of
history--Vespasian, Titus, Canute, Harold amongst the number. In the
interesting and ancient church the great Viking’s daughter lies buried,
whilst the bells of Bosham--so the story goes--lie in the fairway hard
by Cubnor Point, sunk there when the Danish pirate ship in which they
had been placed went to the bottom in judgement for the sacrilegious
act. And there were people living not so many decades ago who had
heard, or said they had heard, them ringing when the tide rushed out.

So it will be seen that around this sleepy little town, so far removed
from the more bustling current of modern life, hangs a savour of old
romance. And there are yet folk alive who can yarn of the smuggling
days when Bosham and Chichester Creeks harboured many a bold free
trader, and saw many a good cargo “run.”

As one passes along this bit of much and deeply indented coast,
inland beyond which are the swelling heights of the Portsdown Hills,
green-grey and desolate-looking ridges with almost an unbroken summit
line, crowned and pierced by many suspected and unsuspected forts,
the great naval station for which one is bound climbs up out of the
sea ahead; most pictorial at the distance of half a dozen miles; most
interesting at close quarters.

Behind the serried rows of houses of the “Service” folk, which almost
encircle the matting-like area of Southsea Common, lie vistas of
blue-grey roofs of work-a-day folks’ dwellings, and the huge roof spans
of the building and fitting sheds of the Dockyard; with here and there
masts or some giant crane breaking the sky line above them.

Seen first at sunset, when entering Spithead from the eastward,
the glamour of romance--which noonday sunshine is apt to somewhat
dispel--seems to hang over the great naval station; and the flat
and uninteresting town takes on an element of picturesqueness which
doubtless has tempted artists to paint what would otherwise not be very
paintable. Southsea beach is much favoured in good weather as a place
off which to bring up. But within the harbour--when once its difficult
entrance with the tides running all ways inside, and a perfect crowd of
launches, ferries, and small craft and outgoing vessels to add to one’s
perplexities have been safely threaded--there is good anchorage and
much to see.

There is no busier harbour on the south coast than Portsmouth, for in
it business and pleasure, war and peace, are indissolubly linked. On
the eastern shore is the Naval Dockyard, the steamboat stages, and
most of what commerce comes into the harbour; on the western, chiefly
construction sheds, slips, fitting-out yards, and industries connected
with the pleasure craft which, during the summer months, add such life
and beauty to the Solent and home waters generally.

The harbour itself simply teems with life. Not a moment passes
throughout the hours of daylight that some craft or other--whether
battleship, torpedo boat, destroyer, excursion steamer, yacht, or
trading schooner, barque, brigantine, or rust-red collier--is entering
or leaving it through the narrow jaws between Blockhouse Fort and Point
Battery. A French writer has said “It is the one spot I have seen in
England that impressed me with the tireless activity and sense of the
nation’s naval greatness.” And after a few days spent in the harbour
one realizes the truth of this statement.

If making a lengthy stay one is scarcely likely to find anything
approaching a snug berth nearer Gosport or the Hard than up a little
distance beyond the entrance to Weevil Lake near the Coal Hulks. If
fortunate enough to pick up a mooring buoy here, one is not too far
removed from the life of the harbour, nor has one too long a pull down
to Gosport or Portsmouth Hard.

But now something concerning Portsmouth and its neighbouring town of
Gosport. The name of the latter, a quaint old-fashioned town which
is being slowly but surely absorbed by the Government needs, is
traditionally supposed to have been derived from the words God’s Port,
or the port of safety or deliverance, which was bestowed upon it by
Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, on his landing, A.D. 1158, after
a perilous voyage from the coast of France. There is, however, another
version of its origin, which, whilst stating that it was Henry of
Blois that bestowed the name, gives as the reason the saving of his
brother King Stephen’s life when the vessel in which he was returning
from Normandy was wrecked on the coast near Stokes Bay. Actually, it
would appear more probable that the name is derived from Gorseport,
or the haven among the gorse, with which most of the dry land in the
neighbourhood was formerly covered. There is, however, some authorities
aver, amongst the archives in Winchester Cathedral a deed by which a
grant was made to the inhabitants of the place, enabling them to call
it God’s Port.

One of the most remarkable features connected with the harbour is the
number of villages which grew up on its shores with the names of which
the word “port” became incorporated.

The privilege of holding a market at Gosport was granted to the
village by the Bishop of Winchester, who, however, was not entirely
disinterested in the matter, as he received the tolls of the old
market house. The latter was of wood, and was an interesting building
containing in its upper story some apartments which served as offices
for the bishop’s baronial court. Unfortunately the old place shared
the fate of many other interesting survivals from medieval times in
the neighbourhood, and was pulled down in the year 1811, when a more
commodious market house was erected nearer the shore.

Portsea, which lies to the north of the railway and Portsmouth Harbour
station with Portsea Island, which but for a narrow channel or
waterway would be a peninsula, has for centuries been an interesting
and important portion of the district nowadays known generally as
Portsmouth. Its interest, however, has in the past, as now, been
chiefly of a maritime nature. It does not appear to have had any
very great importance on account of its trade at any period of its
history. But almost from time immemorial fleets have assembled here
before setting forth upon expeditions; and hither they have returned,
often battered, though generally victorious. Here also armies have
foregathered for foreign service, and have returned “from the
Wars.” But Portsea never seems to have ranked with Southampton as a
mercantile port; it has always been more of a naval and military
establishment. Even in ancient times its position must have commended
itself to strategists, for in those days it must have been practically
impregnable, except at one or two points, by reason of the fact that
it was surrounded by water, and the mud and marshland which lay along
its shores rendered landing by an enemy extremely difficult, if not
impossible, and the approach of craft of any size impracticable, except
here and there where the shore was hard, or there was a sandy beach.

Even the Romans appear not to have invaded Portsea Island, for there
are no relics of their occupation discoverable upon it. Its slightly
elevated plateau was, however, admirably adapted for use as a camp and
for the assemblage of armies, and it is doubtless to this fact that
the town largely owed its foundation. In Saxon times it was a Royal
demesne, but ultimately was given by Alfreda, Queen of Ethelred, and,
strange as this may appear, aunt and military teacher of Alfred the
Great, to the church at Winchester.

At the suppression of the religious foundations in the reign of Henry
VIII it was given to the College of Winchester, into whose possession
the greater portion of the land on which Portsea was built, as well as
the advowsons of the churches on the island, passed.

Since then, as every one knows, it has become one of the most important
sections of the naval and military Portsmouth of to-day.

The mere mention of the latter town, with its many and crowded
memories of the past, seems to bear with it a taste of salt air and
the invigorating quality of a sea breeze, and there seems little doubt
but that the Danes harried Portsmouth on several occasions, as they
did most south coast towns of any consequence. And it is also equally
probable that it was here that some at least of the galleys with which
Alfred the Great formed the nucleus of the English navy were built, and
that they sallied forth through the narrow harbour mouth to inflict
the crushing defeat upon the marauders in the Solent, which constituted
one of the most important of the many naval battles that Alfred fought.

It was near Portsmouth, too, that Harold II’s fleet two centuries later
cruised aimlessly about for some time ere sailing northward with the
object of preventing the landing of William of Normandy, which took
place eastward further up the coast; and it was here, in 1139, that
Matilda, daughter of Henry I, landed with a handful of knights, and a
few serving men, to attempt to win the English throne; and Portsmouth
was also the place of departure for Richard Cœur de Lion on his final
expedition to the Holy Land.

Indeed, almost every foot of ground upon which the older portion of
the town now stands is pregnant with historic events, and memories of
the England of the past which, from the dim ages when Portsmouth began
to take shape, has been ever great, upon the narrow and wider seas,
save for a short period in the reign of that pleasure-loving monarch,
Charles II, when the Dutch swept the Channel.

As one walks its streets memories come to one of the innumerable
gallant men--many unsung in ballad and unrecorded in the pages of
history, though deserving both honours--who during the past centuries
have set forth boldly upon enterprises for the preservation of
Britain’s empire of the sea and the maintenance of her honour and glory

There is the famous “Hard.” Who that has read Marryat’s _Peter Simple_
does not know it, and cannot in his mind’s eye conjure up the picture
of the famous place with the pig-tailed “salts” who frequented it in
Nelson’s, and Howe’s, and Rodney’s times?

Mudie, in his _History of Hampshire_, though doing scant justice to
the interest and story of Portsmouth, gives a fairly vivid sketch of
the famous “Hard” about this period. He writes: “Immediately beyond
the gun wharves there is an opening, with the buildings of Portsea
on the other side. This is the Common’s Hard, and it and the row
(houses) opposite are much devoted to the sale of frippery, so that
this is neither the most cleanly nor the most moral spot in England.
It is,” he goes on to say, “the great landing-place from the ships in
the harbour--at least, for the common sailors and those who keep up
intercourse with them.... This common Hard displays no very pleasant
scene in times of peace; in war time it must be far worse.”

But even Mudie sees some use in the Hard, though a questionable one,
as he adds, “But as such scenes are inseparable from places where
sailors resort in great numbers, it is probably better to have it thus
concentrated than if it were dispersed all over the town.”

It was not, however, until the reign of King John that the town
appears to have attained any great prominence as a shipbuilding port;
but during the reign of that monarch, and ever afterwards, there are
frequent mentions of it, as such, in the Records. About the same time
as the commencement of shipbuilding at Portsmouth we find an account of
the assembly by Henry III in 1229 of a great army for his French war
in Poitou, undertaken in order that he might recover the possessions
which John had lost. The naval preparations for the campaign, however,
seem to have been inadequate, as we find the “assemblage of men so
great that they were with but difficulty numbered,” but they had to
be disbanded for lack of both stores and transport across seas. Here,
too (or, to be exact, upon what is known as Southsea Common, nowadays
the resort of ogling nursemaids and children when not used for drill),
Edward III in the summer of 1346 gathered together the army of knights
and fighting men, and good bowmen, upwards of 30,000 strong, which
shortly afterwards won for him the stricken field of Crecy against the
French army of four times the number. Amongst the 30,000 French who
lost their lives was the King of Bohemia, whose crest and motto--three
ostrich plumes and _Ich Dien_--the Prince of Wales afterwards adopted.
At Portsmouth, too, in somewhat later times were assembled the armies
of John of Gaunt and of Edward IV, both bound for the interminable
French wars of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Afterwards Henry VIII in 1545 used the ground as the site of the
huge depôt needed for the victualling and fitting out of the hundred
high-sterned, cumbersome ships with which he intended to sail and
attack the French coast.

The French, however, were already at sea, burning for revenge on
account of the English having taken and destroyed part of Boulogne,
and suddenly, in the July of 1545, with a boldness which it is not
easy for us to understand, the French sailed across Channel with a
fleet of considerable strength and lay to just off Brading for lack of
wind. King Henry VIII, who was at Portsmouth at the time, and had dined
aboard the _Mary Rose_ ere she set out with the rest of the fleet to
meet the enemy, was on Southsea Common an interested, if not alarmed,
spectator of the Frenchmen’s audacity.

But owing to lack of wind neither fleet became generally engaged, and
the affair, which might have been a naval battle, descended to the
level of a mere desultory fight between the French galleys and the
English ships which had succeeded in creeping out nearest the French
fleet ere the wind entirely dropped. The _Mary Rose_ was not one of
the ships near enough to take part in the engagement. She was manned,
so one authority asserts, with officers and seamen who had so good
an opinion of their own importance and skill that they considered
themselves “fitter to command than to obey.” The gun ports were opened,
the guns run out, and, by carelessness on account of the calm, the
latter were not properly secured. As the day wore on, however, a breeze
suddenly came, the ship heeled over to it, and in consequence the
windward tier of guns crashed across the deck, causing the ship to heel
still further over with the great additional weight. The lee ports were
suddenly dipped under water, the sea rushed in, and a few moments later
the great, unwieldy ship sank with 600 on board of her.

It is said that the watchword of the fleet on that memorable occasion
was “God Save the King,” and the pass words, “Long to reign over us.”
Some authorities assert that to these words may be traced the origin of
our National Anthem. How true this view may be it is not easy to say.

There have been other disasters near the same spot, too; notably
the loss of the _Royal George_, the 108-gun ship of Rear-Admiral
Kempenfeldt, which sank at Spithead on August 29, 1782, whilst heeled
over for the repair of a pipe. All hands were aboard to the number of
about 600 souls, including women and Jews. Also there was the sinking
of the _Newcastle_, which went down with her crew in 1703; the loss of
the _Edgar_ and 400 lives by the blowing up of her powder magazine in
1711; and that of 98-gun line-of-battle ship _Boyne_ from a similar
cause in 1795.

War always brought stirring times for Portsmouth, for though, perhaps,
the hum and bustle was not equal to that of to-day’s stress and hurry,
these things are, after all, comparative, and the seamen of “Bluff King
Hal’s” time worked probably with as good or better will than those of
our own in manœuvring the galleons and caravels, which must, as one
writer says, “have been fickle craft in all save a beam wind.”

Leland when he visited Portsmouth found it a place of great interest.
For one thing, he saw the old ship, _Henri Grace de Dieu_, in the dock,
which seems to have impressed him greatly. As he says, it was “one of
the biggest ships that has been made within the memory of man.” He
also saw the great iron cable which was used for blocking the harbour
entrance in times of feared attack. A similar contrivance to that
in common use, for example at Dartmouth, and Fowey, in those days.
Regarding the town itself Leland is not very enthusiastic, for he calls
it “bare, and little occupied in time of peace.” which presents a
striking contrast to what it was even in Nelson’s day, when “the great
activities incidental to a seagoing and naval nation were ceaselessly
going on.”

Southsea Castle, which owes its origin, as do so many other similar
fortresses along the south coast, to King Henry VIII, was already in
existence when Leland paid the place his visit. It was built about
1540, and in that time was probably accurately described by him as a
“ryghte goodlye and warlyke castill.” Here Leland’s spelling varies
from that of his own when describing other castles. But spelling in
those days was often not an author’s strong point. The castle, to which
Henry paid several visits, seems to have served its purpose for about a
century after its erection, as it was immune from attack; but in 1626
it fell a partial victim to fire and had to be rebuilt.

The most stirring period of its history is that of the Civil War, when
Colonel Goring was supposed to be holding the town for King Charles.
Its armament for those days was fairly strong, consisting as it did of
a dozen 12-pounders and other smaller pieces, besides a good supply of
“hand guns, pikes, swords and other weapons of offense.” The Governor
was a Captain Chaloner, who, on the night when the Parliamentarians
came to attack it, had spent the evening in the town carousing with
Colonel Goring and returned to his post the worse for drink, and had
to be awakened out of sleep on the approach of Parliamentarians to the
attack. He promptly made the best terms for himself that he could, and
even went the length of drinking confusion to the King. Gallant Colonel
Goring made an attempt to retake the place, but meantime it had been
strongly garrisoned and so successfully resisted the Royalist attack.
The capture of the castle sealed the fate of the town, which had been
besieged for a month.

For a second time in its history, rather more than a century later, the
danger was to come from within. In the year 1759 some soldiers were
filling cartridges by the aid, it is supposed, of a “naked light,” when
the open powder barrels exploded, with the result that the castle was
almost destroyed. It was, however, once more rebuilt and afterwards was
used as a prison. At the time of the dreaded Napoleonic invasion the
Government of the day, realizing the importance of the place from a
strategical point of view, made several additions, and strengthened it
materially, amongst other things fortifying the ramparts. Nowadays it
is not possible to speak very authoritatively of its strength; but its
usefulness has since the beginning of the nineteenth century been from
time to time assured by additional armament and works.

The records of Portsmouth and its Harbour have not always been
creditable. There have been mutinies, treasonable firing of the
dockyard, and even assassinations in its streets, stirring the
inhabitants to the core, and leading at the time to much excitement and

The most tragic event in the town’s history was the assassination of
the Duke of Buckingham whilst he was at Portsmouth engaged in gathering
together a second force for the relief of La Rochelle, then besieged by
Cardinal Richelieu.

The house in High Street in which the Duke was fatally stabbed by the
fanatic, John Felton, on August 23, 1628, although much altered, is
still standing. One thing should be noted. The house was never (as has
been frequently stated) an inn named “Ye Spotted Dog,” but a private
residence, at that time owned by a Captain Mason, then Governor of
Southsea Castle, who afterwards became famous as the founder of the
town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S.A. The assassin, who struck down
the King’s favourite after the Duke had become unpopular on account of
his arrogance and two unsuccessful wars undertaken at his instigation,
was a lieutenant in a foot regiment. It is supposed that, being
overlooked for promotion and arrears of pay due to him, somewhat preyed
upon and may even have unhinged his mind. Be it as it may, on a fine
August morning he gained entrance to the Duke’s temporary residence,
and, finding him standing in the hall, as he was about to start to
visit the King at Southwick, he stabbed him. So swift and silent was
the blow that for some moments no one recognized the murderer. “Then
amid great confusion, and the piercing shrieks of the Duchess and her
maid, Felton stepped forward and acknowledged the crime.”

It was with difficulty that he was saved from immediate execution, but
the reprieve was not for long. He was, however, for the time protected
and taken to London for trial. He was executed at Tyburn on November
26 in the same year, and his dead body was exhibited as a warning on
Southsea Beach. The site of the gibbet where Felton hung rotting in
chains is near Clarence Pier.

He must have been a man of resource and some considerable daring, for
when he was promised the rack by the Earl of Dorset if he did not
disclose the names of his supposed accomplices, he successfully put an
end to the possibility of his being racked by declaring that if put to
the torture the first name he would mention would be that of the Earl
of Dorset himself!

Viewed in the light of the present day, another crime, though a
judicial one, committed at Portsmouth was the execution of Admiral Byng
“for not having done his utmost to take, seize and destroy the ships
of the enemy” during an engagement with the French off Minorca on May
20, 1756. Latter day historians appear agreed that at most his was
an error of judgement; but in those times the nation generally was
subject to what modern writers term “nerves,” and just then popular
feeling would scarcely brook the news, let alone the fact, of a defeat
or a drawn battle. Be that as it may, the Admiral was brought to trial,
condemned, and on a bleak March morning in 1757, “when the sea and sky
were grey as though in dudgeon at the crime,” he knelt blindfolded
upon the deck of the _Monarque_ at Spithead, and, after letting fall
his handkerchief, fell pierced by five bullets. He was less a criminal
than one of those periodic scapegoats sacrificed to veil the errors
of greater and more powerful men. Voltaire gives a cynical account of
the episode in his _Candide_, remarking, amongst other things, that if
Byng did not approach near enough the French, neither did they draw
near him, adding that in England it was thought advisable to shoot an
Admiral now and then to encourage the rest!

Less than twenty years later the dockyard had a narrow escape from
destruction by fire. In the year 1776 James Aitken, known as “Jack the
Painter,” set alight to one of the sheds, happily with little result
as regards damage done. Arson in those days, in fact until the middle
of the last century, was a capital crime, and Aitken was condemned and
duly hanged by being strung up to the masthead of the _Arethusa_ sixty
feet in the air, and afterwards was hung in chains near the mouth of
the harbour. A lurid sidelight upon the doings and morals of those
times is afforded by the circumstance that the skeleton was ultimately
stolen by some sailors and pledged in satisfaction on a drink bill at
one of the Gosport inns. “Truly,” says a somewhat censorious writer of
the period, “these sailormen being neither better nor worse than the
soldier men neither fear God nor man.”

As might be expected, Portsmouth has not in the past been entirely free
from spies and traitors during war time; but, as a rule, these have had
but short shrift when discovered. Perhaps one of the most notable of
traitors who happened to be caught was one David Pyrie, at the time
employed as a clerk in the Navy Office. He was found to have disclosed
information regarding the naval preparations and movements of the fleet
to the French Government in 1782 during the Napoleonic wars. Upon
trial, which took place in the summer of that year, he was condemned
to what must nowadays strike one as a barbarous sentence, namely, “to
be hanged by the neck, but not until he was dead; that he should then
be cut down, his bowels taken out and burned before his face; and that
his head should then be taken off, his body cut into four quarters,
and (this is a grim touch of unconscious humour!) to be placed at the
disposal of his Majesty the King.” Southsea was the spot selected for
the carrying out of this terrible sentence. “There were,” we are told,
“over much people present to see the traitor die, so that many pressed
against the others to their hurt.”

There are two outstanding and arresting things above all others in the
Harbour--they are the _Victory_ and the dockyard. In the former we have
enshrined noble memories of the greatest of all Britain’s sea kings,
and of deeds the lustre of which time cannot tarnish whilst there
dwells in the hearts of men a love of country and of courage nobly
shown; in the latter we have almost all the modern as well as much of
the ancient interests of Portsmouth encompassed.

Men, whilst talking eloquently of the might of modern machinery, of
speed, of tonnage, of submarines, of destroyers, of _Dreadnoughts_ and
of the devastating hail of bullets which the modern battleship and
cruiser can discharge, yet look across at the _Victory_, that survival
of the most brilliant episode in our naval history, with loving eyes.
And, as one lies at anchor in sight of the old ship, whose decks have
run blood for England’s sake, whose ports have belched fire as she
weathered the battle, and whose sides have sung the music of salt water
as she drove through it, amid the forest of masts, and in sight of the
spires and towers and giant cranes of this great naval port, memories
crowd upon one of the great deeds done in the past, and of their
significance. The men who may in the future serve to keep England great
will not probably, after all, accomplish more than those through whose
courage, resource and skill she became so.

A detailed description of the dockyard is beyond the scope of the
present volume; but its existence cannot be entirely overlooked. It is
not difficult to “get over”--some, and we are inclined to agree with
them, assert it is far too easy--but after all one is only shown what
it is good for the stranger to see; unless, indeed, one’s patriotism
and respectability (as was ours) is vouched for by some high official;
but when once inside the evidence of activity and of naval greatness is
almost appalling.

Within a comparatively small area one finds gathered together
battleships of all types of the last twenty years or so--smart
new cruisers; long, low torpedo boats; and the bigger destroyers,
wicked-looking in their neutral-tinted slaty-greyness, by scores; huge
travelling cranes and shears rearing their clustered beams heavenwards,
and capable, some of them, of lifting 100 tons as easily as a man
could a fourteen-pound shot; Nasmyth hammers, Titanesque instruments
which, whilst beating iron plates flat and thin as easily as a smith
moulds a horseshoe, can yet close upon a watchglass without cracking
it. Amid all these gigantic and impressive instruments of destruction
and construction one is able to feel how insignificant an atom man, the
originator of all these things, often is in comparison with his own


Then there is generally a terrible object-lesson of the destructive
powers of modern guns and gunnery in some out-of-date battleship,
which, as a target, has been subjected to a hail of projectiles.
Riddled and rent asunder almost as though her sides were of
cardboard instead of foot-thick steel plates, battered out of semblance
of anything resembling a ship, one is made to feel in some measure what
the horrors of a modern naval battle would be. One can scarcely believe
that within the few short minutes in which the poor maimed craft was
exposed to the hail of shot and shell, such destruction could have been
wrought. Certainly one is made to realize that between her decks, which
in real warfare would have held seven or eight hundred men, no living
creature could have existed long.

Then in the construction yards one catches glimpses of battleships
coming into being; and in the dry docks--the first of which owes its
existence to the initiative of Henry VIII in 1495, and was in constant
use for many years--one finds all sorts and conditions of ships
undergoing repairs. In “Anchor Lane” one has another object-lesson in
what is practically a street composed of anchors ready for any demand
or contingency. Many things have changed; but the anchor and the block,
though the size and pattern of the former have from time to time been
modified, remain, we are told, practically the same as a century or
more ago. The navy blocks--which are made of elm after “pickling” in
salt-water mud for at least two years--are made in precisely the same
way as when a century ago the elder Brunel invented and introduced
special machinery for their manufacture.

The Gun Wharf never fails to interest the visitor, be he a sailorman or
civilian. Here stacks, or “parks,” of guns of various sizes, but mostly
big, are to be seen, forming, as a visitor once not inaptly remarked,
“an object-lesson concerning the wastefulness of progress,” for
comparatively few of the hundreds of weapons there gathered together
for the scrap-heap have been discarded because of any flaw or other
fault, but merely because they have become outclassed or out-of-date.
In connexion with the Gun Wharf are the buildings containing the vast
supplies of arms, from which at a moment’s notice 40,000 or 50,000 men
could be equipped.

A large volume would be required to deal adequately with all the many
interesting features of the dockyard and its life; but as one watches
the men at work, the seamen getting stores aboard, or fitting out, one
cannot but feel that in their tireless and swift activity there is
still that spirit animating the men of all grades which from Armada
times have served to make them the best seamen afloat. Each century,
from the closing years of the sixteenth, has brought its wonderful
record of work done within the dockyard walls, just as each age has
done what was at the time required of it swiftly and well. In the
eighteenth century the vast number of sixty-six huge line-of-battle
and other war ships were launched from the slips, amongst them the _St
George_, _Prince of Wales_, _Princess Royal_, and famous _Ramillies_,
all of ninety-eight guns, with the leviathan _Britannia_ of one
hundred; and in the succeeding century this output was more than

From Portsmouth Dockyard, too, went afloat the first paddle boat, the
_Hermes_, and out of it from Henry VIII’s reign onwards have gone
galleons, line-of-battle ships, ironclads innumerable, flying “the
meteor flag of England,” to earn immortality and the crown of glory
which attaches to brave deeds done and daring acts accomplished.

Amid the modern bustle and life of Portsmouth town there yet, happily,
remain for those who care for such things some memorials of the
glorious past. The old Sally Port is one of these places. There,
surely, if in any place in the town, ghosts must walk, where once so
many famous men, and those destined to become famous, embarked for
enterprises which but too often proved the truth of the Gray’s saying,
“The path of glory leads but to the grave.” The tablet affixed to this
old gateway tells its history better than any eloquence. It reads,
“From this place naval heroes innumerable have embarked to fight their
country’s battles.”

In the High Street stands not only St Thomas’ Church with its imposing
memorial to the murdered Duke of Buckingham in the south chancel, and
the house where the Duke was assassinated, but also the George Hotel
at which Nelson spent his last hours before setting out on the cruise
which ended in death and the victory of Trafalgar. Here he breakfasted
on September 14, 1805.

At any rate, at this time, as a contemporary writer says, “He was
physically of a frail and unheroic build, being slight, sickly-looking,
and weak. Moreover, ere he set forth on his last glorious voyage,
dysentery and fever had already shattered his frame so much that a far
less wound than he was destined to suffer would as likely as not have
proved fatal.... He had a hacking cough, but there was that in his
eye--fire and the unquenchable glint of genius--which, with his high
and noble courage, made him yet a hero and a born leader of men and
deviser of great affairs.”

In Broad Street stands the Blue Posts Inn. Not, alas! the immortal
hostelry of Marryat’s _Peter Simple_ and of innumerable other sea
stories since his day, but a bastard growth which sprang up after
the old inn was destroyed by fire in 1870. The old rhyme, which was
scratched on one of the window panes,

    This is the Blue Postesses,
    Where the midshipmen leave their chestesses,
    Call for tea and toastesses,
    And, alas! forget to pay for their breakfastesses.

must, we think, in its day have been one of the most quoted of all
poetic efforts.

The famous Star and Garter inn is, fortunately, still standing hard
by the Point or Floating Bridge. Here, in the cosy bar parlour, which
seems redolent of other days, one can sit and smoke at the same
table round which Nelson, Howe, Rodney, and other “old sea dogs,”
used to foregather, gossiping, possibly discussing plans of campaign,
and smoking old-time churchwardens, which had the great advantage of
smoking cool and keeping the smoke out of their eyes. Among the many
other famous visitors of the past were Louis Philippe on his flight
into exile, Sir John Franklin and King William the Fourth, “the Sailor
King,” who when Prince of Wales often occupied a bedroom which is still
shown. In the coffee room is a curious survival, a huge cupboard, or
secret chamber, measuring about 10 ft. by 6 ft. There is nowadays no
door to this room, which tradition asserts was a hiding-place from the
pressgang, or possibly (which seems even more likely) was a “hole”
used by smugglers. The Star and Garter remains a fine relic of old
Portsmouth, and one of the most interesting survivals of former days.

There are, however, not a few others which space will not allow our
mentioning in detail, amongst them Lord Howe’s house in Highbury Street
and the little shop of John Pounds, the originator of the Ragged
Schools; but at least a little more than a passing mention is claimed
by the birthplace of Charles Dickens in Commercial Road. The future
novelist, however, did not live here long, as his father, a Pay Clerk
in the Navy, was thrown out of employment at the time of a wholesale
reduction of the staff. In consequence the family, fallen upon evil
times, removed first to Chatham and then to London, where, as all the
world knows, Charles earned a few shillings a week by pasting labels on
blacking bottles.

The most interesting ecclesiastical building in Portsmouth, at least
to seafarers, is the Garrison Church, which was once the Domus Dei,
or Hospital of St Nicolas, the patron saint of seamen. It is one of
the few survivals of the ancient hospitals, once so numerous, at which
all who came to them could reckon upon receiving hospitality and
assistance. Founded in the first years of the thirteenth century by
Peter des Roches, a Crusading Bishop of Winchester, it was afterwards
richly endowed by King John and his successors. At the Dissolution of
the religious houses its revenues were worth, in the money of to-day,
upwards of £1,000 per annum; but with its suppression the charity as
well as the buildings themselves suffered ruin. The church itself was
for a time used as a storehouse, and although in the following reign
Queen Elizabeth did something to repair the buildings the attempt was
not very extensive. In Stuart times, however, the Deputy Governor of
the town lived here with his suite, and it was in this house Catherine
of Braganza--who landed on her coming to England to marry Charles II in
1662 at the old Sally Port--lodged. And in the Domus Dei the private
celebration of their marriage took place, followed a few hours later by
a public celebration in the Governor’s house. The record is kept in the
archives of St Thomas’s Church. The church of Domus Dei contains many
deeply interesting memorials and articles of ecclesiastical furniture.
The fine groined roof dates from the thirteenth century and is a part
of the original building.

To the Domus Dei, it is interesting to note, some of the captured and
sick Spaniards out of the Armada ships, as well as some of Drake’s
wounded seamen, were brought, this being the last occasion on which the
building was used for its original purpose.

Around Portsmouth itself are, it is needless to say, many picturesque
and interesting places, but to most seafarers, because of its connexion
with the Napoleonic naval wars and picturesque situation at the head of
the harbour, Porchester Castle will make most appeal.

Long before Portsmouth had any existence Porchester was a Roman
and Saxon fortress under the name of Caer Peris. In the days when
Roman galleys made their way up the tortuous channels of the harbour
Porchester was their objective, and it is here that “a strong camp
such as is familiar in many parts of the country was formed.” In the
name Porchester many authorities trace the fact that before the tidal
currents of the Solent had silted up the channel and the beach on which
it stood, it was a port in the true sense of the word, and was so
distinguished from the other “chesters” of Wessex by its prefix. There
is a legendary story concerning the village of Porchester that it was
in Saxon times one of the twenty-eight chief cities of Britain, then
known as Caer Peris, which was built by a son of Belin, named Gurgant,
who lived about 375 B.C., and that it was here that Vespasian landed on
invading the country to make war on the Belgae.

[Illustration: FAREHAM]

The site of the castle itself, which stands on the eastern side of
the tongue of land, is large, the huge quadrangle within which it
is contained occupying nearly nine acres, and the view of it as one
approaches it up the harbour is impressive and singularly picturesque.
The Great Tower or Keep standing at the north-west corner is the oldest
remaining portion of the original building, and dates from Saxon times.
Most of the buildings are nowadays in a ruinous state, but there are
several floors in the Great Tower which are still in fair repair, and
can be visited. These were provided for the accommodation of the host
of prisoners incarcerated here during the French wars, for whom room
could not be found on board the prison hulks in the harbour. The life
of these captives and their occupations is told most interestingly
in Sir Walter Besant’s story, _The Holy Rose_. How numerous the
unfortunates were and how inadequate the accommodation as regards
sanitation, light, air, and room may be gathered from _The General
History of Hampshire_, which states, “At one time during the great
war there was a multitude of nearly five thousand prisoners cooped up
within the walls of Porchester Castle,” and that then and in 1761,
when there were numerous French and Spanish prisoners of war confined
there, “the old building suffered much from pulling down temporary
structures put up for their use, as well as breaches made in the walls
by prisoners who escaped from their confinement.”

During the Napoleonic wars it is stated that a total of no less than
8,000 prisoners of war were incarcerated at Porchester Castle, where
they languished until they died, were exchanged, or were released at
the end of hostilities. To occupy time, which must have hung heavily
on the hands of most--only a comparatively small number being provided
with employment either in the grounds of the castle as gardeners, or as
servitors on their comrades--many made toys, which they sold when they
could to visitors and others, whose curiosity had drawn them hither,
for the purpose of supplying themselves with additional rations and
tobacco. Some of the ingenious articles so fashioned out of wood, or
sometimes carved out of the bones of the prisoners’ food, are preserved
in the museum at Portsmouth and in the curio cupboards of houses in the
district. In the middle of the last century ships, carts, boats and
animals so carved could occasionally be picked up in the cottages at
Porchester and the neighbouring towns and villages of Fareham, Cosham,
Wallington, and Wymering.

At the conclusion of peace at Paris, in June, 1817, the last of the
prisoners departed, and the castle was for a time partially used for
barracks, but soon was abandoned to the fate which overtakes all
disused buildings, decay and ruin. Nowadays it has little of interest
save the memories of former times when Kings (notably King John)
frequently visited it, and when its cellars of wine were famous. In its
somewhat scanty records occur some curious entries, such as “Paid to
Peter de Roche, Bishop of Winchester, in 1220, 100s. towards the cost
of fortifying the castle.”

And another, “On June 12, 1205, the Constable of Porchester was ordered
to supply a ship, and on June 23rd the villeins of Clere Episcopi, with

It would also appear from these old records that the castle was chiefly
used as a Royal storehouse, for we find an order, dated February 6,
1227, for the Constable “to let one Nicholas, of the King’s chamber,
have and take to London for the king’s use fifteen hundred pounds of
wax kept in the castle.”

In the middle of the last century--though it may scarcely be
credited--there was some idea of converting the castle into a hospital;
but the Commissioners appointed to report upon its suitability or
otherwise for the purpose discovered in the building, which was by that
time fallen into ruin, with the rooms badly ventilated and lighted,
possessing practically no drainage and no outbuildings, situated upon
a low, bleak spit of land and surrounded by miles of mud flats exposed
for long hours daily, and containing within its encompassing walls the
parish church and graveyard, few recommendations for the purpose in
view. The scheme was, therefore, abandoned and the place given over
finally to decay.

The original Augustinian Priory, which was established in 1133 within
the outer walls of the castle, was removed to Southwick, Hants, two
decades later. Of the old foundations, and more especially of the
beautiful and magnificently-proportioned chapelries of famous William
of Wykeham, to whom Winchester Cathedral owes so much of its beauty,
scarcely a trace remains. It was at Southwick in 1445 that Henry VI’s
marriage was celebrated with Margaret of Anjou.

Porchester Castle Church, dedicated to St Mary (originally a portion of
the Priory founded by Henry I), standing in the south-west corner of
the quadrangle, has some good Norman work in it. It has been from time
to time somewhat unhappily restored, but possesses a most interesting
and notable Norman font. The church, as a whole, moreover, is very

Porchester Castle, as one leaves it, as we did at sunset on a
summer evening to thread our way down the tortuous channel back to
Portsmouth, forms a singularly impressive and romantic picture. The
ancient ivy-grown keep, the crumbling walls, the air of hoary antiquity
(alas! so ruinous), and the luminous evening haze which at such times
seems to envelop it form a picture which does not soon fade from the
mind, and conjures up memories of the stirring days of old when the
fortress was able to resist the fiercest attack which could be directed
against it.

Nowadays, as one unromantic individual said, “It could be demolished
in ten minutes under the fire of modern artillery”; but artists and
all for whom the past has an interest or significance will wish that
Porchester may be permitted to fall into gentlest ruin and slow decay
unmarked by violence, and softened each year by added beauty.

Although Portsmouth Harbour is so interesting and full of life, when
the time comes to up anchor and make one’s way out into the Solent
past the immortal _Victory_ and the host of other craft which seem to
be ever hanging in congested groups just outside or just inside the
Point and Point Battery, one is generally ready. Portsmouth may be an
exciting and interesting, but it cannot be called a restful, haven.

The Island seems to beckon one with its tree-crowned heights and wooded
bays and sunny beaches. It is never unpicturesque, even from the
distance of Southsea or Spithead; near by it is lovely. And never more
so than in the early hours of a summer morning when there is a fresh
breeze ruffling the water of the Solent and driving even a barge along
a good six or seven knots. If one lays a course for Sea View and drops
down the coast to Ryde, one can see something of its beauty as Spring
Vale, and then that legendary haunt of the fairies and “little people”
Puckspool, slide by. Not so many years ago there were those living near
Spring Vale who had seen the tiny folk upon moonlight nights (or said
they had, which is, of course, much the same thing) dancing on the edge
of the shore by the pool, or glassing their tiny, whimsical faces in
the water; and children used of summer days to lie in wait for the tiny
folk who never came; but now even children are much too sophisticated
to believe in these things; and so Puckspool is only a name.

Past the lovely woods of St Clare, and then Ryde comes into view. It
is a smart “towny” place in the summer, and the serried rows of houses
on the sea front and lower slopes of the rising ground gleam at one
whitely and uncompromisingly. The spire of All Saints forms a fine
landmark as well as an ornament to the town.

The town’s reputation with yachting folk rests chiefly, we fancy, upon
the fact that it is smart and fashionable, and is the headquarters of
the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. As for the anchorage, except in settled
and fine weather it has nothing to recommend it. Ryde is dear, as are
all the island places, and is more likely to be appreciated by the fair
weather sailor and the yachtsman who “does” it because he should than
by those for whom salt water, a good handy boat, and plenty of sea
room have attractions. It is not a place with much romantic history
attached to it, nor was it of great moment in the days when Portsmouth
was climbing upwards out of obscurity; indeed, until the commencement
of the eighteenth century, Ryde was little more than a collection of
fishermen’s huts. Its one excitement in past ages must have been the
descent of the French in the reign of Richard II, who burned what there
was to burn, as being one of those places where watch and ward were
kept for the defence of the island and the narrow seas.

The author of _Tom Jones_ wrote of it about the middle of the
eighteenth century as follows: “This pleasant village is situated on a
gentle ascent from the water, whence it affords a charming prospect.
Its soil is a gravel, which, associated with its declivity, preserves
it always so dry that immediately after the most violent rain a fine
lady may walk without wetting her silken shoes. The place ... is so
shaded with large and flourishing elms that its narrow lanes are a
natural grove or walk, which in the regularity of its plantation vies
with the power of art, and in its wanton exuberance greatly exceeds it.”

We have quoted Fielding because if one substitute town for village,
the description which he penned a century and a half ago is fairly
accurate as regards the general characteristics of Ryde of to-day. We
have, however, known it rain so that a lady could _not_ immediately
afterwards have ventured out for a walk “without wetting her silken (or
other) shoes.” But one must allow the famous novelist some latitude.

There are practically no buildings of any interest except All Saints’,
erected from designs by the late Sir Gilbert Scott, which, though a
modern church, is worth a visit. In the immediate vicinity, however,
a couple of miles or so westward stands Quarr Abbey, or what remains
of the ancient foundation, plus a rather unpicturesque farmhouse
built from the debris. There still stands, however, a huge barn,
said to be the ancient refectory. The Abbey is reputed to have been
the first Cistercian foundation in England, although at least one
other claims that distinction. Quarr, its name was derived from the
quarries in the immediate neighbourhood, was established in 1132 by
Baldwyn de Redvers, who was afterwards made Earl of Devon, and given
lordship of the island. To fill the institution a party of Norman
monks of the Benedictine Order were brought over from Savigny, but
a few years later it was given over to the Cistercians. De Redvers
was a generous founder, for to the Abbey, which he had dedicated to
the Holy Virgin, he gave “broad lands,” and, his good example being
followed by his successors, at last the Abbot of Quarr became one of
the great personages of the Island, and was twice Warden of the Wight.
The chapel, which was from all accounts “a richly architectured and
elegant fane,” contained some fine and beautiful tombs. Notably those
of the founder and his wife, William de Vernon, in his day a Lord of
the Island, who bequeathed, what was in those times, the enormous sum
of £330 for the erection of “stately and adequate memorial to himself.”

Here, too, was buried the Princess Cecilia Plantagenet, daughter of
Edward IV, who was a beauty of her age, and after the marriage of her
sister Elizabeth to Henry VII became Lady Welles. The second husband
of this unconventional Princess was a commoner, one Master Thomas Kyme
or Kyne, to whom she is stated to have borne two children. After her
second marriage she retired to Standen, and lived there for a period of
three years (1504-7), dying at the age of thirty-eight.

The memorials of all these were defaced or utterly destroyed at the
time of the suppression of the religious houses.

The Abbey was fully fortified in the reign of Edward III by Royal
licence, as it had been attacked in a previous reign by the French
pirates who made periodical descents upon our coasts, and was on
account of its great wealth “in treasure as well as lands” liable to
future attack. The stout stone wall which was built to encircle it
enclosed an area of no less than forty acres. Fragments of the sea
gate, which had a portcullis, and the wall can still be traced; as may
also some of the foundations of the Abbey itself which have of recent
years been excavated.

[Illustration: COWES. SUMMER]

On the suppression of the monastic institutions by Henry VIII, Quarr
passed by purchase into the possession of two brothers by the name
of Mills, belonging to Southampton, who promptly set to work to pull
down the Abbey, Church, and other monastic buildings. In the reign of
James I, Sir Thomas Fleming, Lord Chief Justice of England, purchased
the estate from descendants of the Mills family. So great was the
destruction wrought by the vandalistic tendencies of the latter, that
we are told “even in the reign of Charles I there was little more
remaining to be seen of this great Abbey and its dependent buildings
than at the present day.”

Hard by the Abbey grounds is a delightful woodland spot known as
Eleanor’s Grove, where tradition asserts the Queen of Henry II, who was
a prisoner in the Abbey, lies buried in a golden coffin, which, though
often sought for, has never yet been discovered!

Onward from Quarr along the coast to Cowes one passes Fishbourne,
and wood-shaded Wootton Creek. One must only linger to point out
the pretty village of Wootton Bridge at the head of the creek, with
its feet almost in the water, and the fine sweep of Arreton Down as
a background. Formerly this was a busy spot, and in the good old
smuggling days many a cargo, which had escaped capture in the open
Channel or in Christchurch Bay and the Solent, was silently landed on
the well-wooded shores of Wootton.

Cowes has not inaptly been called “the Mecca of yachtsmen,” and in the
season at one time or another, to use a common phrase, “everybody who
is anybody” will generally be found in its streets, or on the yachts
in Cowes Roads. Along from Wootton Creek the shore is picturesque,
and as one passes Norris Castle (with the twin towers of Osborne in
the background) and rounds Old Castle Point pretty West Cowes and the
ivy-mantled Royal Yacht Squadron Club House come suddenly into view.

Cowes is a distinctly picturesque and interesting-looking place from
the water; has a much greater air of antiquity than its more bustling
rival Ryde; and with the Medina cutting the town in half has the real
air of a port.

The water, too, seems along this little piece of island coast to melt
into the land, so frequently is the shore shaded and beautiful with
leafy dells, and giant trees waving their branches skyward in the
ambient air of summer. Across the Solent, though distant, there is
the not less lovely prospect of the Hampshire highlands, and the many
tinted stretches of green and grey-green woodlands which mark the New
Forest on the horizon.

It is not easy to get a snug berth at any time during the summer months
at Cowes. During “the week” late comers will have to put up with what
they can get, or go elsewhere; or anchor far outside the charmed circle
of beautiful craft, which makes Cowes Roads during Regatta week a
unique water pageant, and a thing to be remembered.

If one is going to spend a week at Cowes it is delightful to do so
in the river somewhere off the Folly Inn on the Eastern side of the
Medina; or a little further up off Roche’s or the old Mill. One is out
of the way of harm (and there is plenty of that going round in the
river when the tide makes out like a mill race) and one is yet not too
far out of the way. Roche’s Mills have not always been as peaceful as
to-day. Here, as at Porchester and elsewhere, were confined numerous
French prisoners of war, though how the buildings were adapted for the
purpose of a gaol it is a puzzle to imagine.

Cowes, notwithstanding its appearance of, shall we say, possible
antiquity, is not an “old, ancient place,” such as many of the more
western and more eastern seaports along the coast. It may be said to
date its origin as a town from the year 1540, when Henry VIII erected,
out of the materials of Beaulieu Abbey across the water on the skirts
of the forest, one of the numerous protective castles which he dotted
along the south coast. The growth of the place, however, must have been
slow, as more than a century later, in the reign of Charles I, we are
told that the town consisted of but some half score of small houses.
The usefulness and possibilities of its harbour were (if we may accept
the evidence of another authority) long before this discovered, so that
in the early years of the seventeenth century “sometimes as many as
two or three hundred vessels of all kinds and sizes were to be seen at
anchor off it at one and the same time.”

Cowes was destined to become a shipbuilding port of some consequence in
the days just prior to and during the Napoleonic Wars. From the Cowes
yards, amongst other ships too numerous to mention, were launched the
_Repulse_ and _Veteran_, each carrying sixty-four guns, Nelson’s old
ship, the _Vanguard_, the _Cerberus_, thirty-two guns; the _Hero_, and
many another. In the year of Waterloo the first building yards of any
great consequence for pleasure craft were started by Messrs White, who
have, since those far off days, sent many a swift and successful yacht
afloat. The necessity for such a dock as the Medina, made in 1845,
measuring some 330 feet in length and 60 feet in width, will give an
idea of the importance of the shipbuilding industry of Cowes in the
past as well as the present.

But though, with the rise of yachting into popularity, Cowes may be
said to have rapidly come to the front as “a resort of fashion and
frivolity,” long ere this, about the middle of the eighteenth century,
it was attracting attention as a sea-bathing station, almost rivalling
Weymouth. A poet of sorts ventured to affirm--

    No more to foreign baths shall Britons roam,
    But plunge at Cowes, and find rich health at home.

And in the early years of the nineteenth century there were a good
many bathers amongst the aristocracy frequenting the place and
neighbourhood. Cowes, however, nowadays is scarcely a sea-bathing
resort of particular note.

It may be safely asserted that the town has seen more than its fair
share of Royal visitors. Of late years such visits have been mostly of
a pleasant character. It was not, however, always so. Charles I was one
of the exceptions. He landed at Cowes on September 22, 1647, and was
taken to Newport as a prisoner to be confined in Carisbrooke Castle.
And three years later his two children, the boy Duke of Gloucester and
the unfortunate young Princess Elizabeth, also landed here bound for
a like destination and imprisonment. Most of the members of the Royal
House of Stuart came to Cowes at one time or another; sometimes on
private visits, at others on public functions, as when Prince Charles
(afterwards Charles I) honoured a military review by his presence in
1618. Henry VIII was also at Cowes on more than one occasion. And of
course coming down to more recent times the late Queen Victoria, her
children, and the present King and Queen have been at various times
frequent visitors.

Of buildings of interest and note there are few in Cowes. Not only from
its position but also from its connexion with much of the yachting
history of the town Royal Yacht Squadron Castle, the Club House of
the premier Yacht Club of the world, attracts most notice. Founded in
1812, it was not, however, until 1815 that the Club may be said really
to have been established, when a meeting of the then members was held
at the Thatched House Tavern (an ancient hostelry) standing in St
James’s Street, with Lord Grantham in the chair, and many distinguished
and noble members present to support him. This meeting appears to
have consolidated the Club, and to have infused new life into it. It
had several homes at Cowes ere its present one; meeting early in its
history in the Medina Hotel, and later on at the Gloucester Hotel.
In 1856 its present Club House was acquired from the Marquess of
Conyngham, who gave up to the Club his lease of the property, which he
held from the Crown. The old Fort was at once rebuilt and considerably
enlarged; two of the ancient guns being preserved and ultimately placed
in the Club grounds.

No one who knows the Club house can fail to admit the charm of its
situation, with its fine outlook east and west and across the Solent,
and its well-kept and delightful lawns, shaded and backed by the
historic elm trees. The prospect from the platform or terrace is indeed
a wide one, including within its range the Motherbank, off Ryde, and
the Spithead forts to the eastward; with Calshot Castle, the Portsdown
Hills, and Southampton Water to the North; and the entry to Beaulieu
River and Lymington westward.

The yachts belonging to the Squadron (doubtless because of the wealth
of the members) have always been distinguished for size. And even
in the early days of the Club (as can be seen in the picture by W.
Huggins, painted in 1835) there were some large and powerful vessels
flying the Club burgee. The Earl of Yarborough’s (then Commodore)
_Falcon_, a full-rigged ship of 351 tons carrying twenty-two guns!; the
_Pearl_, of 130 tons; _Dolphin_, 217 tons; and the _Pantaloon_, the
Duke of Portland’s brig, being amongst the largest craft.

This was one of the most prosperous and interesting periods of the
Club’s history. Then into its racing arena came the famous _Arrow_ of
Mr T. Chamberlayne, which was so successful from year to year in all
the races for which she was entered that at last she was requested not
to compete! A distinction which has been conferred, we believe, upon no
other yacht.

In the year 1851 the Royal Yacht Squadron gave a cup to be raced for,
which the _America_, schooner, belonging to Mr J. C. Stevens, Commodore
of the New York Yacht Club, won. It is this cup, erroneously known
to Americans as the “Queen’s Cup,” and to English people generally
as the “_America_ Cup,” which has been the cause of such frequent
contests off Sandy Hook in the endeavour of various keen and patriotic
English yachtsmen to regain possession of the coveted trophy. Very
recently[C] the squadron consisted of 230 members, the fleet of 108
vessels, comprising 45 steam yachts, 10 steam (auxiliary) schooners, 28
schooners, 13 cutters, and 12 yawls, with a total tonnage of upwards of
20,400 tons.

      [C] These figures must be taken as approximate. They vary
          considerably from time to time.

Including in the past and present His Majesty’s yachts _Formosa_,
_Aline_, and _Britannia_, and such well-known boats as _Emerald_,
_Alarm_, _Egeria_, _Sunbeam_, _Czarina_, _Mirage_, and _Wanderer_, to
mention only a few.

The election of the German Emperor as a member, and his interest in
yacht racing, has on several occasions, when his boat has been over
here, added considerable interest to the Regatta week and races.

The history of the premier Yacht Club, in which His Majesty King
Edward VII has taken so great an interest, and of which in the past
more particularly he has been so active a member, may properly fill
a volume by itself. There is plenty of romance in the story; just as
the record of the Club may be said to be a history of English yachting
in miniature. It is the ambition of every wealthy yachtsman to belong
to the Squadron (comparatively few realize it) and beyond the _éclat_
which attaches to membership there are certain privileges which are
valuable from a monetary point of view. One is that of entering foreign
ports free of dues. A more sentimental privilege, shared by no other
Club, is that of flying the white, or St George’s ensign, which is
carried by vessels of the Royal Navy.

The old blockhouse or castle of Henry VIII, the present home of the
Club, had long ceased to be of strategic importance, and even in the
time of the Commonwealth had been chiefly used as a prison rather
than as a defensive work; but during the French war a small garrison
occupied it. The Restoration dramatist, William Davenant, the author
of amongst other plays “The Temple of Love,” acted at Whitehall on
Shrove Tuesday, 1634, and “The Wits,” his comic masterpiece, produced
at a private house in Blackfriars in 1633, wrote a portion of his
“Gondibert” whilst a prisoner in it.

Nowadays the uses of the castle and the character of its frequenters
are as far apart as the poles from those of long ago. Now in place
of the garrison of old, “fair ladies and gallant men” make the place
alive in summer with chatter, gossip, and laughter; and though naval
and military uniforms are occasionally seen within its precincts, the
sartorial attractions are rather the toilettes of the ladies from
the salons of Paquin, Redfern, Doucet and Marescho Soeurs than the
tailoring of naval and military outfitters. The frequenters of the
castle lawn during Regatta week form a crowd almost as cosmopolitan as
it is brilliant. As a fair American off a “Yankee” yacht once said,
after a London season, “It’s a sort of Hurlingham by the sea with a
dash of Buckingham Palace garden party thrown in to steady things.”

There is only one other building of any great antiquity in West Cowes,
the old Church of St Mary. It is, after all, however, not very ancient,
for it only dates back to the middle half of the seventeenth century;
but it has the distinction of being one of the four churches erected
during the Protectorship of Oliver Cromwell. Though built in 1653 it
had to wait for its consecration till after the Restoration.

The principal feature of the town of Cowes itself which remains in the
mind is the narrowness of its main street (which in reality is its sole
business thoroughfare of distinction), and the almost metropolitan
beauty and costliness of the goods displayed in some of its shop
windows. The High Street, however, is always fascinating during the
yachting season by reason of the crowd of well-dressed and famous
people who throng it; making it appear more like Bond Street in the
merry month of May than the rather mean and narrow thoroughfare it
actually is.

There is little to interest one at East Cowes, which is chiefly
given over to fine houses and villa residences. Whippingham Church
possesses attractions for most American visitors, and for those to whom
a pretty church with sentimental memories, rather than distinguished
architecture and antiquarian interest, appeals. Though originally one
of the oldest churches in the island, it has (from the time of Nash’s
vandalism) suffered much in the way of alterations, restorations so
called, and additions. So that nowadays little remains of the original
building or of antiquity.

Most yachting folk take a trip up the Medina to Newport, and historic
Carisbrooke. It is well worth doing, although there is nothing of
interest in Newport itself. But a description of the castle and its
engrossing historical story and associations does not come within the
scope of the present volume.

Few, save the “butterfly” type of visitor and yachtsmen, we fancy,
after all regret the time for departure from Cowes when it comes. The
town has little interest save its modern side of seafaring life, and
fashionable amusements. And in this circumstance presents a sharp
contrast to the fascinating and historical havens along the coast of
the mainland both eastward and westward of it.

Along the coast westward, past pretty Gurnard Bay beloved by those
who picnic, and Newtown haven, where, hidden away--much as is
Buckler’s Hard across the Solent in Beaulieu River--lies the decaying
Francheville, once an important harbour and town, rivalling in
prosperity and population Newport itself, and then Yarmouth comes in
sight almost at the extreme north-western corner of the Island.

It is a quaint, quiet, foreign-looking old place, lying low with a fine
sweep of hills for a background, where a day or two can be pleasantly
enough spent. In its past history one catches a glimpse of stirring
days and sea-roving life such as distinguished the many ports of
Devon and Cornwall in those far-off times when to go a-pirating was
to show one’s enterprise and patriotism, and exhibited as well sound
commercial instincts which would do credit to the average company
promoter of the twentieth century. Yarmouth still possesses some
standing as a port of embarkation and debarkation between the island
and the mainland. It was so distinguished in its more prosperous days,
and indeed as far back as the twelfth century, when it was incorporated
by Baldwyn de Redvers, Earl of Devon. It was very probably in those
remote times addicted to piracy, and that on a fairly extensive scale,
for the town appears to have earned the vengeance of the French on
several occasions. The latter were over at Yarmouth “much to the
towne’s hurt and loss, and the people’s affright,” in the year 1377,
when so many other seaports on the south-west coast suffered severely
from Norman and Breton marauders. The place on that occasion was burnt
almost to the ground and sacked. The inhabitants fleeing inland towards
Newport, to return later to find their homes destroyed, the best ships
in the harbour gone, and the smaller boats scuttled.

Once again, about a century and a half later, in 1524, a noted French
pirate named Claude D’Annebaut was descried approaching round Sconce
Point, and although some sort of resistance seems to have been offered
it was futile, for the bold sea rover landed his men, drove those of
the inhabitants he did not butcher out of the town, which latter he
promptly set about plundering and burning. He appears to have saved
the lives of “some of the properest maids, and wives not too long
wedded for his own good pleasure and that of the pirates with him,”
in addition to which outrage D’Annebaut, who to do him justice was a
“proper rogue and no respecter of God nor man,” burned down the church,
took the altar vessels, and saw that nothing of portable value was left
for the people of Yarmouth.

It was then that the great castle builder, Henry VIII, came to the
rescue, and in 1539 a blockhouse or round tower was built on the site
of the destroyed church, and in it were mounted “a sufficiency of great
cannon to keep at bay those bloody pyrates the French.” Of whatever
size the “great cannons” may have been, they appear to have served
their intended purpose most successfully, for although the French on
several other subsequent occasions were seen off the coast at the back
of the island and in the jaws of the Solent, they did not further
trouble Yarmouth.

So, on its peaceful way, went the little town, which one may imagine
was very much what it is at the present time, consisting of a group of
a few score of houses planted on the low-lying land at the mouth of
the Yar. Notwithstanding the fact that few of the houses are of any
great age, if one except the interesting George Inn, which was once
the residence of Sir Robert Holmes, and had the honour of sheltering
Charles II on his visit to the town in 1671, Yarmouth has that old-time
air of sleepy indifference to modern ways and modern things which is
not the least part of many an old-time seaport’s charm. Except in the
summer, when hordes of excursionists from Lymington and Bournemouth
invade its old-world street, the town appears to go to sleep, and dream
of the time when some bold smuggler of the Hampshire coast used to run
his cargoes here, and when tubs and bales on which no duty had been
paid formed the contents of many an honest and upstanding man’s cellar.
Only a few years ago, indeed, the pulling down of one of the old houses
was frequently the means of bringing to light a forgotten or hidden
“cache” in which tubs and bales of lace had long lain concealed.

[Illustration: YARMOUTH, I.O.W.]

The town, notwithstanding the absence of buildings of note, has a
general picturesqueness; but the church is a seventeenth century
building, not even good of its style. In it, however, there is one fine
and interesting monument erected to the memory of Sir Robert Holmes,
Knight and Admiral, concerning whom there are very diverse opinions.
An Irishman by birth, Holmes was undoubtedly a born “ruffler,” who
appears to have commenced his career--which ultimately provided him
safely enough with money, honour and preferment--as a soldier of
fortune. He served with distinction under Prince Rupert and Charles I,
and also against the Dutch later, although one writer has referred to
him as “the cursed beginner of the two Dutch wars.” He entered the Navy
some time after the Restoration and gained honour and success. It is
his capture of a Dutch treasure ship from the Guinea coast in 1663 or
1664 to which the poet Dryden refers in his _Annus Mirabilis_;

    Holmes, the Achates of the General’s fight,
      Who first bewitched our eyes with Guinea gold.

The gold taken out of this vessel being minted into coins to which was
given the name guinea. The first bore the image of an elephant upon
them, having been made, as stated, of African gold.

There seems to have been no end to Holmes’ naval activity, for in the
following year he captured New Amsterdam from the Dutch, giving it the
name by which it has ever since been known, New York, out of compliment
to the then Lord High Admiral of the English Fleet, James, Duke of
York. Some of his after exploits have “a strange though admirable
flavour of piracy about them.” Notably his expedition on the coast of
Holland, when he burned a number of villages, destroyed two men of war,
and captured upwards of a hundred and twenty merchantmen.

One of the most romantic episodes of his life was when he acted as
second to the Duke of Buckingham in the famous duel in which he killed
his opponent the Duke of Shrewsbury. The story goes that the Countess
of Shrewsbury came disguised as a page to witness the encounter, in
which she had a double interest, one of the combatants being her
husband, the other her lover.

Ultimately bold Sir Robert settled down in 1667 to a shore life as
Governor of the Wight, which office he held until his death in 1692.

Even his monument enshrines an adventure, as characteristic, one would
imagine, as any in which he was ever engaged. Underneath the whole
affair, at any rate, lurks a spice of the Irish wit which is said to
have distinguished him, and to have made him an agreeable opponent and
even victor. Holmes upon capturing a French vessel, found on board of
it, so the story goes, an unfinished statue in marble, intended to be
completed as one of Louis XIV of France, and to be then placed in the
palace at Versailles. The sculptor who was engaged to carry out the
work happened to be on board the ship, and it occurred to the ingenious
Sir Robert that here was an excellent chance of obtaining a monument
of himself at a low cost. So he compelled the artist to complete the
figure as a portrait statue of himself, and then had it placed in the
church of the town for which, notwithstanding his overbearing ways and
erratic methods, he had done so much.

If the likeness is a good one--and there seems reason to believe it
is--it is not difficult to understand the character of the man it
represents. In the strong featured, hard, and masterful face one easily
traces evidence of the qualities which made him a terror to the Dutch,
and one of the most successful of the legalised sea-rovers of the last
half of the seventeenth century. In the life story of Sir Robert Holmes
there is, indeed, enough of romance and adventure to make a shelf of
novels of the type of _Westward Ho!_ were there but a new Kingsley to
use the material.

And as one stands out of the little harbour, on one’s way further
west, long after the pleasant little town, low-lying but picturesque,
has faded out of sight astern, it is the memory of this old sea dog,
truculent no doubt, but an Englishman to the backbone, that remains
in the mind, “routing the King’s enemies, and carrying fire and sword
instead of merchandise, along the coasts of Holland and through the
Channel, and across the wide Atlantic to the New World.”

Chapter IV

Southampton--Beaulieu River--Lymington

To enter the generally placid stretch of sea known as Southampton
Water, in the early morning of a summer’s day or at sunset, past
the crooked nose of land on which Calshot Castle stands, whether
it be aboard a Castle liner or a forty-footer, is an experience of
great charm. We know of few wide stretches of sea water which are so
beautiful and so interesting, or where the effects of morning mists and
the rose and gold of sunset skies are seen with greater charm. And as
one advances up the Channel past the mouth of the pretty Hamble River,
and Netley towards Hythe, where so many bring up (though with small
craft it is possible to sail on past Millbrook to Redbridge and enter
the Test), glimpses are seen of the edge of the distant New Forest and
the green-grey trimming to the Hythe shore.

Nowadays Southampton Water is, indeed, a busy, though silent, highway,
for along it pass all kinds of craft from the wherry to the stately
Atlantic liner; from the white-sailed racing cutters to the barges
with red-brown canvas and a look of the Thames and Rochester about
them, with dingy colliers and rust-red “tramps” as a foil to pleasure
craft. Different nowadays, indeed, is the Water from what it was when
frigates and seventy-fours spread their wide expanse of snowy canvas to
catch the light north and north-westerly airs which came down from the
Hampshire highlands, and when trading brigs and East Indiamen crept up
with the flood.

Hythe, but for an excess of mud which is the bugbear of most tidal
estuaries, is as good a place off which to bring up as any seafarer
could wish. In its sleepy narrow streets, quaint houses, and
picturesque gardens lies a charm which is very grateful after a week
or two on salt water. The townlet, which clings, as it were, to the
outskirts of the New Forest, with its feet all the while in the water,
is rightly enough beloved of artists, who, in the quaint old-time roofs
and walls of its houses and cottages and its amphibious inhabitants,
find types and inspiration. Here, in the flesh and in a garb which
generally contains tacit concessions to the joint needs of shore life
and sea life, one meets characters which might have stepped out of
the pages of W. W. Jacobs’s _Sunwich Port_. Descendants of the men
who half a century or so ago, at the darkling of the moon, made their
way up the silent stretch of water, with boats loaded to the gunwales
with contraband spirits, tea, and silks (after surreptitious visits
to French luggers in the offing off Eaglehurst), and who, upon safe
landing at dead of night, melted away with their packhorse trains into
the solitudes and thickets of the New Forest.

There still hangs a romantic flavour around old-world Hythe which
places it in sharp contrast to its big, up-to-date, bustling neighbour
across the water. From Hythe, too, one may push one’s way up to
Redbridge, in gig or dinghy, and thence onward, through green,
flower-decked meadows and past rush-grown pools, with a background of
swelling, wooded uplands, to historic Romsey, with its abbey (founded
in 907 by Edward the Elder), which saw the coming of the Norman
conquerors and knew also what terror marked the inroads of the Danes.

Southampton, the “Liverpool of the South,” whose now ruinous and
picturesque walls once did such excellent service against the French
pirates of long ago, and, indeed, probably saved, not alone the town,
but also the county from being sacked and over-run with fire and sword,
retains many historic memories in spite of the bustling spirit of
modern commerce which now pervades it.

The history of the town dates from the far-off times of the Roman
occupation, at a period far anterior to the date of the Christian era.
Of this occupation and of the possession of the surrounding country
by the Roman legions of Julius Cæsar and his successors there have
been many evidences discovered in recent and former times within the
confines of the town. The pulling down of ancient buildings, the making
of sewers, and excavations for dock extensions have often resulted in
the discovery of beautiful ornaments and burnt clay vessels dating from
Roman times. And there also exist traces of the Roman road which led
from Southampton northward to Winchester, and of the Roman fortified
camp of Clausentum hard by at Bitterne on the River Itchen.

The first authentic record of the Saxon occupation of the town,
then known as “Hanton,” “Hantune,” or “Old Hampton,” occurs in the
ninth century, when the place would appear, from existing chronicles
and records, to have been one of considerable importance. Several
authorities, indeed, ascribe the protecting walls, and the castle and
keep, situated in the north-western corner of the town, to the Saxons.
Of these things, unhappily, but few traces now remain. The town, with
its sheltered harbour and its rising prosperity, did not escape the
attention of the Danes, who, at various times during the ninth and
tenth centuries, proved such scourges to the various places on the
south coast. The town, in fact, might almost have been considered at
those periods as a landing-place or base from which the Danes ravaged
the surrounding country and directed their attacks upon Winchester and
other inland towns.

During the reigns of Ethelwolf, about 838, and Ethelbert, about 860, so
well carried out were the raids of these Danish pirates, and so large
was the force taking part in them, that even inland Winchester itself
was reached along the ancient Roman road and plundered.

To antiquarians the fact that in the reign of Athelstan, 928, two
mints were set up at Southampton will be evidence of its size
and importance, and doubtless the existence of these money-making
institutions had not a little to do with the fact that a few years
later the Danes again made one of their descents upon the town and
plundered it without mercy. Edmund Ironside, in consequence of the
hold these invaders succeeded in getting upon the country, had on the
decease of Ethelred to consent to a division of it with the Danish King.

During the reign of King Canute in the following century, when the
Anglo-Danish Government was firmly established, Southampton was made
the principal Royal residence, and, at any rate, traditionally there
are many spots in the town associated with the name of this ruler.
Several places in the neighbourhood of Southampton--Lymington, for
one--claim to be the scene of King Canute’s historical rebuke to his
courtiers. Tradition, however, places the spot at Canute’s Point, a
projecting spit of land at the mouth of the Itchen.

Regarding the incident to which we have referred we cannot do better
than quote Camden, who himself derived his information from that old
chronicler Huntingdon. By him we are told that the king, “having caused
his chair to be placed on the shore as the tide was coming in,” said to
the latter, “Thou art my subject, and the ground I sit on is mine, nor
can any resist me with impunity. I command thee, therefore, not to come
up on my ground nor wet the soles of the feet of thy master.” But the
sea, immediately coming up, wetted his feet, and he, springing back,
said, “Let all the inhabitants of the earth know how weak and frivolous
is the power of princes; none deserves the name of king but He whose
will heaven, earth, and sea obey by an eternal decree.” “Nor,” we are
told, “would he ever afterwards wear his crown, but placed it on the
head of the crucifix.”

This tale, like that of the heroic Sir Bevis of Southampton (who
conquered the thirty-foot high giant) and his squire Ascupart, which is
inshrined in a ballad and in chap-books, may perhaps be mythical to
a high degree; there are however stirring stories connected with the
ancient port which may be accepted as being founded upon actual facts.

The Hanton of Danish piratical raids, burned and ravaged by those
terrible scourges of our eastern and southern coasts, was, however,
destined to be rebuilt again and again, and eventually become one of
the great ports of the Western world and the _locale_ of an extensive
passenger traffic.

After the Danes there came from far Genoa, sailing the stormy waters
of the Mediterranean and the wild stretch of the Bay of Biscay, other
marauders scarcely less dreaded or less cruel; and then, when Hanton
was more able to resist and when commerce came flowing towards the
island kingdom from the scattered nations of the east, there sailed
up the ten miles of blue-green water, so lovely and changeful as
to inspire poets, the rich argosies and galleys laden with stuffs,
carpets, wines, woods, gold, silver, and gems.

Since the days when Norman William defeated Saxon Harold on the bloody
field of Senlac the history of Southampton becomes much more authentic
and clearly defined. Indeed, in the years immediately following the
Norman Conquest its importance, from its nearness to the coast of
France and of Normandy and its splendidly protected harbour, was
more than ever appreciated, and it soon became a favourite port of
embarkation for the Norman kings on their way from England to their
French duchy.

With the coming of renewed and greater prosperity the religious
houses and institutions, which had suffered so severely at the hands
of the Danes during the times of internecine disorder, were rebuilt,
reorganised, and restarted on their careers of ecclesiastical and
charitable usefulness. Many of the old churches and monasteries,
of which there were not a few in the town and neighbourhood, were
reopened, and in the reign of Henry I (1124) the Priory of St Dionysius
was founded. The ancient walls were strengthened and rebuilt, and the
castle was styled a Royal fortress by Stephen, and in the following
reign the town received its Charter of Incorporation, which subsequent
monarchs down to Henry VI on various occasions confirmed.

Henry VIII was, as we have already seen, keenly convinced of the value
of fortifications, and after a visit paid to the town, in company with
unfortunate Anne Boleyn, the defences of the town in general and the
walls in particular were by his directions put into a better state.
In addition the king gave a “great piece of ordnance” (a valuable
gift in those days), which is still preserved and venerated; but if
Henry, by these acts and the building of that outer work of defence,
Calshot Castle, did something to preserve the lives and property of
the citizens from foreign attack, a little later in his reign, when
the suppression of the religious houses was undertaken, the town and
immediate neighbourhood suffered as severely as any part of the south
of England from the doings of Thomas Cromwell and his abettors. The
abbeys of Beaulieu, Netley, and St Denys, the Grey Friary and other
charities were suppressed, and their revenues, accumulated wealth, and
priceless treasures in the shape of plate and reliquaries were seized,
and whatever abuses existed, and doubtless many did, Southampton was in
many ways the poorer for the confiscation.

It was one of the several places in the counties of Hants and Dorset
which benefited by the liberality of King Edward VI in the matter of a
Foundation Grammar School. The visit of the king and his reception at
the hands of the townsfolk in 1552 was of so satisfactory a character
that a Free Grammar School was founded and a building erected in Bugle
Street was used for the purpose until as recent a date as 1896, when
the school was transferred to a more commodious home in West Marlands.
The old school building nowadays is used for the purposes of the Court
for the county magistrates.

Southampton was visited by “Good Queen Bess” on several occasions,
and the present arms of the town date from August 4, 1575, when the
Queen granted them by a patent. In them are incorporated a shield
bearing the county roses, supported by two lions rampant. The shield
itself is surmounted by a castle, out of which rises “a quene, in her
imperial majestie, holding in the right hand the sword of justice, in
the left the balance of equitie.” In addition to these appear also “two
ships-proper on the sea.”

Charles I and his Court and Council came and stayed at Southampton in
the first year of his reign to escape the plague, and whilst here the
King renewed and extended the charter, possibly, as was often the case,
for a valuable consideration.

Just forty years later the town was visited by the plague, and not only
did the inhabitants die off by thousands, but the place was brought to
a terrible condition of desolation and want. As in many other towns of
Hampshire and the adjacent county of Dorset, a public subscription was
opened, and the King (Charles II) himself headed it with a handsome

Since the times to which we have thus briefly referred many Royal
persons have visited Southampton, adding, by their visits, to its
prosperity and prestige; but their doings have not been of engrossing
interest to any save the townsfolk, and call for no detailed reference

Of long-past times, when knight and squire and man-at-arms passed along
the High Street, which to the present day has preserved something of
its old-time quaintness, and beneath the Bar Gate to the waterside,
from whence they used to embark on board the transports of that day for
the French wars of Edward III and Henry V, there remain many traces. Of
the interesting imposing town walls which formerly enclosed the place
there are--more especially along the west shore--considerable, though
somewhat ruinous, portions left standing.

Once washed at high tide they are now separated from the water’s edge
by a wide roadway and promenade. The walls, which are about forty feet
in height, are embattled, and pierced for the discharge of arrows
and firearms by the defenders. One of the most prominent features of
this stretch of wall along the west shore is the fine, high corner
tower--but alas! much spoiled and hidden by the modern inn literally
built on to it--known as the Arundel Tower, from the fact that
considerable repairs were made to the original structure in the latter
half of the fifteenth century by one Thomas FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel.
It was with the idea of protecting this tower from the action of the
sea (which until quite comparatively recent times washed its base at
every tide) that the lightermen of Southampton were by ancient custom
enjoined to carry stone from the Isle of Wight and deposit it on the
shore near the walls to counteract and break the force of the water.

Almost midway between the northern and southern extremities of this
stretch of wall is another semi-circular tower, with a high parapet,
which rejoices in the somewhat singular name of the Catch Cold Tower.
Further southward along the wall stood the fourteenth-century entrance
to the town known as the Bridle Gate, at the foot of Simnel Street,
leading up from the waterside to the base court of the castle. The
keep, a circular tower, stood on a high mound of made earth. Hard by is
one of the most interesting survivals of former times, an exceptionally
well-preserved vault of the late Norman period, possibly the wine store
of the castle, and bearing on the stone sides of the doorway marks, we
have ourselves seen, caused most probably by the porters’ shoulders as
they passed through with their loads, and just beyond this is a stretch
of arcaded wall, the arches of which are in different styles, on top
of which runs a parapet and a walk for the sentry to pass along.

This piece of the old walls contains traces of several interesting
Norman windows and doors dating from about the twelfth century. The
new battlemented top afforded complete protection to the defenders and
permitted them easily to cover with their arrows or shot an approaching

It is through one of the arches we have referred to--several of which
were probably open for the purpose of affording means of ingress and
egress for the townsfolk--that the interesting building commonly
known as King John’s Palace is reached. Historians are fairly well
agreed that this almost unique building--a Norman dwelling house--with
its thick rough walls, tiny windows and rough-hewn rafters, was the
king’s house attached to the neighbouring castle in the reign of King
John, even if not used as such by other Sovereigns. An inspection of
the National Records provides a considerable amount of information
concerning its repair at various times, safe custody, and the fact
that it was esteemed as a Royal residence. In an adjacent wall are the
remains of a fine Norman fireplace, by the side of which it is even
likely that Henry I waited in November, 1120, for news of the White
Ship and his son, Prince William, who was drowned by its wreck off the
French coast. The West Gate is another deeply interesting relic of long
ago, and forms the remaining building of interest contiguous to this
portion of the old town walls.

There are many scattered traces of the walls still discoverable,
notably near the Royal Southern Yacht Club House, close to what is
known as the Water Gate, and adjoining the God’s House Tower in the
south-east portion of the anciently enclosed town and the Polymond
Tower to the north-east.

[Illustration: SOUTHAMPTON]

The famous God’s House, Hospital, and Chapel, although the ancient
house has been sadly modernized, is one of the most interesting blocks
of buildings in Southampton. The last-named is also known as the
French Church, or St Julian’s, from the fact that it was devoted to the
use of French Protestant refugees. In the chapel lie buried the bodies
of three distinguished men of Henry V’s reign, the Earl of Cambridge,
Lord Scrope of Masham, and Sir Thomas Grey of Heaton, whose conspiracy
and execution form a stirring incident in Shakespeare’s play, _Henry V_.

It was whilst the king was waiting with his assembled host in 1415
for a favourable wind to carry them to the invasion of France that a
conspiracy to murder him was discovered, in which the three persons
we have just mentioned were implicated. In those stirring times
trials were speedily gone through, and within a very few hours of
the discovery of the ringleaders in the plot they had been tried,
condemned, and executed outside the Bar Gate.

Although God’s House has been modernized and has not such architectural
interest as, say, the Earl of Leicester’s Hospital, Warwick, St Cross,
Winchester, and others we could name, it yet forms a good example
of the ancient hospitals, or alms houses, and is amongst one of the
oldest still remaining in England. The chapel dates from the latter
end of the twelfth century, and is in the Transitional Norman style of
architecture. It is only fair to say that the restoration, so far as
the interior is concerned, has been very carefully and sympathetically
done. The exterior has been cased, and this, of course, has destroyed
much of its interest. The chancel arch is almost Early English in
character, and the doorways are of the round-headed type; and at
the eastern end there is a piscina of (probably) thirteenth century

The date of the foundation of the hospital is not certain, but it is
popularly thought to have been sometime during the reign of Henry
III. In the year 1332 Edward III confirmed the various grants which
had been made in connexion with it, but two years later conveyed it
at his queen’s instigation to the then recently founded College of
Queen’s Hall, Oxford, which still holds the patronage. The ancient
house buildings have now passed away, and their place has been taken
by others more in keeping with modern ideas as to convenience and

The chapel, as we have already stated, happily survives. In the
reign of Elizabeth, and possibly even before that time, it was given
as a place of worship for the refugees who had fled from Catholic
persecution and Spanish tyranny in the Netherlands. But in the reign
of Charles II complaints having been made that English Nonconformists
used the place as a refuge against the harsh laws which then pressed so
heavily upon them, and a complaint also having been lodged by residents
in the Channel Islands that their fellow countrymen were prejudiced
against the English Liturgy by the Nonconformists attending the
chapel, it was ordered that in future the Liturgy and service should
be conducted in the French language as at the chapel of the Savoy in
London; and the service is so performed down to the present day.

The East Gate of the town as long ago as 1773 proved so great an
obstruction to commerce and traffic that it was pulled down. It was
not of any great historical, architectural, or antiquarian interest,
and had probably been at various times “tinkered” so that little of
its original features, or even materials, remained at the time of its

Southampton’s most notable and impressive survival of medieval times is
found at the northern extremity of the ancient walled town, where the
new town may be said to meet the old. It stands--as did Temple Bar--an
interesting, though incongruous, survival amidst the noise and throng
of twentieth-century traffic, houses, and bustle. Known anciently as
the “Barred” Gate (corrupted eventually into the name “Bargate” it now
bears), it is undoubtedly one of the “Bars of Hampton” which we find
mentioned as far back as the twelfth century.

Although portions of the Bargate are of widely different periods--the
arches which span the roadway and two footpaths--for example, it is
still preserved very much as it stood in medieval times, and forms
a most interesting example of Norman architectural work. The north
front is wonderfully well preserved, and the projecting buttresses
and finely-moulded arch, with the picturesque front of semi-octagonal
shape, with heavy machicolations, form a very striking object on
approach. This front is of somewhat later date than the central part of
the gate, and the lions _sejeant_, now placed on either side once stood
on the bridge at the far side of the ditch which ran outside.

In the reign of Queen Elizabeth a Guildhall was formed in the chamber
above the main entrance gate, and this has been at various times
enlarged and improved, and is now used as a police court. On the
northern side it is lighted by the ancient arrow-slit windows from
which approach was opposed. The justices’ room, with its uncompromising
benches, where the sessions are held, contains several interesting
relics of former times, among them the two paintings said to be those
of the far-famed giant Sir Bevis, whose sword is preserved in the
armoury of Arundel Castle, who played so great a part in medieval
romance and ballads, and of his Squire Ascupart. The exploits of
these two personages are of a distinctly legendary and even mythical
character, but they figure considerably in the history of the town.
The paintings were formerly exhibited outside on the walls of the gate
tower. The ditch outside the gate was a double one, spanned by a stone
bridge, which existed until a comparatively late period. The bank which
extended between the two ditches was anciently set aside as an archery
ground with targets where the bowmen of the town used to practise.

The original Bargate was undoubtedly Saxon or early Norman, consisting
of a large, square central tower, with two round flanking towers, the
semi-octagonal front having been erected probably somewhere about the
fourteenth century. This ancient structure is undoubtedly one of the
chief attractions for the archæologist in Southampton. Its existence
has been several times of late years threatened by those who regard it
as an obstruction to the traffic and commerce of the town, but hitherto
the attempt to secure its demolition has failed, and it is to be hoped
that the gate may be spared as an almost unique (so far as the southern
counties are concerned) specimen of medieval architecture of its kind.

Although in comparatively recent times there were many other
interesting Norman and fifteenth century buildings, or remains of them,
in the town, some palaces of kings and princes, others fine houses of
rich merchants of long ago, there remain but few and scattered traces
of them nowadays.

Of ecclesiastical buildings St Michael’s Church, dating from the
commencement of the twelfth century, and still retaining many of its
original features, is the chief. The tower is, probably, the oldest
portion of the church, the nave and aisles being of considerably later
date than the original building. The latter suffered several times at
the hands of the French pirates, whose descents proved such terrifying
experiences for the townsfolk in the early part of the fourteenth
century. The nave was burned by these marauders in 1338, and much
damage was done to the other parts of the building. There are several
interesting features in the interior; a very ancient font of black
limestone and a small collection of chained books never fail to arouse
the interest of the antiquarian. The lofty modern spire somehow strikes
an inappropriate note when seen in contrast with the somewhat “squat”
building, but as a landmark it has its uses.

That the Southampton of long ago was a much more picturesque and even
more interesting town than that of to-day is easily understood. Leland,
who was, perhaps, rather inclined to err on the side of awarding too
warm praise to the places he visited and liked, refers to it in his
_Itinerary_ as possessing in the reign of Henry VIII “one of the
fairest streates that ys yn any town of al England, and yt is well
builded for Timbre Building,” and the impression made on the youthful
King Edward VI was of a town which had “for the bigness of it as fine
houses as be at London.”

In those days, too, the wealthy merchants of Southampton almost
rivalled those of Bristol and Plymouth.

Southampton of to-day may be described as a fairly picturesque town,
though modernity and convenience, rather than beauty, distinguish the
suburbs, which are so constantly extending on all sides landward; but
yachting folk find it a pleasant port, and, moored off pretty and
quaint Hythe within reasonable distance of the Royal Pier, can pass a
week-end or even longer comfortably enough.

Almost every seaport has its distinguishing feature, and a long
acquaintance with Southampton inclines one to think that the mingling
of the old with the very new is what strikes the observer most
forcibly. But the greatness and spirit of Southampton is not really
fully realised until one stands amid the vast docks which cover so
many acres. It is interesting to imagine what the merchant-shippers
of former times, whose vessels were brought alongside wooden jetties
and rickety wharves, would say could they but see the immense docks,
colossal cranes, and busy quays of this twentieth century town.

Here craft of all kinds come and go, taking in and discharging cargoes
from every quarter of the globe, bringing to the twelfth largest
port of the kingdom the wines of the south and the rich and varied
merchandise of Africa, India, China, the two Americas, the West Indies,
and the countries of the Levant. Amid the docks, wharves, workshops,
shipbuilding yards, boiler factories, and huge, unlovely warehouses of
the waterside portions of the town, it is possible to realize to some
small extent the ocean-going commerce and widely spread empire of the
seas held by Great Britain.

With the ever-increasing dock extensions, Southampton each year becomes
less of a pleasure town and more a great centre of commerce, carrying
trade and passenger traffic overseas.

Coming up the Water, at sunset, as one gazes at the lowering,
smoke-hung town ahead, with its forests of masts pencilled against the
lemon-hued sky, it has a strange, pictorial beauty that full daylight
denies to it. The beauty of a great port half-slumbering, half-awake,
with a myriad lights creeping out one by one to challenge the silvery

But Southampton Water, with all its charm, will, sooner or later, be
left behind by the true vagabond of the sea, and, once Calshot is
rounded, one passes along the yellow, shingly shore, with its dark belt
of woods heading for Lepe, and the mouth of the Beaulieu River. This
somewhat tortuous and difficult tidal way takes one into the heart of
Hampshire’s most lovely creek. Need’s Oar Point is well named, as many
have found after getting on the delusive mud of Beaulieu Spit, and
one is lucky, if the tide is making out, to get so far before the ebb
becomes too strong. With the flood, which will not keep one waiting
more than three or four hours, and a favouring breeze one can soon run
up as far as the bend of the river just below Buckler’s Hard, where
there are moorings, snug enough so long as no craft comes drifting down
with the stream.

There is nothing in the south of England quite like Beaulieu River, or,
perhaps, one should say like that portion of it which lies between the
Solent and Beaulieu Abbey bridge, nine miles inland. Above the bridge
all the various little streams of the Forest, which have filtered
through bogs, meadows, and marshes, come together in a vast mere, the
result partly of the natural narrowing of the valley, partly of some
old monkish engineering works, and the overplus of this fresh water
pours ultimately over the weir opposite the palace gate into the lower
level of the salt water river. Above the bridge are water-lilies,
rushes, and fresh water weeds and plants, and below it seaweed and
saltings. Then for a course of nine miles there flows a broad, rapid,
winding stream on its way to the distant sea through woods and meadows
gay with flowers. Here, then, is a river left with sylvan banks
undisfigured by either towing-path or factories, and whose grey-green
waters are unvexed by fussy tugs or begrimed barges.

About five miles up from the sea is St Leonards, once a part of the
abbey domain. From close by one gets one of the finest views for miles
round, with peeps of Hurst Castle, the Needles’ passage, and distant
Spithead, and the Isle of Wight itself, to the south, stretched out
widely east and west.

The ruins of St Leonards consist of a portion of the walls of a great
granary fully 220 feet in length and 50 feet in width, which is now
covered with ferns sprouting from every crevice, and a beautiful little
chapel, the walls, floor, and windows of which are covered with a mass
of plants, weeds, and creepers. Both gables of the chapel are still
standing, and from beneath the ivy peep out remains of rich carved
niches and tracery. In its decay the deserted sanctuary presents
a lovely picture, for flowers blossom on the walls--amongst which
are to be found dog roses, cranesbill, yellow barberry, wallflowers
and brambles. The ancient farmhouse, the garden of which the chapel
adjoins, is a handsome old house containing low, comfortable rooms, and
a row of dormer windows in the roof; and the lover of the picturesque
should certainly visit lovely, though ruinous, St Leonards.

In Beaulieu River there are four tides, not two, and thus it presents
a rapidly changing aspect of silvery flood and ebb, which at times
leaves much of the bed bare with patches of yellow gravel and here
and there little pools and saltings, where seafowl and birds disport
themselves and feed, and glistening squadrons of white-plumed swans
sail statelily to and fro.

Into this river, with its tiny winding creeks, which, in some
instances, seem to run up into the woods themselves, in ancient times
crept Danish galleys and French pirates intent upon attacking and
despoiling the rich, peacefully situated, and beautiful Abbey of
Beaulieu, of which, alas! few traces now remain; and thus it was that
later in the history of the little red-bricked village which lies
at the head of this romantic waterway, one John, Duke of Montagu,
fortified his Palace of Beaulieu with moat and towers and battlements
against the dreaded attack of the French privateers, who, slipping into
the Solent between the Needles and Hurst Castle, made occasional raids
up the Beaulieu River.

The beautiful woods which for miles clothe the river banks are probably
not less ancient than the most historic portion of the New Forest
itself, for there seems little doubt that the land here was wooded
ground since the beginning of history. So broad is the river but a
little distance below Beaulieu that, apart from the tides, there is
little to suggest that it is other than an inland lake; and certainly
nothing in its silent tree-clad hills to apprise the wanderer along its
banks, either upwards from the sea or downwards from Beaulieu, of the
existence of the strange, half-deserted village which suddenly comes
upon the view round a sharp Z-like bend of the river.

Almost hidden from the sight and knowledge of man are the picturesque,
though melancholy, remains of the little village which a century ago
was a busy hive of industry and a veritable cradle of the British Navy
of Nelson’s time; but in the single street of red-bricked dwellings,
once more numerous, now weathered by the sun and wind of the passing
years, is a memorial, melancholy but romantic, of the days of “the
wooden walls of old England,” when the great shadow of Napoleon
dominated Europe. Here nowadays, so far off the beaten track, lie
fragments of the great shipbuilding yard which once flourished on the
banks of Beaulieu River, and its story is worth the telling.

In the middle of the eighteenth century John, Duke of Montagu, who,
in addition to his lands in this retired corner of Hampshire, owned
the vast and prosperous Sugar Island of St Vincent, and inherited
the rights of the ancient abbots of Beaulieu to a free harbour upon
the river, conceived the idea of making a seaport upon its banks at
Buckler’s Hard. His methods were characterized by great perspicacity,
and soon the grants of land which he was prepared to make at a merely
nominal rent, and free delivery of timber, proved the means of starting
what afterwards became not only a prosperous, but also a famous,
community. The name, Buckler’s Hard or Quay, was derived from a local
family called Buckler, who, however, were not destined to become
connected with the shipbuilding industry.

Favoured by the fact that the spot was close to an immense store of
magnificent timber, then, as now, growing in the New Forest, and to
the famous Iron Works of Sowley, it was scarcely surprising that the
duke’s scheme ultimately turned out quite as satisfactorily as he had
expected. The noble owner of the river advertised widely the fact that
ships could leave it in any wind, thus demonstrating the advantages
that it had over other places such as Bristol on the Severn, and some
of the ports of the Thames.

This and other claims which he made had the effect of attracting to the
place a firm called Wyatt and Co. In September, 1743, the _Surprise_,
of twenty-four guns, the first battleship built upon the river, was

At this time the little village, which sprang up to meet the needs
of the shipbuilding industry thus started, was, apparently out of
compliment to its founder, known as Montagu Town; but every important
reference to the place in historical records and other works is by
its first name, Buckler’s Hard, and the other name must have speedily
fallen into disuse.

With a rapidity which was almost magical, there sprang up rows of
houses, slips, forges, and shipbuilding yards. And soon this spot of
then almost primeval solitude, where oaks old and young grew side
by side almost to the water’s edge, and where but for the weird and
plaintive cry of seagull or peewit, and the boom of the bittern, there
reigned unbroken silence, was transformed into a scene of bustle and
activity, with the sound of hammer and anvil and the hum of many
voices. In this secluded creek, in the dark hours of England’s need,
when she stood almost alone in combating the relentless advance of the
great Napoleon, were built some of the most famous ships that have ever
played their part in English naval warfare. From the time of the launch
of the _Surprise_, which was put into commission in May, 1750, when
war was declared against France, to the time when the great war ended,
ship after ship was launched from Buckler’s Hard, destined afterwards
to play a gallant part in the struggle by sea, which only ended with
Napoleon’s defeat at Trafalgar and Waterloo.

The first vessel launched, though comparatively small, had a crew
of 160 men, and was at first commanded by Captain Antroby, and was
destined to play a creditable part in stirring events by sea, for the
_Surprise_ captured several French vessels, amongst the number the
well-known _Vieux_, and was actively engaged in the Mediterranean
during part of her commission.

[Illustration: THE NEEDLES]

In the designing and building of many succeeding ships one family,
Adams by name, seems to have played the most prominent part. The
name of Henry Adams, who, when thirty years of age, undertook the
control of the shipbuilding yards, which he directed for the lengthy
period of sixty-two years, first appears in a deed dated 1801, made for
the firm of Adams and Co. The success of the _Surprise_ appears to have
led to the greatest activity at Buckler’s Hard, and on the hillside
above the winding river quite a small town grew, the importance of
which will be more easily understood when it is remembered that at the
time of its great prosperity upwards of 4,000 men were engaged in the

From the sloops, which was the type of the first craft built,
the designers proceeded by natural stages to frigates, and then
battleships, which were towed down the river and round to Portsmouth
to be fitted out and manned. The _Surprise_, of 1743, was succeeded
by the _Scorpion_, of eighteen guns, three years later; and after a
period of three years by the _Woolwich_, of forty-four guns. After this
came the _Kennington_, _Lion_, and _Mermaid_, the second named having
sixty guns. The _Gibraltar_ followed in 1756, and on her first cruise
captured the _Glaneur_, a handsome, swift, heavily armed, and strongly
manned privateer, which was bought in by the Navy and renamed the
_Gibraltar Prize_. The following year saw the launch of the _Coventry_,
and the next year of a big frigate, the _Thames_, carrying thirty-two
twelve-pounders. This latter ship saw a great deal of service and
captured a large number of privateers from the enemy, but was at last
unfortunately forced to strike her flag to the French owing to the
enormous superiority of the attacking force. Whilst in the possession
of the enemy she proved not less successful than when manned by British
seamen and made prizes of no fewer than twenty English ships, but in
1796, after a great fight, she was recaptured, and fifteen years later,
in company with the _Cephalus_, made a prize of eleven French gunboats
and a felucca without loss, and a short time afterwards landed her
marines in Sicily and, supported by men of the 62nd Regiment, defeated
the French and captured a town.

A few years later the _Europe_, which was destined to be the flagship
of the fleet in Newfoundland Waters under Vice-Admiral John Montagu,
was launched; and other vessels of large tonnage, including the
_Vigilant_, a sixty-four gun battleship of 1,374 tons, came from the
Buckler’s Hard yards. The memory of one at least of the vessels, the
_Garland_, of twenty-eight guns, was perpetuated in a ballad sung in
those days by West Indian negroes, which ran--

    You go aboard de Flag ship,
      Dey ask you for to dine;
    Dey give you lots of salt horse,
      But not a drop of wine.

    You go aboard de _Garland_,
      Dey ask you for to dine;
    Dey give you plenty roast beef,
      And lots of rosy wine.
        Ho! de happy happy _Garland_, etc. etc.

Two vessels bearing the name of _Hannibal_, an honoured one in the
British Navy, were launched from Buckler’s Hard, but the first had
the misfortune to be captured at Sumatra by the French, who handed
her crew over to the tender mercies of Tippoo Sahib, and many of them
died in captivity, owing to the cruelty with which they were treated.
The second _Hannibal_ was launched about the year 1810, and not much
more than twenty years ago there lived at Buckler’s Hard in one of the
houses which are now, some of them, falling into positive ruin, an old
man who remembered being present at the launch of this fine ship when a
small boy, and who received “a quart pot of sugar” from one of the men
who came to take the ship round to Portsmouth to be fitted out.

But by far the most celebrated vessel which left the slips at this
Hampshire shipbuilding yard of long ago was the _Agamemnon_, preceded
by the _Brilliant_ and the _Zephyr_. This magnificent vessel was
commanded by Lord Nelson at the siege of Celvi, where he lost his right
eye, and afterwards took an important part in many of the actions of
that time. She was one of the victorious fleet at Copenhagen, and
in the action off Cape Finistère. But her greatest feat was when in
company with the _Swiftsure_ and the frigate _Euryalus_ she played a
gallant part in the Battle of Trafalgar.

So important did this shipbuilding yard become that King George and
Queen Charlotte came on a state visit to Beaulieu in 1789, and went
over to see the _Illustrious_ leave the slips. And such was the skill
of these Hampshire shipbuilders, and so considerable the resources of
the place, that it is said a seventy-four gun battleship was frequently
built in less than three years, although to her making went more than
two thousand oaks cut in the New Forest hard by, some hundred tons of
wrought iron, and thirty tons of copper rivets and nails.

There were brave doings at Buckler’s Hard in those days when the ships
were launched, and this although the spot was so secluded, lying as it
did just beyond the verge of the New Forest itself, and was even less
accessible than it is nowadays.

To the launching came hundreds and even thousands of country folk from
far and wide, with a good sprinkling of gentry in their carriages
or on horseback, many of whom joined in the festivities, balls, and
entertainments, which were given in a large and lofty room of the
Adamses’ dwelling house. This house, which is the bottom one on the
left hand side of the one remaining grass-grown and deserted street,
was the scene of many festivities. The Dining Hall, that once echoed
to the sounds of toasts and merriment, and of the gliding, lightly
flying feet of dancers, is now little more than a lumber place in which
when we were last there was a tangle of nets, fishing tackle, and boat
fittings. The famous dinners given on the occasion of the signing of
the contracts, or the completion of the vessels, were also in the old
times given in this room. And many a Georgian beauty and many a beau,
the first with powdered hair and dressed in hoop skirts and brocades,
and the latter in wig, flowered waistcoat, gay coloured coat and knee
breeches, must have passed up the old staircase and tripped a gay
measure in the ancient dining hall.

On several occasions Royalty came in state to launch and christen the
huge “wooden walls of old England,” which stood ready for the ceremony
upon the slips. King George was invariably entertained in the Adamses’
house, and one can imagine the state of excitement into which the
little town was thrown on the occasion of these state visits. Often,
too, came news of the doings of the Buckler’s Hard ships in far-off
waters, tidings of victories won over the French, and of gallant deeds
done by the men who manned the vessels.

But with the end of the great French War the prosperity of the place
gradually declined; and on the death of Henry Adams, at the great age
of ninety-two, the building of ships at Buckler’s Hard fell away.
During the zenith of its prosperity no less than sixty battleships were
built in addition to many merchant vessels of large tonnage.

On the death of Henry Adams his two sons succeeded him, and for a time
carried on the business. Their ultimate ruin and that of Buckler’s Hard
was brought about not so much through fault as through misfortune.
The builders failed to carry out a Government contract to build four
men-of-war in a year, and were unwise enough to go to law with the
Admiralty. They lost their case, and in consequence not only were
they ruined, but the prosperity of the village, which owed its very
existence chiefly to the enterprise and administrative ability of Henry
Adams, rapidly declined.

Nowadays of the vast sheds which once covered the shore not a trace
remains; and only a heap of overgrown brickwork marks the spot where,
in the busy blacksmith’s shop, from sunrise to sunset once rang the
hammer on the anvils, forging bolts which once held the great timbers
of New Forest oak together.

There is left but one small street, and an isolated house or two of
the former busy townlet, red-bricked, and with cross beams black
with age, sloping roofs, and tiny paned windows. And almost the only
indications of life are to be seen along the shore where the grass has
overgrown the old slipways, and where a few children and fisherfolk now
congregate, or near the tiny pier to which, during the summer months,
excursion launches and small steamers occasionally come.

Down the street, once thronged with workmen, now grass-grown, as well
as along the once busy road which skirts the river for some little
distance towards Beaulieu on the Buckler’s Hard side, cattle wander
and sheep occasionally browse. But, notwithstanding its deserted
appearance, the little group of decaying houses, which looks almost a
derelict cast up by the tide, has an attractiveness that comes of its
traditions and picturesque situation. There stands the little street
with the river flowing at its foot, a memory of a bygone age, with the
walnut tree in the Adamses’ garden still surviving, green and fruitful.

And, as is only right and proper, Buckler’s Hard possesses its ghost. A
grey lady who wanders at times, so the story goes, along the deserted
street at nightfall; and there are tales of uncanny sights and weird
sounds which are heard in several of the houses. From the bulging
window of the little room in the Adamses’ house, in which so many
of the battleships were laid down on paper by their designers, is a
beautiful peep of the river and old slipways. And here, no doubt,
stood, one eye on the paper before him, and the other on the yards and
the work which was going on near the river’s brink, Henry Adams, whose
descendants are to be found at the present day in various walks of
life far removed from that of shipbuilding. These occasionally return
to the scene of their family’s departed glories, and wander through the
rooms of the old house, which has so many memories of stirring bygone
days and the famous folk who once came to it.

At the end of this picturesque waterway stands Beaulieu Palace, and
the ruins of the ancient Cistercian Abbey, which was founded by King
John very early in the thirteenth century, and completed by his son and
successor Henry III. The Abbey, which was one of the most beautifully
situated in the south of England, owed its origin to a dream. According
to the tradition upon which this idea is founded members of the
Cistercian Order having greatly displeased the King, they were summoned
by him to Lincoln, where it is said he intended to have them trodden to
death by horses.

The monks escaped, however, owing to the refusal of the soldiers to
carry out the King’s barbarous order. And at night the King dreamed
that he was condemned at the Last Judgement to be scourged by the very
monks he had intended to have slain. This dream--as did many similar
ones at that time--made a great impression upon the King’s mind; and
as an acknowledgement of the evil he had intended to do, he determined
to found an Abbey for the accommodation of the monks of the Cistercian
Order as a propitiatory act to the Almighty.

It was at Beaulieu, which name means “fair spot,” and indicates the
loveliness of its situation, that he built an abbey set amid primeval
forest trees, and washed by the meadow-bordered waters of the River
Exe, which widens out into Beaulieu Creek. The privilege of sanctuary
was conferred upon the Abbey by Pope Innocent IV about 1235, and on
several occasions celebrated personages availed themselves of the
protection that the Abbey was thus able to afford. Claiming sanctuary
the Countess of Warwick, wife of the King Maker, took refuge here
in April, 1471, after landing from France at Southampton hard by,
and learning of the defeat and death of her husband at the Battle of
Barnet. A few days before, too, to Beaulieu also came Margaret of
Anjou, who also landed on English soil on the day of the Battle of
Barnet, with reinforcements for her husband, Henry VI.

A few years later there hastened to Beaulieu a very different sanctuary
seeker in the person of Perkin Warbeck, of ridiculous memory, the tool
of Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy and the Yorkists, in flight before the
forces of King Henry VII.

At the time of the suppression of the monasteries in 1539 to 1540 it is
recorded that there were no less than thirty-two men, some with wives
and families, living under the protection of the abbey walls.

After its dissolution as a religious foundation the Abbey and its
lands experienced various vicissitudes; passing into the possession
successively of one Thomas Wriothesley, afterwards created Earl of
Southampton; then, by marriage, into that of Lord Montagu, the founder
of Buckler’s Hard; and afterwards into the family of the Duke of
Buccleuch, also by marriage; and lastly was settled in 1884 by the
then Duke on his second son, who three years later became first Baron
Montagu of Beaulieu.

The Abbey ruins are very fragmentary and much less extensive than is
the case with many institutions of a similar character which were
destroyed about the same time. Anciently the grounds had an area of
more than a mile and a quarter, and the church--only a fragment of
which now remains--then consisted of a lengthy nave, aisles, transepts
with aisles, and apsed choir, with a lofty central tower crowning the
whole. When the Abbey fell into the hands of the despoilers, much of
the stone of which the church was built was taken away to Hurst and
used to build the castle and fort at that place.

Strange as it may seem there was anciently a prosperous vineyard
attached to the Abbey, and wine was made in considerable quantities by
the monks. Tradition asserts that grapes have been gathered as late as
the middle of the eighteenth century; but of the vineyard no trace now
remains save the ruins of the old winepress still visible about eighty
yards north of the church.

The seat of Lord Montagu, the Abbot’s Palace, is beautifully situated
amid fine trees, and in close proximity to the Abbey ruins. Since it
was converted into a private residence by Thomas Wriothesley, the first
secular owner, it has undergone many periods of reconstruction, which
have resulted in the present somewhat castle-like building.

After a day or two in Beaulieu River most yachtsmen will be inclined
to agree with us that there are few more lovely spots, and if, instead
of pushing up the river as far as the bend below Buckler’s Hard, one
brings up snugly just off Exbury Hard, under shelter of the tree-clad
point on the West bank, one need have little fear that any other craft
will foul one, whether coming down or up the river, as the tide sets
off to the east shore.

To get out of Beaulieu River is a more difficult matter than to get
in. To attempt the feat except on the ebb is almost bound to end in
disaster, for there are plenty of shoals, and mud abounds. The great
thing is to get out on the very top of the ebb, and not cross the
line from one boom to another on the same side. If these two points
are observed, the westward flowing stream will carry one as far as
is needed, and then one can stand away along the coast to another
Hampshire creek, more frequented, though less beautiful than Beaulieu,
which leads up to quaint, old-world Lymington, with its memories of the
old yachting and yacht-building days of three or four decades ago.

It is difficult as one brings up at the north end of Short Reach just
below the baths, in sight of the town which seems to hang on the side
of a hill, or moors alongside the town quay, to realize that long ago
Lymington was a more important place than Portsmouth. Yet so it was,
for the port of Lymington fitted out and supplied several English
Sovereigns--Edward III amongst the number--with twice as many ships as
the town which was destined to become the great naval station of to-day.

Lymington did not escape from French marauders, but, fortunately for
the town, on one occasion the wit and charm of a certain lady named
Dore so enchanted the leader of the pirates, that he went away without
doing damage. The story goes that upon the landing of the pirates their
leader being very hungry, he decided to put off plundering the town
until his appetite was satisfied, and the house of the said Madam Dore
promising the best larder, “he (the pirate leader) entered therein and
made his demand. The lady of the house set before him the very best her
larder provided, keeping him company with such good humour, and plying
him well with good wine; when he had finished he gallantly thanked her,
made his bow, and embarked without doing the smallest injury.”

The wit and resource of Lymington ladies in ancient times must indeed
have been considerable, for another heroine, a Mrs Knapton, figures
in a romantic story connected with the Monmouth rebellion. There was
a considerable party in favour of the “Protestant Duke” in the town,
and the conspirators, who sought to plan how they might best assist
Monmouth, met at the house of a Mrs Knapton, and deliberated over pipes
and ale. But unhappily, on the occasion of one of their meetings,
intelligence reached them that a party of soldiers had entered the
town with a view to arresting them. Mrs Knapton promptly hustled the
conspirators out by the back windows of her house, removed the pipes
and ale mugs; and in order to account for the smell of tobacco in the
room muffled up her face in flannel, so that when the soldiers entered
they discovered nothing but an old woman, to all appearances suffering
from acute toothache, and puffing at a long “churchwarden,” evidently
with a view to relieving her suffering.

The ancient townlet, with its one business thoroughfare of any
importance running down precipitously to within a few score yards of
the harbour itself, has in the past seen stirring times; and when the
Duke of Monmouth had actually landed at Lyme Regis, intent upon driving
his weak and vacillating uncle from the throne, he was proclaimed in
Lymington High Street, and upwards of a hundred men marched off towards
the West Country to fight in “King Monmouth’s” cause. Several Lymington
men paid the penalty of their Protestant zeal with their lives, when
the “Bloody Assize” of the infamous Jeffreys held session at Winchester.

In the past, too, Lymington folk were not less skilful “free traders”
than the rest of the famous smugglers of the Hampshire coast, and in
the waterside houses existed--and probably still exist--“tub holes” and
pivoted hearthstones in and beneath which many a bale of tea and lace
and keg of spirits found temporary resting places.

Nowadays, however, though Lymington possesses an old-time, sleepy air,
and is picturesque with irregular buildings, and surrounded by pretty
country, it has lost much of its prestige even as a yacht-building
place. Visitors come, it is true, and there are excellent enclosed
sea baths, and it forms a pleasant enough week-end halting place on a
cruise. But were it not for the steamboat service, which causes many
to pass through the town on their way to and from the Isle of Wight,
it would doubtless sink into one of those “sleepy hollow” little towns
which seem to have had a past, to possess a tranquil present, and will
have no one can tell what sort of future save one of gentle, gradual

From Lymington, however, the ever attractive New Forest with its many
beauty spots, is easily reached, and a day or two passed on the river,
with land trips to fill in the time, is not ill spent.

Chapter V


The entrance to Poole Harbour, which lies at the extreme western limit
of Bournemouth Bay, is one which yachtsmen have learned to approach
with caution, lest they should take the ground on Hook Sand. But
whatever the difficulties of navigating the tortuous channel which
leads up to Poole Quay, past pretty Brownsea (to which custom has added
the superfluous word “Island,” the determination “ea” or “ey” meaning
island) and its imposing castle dating in part from the time of Henry
VIII, maybe there is such a charm about what has been called “the Lake
Land of Dorset,” that few lovers of the picturesque will pass the Haven
mouth and leave it unentered.

Brownsea is, indeed, a beautiful out-of-the-world spot, with its
ancient castle, once a block house of some strength, standing on
guard, as it were, at the entrance to the main channel of the harbour.
In the little village down by the quay, one finds a curious blending
of Italian names and English dwellings, just as one finds also in
the walled-in gardens of the castle relics of Italy, in the shape of
medieval well-heads, etc., set amid typically English surroundings.

The castle was burnt out some years ago, and afterwards partially
rebuilt, but in it is preserved a considerable amount of the old

On the island there is a delightful little church standing on a knoll
in the centre of a woodland glade, and amid the plantations in early
summer one finds a wealth of rhododendron blossoms of all kinds,
scarcely to be equalled anywhere else on the south coast. The island
itself is shaped like a horseshoe, and has openings towards the east,
with high ground running round the edge. The views from this high
pine-clad ridge, which forms so prominent a feature of the island, are
extremely beautiful, and tradition states that the great Turner himself
when on a visit there said that he had seen few more exquisite effects
of light and shade and form in landscape than are to be found in the
panorama from the western side of the ridge overlooking the beautiful
Channel and the Purbeck Hills. Indeed, sunshine or storm, sunset or
sunrise, it would not be easy anywhere along the coast to find more
exquisite views than are to be seen in the silvery waterways of Poole
Harbour, the wide stretches of moorland which environ it, and the
Dorset highlands which form so impressive a background. It would indeed
be difficult for an artist to find no pictures in the misty beauties of
the gleaming marshland; the purple and russet of the swelling heaths,
streaked here and there with patches of golden gorse; the sand dunes,
gleaming yellow and jade green all around; and the wild black heath
stretching ridge on ridge from the indented shores until it reaches the
steep slope of Nine Barrow Down, or merges with the distant view, where
the famous Agglestone lies solitary and desolate.

There is little doubt that Poole Harbour, which was probably centuries
ago much more navigable than it is now, might have been made, and
indeed might still be made, a place of some considerable utility as a
naval station for a torpedo flotilla, and might even regain something
of its prestige as a commercial port. Shut in to the south-west by the
high chalk ridges of the Studland Hills, and sheltered on the east and
north-east by the wooded slopes of Canford Cliffs and Parkstone, the
harbour appears, when viewed from the highland, rather like a huge
inland lake than a sheet of water connected directly with the sea. Not
quite half the distance on the way to Wareham by the main channel,
and on the northern shore of the harbour, stands the old-time and
picturesque town of Poole.

Concerning the origin of Poole there is still considerable difference
of opinion, but most authorities are agreed that it is less ancient
than has been formerly claimed for it. It would appear to be certain,
from the fact that none of the older chroniclers or chronicles--William
of Malmesbury, Henry of Huntingdon, Asser, and the Saxon Chronicle
amongst the number--contain any mention of Poole, though referring
frequently to other Dorset towns--Wareham, Wimborne, Dorchester, and
Swanage, for example--that the place did not exist as a town in even
Roman times. Roman remains have, however, at different times been
unearthed in the neighbourhood, and there seems little doubt that the
Roman by-road from Badbury Rings, now called the “Old Bound Road,”
probably led down to the waterside near one of the present-day quays.

Additional evidence that no hamlet or town of any importance existed
where Poole now stands, even in the year 991 A.D., is afforded by the
fact that, although the chronicler records an inroad of the Danes
of that year in the following terms, “The army (of the Danes) went
again eastward into Fromemouth, and everywhere they went up as far as
they would into Dorset,” there is no mention of their having ravaged
any town on their way to Wareham. Even the great, and, on the whole,
singularly complete, Domesday Book does not contain any mention of
Poole, although nearly every town of which there is now a trace in
Dorset appears therein.

Indeed, from the evidence we have briefly mentioned, it would appear
that Wareham, for even a considerable period anterior to the Norman
Conquest, was the port in this harbour, and for the existence of Poole
there was not then any great reason. At all events, we know that it was
from Wareham that Duke Robert of Gloucester, a natural son of Henry
I, set sail in 1142, and how King Stephen, the enemy of Queen Maud,
of whose cause Earl Robert was an adherent, came to Wareham in his
absence and burned the town and captured the castle.

It would appear that Poole took its rise somewhere about this time (the
middle part of the twelfth century), owing chiefly to the destruction
of, and frequent attacks made upon, Wareham by the contending factions
in those times of civil war. Probably the merchants and shipowners of
Wareham established themselves at Poole, which was a point considerably
nearer the sea, in consequence of the fact that the fortifications of
Wareham, whilst evidently not strong enough to protect their interests,
served the unfortunate purpose of attracting attack. But whatever may
have been the reason for the foundation of Poole there seems little
doubt that towards the end of the first half of the thirteenth century
it was a town and port of considerable note and size, whilst Wareham
had undoubtedly rapidly declined. It is possible, of course, that even
in Stephen’s reign there was a collection of houses near where the
commercial part of present-day Poole stands.

Soon after the foundation of the town, under the circumstances we
have described, it had grown to be an important piece of the Manor of
Canford, with some considerable, if as yet a somewhat fluctuating,
foreign trade. The inhabitants would appear, from historical data which
have come down to us, to have been often troubled by the imposition
of taxes and burdens by the Manor, and in consequence there was the
loss of security which militated against the increase in the number
of foreign vessels trading to the port. To rectify this the merchant
inhabitants doubtless made up their minds to obtain some charter of
self-government, such as was possessed by several other towns in the
county. The difficulty in the way was persuading the Lord of the
Manor to grant it. The latter happened at that period to be William
Longsword, son of the famous Earl of Salisbury and grandson of Fair
Rosamund, who appears to have been amenable to a monetary consideration
for rights which he might be supposed to be unwilling to give _con
amore_. It was the necessity of raising money to enable him to take
part in the Crusades of St Louis that made William Longsword ultimately
concede the rights which the inhabitants of Poole were so anxious to
obtain. He was one of the most famous of the Crusaders who fought
against the Saracens in Egypt and in Palestine.

The price for which William Longsword granted to Poole the desired
rights was the sum of 70 marks, the equivalent of about £475 of
present-day money. The charter, which has been preserved in the
archives of this ancient borough, makes it clear that the privileges
for which the inhabitants were prepared to pay so considerable a sum
included the exemption from ordinary duties which were levied, except
that of 2s. on every ship sailing to foreign parts overseas; the right
to nominate its burgesses from which the Lord of the Manor might
appoint his reeve, which afterwards grew into the office of a mayor;
the privilege of having the courts, to deal with matters connected
with the Manor, held in the town itself at fixed periods; and that no
burgess should be brought in guilty of any offence if unable, by reason
of absence at sea, to appear in these courts; and that the port reeve
should have power to deal with all cases relative to foreign merchants
in the absence of the bailiffs of the Manor. This last a privilege
which was valuable as preventive of former vexatious delays.

It may be gathered from these circumstances that at this time Poole
was already a considerable port, with a busy merchant-shipping trade.
The date of this first charter has been by authorities fixed as about
1248, and thus it appears that it was in the reign of Henry III that
Poole first began to take its place as a town and seaport of England.
A quarter of a century at least before this, however, it had been
included in the lists of ports which were liable to make a contribution
of ships for the King’s use, a custom intended to supply a deficiency
caused by the non-existence of a Royal Navy.

In the reign of Edward III William Montacute, Earl of Salisbury, who
was a distinguished soldier and fought at Crecy and Poitiers, granted
the town another charter empowering the reeve to assume the title
of mayor. This was in the year 1371, so that there has now been an
unbroken succession of mayors in Poole for a period of upwards of five
centuries. Henry VI not only gave a licence to the town to hold a
market on Thursdays and to have two fairs annually, but also by letters
patent gave power to the mayor and burgesses to fortify the place, and
when this had been done Poole became officially a port.

Various privileges were granted by succeeding Sovereigns, and
ultimately Elizabeth constituted Poole a town and county of itself with
its own Court of Record, sheriff, and coroner, and other privileges.
The early history of the port was probably much the same as that of
other similar places on the south coast, only that Poole was in a
measure protected by the tortuous channel which had to be traversed
ere the town itself could be reached by water, and was therefore a
safer place than some from attack. But not only had the merchantmen of
Poole trading overseas to contend with foreign foes, pirates, and even
the sailors of rival ports on their own coasts, but they had also on
occasion to provide both ships and men for the prosecution of wars in
foreign parts. Frequently the King claimed in war time all the ships
which were to be found in the harbour.

There survive many writs, or records of them, addressed to the bailiffs
of La Pole (as Poole was then called) for the furnishing of ships, and
the three first Edwards, as well as Henry III, were pretty constant in
their demands for such assistance in the prosecution of their French
wars. In those days, however, the transforming of a merchant ship into
a man-of-war was an infinitely simpler matter than in Nelson’s time
or the present, for every merchant ship which sailed from the English
ports was habitually heavily armed to enable it to resist the attacks
of pirates and other foes, and therefore all that needed to be done was
to put aboard her extra seamen, well-armed, and the soldiers she was to
transport to a foreign shore.

More especially in the reigns of the first three Edwards was Poole
called upon to supply men and vessels, and at the long blockade of
Calais in 1347, four Poole ships, manned by nearly five score seamen,
bore their part, as did also other men from the ancient borough in the
great sea fights of the time of Sluys.

But though Poole lost both in treasure and men its full share during
the French wars, there was yet greater loss destined to fall upon it,
for the plague known as the Black Death, which was probably originally
brought about by the caravans from Central Asia to South-Eastern
Europe, and from thence spread into Italy, France, Spain, and even
England, proved terribly deadly in the county of Dorset, and swept
Poole with relentless destruction. Not even the great plague of three
centuries later brought so much havoc in this particular district, and
we are told that vessels full of the dead, unguided by human hand,
floated or scoured the northern seas, carrying the curse of infection
with them wherever they drifted. Commencing very early in Dorset at
Melcombe Regis, it seems to have travelled inland and devastated
the towns of Bridport, Dorchester, Wareham, Blandford, Spetisbury,
Wimborne, Shaftesbury, and Poole. How many died at Poole it is, of
course, impossible to say; but there is little doubt that this terrible
visitation, which took place in 1348 and 1349, practically decimated
the population of the towns we have named.

With the end of the French wars there came a time when the fortunes
of England were none too bright, and a famous French seaman, John de
Vienne, a nephew of the stout defender of Calais, gathered together
a strong fleet, with which he successfully and terribly harried the
seaboard towns of the southern coasts. Rye, Hastings, Portsmouth, the
Isle of Wight, Dartmouth, and other places were attacked and partially
destroyed. Poole did not escape, but was attacked and burned ere the
marauder returned to his native land with much booty and renown.

About this time England was also threatened by a great fleet lying
on the Flemish coasts at Sluys, which was intended to transport an
invading army to these shores, but the French lingered over their
preparations till too late in the year, and the great collection of
ships which had mustered for the purpose of invasion was broken up,
never to be reassembled. But though this menace was removed, the
commerce of Poole suffered as did that of other ports from the wars
on the Continent, and rumours of wars to come, for the foreign ports
to which Poole ships had traded were either of themselves now hostile
or were beleaguered, and thus trade in its usual sense had become
well-nigh impracticable.

It was at this period, and for the reasons we have just given, that
the thin border line was crossed which separated the heavily armed
merchant vessels, prepared to fight if necessary, from the unashamed
pirate, and Poole became noted for its piratical craft and their
daring deeds from Flanders down to Portugal. The almost land-locked
waters of the harbour, with tortuous and, except to natives, unknown
channels, afforded just such a base for piracy as was most suitable and
convenient. Indeed, it was not long before the need or circumstances
of the time produced the man in the person of one Harry Paye, or Harry
Page--known to the Spaniards as Arripay--who became a pirate, and
afterwards in the reign of Henry IV rose to be one of the most famous
of all the English corsairs, that made the English Channel a place of
terror to all traders and even the coast towns of the Bay of Biscay
apprehensive of his visits.

This famous pirate of Poole used to sail out of harbour with one or
more well-found and well-armed vessels, with which he scoured the
Channel as far east as Flanders and as far west as Finistère, with
occasional expeditions further south to towns on the Spanish and
Portuguese littoral. He was well known and feared by both the Spanish
and French mercantile marines, and so successful were his operations
that tradition states on one occasion after an expedition he returned
to Poole with no less than a hundred vessels captured as prizes along
the Breton coast. For some weeks after it would appear that Poole kept
public holiday, and the inhabitants gave themselves over to all sorts
of debauchery and excess; and we are further told that “many puncheons
of good Porto wine and kegs of brandy were broached by the notorious
pirate, and partaken of by all and sundry on the quay of Poole, and in
the adjacent streets. So much so that there was scarcely a sober man
in the town, and for days no one thought of business or anything save
eating and drinking and making merry.”

[Illustration: POOLE HARBOUR]

Almost equally daring exploits by this Harry Paye, who formerly had
been associated with Lord Berkeley in command of the fleet belonging to
the Cinque Ports, gained for him such a reputation that in a Spanish
chronicle he is spoken of as “a knight who scoured the seas as a
corsair with many ships, plundering all the Spanish and French vessels
that he could meet with.” His exploits were not, however, solely
concerned with the seizure of ships and cargoes on the high seas, for
he took and burned Gijon and Finistère, and amongst other notable
exploits carried off the famous crucifix from the Church of Sainte
Marie of Finistère, which was considered one of the most valuable
church ornaments as well as the most holy of crucifixes in those
parts. Castile was also attacked by him and his band of freebooters,
and we find an entry in the same Spanish chronicle, “He did much
damage, taking many persons and exacting ransomes, and although other
armed ships came there also from England it was he who came oftenest.”

But though the famous Harry Paye was so successful in his expeditions,
the town from which he sailed was not destined altogether to escape
from the consequences of his unlawful acts. Not unnaturally a
vindictive feeling sprang up against him along the French and Spanish
coasts which he so frequently attacked, with the result that a desire
for retaliation and revenge became very strong in the first years of
the fifteenth century; and, indeed, in 1405, the French sought the aid
of Henrique III, King of Castile, in a joint expedition for an attack
upon Poole.

For this purpose the Spaniards collected some forty vessels and set
sail for La Rochelle, where they were to be joined by the French
contingent of the fleet. Eventually they reached the Cornish coast, and
whilst sailing eastward towards their goal landed here and there and
ravaged and burned various villages and towns. Ultimately Pero Nino,
who commanded the fleet, finding himself near the retreat of the famous
Harry Paye, determined to attack the town forthwith. For this purpose
the Spanish and French ships entered the harbour, and sailing up it
came early one morning in sight of Poole.

Apparently the town walls were not then existent, or, at all events,
not in a thorough state of defence; but the French commander, no doubt
with memories of the pirate’s skill and courage in his mind, thought it
would be rash to attempt to take vengeance for the many depredations of
the famous Poole buccaneer. A Spanish force, however, was put ashore,
and a large number of houses were set on fire. The inhabitants managed
to hold one of the larger buildings on the quay for some considerable
time against the Spanish attack, but so fierce was the latter that
the defenders at last were compelled to retreat by the rear of the
building, and the besiegers on entering found the place full of arms
and sea-stores of all kinds, which they carried off to their ships.
Seeing some of the Spanish boats swiftly retreating down the harbour,
the inhabitants rallied, and, on being reinforced from the country
round about, returned to the attack of the Spaniards who had remained
behind to continue the sacking of the place, and a very large number of
people were killed and wounded, the brother of the pirate amongst the

Having in a measure carried out his intentions of taking vengeance upon
the town and inhabitants of Poole for the piratical doings of Harry
Paye, Pero Nino retreated to his ships and once more set sail along the

No doubt the attack from which they had suffered did much to convince
the townsfolk that the defence afforded by a tortuous channel of
approach was not a sufficient one against attack from the Spaniards or
the French, and, therefore, after a somewhat lengthy period of eight
and twenty years since Pero Nino’s descent upon the place, we find
in 1433 the Royal permission granted to fortify the town. We gather
from contemporary records that Poole had speedily recovered from the
damage done by the Spanish and French invaders, and, in fact, it even
prospered by the carrying on of a retaliatory warfare with the latter,
who, owing to their defeats by Henry V and the conquest by the English
of Northern France, were scarcely in a position to defend themselves
along the coasts.

Poole under the Tudors flourished, became a portion of the Crown
property, and not only were fortifications made on the seaward side,
but also on the land side. Owing largely to the fact that under the
weak rule of the House of Lancaster the trade of the country in
general, and of Poole in particular, greatly languished, the town
undoubtedly espoused the Yorkist cause, although neither Poole nor
indeed the county of Dorset appears to have taken any active part in
the Wars of the Roses.

Henry of Richmond appeared in 1483 off South Haven in a single ship
which had been separated from the other vessels of his fleet by a
storm, and he would doubtless have landed had it not been for the
fact that Poole and Dorset men favourable to Richard held the shores
against him. When, in after years, he succeeded in ascending the throne
he appears to have remembered the action, and the town in consequence
suffered from neglect during his reign.

In Henry VIII’s reign the Manor of Canford and with it the town of
Poole were granted by the King to his natural son, Henry Fitzroy,
Duke of Richmond and Somerset, and during this period a block house,
which was afterwards superseded by a castle, was erected on Branksea
or Brownsea. The town of Poole was responsible for the manning of
the block house, but the King appears to have supplied weapons and

In the reign of Elizabeth the place suffered very considerably on
account of the insecurity of trade by sea; but, notwithstanding this
fact, the number of ships belonging to the port about this time was
upwards of twenty, ranging from fourteen to seventy tons. Of course,
compared with the ships of the present day, even the largest seems
insignificant, but it should be remembered that in those days a vessel
of even fifty tons was considered large, and the one in which Drake
circumnavigated the world was only twice that size.

Poole during the wars in the low countries undoubtedly took some part
in the struggle which was going on there between the Dutch and the
armies of Alva and Parma, and it is recorded that 300 soldiers raised
in the west country were embarked from Poole. The town does not,
however, appear to have taken any active part in the defeat of the
Armada; probably the port was unable to supply big enough ships for
Drake’s fleet, but there is little room for doubt that the privateers
and merchantmen of the port helped the harrying of the Spanish ships
when their formation had been broken up by the gallant attack of the
fleet under Drake, Hawkins, and Frobisher.

During the Civil War Poole was on the side of Parliament, as was the
whole county of Dorset, save Corfe Castle, Wareham, and a few isolated
dwellings of Royalist gentry; and although at one time the King’s
forces succeeded in dominating the county from one end to the other and
holding all but the towns of Lyme Regis on the west and Poole on the
east, the Royalists were ultimately overcome, but in consequence of the
Poole malignants’ attitude Charles II, on his accession to the throne,
caused the fortifications of the place to be razed to the ground.

Wareham, however, was a Royalist stronghold, and, in consequence of
this, a Parliamentary ship was anchored off Poole Quay, so that it
might assist in the guarding of the town and command the Hamworthy Road
and Ferry, by which detachments of Royalist troops frequently came and
went on their way to and from Wareham.

During the Civil War the town was visited by the plague, but in the
reigns of Charles II and James II it appears to have progressed
steadily if slowly. Its history, however, during that time is chiefly
made up of the ordinary events of a seaport of the kind and does not
contain anything of much note. The sympathies of the inhabitants during
the Monmouth Rebellion were distinctly in favour of the duke and
against James II, but, fortunately, as events turned out, Poole escaped
the terrible retribution which visited all towns which had taken an
active part in the ill-starred venture of the “Protestant” duke, and
although, as in other towns, the heads and quarters of rebels hanged
at Poole were set up as grim memorials, there is no reason to suppose
that they were necessarily those of natives of the town.

In the last years of the seventeenth century the port became once
more famous for the commercial enterprise and naval gallantry of its
inhabitants. In 1694 one Captain Peter Jolliffe, the owner of a small
vessel named the _Sea Defender_, witnessed the capture of a Weymouth
fishing boat by a French privateer in Studland Bay. The gallant
captain, regardless of odds, forthwith went boldly to the rescue,
although the privateer was at least three times his strength and size,
and not only made the freebooter abandon the prize, but evidently so
harried him that he ran ashore near Lulworth, where the vessel was
seized by the inhabitants and the crew made prisoners. Captain Jolliffe
was presented with a handsome gold chain and medal from the King as a
reward for his gallant exploit.

In the following year another Poole seaman, William Thompson, master
of a fishing boat which was only manned by himself, one seaman, and a
boy, attacked and captured a privateer sloop hailing from Cherbourg,
carrying no less than twenty men, and brought her in triumph into the

One of the most romantic portions of the history of Poole during the
last two centuries is connected with the many smugglers who dwelt in
the town and neighbourhood. During that period smuggling formed the
livelihood of many fishermen and seaboard dwellers along the whole of
the south coast. Numerous attempts were made to put down the contraband
trade in consequence of a petition presented to the House of Commons
by legitimate traders, who stated in it that home manufacturers were
greatly decayed by reason of the quantities of goods run, and entreated
the House to attempt to deal with the evil. However, notwithstanding
the many endeavours on the part of the navy and coastguards to
suppress smuggling, the latter was in many parts of the county of
Dorset so organized and carried on with such daring that all efforts to
put it down were defied, and a state of absolute terrorism was created
which affected not only the inhabitants of the neighbourhood where the
smugglers carried on their operations, but even, to some extent, the
men of the preventive service themselves.

Poole Harbour, with its many creeks and inlets running up into wide
stretches of desolate heath, formed an almost ideal district for
smuggling operations, whilst the thickly wooded chines and secluded
stretches of sandy beach, extending from the harbour mouth at South
Haven, past what was in those days the tiny hamlet of Bourne,
half-hidden amid pine woods and heather-clad valleys, to the eastern
point of the bay formed by Hengistbury Head near Christchurch, were
also well adapted for the “running” of rich cargoes of silks, lace,
tea, tobacco, and spirits.

Indeed, this wide extending stretch of yellow sand, with its numerous
chines, or “bunnies,” and its devious and unfrequented paths running
inland to the outskirts of the New Forest was the scene of not a few
romantic, as well as desperate, encounters between the men of the
preventive service and the local smugglers, and at the loftiest part of
the westernmost cliffs of the bay--then more sheer than at the present
time--there is a spot where a bold and famous smuggler held one of the
revenue men head downwards whilst his comrades ran the cargo on the
beach below, threatening the man that if he fired his pistol or gave
any other alarm he should be dropped from the height on to the beach

It was, however, at Poole itself that one of the most historic and
daring exploits of the south-coast smugglers took place.[D] In
September of the year 1747 one John Diamond, or Dymar, agreed to
purchase from a well-known gang of smugglers a large amount of tea
then lying in Guernsey, awaiting conveyance to the English coast. This
was safely shipped; but, unfortunately for the smugglers’ enterprise,
the vessel whilst on its way up Channel, was sighted, chased, and
captured by a revenue cutter commanded by a Captain Johnson. The cargo
was seized, confiscated, and carried into Poole and lodged in the
Custom House. This act on the part of the authorities so aroused the
anger of the persons who had found a considerable sum of money for the
undertaking that the famous gang of smugglers principally interested
in the business came from distant Hawkhurst in Sussex, sixty or
seventy strong, and armed to the teeth, for the purpose of attacking
the Custom House on Poole Quay and recovering their property. They
arrived in Poole by way of Lyndhurst about eleven o’clock one Tuesday
night, and, having left some thirty of their number on the different
roads, the remainder of the party stealthily entered the town by a back
lane. Leaving their horses in charge of several of their comrades,
they immediately proceeded to break open the Custom House in defiance
of the preventive men, and succeeded in possessing themselves of the
confiscated tea. This amounted to many bags, with which they loaded up
the pack horses and rode off across the wild heatherland lying to the
north-east of the town, till they came through Fordingbridge to the New
Forest, and thence finally reached their haunts in Sussex.

      [D] See “_Smuggling and Smugglers in Sussex_.”

On their journey home this armed band of desperadoes was seen by many
people, and amongst the latter was one Daniel Chater, a shoemaker of
Fordingbridge, who was recognized and given a pack of tea by Diamond,
the leader of the smugglers. Possibly the gift was made in the hope of
purchasing Chater’s silence; but, whatever its reason, it led to the
most disastrous consequences for the recipient.

A reward was ultimately issued for the apprehension of the smugglers,
and upon the fact that Chater could give important evidence of
identification against the law-breakers becoming known, William Calley,
a king’s officer, was sent to take Chater to be examined by Major
Batten, J.P., of Sussex. Unfortunately for both the Customs officer and
his companion, this intention became known, and on their way they were
seized by a number of smugglers, and, after having been tortured and
dragged from place to place, were brutally done to death.

Although the disappearance of the two men created a hue and cry, the
fact of their murder was only made certain six months after by the
confession of one of the smugglers concerned in it. Fifteen men were
tried at Chichester, of whom six were hanged for the crime (another,
John Jackson, dying almost immediately after sentence), three others
were also executed for breaking open the Customs House at Poole, and of
the rest the majority got terms of transportation or were sent into the
Navy as a punishment.

Although this was undoubtedly the most famous deed of the smugglers
in the neighbourhood of Poole, and the doings of the Hawkhurst gang
have been enshrined in the pages of G. P. R. James’ old-fashioned
but exciting romance, _The Smuggler_, it was by no means the only
crime or romantic incident connected with contraband trade in the
district during the latter half of the eighteenth and early part of
the nineteenth centuries. How daring and impudent the smugglers of
Poole and the immediate district became is borne out by the fact that
it was recognized by the authorities that it was impossible for them
to capture the band or seize the contraband goods without military

As late as the year 1835 we find a record that the _Mary Ann_ of Poole
entered the harbour, supposed to be laden with coal, but really engaged
in running a cargo of spirits. Of the 600 tubs which were in her 400
were successfully landed ere the true character of her freight was

Although numerous other similar exploits could be related, and many
interesting stories were current but a few years ago among the older
folk of the district, with the advent of and growth of free trade and
the increase of the population along the Dorset and Hampshire coasts,
smuggling gradually declined, and at length the race of Poole smugglers
became extinct.

Poole nowadays, though having a considerable trade in timber with
the Baltic ports and in seaborne coal, has, on the whole, declined
rather than advanced from its position as a port in its palmiest days.
There are but few buildings remaining of any note, and even its chief
church is an unpicturesque structure standing at the west end of the
town a little north of the quay and somewhat at the back of the High
Street. It is of no antiquity, although it probably stands upon the
actual site of a much more ancient building. Poole is still, however,
a busy seaport, and the High Street, which is of considerable length,
generally wears an air of movement and enterprise, although the sea
trade of the town has very much altered in character of late years.
In former times it was of a much more general nature, and its ancient
and prosperous trade with Newfoundland was its chief stand-by. Its
shipbuilding, which was once a source of considerable prosperity, has
of late years greatly declined, although some small yachts and boats
are still built. The quays form one of the most interesting and busy
portions of the town; and on them may be seen many types, in whose
faces can still be traced some of the characteristics of the old sea
dogs who fought during the latter half of the eighteenth and early part
of the nineteenth centuries so gallantly and stoutly against the French.

Within the net-work of narrow alleys running in and out amongst
the more solid red-brick houses that flank the quay--remnants of
the prosperity of merchants long since dead--picturesque bits of
architecture are discoverable, with old-time doorways hidden away
in grass-grown courtyards, and fragments of the ancient town walls
beautiful with lichen and weather-stained by ages of storm and stress.

The modern town has grown up rather by extension of its borders than
the substitution of new buildings for old, and the older warehouses
and dwellings by the waterside dating back a century or so have not,
as a general rule, been pulled down to be replaced by new ones. The
extension and growth of the town is chiefly marked by the more modern
houses which have been built along the roads leading to Parkstone and
Bournemouth on the rising ground to the north-east of the town.

Poole, picturesque of approach by water though it be, is, after all, we
think, seen to the greatest advantage when viewed from the encircling
highlands from the south-east, south-west, east, and north-east. Then
distance lends a softness to its more unlovely part, and the haze of
smoke and vapour which generally hangs above the town and the distant
glimpses of the lagoon-like harbour serve to make up a picture of
delight and interest.

Westward from the harbour mouth over the lofty chalk downs, at the
eastern foot of which the picturesque little village of Studland
nestles, lies Swanage, in a sickle-shaped bay, where, at least
according to tradition, a desperate naval engagement was fought between
King Alfred and the Danes. The town of late years has developed from a
quiet old-time resort into a semi-fashionable watering place, which to
those who knew Swanage years ago possesses less attraction.

The old town was built with stone from the famous quarries on the
heights above, in the western and sharper curve of the bay, where
its single street still winds tortuously from the shore inland,
flanked on either side by grey stone houses, whose stone slab roofs
form congenial ground in which house leek, stone crop, and many
coloured lichen flourish. The architecture of old Swanage was of such
charming irregularity as to give the place almost a foreign look when
approached from the water, or seen at a little distance. It is upon the
heights to the south-west, and along the low-lying and gradually rising
ground which skirts the Bay with its fine sandy beach, and ends beneath
the shelter of the bold ridge of the Purbeck Hills, that the new town
has been chiefly built.

Save when an east, southerly, or south-easterly gale is blowing,
Swanage is quite an ideal spot for the yachtsman to spend a few days,
while the ruined, grim, and ever interesting fortress of Corfe Castle;
the beautiful “Golden Bowl” at Kimmerridge; and picturesque Wareham
with its historic memories provide plenty of interest in the form of
excursions for those who wish to indulge in shore-going pleasures.

To the west of Swanage, along a coast line of about 22 miles, which,
iron-bound at first, passes through various stages of rock, chalk, and
sand, with the Dorset highlands always looming in the background, lies
Weymouth, much as Swanage does, in the curve of a bay very similar in
configuration, though much greater in extent.

Of old Weymouth, the objective in the past of pirates and freebooters,
there nowadays remains very little. The modern town, which has sprung
up gradually, spread landward and northwards, and has, in the process,
slowly though surely obliterated the more ancient of its features. From
its wide esplanade, running almost half the length and round the whole
of the most acute curve of the bay, is a prospect of rugged coast and
breezy highlands, scarcely excelled in picturesqueness and charm by any
other on the Dorset seaboard. Charmingly situated, and in summer washed
by the sapphire sea, modern Weymouth has nowadays taken a prominent
position as a yachting port, and as a summer resort for the better type
of holiday-makers.

Weymouth, in its age and the historical interest which attaches to it,
has a distinction possessed by comparatively few seaside resorts.
Of its antiquity there can be no question. Records there are which
indicate its probable existence as a port of trade for the ancient
merchants of Tyre, even before the Roman invasion of Britain. Many
relics of those far-off times in the shape of ornaments, pottery,
Druidical, Roman, Saxon, and Danish remains are frequently found in the
neighbourhood, and undoubtedly in Roman times Weymouth was connected
by a vicinal way with the great military road which passed through

The rise of Weymouth to a place of importance would seem to have
been somewhat rapid, for in Edward I’s reign it appears to have been
esteemed of too considerable a size and wealth to remain in the
possession of the monks of Milton Abbey, to whom it had been granted by
Athelstan, the founder. It was then taken by the Crown, and formed a
portion of the dowry given by Edward I to his Spanish wife, Eleanor of

Over and over again in history during succeeding centuries, the town
appears, dimly sometimes, forming as it were a background of some
historical event, and at others playing a more active part in the
stirring doings of troublous times. By the middle of the fourteenth
century Weymouth had risen to a condition of considerable maritime
importance, and at this time it supplied no less than twenty ships
for the siege of Calais. The position of Weymouth will be more easily
understood when it is remembered that the port of Bristol supplied only
two ships more, and the port of London five; although in both cases the
vessels sent were probably of considerably greater tonnage.

[Illustration: THE NOTHE, WEYMOUTH]

In 1377 the French, who had by no means forgotten the part that
Weymouth had played in former years in supplying men and ships for the
attacks upon them, during one of their periodic descents upon the south
coast, visited Weymouth, and burnt the ships in the harbour, and also
a very considerable portion of the town itself. Indeed, so greatly
did the place then and subsequently suffer from the depredations of the
French, that in the reign of Henry IV the inhabitants petitioned to be
relieved of their Customs dues on account of their poverty, and this
exemption was granted for a period of twelve years.

Referring to Weymouth, Leland the historian, writing about this time,
says: “This towne, as is evidently seene, hathe beene far bigger than
is now. The cause of this is layid unto the Frenchmen that yn times of
warre rasid this towne for lack of defence.”

During his reign Henry VI, owing very likely to the continued attacks
of the French, and with the object of rendering the place less
worthy of their attentions, transferred its privileges as a port,
and its wool-staple to Poole, and thus it was deprived of much of
its commercial standing and trade. Nevertheless Weymouth throughout
medieval times, and in stirring periods of national history, has been
the port of embarkation or entry for many royal personages. Probably
no more pathetic figure ever landed on the sands of Weymouth Bay than
Queen Margaret of Anjou, who arrived off the town in company with her
young son on April 14, 1471, in the hope of aiding her husband, King
Henry VI, to regain his throne, almost at the very hour when the cause
in which she had so great a stake was being lost on the fatal field of
Barnet. Only a few weeks later the Queen, dethroned, and deprived of
her husband, suffered disastrous defeat at Tewkesbury, where her son
was assassinated after the battle.

The next royal visitors who landed at Weymouth were Philip, King of
Castile, and his Queen, Joanna, who with a large fleet, numbering
eighty sail, were driven on to the English coast by a violent storm,
and obliged to take refuge in Weymouth Bay. The landing of the King and
Queen, both of whom had been very ill, with their retinue of knights
and servants, was effected with some secrecy, with the result that
the alarmed country folk, when the fact leaked out, saw in this royal
disembarkation not a landing brought about by force of circumstances,
but an invasion, and one, Sir Thomas Trenchard, of Wolveton House,
hastened to the spot with a force composed of all the available militia
and his own retainers, where he was speedily followed by Sir John Carew
with a like force. On discovering who the supposed invaders were, Sir
Thomas Trenchard gave them a welcome, but told King Philip bluntly that
he would not be allowed to return on board his ship with his followers
until King Henry VII had seen him. It may be imagined that the King
of Castile spent some uncomfortable moments until the Earl of Arundel
arrived from London to escort him and his Queen to the capital. At that
time Spain and England were by no means on friendly terms, and the
sea-sick King and Queen had landed much against the advice of their
captains and generals, who feared lest capture might be their fate, and
the hospitality offered prove of an embarrassing kind.

During the reign of Henry VIII, on several occasions there were fears
of a French invasion, and about this time the King built Sandsfoot
Castle on the southern shore of the spit of land forming the Nothe,
which until the building of Portland breakwater was an important
landmark. Leland mentions this as being, “A right goodlie Castel havyng
one open barbicane.” The shell of this still remains, and is a witness
that the place was of very considerable strength, if not of great size.

For many centuries before the reign of Elizabeth, what is now usually
known as Weymouth comprised two distinct towns, one bearing the name of
Melcombe Regis, and the other that by which the town is now known. Both
these places possess their own charters of incorporation, and, owing to
the fact that there was only one harbour for both of them in medieval
and even later times, long continued and violent disputes frequently
arose between the respective inhabitants; and not infrequently blood
was shed in the encounters which took place concerning such matters as
the imposition and apportionment of Customs dues, and the common use of
the harbour. By the merging of the two towns into one in the reign of
Queen Elizabeth, the causes of friction were happily removed.

Several times Weymouth was attacked (as were other Dorset and Devon
seaports) by the French privateers, who were little better than
pirates, and infested the Channel especially during the fourteenth,
fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. On one occasion, after damaging
a large number of the ships which lay at anchor in the harbour, and
“cutting out” and carrying off a vessel of about sixty tons, named _The
Angel of La Rochelle_, the privateersmen landed and did considerable
damage to the houses of the town itself. The attempt to enter the
harbour proper and seize other vessels therein was, however, defeated
by the bravery of the townsfolk, who training some pieces of ordnance
upon them repulsed the body of pirates who had landed, and drove them
back to their ships with considerable loss. The pirate leader, named
Purson, was so enraged by his want of success, that he threatened to
return later on and burn the town to the ground. To execute this threat
he appeared off the town during the following year, but owing to the
diligence of the townsfolk during the time which had elapsed since his
last visit, the place was so strongly fortified that he was unable to
effect a landing and carry out his intentions of burning the town.

Weymouth furnished no less than six ships for Drake’s fleet in 1588,
when the fear of the coming Armada so greatly affected all towns on
our southern coasts. Some of these ships, too, were of considerable
size for that period; one, _The Golden Lion_, being 120 tons. It may
be gathered from this considerable contribution to the national
fleet that Weymouth must have in a large measure repaired its fallen
fortunes. The Weymouth vessels bore a gallant part in the running
fight, between “the English bloodhounds” and the huge, unwieldy
galleons, which extended from Plymouth Sound to the Bill of Portland,
and one, at least, of the Armada vessels was taken by the Weymouth
ships and brought into the roadstead. One can easily imagine what
enthusiasm the capture of the huge, high-sterned, and altogether
cumbersome Spanish vessel aroused, and how, as a contemporary writer
states, “the townsfolk, waving kerchiefs and shouting with mad joy,
thronged the shore, and gazed out across the rippling waves to where
the prize and her captors had brought up at anchor.”

During the Civil War, which came a little more than half a century
later, Weymouth and Melcombe Regis were undoubtedly more Royalist than
Parliamentarian. Unfortunately for the town both forces contended hotly
for its possession, and a considerable amount of damage was done to
the buildings and houses, some of which until quite recent years bore
traces of shots embedded in the woodwork and plastering, and also in
places showed bullet holes.

The town was held by each of the contending parties in turn several
times during the War, being occupied by the Earl of Caernarvon and the
Royalist forces in July, 1643, without any resistance on the part of
the Parliamentary party. In the following year the town changed hands
once more, and suffered very considerably by the severe punishments
meted out by the Parliamentarians to some of the inhabitants who had
assisted the Royalist cause. Several people, amongst others John Miles
Constable and Captain John Wade were hanged at Weymouth, and a good
deal of the shipping on the Weymouth side of the harbour was destroyed,
and part of the town burned down by the Roundhead Colonel Sydenham,
who afterwards defended the place successfully during a siege which
lasted eighteen days.

It was one Dennis Bond, a member for the borough, who moved during the
Parliamentary session of 1654, “That the Crown and title of King should
be offered to the Protector.”

Charles II intended after the Battle of Worcester to escape from
Weymouth, if possible, but owing to the watch that was kept upon that
port, had to abandon the attempt, although for some time he lay hiding
in what is still known as the King’s “hole” at Trent House, near

With the tragic doings in the West of England during the Monmouth
rebellion, Weymouth itself seems to have had little or no part,
although it appears more than probable that some Weymouth men rallied
to the standard of the ill-fated Duke at Bridport or Taunton.

The history of the town as a seaside resort commences a century
later with the visit of George III in 1789. Finding it picturesque
and healthy, the King afterwards made it his chief summer place
of residence. Although the town was at this time, according to a
contemporary writer, not much more than a straggling assemblage of
fishermen’s huts, with a few family mansions and merchants’ residences
along the sea-front, with a wide expanse of low, marshy ground at the
back of them, it soon became a fashionable resort. Then the present-day
busy and prosperous chief thoroughfare of St Mary’s Street was little
more than a row of thatched cottages with a few shops and houses of
larger size sandwiched in between; whilst the other street, known as
St Thomas’, was an ill-paved road leading to some small houses with
picturesque gardens and wooden fences in front of them.

With this first visit of King George III, the rapid rise of the town
was assured, for not only did a large number of the nobility and Court
officials take up their residence in attendance on the King and his
family, but also numberless other fashionable folk, anxious to follow
the Court, and by doing so bask in some of the glamour which surrounds
royalty, came in great numbers. More houses became necessary, and as
the old town then afforded few good building sites, a large number of
the new residences were erected on the ground skirting the magnificent
bay, and facing the sea.

Weymouth in those days must have resembled St James’s Park and the
Mall, rather than a moderately prosperous seaport, for in and out
of the houses along the front came perfumed Georgian dandies with
their “clouded” canes and snuff-boxes in hand, to stroll along the
Esplanade, where in sedan chairs stately Court ladies, rouged,
patched, and crinolined, took the air attended by gallants in the gay
and bright attire of the period. To Weymouth from all the district
round, the country folk flocked to gaze and stare at the quality with
wondering eyes, much as they would have gone to see any other sight
or raree-show. The King took to bathing, and the Royal machine was,
we are told, “a right Royal cumbersome and elaborate affair, and many
folk daily come into the town to see His Majesty and the Court bathing
in the sea-water half a furlong out from the shore. And some days the
crowd be so great on the sands that people are pushed into the water
against their will.”

One suspects that few types of men can from time to time have afforded
Royalty more amusement of a quiet sort than provincial mayors. At all
events, a Mayor of Weymouth, during one of the visits of King George to
the town, was destined to afford “comic relief” to a ceremony of some

The occasion was the presentation of an address of welcome to the King,
and we are told that the Mayor, on approaching to present it, to the
astonishment and dismay of all, instead of kneeling, as he had been
told to do, seized the Queen’s hand to shake it as he might that of any
other lady.

Colonel Gwynne, the master of the ceremonies, hurriedly told him of his
_faux pas_, saying, “You should have kneeled, sir.”

“Sir, I cannot,” was the reply.

“Everybody does, sir,” hotly asserted the Colonel.

The Mayor grew red, and, evidently much upset, amidst the
ill-suppressed laughter of those in the immediate vicinity, who were
aware of the “scene,” and had overheard the colloquy between Colonel
Gwynne and his worship, exclaimed, “Damme, sir, but I’ve got a wooden

History, unfortunately, does not tell us what the King’s comment was,
but that he was amused none can doubt, for Royalty in those times (as
now) dearly loved a joke. But in the phrase, “a smile suffused the face
of Her Majesty--unshocked by the strength of Mr Mayor’s language--and
the King laughed outright,” we have one of those touches which serve to
illuminate the doings of those days.

In the papers of that day, too, are to be found many interesting items,
and accounts of the “rufflings” of fine gentlemen, and the frailties of
fine ladies. More than one duel was fought on the stretch of sand near
Sandsfoot Castle, and on the breezy upland just above the north-east
curve of the bay, whilst an elopement sometimes sent an angry father
and sometimes husband posting hot haste after the fugitives along the
Plymouth Road.

The town was naturally much exercised concerning the long war which
ended only with the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. The circumstance of
the Court being at Weymouth during some of the most stirring events in
national history at that time made it the centre of news. Indeed, the
King was out riding when tidings of the great victory of the Nile was
brought to him by courier, and on that night Weymouth was ablaze with
delirious triumph, and the scene of astounding enthusiasm. After the
King had returned from his ride, and had mastered the dispatches, he
sallied forth upon the Parade, and joyously accosted every one he knew,
and told them details of Nelson’s doings.

Weymouth at this period suffered, as did most coast towns, considerably
from the ever-present fear of invasion; and so great was the
satisfaction when peace was proclaimed after the long struggle, that an
open-air dance was held in the streets of the town, in which the four
Members of Parliament for the borough, and their families, took part.
The number of the couples dancing was so great that, we are told, they
filled the whole of the length of the main street thickly.

In the fashionable and pleasant watering-place of to-day, which has,
indeed, sobered down from those stirring and somewhat uproarious times,
it is difficult to trace much of the old town, but although it declined
in favour somewhat in the early ’fifties and ’sixties of the last
century, from the position of importance and popularity to which it had
attained because of the patronage of King George and the Court, it has
nowadays become one of the favourite resorts of West of England holiday
folk, and is a yachting port of convenience and repute. And even amid
the bustle of modern life it seems somehow or other to preserve in its
atmosphere and comparative quietude of life many of those old-world
characteristics which distinguish so many Dorset towns, whether they be
set inland or on the coast. Weymouth possesses a good harbour and an
excellent roadstead, and although it has declined of recent years as a
trading port, from the position it held in ancient times, it remains
popular with yachting folk by reason of its beautiful situation, and
the many picturesque and interesting spots which lie in the immediate

Just round the Nothe, the green and jutting headland between which and
the pier the entrance to Weymouth Harbour lies, are Portland Roads,
the magnificent harbour in which, when not at sea, the Home fleet
frequently anchors. To every one who has yachted along the south
coast, or gone down the Channel into the outer seas, this roadstead,
and the Isle of Portland--which is in reality no island at all, but a
peninsula--are perfectly familiar.

Known chiefly as the site of one of our chief convict prisons and
of almost world-famous stone quarries, Portland, or the “Isle of
Slingers,” forms a unique seamark, and is a place of considerable
interest. This strange tongue of rocky land, which has been called “the
Gibraltar of England,” is connected with the mainland by the wonderful
Chesil Beach, which is an immense ridge or bank of pebbles some fifteen
miles in length, varying in height and ranging from 170 to upwards of
200 yards in width. The beach is separated from the mainland as far as
Abbotsbury by the Fleet. The word “Chesil” is Anglo-Saxon for pebble.
The stones vary greatly in size, being largest at the Portland end
and gradually decreasing until they become quite small at Bridport,
where the beach meets the cliffs. So regular, indeed, is this decrease
that fishermen landing on the shore at night can easily tell their
approximate whereabouts upon taking some of the pebbles in their hands.
The stones differ greatly in material and colour, being drawn by the
current from all portions of the south-western coasts. There is a
tradition among the Portlanders that anyone finding two pebbles alike
will be paid a reward of £50, and many fruitless searches have from
time to time in former years been made. That this truly marvellous
agglomeration is due chiefly to the action of south-westerly gales and
the obstruction presented by the Isle of Portland to their dispersion
eastward is generally agreed.

There have been many wrecks upon this famous beach since the days
when the Roman galleys swept along the coast filled with Cæsar’s
legions down to modern times; and rescue is rendered very difficult,
and sometimes impossible by the huge rollers which break upon the
shingle during southerly and south-westerly gales, creating a terrible
under-tow which has over and over again been fatal even to strong
swimmers, who attempt to reach the shore from wrecked vessels. Indeed,
such a terrible number of disasters have taken place at the Portland
end of the beach, that the little creek or bay lying in the curve where
the island joins it has come to be known as Dead Man’s Bay.

A little more than a century ago a fleet of transports was wrecked
there, with a loss of over a thousand lives, and many miles of the
coast was for weeks afterwards strewn with wreckage.

During the terrible storm of November, 1824, the _Ebenezer_, a sloop
of nearly a hundred tons, laden with heavy stores and war material was
swept from the sea right over the beach and safely deposited in the

To the geologists, the antiquarians, and those interested in the
survival of old customs Portland is of peculiar interest, and it is
not wonderful that novelists should have found in the “rugged” isle an
appropriate background for their romances. Victor Hugo has described
the spot very fully (if somewhat inaccurately) in his _L’Homme qui
Rit_; and the greater portion of the action of _The Well-Beloved_, that
strangely elusive romance of Thomas Hardy, takes place upon the island,
in the neighbourhood of Fortune’s Well, and Pennsylvania Castle, built
by the grandson of the famous William Penn. This book contains some of
the finest pen pictures of the scenery in “The Isle of Slingers” ever

There are two lighthouses at the southern end of the island; the lower
one was built as long ago as 1789, and the higher one in 1817, rebuilt
just half a century later. Both are furnished with extremely powerful
lights, which can be seen for many miles along the coast.

Chapter VI

Bridport--Lyme Regis--Axmouth--Teignmouth

Two-thirds of the distance from the Bill of Portland across the wide
expanse of West Bay lies the little old-world harbour of Bridport, with
its quaint mouth into which runs the tiny river Brit, from whence the
name is derived. The town itself stands some two miles from the harbour
at the foot of a picturesque and well-wooded hill.

On the quay is the famous George Inn, at which King Charles II lay when
he came there a fugitive, having ridden over from Charmouth, where
he had been almost discovered by a more than ordinarily suspicious
ostler and an unusually logical blacksmith, who reasoned that as the
fugitive’s horse had been shoed in four counties, and one of them
Worcester, the owner of the horse might be the fugitive King on whose
head so high a price had been placed. Charles, however, was warned in
time, and spurred on to Bridport, and thence to Salisbury ere the hue
and cry was raised, ultimately reaching Shoreham, where he took ship
for the French coast.

To-day Bridport by the sea is just a quiet, picturesque little resort,
where weary workers and holiday makers, whose taste is not for the
bustling, fashionable type of watering-place, may find rest and
quietude from the over-energetic and noisy world without, with the
open and uninterrupted expanse of West Bay spread in front of them,
sunlit, grey, peaceful or storm-driven by turns, whilst northward and
north-eastward lie the green undulating hills and vales of Dorset.

The port is nowadays of comparatively little consequence, and has
much declined from the times when there was a good deal of trade
with Archangel and Riga for the importation of flax and hemp, and a
considerable coasting trade also.

Bridport town, which is prettily situated, and has an old-world flavour
hanging about it, lies chiefly in a hollow of the hills and on the
well-wooded slopes. Nowadays, except when market folk have flocked in
from the surrounding country, bringing with them a temporary air of
industry and bustle, it has a somewhat “sleepy hollow” atmosphere,
apparently undisturbed by the happenings of the great world which lies
beyond it. In its streets on market days, at all events, one sees many
true Wessex types--farmers who might have stepped right out of the
pages of one of Thomas Hardy’s novels; sun-tanned and buxom dairymaids,
whose joys in the glory of the girt (big) shops is only equalled by
their love of gaudy colours and cheap finery on Sundays and at fair
times; gaitered drovers with weather-beaten faces, still happily some
of them wearing the picturesque smocks of their fore-fathers, give an
air of added picturesqueness to a picturesque calling; shepherds that
remind one of Gabriel Oak in _Far from the Madding Crowd_; and the
Darbies and Joans of neighbouring villages and hamlets, hale and hearty
old Wessex folk who have seen many years but few changes, with their
crinkled russet cheeks and country gait.

Bridport is surrounded by one of those dairy districts for which Dorset
is noted, and not a little of the famous “blue-vinny” cheese finds its
way into the market.

[Illustration: BRIDPORT]

The town has on several occasions since its foundation been upon the
very verge of attaining to a position of some importance, and but
for ill-fortune might have become one of the more prosperous ports
of the southern coasts. But it has, one must admit, in the end sadly
lagged behind, and at the present time is merely a fairly well-to-do
country town, not over-burdened with life or activity of any kind.
Centuries ago, at any rate, in the reign of Edward the Confessor, when
it possessed a mint and a priory, Bridport was of some considerable
standing as a trading town; and in the reign of Henry III the
town and surrounding lands, which formed a royal demesne, received a
charter, although not actually incorporated till some three centuries

It has always been noted for its manufacture of hemp ropes, cords, and
sail cloth; and so highly were these articles of Bridport production
esteemed, that the greater proportion of the canvas and cordage used
for the rigging and sails of the English Navy from early times, as well
as that of the ships which so bravely attacked and gloriously defeated
the Spanish Armada, were of local manufacture.

There is an ancient and historic joke at the historian Leland’s
expense, in connexion with the industry of the town. In olden times not
only was hemp largely manufactured into rope and canvas in the town,
but the raw material itself was grown in some considerable quantity
in the immediate neighbourhood, which gave rise to the quaint saying
of Fuller that when a man was unfortunate enough as to be hanged, “he
was stabbed with a Bridport dagger.” This having reached Leland’s ears
during his tour of the southern counties, and being understood by him
in the literal sense of the word, he solemnly afterwards stated that
“At Bridport be made good daggers,” which error has probably caused as
much amusement and discussion as any mistake of the kind ever made by
an historian of standing.

Although Bridport in ancient times was a place of some note, it has
never played any very important part in the history of the west
country; but it suffered, as did most other towns in Dorset, from at
least two visitations of the Plague, the most serious of which, in
1670, we are told “did not spare any man, but caused many deathes in
the town and the villiages near by, so that of the dead many remain

During the Civil War Bridport formed one of the pawns in the
mighty game which was being played by the contending Royalist and
Parliamentarian forces for the possession of the west of England.

Forty years later, too, the town was again to see an armed force
approach it, when on the fine Sunday morning of June 14, 1685, after a
night march from Lyme, the Duke of Monmouth arrived before the place to
attack the Dorset militia which “lay in the town to the number of about
1200, with a hundred or more horse.”

The Duke’s forces were about 500 all told, and advancing with some
amount of discretion and stealth, under cover of the morning mist, and
meeting no outposts nor resistance they succeeded in entering the town
by way of the Allington Bridge, where they surprised a considerable
number of the King’s troops, who, after standing to face one volley,
turned tail and fled to join their comrades who were encamped in a
field on the opposite side of the town. Then the streets became the
scene of sharp skirmishing between the rival forces. The townsfolk
taking little or no part in the conflict, but according to one account,
“though much alarmed (they), kept well within their doors, scarcely
daring, indeed, to thrust their heads out of the windows lest they
might fall victims alike to their curiosity and the bullets of the
King’s or Monmouth’s men.”

It was in the cross streets and in the main street near the Bull
Inn that the hottest skirmishing took place. Ultimately, the Duke’s
followers, under the command of Lord Grey and Colonel Wade, advanced to
the attack of the western bridge at the far end of the street by which
they had entered the town. Here the Dorset militia had been rallied by
their officers and stood so firm that after receiving a volley or two
from them the Duke’s men were commanded to retreat by Colonel Venner,
who himself galloped away along the road back to Lyme after Lord Grey,
who had already fled, leaving Colonel Wade to extricate his small
force as best he could. The Colonel was a good soldier, and not only
succeeded in withdrawing his forces in good order, but actually carried
with him a number of prisoners who had been captured when he succeeded
in entering the town. The Dorset militia for some reason allowed
Monmouth’s men to retreat unpursued. On their way back to Lyme Colonel
Wade and his followers were met by the Duke of Monmouth himself, with
a reinforcement of troops. This skirmish, which resulted in a score or
so of killed and wounded, has always been esteemed a most unfortunate
affair for the Duke’s cause. Out of it none of Monmouth’s officers
emerged with credit save Colonel Wade; although it would appear that
his raw troops behaved with considerable steadiness and bravery.

As happened in the case of so many other towns, Bridport was, however,
soon to pay dearly for that Sunday morning visit of “King Monmouth’s”
followers; for a few months later Judge Jeffreys arrived on the
business of the “Bloody Assize,” and soon a gallows tree was erected in
the marketplace, and a round dozen of the townsfolk were hanging to it.
As happened at other places, if one may believe the records remaining
behind, not a few of the unfortunate victims were entirely innocent of

In the church, which is a fine building, chiefly Perpendicular in
style, with early English transepts and Perpendicular inserted windows,
is a brass erected to the memory of “Edward Coker, Gent., second son of
Captain Robert Coker, of Mapowder, slain at the Bull Inn in Bridport,
June 14, An. Do. 1685, by one Venner, who was an officer under the late
Duke of Monmouth in that rebellion.”

Bridport, from the time of that stirring Sunday morning of
two-and-a-quarter centuries ago, has had an uneventful history. Even
the great wars with France, which had so great an influence on most
south and south-western coast towns, seem to have affected it and
disturbed its serenity but little, and nowadays it is chiefly noted
for its old-world atmosphere and stolid indifference to the more modern
methods of trade and business life. To antiquarians this little town,
set amid the green of the hillside, presents a few attractions in the
form of old houses and buildings, which are chiefly situated in South
Street, where there is a fine Tudor House. And there are the remains of
the once rich St John’s Hospital at the rear of the houses on the side
of the eastern bridge, where the final skirmish in 1685 took place.

Bridport beach, which is skirted by a few villas and some of the
old-time thatched cottages, is of finest shingle--so fine, indeed, that
it may be mistaken at a little distance, and at first sight, for sand.
The narrow entrance to the harbour and quays is flanked on either side
by cliffs, which here attain a considerable altitude. As a haven the
port is useless. The seas which run in the wide expanse of the West Bay
when a gale blows, are far too high to allow of threading the “needle’s
eye” entrance to the port without grave risk of disaster. It is, in
fact, just as Mr Hardy phrases it, “a gap in the rampart of hills which
shut out the sea.”

[Illustration: LYME REGIS]

Westward of Bridport, some eight miles along the coast, lies the
ancient and picturesque little town of Lyme Regis, which has probably
played as great a part in the history of Dorset, and indeed of the
south of England, as any place of its size. The town, which nestles
in old-fashioned retirement upon the border of the sister county of
Devon, consists of a few steep and narrow streets on the rocky and
somewhat wild portion of the coast which lies midway between Bridport
to the east and Colyton in Devon to the west. The little port itself,
with its famous Cobb, lies in a hollow at the mouth of the River Lyme,
and on the slopes of the two cliffs which shut it in on either side.
Of late years it has somewhat developed as a quiet holiday resort, but
like other Dorset seaports, it is of considerably less account now than
formerly. It would be more favoured by yachting and holiday folk
were there more water in the harbour at low tide; for the place is
quaint and interesting, and the country round about quite lovely.

The principal portion of the town, which presents so picturesque an
aspect as one approaches it from the sea, has been built in the cleft
and on the slopes of a deep combe, and the chief street appears almost
as though it would slide into the water. It is through this combe or
valley that flows the little stream from which the town takes its name.

Leland in his itinerary describes Lyme as “a pretty market town set
in the side of an high rokky hille down to the hard shore”; and this
description of so long ago is almost equally accurate at the present

Lyme Regis has never been a large town, but it has from very early
times been a place of some importance. At the latter end of the
eighth century, by a Charter of Kynewulf, King of Wessex, one manse
was granted to the Abbey of Sherborne for the purpose of supplying
the monks with salt, and as early as the reign of Edward I, it was
enfranchised and enjoyed the liberties appertaining to a haven and a
borough. It had so far grown in importance, indeed, that in the reign
of Edward III it was able to supply him with four ships and sixty-two
seamen to take part in the Siege of Calais.

Like so many other towns along this coast, it was often attacked, and
on several occasions almost left in ruins, by the French during the
reigns of Henry IV and Henry VI. And in the middle of the sixteenth
century there was a renewal of these attacks, but the marauders were
repulsed with very heavy loss. Lyme Regis, however, soon seems to have
recovered its prosperity, and only a few years later we find that
it supplied two ships, named _The Revenge_ and _Jacob_, with a good
complement of men, to join the fleet which was gathered together for
the purpose of attacking the Spanish Armada. These two ships no doubt
played a gallant part in that wonderful running fight, a part of
which took place in sight of Lyme, which ultimately resulted in the
scattering of the vast fleet intended by Philip of Spain to threaten
not only the independence of England, but also the religion and civil
liberty of its people. There are yet remaining some records of the
doings of the two or three score of Lyme Regis men who sailed away to
throw in their lot with the ships of Drake and Frobisher. Lyme, though
it led a quiet, untroubled existence from that time onward, for nearly
three-quarters of a century, was also destined to play a very important
part in the history of the Civil War between King Charles I and his

The famous siege which began on April 20, 1644, and lasted till
June 15 of the same year, proved to be one of the most important
events in the history of the west country throughout the progress
of the war. The town was not well constructed for defence, but the
attempt to strengthen it was carried out with the greatest heroism
by the inhabitants, under the direction of Colonel Seeley and
Lieutenant-Colonel Blake, who afterwards became the famous admiral. The
attacking force was under the direction of Prince Maurice, the nephew
of the King himself, and the failure of the Royalist siege operations
did not a little to injure the military reputation of the General in

The besiegers centred their forces at Colway and Hay, having early
captured these two houses, and also the score or so of men who were
stationed as defenders in each. Altogether Prince Maurice had upwards
of 3,000 men under his command and, with the assistance of some of the
country folk who were pressed into the service, batteries were speedily
thrown up, and several fierce attacks made upon the town, which soon,
indeed, began to experience all the hardships incidental to a close

By the end of May provisions had run so short that there was some
likelihood that a surrender would be rendered inevitable, and at the
beginning of June Colonel Seeley dispatched a communication to the
“Committee” of the two Kingdoms, urging that relief might be sent by
land with provisions, and stating that if this were not done the town
would undoubtedly have to fall. The defenders, however, were not idle,
and several sorties were made with a view of dislodging the besieging
force from the new positions it had taken up. None of these attempts
proved successful, and the condition of the town was, in consequence,
not altered for the better, and both provisions and ammunition were
rapidly depleted.

The condition of the beleaguered garrison now became very serious, but
happily news reached Lyme on June 15 of the approach of the Earl of
Essex, who was stated then to be at Dorchester, with a force of some
13,000 horse and foot, and on Prince Maurice becoming aware of this
fact the siege was raised, and the Royalist forces departed in the
direction of Bristol.

The rejoicings on the day of the departure of the Royalist troops
were unhappily destined to be marred by one of those acts of terrible
fanaticism and cruelty which have often defaced the brightest pages
of history, and frequently have been connected with gallant deeds and
brave endurance. On realizing that the siege was raised, some of the
soldiers of the garrison sallied forth to Colway and Hay House with a
view of discovering whether any Royalists still lurked there; and on
reaching the latter place found a poor old Irish woman, who had been
attached to the besieging force, remaining behind. Actuated possibly
by religious as well as political fanaticism, the soldiers seized her
and drove her through the streets to the waterside, where after she had
been ill-treated and robbed of all she possessed, they killed her, and
then slashed and cut her body to pieces with their swords, and cast her
mutilated remains into the harbour.

Another version of the incident, that of Whitlock, states that the
poor old woman was slain and almost pulled to pieces by the women of
the town; but whichever version may be the correct one, the incident
remains a blot on the historic siege which was so gallantly and bravely
endured by the inhabitants.

After the siege was raised, the life of the town again resumed the
even tenor of its way and old-time habits, until on a bright June day
in the year 1685--to be exact, June 11--a small fleet of three vessels
hove in sight off the Cobb, and at 8 o’clock the same day James, Duke
of Monmouth, landed with about sixty adherents, and a small body of
troops. Thus began what was destined to be one of the most romantic and
tragic episodes in the history of the town, and of the west country.
The Duke, who on landing had fallen upon his knees to thank God for
preservation during his voyage, and to invoke divine assistance in his
adventure, immediately afterwards proceeded to the market-place, and
there having set up his standard, caused a proclamation to be made to
the crowd which had by that time gathered together. Afterwards he and
his staff took up their quarters at the fine old gabled George Inn,
which was unhappily destroyed by fire in 1844, where they remained
for a period of four days. The news of the Duke’s landing spread like
wildfire through the western counties, and was sent to King James II
in London, in what must have then been quite record time. The Mayor
of Lyme, immediately the ships appeared in the offing, guessing their
mission, himself sped from the town and sent the news to Westminster
post haste; less than thirty-six hours elapsing before the courier
reached London.

The Duke, who was received with wild enthusiasm, soon set about
recruiting his small force, after having been welcomed by the school
children of Lyme with shouts of “A Monmouth! A Monmouth! The Protestant
Religion!” and by noon on the day after his landing more than a hundred
young men of the town had enlisted under his banner. We are told that
by sunset of the same day the number of adherents had increased to
upwards of 1,000 foot and more than 150 horse. The town was wild with
enthusiasm, even children paraded the streets with banners, and not
only the commoner folk, but many gentry also came in from the out-lying
districts to join the Duke’s forces, amongst the latter of whom were
Colonel Joshua Churchill, Colonel Mathews, Mr Thomas Hooper, and Mr
Legg, all of them well-known and influential local gentry.

On the following day, June 13, there came to the town of Lyme
one--then twenty-four years of age--who was destined to achieve
greater immortality, as the author of _Robinson Crusoe_, than even
the ill-fated master he elected to serve during the perilous days and
adventures which followed.

During the next day or two from far and near came vast numbers of men
into the town armed with all sorts of weapons, but few with guns,
to the number of nearly 12,000. “More,” we are told, “than could be
received for the lack of the wherewithal with which properly to arm

Mr Gregory Alford, the Mayor, had not only sent news of the Duke’s
landing to King James, from Honiton, to which place he had fled at the
sight of Monmouth’s little fleet, but had pursued his course westward
from that town, and as he sped along the countryside had warned the
constables of the various villages to summon the militia and _posse
comitatus_ to resist Monmouth’s progress. This activity undoubtedly
forced the Duke to make a somewhat premature advance. It was in
consequence of this that he left Lyme with his force on June 15 and
proceeded to Axminster. He had little cavalry, unless one could count
as such the country folk mounted upon horses and ponies taken from off
the land, and a mere handful of gentlemen, squires and the like, upon
their own nags.

As the Duke’s force marched along, more adherents came to his
standard, but these were far fewer in number and of less importance
than he had been led to suppose would be the case. Some also of the
more important farmers and yeomen whose farms were situated in the
villages through which Monmouth’s army passed professed sympathy with
his cause, but few did anything more active.

The Duke’s progress, indeed, was not, as he had hoped, one of triumph,
but was rather of a dispiriting character. Save at Taunton, where
he was enthusiastically received, there was little outward show of
support, and many desertions took place almost daily. Indeed, it soon
became apparent that his followers, ill-clad, and badly armed, were
in no way fit to successfully cope with the forces which were being
hurriedly arrayed against them.

On July 1 the Duke’s diminishing force marched from Shepton Mallett to
Wells, and thence to Bridgewater, where they were met by a deputation
from Taunton, entreating the Duke not to return again to the town
which was already beginning to suffer from having received him so
enthusiastically a week or so previously. From this day Monmouth’s
cause may be said to have rapidly declined; and during the double back
to Sedgemoor from Bridgewater, nothing but disaster and discouragement
attended him.

Lord Feversham lay with the King’s forces at Sedgemoor after having
made some rather feeble and ineffectual attempts to get in touch
with Monmouth. It was decided at a council of war that the latter’s
forces should attack those of Lord Feversham by night, and one Richard
Godfrey was sent to find out the number and position of the Royal
troops. In due course he returned with, so far as it went, a true,
but unfortunately very incomplete account. He stated for one thing
that the enemy were not entrenched; but he somehow or other omitted to
take notice of the fact that a deep “rhine” or great drain lay across
the track by which Monmouth’s men would be compelled to approach. In
this “rhine,” we are told by a contemporary writer, the water was only
about two feet deep, but the soft bottom had enough mud to drown a man.
This astonishing omission of Godfrey’s undoubtedly cost the Duke the
battle; although the man was not a traitor, as has been stated by some
authorities, but merely a blunderer, which, indeed, on occasion brings
about even more disastrous results.

The two opposing forces were, according to several contemporary
accounts almost equal as regards numbers. Feversham’s was, of course,
better armed, but there was the advantage of a night surprise to set
against that fact, had it not been for the “rhine.” The attack of
the Duke’s small body of horse failed, and the rest of his force,
evidently finding themselves outflanked, broke and fled. Then at dawn,
or soon after, ensued one of the most relentless pursuits, followed
by a series of massacres in cornfields, barns, and coppices, under
the hedges, and in the ditches of the countryside, which was only to
be equalled a little later on by the bloody work of Jeffreys himself.
In the immediate district it is estimated that at least 1,200 of
the unfortunate followers of Monmouth were slain. The Duke became a
fugitive, and was ultimately captured near Wimborne, and taken thence
to London for trial and execution.

A few weeks after Lyme Regis was to pay very dearly for the part it had
played at the time of Monmouth’s landing, and early in September, Judge
Jeffreys condemned thirteen Lyme Regis people at Dorchester, several of
whom were mere lads; and these were executed in Lyme on September 12.

From the date of the Monmouth Rebellion the history of the town has
been quite uneventful, and it gradually declined from the position it
once held as a centre of trade with Morlaix in Brittany, and other
ports of the Continent. In former times, too, it had a considerable
trade in salt, wine, and wool; in elephants’ tusks, and gold dust
from African coasts; and also for many years in serges and linens,
though the last named trade was destroyed during the latter part of
the seventeenth century by the war with France. The general foreign
commerce of the town may be said to have declined from that date until
the end of the eighteenth and the commencement of the nineteenth
century, when it became practically extinct.

Nowadays Lyme relies almost entirely for prosperity on its popularity
as a seaside holiday place of a quiet type, and as a marketing town
for the district round about. The famous Cobb, or pier, one of the
most ancient along the south coast, is familiar to every one who
knows Lyme. It is some 1,200 feet in length, and partakes rather of
the nature of a breakwater, although nowadays it is much used as a
promenade by visitors and residents. It is thought to have dated from
about the time of Edward I, and has certainly done something to prevent
the encroachment of the sea, that in former days used to cause the
inhabitants of Lyme a very considerable amount of anxiety. The little
harbour itself is picturesque, and not entirely devoid of that form of
life which comes from the presence of a considerable number of coasting
vessels which are engaged chiefly in the export of cement stones.

Lyme Regis can boast of literary associations of considerable interest,
for here it was Miss Mitford spent a somewhat long period of her youth
in the early days of the last century, and Jane Austen also stayed on
several occasions in a large white cottage standing at the harbour end
of the little parade. It is generally thought that Jane Austen wrote
considerable portions of her novels whilst at Lyme, and also drew upon
the local scenery and characters for the purpose of her books. At any
rate there is a great deal of Lyme Regis matter in _Persuasion_; and
Bay Cottage claims to be the original of Captain Harville’s house. It
was, of course, from the steep flight of steps of the Cobb that Louisa
Musgrave leapt.

The exterior of Lyme parish church is of less interest than it might
be, owing to the jacket of stucco with which it has been inadvisedly
enveloped. But within the building are not only a fine Jacobean gallery
in good preservation and a carved wooden pulpit, the gift of one
Richard Harvey, a merchant prince in the days of the town’s prosperity;
but also some interesting tapestry of great age. The colours of this
have lost their freshness, and have faded to that vagueness which is
the pathos of many such ancient and decaying things.

Seafarers should not forget that it was at Lyme that Sir George
Summers, who is called the discoverer of the Island to which he gave
his name, now known as the Bermudas, was born. The real discoverer, in
1522, appears to have been a Spaniard, Juan Bermudas. The group was not
inhabited, however, until the casting away of Sir George Summers upon
the principal island in 1609.

Lyme Regis can scarcely hope to revive into a place of any great
importance, but it is nevertheless a charming little town with many
features of interest, and some beautiful and picturesque scenery
surrounding it; whilst in the summer season a considerable influx of
visitors make it a bright, though still old-fashioned, place at which
to stay.

Westward along the coast from Lyme to Beer Head, which is the last of
the great chalk promontories to the west, the coast is very fine. The
sea has done its work of erosion with the result that all along the
shore the cliffs have fallen, forming a sort of undercliff, somewhat
similar to that on the southern side of the Isle of Wight. The fall of
the cliffs, too, has not always been gradual, for towards the middle
of the last century one landslip amounted to some forty or fifty acres
in extent, and with it went one orchard and two cottages. Of later
years, however, this picturesque coast appears not to have suffered
so severely from the sea’s inroads as in former times, with a result
that here and there along the cliffs houses have been built in such
close contiguity to the edge as would, from past experiences, appear
recklessly dangerous.

On the east side of Beer Bay is a straight and lofty cliff, and under
this headland, called Haven Cliff, there was formerly a pier and
landing quay, where vessels of some considerable tonnage could enter;
but of this there is now scarcely a trace.

At the commencement of the fertile valley which runs inland from the
shore stands Seaton, formerly a mere village, now becoming quite a
fashionable holiday resort; but the quaintest and prettiest spot in
the bay is Beer, on the other side. Just in the little cove behind
Whitecliff lies the fishing village with its ancient caves and quarries
which are still worked. In the old smuggling days these formed, as it
were, ready-made stores for the cargoes which were run, and many a
successful trip was made across Channel by the Beer smugglers, much to
their own profit and the loss of the Government.

But Beer, even in the smuggling days, was noted for at least one
legitimate industry, that of lace-making, and it was in this little
village that Queen Victoria’s wedding dress was made. There is,
unfortunately, no harbour, and so it is much less visited by yachtsmen
than it would otherwise be.

Along the coast westward there are many lovely spots; one, soon after
lofty Beer Head is left behind, is Branscombe Chine, with the village
hidden from the sea in a beautiful little valley where three streams
meet. Here, too, lace-making is even nowadays carried on. All along
the coast to Sidmouth the scenery is lovely, broken into charming
little chines and verdant with foliage. To enjoy it fully one must be
able to hug the cliffs closely. Soon the coast line begins to trend
south-westward, and Sidmouth, one of the prettiest spots of all Devon,
is reached. On the western side stands High Peak, with its lofty
cliffs, rearing themselves 500 feet above sea level, and between is the
valley of the Sid, with swelling uplands all around. Unfortunately for
yachtsmen who love the picturesque, and for whom comparatively quiet
Sidmouth would have attractions, there is no harbour.

The haven or quay which must once have been there is now covered at
high tide. That anciently there was a harbour seems little doubt, as we
are told that on the west side of a roof of rocks known as Whitledge
Roman remains are frequently washed up.

Geologists seem to be of the opinion that all the coast between
Bridport to the east and Otterton Head to the west has either been
swallowed up by the sea or has sunk very considerably. For it would be
out of the question for ships of such a size as once traded to north
and west African ports from Lyme to have entered the latter with the
water there is in the harbour at the present time. To drop anchor off
Sidmouth early on a fine summer’s morning is almost like approaching
fairyland. The valley with its beautiful woods appears a perfect gem
of its kind, and up from the little town and off the sea, ascend to
the hills on either side the morning mists and the blue-grey smoke of
early fires; whilst the red cliffs of Salcombe glow yet redder in the
light of sunrise. The sea off Sidmouth has a wonderful range of colour
and transparency, which artists of the school of Napier Hemy, and Tuke
would fully appreciate. Underneath the cliffs it is almost a deep olive
green, whilst further from the shore it becomes a deep sea-green, and
where the sand lies, a shade of golden-green hue.

One of the prettiest coves hereabouts is just beyond High Cliff, and
into it even quite a fair-sized boat can get comfortably enough if
the channel is known. This cove, Ladram Bay, has many curious rock
formations, as well as unexpected holes and corners of great charm.

Chapter VII

The Coast to Teignmouth--Torquay--Brixham

From Sidmouth to Exmouth, although the coast is picturesque and
interesting, there is no harbourage of any account. Those who do not
know the land may, upon looking at the map, jump to the conclusion
that in the estuary of the Otter there is not only a picturesque creek
to be explored, but also good anchorage. But, alas, their hopes as
regards the latter will be disappointed. The mouth of the river is
so silted up that no yacht, and certainly no vessel of any tonnage,
attempts nowadays to enter it, and thus there is no shelter unless the
wind happens to be directly off shore. Hard by, however, a few cables’
length beyond the western “hook” of land which almost locks the mouth
of the river, is Budleigh Salterton, partially concealed from the
sea, and one of the most delightful and picturesque of spots along
the stretch of coast line which lies between the border of Dorset and
Teignmouth. The cottages are many of them isolated from the street by
the tinkling brook, which runs through the village and falls eventually
into the Otter, and are approached by charming rustic bridges. In the
gardens, which are pictures all the year round, flourish hollyhocks,
sunflowers, sweet peas, sweet williams, marigolds of flaming hue,
stocks, nasturtiums, myrtle trees, roses, lavender, and all the sweet
country flowers which seem especially to favour the cottage gardens
of fair Devon. The village is well worth seeing, and, indeed, during
the summer months, the coasting yachtsman is a familiar figure in the
little street, at the upper end of which stands the picturesque church.

The River Otter is navigable in a dinghy, and at the head of the
estuary, about two miles from the sea, and half a mile from the river,
is the interesting little village of Hayes Barton, which has peculiar
interest for those who love the sea, because here Walter Raleigh,
sea-dog, fine gentleman, conqueror of Virginia, and introducer of
tobacco and the potato, was born in 1552, in a two-storied, thatched
house, which nestles at the foot of the hills, and happily still
remains much as it was in Raleigh’s time.

There is little of interest along the coast from Budleigh Salterton
until pretty Dawlish is reached. The wide-mouthed Exe is as
disappointing as the smaller Otter estuary, but we imagine few who do
enter fail to remain long enough (usually bringing up off Star Cross,
two miles up from the sea on the western shore) to visit historic
Powderham Castle and Exeter.

From the Exe onward, especially near Dawlish, the coast is exceedingly
pretty, and it becomes more and more charming as one approaches
Teignmouth, which lies chiefly upon a tongue of low land stretching
from the wooded hills or cliffs to the mouth of the estuary, with
Little Haldon’s crest 800 feet above sea level in the background, and
the other hills sheltering the pretty little town from the north and
north-east very effectively. The harbour of Teignmouth is a fair one,
and might easily be much improved. Indeed, it seems a great pity that
something has not been done to make it rank with that of Torquay,
even though there are undoubted difficulties in the way, which do not
exist with the famous yachting and holiday resort, in the shape of a
shifting bar, and the heavy seas which sweep into the harbour mouth,
more especially during easterly gales. Formerly the Den, which now
affords so inviting an expanse of green lawn to the lately come ashore,
can have been little more than a sand dune, or a sandy and muddy spit
thrusting out southward into the river’s mouth and breaking the inrush
of the sea.

It is probably to the fact that Teignmouth consists of two distinct
parishes--East and West Teignmouth--that the pleasing irregularity
of architecture arises to which many writers have from time to time
referred. The most picturesque portion of the town is that nestling
under the wooded cliffs which gradually rise to the moorland beyond,
and the slopes of Little Haldon.

Teignmouth, which is a typical west-country port, from its low-lying
situation has suffered in the past, and will doubtless suffer in the
future, from inundations. In seasons of great rain the bogs of Dartmoor
and the moorland surrounding Haldon, contribute miniature torrents to
the Teign and the Tame, so that they are swollen, and when meeting the
incoming seas are forced backwards like a bore with disastrous results
for the owners of low-lying property. On such occasions as these the
harbour, enticing as it seems in summer, becomes no place for the
average yachtsman.

But it is, nevertheless, an interesting and picturesque little port,
built beneath the shelter of the hills, and situated right at the mouth
of the estuary of the River Teign, which at low tide is left almost dry
twice a day. In the harbour there is generally a good handful of craft
of a fair tonnage, some of them with bowsprits almost in the windows of
the stores and houses by the waterside, and all of them careening over
at low water in picturesque impotence.

As for Teignmouth folk, they are just Devonians to the heart’s core;
a trifle slow of speech (as much as their forbears were quick of
action), with kindly hearts, and a soft burr at times in their homely
fisherman’s talk, dwelling in a sunny, favoured spot, where life goes
on slowly, if steadily, and where as yet the commerce, such as it is,
knows little of modern rush and competition.

Teignmouth of to-day, with its modern houses and bright, sunny streets,
has little left of antiquity. Probably the most ancient dwelling does
not date back two centuries, and except for the tower of St James’s
Church, West Teignmouth, there is little left of antiquarian interest.
One must not, though, forget the really beautiful reredos (alas!
disfigured by texts in the niches where once stood figures of beautiful
workmanship) with its exquisite moulding of leaf and knot design, and
its small figures of saints so perfectly carved as in most cases to be
easily identifiable.

Not a few ancient writers have accounted for the red colour of the
cliffs throughout this part of the Devon coast by the old tradition
that the Danes in ancient times killed so many of the inhabitants
hereabouts that the blood of the slain dyed the soil for all time.
And Teignmouth is by several stated to have been the landing place
of the Danish pirates on several of their expeditions or raids, but
there would not appear to be any very sound historical basis for this
assertion. It seems beyond question, however, that the marauders did
land somewhere along the Devon coast, and enter the valley of the
Teign, burning and ravaging as they went. In the first year of the
eleventh century they were out on one of their expeditions, and burned
what is described in the chronicles as Teigntun or Tegntun, which
may have been any of the “Teigntons,” either Bishop’s Teignton or
Kingsteignton. It is also not unlikely that the little settlement at
the mouth of the river now known as Teignmouth, but which is not even
mentioned in Domesday (although certainly existing) received a share
of their attention. The Saxon fortress church of St Michael, which,
unhappily, was pulled down and re-erected in the third decade of the
last century, was most probably originally built to place a check upon
the depredations of the invaders, and to defend the town.

Edward the Confessor granted the Manor of Dawlish, till then a Royal
Manor, to Leofric, his chaplain and chancellor, in or about the year
1044, and the boundary to the south-west was Teignmouth. The original
grant, in which St Michael’s Church is mentioned, is preserved amongst
the documents and charters of Exeter Cathedral, and serves, at least
in some measure, to date the old and former church. In time this
same Leofric became Bishop of Crediton, but transferred the seat of
the Bishopric to St Peter’s Church, Exeter, and at his installation,
which was a most imposing ceremonial, both his patron the King and
the Queen were present. With the coming of the Conqueror many changes
ecclesiastical as well as civil took place, but Leofric was permitted
to retain his See and its possessions. And after the siege of Exeter
was a thing of the past, the Conqueror confirmed the gift of Edward the
Confessor to his faithful “Bishop Leofric,” but with this difference,
the manors were granted to him “for the See of Exeter,” and not, as
formerly, for his private use and enjoyment.

Leofric appears to have left all his lands and possessions to the See,
but a subsequent holder, Bishop Bruywere, towards the middle of the
thirteenth century, gave Dawlish and the portion of Teignmouth to the
Cathedral itself to endow the Dean. The Bishops of Exeter appear always
about this period to have reserved the Manor of Bishop’s Teignton for
their personal benefit. They were undoubtedly powerful, and unless
history slanders them “were not so law-abiding as one might have
anticipated,” seeing they were the spiritual leaders of men. Indeed,
there are several mentions of illegal markets being held under the
Bishops’ auspices, which doubtless brought money to their treasuries,
and accounted for their refusals to abandon their privilege.


Regarding the history of Teignmouth in the Middle Ages it is sufficient
to mention that the town enjoyed some considerable measure of
prosperity, as the different historical documents relating to it prove.
The port was situated at West Teignmouth, and that there was a foreign
trade of some extent seems certain. It was one of several towns which
were called upon to furnish jointly a ship for use in Edward I’s
expedition to Scotland, but in those days enforcement of such orders
must have been attended with some difficulty, if one may judge from the
way in which they were successfully set at defiance. There then existed
extensive salt works or salterns, which originally were features of
many low-lying strips of sand dunes and land along the south coast,
when salt was a far more valuable article than it is nowadays.

An interesting sidelight upon the ecclesiastical manners of those
far-off times is thrown by one of the ancient registers of the Bishops
of Exeter, which tells in language comparing favourably with the
“vivid at all costs” style of “our own correspondents” of the present
day, how a feud raged between one John Eustace, the incumbent of West
Teignmouth Church and his parishioners. We are told that so hot grew
the dispute, and so high ran local feeling, that a large number of the
parishioners set upon their priest even with “diabolical fury,” and
that in retaliation John Eustace (who truly must have carried a hot
heart beneath his priest’s cassock) so far forgot that he should preach
and practice peace and not the sword, that he hired some one unknown to
stab his bitterest opponent, one Henry Baker, with a knife.

As often happened in those far-off days, the merits of the case
seem to have been rather overlooked, and judgement, as was also not
infrequently the case, was given of a most comprehensive kind. The
priest was removed from his office, and the recalcitrant parishioners
were promptly excommunicated. That this local disturbance of long ago
was of a serious and somewhat widespread character is to be gathered
from the fact that the populace of Teignmouth almost to a man (to say
nothing of the women, who sided mostly with the priest) took sides, and
eight years after the excommunication and suspension the feud was still
burning. So much so, indeed, that the attention of the King himself
was called to the fact. The then rector of Bishop’s Teignton (who had
much to do with the affairs of West Teignmouth Church), wise man that
he was, did not seek to settle the matter, but when the parishioners
showed signs of once more getting out of hand, he promptly applied
for a licence to enable him to leave his cure and travel abroad! His
excuse was that he required the permission to enable him to proceed
on a pilgrimage to Rome, and for study. Thus did Sir William Kaignes
or Keynes exercise that discretion which a cynic has declared is the
better part of valour, leaving the Bishop of Exeter himself to settle
the points in dispute, and bring the parishioners to a sense of their
contumacy and wrongdoing. Eight years or more after the feud broke out
the Bishop received the submission of the parish; every man, woman and
child in which it would seem, from a contemporary account, had not only
actually or tacitly to acknowledge their wrongdoing and ask pardon, but
also do penance to obtain it.

One of the most stirring incidents of Teignmouth history occurred in
1340, about Lammastide, when a body of French--called in those times
pirates, rightly or wrongly, as one happened to regard retaliatory
measures of the foe across the water--entered the harbour and sailing
up the river set fire to the town and sacked it, besides “barbarously
putting to the sword sundry of its inhabitants.” But whatever may have
been the extent of the damage effected, the place made a satisfactory
recovery in a very short time, for seven years afterwards we find the
port and inhabitants contributing seven ships and 120 seamen towards
the fleet that Edward III was gathering together for the siege of
Calais. It is not presuming too much to imagine that Teignmouth men,
like most of their kind along fair Devon’s coast, set out with some
alacrity to avenge the deeds of the “pirates” of seven years before,
and saw the tree-crowned Ness which marks the western side of the
harbour entrance dip beneath the blue water astern, with mingled
feelings of regret and exultation.

So in order that the town might not in the future fall an entirely
unresisting victim to “pirates” and marauders, bulwarks of timber and
rubble were thrown up, the proper maintenance of which devolved upon
the two parishes jointly.

The life of Teignmouth during the next century was probably much
as that of other small coast towns of Devon, where the harbour,
however suitable for trade and commercial growth, had unfortunately
insufficient depth of water to permit of the entrance of vessels
of any very considerable tonnage. Indeed, it is probably owing to
this deficiency--and to the fact that in former times there were few
means of adequately deepening or keeping harbours and harbour mouths
clear, that Teignmouth, admirably situated as it is as a port and for
commerce, has never risen to any great commercial eminence.

In the past its chief industries were fishing, fish curing, and salt
making; and in pursuit of these it took its uneventful course. Leland
casts an informing eye over the place during the marvellous journey
which he undertook, and crystallized in his _Itinerary_, reaching
Teignmouth sometime during the thirties of the sixteenth century. Of
the place he says, referring to the ground upon which East Teignmouth
is built and the “Den” stands, “The Est-Point of the Haven is callid
the Poles ... a low sandy Ground other cast out by the Spring of Sands
out of the Teign or els throuen up from the Shores by rage of Wynd and
Water, and thys Sand occupieth now a greate Quantitie of Ground bytwene
Teignmouth Towne, where the Grounde mounteth and Teignmouth Haven.”

Leland goes on to say that “ther be two Tounes at this Point of the
Haven by name of Teignmouth, one hard joining the other;” and also
states that at the date he writes the houses at West Teignmouth on “the
peace of Sanddy Ground afore spoken of ther caullid the Dene” had not
been built many years. Leland’s name the _Dene_ (meaning a dune or
bank) being a much more comprehensible one than its present form _Den_.

The stories of the destruction of the towns “by the Danes, and of
late Tymes by the Frenchmen” were doubtless told to the indefatigable
traveller and diarist. But, as is so often the case with him, Leland is
not entirely accurate, and is at fault in referring to East Teignmouth
as Teignmouth Regis.

During the years immediately succeeding his visit the place seems to
have declined, rather slowly, but nevertheless surely, and a century
or so later we find a well-known writer describing it as having been
formerly considerably more resorted to and held in higher esteem.
This same authority appears to have accepted the tradition of the
Danish landing and wholesale slaughter of the unfortunate inhabitants
in its entirety, for he ascribes the colour of the cliffs--which
forms so striking a feature of local scenery--to the bloodshed which
traditionally took place. He writes in pursuance of this theory that
it is in memory of the Danes’ atrocious massacre that the cliff is so
“exceedingly red”; and adds that at the memory of the crimes the place
“doth seem thereat again full fresh to bleed.”

The inhabitants at the time of this later historian would seem to have
become slothful as their town declined. Perhaps the one circumstance
may be traced to the other. At any rate we are told that at the
time the country was in the throes of Civil War, and Royalists and
Roundheads were marching and countermarching around Exeter, the
inhabitants discontinued their practice of keeping the bulwarks
and defences of the harbour and town in repair, which led to the
promulgation of an order from Exeter calling upon them to fulfil their

Then for fully a century history is silent as to the progress or doings
of the town and its people. The veil which so often at that time
obscured the history of the smaller and more secluded places on the
south and west coasts, seems to have also enwrapped Teignmouth. And it
was not lifted until the last decade of the seventeenth century, when
the town again became the theatre of stirring scenes.

In those days the ports and sea-coast towns of the West were most of
them not only undefended in the sense of not possessing fortifications,
but were “out of touch” with the rest of the world to such an extent
that they presented great temptations for attack to England’s enemies
who were neither weak nor few. In a word, for a hostile force to effect
a landing seemed to be the easiest thing in the world. Both the Duke
of Monmouth in 1685, and William of Orange, after the Revolution,
three years later, had done this with ease. It is, therefore, perhaps
little to be wondered at that the banished King James II and his
adherents in England should, without much difficulty, have persuaded
Louis XIV to attempt a landing on behalf of the Stuart cause, upon the
almost defenceless Devon coast. Louis had no love for England or for
Protestant William, and also probably was anxious to unburden himself
of James II, who promised to become a perpetual pensioner and trouble
so long as he was in France, or rather, one might perhaps say, out of
England. So when James II, relying upon the representations of his
adherents in England, succeeded in persuading the French King that
the English people were longing for his return, and would give him an
enthusiastic welcome, Louis prepared a fleet for invasion in support of
the Jacobite cause. In pursuance of this design Admiral de Tourville
set sail, and made his way with his squadron up Channel, to fight the
combined Dutch and English fleets.

Owing no doubt to the fact that the affairs of this country were still
in an unsettled state, William and Mary of Orange not being as yet
firmly established on the Throne, and a large number of the people
still favouring the Stuarts, the English fleet detached itself and
allowed the Dutch single-handed to engage De Tourville, who succeeded
in crushing them. The result of this action, fought on June 30, 1690,
was to place the south, and especially the badly defended south-west
coast, at the mercy of the French admiral and his fleet, and to bring
well within the bounds of possibility the invasion that his expedition
was intended to accomplish. But the spirit of the West Country was
aroused, and the fighting blood of the old sea-dogs of Devon asserted
itself. So when De Tourville and his fleet of warships and galleys,
which had been brought up from the Mediterranean for the purpose of the
projected invasion, appeared off the coast, something had already been
done towards defence by the summoning of the militia and country folk.
One can imagine that the appearance of the lumbering galleys--and the
tales that were rife of the life of the slaves who manned them--had
not a little to do with the zeal with which the people of the West set
about to put their defences in order.

De Tourville appears to have wasted his opportunities, for a
contemporary document, which is of great value and interest as being
probably the work of an eyewitness, tells us “The French fleet having
been on our coasts for several days, sometimes coasting about, other
times at anchor in Torbay, has had this good effect, as to put us in a
very good posture of defence.” Then follows what is probably the best
account extant of the part Teignmouth played in the disturbing and
stirring events which ensued.

“On Saturday morning, July 26 (old style), about daybreak, the whole
fleet, being with their galleys, about one hundred and twenty sail,
weighed anchor and stood in for a small fishery village called

Macaulay writes concerning the event, “The beacon of the ridge above
Teignmouth was kindled, Hey-tor and Cawsand made answer, and soon all
the hill-tops of the West were on fire. Messengers were riding all
night from deputy-lieutenant to deputy-lieutenant, and early next
morning, without chief, without summons, five hundred gentlemen and
yeomen, armed and mounted, had assembled on the summit of Haldon Hill.”
Quoting again from the account to which we have already referred, we
find, “about five o’clock the galleys drew very near the shore of the
said place, their men of war at the same time played their cannon on
the shore for the space of about an hour or an hour and a half, which
scared the poor inhabitants from their cottages, they first taking with
them what of any value so short a warning and great plight would permit

It is, of course, doubtful if the French admiral knew of the “raising
of the countryside round about,” but whether he did or did not, we
are told “The inhabitants being fled, the invaders immediately landed
their men in the long boat(s) to the number of one thousand foot, who
being no sooner come in shoar but they presently set the town on fire;
which was soon done, there being never a house in the place but was
thatched except the parson’s, which was covered with Cornish slate.
They likewise burnt two or three fishermen’s boats in the river, and
the beacon, and plundered some other straggling houses.”

One can imagine how the wretched inhabitants watched the destruction
of their homes and property from the neighbouring heights, or even
so close by as the Ness which, being well-wooded, afforded cover; or
perhaps, waited in the sheltering rocks and crannies on distant Haldon,
in hopes that after all the enemy might not have effected a landing,
only for these hopes at last to be cruelly dissipated by the column
of smoke which floated upwards and across from the burning village,
telling its tale of destruction.

Not content with the burning and sacking of Teignmouth, bands of the
marauders made their way across the river to Shaldon and St Nicholas,
and to villages up the river, which in each case they plundered and
burned. Except for the communion plate and other sacred articles found
in the churches (which the invaders thoroughly ransacked) there could
have been, one would imagine, little of value to repay their search
in the villages they visited. But from St Michael’s they undoubtedly
carried off, amongst other things, the famous herrings made of gold,
and presented as votive offerings centuries before by the fishermen of
the parish. Not only was everything of value stolen from the churches,
but the books were destroyed, the pulpits defaced, or pulled down and
burned in bonfires, together with the wooden communion tables.

Then, as has been recorded, “Upon the news of this villainous attempt
and bold invasion, the militia of the county, horse and foot,
immediately made a body, and marched after the invaders, showing a
great deal of zeal and resolution.... The invaders having intelligence
by their scouts of the posture of our forces, and that we were moving
towards them, they immediately prepared to return to their ships....”
But before doing this they took the precaution to send “seven or eight
small pieces of cannon just by the shoar side to play on our horse in
case we came too quick upon them.”

The destruction wrought was estimated at no less than £11,000, a sum
which in those days represented several times its present-day value. So
serious, indeed, was the position of the poor fisherfolk of Teignmouth
rendered, owing to De Tourville’s visit, that King William and Queen
Mary themselves made an appeal to the country on their behalf. The
Royal letter which was issued and read in upwards of ten thousand
parish churches, and elsewhere throughout the country, had the result
of so arousing the sympathies of those who listened to the recital of
the Teignmouth folk’s sad plight, that the money to rebuild the place
was soon forthcoming. In the name “French Street,” the landing of De
Tourville’s force is commemorated.

How long the town was a-building there appears to be no record; but it
is certain that the new town much surpassed the old in convenience,
size and healthiness. For many years, naturally enough, fear of the
French was very prevalent, and as a protection a battery was formed on
the shore at the end of the Den.

Regarding the lasting effect upon the country at large of what, at
so long a distance of time, may be looked upon by some as merely the
destruction of a small fishing village, and not as an event of any
great importance, Macaulay says:

“Hitherto the Jacobites had tried to persuade the nation that the
French would come as friends and deliverers; would observe strict
discipline, would respect temples, and the ceremonies of the
established religion. The short visit of Tourville to our coasts had
shown how little reason there was to expect such moderation from the
soldiers of Louis. They had been on our island only a few hours and
occupied only a few acres, but within a few hours and a few acres had
been exhibited in miniature the destruction of the Palatinate.”

The terror of a French invasion lasted for many years; it was, indeed,
revived, and it became again prevalent at the time of the long war with
Napoleon. But for more than a hundred years the history of Teignmouth
was uneventful and even tranquil, save for the doings of the smugglers
who gained some prominence in the latter half of the eighteenth
century, and of whom there were many famous desperadoes along the Devon
and Cornish coasts.

Then came another scare of possible French invasion at the time when,
indeed, the whole of the south coast from the Foreland to Land’s End
was agitated by the spectre of “Boney.” And at Teignmouth, “though
the place was now provided with a battery as a wall of defence,” on
at least one occasion during the year 1797, the inhabitants suddenly
forsook their homes and once more fled in confusion and affright to
the recesses of Little Haldon. Some, we are told euphemistically, “in a
state bordering upon that in which they entered the world. By the which
at least one unfortunate maid died of a cold so contracted.” The origin
of the scare on this occasion, when it was confidently asserted that
the French had landed near Torquay, and were burning and ravaging the
countryside, was the accidental ignition of a stack of furze on Stoke
Common over the Ness. But no invaders came to disturb the peace of the
affrighted town, and after a few hours of discomfort and dismay, the
crestfallen inhabitants slowly by twos and threes returned to their

Teignmouth, about the year of Waterloo had acquired something of a
reputation as a watering place or seaside resort and boasted not
only the usual Public Assembly rooms, in which Georgian belles and
Georgian beaux were wont to disport themselves at routs and balls,
and (if gossip may be credited) drink dishes of tea, and game for
high stakes; but also a theatre, library, and other social places of
resort. A quaint but vivid picture of the life of the town at this
period is obtained in the _Guide to Teignmouth_, by Risdon, published
in 1817 in three slender volumes, one of which refers to Teignmouth and
neighbourhood. There would appear to have been the usual attractions
offered by seaside resorts in these times, for we have a mention of a
good coach service between the town and Exeter, with carriers’ wagons
for those who could not afford coach fares. And there were Sedan chairs
for hire, Bath chairs, and donkeys for the venturesome maidens; with
whom, we are told, such a means of locomotion was a passion. The more
staid and steady matrons were accommodated with horses and pillions,
and many a gay and humoursome scene was enacted, we may warrant, upon
the “fine sandy beach” of which much is made, or along the shore where
no “obstruction was permitted which could interfere with the pleasure
and progression of riders.” In several old prints published early in
the last century, one catches glimpses of the fashions, foibles, and
pastimes of “young ladies and gentlemen” who, as regards attire and
carriage, might have stepped out of the pages of _Persuasion_ or _Pride
and Prejudice_.

During the first three decades of the nineteenth century, Teignmouth
appears to have suffered a gradual decline, from which it did not
recover until the railway came in 1846, gradually making the town what
it is to-day--a modern, picturesque, holiday resort, pleasant alike to
landsmen and yachtsmen.

To-day the trade of Teignmouth is considerable, as is indicated by the
constant presence in harbour of a number of craft of medium tonnage,
and groups of barges with picturesque square-cut, red-brown sails. The
sea-going commerce of the place is nowadays chiefly the export of china
clay, brought down from the pits at Newton Abbot in the barges, but
there is also some little trade in wood pulp, timber from Norway, flour
and oil.

There is a tale with the true flavour of the supernatural about it
relating to the jutting crag on Hole Head, to the north of the town,
which bears some remote resemblance to a “Parson” after which it is
named, and the “Clerk,” which stands far out from the shore. Once, so
the tale goes, a priest of Dawlish was riding homeward with his clerk
from Teignmouth, where they had been to collect tithes. They took their
way by the inland road with its many lanes, and after wandering about
came to a standstill, having lost their way.

The night was both wet and stormy, and after a pause they struggled on
in the darkness, knowing scarcely at all where they were going.

At length they came to a house which was unfamiliar to them both, but
from the windows of which bright lights were streaming, as they seemed
to the lost ones, of welcome, whilst from within came the sounds of
laughter, merry-making, and music. Happy at their discovery of shelter,
the priest and his clerk paused, and almost immediately one of the
windows was thrown open, and they were invited to come in. Nothing loth
they tethered their steeds, and putting off their riding cloaks entered
the house, and were soon enjoying the warmth and gaiety.

The party grew more merry and boisterous each moment, and soon the
priest, forgetting his sacred calling, having drunk somewhat deeply,
burst into ribald songs; in which the clerk, following his master’s
lead, joined. At length, however, they realized that it was getting
late, and that they ought once more to be riding homeward; and so with
heads none too clear from the liquor they had drunk, and legs none too
firm from the same cause, they bid adieu to their host, and sought
their horses.

Once outside the priest declared that he should never find the way, and
that he must have a guide, “even though it were none better than the
devil himself.”

On hearing this remark, his host, who had invited him to enter the
house, volunteered to put him and his companions in the right way for
Dawlish. He then guided the travellers to the end of the road, and told
them to keep straight on. However, they had not gone very far ere they
found themselves riding through water, which kept rising and rising,
although but a few minutes previously they had believed themselves not
only on dry ground, but a safe distance from the sea. They turned, as
they thought, inland, and made every effort to escape the water, but
the more they urged on their horses the higher the water rose. In their
fright they called loudly for their guide, who had disappeared, but
their appeals for help called forth loud and mocking laughter from a
little distance. Then came a flash of vivid lightning, and their late
guide appeared to them in his true guise--the devil, tail and all! He
jeered and mocked them, and pointed to the sea into which they had
ridden, and from which they could not now escape.

What became of the two unfortunate wayfarers the story does not
actually say, but it tells us that their horses were found by a
countryman going to work early next morning wandering riderless along
the sands; whilst at Hole Head appeared the two rocks now known as “The
Parson and Clerk.”

There is also a legend that the beach near the Head is haunted (as is
that of Woollacombe in North Devon) by the spectre of an old gentleman,
who for his sins is set the task of making ropes out of sand until
Judgement Day.

If staying any time in the harbour one can do far worse than take the
dinghy and pull up the river for a few hours’ fishing. The salmon
fishery of the Teign (which owes its origin to the late Frank Buckland)
is good, and during the period from March to September provides
interest for many visitors to the town, who watch the operations of the
fishermen from Monday morning till Friday at sunset, as they cast and
draw their seines. Quite big fish are sometimes taken, and a 56-pounder
is by no means unknown. The fish are often brought ashore, laid on the
beach, and sold by auction; and when a good haul has been made, we have
known them bought sometimes as cheaply as sevenpence or eightpence a

The upper river is lovely. The low cliffs which skirt it for some
distance are edged with foliage, and are beautiful in the spring with
apple-trees in full bloom and wild cherry blossom in thick, snowy-white
clusters, affording a striking contrast in rural beauty with the busy
harbour and quays a few miles away below the bridge.

Alongside Teignmouth quay there are often quite big steamers noisily
unloading or taking in cargo; colliers, grimy and red with rust, busily
discharging their useful though unpicturesque freight; whilst the
clay barges are being cleared of their lumps which are picked up on
spiked sticks by the men who are locally known as “lumpers,” and thus
transferred from the barge to the quay or the hold of another vessel.

At high tide there is generally some craft or other--a Norwegian timber
brig, a trading schooner, or a coasting tramp steamer coming in or
going out of harbour, which gives animation and an interest to the

But yachtsmen, even of the least fashionable type, do not remain long
at Teignmouth, but make for the westward to Torquay. The coast is very
pretty, and one passes in turn Labrador, then the Minnicombe Bell Rock,
Watcombe, and then Petit Tor, with jagged crest and sides looking out
over the sea. The coast then becomes rocky off shore, which it has not
been for many a mile, and to pass along it to Torquay either in the
early morning, or towards the late afternoon, when the shadows of the
cliff fall in charming colour upon the surface of the water, and the
luxuriant vegetation which crowns the cliffs and headlands is seen at
its best is to enjoy an experience of loveliness and even glamour not
easily forgotten. The memory of the beauty of the scene remains as we
once left Teignmouth at a little after sunrise on a July morning, when
the shore was yet wreathed in mist, and the light soft and pearly-grey.
As the sun climbed out of the sea eastward towards Portland, the mist
rolled away, and the red cliffs with their crown of pleasant green
trees and luxuriant vegetation gradually disclosed themselves. The
reflection of all this beauty seemed literally to be falling into the
calm, deep green sea, whose surface was only here and there disturbed
by ripples where the young morning breeze flecked it.

Then appeared Babbacombe Downs, on which the cowslips grow within sound
of the sea, and nowadays there are golf links and smart villas, and
Oddicombe, with its white pebble beach forming so vivid a contrast to
the still red cliffs in the bright light of early morning. Then ever
delightful Anstey’s Cove, excelling in beauty even Babbacombe, and both
of these with deep water close in shore. Through the passage between
Hope’s Nose and the Orestone, where there is also deep water, one
glides at once into Torbay; beautiful almost beyond description, with
its three and a half miles of shining sea lying between picturesque
Daddy’s Hole, and sheer upstanding Barry Head, which forms the southern
horn of the bay, flat-topped as Table Mountain itself.

Torquay is so charmingly situated, and presents, as one passes London
Bridge, and enters the harbour, such a beautiful picture of tree-clad
heights and foliage amid which the picturesque-looking villas are
embosomed, that it is little wonder the town has been popular with both
holiday folk and yachtsmen for many years, and has been often likened
to towns on the Italian Riviera, and by the great Napoleon himself to
Porto Ferrajo, Elba.

The harbour is a good one, and of considerable size, and in summer time
there are many white-winged craft within its basin which can lie snug
enough in any save strong easterly or southerly gales, when a nasty sea
outside makes an uncomfortable swell within.

From a beautiful watercolour drawing by David Cox (reproduced as a
print at the end of the eighteenth century) one is able to see that
even then the wooded heights above Meadfoot Sands and the present
harbour and the lovely coves along that favoured shore from Daddy’s
Hole to Hope’s Nose were being gradually dotted over with houses and
villas set picturesquely amid the green.

It is claimed for Torquay that it is not only singularly beautiful
(which is best and most speedily realized by those who approach it from
the sea) but that it is favoured by so equable a climate that it is
difficult to say positively when the town is seen at its best. Those,
indeed, who, like ourselves, have visited it at various seasons of the
year, cannot easily decide which is the most pleasant and beautiful.
Whether in winter when a climate resembling that of Mentone for
mildness ensures astonishing vegetation, and flowers almost unknown
at that season at other similar towns on the south coast; in spring,
when the hills take on the tender green of oaks, beeches, and birches
to supplement by their beauty the “evergreens” which have done so much
to make the scene charming throughout the winter months, and when
spring flowers gem the hillsides, meadows and lanes with blossom; in
summer when the sky is deep blue, and the waters of Torbay scarcely
less so, and the red-sailed trawlers out of Brixham show up blots of
colour in contrast to the white-winged yachts which come into the bay
from the east, and south, and west, “things instinct with life upon a
painted sea,” and ashore all is sunlight and brightness; or in autumn
when the sea takes on more sombre hues, but the hillsides, bright
with the exquisite dying tints which blaze forth from the branches of
oaks, beeches, chestnuts, sycamores, copper beeches, and elms, and the
creepers on the houses, supply a yet more vivid note of crimson, gold,
and brown. It was doubtless of this wealth of beauty in each succeeding
season that caused a great writer to say, “of all places on the coast
of England I would, if condemned to pass my days in one spot, choose

From the deck of a yacht in harbour many, though truly not all, of its
attractions are speedily obvious, and a short time ashore reveals most
of the rest. On all hands, when once the commercial part of the town is
left behind, one is charmed by shady roads, pretty gardens and equally
delightful vistas (not alone from Chapel Hill and other well-known
vantage points) which appear on almost every hand.

Anciently, Torquay formed one of the most important manors into which
in those days the district round about was divided. The manor was
known as that of Tor or Torre, and the earliest direct reference to
it is found in Domesday. At the time of the Conquest it was bestowed
by William of Normandy upon one Richard de Brewire or Brewer, whose
descendant, William, Lord Brewer, in 1195, bestowed a portion of the
manor on the Church, and founded the monastery afterwards to become
famous, and known as Tor Abbey, the ruins of which, set amid fine
avenues of elms, chestnut, and limes, look out over the green and
gently sloping fields once forming the Abbey grounds, and lead down to
the seashore. The Manor ultimately passed into the possession of the
Mohuns by the marriage of Lord Brewer’s daughter Alicia with Lord Mohun.

The Abbey, on account of other grants of land made to it by pious
benefactors, as the years sped by ultimately became the wealthiest of
all the Premonstratensian monasteries in England, which Order had been
founded in Picardy in 1120 by Norbert (afterwards canonized by Gregory
XIII in 1584).

It was not only--as were most of the religious foundations in the
Middle Ages--the centre of the ecclesiastical, but also of the social
and industrial life of the district round about. The chief rules of
the Order related to the leading of a pure and contemplative life,
and provided that the monks should themselves labour for the common
weal. This Order of Premonstratensians, also known as the Norbertines,
was noted for its industry, and for the fact that the brethren were
skilful cultivators of the soil. Those at Tor Abbey were evidently no
exception to the rule, as their wide and perfectly cultivated lands of
the past bore witness; they are also generally supposed to have been
the founders and promoters of the woollen industry, for which the West
of England was afterwards destined to become famous. In addition to the
many duties of their Order they undertook the teaching of the children,
and were always generous patrons of art and learning. Some of the most
saintly and wise of men in the Middle Ages in England sprang from the
Premonstratensians, who were noted for their boundless charity and good

It was from the civil community which gathered round the Abbey, and
the people who built their homes within the shadow of its patronage
and protection that the beginnings of what is now known as Torquay
undoubtedly sprang. These spread first along the shore to the
north-eastward, as fishermen came and settled down here and built their
dwellings, and a small trade with other villages along the coast was
gradually built up.

The history of Tor Abbey, though interesting as reflecting the life of
those far-off times, was comparatively uneventful. It was chiefly made
up of the coming and going of travellers, occasional alarms of possible
marauders, and the simple pleasures and events of life and death. It
need not, therefore, detain the general chronicler. About 1540 the
Abbey shared the fate of all other institutions of the kind, when King
Henry VIII brought about the Dissolution of the religious houses,
and it probably deserved its hard fate much less than many of its
neighbours. The King promptly granted the fair lands--he had stripped
the building of its possessions, sacramental vessels, and doubtless
the much revered altar cloth made of the famous “cloth of gold”--to
his favourite, John St Leger, from whose family it passed in time once
more into that of the Mohuns. Finally, in 1653, it was sub-divided into
two portions. The Abbey domain went to Sir John Stowell, by sale, who
resold it to Sir George Cary in 1664, in the possession of whose family
it remains. The Manor of Tormoham passed into the hands of the Earls of
Donegal by marriage, but was sold a little more than a century later to
Sir Robert Palk, an ancestor of Lord Haldon, whose family continued to
own it until recently.


The Tor Abbey House of the present day owes its origin to one Ridgeway
(a descendant of Lord Mohun, the original possessor), who had purchased
the Tor Abbey estate granted by King Henry to John St Leger from the
then owner. Though this building is severe, and devoid of any great
artistic merit, in it are incorporated some interesting features of
the ancient Abbey, remains of which in the form of the old church
and chapter house, and the refectory (now used as a chapel) are so
picturesque and interesting a feature of the Abbey grounds.

Although there is no doubt that throughout the distant centuries
known as the Middle Ages a handful of scattered dwellings of yeomen,
fisherfolk, and the like constituted all that is now known as Torquay,
to this hamlet, whose very existence was so largely dependent upon that
of the great religious house which dominated its life, came at times
more than an echo of passing stirring events. Not far distant from it
on occasion were enacted some great and strenuous events of history.
The Wars of the Roses, and later the storm and stress of the coming
Armada, amongst them. Tor Abbey, indeed, has more than a legendary
connexion with the destruction of the great fleet of Philip of Spain,
for upon the capture of the Spanish flagship _Capitana_, the huge
vessel and her crew were given over into the care of Sir John Gilbert
and George Cary, an ancestor of the Sir George who became the purchaser
of the Abbey. The prisoners, numbering upwards of 400, were landed, and
confined in the granary of the Abbey, which in consequence even to-day
is known as the Spanish barn. For these and other services, including
the command of a couple of regiments raised for the defence of the
country, Cary was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.

It is only a little more than a century and a quarter ago that Torquay
commenced to attract attention as a place of any importance, at this
period its modern history may be said to begin. Certainly as late as
the third quarter of the eighteenth century it was little more than
a small village with perhaps a couple of inns, and a few houses of a
better sort on the heights. But soon the importance of the Bay, the
trade with Newfoundland which had come into being, and the fishing
industry in which a considerable number of people were now engaged,
caused the inhabitants of neighbouring inland villages to gravitate
to Torre--as it was then commonly called. There was at this period,
too, a quay of some size and convenience, and it was chiefly in the
neighbourhood of this that the new houses were built, so that the life
of the rapidly growing town centred round the quay. About this time the
place was called Fleet or Fleete, which, derived from the Saxon, means
a spot where the tide comes up; and for some time this name (preserved
nowadays in that of its principal street) remained unchanged. Then at
length Tor Key--modernized into Torquay--came into common use, and
eventually entirely superseded the older name.

There is little record of the growth of the place at this particular
period, but somewhere towards the close of the eighteenth century,
the fleet being stationed in the bay, a need arose for more houses,
and of a better class, for the use of the officers of the fleet and
their families and dependents. These were principally erected along
that part of the foreshore which is nowadays known as the Strand, and
soon, we are told, people from a distance, chiefly civilians, were
enticed hither either by the inducements offered by trade, or by the
growing reputation of the place as a beautiful and healthy spot. In
those seemingly very remote days the whole of the site on which the
town now stands was a series of meadows, wooded heights, dells, and
apple orchards. “On the hills above Tor Key,” one writer states, “are
woods of greatest charm, split asunder here and there by tiny streams,
or clearing where some one of enterprise is about to erect a house....
The meadows in the lower part are fragrant with flowers, and dotted
with kine, and in spring time there is a show of apple blossom in the
orchards not excelled by any other in the West Countrie....” It is
difficult, indeed, now, after little more than a hundred years, for
the visitor to Torquay to quite realize that the large, well-built,
and commercially prosperous town consisted then of but a handful of
scattered houses set amid pastures and virgin woods.

By the end of the eighteenth century, two streets of houses existed,
one known as George Street, the other as Cane’s Lane (afterwards
renamed Swan Street), and the population which a few years before
probably numbered only a few score of persons, reached almost to four
figures. The first decade of the nineteenth century saw progress of a
rapid character, and by 1803 several new streets had been added to the
growing town--notably on the Quay, Strand, and on the ground now known
as Torwood Street--notwithstanding the alarm which was at the time so
prevalent concerning Napoleon’s projected descent upon the English

In no part of the country was the affright more keen than at Torquay,
which by many was supposed to be the objective of the fleet which was
gathering across the Channel for the purpose of invading our shores.
So seriously, indeed, was the possibility of Napoleon’s descent
considered, that a meeting was held for the purpose of arranging for
the speedy exodus of the women, aged, and children, should the French
appear in the bay. It was arranged that the infirm, and all children
who were not able to walk a distance of ten miles in a day, should in
event of necessity be assembled at a specified place, from whence they
were to be driven to Dartmoor in vehicles. Happily for the future of
Torquay, Napoleon’s scheme did not materialize, and three years or so
later Sir Lawrence Palk constructed the harbour, which was ultimately
to form the inner basin. This work gave a considerable impetus to
the sea trade and commerce of the place, which in the same year was
honoured by the visit of the Princess of Wales, daughter of George III.

Other Royal visits are recorded, during which encomiums were lavished
upon the beauty of the town by the distinguished visitors, one of whom
referred to it as “an earthly paradise.” But even so favoured a spot
could not escape the distress which afflicted the country when in
1846 the harvest failed and bread was in consequence at almost famine
prices. Added to this misfortune came one of the severest winters
known for many years. In May of the following year Bread Riots broke
out, and several bakers’ shops were broken into and looted by the
starving mob. The Riot Act was read in Torquay, troops were hurried
into the town from Exeter, and some three hundred special constables
were sworn in, whilst H.M.S. _Adelaide_ and _Vulcan_ landed bluejackets
and coastguards, with the result that numerous arrests were made, and
the riots were soon quelled. Torquay citizens of those days would not
appear to have been very amenable to law and order, for only twenty
years later much the same scenes were enacted, the Riot Act was once
more read, and some considerable disturbance and destruction of
property took place.

The history of the town from that time onward, however, has been
uneventful save for the visits of Royal personages of various
nationalities (including the late Queen Victoria, who was at Torquay
on several occasions during her long reign) and the usual events of a
local character which go to make up the life of a fashionable seaside
health and holiday resort. But in 1870 an event occurred which was to
have a great and lasting influence upon the development of the town.
In that year the harbour, which had been constructed by Sir Lawrence
Palk, afterwards raised to the peerage as Lord Haldon, was opened, and
this marked the beginning of Torquay’s rise as one of the favourite and
most important yachting stations in the West Country. The cost of the
harbour works was upwards of £70,000, and seventeen years later they
were acquired by the local authorities, who have spent at various times
a further sum of £100,000 upon them, and nowadays the harbour ranks as
one of the best artificial havens of the south coast.

Few seaside towns of the size of Torquay we imagine have been the
temporary home of so many poets, or have been so “sung” of in what
formerly was called “tuneful numbers.”

One of the earliest to describe the town’s beauties in verse was
probably the once well-known Dr Booker, who in the year of Waterloo
published a poetic effusion entitled _Torquay_, which was of a
flattering prophetic nature, if somewhat commonplace in expression.
He was succeeded by the Rev. Joseph Reeve; Edmund Carrington, the
author of a rhymed account of the small talk and scandal of the town
in the early forties, which (probably because of the latter feature)
had a marked success; Matthew Bridges, whose poetic work was of a
considerably higher order than that we have already named; John A.
Blackie, whose work gained the commendation of some distinguished
critics; and of later poets mention must be made of F. B. Doveton, who
has written many verses of local significance.

Torquay has especial interest for admirers of Charles Kingsley, as
it was here that he came in 1855 to live in a cottage at Livermead,
overlooking the Bay. As the author of _Yeast_ and _Alton Locke_, he
appears to have become anathema to the orthodox inhabitants of the then
rising watering place, an attitude which was fostered and encouraged
by the then Bishop of Exeter, who seems to have regarded Kingsley as
a particularly dangerous and outrageous heretic. The local clergy
followed the Bishop’s lead, with the result that not only were all
the churches of the neighbourhood closed to Kingsley so far as his
preaching or officiating in them was concerned, but he was completely

His biographer states that it was the magnificent view of Torbay which
was spread out before him from his cottage windows that led him to
meditate upon the historic scenes which had been enacted on the face of
those ever-changing waters, and ultimately gave him the germ idea for
his famous romance _Westward Ho!_

Of the many other famous poets and authors who have been dwellers in
the beautiful town may be mentioned Tennyson, who came in 1840; Lord
Lytton, who took a villa on the hillside above Rock Walk in 1856, and
spent every winter in it till his death in 1873; Elizabeth Barrett
Browning, who before her marriage lived several years in the town;
James Anthony Froude; Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, who came
here to visit an old widow lady (who eventually left him her fortune)
many times in the fifties and early sixties; Robert Louis Stevenson;
Henry James; John Ruskin, and many others.

It is with real regret that most yachtsmen leave Torquay and the
beautiful bay which lies between Hope’s Nose to the north and Berry
Head to the south. A bay whose magnificent anchorage would have
merited, one would think, the founding upon its shores of a city like
Plymouth or Portsmouth, given over to naval construction and service
of the State. But strangely enough, with the exception of the holiday
resorts of Torquay and quaint Paignton, and the little fishing port of
Brixham, it embraces no large town or port. This circumstance must be
a matter for wonderment, as one either gazes out over the beautiful
expanse of water from the heights of Warberry Hill, or crosses it when
bound further westward.

The reason, however, is not far to seek, when one considers the former
conditions of life and property upon the coast. The ports, which
far back in the centuries had sprung into gradual existence, had
now to serve more than the purpose of affording a safe anchorage in
“dirty” weather. Those were the days of that predatory naval warfare,
which proved so great a scourge to commerce in the Channel, when the
sister counties of Devon and Cornwall, and even that of Dorset to a
less degree, were ever at issue with the Breton sea rovers. It was,
therefore, essential that a great port should form a defence against
the attacks of men as well as a protection from the elements. Thus it
happened that whilst Falmouth, Dartmouth, Fowey, and Plymouth grew into
flourishing shipping centres, Torbay (in which a fleet of battleships
could ride secure in most winds), with its widely opened mouth, did not
offer the double security that the troublous times demanded.

Hither, in the early centuries of the Christian era, came, doubtless,
Roman and Danish galleys, devastating the coast; and in later times
the daring pirates and privateers out of St Malo, Morlaix, Brest, and
other French ports, “who lay in wait like sea spiders under the safe
anchorage of Berry head, for merchantmen bound up Channel, or making
for Dartmouth.”

De Tourville’s fleet itself, before detaching vessels for the attack
upon and destruction of Teignmouth, lay here in full sight of the
terrified inhabitants, who fled inland in fear of capture and
confinement in French prisons or the galleys. In later years the bay
and neighbourhood, with its coves and creeks, provided just the kind of
retirement and shelter beloved of the smugglers, whose daring exploits
made the Devon and Cornish coasts famous at the end of the eighteenth
and beginning of the nineteenth centuries.

It was in Torbay, too, that the _Bellerophon_, commanded by Captain
Maitland, with the captive Napoleon aboard, anchored in August of 1815
to permit the prisoner’s transfer to the _Northumberland_, commanded by
Admiral Sir George Cockburn. It will, therefore, be seen that the bay
has played its part in the drama of history, even though it has missed
its destiny as the centre or base of extensive commerce, or naval
activity and life.

Brixham is but a short half hour’s sail in a good breeze from Torquay.
It is a picturesque (if somewhat “fishy”) little town with the houses
set West Country-wise, in the sides of a chine, and the principal
street, known as Fore Street, descending steeply to the harbour itself.
Like Torquay, Brixham was originally an agricultural village, which,
as time went on, gradually crept down to the water’s edge, until its
foundations were almost set in the sea, the result being that its
inhabitants in time abandoned the tilling of the soil for the harvest
of the sea. Nowadays these number nearly nine thousand, most of whom
are fisherfolk, or in some way connected with the fishing industry.
The Brixham trawling fleet has been painted so often, that it must be
perfectly familiar to most readers. Of its picturesque charm for both
brush and camera, there can be little question. In the little harbour,
which unfortunately for yachting folk is dry at low water, there is
no room for the upwards of two hundred and fifty trawlers which, with
their graceful lines and red-brown sails, form such paintable groups at
their moorings in the outer harbour, just off the Victoria Breakwater,
where they are obliged to lie.

Brixham was anciently a manor in the possession of the Pomeroys of
Berry Pomeroy, but on its sale at the end of the seventeenth century
was split up into a number of small lots, not a few of which were
acquired by the more wealthy farmers, merchants, and fisherfolk. These
portions were, as time went on, subdivided and split up again either by
sale or other means, till at the present time the ancient manor is held
by some two hundred persons, all of whom are known as Quay Lords or
Quay Ladies, according to their sex.

Brixham men are “characters.” Centuries of traffic upon the great
waters has given them those features and idiosyncrasies which usually
distinguish fisherfolk and seamen at large. But to these must be added
a certain element of swaggering independence, which has doubtless come
down to them from ancestors engaged in periodical struggles with the
French privateers, and the hardy race of smugglers for which the coast
was notorious less than a century ago.

The town is just one of those irregularly built picturesque
congregations of houses--few of them large--which one finds in the West
Country, where the water runs up into the land, and a fishing industry
has been created. Many of the buildings have little flights of steps
running up to them, rendered necessary by the different levels at which
dwellings are placed even in the same street; whilst the fish cellars
are everywhere, and the odour of fish is triumphant over the fresh
winds from the sea, as well as the perfumed breezes which sometimes
fall upon the town from the heights of Guzzle Down.

There are other industries, however, besides the capture of fish
(“the best fish along the coast,” as all Brixham men asseverate with
unnecessary strength of language), for there is boat building on a
considerable scale, net making, and not a few of the womenfolk of the
place are employed in knitting the heavy woollen jerseys which seem the
staple garments of the fishermen of the coasts.

Though much of the history of Brixham is obscure, the town has,
nevertheless, played an important part in at least two events of
historical importance. It was into Brixham that the Elizabethan
sea-dog, Sir Francis Drake, sent the first of the galleons captured
from Spain when the Armada was skurrying up Channel amid the constant
boom of cannon and the smoke of burning vessels, with the bull dogs of
Drake, Howard, and Hawkins hanging on its flanks. And it was in Brixham
fishing boats (the name of one, the _Roebuck_, has come down to us), of
whose fleetness Drake had doubtless heard, that he sent the priceless
powder taken from the galleon’s magazine to the English ships, which
were keeping up that eight days’ running fight, July 21-29, 1588, upon
the ultimate result of which the fate of England depended.

It was to Brixham, just a hundred and one years later, that William of
Orange came, when, on the morning of the fifth of November, 1688, his
fleet appeared in the offing off the coasts of Devon. A contemporary
account tells us how the morning was foggy, with a thick sea haze, but
that later in the day (as though for a good omen) “the sun dissipated
the fog, insomuch that it proved a very pleasant day.”

One can imagine how the country folk from far and wide came flocking
to the capes and headlands of the Devon shore, straining their eyes
to catch a glimpse of the coming ships. Some, we learn from the same
diarist, thought the fleet was French, “because they saw divers white
flags, but the standard of the Prince, the motto of which was ‘For the
Protestant religion and liberty,’ soon undeceived them.” Then the fleet
entered Torbay, and coming off Brixham, the Prince’s barge was lowered,
and he was rowed ashore amid scenes of enthusiasm and the sound of
cannon; for we are told, “the Admiral of Rotterdam gave divers guns at
his landing.”

The Prince, his guards, and sundry lords were speedily ashore and
received a warm welcome.

It would appear, however, to be a mere legendary story which tells us
that he stopped the weigh of his barge when still some distance from
the shore, and called out to the people who stood waiting on the quay,
“If I am welcome, come and carry me to land,” and that thereupon a
little man plunged into the water and carried William on his back;
at any rate, it finds no place in the authority we have quoted, who
appears to have been a keen and accurate observer, unlikely to omit an
incident of such importance.

[Illustration: BRIXHAM]

We can gather from this writer a very vivid picture of the scene. The
people came running out of their houses to welcome the Deliverer....
And then the Prince, with Marshal Schomberg, and many lords, knights,
and gentlemen, marched through the narrow streets up the hillside,
whilst those aboard the fleet in the Bay could watch the progress of
the procession by means of the flags and banners waving above the
house-tops; whilst cheers, music and huzzas floated down and across
the water to the ships at anchor. A vivid touch which places
before one like a picture the conflicting interests, sympathies, and
forces of those troublous times is afforded by a description in which
the Catholic as against the Protestant attitude is exemplified. The
causes of the rejoicings at Protestant Brixham were construed quite
differently by a priest in the house of Mr Carey (probably the owner
or a relative of the owner of Cockington) near Torquay, for we are
told “This priest going to recreate himself upon the leads, it being
a delightsome day, as he was walking there, he happened to cast his
eye upon the sea, and espying the fleet at a distance, withal being
purblind in his eyes, as well as blinded by Satan in his mind, he
presently concludes that ’twas the French navy come to land the sons of
Belial which should cut off the children of God.” Naturally transported
by joy and excitement he descended from his point of vantage to tell
the occupants of the house, who, being Catholics, had doubtless been
“parlously low in their spirits since the flight of the King; and now
rejoiced greatly with him.” These unfortunate people seem to have
celebrated the (as they supposed) happy event by merry-making, and also
the singing of a Te Deum. But their joy was short lived, for ere sunset
they learned that it was the fleet of William of Orange and not of
Louis XIV they had seen.

By nightfall over fifteen thousand Dutch troops and mercenaries were
safely landed, made up of some twenty-six regiments, and one of the
most astonishing things in connexion with the coming of the Prince
is the indifference with which the landing of such a large body of
foreign troops was regarded by the inhabitants, who welcomed the
soldiers as though feeling secure from injury, material or otherwise,
and brought in supplies of food for the men, and fodder for the horses
with alacrity. In a few days the gentry round about, who on William’s
landing had held aloof for the moment to consult as to whom they should
support, James the fugitive or William the present, decided on the
latter course, and the country was bloodlessly conquered.

Near the harbour where the Prince landed now stands a memorial statue
of him, erected to celebrate the bi-centenary of the event.

Since that foggy morning in November, now more than two centuries
ago, Brixham has been little disturbed by any events of historical
importance. Twenty-five years after William’s landing, on the death
of Queen Anne, a French warship suddenly appeared off the port and
fired three guns. On board was the Stuart Duke of Ormonde, who had
conceived the bold idea of effecting a landing there in support of the
Old Pretender. The attempt failed, as no one came to his support, and
the enterprising nobleman was forced (lest he should be captured by a
vessel of the English fleet) to make a hasty departure for the French

During the Napoleonic wars Brixham benefited in a measure from the
victualling of the warships of the fleet which were frequently in
the bay, and suffered, too, from the depredations of the pressgang;
otherwise it must have been much the place that it is now, a quaint,
straggling, narrow-streeted, picturesque fishing village, loved rather
by artists than other folk.

Chapter VIII

Dartmouth--Kingsbridge--Plymouth and the Sound

Past Berry Head, with its crown of golden gorse, its cave known as Ash
Hole, supposed to have been the burial place of soldiers of Cæsar’s
legions, and the house upon its lower slopes which, during the great
French Wars with Napoleon, was used as a hospital, and was afterwards
given to the poet Lyte by King William IV, one is soon in sight of
the rugged pinnacle rock or islet known as the Mewstone, which stands
like a sentinel on guard, just outside the entrance to the Dart. The
scenery from Berry Head southward is of a very different character from
that which distinguishes the coast from Sidmouth to Brixham. The calm
loveliness of red cliffs, rich with vegetation, hung with creepers,
thick with ferns, and gently fissured, is replaced by rock scenery
which grows grander and more beautiful as it becomes more sombre and
rugged, whilst in the background are the fertile heights of Devon
sloping steeply to the cliffs and many groups of outlying rocks off
shore, against which the emerald and indigo sea laps in summer and
roars in winter.

As one draws in closer with the land, one is not slow to realize the
popularity and importance of Dartmouth and the Dart estuary as a haven
and as a port in the strenuous days of old. Even nowadays one might be
within a mile or so of the entrance, and yet remain in ignorance of the
existence of a town of any size, and only suspect it by the presence
of vessels inward or outward bound. The Dart provided just such a
quiet and secure haven as in the days when the Channel was infested
with privateers and even less reputable craft was essential to the
sea-going community of these shores.

Around the river which, rising in the centre of wild and lovely
Dartmoor, then wandering across bogs, plains, and fertile valleys, and
past picturesque towns and villages, finds ultimately so lovely an
outlet into the sea, poets and novelists have woven their webs of song
and fancy, whilst famous artists have recorded its wonderful charm and
beauty upon their canvases. If not one of the most historic rivers of
the British Isles, the Dart may yet claim to be one of those around
which romance and imagination have been most closely entwined. One
cannot talk to Devonians long without becoming aware of the high place
that this changeful river holds in their affections. “It is the most
personal stream I have ever known,” a well-known angler has said. “I
have traversed it from almost its source to its end, where at Totnes
the fresh water meets the salt after a course through moorland bogs,
wide-spreading uplands, and valleys where its brownish waters come
rushing and leaping down, and where shady pools, fit homes of silvery
trout and salmon, tempt the angler to pause. Throughout its often
turbulent course there is nothing monotonous; almost every inch of it
is lovely in its own peculiar way. It is, indeed, a Queen of rivers,
though the native mind ascribes to it the gender of the opposite sex.”

The first glimpse one has of Dartmouth when approaching it from the sea
is the ancient castle of St Petrox standing opposite the ruins of its
mate of long ago on the Kingswear side. Then one catches a vista--how
charming whether in sunshine or when the mists of early morning hang
grey-blue above the houses, and have yet to be dissipated by the sun’s
rays--of the old town which lies almost hidden behind a green slope
of land ending in a cliff. Past the ancient castle, built on the
edge of the cliff and surrounded by the most delightful woods, where
a picturesque old church seems as though almost about to fall into
the water from its apparently perilous site on the very edge of the
precipice, past villas nestling amid the trees, and rocky shores, past
tiny coves, and slaty cliffs, bare except where trees, saplings, or
ferns cling to make them beautiful, one comes at last on jade-coloured
water, to the town, grey-looking and sheltered by high cliffs and downs
behind it, built sheer up from the edge of the river itself.

There, amid lofty hills on either side of the widening river or the
arm of the sea (whichever one pleases to call it) lies what has been
described as “the most beautiful and fascinating town in all Devon.”
Prince, the famous vicar of Berry Pomeroy, whose book, so full of the
Devonian spirit, if somewhat bombastic and ill-balanced in style, may
yet be read with profit by those to whom the history of the past of
“the fighting, glorious county of Devon,” has an interest, describes
it thus, and the description save for a few minor details holds good
to-day. Dartmouth, he says, is “a large and populous town, situated on
the southern side of a very steep hill, which runneth east to west at
considerable length of near a mile, whereby the houses as you pass on
the water seem pensile (pendent), and hang along in rows like gallipots
in an apothecary’s shop; so high and steep is it that you go from the
lower to the higher parts thereof by stairs, and from the bottom to the
top requires no less than a hundred.”

Seen from the water near the _Britannia_ the old town is indeed
charming, with the picturesquely irregular and weathered roofs of
the older houses rising tier upon tier, and the grey-blue smoke of
chimneys hanging like a perpetual and kindly veil softening crudities
of architecture and adding pictorial charm. There are many quaint
houses, more especially those built by Hayman about 1634-1640, in
the Butterwalk, with the huge, pointed gables and overhanging upper
stories wedded to modern fronted shops, in which are displayed “Paris
fashions” and up-to-date goods that at first seem out of character with
such surroundings. There is, indeed, much of interest for the artist
and antiquarian in Dartmouth streets and by-ways, just as at almost
every turn ashore and on the surface of the beautiful land-locked
harbour there is something to arrest the attention of the casual

Much of the history of this ancient and interesting town is obscured
by the mists of the ages which have passed since the first settlement
was made upon the western shore of the lovely river. But we know that
the waters “upon which Roman triremes and Danish galleys, and later
huge captured galleons swung with the tide,” saw also the assembling
together, at the close of the twelfth century, of the Crusaders’ fleet,
which sailed the long voyage through the Bay to the Mediterranean to
join Richard Cœur de Lion at Messina.

Two centuries later the adventurous spirit which has always animated
the men of Devon in general, and of Dartmouth in particular, found
vent in one of those predatory expeditions against the coasts of
Normandy and Brittany for which the place was afterwards to gain so
renowned a name. In the last year of the fourteenth century one John
Hawley, deciding upon an “enterprise against those pestilent rogues
the French,” chartered all the shipping of which Dartmouth could boast
for this purpose, and in retaliation for the depredations of “the
French pirates upon the coasts of Devon,” set sail for the shores of
Normandy and Brittany. How successful this enterprising merchant’s
little private naval war turned out may be judged from the fact that he
and his captains, or they for him, captured thirty-four French ships
with their cargoes amounting to 1,500 tuns of wine. It is little to be
wondered at that after the return of the ships Dartmouth “ran red with
the luscious wines of France, and that none need go dry so long as they
would drink success to the bold men of the Dart and confusion to the

Such expeditions as that of Hawley, however, were sure to have their
counterpart in retaliatory descents by the French; and the history of
the town--during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries especially--if
written, would be one long story of daring and piratical adventures
on the part of the men of the Dart, and surprises and alarms from the
French, who on several occasions visited the town and plundered it.

Nature herself would appear, however, to have given some excuse for
these piracies (for to call them aught else would be but the merest
euphemism) in that she had provided a haven so admirably adapted not
only as a base from which to set forth upon such expeditions, but also
as a refuge which though so commodious could yet, on account of its
narrow entrance, be easily defended. In the reign of Edward IV the
burgesses entered into an agreement with their Royal master for the
provision of a “stronge and mightye and defensyve new tower” (now known
as Dartmouth Castle) from which a chain was to be stretched in time of
need to one on the opposite, Kingswear, side of the harbour’s mouth,
for the purpose of keeping out the King’s enemies, the French pirates,
and other marauders, the King agreeing to pay the sum of £30 per annum
for ever for this service, a large amount, when one considers the
difference in the value of money then and now.

That Dartmouth seamen early became famous is abundantly proved by the
circumstance that it was a captain hailing from this western port who
was selected by the immortal Chaucer as one of the characters to ride
in company with the Cook, Prioress, Doctor of Physic, the Franklin, the
Frere, and all the rest of that band of Canterbury pilgrims of long
ago. Amongst the many “pen portraits” he has given us, few, probably,
excel in strength and truth that of the Shipman “of Dertemouthe”;
which, after reading the history, and conning the traditions of the
town in the stirring times of long ago, one can readily accept as
typical of many of the men who, pirates though they were, did their
part to fight the battles of England, and uphold the noblest traditions
of a sturdy seafaring race.

[Illustration: DARTMOUTH]

Chaucer extenuates nothing as he writes (painting a picture of the man,
his day, and surroundings at one and the same time):

    A Shipman was ther, wonynge fer by weste;
    For ought I woot he was of Dertemouthe.
    He rood upon a rouncy as he kouthe,
    In a gowne of faldyng to the knee.
    A daggere hangynge on a laas hadde he
    About his nekke under his arm adoun.
    The hoote somer hadde maad his hewe al broun;
    And certeinly he was a good felawe.
    Ful many a draughte of wyn hadde he y-drawe
    Fro Burdeuxward whil that the Chapman sleepe,
    Of nyce conscience took he no keepe.
    If that he faught, and hadde the hyer hond;
    By water he sente hem hoom to every lond.
    But of his craft to rekene wel his tydes,
    His stremes and his daungers hym bisides,
    His herberwe and his moone, his lodemenage,
    Ther nas noon swich from Hulle to Cartage.
    Hardy he was, and wys to undertake:
    With many a tempest hadde his berd been shake;
    He knew wel alle the havenes, as they were,
    From Gootland to the Cape of Fynystere,
    And every cryke in Britaigne and in Spayne.
    His barge y-cleped was the Maudelayne.[E]

      [E] Chaucer’s _Canterbury Tales_ (Macmillan’s Globe

The picture that Chaucer thus paints of the “Shipman of Dertemouthe,”
though it probably was a portrait, nevertheless was also true of the
seamen in those far-off times of almost every sea-going nation, when
the right of the ocean was ever that of the strongest, and the only
law that obtained with the sea-dogs of England, France, Holland, or
Spain was that of might. Whatever the squeamish amongst historians
or moralists may say, the bold sea rovers were a natural evolutionary
growth of the life on the coasts, and those of Dartmouth amongst the
best. But half-a-day’s sail in a swift craft away across the Channel
lay a portion of France not less fitted by Nature to breed pirates
and later on privateers than the fretted coast lines of Devon and
Cornwall with their myriad coves and refuges, to which the bold seamen
could retreat with their plunder, or to make good the damage of battle
or breeze. Just as the sister counties we have mentioned bred their
hordes of sea-rovers, so did the coasts of Brittany and Finistère. The
instinct of piracy and wrecking dominated both English and Bretons
alike, and indeed it was well for England that the bold spirits of
Cherbourg, St-Malo, Morlaix, and Brest (to mention but a few places
where such dwelt) were counterparted by those of Dartmouth, Plymouth,
Fowey, and Penzance.

The men of these ports not only fought when compelled, but (to quote
an old chronicle) “lusted exceedingly after the blood and treasure of
the French corsairs, and other sea rovers.” That the men of Dartmouth
were as doughty fighters ashore as afloat is testified by Walsingham
(amongst others) in his _Chronicle_. In this vivid, and let us hope
veracious, record one finds an account of the attack upon Dartmouth
by Du Chastel, who planned a descent upon the south-western coasts
generally, as well as an attack upon Dartmouth in particular, in
revenge for the depredations of the men of that port on the Breton
coast. The news of Du Chastel’s intention seems to have leaked out, for
when some hundreds of Bretons had been landed with the intention of
attacking from the land side at the same time that their friends made
an attempt from the sea, the former found that the men of the Dart were
prepared to receive them, having entrenched themselves to the number of
several hundred behind a deep ditch.

The women of the town seem to have borne an Amazonian part in the
defence of their hearths and homes, for we learn that they fought
stoutly, “using slings with dire effect, so that many of the invaders,
both knights and common men fell beneath their missiles into the said
ditch.” These and many others were summarily killed by the men, who
appear to have given no quarter even if it were asked. On this occasion
as on many others the men of Devon proved themselves as well able to
defend their homes and possessions as to ravage and take those of other
people, and the French, after losing upwards of 400 killed and wounded,
and leaving another 200 or so of their comrades prisoners in the hands
of the Dartmouth folk, were compelled to seek refuge in their ships as
best they could, and ultimately to abandon the idea of attacking other
towns on the coast, and return to their own shores.

Scarcely a year elapsed, however, ere the Bretons were back again, and
this time, unhappily for the men of the Dart, the news of their coming
did not precede them. Dartmouth was surprised, an entrance was forced,
the town burned, and many--both men and women--were slain. Thus, in the
stirring times of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, ebbed and
flowed the fortune of piratical warfare between the hereditary foes of
the sea-coasts of Brittany and Devon.

But Dartmouth men and Dartmouth ships were never idle, nor were they
always engaged upon mere filibustering expeditions. In the hearts
of Devon seamen the flame of patriotism has ever burned, and so on
more than one occasion they came in the nick of time to the aid
of England, and embarked upon enterprises of national, not merely
personal, significance and importance. It was so half a century before
the expeditions to Brittany, which brought about the descent of Du
Chastel and his force. Then, in 1385, after the death of Edward III
and his warlike son Edward the Black Prince, the French were planning
one of the periodical invasions of England, which on a grand scale
were always doomed to failure, and the English admirals and generals
seemed to have become indifferent, or were, perhaps, worn out by the
long years of fruitless fighting in Guienne, Poitou, and Brittany.
It was then that the Dartmouth men gathered their ships together,
and regardless of treaties or the lack of national support, swept up
the Channel, forced their way into the mouth of the Seine, where the
French fleet was being brought together, and preparations for the
invasion were going on, attacked the enemy, sank several of the ships,
and carried off with them back to Dartmouth four others, including,
Walsingham tells us, a knight’s barge, filled with spoil rich enough to
satisfy the greediest freebooter. This undertaking of Dartmouth folk
was of national importance; although such events were usually much more
of the nature of merchants’ speculations or piracy, which seldom failed
to bring about retribution from the equally bold and enterprising
Bretons. Indeed, there would appear good reason for supposing that
the right to levy “private warfare” was at least tacitly admitted
by both English and French rulers of the period, for in an ancient
volume bearing upon the subject one finds a distinct statement that at
least one English Sovereign, Edward III to wit, aided and abetted his
subjects in this matter, the excuse given being the laxity of the then
Duke of Brittany in restraining his subjects from similar depredations.
Three ports are mentioned, Dartmouth being one, to which the King
afforded “help and notable puissance upon pety Bretayne for to warre.”

It may be remarked in passing that men who had been bred of corsair
stock, who had learned the value of courage and the lust of battle
on the open sea, and the fascination of pillage and rapine as early
as they learned anything, needed little official encouragement to
undertake and continue the predatory warfare beloved and followed
so sturdily by their forbears. Whatever one’s opinion as to the
lawfulness or otherwise of such marauding habits, which often, it may
be admitted, told severely on the innocent, it is well to remember the
historical fact that these sea-rovers of the West of England formed
the nucleus of the British Navy, and the thews and sinews of the power
which enabled England in after years to flout the great Armada of
Philip of Spain, and to stand alone when Europe bowed before the crash
of dynasties, and trembled beneath the tread of Napoleon’s legions.

Out of the murk of piracy and lawless freebooting upon the coasts of
France and Spain was destined to emerge centuries later the material
from which were drawn the navy of Nelson, and the victors of Trafalgar,
and of many another hard fought fight, men indomitable when engaged
at long odds; enterprising and courageous when traversing in solitude
unknown seas and unknown lands; chivalrous (yes, chivalrous in measure)
when a gallant foe yielded; full of belief in the overruling Providence
which had set Britain in the midst of the waters that she might
throughout all the jugglery of Empires and nations remain free.

In the State papers and ships’ log-books which we have seen may be
found material for all the romances that can ever be written of daring
doings in the narrow seas, of the pirates, and afterwards of the
privateers and smugglers who sailed out of Devon and Cornish ports and
coves, and made the Channel during several centuries, war or no war
with France and Spain, almost impossible of safe passage to merchantmen
of the latter nations, except when strongly convoyed.

Of many of the stirring scenes which the port of Dartmouth must have
witnessed, there are unfortunately few historical records. But we know
that it was visited by several of the early Kings. Here, too, in Saxon
times came Sweyn, son of Godwyn, into whose hands Earl Beorn fell a
prisoner, and by him was afterwards put to death about 1049. It was to
Dartmouth that the “Red King” William Rufus came in hot haste from his
hunting of the deer on Dartmoor in 1099, after receiving the news of
the siege of Mans, Dartmouth being the nearest port from which he could

Just upon a century later, in 1190, came Richard Cœur de Lion with his
army of knights and Crusaders obsessed by the necessity for slaying
infidels, and of themselves dying in a far-off land. King John came to
Dartmouth more than once, notably in 1214, after his defeat at Roche
aux Moines in Anjou. It is this monarch, Leland states, who gave a
charter to the town, confirmed in the succeeding reign by Henry III,
although another writer, Merewether, states that in 1319 the town set
up a claim as having been free in the reign of Henry I early in the
twelfth century.

A less pleasant visitor of Royal blood was Prince Maurice, nephew
of Charles I, who besieged and took the town in 1643, the Royalists
losing possession three years later, when General Fairfax and his
Parliamentarians stormed and captured the place after considerable loss
of life and destruction of property. Charles I was here in 1643, and
(so tradition asserts) held his court in a room of one of the houses in
the Butterwalk, and Charles II visited the place after his Restoration,
some say with fair Mistress Gwynne in his suite.

But after all it is not to Royal folk that Dartmouth owed its fame
in years gone by, but to the sturdy seafarers of whom the famous
navigating sons of Devon, Adrian Gilbert, who (to quote a letter of
Queen Elizabeth herself) “doth travail and seeke, and by divers meanes
indeavoureth and laboureth that the passage unto China and the Isles
of the Moluccas by the northwestward may be known”; Martin Frobisher,
and John Davis of Sandridge; Francis Drake, and John Hawkins are but a
few. It was to John Davis that the task of discovering the sea route
concerning which Sir Humphrey Gilbert (the brother of Adrian) wrote
a _Discourse_ “to prove a Passage by the North-West to Cathay and the
East Indies” was entrusted. In all he made three voyages, in 1585,
1586, and 1587, in vessels which are well described in Chaucer’s words,
“little bote(s) no bigger than a manne’s thought”; and afterwards we
are told that he sailed into southern seas, and eventually was killed
by the Malaccan pirates with whom he had had more than one “brush,”
leaving behind him a permanent memorial in the name of Davis’s Straits
between Greenland and Baffin Land.

To Queen Elizabeth herself some credit must be given for the
encouragement and stimulus her patronage afforded these hazardous
enterprises; and if it was because of the reflected glory which would
accrue to her, or even direct monetary profit, well, what matter?

In Hakluyt one finds how “certain honourable personages and worthy
gentlemen of the Court and Country, with divers worshipful merchants of
London and the West Countrie, moved with desire to advance God’s glory,
and to seek the good of their native country, consulting together
of the likelihood of the discovery of the North-West Passage, which
heretofore has been attempted, but unhappily given over by accidents
unlooked for ... resolved, after good deliberation, to put down their
adventures, to provide for necessary shipping, and a fit man to be
chief conductor of this so hard an enterprise.” Then we are told how
one Master William Sanderson, merchant, of London, became the greatest
of the adventurers in respect of the money he provided, and how he
commended to those who had the adventure in hand one Master John Davis,
“a man very well grounded in the principales and art of navigation,” as
captain and chief pilot of the expedition. One can imagine the meetings
of the adventurers in London, and the zest with which the gentlemen of
the Court, the Queen’s representatives, secret or open, and the worthy
merchants, conned “sea-cards,” the charts of Master Martin Frobisher’s
voyages of a few years before, and the learned and closely reasoned
discourse of Sir Humphrey Gilbert himself regarding the existence of
the Passage. It may be that among these was the chart of friar Andro
Urdaneta, which Sir Humphrey Gilbert states was “made by his own
(Urdaneta’s) experience and travel ... wherein was plainly set down
and described this North-West Passage,” agreeing in all points with
Ortelius’ map.

And then there were the preparations at Dartmouth itself. The gathering
together of a “company of goodlie seamen, not easily turned from any
good purpose, and strong withal in their determination to serve the
Queene’s Most Excellent Majestie and their countrie well and faithfully
in this adventure”; the selection of ships and the fitting out of the
same. They who adventured forth on long voyages in those days indeed
needed stout hearts, for to the perils of the deep and the unknown were
added those of possible starvation and drought.

But at length everything was ready, and (again quoting Hakluyt’s vivid
pages) “all things being put in readiness, we departed from Dartmouth
the 7th of June towards the discovery of the aforesaid North-West
Passage with two barques, the one being fifty tons, named the
_Sunshine_ of London; and the other being of thirty-five tons, named
the _Moonshine_, of Dartmouth. In the _Sunshine_ we had twenty-three
persons, Master John Davis, captain.... The _Moonshine_ had nineteen
persons, William Bruton, captain.”

We are further told that ere the ships dropped the land astern,
doubtless in view of risks of the voyage and difficulties of
revictualling, “the captain and the master drew out a proportion for
the continuance of our victuals.”

One can imagine with what interest the setting forth of Davis and his
adventurous companions was watched by the townsfolk on the quays,
and how doubtless scores of them took the tree-shaded path to the
bluff above the old church of St Petrox to watch the two tiny vessels
gradually pass out of sight to the west as “the wind being at north,
and being fair weather” they departed. How different in dignity and
impressiveness is this simple phrase from the fuss, fume, and noisy
announcement of the departure of modern Polar expeditions, with rampant
personal advertisement, and free “puffing” of commercial wares and

Few as were the adventurous souls in the _Sunshine_ and _Moonshine_,
there was doubtless many a sad-hearted lass in Dartmouth town that
night. And in the waterside taverns seamen foregathered over their ale
tankards and tots of rum idly speculating as to the existence of a
North-West Passage, and as to whether bold John Davis, Master Mariner,
and his men would ever see Dartmouth harbour again.

But on September 30 of the same year, when the expedition had been gone
just over three months and three weeks, Davis was back again safe and
sound with both his ships. The _Moonshine_, which had been lost sight
of on the 27th, during “a marvellous storm being come in not two hours
before” Davis’ own vessel.

His second voyage commenced from Dartmouth on May 7 in the following
year (1586); and his third on May 19, 1587.

Something of the spirit which actuated these boldly adventuring
mariners of Dartmouth and the old West Country breathes, we think, in
the words with which Sir Humphrey Gilbert closes his learned and famous

He says, “for if, through pleasure and idleness, we purchase shame, the
pleasure vanisheth, but the shame remaineth for ever.

“And, therefore, to give me leave without offence always to live and
die in this mind, that he is not worthy to live at all that for fear
of danger of death shunneth his country’s service and his own honour,
seeing death is inevitable, and the fame of virtue immortal.”

From these stirring times of great enterprises is but a step to those
which came but a year or two later, when out of Plymouth hard by
streamed Drake’s little covey of ships on their mission of engaging
the vast Armada, which even when Davis and his intrepid companions set
forth for their voyaging amid Polar ice and northern seas was a menace
that cast a shadow over the national life.

Just as the townsfolk of Dartmouth had crowded to the cliffs at the
harbour entrance to see Davis depart on his voyages, and wave him
God-speed, so climbed they once again to watch the Armada, which Philip
of Spain in his pride had named “Invincible,” “wrecking nought that God
Himself was with the English fleet and Lord Howard of Effingham,” go
surging up the Channel, flags flying, cannon belching, with “pictures
of the Holy Saints, and coats of arms wrought upon their sails”; and
the little English ships hanging to them in hot and furious pursuit.

Then came a time of comparative rest for the beautiful little port
on the Dart, which, however, as we have before stated, saw some of
the storm and stress of the Civil War. With the bold and successful
enterprises of Dartmouth privateers during the long war with Napoleon,
or with those of equally daring smugglers at the end of the eighteenth
and beginning of the nineteenth century, there is no space to deal in
detail. We need only say that the spirit which had formerly actuated
the Hawleys, Davises, Hammonds, Clintons, and Vaughans (to mention
but a few)--many of whose enterprises are set forth in the State
papers--was not now a-lacking when England experienced once more a time
of stress and need, and opportunity for personal gain walked in step
with patriotism.

The greatness of Dartmouth as a seaport has departed. In the
comparative quietude of her streets and alleys one does, however, seem
to catch as it were an echo of other and more splendid days. And in the
types one meets by the waterside and in the purlieus of the quays the
observant can yet trace something of the old seadogs who, adventuring
much, went forth in quest of new worlds and new trade routes, or roved
the Breton coasts in search of conflict and of plunder. The waters of
the harbour are nowadays, however, chiefly ploughed by pleasure craft,
white winged yachts in place of the armed sloops and fast sailing
craft, once bent on pillage, or commerce with Newfoundland and other
far countries.

In the churches--more especially those of St Clement and St
Saviour--one finds rich treasures of architecture, and of monuments
to men and women citizens of Dartmouth famous in adventure, trade, or
philanthrophy. In the former church, which dates from the fourteenth
century and was fortified during the Civil War, are numerous memorials,
the quaint inscriptions which they many of them bear, setting forth
in brief the life history of those they commemorate. But it is the
church of St Saviour, set in the middle of the quaint old town, also
work of the fourteenth century (and earlier), which is the gem of the
place. The exceptionally fine screen is said to be an Armada relic; but
whether this is so or not, it is sufficiently beautiful to merit the
closest attention and examination. All who go to Dartmouth and visit
the church should notice the south side door known as the “Dragon”
Door, quaint with wonderful representations of animals, and dating, so
it is said, from the fourteenth century or even earlier. In the altar
piece, the subject of which is “Christ raising the Widow’s Son,” one
has some of the finest of Brockedon’s work, a distinguished son of the
Dart born at Totnes. And here, too, as in St Clement’s, sleep many
whose names were writ upon the town’s roll of fame in the times when
Dartmouth gave of her best in battle and discovery.

Totnes seems so indissolubly linked with Dartmouth in history and
adventure, that few who come to the outer port with time on their
hands fail, we fancy, to find their way up the beautiful river to that
inner port, now decayed ’tis true like the outer, but yet of more than
passing interest. Of its antiquity there can be as little doubt as of
its picturesqueness; although there are those who scout the theory (or
statement) of that none too veracious chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth,
that Brutus of Troy landed at Totnes. Which story the devout townsfolk
from time out of mind have striven to keep alive by the preservation
in the pavement of quaint Fore Street of the stone upon which the
princely, world-wide wanderer is said to have rested after his landing.

In the street we have named, near the beautiful old Eastgate, which
stands half-way up its steeply climbing roadway, are some of the most
architecturally interesting houses of the town. Merchants’ palaces of
the time when Totnes was completely environed by its walls, and “its
inhabitants, even in times of trouble, could sleep at ease because
of its strong defences.” It is from the old Norman keep, built, so
’tis said, by Judhael de Totenais, that one obtains what local folk
proudly assert is the finest view in Devon. From it (let the claim pass
unchallenged) one does see a prospect of delight, widely stretching and
cultivated fields and uplands, with distant plum-hued Dartmoor on the
far horizon to the northward. To the south and in front of the lower
town is the beautiful reach of the river up which in ancient times came
the returned vessels from distant lands, richly laden with the spoil
of commerce or pillage which made the Totnes merchants, if not “rich
beyond the dreams of avarice,” yet wealthy amongst their peers.

But Totnes of to-day knows little of sea-borne commerce, and is mainly
given over to the pursuits of a country town of somewhat indifferent
enterprise, with the sole excitements afforded by recurring market
days, and the gossip of the incoming folk from the district round
about. A sharp enough contrast to the stirring days of old when
excitement and adventurous life was the distinguishing feature, and
“none could tell what each tide would bring up from the sea. News of
loss or gain, of returned or missing ships, of wealth for prosperous
merchants or disaster which might make the richest of them poor.”

In the ancient Parish Church of St Mary one has an interesting building
dating from the fifteenth century, replacing a thirteenth century
edifice which in turn stood on the site of a much earlier Norman
church. The beautifully carved screen (said by some authorities to be
the finest in Devon), and the registers which date from the middle
of the sixteenth century, and contain an astonishing amount of most
interesting information regarding the old merchant princes of the
Elizabethan and succeeding periods give St Mary’s Church an unusual
attractiveness for antiquarians and students.

In its old Guildhall, which is a portion of the old priory of St Mary,
granted to the Corporation in the reign of Edward, just behind the
church, Totnes possesses a building alive with historic memories of the
deepest interest, and containing amongst its deeds and records Rolls
of the Guilds from the year 1260, charters of many kings and queens,
some of the oldest as clear and almost as fresh as the day on which the
pens which wrote them were laid down three or four centuries ago. In
its Town Clerks of recent years--especially in Mr Ed Windeatt--Totnes
has generally been fortunate in having gentlemen by whom the old
records and treasures of the town have been appreciated and carefully
preserved. And writers and historians have found their labours much
lightened by the excellent manner in which the documents have been
collated and arranged.

Those who “know their Dart” will if possible leave this beautiful,
sleepy old town, which is set so charmingly on the hillside amid
rounded fertile uplands and many-tinted woods just before sunset. Then
the passage back to Dartmouth down the river, from the brown water
of the Dart to the gradually greening salt water of the estuary, is
one of almost indescribable and unforgettable beauty. It lies past
Sandridge where that intrepid explorer and much adventuring seaman
John Davis was born; and Greenway, where Adrian and Humphrey Gilbert
had their home. And then, just before reaching Dartmouth once more one
passes the mid-river rock of sinister appearance and tradition, known
as the Anchor, to which in former times scolding wives and disobedient
daughters were ferried and left to encounter the rising tide, and (as
we are told) if “when the water was up to their petticoats the same
remained obdurate,” were left until obstinacy yielded to wholesome fear
of a complete ducking, or worse.

As one leaves the interesting and lovely old town of Dartmouth, and
drops the estuary astern, and approaches that long, low headland, Start
Point, which lies eight miles to the south-west, one passes the stretch
of white, sandy beach, near which took place that fierce fight of long
ago between Du Chastel’s Bretons and the men and women of Dartmouth
town. On these sands, too, had landed in the autumn of 1370, another
adventurer, but of more noble kind, namely, the Earl of Warwick, the
“King Maker.”

When once Start Point, with its lighthouse and lighthouse buildings
hung upon the western side of the cliff two hundred feet in the air,
and looking in the strong light as though cut out of ivory, has been
left astern, one comes to the wild looking Prawle Point, with its
signal station, and then into the estuary of Salcombe River, leading up
to Kingsbridge of ancient renown.

Salcombe has been called “one of the prettiest havens in Devon,” and
after a visit one is inclined to agree that the description is not
unmerited. It is indeed a delightful spot, as yet largely unspoiled by
“development”; picturesquely built beneath the shelter of well-wooded
hills. These, clothed with verdure, form a remarkable contrast to the
hills on the Portlemouth side which lie bare and open to the strong
westerly and south-westerly gales which sweep up from the sea. This
same Portlemouth is a straggling collection of ancient, grey-toned
cottages, clinging to the sides of a steeply climbing road. In the
churchyard is a tombstone to the memory of a farmer who was poisoned
by his servant, which is interesting from the fact that the latter’s
punishment of being burned at the stake is set forth upon the stone
so that “all people warning take.” The girl was tried in 1782, and
condemned to be first hanged and then burned; “which barbarous sentence
was duly carried out at Exeter, and was the last instance in England of
such a punishment being inflicted.”

Just before one reaches Salcombe, which nestles amidst its wealth of
myrtles, Portugal laurels, Guelder roses, arbutus, orange and lemon
trees, and sheltered even from the soft south wind by Lambury Point,
one passes Fort Charles, one of the many isolated Royalist strongholds
during the stirring times of the Civil War in the West Country.

Soon after the outbreak of hostilities this fort, which had been
previously repaired and reclaimed from almost a state of ruin by Sir
Edmund Fortescue “who was for the King,” was attacked by Colonel
Weldon, Governor of Plymouth, “who approached with both horse and foot
to the siege, and made a hell for four months of the little fisher town
Salcombe.” That the place should have held out so long was a wonder,
but the end was bound to come. Fort Charles capitulated, but Sir Edmund
Fortescue was allowed to march out with his force with the honours of
war, and to retain the keys of his castle. The latter, however, was
dismantled (making the retention of the keys a somewhat empty form)
and has never since been used or repaired. And thus fell the last place
to hold out for the King in Devon.

Salcombe, with its narrow streets and ancient houses forming so great a
contrast to the newer portions of the town and the villas dotted here
and there amid the wealth of green upon its slopes, has an old-world
atmosphere, and a picturesqueness which makes most who drop anchor in
its fiord-like estuary reluctant to depart, and anxious to return again.

To lovers of English history Salcombe will always be a spot of fragrant
and pleasant memory and pilgrimage, from the fact that it was here that
the great historian James Anthony Froude lived for many years and did
much of the work wherein “he clothed the story of stirring deeds and
historic happenings, which had long since been dead, with flesh and
blood so that it lives again in the minds and hearts of men.” Froude
died here in 1894, and many pilgrims yearly make their way to the
long, low house with a verandah running round it, and its casements
opening out into the charming garden in which he loved to wander, and
where Tennyson came to visit him. It was at Salcombe, too, that the
poet received the inspiration for “Crossing the Bar,” whilst on Lord
Brassey’s _Sunbeam_, and those who have slipped out of the estuary when
the sun is dipping westward can appreciate the picture conjured up in
the opening stanza:

    Sunset and evening star:
    And one clear call for me!
    And may there be no moaning of the Bar
    When I put out to sea.

The tale of Salcombe as regards its former greatness and present-day
comparative decay is similar to that of so many other little ports
which we have visited and described. Leland refers to it in his
_Itinerary_ as a “fisher towne.” But anciently it was more than this.
The records of the number of ships belonging to and trading with
Salcombe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries prove it to have
then been a place of considerable importance. And in the middle of the
former century the Customs returns amounted to a sum of about £5,000
per annum. In the latter half of the eighteenth and early years of the
nineteenth centuries Salcombe was a great smuggling place. Was not,
indeed, the estuary made by Nature herself for such a purpose? And the
smugglers, we are told, “gave much trouble to the riding officers and
‘preventive’ men of the coast from Dartmouth to Plymouth.”

Kingsbridge, once a flourishing port with a considerable Mediterranean
trade, employing some two hundred vessels not a century ago, is no
longer of much commercial importance. The way from Salcombe up to the
further town is a muddy channel, almost devoid of picturesque scenery,
and beset with mudbanks. But amongst the ancient things which survive
at Kingsbridge is the custom of brewing and drinking “white ale,” of
unprepossessing appearance and considerable potency, said to have been
invented at Dodbroke, with which Kingsbridge is so closely connected.
It is, indeed, a curious beverage of almost treacly consistency, made
of malt, hops, eggs, and flour, fermented with grout, and is best
avoided by the stranger.

[Illustration: KINGSBRIDGE QUAY]

In the old Shambles erected in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, which
form a picturesque element in the Fore Street, and in the Church of
St Edmund, dating from the second decade of the fifteenth century,
Kingsbridge holds out some inducement for the visits of antiquarians.
In the quaint inscription on the memorial to one Robert Phillips, just
outside the chancel door is clearly stated a truism for all who run to

    Here lie I at the chancel door;
    Here lie I because I’m poor:
    The further in the more you’ll pay;
    Here lie I as warm as they.

Bolt Head, rugged and forbidding of aspect, and the Mewstones which
guard the western side of the Salcombe estuary must be rounded ere
one’s course can be laid for Plymouth, along a rugged and wild coast
deeply and dangerously fissured, in which are the mouths of the
picturesque streams the Avon and Erme. Then come more Mewstones, the
number of which along this coast has often caused us to wonder. These
passed, Plymouth is right ahead.

As one passes up the wide expanse of that unequalled anchorage known as
the Sound, where have floated almost from time immemorial the argosies
and battle fleets of England, and into which so much of the wealth of
the world has been borne in the past as now, the spoil of enterprise or
of war, one realizes something at least of the spirit of ancient times.
Plymouth has forged ahead whilst many of her sister ports of bygone
ages have slowly decayed. Throughout the centuries there has been no
rest, no idle contentment with things that are until they cease to be.
And thus it is that Plymouth, of all the ancient ports of the West
Country on the Channel, has increased in greatness as the years have
rolled by.

Few more inspiring and beautiful pictures are to be found along the
coast than those afforded by Plymouth Sound. Wedded to fine scenery is
bustling commerce. Across the seaway lies the world-famous breakwater,
and behind it all along up to Plymouth the sea is beset with craft of
all kinds; huge trading vessels, mostly three and four masters, which
have voyaged to the ends of the earth; fishing boats, which look like
cockle shells in comparison; destroyers, and torpedo boats; tramp
steamers belching out black clouds of smoke in rivalry with that of
the tugs; and, more majestic than all, the ocean liners and occasional
incoming battleships making their way slowly up the Sound.

There are few spots on blue water where is given so great a touch of
life to things inanimate. And when one comes to an anchor off Drake’s
long low isle, or in the shelter of the beautifully wooded Mount
Edgcumbe, the ghosts of mighty seamen of the past seem to flit across
the scene, and visions of long lost fleets, and adventurers’ galleons
rise unbidden to the mind.

Plymouth is one of those “ancient places in the making of which all
periods of national history have had a share.” It even disputes with
Totnes the honour of having been the landing place of Brutus the
Trojan, when some three thousand years ago he paid a visit to these
shores. The story that the Trojan champion Corianaeus and a giant of
the West Country, one Gogmagog, wrestled a fall on or near the famous
Hoe, in which the latter was ultimately vanquished and cast into the
sea, is a part of the Brutus legend. The Plymouth Fathers of old time
evidently accepted it as having some foundation in fact, as they caused
a representation of the giant to be cut in the turf of the Hoe, which
remained to remind the townsfolk and seafarers alike of the combat
until about the time of the Restoration.

Of the doings and history of the town of Plymouth, known in the
Domesday Book as Sutton or South Town, then having about half a score
of inhabitants, prior to the Norman Conquest (if any town existed,
which one may doubt, notwithstanding Geoffrey of Monmouth) there are
practically no records or traces of any kind. Eventually the Domesday
hamlet increased and became divided into two portions, Sutton Prior, or
the eastern portion, falling to the Priory of Plympton, and the western
part coming through grant by the Crown into the possession of the
family of Valletort, which still forms one of the subsidiary titles of
the Edgecumbe family, whose connexion with Plymouth is so intimate.

The rise of the port was destined to be rapid, for towards the end
of the fourteenth century only three other towns in England had
larger populations. Two of these, it may be noted, were ports--London
and Bristol--and the third the seat of an archbishopric, York. Long
before this period, however, Plymouth possessed a market, and had
sent representatives to Parliament. And in the reign of Henry II it
received its Charter--the first granted by Act of Parliament, a unique
privilege, of which the city fathers have always been justly proud.
The first mayor in pursuance of this charter was elected in 1439,
William Ketherick by name; who (according to records which have been
preserved) was a noted sportsman, and the possessor of “an appetite of
right goodlie proportions, though he was but a little man.” There is a
story that at the banquet he gave on his election, lest his appetite
and that of his guests should run the risk of remaining unsatisfied,
there was included amongst the numerous dishes, joints, and delicacies
provided, a monster pie, into which “every beast, bird, and fish was
put, with spices and other matter,” which measured nearly five yards in
length and one and a half in breadth, and indeed speaks volumes for the
digestions of those times.

Like its neighbour Dartmouth, Plymouth has been almost from time
immemorial the home of daring adventure and warlike enterprises.
And like the sister port it possesses a fine and commodious harbour
(though one less easily defended), singularly well adapted as a base
for expeditions of the kind which marked the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries more especially. But although many of the ships and fleets
which sailed out of the Sound for the coasts of France, Spain, and the
Americas in bygone times were unauthorized freebooters, early in the
existence of Plymouth more truly national expeditions set sail from
its quays. For example, towards the close of the thirteenth century a
great fleet of upwards of 320 vessels assembled for an attack upon the
French coasts; and in 1355--some sixty years later--Edward the Black
Prince came here for a similar purpose. And during the wars between
the Houses of York and Lancaster there was stir in the old streets
by the waterside marking from time to time the arrival of some Royal
fugitive or exile. Here, too, came unfortunate Margaret of Anjou, the
dauntless, sleepless foe of Edward IV; and the not less unfortunate
Duke of Clarence. In the first year of the sixteenth century there
landed at Plymouth yet another ill-starred lady, the Princess Katherine
of Aragon, on her way to marry Prince Arthur, and destined afterwards
to become the wife of his brother Henry VIII. She was entertained right
royally by the citizens of Plymouth, chiefly by one of the merchant
princes of the port, named Paynter, who lived in a magnificent mansion
not far from the waterside, which has, alas! in recent years shared the
fate of most historical buildings that come in the way of modern and
commercial progress.

But although many books might be written concerning the sailing of
the Plymouth corsairs against “the damnable pirates out of St-Malo,
Morlaix, and Brest,” and other smaller ports of the Breton coast, and
afterwards of the daring doings of ships which, leaving the port as
honest traders to the Spanish Main, or West Coast of Africa, yet, when
on the high seas, hoisted the black flag of piracy, we have no space to
spare in which to describe them in detail. Nor, indeed, to deal with
the “bloody adventures of bold seamen out of Plymouth, on the opposite
coasts,” nor to recount the marvellous exploits of those who ranged the
Spanish Main, and became passing rich by reason of the singeing of the
Dons’ beards, and the booty which fell to daring enterprise and bold
adventure, where no man valued either his own life or the lives of his

It is impossible, however, to pass without a somewhat detailed mention
of the most eventful period of the town’s history when “by some
concatenation of Fortune and circumstance so many brave and gallant
men of skill and resource dwelt in or came to Plymouth, that they might
in the hour of England’s need take upon themselves her strong defence.”

It is not too much to say that Plymouth came to its own in the great
days of Elizabeth. For then the magnificent harbour for a time became
the centre and focus of all that was noblest and most strenuous in
national life and effort. And the position that Plymouth then attained
has never been entirely lost. It is the one great old-time port of the
South-West coasts which has known no decline and seen no decay.

In the streets of the old town, which has largely passed away to
make room for the needs of strenuous modern commerce, were enacted
stirring scenes; which, indeed, as one writer phrases it, “made the
very pavement stones and quays of the town the stage of history.” Here
were gathered, at all events, most of the foremost actors in the great
pageantry of the Elizabethan age and the Armada period. Here came
Drake, Sir John Hawkins, Martin Frobisher, Sir Walter Raleigh, Lord
Howard of Effingham, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Lord Seymour, and many more
sea lords of the Channel and the wider seas beyond. It was the work of
these, and others almost as famous and equally daring and patriotic,
to raise England to the pinnacle amongst the nations of the world that
she occupied by the end of the reign of Elizabeth, and has never since
lost. To them in a large measure must be given the credit of planting
the seeds of Empire throughout the then known world, which by their
efforts in adventure and discovery was so considerably extended during
the latter part of the sixteenth century. To these intrepid seamen and
explorers of Plymouth and other Western ports we owe not only that
shining gem India, but also the vast America we so unhappily lost, the
Empire in the South Seas, and the territory of the frozen North lands
which cling close to the Pole.

It is, however, more particularly with the great Armada and the setting
forth of that band of intrepid adventurers for conscience’ sake, the
Pilgrim Fathers, that the history of Plymouth is linked with that
of the nation for all time. On the Hoe, now “tamed,” but otherwise
much as it was in Drake’s and Raleigh’s time, the merchant princes of
Plymouth were in those far off days wont to forgather, to discuss the
news of the day, and to watch the outgoing and incoming of the ships
in which their fortunes were embarked. And it was to the Hoe that
the bold adventurers, who sailed forth into unknown as well as known
seas, bearing with them the fortunes of others with their own lives as
surety, turned their last gaze as they dropped away down the Sound out
into the deep waters.

It is recorded, too, that when any ship was setting forth on an errand
of importance, not only did the vessel salute the shore with guns, and
the music of the ship’s band (where such could be mustered), but the
guns upon the Hoe were fired, the crowd gathered upon it to witness the
departure huzza-ed, and music was played.

One can, therefore, easily imagine the excitement which seized upon
the town on that Sunday in August, in the year 1573, when the news
came from the look-out that Drake was back from one of his adventurous
voyages, and, as a writer of the time says, “all people came rushing
out of the churches, insomuch that there were few Christian souls left
to hear the preacher.”

The same spirit which had made adventurers (and perhaps on occasion
pirates) now made heroes, instinct with a high ideal of England’s
honour and renown. Those were days in which Englishmen bandied no words
with the Dons of Spain, but spoke with ball with the breath of powder,
as the following instance of Sir John Hawkins’s treatment of the
Spanish admiral who failed in naval etiquette will show. It happened
that the Spanish fleet, some fifty sail, sent to bring Queen Anne of
Austria from Flanders to Spain, entered (to quote Sir Richard Hawkins)
“betwixt the island and the maine without vayling their topsayles, or
taking in of their flags.” Sir John Hawkins, on seeing this, made no
delay, but commanded his gunner to shoot at the flag of the Spanish
admiral’s ship as a gentle hint of the breach of etiquette. Again
quoting, we find “they (the Spaniards) persevered arrogantly to keep
the flag displayed, whereupon the gunner at the next shot lact the
admirall through and through, whereby the Spaniards finding that the
matter began to grow earnest, took in their flags and topsayles and so
ran to an anchor.”

As was not unnatural the Spanish admiral sent a boat to Sir John, in
command of an officer of rank, to demand an explanation. The English
admiral, however, promptly declined to afford any, and moreover told
the Spaniard plainly that “as in the Queene’s port ... he had neglected
to do the acknowledgement and reverence which all owe to another
majestie,” he must depart within twelve hours whether in fair wind or
foul, “upon pain to be held as a common enemy.”

It was to men like these that the fate of England could be so surely
entrusted. For to dauntless courage and marvellous skill in the arts
of seamanship was added the fear of God in their hearts, sometimes
curiously obscured it is true, but in reality genuine and inspiring.

For some time before the ships of the Armada cast loose their moorings
in Lisbon on May 19, 1588, and set out upon the conquest of England
under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, the English fleet,
under the command of Lord Charles Howard, Sir Francis Drake, and Sir
John Hawkins had been collected together and marshalled in Plymouth
Sound awaiting the news that the Spaniards were in the Channel. The
ships had been chosen and “found” by men who knew what value to place
upon sound ships, rigging, and fittings; and under the eye of Howard,
Seymour, Drake, Hawkins, Frobisher, and others who afterwards bore
their gallant part, the English ships (some mere cockboats) which rode
at anchor under the lee of Mount Edgcumbe, waiting for the advent of
the enemy, and “straining at the cables to get at the Spanish Dons,”
were made ready.


The Spanish fleet entered the Channel off the coast of Cornwall on
July 19 in dirty weather. Up from the Bay the Spanish admiral in the
_San Martin_ had led the van, “showing lights at night, and firing
guns when the weather was hazy.” On their arrival at the mouth of the
Channel they found English fishing boats acting as scouts, and so the
news of the Armada’s coming was first brought to land, and flashed
along the coast by desperate riders, and at night by kindled watch
fires. Froude gives us an arresting and detailed picture of the dangers
which had beset the English fleet in Plymouth Sound during the period
of waiting--dangers of exhausted provisions and depleted resources,
which were (so the historian states) due to the parsimony of Elizabeth
and some of her counsellors. Medina Sidonia summoned his captains
aboard the flag-ship to decide upon a course of action. Whether they
should await the attack of the English fleet as they proceeded up the
Channel, or attempt a surprise and fall upon it as it lay in Plymouth.
The King’s orders, however, were to make for Margate roads and effect
the junction with Parma. So the great unwieldy galleons, crammed to
repletion with men, priests, and treasure, made their way up the
Channel slowly, and, at first, in order like the shape of a half-moon.

“Long before the Spaniards saw the Lizard,” writes Froude, “they had
themselves been seen, and on the evening of the 19th (of July), the
beacons along the coast had told England that the hour of its trial was

“To the ships at Plymouth the news was as a message of salvation.
By thrift and short rations, by good management, contented care, and
lavish use of private means, there was still one week’s provisions,
with powder and shot for one day’s sharp fighting, according to English
notions of what fighting ought to be.... All wants, all difficulties
were forgotten in the knowledge that he (the enemy) was come, and that
they could grapple with him, before they were dissolved by starvation.”

In this great hour of national danger it must be remembered that the
nation was at one. Differences of political faith and of religion were
abandoned, “there was saddling and arming in village and town, and
musters flocking to their posts.” And on the night of the 19th, with a
strong wind setting up the Sound, the English ships, and a few of the
privateers, were warped out behind the shelter of Mount Edgcumbe, so
that they could readily get clear away to sea. And thus it happened
that on the morning when the Spaniards caught their first glimpse of
the Cornish coast there were forty ships lying in wait for them in
Plymouth Sound.

Froude presents a vivid picture of the succeeding hours when he writes,
“The day wore on; noon passed and nothing had been seen. At length,
towards three in the afternoon, the look-out men on the hill reported
a line of sails on the western horizon ... they swept on in a broad
crescent ...; and as the hulls showed clear, it was seen that report
had not exaggerated the numbers said to be coming. A hundred and fifty
large and small were counted and reported to Lord Howard....”

A hundred and fifty, and beneath the haven lay to meet them but forty
odd! There was no hesitation, however. One after the other cables
were slipped, or anchors weighed on board the English ships, and
they dropped away down the Sound, whilst thousands watched their
setting forth with beating and anxious hearts, for the magnitude of
the undertaking was great enough to appal the stoutest. The night
was cloudy, and it was full dusk ere the Spanish admiral saw that
Howard was waiting, and prepared for him. The English ships flitted
to and fro between the Armada and the land most bewilderingly, “so
that the Spaniards could by no means reckon or make sure of their size
or number.” Seeing that to enter the Sound without first fighting an
action was quite impossible, Medina Sidonia flew the signal to heave to
for the night, confident in his superior numbers.

Next day’s dawn found the Spanish fleet and the English ships not yet
in touch. The breeze rose with the sun, and about eight o’clock the
former got under way with a view of closing with Howard’s ships. But
to the Spanish admiral’s astonishment he found the enemy easily took
and kept the weather gauge, and either approached or left at will his
clumsy “high towered, broad-bowed galleons, which moved like Thames
barges piled with hay; while the sharp, low English sailed at once two
feet to the Spaniard’s one, and shot away as if by magic in the eye of
the wind.”

The action, which, with short intervals, was destined to last for
almost a week, commenced by Howard’s flag-ship, the _Ark_, and three
others of the English vessels running down upon the Spanish rear line,
and whilst traversing it “firing successively into each galleon as they
passed, then wearing round and returning over the same course.”

The Spanish commanders were struck with astonishment, and with the
English “firing four shots to one,” the huge galleons were raked
again and again, and their over-numerous crews thrown into confusion.
Meanwhile the rest of the gallant little English ships, the masts of
some of which scarce came above the poops of their enemies, were one by
one getting into action on similar conditions.

The fight went on through the long morning and into the afternoon, with
the Spaniards always wearing and endeavouring to get at close quarters
with their nimble foes, but always failing to do so. The Spanish ships
being to leeward and canting over to the wind found their shots fly
high over the smaller English craft, and their guns could not be
sufficiently depressed to overcome this disadvantage.

Towards evening a ship was detached from the English fleet to carry a
report of the events of the day to Lord Henry Seymour, and a messenger
rode off in hot haste to London to ask urgently for more powder and
ammunition, of which the English were already running short. During the
night Drake went in pursuit of some vessels which apparently had left
the main body of the Armada, and Howard himself and his other ships
clung close to the Spaniards “sparing powder, but firing an occasional
shot to prevent the enemy from recovering from their confusion.”

Terrified by these tactics and the superb seamanship of Howard’s ships,
the Spanish huddled together like a flock of frightened sheep, and in
the night several vessels fell foul of one another, and much damage was
done in consequence. Amongst those which met with such misadventure
were the _Santa Catalina_ and the _Capitana_. The latter, a galleon of
1,200 tons, carrying the flag of Pedro de Valdez, the only commander
on the Spanish side with any reliable or extensive knowledge of the
Channel, was so damaged that she was abandoned to her fate (though the
Spanish admiral-in-chief, Medina Sidonia, sent a boat to take off her
very essential commander, who gallantly refused to desert his ship),
and next morning fell a prey to Drake on his return from chasing what
had proved to be not Armada galleons but Flemish traders. The prize
proved of unexpected value. We have already mentioned what ultimately
became of the _Capitana_, but an interesting sidelight regarding
the treatment in those days, of prisoners of war, more especially
foreigners--who were looked upon by the lower classes of English people
as little better than savages--is afforded by a letter from Gilbert to
Walsingham dated a few days before the final scattering of the Armada.
He wrote, “The cost of keeping them (the _Capitana_ prisoners) was
great, the peril great, the discontent of the country people greatest
of all,” and so, “to save expense, they were fed on the refuse of their
own provisions, which was too bad to be taken away, the fish stinking,
and the bread full of worms.”

It is not inconceivable that had the rough-dealing fishermen of Brixham
had their way with regard to the Spaniards, the difficulty of feeding
them would not have long troubled those in authority. Prisoners of
war in those days in any country found little consideration if unable
themselves to pay ransom, or if their rank was not sufficiently high to
make redemption probable.

During the succeeding few days the fight went on amid storms and
varying winds, the English admiral supplying his necessities of powder
and provisions (and dire necessities these were) from the stores of
the enemies’ ships which were captured, or which in their unwieldy
manœuvres had come into collision, been irreparably damaged and
abandoned by the Spaniards.

Knowing nothing of the coast the Spanish commander entreated the Duke
of Parma (who lay at Calais) most earnestly to send him pilots. All
through that long, running fight up Channel the English policy had been
to avoid as far as possible close engagement; to worry the stragglers
of the Spanish fleet; to snap up any laggards; and engage any which had
out-sailed (as did the _San Marcos_) the main body.

Concerning these tactics the Spanish commander wrote to the Duke of
Parma, “The enemy pursue me. They fire upon me most days from morning
till nightfall; but they will not close and grapple.” Then the writer
goes on to request assistance, and, more than anything, powder and
shot, as his stock was running low.

At length, having traversed the whole length of the Channel, harassed
by the “English bloodhounds, Howard, Hawkins, Drake, Frobisher, and
the rest,” the Armada straggled into Calais roads. There were missing
vessels; and downcast hearts aboard most of the galleons which had won
to Calais through the ceaseless English fire.

The Armada brought up on the edge of shoal water, which made it
difficult to deliver such an attack as would best have pleased and
served the English commanders. And so, after a consultation aboard
Howard’s own ship, in which “Sheffield, Seymour, Southwell, Palmer,
Drake, Hawkins, Winter, Fenner, and Frobisher assembled, with the
fate of England in their hands,” it was decided to launch against the
great Armada the fire-ships which were destined to complete “with the
additional and saving grace of God’s warring elements,” the final
destruction of the proud fleet of Philip of Spain.

Eight of the smaller vessels which had attached themselves to the
English fleet were selected for the heroic service. Their rigging and
spars were smeared with pitch, their decks and holds filled with all
the most combustible rubbish to which hands could be put, and then,
late at night, when “the tide--set directly down from the English
position to where the ships of the Armada ... lay” the fire ships were
loosed on their mission of destruction with their several crews to
pilot them to their destination, when they were to lash the helm fast,
belay the sheets, and set the vessels on fire.

Froude describes the scene thus, using as his authorities the letters
of eyewitnesses, Howard, Drake, Winter, and other accounts now in the
Record Office. “When the Spanish bells were about striking twelve,
and, save the watch on deck, soldiers and seamen lay stretched in
sleep, certain dark objects, which had been seen dimly drifting on
the tide where the galleons lay thickest, shot suddenly into pyramids
of light, flames leaping from ruddy sail to sail, flickering on the
ropes, and forecastles, foremasts and bowsprits a lurid blaze of
conflagration.... Panic spread through the entire Armada; the enemy
they most dreaded was upon them.”

The success of the fire-ships was complete, so far as frightening
the Spanish into putting to sea was concerned. Most of the galleons,
after some confusion and damage, got clear of the shoals, and lay-to
about six miles from the shore. Then when daybreak came, some were
seen aground on Calais Bar. During the next few days the running fight
was resumed, as at first the galleons strove to regain their former
anchorage off Calais, but were driven along the Dutch coast, ultimately
to speed northwards towards Scotland, with Howard, Drake, Hawkins, and
the rest of the English captains in hot pursuit.

“Without pilots, in a strange sea, with the autumn storms prematurely
upon them, and with no friendly port for which to run, he (Medina
Sidonia) became utterly unmanned.... On, therefore, sped the Armada
before the rising breeze, the English still following. Then as ship
after ship became leaky or disabled by the ever-rising storm, and was
abandoned with callousness bred of ‘a wonderful fear,’ what remained
of the great fleet of Philip of Spain passed for a time out of English
ken, and rushed northwards to destruction and dismemberment.”

Howard was at last compelled to abandon the chase. Froude tells us “the
English had but three days’ provisions left, and to follow further so
ill-provided, with the prospect of a continuing storm, was to run into
needless danger.”

Thus, with the return of Howard’s ships to Margate and Harwich, was
the “greatest service ever done by an English fleet ... successfully
accomplished by men whose wages had not been paid from the time of
their engagement, half-starved, with their clothes in rags and falling
off their backs, and so ill-found in the necessaries of war that they
had eked out their ammunition by what they could take in action from
the enemy himself.”

Plymouth’s share in the most glorious event in national history was the
chief and ever unforgettable one. And for this reason we have told the
story of it somewhat fully.

It was from Plymouth that Sir Walter Raleigh set sail with other bold
adventurers for America, where he took possession of Virginia, calling
the new colony after his none too grateful mistress, Queen Elizabeth,
on July 13, 1584.

Plymouth, also, saw the setting forth of a much more significant and
peaceful expedition to that New World of which so little was even then
known, when the Pilgrim Fathers from Leyden, after sojourning awhile
in the great West country port, stepped once more aboard the schooner
_Mayflower_, on September 6, 1620, and casting loose, adventured out
into the wide ocean, which washed the shores of far distant America as
well as those of their native land. It was in remembrance of the last
spot in England to give them harbourage that New Plymouth was named.
The vessel which bore so rich a cargo of faith to the New World, and
has enjoyed such fame, was destined to have a prosaic end. After she
had borne the “Pilgrim Fathers” safely across the Atlantic, she was
sold as a trader, and after many years in the East India Company’s
service was lost off Masulipatam on the east coast of India.

Plymouth played its gallant part in the Civil War. The Royalist
forces recognized the importance of the possession of such a town and
attacked it almost continuously for several years. It also had to stand
actual and protracted siege. Over and over again the Royalist troops
under Charles I, dashing and gallant Prince Rupert, and many other
distinguished generals assailed the town, only time after time to be
repulsed with heavy loss. Then came the culminating event one Sunday
morning when the slopes and hillside to the north and north-east of the
town surged and rang with the tide and cries of fierce conflict. It
was the Royalists’ last effort, and with their defeat the siege was
finally abandoned.

Charles II when he came to the throne did not forget the “malignancy”
of the men of Plymouth, nor the stout defence they had offered to his
father’s attack. It was probably to the latter fact that the existence
of “The Citadel,” which Charles II built, may be ascribed. For,
although nominally for the defence of the town on the sea side, it is
significant that the greater proportion of the guns with which it was
provided were trained upon the town itself.

Of the many eighteenth-century voyagers who set out from Plymouth, none
was destined to win greater renown than Captain Cook, who made the town
his headquarters previous to all three of his famous expeditions.

The fear of Napoleonic invasion did not perhaps convulse
Plymouth--greatly strengthened as it had become by that time, and kept
by ceaseless bustle and activity from the form of nervous dread which
afflicted the smaller towns of the south and south-western coasts--but
it saw its full share not only of the distress and excitement caused
by the long war, but also of the more terrible effects. Many a proud
line-of-battle ship, frigate, and corvette which left the Sound with
a gallant complement of brave men, colours flying, and bands playing,
returned little more than a shambles or a shattered wreck after one
of those fierce engagements in the Channel or Bay of Biscay for which
the years from just after the French Revolution till well on into the
second decade of the nineteenth century were famous.


At the close of the war the great Napoleon, broken in fortune and
spirit, came to Plymouth in the _Bellerophon_, and remained some
little time the object of the greatest curiosity not only to all the
townsfolk, but to the countryside at large, the inhabitants of which
crowded into the place from distant parts to see the man who for two
decades had been the cause of so much misery, and such nights and
days of alarm.

During the war the Plymouth privateers distinguished themselves as
might be expected of vessels hailing from a port with traditions of
Blake, Hawkins, Frobisher, and the rest of those gallant Elizabethan
captains. But of the many gallant actions, often fought against great
odds, and triumphantly brought to an issue, we have no space here to

Of Old Plymouth there is now, alas! little left. Even half a century
ago there were many of the ancient houses standing in the streets that
the old sea captains trod. But now few of these dwellings remain,
and even the historic streets have in many cases been renamed, thus
unhappily destroying for ever all connection with the past. In St
Andrew’s Street there are still a few quaint houses with projecting
windows, carved corbels, overhanging eaves, and substantial doors
made to resist actual attack as well as to preserve the house against
casual intruders. At the bottom of St Andrew’s Street stands a block of
modern houses, erected in medieval style, and into one of them has been
incorporated much of the woodwork of one of the houses which the more
modern ones replace. This house is interesting as being, at least by
tradition, the dwelling frequently occupied by Sir Walter Raleigh when
in Plymouth. In the High Street, too, there are still a few survivals
of charm and value, with the ancient archways leading into spacious
courts. High Street was, as its name indicates, the chief thoroughfare
in Elizabethan times, and must have known Drake, Raleigh, Hawkins, and
many another Plymouth worthy and bold sea rover. It is in the heart of
the old town where Drake and the chief merchants of his time had their

Of the old inns and taverns, which, as became a seaport, were once
very numerous, few if any survive. The most famous was the Turk’s
Head, probably dating from the time of Richard Cœur de Lion and the
Crusades, as did most hostelries bearing that and similar names. In
Woolster Street there was the inevitable Mitre Tavern, much resorted to
by the gentlemen adventurers, and the officers of Plymouth merchantmen.
Here, tradition states, was fought, early one autumn morning, after a
night of high play at cards, a “triangular” duel with pistols which
sent two gallant gentlemen to their last account.

In St Andrew’s Church Plymouth has not only one of the largest parish
churches in England, but a building of great antiquity, permeated by
the spirit of the past. The church is practically what it has been
since 1460; the earliest part, which is thought to be the south aisle,
dates from 1385, when it was dedicated to the Virgin.

In this ancient fane many of those who have left their mark on history
have from age to age and time to time worshipped. Here came Katherine
of Aragon, after landing, to return thanks for the protection of Divine
Providence during her voyage from Spain. Here worshipped Drake and
Hawkins, and the rest of their comrades (brave fighters all, but devout
after their kind and age); and after them the Puritans to take the oath
of the solemn league and covenant; and here Charles II is said to have
accomplished the gift of healing by touching for the King’s evil. And
although the body of Admiral Blake rested here in company with that of
Sir Martin Frobisher only for a time before transference to Westminster
Abbey, the heart of the intrepid admiral is popularly supposed to lie
buried within the church.

But, after all, those who remain in the Sound below Stonehouse,
with its famous Royal William Victualling Yard, and Devil’s Point,
concerning the origin of the name of which there is so much local
dispute, and do not penetrate to the region of the Hamoaze, the Lynher
River, St Germans Creek, and the upper reaches of the Tamar, which can
be navigated in a dinghy as far as Weir Head itself, know but half the
beauties and attractions of Plymouth.

Devonport Dockyard, too, is always a place of interest and fascination
to seafaring folk. The town seems to shut itself off from the other two
towns, and in the past this apparent exclusiveness has led to municipal
friction. For a long time the “Dockyard town” was but indifferently
supplied with water, and Plymouth firmly refused to allow any of its
supply--dating from the days of Drake, who had a good deal to do with
getting it for the town--to be diverted to Devonport. Now, however,
Devonport has its own water drawn from inexhaustible Dartmoor, and the
town has flourished so amazingly that, although the youngest of naval
ports, it has become the one of greatest activity and renown.

But there is no space for us to descant in detail of the charming
places upon the shores of Tamar, Hamoaze, and St Germans River. Even
pretty, old-fashioned Saltash, with its fishermen’s cottages clinging
to the steep hillside, so that the blue smoke from the lower often
seems to veil the higher dwellings, and its ancient church can only be
mentioned in passing; and so, too, the fact that its corporation takes
precedence of that of Plymouth, and has jurisdiction over the Sound.

St Germans, called after St Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre, who came
over to Britain in the fifth century, and founded upon the banks of
the beautiful Lynher River a monastery, which caused the place to
become an important centre of religious life and secular industry,
can but be referred to briefly. The church, with its Norman west
front and recessed porch, is of unusual interest, as is also the
thirteenth-century octagonal, north-west tower.

Port Eliot, the seat of the Eliot family, whose ancestor, Sir John
Eliot, played so prominent a part in the period just anterior to the
Civil War, stands quite close to the great church, which, separated
from it only by greensward and a narrow road, is well worth a visit.

But all these things, including Landulph, with its old church and the
monument to Theodore Paleologus, of Pesaro in Italy, “descended from ye
Imperyail lyne of ye last Christian Emperors of Greece”; and the Castle
of Tremanton on Lynher River can only be visited by one who has much
time at his disposal.

Of the beauties of Mount Edgecumbe a great deal has from time to time
been written. Under its shelter lay Howard’s fleet, and along its shady
avenues have walked many of the greatest sons of the West Country in
past centuries. It is this, as Garrick calls it, “mount of all mounts
in Great Britain” that attracts the eye as one enters the Sound, and it
is at this lovely heritage of tree-crowned heights, valleys, and wide,
stretching sward that one gazes when, with the anchor weighed, one
drops down the water bound further west.

Chapter IX

St Looe--Polperro--Fowey--Mevagissey--and Some Coves

Lovely Cawsand Bay is one of the fairest of havens and a good place in
which to lie in almost all winds save south-east; but with quaint St
Looe ahead and a fair wind one does not stand into the bay, but lays a
course for Pellee Point and thence round Rame Head, with its ruins of
the ancient chapel, and then there is a straight course for Looe Island
and the harbour, which, in the season, is so picturesque with and full
of pilchard boats.

Seen from the pine-tree-clad hill above the town, and looking up the
river to the bridge, St Looe inevitably reminds one of Dinan, just
as the Looe River possesses a marked resemblance to the Rance. The
architecture of the quaint houses, which huddle close together on the
Point and spread upwards to the hillsides, have a distinctly Breton
character, which may or may not be because the port of Morlaix is
straight across the water.

There are, however, two towns which, whatever the differences in far
back times may have been that led to division of strength where one
might have imagined such a course undesirable, are nowadays connected
by the old, weather-stained bridge of eight arches, on which and
against the parapet of which the fishermen ashore lean and contemplate
the river and harbour, and artists take up a vantage ground.

This little port is indeed a delightful place, with a climate so
mild yet withal so bracing that it threatens to turn this “sleepy
hollow,” with its memories of past centuries, into a fashionable
winter resort, and thus destroy it with that modern bane of
picturesqueness--prosperity. A well-known writer has aptly summed up
the delight of its quaint architecture, which, as well as its fisher
types, has drawn painters from all parts to revel in its sheer delight.
He says: “Such houses, never certainly except in some medieval town
abroad, show such startling illustrations of the ideas of the old house
builders, with gables quaint and rugged as Ruskin could have wished, or
Turner desired to paint.”

And there is, indeed, a charm in the narrow devious streets and the
little Cornish courts, in which the fisherfolk sit mending or knitting
nets, or the jerseys which will do as much as wool can do to keep out
the bitter cold of dawn or winter nights.

It is ages since the two Looes (East and West) became one by charter
of Queen Elizabeth; but now, though we have left Devon and are in
Cornwall, we have by no means left behind the memories of the strenuous
life of fighting and piracy of old. And what has been said concerning
many a Devon port and haven is equally true of Looe. It was probably
(although, alas! records of the daring deeds and piratical descents
of St Looe men upon the opposite Breton coast are much wanting) one
of the most actively aggressive Cornish fisher towns. But we are sure
of one thing, that Looe men were not less quick with the sword, flint
lock, and culverin in the past, than with the trimming of sails and the
handling of tiller; and that the harvests of blood, of fire, and of
sword reaped along the French coast, which lay a hundred miles or so
due south, were not less rich or risky of reprisals than those of the
bold men of Dartmouth and Plymouth hard by.

That daring deeds were done more or less “outside the law of nations”
there can be no question; but, save for an almost casual mention of
the doings of the Looe lugger _George_ in the famous though somewhat
traditional fight with “those hereditary enemies, the French,” little
has come down to us concerning these adventurers, and only a memory
has survived from the early years of the nineteenth century of the Looe
privateer of small size but large courage which, whilst cruising off
the mouth of the Channel about thirty miles south-west of the Lizard,
fell in, not with the French merchantman of which she was in search,
but with a famous St-Malo privateer “of much superior force both in
guns and men, which she promptly engaged and forced to surrender after
a running fight lasting well nigh seven hours.” Had the St-Malo lugger
known that more than sixty per cent of the Looe boat’s crew were either
killed or placed _hors de combat_ the result of the engagement might
possibly have been different; but Cornish fisherfolk do not wear their
hearts upon their sleeves, and one can well imagine that the survivors
put on a “brazen front with no timidity shown,” just as one seems to
catch an echo of the rousing cheers with which the striking of the
tricolour was undoubtedly greeted.

Both the Looes did their best to uphold the honour of England during
the long struggle with our French neighbours at the end of the
eighteenth and commencement of the nineteenth century. Possibly it was
the same spirit which made the Looe men amongst the boldest and most
successful of smugglers on the Cornish coast in the first quarter of
the last century, and this although they were remarkably well looked
after by the “preventives.” It is only right to add, however, that
an inspection and study of many records of smuggling along the South
Coast proves conclusively that Cornish “free traders” conducted their
operations in a much less brutal and forceful manner than that which
characterized the doings of the famous smugglers of the Sussex coast,
and which so often led to outrages and scenes of an atrocious character.

A well-known writer upon smuggling says in reference to this point: “As
regards the skill and enterprise displayed by those who conducted the
trade, it is difficult to award the palm to any one county, though,
on the whole, perhaps, and after a careful consideration of all the
circumstances of the case, the writer is inclined to give it to the
Cornishmen. Not that the east countrymen were one whit behind them in
point of courage or activity, but the very fact of having to travel a
far greater distance for their goods exposed them to increased risks,
and to many dangers from which the trade elsewhere was tolerably
exempt, thus giving scope to the highest faculties, and developing
seamanlike qualities of no mean order.”

As an example of the risks which the Cornish smugglers, and doubtless
those of Looe, were willing to run for the sake of the enormous profits
realized when a successful “run” of a cargo was accomplished, it may be
mentioned that frequently these bold and hardy seamen would cross to
the hundred-mile distant French coast in open boats even in the depth
of inclement winters.

Not only would the daring character of the Cornishman seem to have
qualified him especially for engaging in a species of enterprise in
which were incurred such risks and dangers to life and limb, but the
situation of Cornwall, lying as it does at the western extreme limit of
England, and in the early days of the last century almost isolated from
other parts of the kingdom, in itself was well adapted to the secrecy
so necessary for the successful carrying out of smuggling enterprises
on a large scale. No coast line on the south or west of England is
more rugged or better supplied with creeks and harbours than that of
Cornwall, and, indeed, had Nature been concerned with the provision of
an ideal seaboard for the prosecution of contraband trade she could
not have formed one better adapted for the purpose. And “to these
natural advantages the Cornish smuggler brought in his own person an
amount of skill, cunning, and enterprise which was scarcely equalled,
and certainly was unsurpassed, elsewhere.” It was to the various
circumstances to which we have referred that is mainly attributable
the fact of Cornish smuggling having survived for a considerable
period after “free trading” had been successfully put down along other
portions of the south and west coasts.

Roscoff, which, until the edict of the King of France of September 3,
1769, was but a tiny fishing hamlet, became (when made by that edict
a free port) one of the places on the French coast most frequented
by the Cornish smuggling fraternity, and rose to a position of great
commercial importance. The action of the French Government was brought
about by that of the English, who two years previously had passed an
Order with relation to the Channel Islands--till then a smugglers’
paradise with an enormous trade in contraband spirits, lace, tea and
tobacco--with the object of suppressing smuggling. And even during
the French War with Napoleon the contraband trade with the coast of
Brittany continued almost unabated. It should, however, be stated for
the credit of the smugglers that they frequently afforded important
information to the English naval authorities and the Government
regarding the movements of the French fleets and operations of
privateers, and for this reason, probably, the circumstances which led
to such information being obtained were generally not very closely
inquired into.

How extensive the smuggling trade was about this period and even a
little later may be gathered from the fact that more than a hundred
large vessels (luggers and cutters chiefly) were engaged in it upon
the south and south-west coasts alone. They varied in tonnage from
about 80 to 150 tons, and were not infrequently supplied with means
for armed resistance. They were built chiefly at Cornish ports,
Polperro, Falmouth, Mevagissey amongst the number, the boats of the
last-named port being especially noted for their speed. So much so that
they were frequently bought by the Sussex and east coast smugglers,
notwithstanding the fact that both Hastings and Shoreham enjoyed some
considerable reputation for the building of smuggling craft. Not a
few, too, of the larger luggers were during the French Wars fitted out
as privateers either by their smuggling owners, or merchants who had
purchased them for the purpose.

The carrying capacity of the vessels engaged in the trade may be
somewhat gauged from the fact that on June 10, 1823, a cutter of
twenty-five tons of East Looe took in a cargo of “within a few tubs of
700” of spirits at St Brelade’s Bay, Jersey, for transhipment to the
Cornish coast.

An interesting light is thrown, by the following recorded incident,
upon the life of the revenue men of the district, and the rivalry
which existed between them in the period which immediately preceded
the decline of the smuggling industry. During February, 1827, “the
commander of the _Lion_, revenue cutter, was reprimanded for allowing
his boat’s crew to take by force part of a ‘seizure’ made by the
coastguard boats of the Looe and Polperro stations.” The _Lion’s_ men,
either for gain or glory, the historian does not state definitely
which, upon coming up with the Polperro revenue boat, which was towing
a string of tubs, set to work to detach some of the latter from the
sinking rope. This attempt of the _Lion’s_ men to take possession of
spoil belonging by right of capture to the Polperro “preventives”
was stoutly resisted, and during the struggle the knives used by
the aggressors to sever the tubs came in contact with the fingers
of the commander of the Polperro boat, who appears to have suffered
considerably in consequence.

In the records of the coastguard service are many entries which show
how busy a part the “two Looes” played in the hazardous enterprises of
voyages to and from Roscoff, or Rusco as most smugglers called it, in
those distant times. In August, 1833, there were taken “One hundred and
fifteen tubs belonging to the _Dove_ (a rather favourite name, by the
way, amongst smugglers) by the Looe coastguard.” Then in the following
month there is an entry which conjures up visions of an only partially
successful “run,” for we find “Five tubs washed ashore at Looe, and a
boat marked _Fox_ (a much more suitable name than _Dove_ for smuggling
craft one would think) of Plymouth found on the beach a mile or so
west, and another tub in the cliff hard by.”

Then in the same month the _Elizabeth_, forced to drop some of her
cargo overboard when pressed by a revenue cutter off Seaton, just
across the bay, lost fifty-seven of her tubs to the Looe boat, which
fished up the line to which they were attached.

And a year or so later one reads of “the Looe lugger, _Morning Star_,
being chased off the Lizard by the Plymouth revenue cutter and lost
sight of in a fog.... Next day being again sighted and boarded but
found empty.” What a world of romance is to be found hidden in that
entry? A vision of an exciting chase, with the smugglers aboard the
_Morning Star_ doing all they knew (and that was much one may rest
assured) to give the cutter the slip. Perhaps even seeing to the
priming of pistols and muskets lest their attempt to escape should not
prove successful. And then the coming on of the merciful fog, the dark
night off Looe, the lowering of the boats, loading of the tubs, the
cautious rowing ashore towards the signal lights of those who waited
anxiously to assist at the run. Then the putting again to sea, the
falling in with the revenue cutter, and the innocent and doubtless
conciliatory interview when the _Morning Star_, after heaving to, was
boarded and searched and found--empty!

Looe must have been a busy place in those days, and many prosperous
folk, who though nominally fishermen seldom shot a net, there
undoubtedly were. It was no uncommon thing for a £1,000 cargo to be
brought safely across from Roscoff, and on a suitable night (a winter’s
night for choice with not much moon) landed and dispersed through the
usual channels on the shore a few miles east or west of Looe.

Those were rough times, too, ashore, when occasionally a coastguard
would disappear if found too successful or energetic in frustrating
the smugglers’ doings; but although tradition speaks of several such
disappearances details are wanting, and one can only hope for the
credit of the Cornish smuggler--who generally seems to have taken rough
luck with the smooth without the exercise of undue violence--that these
traditions have little foundation upon fact.

Looe, like Plymouth and other west country ports and places, in the
olden times possessed “instruments in the shape of a cage and ducking
stool or chair for the proper subjugation of women addicted to overmuch
exercise of their tongues,” and that these somewhat barbarous methods
were at least occasionally put into practice and to good and even
humorous account the following anecdote will show:

Bessy Niles and Hannah White, two women of East Looe, “having
quarrelled and exerted all their powers of oratory on each other,”
at last decided to appeal to the Mayor, a Mr John Chubb, for the
settlement of their dispute.

Each naturally wished to be first in the field, and thus lay her
case before his worship without interruption, and make the most
favourable impression. The first to arrive, however, was not long left
in possession of the mayoral ear, and so incensed was the other on
her arrival that she commenced to abuse the first comer with all the
eloquence of an unbridled tongue. His worship called the town constable
in self-defence, and when the latter arrived ordered him promptly to
“Take these two women to the cage, and there keep them till they have
settled their dispute.”

A decision, we think, that would have done credit to Solomon himself.
We are told by Mr Bond, the historian of this exciting event in the
history of East Looe, “They were immediately conveyed thither, and
after a few hours’ confinement became as quiet and inoffensive beings
as ever breathed!” If the “cage” of East Looe was anything like those
of other places we know of we can well believe that peace reigned after
but a short incarceration.

The Napoleonic invasion scare, which was renewed after the short-lived
treaty of Amiens, affected Looe as it did most towns on the south and
south-west coasts. “The country,” says Jonathan Couch, “from end to
end bristled with volunteers. Even those persons who were not actually
enrolled had some specific duty assigned to them in case of invasion,”
such as the exciting work of driving off the cattle inland, setting
fire to the corn, ricks, and other stores which could not be removed to
a place of safety. Many honest, though timid-hearted, individuals lived
in continual fear, dreading to go to bed, lest they should awake to the
call of French trumpets, in midst of the invaders’ troops, or perhaps
be foully murdered by “Boney’s” myrmidons whilst asleep. “A fear,”
says another historian of this period, “not altogether unreasonable
was entertained that a diversion would be made by sending an army into
Cornwall to draw hither the troops whilst the main efforts of the
invaders were directed against London.”

It is interesting to know the total number of Cornish folk who flocked
to the defence of their country in this crisis. In the year 1806 there
were enrolled in Cornwall no less than 8,362 men and 149 officers,
whilst the total effective force of the volunteer army in Great
Britain at the same period was 370,860, divided as follows: cavalry,
31,771; artillery, 10,133; infantry, 328,956. The Looe artillery
numbered seventy men. At Polperro, close by, there was a large force
of “sea-fencibles,” as they were called, armed with pikes; as well as
heavy artillery under the command of a naval captain. Details of the
uniform worn by the East and West Looe Artillery, which was commanded
by a Captain Bond, have been fortunately handed down to us. It was,
we are told, “blue with red facings, like the regular artillery (what
glory!), but with plain buttons. The men,” we are further told, “were
practised in the infantry exercise when not engaged with cannon. The
latter were naval eighteen pounders, fixed in the Church-end battery at
East Looe. The men were provided with clothes and had pay on those days
when they were paraded, but the officers had no pay and provided their
clothes at their own cost.”

Such is a fairly vivid picture of the times when Looe was a bustling

But nowadays it has no such exciting incidents to disturb or stir
up the “sleepy hollow” character of its existence, although at one
time the place was engaged not only in contraband trade on a truly
magnificent scale, but enjoyed quite a large legitimate trade with the
ports of Eastern Europe. Except for its fishing fleet, which ventures
as far afield as the Irish coast on occasion, and the coming and
going of a trading brig or tramp steamer, the pretty harbour, which
lies as it were in a cleft between the hills, whose midway slopes are
tree-clad, preserves little indication of the bustling life of former
times; but, all the same, it is a spot in which to linger, and a snug
harbourage in almost all weathers.

Polperro is but a short six sea miles from Looe, and is too delightsome
a place to be passed by without threading its narrow entrance of less
than sixty feet between the piers, which makes it a veritable “needle’s
eye” not easily to be passed through save in a moderate and fair wind.

[Illustration: LOOE]

The name is said to be derived from Pol or Pool, and Perro supposed to
be a corruption of Peter, thus meaning Peter’s Pool, or perhaps Peter’s
Port. Old Leland describes it as “a fischer towne with a peere,” but
after a visit to it most people will agree that the description does
the place but scant justice, for indeed Polperro is a very charming
old-world spot.

The entrance is through a gap between two ledges of rock, and once
safely inside, the little town, which blocks the way up the narrow
valley in which it is situated, is straight before one, with the
fishermen’s dwellings picturesquely huddled together in the hollow
and climbing--with a few houses of greater size and importance--the
gorse-clad hillsides. It is a place enjoying some reputation with
holiday folk as well as artists and writers.

But sheltered as is this tiny Cornish village, lying with its feet in
the sea and its head often veiled in the blue-grey smoke which hangs
like a cloud of incense over the weather-worn roofs on still days, in
south-westerly, southerly and south-easterly gales the sea runs in
dangerously high, so much so, indeed, that in former times a boom used
to be strung across the harbour entrance to break the force of the
waves. Those who have by any chance heard the “organ note” of a gale
from either quarter we have named as it roars in at the entrance and
sweeps up the little funnel-like valley will not soon forget it. Then
with the fisherfolk it is a case of _sauve qui peut_ as regards the

The well-known antiquarian and naturalist, Jonathan Couch, who dwelt
many years in the village, and, amongst other things, left behind him a
history of the place descriptive of it and its many curious customs far
above the average of such local works, both from the points of literary
merit and interest, paints a picture of storm and stress at Polperro,
which we make no excuse for quoting at some length, as it is not only
vivid, but also typical of similar scenes to be witnessed “when the
stormy winds do blow” in many another haven on the Cornish coast. On
these occasions he says, “All who can render assistance are out of
their beds helping the sailors and fishermen, lifting the boats out of
reach of the sea, or taking the furniture out of the ground floors to
a place of safety.... When the first streak of morning light comes,
bringing no cessation of the storm, but only serving to show the
devastation it has made, the effect is still more dismal. The wild fury
of the waves is a sight of no mean grandeur as it dashes over the peak
and falls on its jagged summit, from whence it streams down the sides
in a thousand waterfalls and foams at its base. The infuriated sea
sweeps over the piers and striking against the rocks and houses on the
warren side rebounds towards the strand, and washes fragments of houses
and boats into the streets, where the receding tide leaves them strewn
in sad confusion.”

The truth of this description will easily be recognized by all who have
witnessed a storm and its effects upon the rock-bound Cornish coast.
Then there gather upon the points or bluffs above the harbour mouths,
or on the sea-swept piers and quays groups of frightened women and
children, and men with anxious faces gazing out over the wild expanse
of foam-flecked seas to watch for the return of the boats, or, maybe,
the manœuvres of some brave ship which has suddenly found herself on a
lee shore. Those are times when the heart-strings of men are taut, and
when the tears of women are in their eyes. Few sights are more sad,
either to sailor or to landsman, than the break up of a fine vessel
upon a rocky coast, when the heavy seas pound the strongest works of
men into matchwood, and the fabric of the ship seems indeed to dissolve
before one’s eyes.

Old Polperro folk--mostly women, it must be admitted--still talk with
bated breath of the uncanny doings of a certain John Stevens, who
dealt in occult arts in the middle part of the last century; and of
another “witch,” who dwelt in an outlying hut near the quaint village
of Crumplehorn, just a short distance up the valley. In the days, which
some of the old people yet remember, none would go near her hut after
dusk, and at least one old lady survived till comparatively recent
times who had seen (so she told us) “the devil or the witch flying up
out of the chimney on a broomstick.” But these were sights seen in days
when the little harbour was seldom entered except by the fishing craft
of the place itself, and strangers but once or so in a generation found
their way down by the steep hill road to the place where the sea meets
the land, and the murk of storm in winter days is so often, by reason
of the death and devastation wrought, a firmer limned memory than the
glorious clarity of Cornish sunshine and the azure tint of a summer sea.

Just as was the case at Looe the chief pursuits of Polperro men in the
period from about 1750 to 1835 were only somewhat remotely connected
with fishing, smuggling and privateering being much more to the taste
of these hardy and reckless seafarers; and, as Mr Couch points out,
the place was made for the enterprise. How universal the pursuit of
smuggling was at Polperro may be gathered from the following extracts:
“The smith left his forge, and the husbandman his plough; even the
women and children turned out to assist in the unlawful traffic,
and received their share of the proceeds.” The men, at all events,
generally fell into two classes--“tub carriers,” who carried the
“tubs” up the beach to the “cache,” or inland, as the case might be,
slung back and front by the “tails”[F] provided for the purpose on
the other side of the Channel; and the “batmen.” The former were paid
five shillings and upwards a night according to the number of “tubs”
they succeeded in carrying, and the latter, who gained their name from
the “bat” or bludgeon which they carried and on occasion used for the
protection of the carriers, were paid from fifteen shillings to a pound.

      [F] Pieces of rope secured round each end of the “tub”
          for this purpose and also for use should it be
          necessary to sling the “tubs” overboard to avoid
          capture.--_Smuggling Days and Smuggling Ways._

Of the speed and seaworthiness of the craft built at Polperro there
have been left several testimonies. Here is one from the _History of
Polperro_: “Fine craft too they turned out--clippers which, when manned
by skilful and intrepid sailors, would scud away from the fastest of
the Government cruisers and offer them a tow rope in derision.”

One famous craft, the _Unity_, is said to have made five hundred
successful trips, and have served on privateering expeditions without
having met with a single serious misadventure. Such boats were,
doubtless, also the notorious smuggling craft, the _Hope_, _Cruizer_,
_Exchange_, and _Happy Brothers_, all of Polperro, and constantly
engaged in trips to Roscoff in the first decade of the last century.
Several of them were heavily armed as well as strongly manned, and
there is little wonder that the “preventives” in this part of the west
country were sometimes lax in the exercise of their duty, and lived for
the most part on pretty good terms with the fisherfolk who were engaged
in the contraband trade.

It is improbable that the Polperro or indeed Cornish smugglers
generally recognized smuggling as in any way dishonest, or if they did
so, they certainly regarded it as a very trifling offence. And when one
remembers that the better-class people and even the gentry frequently
bought what spirits, tea and lace they required of the smugglers, and
that the “preventive” officers and men not seldom connived at the
running of cargoes, and were not above profiting from their laxness,
it is not to be wondered at that these bold fishermen, in whose veins
ran the blood of adventurers, and pirates of old, should engage in a
calling to which their hereditary character would be most naturally

Sometimes, however, as was the case of Robert Marks, a noted Polperro
smuggler, who was killed in an affray with the revenue men on January
24, 1802, and whose epitaph expresses such Christian forbearance
towards his slayer, and hope of being rewarded “with everlasting
bliss,” serious encounters took place, and in the course of years
“much good blood and spirits were spilt along the coast.” But however
outwardly friendly the two opposing interests were, the _History of
Polperro_ records the fact that “though active opposition on the part
of the smugglers was not politic, the people determined, one and all,
to offer as much passive resistance as was safe. No one would let a
coastguardman a house to live in at any price, so the whole force was
obliged to make a dwelling and guard house of the hull of a vessel
which was moored to the old quay.”

So lucrative and attractive was “the trade” at Polperro, and so
uncomfortable and risky the “preventive” service, that there is a
record of at least three men who “verted” from the revenue service
and entered the ranks of active smugglers, one James Rowat, boatman
coastguard, having been dismissed the service in 1827 for purchasing a
boat “intended to be employed in smuggling.”

The fate which overtook boats taken _in flagrante delicto_ and
condemned was usually that of being sawn asunder in three pieces
and broken up; and many a fine lugger and cutter shared this unkind
fate, though occasionally very handy and swift sailers were not thus
destroyed but were taken into the revenue service, sometimes to be
repurchased later on by the smugglers for further illicit use.

But although smuggling loomed so large in the lives and occupations of
Polperro folk during the later years of the eighteenth and early years
of the nineteenth century it by no means formed the sum total of their
seagoing activities. The Polperro privateers were quite as famous in
their way as the smugglers. As was perfectly natural the stern training
which was necessary to fit men for the hazardous calling of smugglers,
the resource, good seamanship, weather lore, courage, and daring
proved equally of service when they were brought face to face with the
enemies of their country, whether between the decks of a frigate or
line-of-battle ship to which they had been drafted as a punishment for
some smuggling exploit, or aboard the swift-sailing Polperro luggers
turned for the nonce into free lances as privateers. There were quite a
number of stories of privateering days current amongst the older folk
a couple of decades ago. One or two are worth quotation, as they come
from the lips of active participants or descendants of those who took
part in the exploits narrated.

There was the case of the _Eagle_, “a heavily armed lugger of some 135
tons, which, finding itself becalmed some sixty miles south-east of
Land’s End one August morning in the year 1809, was somewhat dismayed
to discover a frigate, of undeniably French cut, coming up with the
wind, and accompanied by what appeared to be a large _chasse-marée_, or
privateer, probably hailing from the port of Brest.... The _Eagle_ was
perforce compelled to await the coming of the enemy, who, when about
three and a half miles off, ‘broke out’ the tricolour. Fortunately
the wind preceded the frigate’s coming by some two miles or more, and
although the privateer had advanced to within a mile or so of the
English boat, through sailing a shorter course and closer to the wind
than the frigate, and began to open fire, the _Eagle_ was able to trim
sails and head for Penzance.”

Then followed a running fight with the frigate’s bow chasers, throwing
shot short but continuously, and the shot of the _chasse-marée_
occasionally passing through the _Eagle’s_ sails or falling aboard.
As was often the case, “the English and French privateers gradually
outdistanced the larger and heavier vessel, as the breeze was light,
and by six in the afternoon had dropped her hull down.... An hour
later those aboard the _Eagle_ were relieved to see the frigate give
up the chase, and stand away for the French coast.... All these hours
the two smaller craft had scarcely changed the positions they occupied
when first they got within range of the long gun each apparently
carried.... And so the fight went on until almost dusk, when a lucky
shot from the bow chaser of the Frenchman brought the mainsail of the
_Eagle_ down on deck with a run.... Three of her crew had been killed
or seriously injured, and half a dozen more were hurt. Now overtaking
the English boat hand over hand the Frenchman (who afterwards proved
to be the _Belle Etoile_ of Brest) came alongside, and, after pouring
in a broadside of six guns, crashed into the _Eagle_. Luckily for the
Polperro men, the mainsail proved a barrier for a moment or two to the
advance of the Frenchmen, who swarmed over the after bulwarks, and
in the delay pistols were used to such effect as well as cutlasses
that half a score of Frenchmen were put out of action. Inch by inch,
however, the superior numbers of the _Belle Etoile’s_ crew gained
possession of the _Eagle’s_ deck, and drove the crew into the waist;
but by good luck one of the latter had thoughtfully (!) loaded one of
the smaller guns with pistol bullets, and he and two companions had
managed to get the piece inboard and had trained it on the Frenchmen,
who were pressing the Polperro men from the fore part of the ship....
There was an explosion, which lit up the vessel and the smoke-grimed
and bloody faces of the combatants, and a whole row of Frenchmen fell
riddled with balls, which but for the close range would have spread
more happily (!) and swept away the whole lot.”

This diversion decided the day or rather night, and we are told that,
“rallying with lusty cheers, the Polperro men not only drove the
Frenchmen overboard and back on to their own deck, but followed them
up, and after twenty minutes’ bloody work, which caused the deck of the
_Belle Etoile_ to run red, succeeded in gaining the mastery.... After
the mainmast had been ‘fished’ and a fresh yard hoisted, the _Eagle_
and her prize, the crew of which was twenty men stronger, and of four
more and heavier guns, laid a course for Falmouth, which was reached
next day in safety, after speaking one of His Majesty’s cruisers.”

From the _History of Polperro_ we take the second account of the
doings of its privateering fisherfolk. The story tells how when the
_Unity_, a hired armed lugger, was cruising in the Channel off Ushant,
with one Richard Rowett of Polperro in command, he discovered at
dawn one morning the presence of two French frigates, “one on either
side, who hoisted English colours, but from their build and rig he
(Richard Rowett) had his suspicions as to their nationality. All
doubts, however, were dispelled when a shot was fired across his bows
to bring him to, and both immediately displayed the French flag. The
nearest hailed him, and, considering the _Unity_ to be their prize,
ordered him to lie to while they boarded her. This order Captain Rowett
feigned to obey, and for the moment shortened sail; but when under the
lee of the enemy, who were both lying to, quite contentedly lowering
their boats with the sails aback, he suddenly spread all sail, passing
ahead of both frigates, took the helm himself, ordered the crew to lie
flat on the deck to escape the perfect shower of balls rained from
the bow chasers and muskets of the enemy, which, in their anger and
disappointment at so unexpectedly losing their prey, were fired on
them.” Such smart seamanship and daring well deserved the success with
which it met, and it is satisfactory to find that the “_Unity_ soon
escaped out of range without anyone being hurt, and with only very
slight damage being done to the sails and rigging.”

Very little trace of the stirring times of old is discoverable in the
peaceful life and law-abiding inhabitants of Polperro of these prosaic
twentieth-century days. It is just a charming little haven with the
quaintness which seems inseparable from all Cornish fishing villages,
redolent of many memories of gallant and daring deeds accomplished
by the ancestors of the contemplative fisherfolk who lounge in the
sunshine on the quay--still smoking, maybe, tobacco on which duty has
never been paid--when they are not engaged upon fishing expeditions or
in saving their boats and belongings during the gales which turn the
little haven into a roaring cavern of the winds.

Fowey, but seven miles further west, is a much more sophisticated
though perhaps not less charming place. For one thing, it has the
railway, and another it has, somehow or other, preserved a measure of
the importance and prosperity which belonged to it in the days when
it, too, owed much to contraband trade, privateering, and hazardous

As one enters the Fowey River between the headlands, one truly (in
the quaint words of old Carew) “lighteth on a fair and commodious
haven, where the tide daily presenteth his double service of flowing
and ebbing, to carry and recarry whatsoever the inhabitants shall be
pleased to charge him withal, and his creeks, like a young wanton
lover, fold about the land with many embracing arms.”

Amongst the famous folk who of recent years have come to dwell in
Fowey none has sung its praises more lustily than that engaging writer
who signs himself so modestly “Q,” but whose real name is A. T.
Quiller-Couch. In his novels he has put on record something at least
of the town’s social life and history. “Q” states that Fowey “has a
history, and carries marks of it.” And he also tells us: “The visitor,
if he be at all of my mind, will find a charm in Fowey over and above
its natural beauty, and what I may call its holiday conveniences for
the yachtsman, for the sea-fisherman, or for one content to idle in
peaceful waters.” And although he appears to lament that it no longer
has a Mayor and Corporation of its own (some may not deem this any
disadvantage or discredit) he hastens to assert that “it is as capable
of managing its affairs as any town of its size in Cornwall.”

No one who knows Fowey and its substantial charms will care to dispute
the justness of the eulogies of either of the writers we have quoted.

Fowey harbour is indeed a convenient and picturesque inlet, which
provides, after the headlands which guard the entrance are passed, a
good and pleasant anchorage for all the yachts (and they are many)
which come to it during the summer months, and to many other craft
besides. The creek, and afterwards the river, extends to quaint
Lostwithiel, six miles up, although the depth of water after the first
mile or so is not considerable. It is not merely a pleasure harbour,
either, for there is a considerable coasting trade, and huge vessels of
two or three thousand tons come into Fowey at times to load up with the
famous china clay of Cornwall for far distant countries of the world,
some of it, so it is asserted, to return again from China and Japan
transformed from amorphous masses into the delicate vases and egg-shell
pottery of the East, and coloured with designs the equal of which for
simplicity with effect only those lands can show.

In the town itself the salt sea breeze comes softened with that of
the wind from off the flower-clad heights above it, and from the
gardens of many of the cottages on the hill-slopes and upper portion
of the little town. In these gardens are many blossoms which find a
counterpart across the water on the coast of Brittany. The stocks,
roses, hollyhocks, crimson valerian, and wild yellow wall-flowers, and
“dragon’s tongue” flourish here in the gardens, and in the crevices of
the crumbling grey walls, as they do in Breton Morlaix; perhaps a link
with the past when Fowey, Cornwall, and Brittany were ever at warfare.

[Illustration: FOWEY]

Of these stirring days there are many traditions, and it is right that
there should be. Once Fowey was as noted as any port in the kingdom,
let alone the west country, for her seamen, seamanship, and her ships.
And when the third Edward, of daring enterprise, sought to gather
together a fleet for the attack and siege of Calais in the autumn
of 1346, Fowey’s contribution is the best indication of the town’s
importance in those days. To the king’s fleet the town sent no less
than forty-seven vessels, manned by nearly eight hundred men. London’s
quota was scarcely more than half as great as regards either ships or
seamen, and no other place in the kingdom, save Yarmouth with four
ships less, even approached the magnificent provision of Fowey.

The town of to-day is in some respects not unlike Dartmouth. It is
more open, one must admit, but there is the same close clinging of the
houses to the hillside, the narrow entrance, and the river flowing down
from Lostwithiel as does the Dart from Totnes. The streets are not
less picturesque than that of what may not improperly be considered as
the rival town, nor are they less steeply inclined; and there is just
the same air of peaceful antiquity in many of its winding alleys. The
long straggling street which leads from the railway station is narrow
enough to please the artistic eye, if not wide enough for present-day

Fowey, however, shows some trace of modesty (for which, remembering its
stirring history and swashbuckling of old, one might not be prepared
to give it credit) when it merely calls its main thoroughfare Passage
Street, and not Fore Street or High Street as do many other less
important towns.

“Q” speaks of Fowey’s open-armed hospitality. This, too, is
demonstrated by the neighbourly way in which the houses lean up against
one another, and the manner in which the tortuous streets and by-lanes
intersect, and merge one into the other as though the chief aim they
had in view was self-effacement and the general puzzlement of the

“The beginnings of Fowey,” one writer has told us, “are lost in the
mazes of antiquity. It is possible that Saxon pirates had a settlement
here which afterwards passed into the possession of others in whose
veins the rich blood of corsair ancestors had not been thinned by
enervating land pursuits or cessation from struggle with the elemental
forces of nature upon the narrow seas and, maybe, wider ones.” But
whatever those beginnings were, the situation of the place was such
as to commend itself irresistibly to the men who were its first
inhabitants. “Many have called them pirates,” says another writer, for
whom the character of the men of Fowey in past times seems of some
concern, “but what were pirates? Were they not the very men who built
up the greatness of England in the days when greatness upon the seas
was not of less importance than to-day, and was only obtainable by
irregular means?”

With which contention it is not easy for the student of history to
disagree. Those were days when _letters of marque_ were not required,
only a swift-sailing vessel, a good crew of daring men, and the much
adventuring spirit which distinguished most of the Cornish seaports at
a time even antecedent to what Hals refers to as “the warlike reigns of
our two valiant Edwards,” when, as he goes on to assert, “the Foyens
(not, however, without some inkling, we venture to deduce, of private
and personal gain) addicted themselves to backe their princes’ quarrels
by coping with the enemy at sea, and made return of many prizes, which
purchases (plunder) having advanced them to a good estate of wealth,
the same was heedfully and diligently employed and bettered by the more
civil trade of merchandize.”

Thus one gathers that the foundation of much of Fowey’s past greatness
was of questionable or “uncivil” origin, and that it was only when
Foyens had well-lined their nests that the more legitimate and peaceful
callings made any great appeal to them. So greatly did the piratical
enterprises prosper that Hals goes on to say, “It is reported sixty
tall ships (ships of size) did at one time belong to the harbour.”

Unfortunately, however, the bold men of Fowey did not confine their
energies to the backing of “their princes’ quarrels by coping with the
enemy at sea,” but sometimes fell foul of their fellow countrymen, as
was the case with the men of Winchelsea and Rye, to whom they refused,
when sailing near those ports, to “vaile their bonnets at the summons
of those towns,” with a result that the seamen of Winchelsea and Rye,
burning with indignation at the Foyens’ contempt, “made out with might
and maine against them, howbeit (as Hals goes on to tell us) with so
more hardy onset than happy issue, for the Foy men gave them so rough
entertainment as their welcome that they were glad to depart without
bidding farewell.”

In a ballad (too long for us to quote in full) the exploit of Nicol,
a widow’s son of Fowey, in capturing the celebrated Italian corsair
Giovanni Doria (known as John Dory), of the famous Genoese family of
the Dorias, who had been hired by the King of France to prey upon the
English during the wars of Edward III, is preserved, and testifies to
the old-time prowess of Fowey folk.

After Nicol had roamed the seas he sighted the vessel of the
redoubtable Giovanni, and with his “goodly bark with fifty good oars of
a side” promptly sought to engage the enemy. We are told in somewhat
rugged verse, in which there dwells not only a fine fighting spirit but
also some poetic licence:

    The roaring cannons then were plied,
      And dub-a-dub went the drum-a;
    The braying trumpets loud they cried,
      To courage both all and some-a.

    The grappling hooks were brought at length,
      The brown bill and the sword-a;
    John Dory, at length, for all his strength,
      Was clapt fast under board-a.

It seems, however, more than doubtful whether the cannons did roar at
the period at which the fight took place. It is more probable that this
was a touch of “local colour.”

When such successes attended Fowey arms--however unauthorized--it is
little wonder that the Foyens sent their ships not only scouring the
Channel in search of the French, but also along the Breton coast, “in
search of plunder and sometimes of women.”

The author of _The Complete History of Cornwall_ seems to have had
little real love for Fowey folk, whose deeds he recounts, however,
somewhat fully and with a suspicion of gusto. He tells us that the
pirates of Fowey became unconscionably rich, wicked, and bloodthirsty,
and that though, while enriching themselves, they must have assuredly
done the nation at large and the west country much service, they
were deserving of a fate not much less severe in character than that
which overtook the Cities of the Plain. So he tells us, with some
elation, how at length, tired of the Cornishmen’s depredations, some
Norman lords gained from Louis XI “a commission of mart and arms to
be revenged upon the pirates of Fowey town, and carried the design so
secret that a small squadron of ships and many bands of marine soldiers
was prepared and shipped without the Fowey men’s knowledge.”

This expedition set sail from Le Havre in the summer of 1457, and
ran down Channel with a fair wind along the French coast, and then,
striking across, in due time came in sight of Fowey, “where they lay
off at sea till night, when they drew in towards the shore and dropt
anchor, and landed their marine soldiers and seamen, who at midnight
approached the south-west end of Fowey town, where they killed all
persons they met with, set fire to the houses, and burnt one-half
thereof to the ground, to the consumption of a great part of the
inhabitants’ riches and treasures, a vast deal of which were gotten by
their pyratical practices.”

It is not difficult for the student of local histories, and of the
existing records of these troublous days, to conjure up from even the
scant details furnished by Hals the sad case of the terror-stricken
inhabitants of the little port as their enemies poured down into the
town by the path across the headland. Hals reproduces for us the scene
of sudden and fierce attack, the hasty gathering together of what men
there were in the town (for many must surely have been absent), the
fight in the dimly or unlit streets, the ruthless striking down of
women and children, and of the aged, the _sauve qui peut_, followed
by a mad rush across the harbour to the Polruan side in search of
safety on the further hills, and then the dawn, when the true amount
of the devastation wrought could be seen by the survivors. Much--nay,
the greater part--of the little town lay a heap of smoking ruins,
whilst in the narrow streets, or what had been such, lay many corpses,
some hacked beyond recognition and marking the stout resistance that
the individual had made to the onslaught of the Breton and Norman
marauders, whilst some lay charring amid the smouldering heaps of what
once had been homes.

It was with bursting, though, possibly, also thankful, hearts that
the survivors of this terrible night saw their enemies depart with
whatsoever booty they had saved from the flames and could easily bear.
“The news,” Hals tells us, “of the French invasion in the morning flew
far into the country, and the people of the contiguous parts as quickly
put themselves in arms, and in great multitudes gathered together in
order to raise the siege of Fowey, which the Frenchmen observing and
fearing the consequence of their longer stay, having gotten sufficient
treasure to defray the charge of their expedition, as hastily ran to
their ships as they had deliberately entered the town, with small
honour and less profit.”

Soon the Fowey men were afloat again, and “in their fresh gale of
fortune began to skim the seas with their often piracies,” making
descents upon the Breton and Norman coast and exacting a terrible
retribution for the ruthless doings of the Lord of Pomier and his men.
If one may accept without question the historian, they were not easily
satisfied, but many a Norman and Breton village and townlet on the
opposite coasts was burned and sacked ere the “slate was wiped clean.”

So considerable, indeed, was the damage done that no less a personage
than the King of France himself, Charles VIII, known as the Affable,
took the matter up and lodged a complaint with Edward IV. It was often
a case of rough justice, or rather injustice, in those days. Indeed,
justice unalloyed was not easily obtained, as the men of Fowey were
speedily to find, for when the king appointed a commission of inquiry
to sit at Lostwithiel, some at least of the commissioners appear
to have remembered that Fowey men were quick to avenge themselves.
That, indeed, on occasion, they had been no respecters of authority
(having but a short time before docked a king’s herald of his ears),
and so they did not come straight to the point with the men who had
transgressed, but entrapped them, and in this manner. The commissioners
having let it be known that they were come into those parts because
the king required men and ships for a new expedition, the Fowey men
were induced to ascend the river to Lostwithiel, and promptly (for
their loyalty was unquestionable, though their obedience at times left
something to be wished for) placed their lives and ships at their
Sovereign’s disposal.

But the appeal to their loyalty was but a ruse of the commissioners,
who, “when the chief men of Fowey were come, promptly seized upon them,
took their goods, and without any delay hung their leader.” But this
was not all, nor the worst, that could happen, for their rivals, the
men of the Dart, were allowed to come to Fowey, to seize the vessels
in harbour, and remove the chain which (like the one that guarded
approach to Dartmouth) was stretched across the mouth of the haven to
bar the entrance against their enemies.

What the feelings of the Fowey men may have been at this severe and
somewhat unjust punishment (for, after all, they were not worse pirates
than the men of other Devon and Cornish ports) history does not tell
us, but certain it is that the town never entirely recovered from the
blow, and that its later prosperity was but a poor shadow of its old
wealth and reputation.

No longer did the men of Fowey range the Channel, making strenuous
and successful warfare upon the king’s enemies, and thus for full two
centuries the town played no great part in the history of the west
country. Indeed, it is not until the reign of Charles II and the year
of the Great Fire that the veil which hides the doings of Fowey lifts
for a moment, and shows us that the ancient daring and the sturdy
spirit of the inhabitants still survived. After the action in the
Channel between the Dutch and English fleets in June, 1666, the latter
chased the Virginia fleet, which took refuge in the Fowey estuary and
river, and, as Hals puts it, “sailed up the branches thereof as far as
they could and grounded themselves on the mud lands thereof.”

Upon the Dutch fleet appearing off Fowey and becoming aware of this, a
doubly-manned frigate was detached from the main body, which remained
cruising off the harbour mouth, with the mission of entering the haven
and destroying the English ships. There were, however, two forts, one
on either side of the entrance, and as soon as the Dutch ship “came
within cannon shot of those forts she fired her guns upon the two
blockhouses with great rage and violence, and these made a quick return
of the like compliment. In fine, the fight continued for about two
hours’ time, in which were spent some thousands of cannon shot on both
sides, to the great hurt of the Dutch ship in plank, rigging, sails,
and men, chiefly because the wind slacked or turned so adverse that
she could not pass quick enough between the two forts up the river.”

In the end the attempt to destroy the fleet had to be abandoned,
although one cannot quite comprehend why a general bombardment was not
undertaken of “Fowey’s little castles,” to the credit of which and to
Fowey gunners the repulse of the Dutch was due.

Never again, so far as we have been able to discover, did the Fowey
forts play so gallant a part in defence of England and of English
ships. Possibly they were made ready to do so when the shadow of
Napoleonic invasion rested so heavily on the towns and seaports of our
southern coasts. Who can tell? But we have found no record of even the
fringe of the fighting, which made the Channel an almost ceaseless
naval battleground during the long French War, having touched the town
of Fowey itself. The coming and going of privateers alone, and the
enterprises of the daring smugglers who made the town notorious in the
annals of contraband trade may be said to have kept the place in touch
with the stirring events of the last years of the eighteenth and early
ones of the nineteenth centuries.

Jonathan Couch, in his _History of Polperro_, has something to say
concerning the bold smugglers of Fowey. And his account of one of many
lawless incidents gives one a very vivid idea of the state of things
which existed in the district towards the close of the eighteenth

“On one occasion,” he writes, “intelligence had been received at Fowey
that a ‘run of goods’ had been effected at Polperro during the previous
night, and several men of a cutter’s crew were accordingly sent as
scouts to get all the information they could. At Landaviddy they met
with a farm labourer, who, it was suspected, had been engaged in this
particular transaction; they tried to extract information from him by
stratagem, but finding that he was not to be entrapped they tried the
opposite plan, and threatened him with immediate impressment into the
king’s service if he did not tell them where the goods were hidden.
They succeeded in frightening him, and he informed them that a large
number of kegs were hidden in a certain cellar above Yellow Rock, which
he promised to point out by placing a chalk mark on the door.

“Having from the opposite hill seen this done, a portion of the crew
returned to Fowey to get a reinforcement. Headed by the Custom House
officers they soon returned, and proceeded in the direction of the
cellar. The arrival of the force and their object was discovered,
and a band of desperate smugglers, armed with cutlasses and pistols,
assembled on New Quay Head, which place commanded an open view of
the cellars which contained the kegs. A large gun was drawn down,
and loaded and pointed, while a man with a match stood by, waiting
the command of the skipper to fire. The revenue men were then defied
and threatened in a loud and determined voice. They consulted their
prudence, and resolved to send for a still stronger force. In a few
hours a well-armed band arrived and rushed into the cellar, but found,
to their great disappointment, that, although the place had been
watched from the outside, the kegs, which had really been there, had
been removed they knew not whither.”

In the twenties and thirties of the last century Fowey carried on a
brisk smuggling trade with Roscoff, and in November of the year 1832
we read the following: “The _Rose_ sailed from Roscoff for Fowey with
100 tubs of brandy,” and a little later on in the same month the fact
is recorded that the _Eagle_, thirty-five tons, and _Rose_, eleven
tons, both of Fowey, left Roscoff, bound for the Cornish port. Another
famous smuggling craft of Fowey, which made many trips across Channel,
and was remarkably successful with her runs, and in eluding and also
deluding the revenue authorities and cutters, was the _Dove_. This boat
was commanded by one of the Dunstans, members of a famous smuggling
family, of whom one was living till about twenty years ago, full of
romantic stories of the daring deeds of the old “free trading” days.
Enough has, however, been said to give some idea of Fowey of the past.

Of Fowey of the present very little more need be added to what we have
already set down. Although there are many quaint nooks, there are
but two historically important buildings surviving from the days of
old. One is the fine parish church of St Fin Barre of Cork, standing
a little way up the hillside. This church was rebuilt in about 1336,
and was appropriately rededicated to St Nicholas, the patron saint of
sailors. The interior is of very fine proportions, and there are quite
a number of interesting monuments, notably one in alabaster to John
Rashleigh. Although the building has at various times been altered and
restored, the work has, on the whole, been judicious, and has in no
way destroyed the effect of its beautiful and impressive proportions.
The exquisite choir screen, though modern and dating only from 1896,
is in the style of one of the fine fifteenth-century Devonian screens.
The oak pulpit will have a romantic interest for many, inasmuch as it
is traditionally supposed to have been made out of the timbers of a
Spanish galleon, a prize of Fowey men in the fifteenth or sixteenth

The other building of note is Place House, which stands, with its
castellated tower showing above the trees and surrounding houses, quite
close to the church. It has been for many centuries the family mansion
of the Treffry family, and in it is a wonderful porphyry hall, but it
is, after all, the romantic element of the building rather than the
place itself which has most appeal.

It was in this house that a few men of Fowey, with some women and
children, gathered and took refuge on the disastrous night in 1457,
when the French, under the Lord of Pomier, landed and sacked the town.
Hals writes of the incident thus: “The stoutest men, under conduct of
John Treffy, Esquire, fortified themselves as well as they could in his
then new-built house of Place, yet standing, where they stoutly opposed
the assaults of the enemies, while the French soldiers plundered that
part of the town which was unburnt without opposition in the dark.”

One is happy to know that Place was not taken and sacked, like the rest
of the town, on that night of long ago, when the streets ran blood, and
women and children were ruthlessly massacred, but stands very much as
it was in Hals’s day. At various times the house has been restored and
practically rebuilt, but it contains many fine and unique relics of
Tudor times, including the chair in which Queen Elizabeth sat when on a
visit to the then Bishop of Exeter.

One leaves Fowey and its calm, still harbour and environing hills,
upon which the houses with their red and grey roofs are grouped so
quaintly, with regret. A savour of the past seems to hang about the
place, bringing to mind some sad reflections of a bygone greatness; but
it is, nevertheless, a charming spot, to which one returns again and
again with delightful memories of previous visits to induce equally
delightful anticipations of pleasure.

Round Gribben Head and then, without putting into St Austell Bay, we
come to quaint little Mevagissey, eight sea miles or so distant from
Fowey. The harbour is good, and the fishing industry makes the place
both busy and picturesque. The church, dedicated to St Mewa and St
Ida, is a fine one, but lacks the tower which in former times was so
prominent a feature of the little town.

Heavy seas run at Mevagissey, at times so high, indeed, that the
lighthouse at the end of the south outer breakwater cannot be used.
Mevagissey, however, is worth putting into, for it is an interesting
little place, and a typical Cornish fisher port. Quite close to the
town is all that now remains of the once fine mansion of the famous
Cornish family, the Bodrigans of Gorran and Restronguet, which latter
name has as much a Breton flavour as many others hereabouts, notably
Lannion, and the two Penpouls or Paimpols, which one finds also on the
opposite coast.

These Bodrigans were a fighting stock, but, unhappily, in the reign of
the third or fourth Edward the male line became extinct; but on one of
the heiresses of the family marrying a Henry Trenowith, their son was
afterwards knighted by Edward IV as Sir Henry Bodrigan, thus reviving
the ancient and honourable house.

A romantic, and somewhat apocryphal, legend is connected with this
Sir Henry and a rock under Chapel Point, to the south of Mevagissey
Bay. The Bodrigans, as was natural, espoused the cause of York during
the Wars of the Roses, and in consequence lived at variance with most
of their neighbours, who were Lancastrians. Amongst these were the
Trevanions of St Michael Carhayes, the Edgecombes, and the Haleps of

Ultimately, of course, Sir Henry--who appears to have been somewhat
of a quarrelsome nature and unneighbourly beyond the needs of the
times--found himself on the losing side, and after the disastrous
defeat of the Yorkists at Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485, he fled to
his Cornish home, and went into hiding. His enemies, however, and those
who had any grudge against him for over-bearing ways in the past, soon
heard of his presence in the district and forthwith set out, led by Sir
Richard Edgecombe, to capture him and either hand him over to Henry VI,
or perhaps execute rough justice upon him themselves.

Hearing of the approach of his enemies in time Sir Henry was just able
to escape from the house and make straight for the sea. Hotly pursued,
he reached Chapel Point. With nothing but the sea in front of him
there was, apparently, after all, no escape, and his enemies (who had
by this time sighted the fugitive) shouted with exultation. Their joy
was, however, somewhat premature, for Sir Henry, arrived at the edge of
the cliff, which was here about 100 feet high, promptly jumped over!
When Sir Richard Edgecombe reached the spot with his followers, and
peered down below expecting to see his enemy’s mangled and lifeless
body, he was astounded and filled with impotent rage to see Sir Henry
escaping in a small boat to a vessel which was standing by just a
little way from the shore. The fugitive reached France in safety, but
his estates were forfeited to the Crown, and granted to the Edgecombes,
who had, doubtless, had in view some such reward for their loyalty when
they chased Sir Henry over Chapel Point and caused him to take a dive
which would have taxed the nerve of a Webb, considering the rocks which
lay beneath.

Gorran Haven, another quaint and pretty spot, lies midway between
Chapel Point and the Dodman. It takes its name from the Cornish prince,
Geraint, whose name has been preserved in that and many other places.
Geraint was buried, so ’tis said, on Carn Beacon, which rises some 400
feet high on the other side of Penare Head. Tradition had it for many
ages that with Geraint’s body was buried much treasure in the shape
of gold ornaments and vessels. Until 1855, however, he was allowed to
rest in peace. Then came disturbers, who dug up the old Cornish ruler’s
bones, but found no treasure to reward the sacrilege. So Geraint was
re-interred, and rests as of yore in sight of the lovely panorama of
headland and sea upon which in life he must have often gazed.

All this land is full of legend as engrossing as the _Morte D’Arthur_
itself, just as it is full of rare, wild beauty of coastline, and
lovely indentations; but we must on to Falmouth. Past the stern, bold
Dodman, which impresses most seafarers as being finer and more abiding
than either the Start or Lizard, and past lovely Veryan Bay, with its
sheer cliffs scored by many picturesque ravines, and charming coves,
and also past Gerrans Bay.

And so to Zose Point, between which and the beautiful headland
opposite, upon which Pendennis Castle stands, is the entrance to
Falmouth and its wonderful haven, in the roads of which a battle fleet
can float.

Chapter X

Falmouth--Gerrans--St Mawes--Penzance

Falmouth has by more than one famous sea captain and well-known
yachtsman been referred to as “the finest harbour of the English
coast.” It is not necessary for us to dispute the truth of this
statement, or point to other havens (Milford, for example) which some
may think have equal or greater claim. Those, indeed, who know Falmouth
well, or have spent pleasant days there, at anchor or under canvas,
will certainly do it justice and agree without demur to any praise
which may be given it. One of the chief attractions of Falmouth to
seafaring and especially to yachting folk is the “mildness” of its
tides. There is no rush out of it as though a mill race were set to
balk one’s efforts to get in and snugly moor. It is quite possible to
accomplish both these things against the tide and wind, if one knows
one’s way; and when once inside Black Rock there is, for sailing, no
place to beat it.

Falmouth Harbour, too, is the very paradise of charming creeks, many
of the largest of which have sufficient water to let one sail right
in with a moderate-sized vessel, while almost all the others can
be explored in a launch or dinghy. The vast expanse of green sea,
enclosed on all sides save the south with sweet woods and fields,
flower-spangled at almost all seasons of the year, has a wonder-spell
peculiarly its own at sunset and sunrise, and during the half-lights
which succeed and precede day-dawn and dusk. Then there are, indeed,
sky-pictures to be seen, whether one be afloat, on the hills near St
Mawes, ashore amongst the quaint, straggling streets, or on the quays
watching the wide stretch of calm water take on something of the glory
of the colours in the sky, mingled with the reflection of houses by
the waterside, or anchored vessels. Then, as dusk creeps on apace, the
old town, with its huddle of houses, its murk of blue-grey smoke, its
quaint chimneys and broken roofs silhouetted against the sky-line, and
its glow-worm lights coming out one by one in the casements, to be
answered by the riding lights of ships at anchor throwing yellow, wavy
lines on the surface of the water, presents a picture of indescribable
charm and mysterious beauty.

The last of the great harbours of the south-west coast, it is, in many
respects, the most gracious and beautiful. On it stand several little
seaports, which in ancient times made history, and to-day form such
delightful holiday resorts and ports of refuge for the yachtsman who
loves to dawdle close along one of the most delightful, if terrible, of
coast-lines. As is the case with Dartmouth and the Dart, and Plymouth
and the Tamar, so it is with Falmouth and the Fal; but with this
difference--it is only in the lower reaches that the Fal is either
beautiful or interesting; and it is difficult to say where river
ends and sea begins. In the many creeks into which the sea obtrudes
when the tide flows in from the Channel one has a variety of scenery
which never palls, visit it when one may. And over the low-lying mud
banks and marsh land the cleansing flood of the open sea comes with a
rippling song, and even in surroundings of fertile fields, woodlands,
and hills, a fresh brine in the air tells one that, however far from
blue water one may imagine oneself, the “spirit of the sea has but to
stir to flood the spot with the keen freshness of ocean’s breath.”
Amid the windings of the Fal, King Harry’s Reach, and Truro River, one
may spend many pleasant days, touching now and again on ancient things
as some grey old church comes into view, with its spire piercing its
environment of trees, or some quaint and pretty village, with romantic
traditions of the smuggling days, peeps at one across the fields which
border the river’s snake-like course.

Falmouth itself is a quaint one-street town of no great antiquity
as seaports go in the west country; but it is still sufficiently
old-fashioned to have about it a certain charm distinctly pleasing
in this modern and materialistic age. One writer says of Falmouth
that the beauty and popularity of the town is largely due to “letting
Nature well alone,” and that it is “one of the few unspoilt and much
resorted to places in England.” Be this as it may, there is no possible
doubt regarding the very great popularity of Falmouth with yachting
and holiday folk. There are yet some people left even to-day to whom
narrow streets, none too sharply defined pavements, and quaint domestic
architecture appeals, and all of these things may be found in Falmouth.

Apparently in more remote times the streets, or street, and Falmouth
architecture came in for more adverse criticism, as the Cornish
historian, Tomkin, writing about 1730, grumbles thus: “It is a pity
when Falmouth was began to be built they had not been more curious
(careful) in the choice of the site, which they seem to have, in a
sort, entirely overlooked. It would then, considering its extent and
the many good buildings in it, have vied with most towns in the west of
England, whereas now its principal part consists only of one very long
street stretched out at the bottom and on the side of a steep hill, as
high as the tops of the houses backwards, and winding mostly as that
does,” adding, “but this will always be the case where towns are built
without any fixed design at first, and every one hath the liberty to
carry on his design according to his fancy.”

But, all the same, had Tomkin lived, he would have found that the
features he decried were those which mostly attract folk to the old

As we have before said, Falmouth is not of very remote origin, although
there is a legend that it (or some other place which stood for it) had
some sort of existence in the far-off times when Phœnicians came to
get Cornish tin, and did their bartering for it upon, one would think,
the somewhat inconvenient surface of Black Rock. The town as we know
it, however, had no more ancient origin than that of Arwenack House,
which was built some short time prior to Richard II’s time, and was
later described by Carew as entertaining one with a pleasant view. The
heiress of the Arwenack family married in the reign of the monarch just
mentioned one Killigrew of Killigrew, in St Elme. Even so late as the
reign of Henry VIII, who caused the castles of Pendennis and St Mawes
to be built to guard the haven from the incursions of the French, and
possibly also to protect Penryn--which appears to have been then a
place of some size and importance--Falmouth in a Chart of the Haven
especially prepared for the king’s information seems to have consisted
of but the one house erected by the Arwenacks. About this time,
however, it should be remembered that both Truro and Tregony (which is
now high and dry) were ports with considerable trade.


The history of the Killigrew family is so bound up with that of
Falmouth, and has so many elements of romance, and stirring incidents
connected with it, that we find ourselves compelled to deal with it
somewhat at length. Moreover, the story serves to throw considerable
light upon the life and events of that period when Falmouth was slowly
emerging into a place of some maritime importance. That the Killigrews
were sometimes lawless, as many of their neighbours undoubtedly
also were, goes without saying; but they appear to have had a truly
humorous, if somewhat partial, idea of justice, which the following
anecdote will exhibit. “All is fish which comes to Killigrew’s net” was
the sarcastic observation of a succeeding age, but it may be said to
apply equally well, and with as considerable a force, to this earlier
period in the family history. Somewhere about the year 1582 a Spanish
vessel, of the port of St Sebastian, hard by Biarritz, belonging
to one Philip de Ovyo and his partner in the enterprise, John de
Chavis, was kidnapped from Falmouth Harbour, so the losers declared, by
servants or agents of Sir John Killigrew, the then head of the family.

The complaint seems to have been pressed home in a manner decidedly
awkward and distasteful to the accused, and it was decided that the
matter must be investigated. The authority appointed was naturally the
Commission of Piracy. Happily (for himself) Sir John happened to be the
Commission, and what was more natural (at least, in that easy-going
age) than that he should investigate and sit in judgement on a case in
which he himself was somewhat nearly interested? But to avoid suspicion
of bias or evil he invited another prominent man of the district,
Godolphin by name, to act with him. The impartiality of the latter
might in this more particular age have been questioned, seeing that
Godolphin had been accused of misappropriating some of the cargo and
treasure which had come ashore in the wreck of a Portuguese ship not
very long before Killigrew’s servants’ affair.

But for once justice appears to have been done somehow or other by
unexpected means. After it was discovered that some of Killigrew’s
servants were missing from the time of the disappearance of the Spanish
vessel, and that one of Sir John’s own boats played a prominent part
in the affair of cutting out the ship, the Commission (i.e., Killigrew
and Godolphin) found that the vessel had been misappropriated, and that
the owners were entitled to commiseration. The servants of Killigrew
were declared outlaws, and in return for the loss they had suffered
the Spanish merchants were given permission to export one hundred and
fifty quarters of wheat without paying duty. This may not appear to us
adequate compensation for the loss of their ship and its cargo, but
they probably made the best of a bad bargain, and considered themselves
fortunate to obtain any sort of redress.

Piracy would about this time appear to be the staple industry of
this particular district, if not, indeed, also of the greater part
of Cornwall. Although outlaws, Killigrew’s servants were not long in
Ireland, whence they had fled with the Spanish ship, for a short time
after the Commission had given its verdict either they or others were
once more in trouble, having been concerned in an attempt to rescue
from custody “a notorious and bold pirate, Captain Hammond by name, who
had been fortunately captured.” The pirate and his captors appear to
have been on their way to the gaol, where, doubtless, the former would
have languished until tried and ultimately “depended for the example
and terror of evil doers.” The master was, as before, much distressed
at the evil deeds of his retainers, but how genuine the sorrow was it
is not easy to determine. Suffice it to say that his professed dislike
of piracy was not shared by a descendant, one Lady Jane Killigrew,
who some few years later, upon seeing a couple of Dutch merchantmen
entering the harbour under stress of heavy weather, promptly dispatched
her servants to inquire into the cargoes borne by the ships, and other
details of how many they had as crews and how they were armed.

The report proved so satisfactory that on the return of the gentle
lady’s expedition of inquiry she determined to go aboard herself and
secure what she wanted. Perhaps she was distrustful of the _bona
fides_ and honesty of her servants, who knows? So she, “thinking it
well to pay the Dutchmen some compliment of estate,” had a large boat
got ready, and, lest there should be trouble, a good strong crew in
it well-armed for emergencies. One can imagine--if a knowledge of the
Killigrew methods of welcoming strangers had reached Holland--with
what distrust the poor Dutchmen, who had only run into the haven for
shelter, must have regarded the approach of her ladyship and her
well-armed galley.

The boat speedily swept across the intervening water, Lady Jane and
part of the crew clambered up the steep sides of the vessel, whilst the
remainder of the party made for the other ship. The Lady Jane soon made
clear her demands to the Dutch skipper, whilst the rest of her friends
and servants were engaged upon similar work on the other vessel.

It would appear from the account which has come down to us that as far
as the Dutch themselves were concerned they were prepared, or at least
disposed, to accept the inevitable without forcible resistance. There
were Spaniards on board the ships, however, and these were not likely
to take things quite so philosophically. The result was that some of
these were killed. Tradition asserts that the piratically inclined Lady
of Arwenack gave the signal for their dispatch. Be this as it may, the
Lady Jane succeeded in confiscating a considerable amount of booty,
which tradition again asserts to have been, _inter alia_, two hogsheads
of Spanish money, whilst her servants and the crew of the galley
followed her example with alacrity, and annexed anything of value
upon which they could lay hands. Times were rough and justice often
lagged, and when it did catch up the evildoer sometimes failed to exact
a commensurate retribution. But to Lady Jane, the freebooting owner
of Arwenack, punishment was ultimately meted out. She was haled to
Launceston Castle (where, doubtless, the notorious Captain Hammond also
lay in durance a few years before), and was tried, found guilty, and
condemned to be executed. Let us hope, with due regard for her birth,
breeding, and daring enterprise.

It would seem that after the escapade of Lady Jane Killigrew, although
piracy flourished and at times was conducted in a somewhat barefaced
manner, little was done to check it or to bring the chief offenders to
justice. Most of the vessels engaged in piratical expeditions to the
opposite coast of Brittany doubtless came down from Penryn, as it was
not for a century after the affair of the Dutch ships that Falmouth
assumed any great proportion or came into note as a western port.

It was that enterprising adventurer, Sir Walter Raleigh, who first
appears to have grasped the possibilities of Falmouth’s magnificent
harbourage, when on returning from one of his voyages and putting into
the haven he found only one or two houses in addition to Arwenack.
Here, thought he, was an unrivalled natural haven absolutely wasted.
The impression made upon his astute mind was such that upon reaching
London he sought to bring his views before the authorities, detailing
to them a scheme for the formation of a haven at Falmouth with a view
to assisting vessels not only by a safe anchorage in stress of weather,
but also by supplying them with stores and the means of repairing
damages received in the open sea. It was undoubtedly in consequence of
Raleigh’s representations that about 1565 a few houses were erected
at Smithick, which name still survives in the portion of the town
surrounding the church. This was the beginning of what was afterwards
destined to develop into present-day Falmouth.

Mr John Killigrew, afterwards knighted, whose estate of Arwenack had
become extended, until it seems to have included Pendennis Head, was
quick to see the growth of a town would be greatly to his personal
advantage and emolument, and in consequence he appears to have set
about to instigate the building of other and better houses at Smithick.
As was not unnatural, the existing ports of Penryn, Truro, and Helston,
seeing their supremacy, and perhaps even existence, threatened by
the new-comer, bestirred themselves greatly to prevent the proposed
expansion of the recently built village, even going the length of
presenting a petition to James I, pointing out in no measured terms
the injury and ruin which would result to them if a rival port were
permitted to arise so much nearer the sea, and so much more convenient
to mariners. So serious did the matter seem to those in authority that
for a time the development of Smithick was checked, pending an inquiry,
which was ordered to be held by Sir Nicolas Hals, who was then Governor
of Pendennis Castle. His report appears to have been favourable to the
proposed enterprise, and many more houses were erected.

Although this particular portion of Cornwall was far removed from the
great issues of the Civil War, Smithick, or Falmouth, was destined,
on account of the vicinity of Pendennis Castle, to feel something of
the struggle for ascendancy between Charles and his Parliament. Prince
Charles (afterwards Charles II) himself, after having been driven west
from Bristol and into Cornwall from Barnstaple in 1645, came here in
hot haste and sought temporary refuge in the castle ere taking ship
for France, and Queen Henrietta Maria in the previous year also had
come hither to embark for the Breton coast and safety. But after the
siege of the castle by the Parliamentarians, and the settlement of the
country on the death of the king, Smithick appears to have gone on its
untroubled way as a rising though still somewhat obscure port.

Under the Commonwealth Sir Peter Killigrew, who had been appointed
Governor of Pendennis Castle by General Monk, obtained several
advantages for the town in which his ancestor had taken so lively an
interest. Chief amongst these was the institution in 1652 of a market,
and a little later, the transference of the Custom House to Smithick
from Penryn. It was about this period that the town became known as
Pennycomequick. The origin of this peculiar name is by no means clear.
By some authorities it is supposed to be a cynical reference to its
rather “mushroom” growth, or to the eager desire of the inhabitants for
wealth, whilst by others it is thought to have its rise in a grouping
of old Cornish words, Pen-y-cwm-wick, meaning the village at the head
of the valley. It was not, however, destined to enjoy for long (or be
burdened with) so ambiguous a name, for at the Restoration in 1660
Charles II issued a proclamation on August 20, declaring that it was
his pleasure that the town should henceforth be known as Falmouth, and
in the following year granted the town a charter of incorporation under
that name.

Nine years later the enterprising Sir Peter Killigrew built a quay, and
Falmouth may be said to have properly embarked upon its career as a
trading port.

In 1688, the year of the coming of William of Orange, was established
at Falmouth the famous post-office “packets” sailing to foreign ports
and the colonies. These vessels, which were at first of small size,
about 180-200 tons, were usually three-masted, full-rigged ships, built
chiefly for speed and passenger traffic, no cargo, and well-armed. They
had the further distinctions of flying pennants as ships of war, and of
having naval officers for commanders. To quote an old account of the
service, which at one time numbered some fifty ships running to Lisbon,
New York, Gibraltar, Charlestown, Savannah, the West Indies, and
other parts of the world, “the boats were well-found and elegant, the
officers and men ‘picked,’ and so handsome were some of the former that
to take a packet voyage, notwithstanding the dangers of winds and water
and risk of capture or attack by the King’s enemies, was much indulged

To give some idea of the amount of mercantile life which this service
brought to Falmouth, it may be stated that in 1705 there were no
less than five of these “clippers” sailing to the West Indies, five
in 1707 to Lisbon, and in the middle years of the century there were
frequent sailings to the other ports and places we have named. In 1812,
notwithstanding the disturbed state of Europe, and the high seas, a
packet sailed “every Friday evening from October to April for Lisbon;
for Barbadoes and Jamaica and America on the Sunday after the first
Wednesday in every month all through the year, for Surinam and the east
on the Sunday after the second Wednesday in every month, for Brazils on
the Saturday after the first Tuesday in every month,” and so on.

This famous packet service remained one of Falmouth’s best assets of
prosperity as well as its pride until the end of the first half of the
nineteenth century, when steam displaced the old-time sailing ships,
and the service was gradually transferred to Liverpool and Southampton.
The loss of the mail contracts was a severe blow to the town, which not
only robbed it of a considerable portion of its trade, but also of its
life. This decline was inevitable, of course, as the sailing ship could
not compete with the steamer, any more than the old coaches which bore
the mails, when landed at Falmouth, to London and other parts, could
compete with the railways which linked the ports of transference with
London years before the line came to the far western port.

A book might well be written concerning the gallantry which was
invariably displayed by the Falmouth packets when attacked (as they
frequently were) during the French wars. As we have before said, the
vessels were almost invariably well-armed and well-manned, but only for
defence. They were forbidden by law to attack; but when the French and
American privateers assailed them they frequently found the packets
more than a match for their often superior force of arms and men.

Many stories of these naval engagements are still extant, and but
comparatively few years ago there were old men living at Falmouth
who had taken part in these engagements. One, at least, remembered
the famous fight of the _Townshend_ of nine guns, and a crew of
twenty-eight, counting boys, Captain James Cock in command, which
in 1812 on a voyage to Barbadoes, when almost within sight of port,
fell in with two American privateers, the _Bona_ and _Tom_, of vastly
superior force, both as regards weight of metal and number of men. In
the former the disparity was five to one, and in the latter rather more
than ten to one. The gallant but unequal fight went on for several
hours, the privateers battering the packet boat at long range, then
running down alongside her and attempting to carry her by boarding.
This latter manœuvre was repeated several times, but each attempt was
frustrated by the gallantry of the packet boat’s crew, and that of the
passengers who bore their part in the unequal and terrible combat. As
was their custom, the Americans had used chain and bar shot for the
purpose of cutting up the rigging of the _Townshend_, with a view to
preventing her escape by flight, and the condition of the vessel was
such by the time that the second attempt to board her was made that to
escape by superior seamanship or swifter sailing was no longer possible.

After the fight had been in progress for several hours, the _Townshend_
was so terribly “cut up” about her rigging, and had been hulled so
frequently by the enemy’s shot that she was almost unmanageable, and
in addition to this so many of her small crew had been put _hors de
combat_ that to serve the guns any longer was a matter of the greatest
difficulty. Soon, with the loss of her bowsprit, jib-booms, steering
wheel and other important gear, she was reduced to a sorry wreck.
Then she began to take in water faster far than the pumps, even if
they could have been manned, would have been able to keep under. The
Americans still continued to rake her fore and aft, as they could now
easily do owing to her helpless condition; but still the _Townshend_
and her commander refused to strike the English flag. The water rose
so rapidly that the carpenter, who was sent down into the hold to
ascertain the worst, reported the vessel actually sinking. Half the
crew were killed, or wounded so seriously that they were no longer
able to render the slightest assistance, and in the end, with tears
in his eyes, the English captain, to save other gallant and valuable
lives, which would only be uselessly sacrificed by further resistance,
hauled down his colours.[G]

      [G] See _The History of the Post-Office Packet Service
          between 1793 and 1815_ (Macmillan & Co.)

So ended one of the most notable of many engagements in which the
Falmouth packet boats of the end of the eighteenth and early years of
the nineteenth century took part. Often, however, though attacked by
vessels of superior force they, by courage and skill, managed to avoid
capture, and, indeed, both French and American privateers often found
they had “caught a Tartar” in a Falmouth post-office packet ship. Such
was the historic case of the _Jeune_ (or _Jean_) _Richard_, a heavily
armed French privateer carrying a crew of close upon a hundred, which,
falling in with the packet boat _Windsor Castle_, Captain W. Rogers,
with a crew of twenty-eight, and “only light guns,” almost on the same
spot as that destined to be the scene of the _Townshend’s_ engagement
five years later, attacked her, doubtless expecting to gain an easy
prize. The commander of the _Jeune Richard_ had, however, “reckoned
without his host,” for not only did Captain Rogers and his crew
gallantly repulse each attempt made by the privateer to board them, but
a happy idea of loading one of his 9-pounders with grape and musket
bullets occurred to the skipper’s mind.

“This gun was then trained on the boarding party from the privateer
_with the happiest results_.” The italics are ours. Subsequently,
Captain Rogers determined to take the offensive, and with a shout
of encouragement he leapt down upon the privateer’s deck followed
by five of his men, who, after a sharp fight with the disorganized
privateersmen, succeeded in driving them down below, and taking
possession of their vessel. The _Windsor Castle’s_ loss was heavy,
considering the sparse number of her crew, namely, three killed and ten
wounded. But the Frenchman lost twenty-one killed, and had no less
than thirty-three wounded.

Many another equally gallant tale could be told of the old days,
but these must suffice. Falmouth has remembered its heroes of the
post-office packet boat’s service in a granite obelisk, erected
upon the Moor by public subscription. Only too often, indeed, these
“unofficial heroes” and acts of daring and gallantry are overlooked.

But heroic deeds by Falmouth seamen were not confined to those who
manned the packets. The privateers of the town that sailed away into
the Channel and Atlantic from the safe and beautiful haven which was
the scene of such tireless activity and bustle in the days of the
long French war, did yeoman service in harrying the shipping of Great
Britain’s enemies, and often engaged with glory and success the smaller
vessels of even the French and Spanish navies. The extraordinary feat
of the Polperro ketch, the _Gleaner_, commanded by one William Quiller,
which in the year 1814 came in sight of a Spanish man-of-war, not
only of considerably greater size but more fully manned, and after a
fierce engagement succeeded in capturing the Spaniard and bringing her
into port can be more than once paralleled by the doings of Falmouth
despatch boats and privateers.

In the stirring days of the Napoleonic wars, Falmouth was indeed a busy
place. Carrick Roads were crowded with shipping merchantmen that had
entered the haven to escape the French privateers (which were always
hovering about the Channel on the look out for prizes) or were waiting
for convoy to the West or East Indies; privateers always coming and
going, sometimes returning maimed to refit, at others entering the
harbour in triumph with a prize in tow; and the King’s ships on the
look out for likely merchant seamen to replenish their depleted crews.

And in those days, too, the means by which the replenishment was
brought about were not always distinguished either by justice or
scrupulousness. Not only were merchantmen often boarded, when in
harbour and waiting for a favourable wind or convoy, and their best
hands impressed, so that when the wind became favourable, or convoy was
to be had, they were too short-handed to put to sea; but privateers
were also depleted of their crews which, when these vessels had
_letters of marque_, was not only a high handed, but actually illegal

One naval worthy who was in command at Falmouth in these troublous
times, when, to tell the truth, England was but ill-prepared to conduct
the naval and military campaign into which she had entered, was Sir
Edward Fellow, who came of an old Cornish family, and after having done
“some very worthy deeds and gallant things in the American War,” on the
outbreak of the war brought about by the French Revolution, offered
his services to the naval authorities, and was appointed to a fine
frigate called the _Nymphe_. On his first cruise, when he had filled
up his complement with Cornish miners! “owing to the lack of proper
seamen,” and had finally taken on board as leaven a few prime seamen at
Falmouth, he fell in with the _Cleopatra_, a revolutionary frigate in
the mouth of the Channel, and after an astonishingly fierce engagement
with the Frenchman (who had nailed the _bonnet rouge_ to his mast head)
succeeded in capturing her and bringing her in as a prize.

As a writer of the period says, “those were stirring days and restless
anxious nights along the coast. But into our havens and ports came many
prizes to British seamen’s gallantry, and prize money literally ran in
the streets as it burned holes in the sailors’ pockets.... Whilst the
officers, though perhaps a trifle more provident, yet denied themselves
little of enjoyment so long as the money lasted. But they were gallant
lads, one and all, who made Falmouth thus merry by day and night. And
when the ‘rhino’ was spent sailed away with light and stout hearts in
search of more glory and prizes.”

At the commencement of the nineteenth century, when the war was
ended by the Treaty of Paris, Falmouth had grown a port of size and
note, and it might have been expected that its position would have
been maintained, if not improved upon. Vessels of all nations and
from almost every quarter of the world made it their port of call,
discharged their cargoes there, or refitted. But for some reason or
other, in the third and fourth decades of the century, a marked decline
manifested itself, and Falmouth of to-day is of less importance than it
was a hundred years ago.

The introduction of steam, though of enormous benefit to commerce
at large, and indeed to many other ports appears to have adversely
affected Falmouth. Ships went more and more to ports further east,
and vessels which in former times called in to report arrival or
to get stores were no longer compelled to do this by reason of the
establishment of Lloyd’s signalling station at the Lizard, and the
introduction of steam power which made the shortage of stores that so
often happened on a long and unduly protracted voyage less and less
frequent. Even the building and opening of the extensive docks about
half-a-century ago, and the coming of the railway in 1863 have not,
as was so sanguinely hoped, enabled Falmouth to retrieve its lost
greatness. That so splendid a haven should be less used than formerly
cannot fail to be a matter for regret not alone to those for whom
Cornwall has a fascination and an undying interest, but to those also
who look upon such a circumstance in the light of a valuable commercial
and national asset lost.


But if denied the greatness which should rightly belong to it as a
port, Falmouth has of recent years come considerably to the front as
a health and holiday resort. Much has been done to add to the town’s
natural attractions of a fine climate and beautiful scenery, and in
future years the place may hope to become one of the most popular of
seaports in the West Country.

Though the streets and alleys are many of them quaint, Falmouth
possesses few old or important buildings. In the town itself Arwenack
House, with its memories of the Killigrew family, is certainly the
chief. The fine house, formerly by common consent considered at the
time as one of the most handsome and magnificent in the Duchy, built by
that John Killigrew who died there in 1567, was unhappily destroyed by
fire during the Civil War. One account of its destruction states that
the then owner, who was a staunch Royalist, himself set fire to it to
prevent it falling into the hands of the Parliamentarians. But another
story states that it was fired by the “malicious and envious Governor
of Pendennis Castle.” The present house, a low rambling place, is
substantially the same building as was built in its stead; but although
by no means deserving the eulogy lavished upon it as “the palace of
John Killigrew,” yet has an interest because of its many historical
associations, and an old-world air which arrests attention. It is now
the property of the Earl of Kimberley.

The Killigrew family was widely extended in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries. It was probably a member of the Middlesex branch
of the family, one Thomas Killigrew, who founded Drury Lane Theatre,
and opened it on April 8th, 1663, under a patent granted to him by
Charles II, whom he had served in exile. He was (like other members of
his family, Lady Jane, to wit) “rather greedy for offices and spoil.”
But according to one authority his main idea of opening the theatre
and entering into management was the fact that he had himself written
plays. Perhaps he is to be looked upon as the first of actor-managers.
It is interesting to note the prices in those early days of the
theatre. The first of Killigrew’s productions was a comedy called “The
Humorous Lieutenant,” and the prices in the theatre were 4_s._ for
boxes, 2_s._ 6_d._ for the pit, 1_s._ 6_d._ for middle gallery (dress
circle), and 1_s._ for gallery. “Sometimes the house was worth £50, and
often less, or not more than half,” we are told.

One of the most famous players under Thomas Killigrew’s management was
“Sweet Nell of Old Drury,” of whose acting “in a comical part” Pepys
has left a complimentary opinion, although he thought Killigrew’s first
production “a silly play.”

It was this Thomas Killigrew who was a noted wit, and whose portrait
by Van Dyck hangs in the Royal collection at Windsor. A writer in
_The Gentleman’s Magazine_ tells an interesting story of Killigrew’s
introduction to Louis XIV. The King took him into a picture gallery,
and upon pointing out a celebrated picture of the Crucifixion, inquired
of Killigrew whether he knew who the principal figures were or the
incident it represented. “No, sire,” replied Killigrew.

“Then,” said Louis, “Monsieur Killigrew, I will tell you who they are.
The figure in the centre is that of our Saviour on the cross, that on
the right of him is the Pope, and that on the left myself.”

After a pause Killigrew replied, “I humbly thank your Majesty for the
information you have given me, for, although I have often heard that
our Saviour was crucified between two thieves, yet I never knew who
they were till now.”

The reply of the King to this witty, though caustic and uncourtierlike,
speech is unhappily not recorded. The sarcasm was rendered more mordant
from the fact that both the King and the Pope were, at the time,
engaged in persecuting and robbing the former’s Protestant subjects.

Another story of a much more tragic nature is connected with Falmouth,
and relates to an old couple who lived towards the latter end of the
sixteenth century, a few miles out of the town on the way to Penryn.
They had two children--a son and a daughter; and the former--partly
owing, so the story goes, to his parents falling upon evil times--ran
away to sea, and of him they heard nothing for many years.

One winter’s night, however, when a great gale was blowing in the
Channel, and sweeping across the land from the Atlantic, a stranger
came to their door and asked for food and shelter. The old couple
allowed him to come in, and gave him food; and whilst he was refreshing
himself and warming his chilled bones by their fireside he entertained
them with wonderful stories of his adventures amongst pirates and in
foreign lands, for he was a sailor man. At last he fetched out of
his pocket a piece of gold with which to pay them, and asked them to
give him a bed. The old woman, surprised at such wealth, after a time
persuaded her husband to permit the strange traveller to remain the
night, and showed the sailor upstairs to a room. She remained chatting
with him for some time, and during their talk he showed so much money,
jewels, trinkets, etc., that she was perfectly dazzled at the sight.
The old woman, whose greed had been awakened, left him to his slumbers,
and the tired wanderer lay down to rest, well content thus to have
obtained shelter from the storm.

Next morning the daughter--who now lived at Penryn,--appeared on the
scene, and after the usual greetings she said, “Did not a sailor man
come to see you last night?”

“What do you mean, my child?” asked her mother, adding hastily, “A
sailor man! What could have put such a thought into your head?”

“Because,” answered the girl, “one asked his way here last night, and
said he wanted to see you.”

“No, no,” continued the old woman. “No sailor came _here_.”

But all the while the girl’s father was fidgeting and looking as though
the subject and the questioning was unpleasing to him.

“Father, do you, too, say no one came?” inquired the daughter,
anxiously. “Because it was our Dickon who came to see me, and told me
he had come back from foreign lands, where he had found a gold mine,
and had got as rich as the Grand Mogul himself.”

“Dickon!” screamed the mother. “Impossible. I should know my Dickon

“Then a sailor did come here!” exclaimed the girl. “Oh, mother, where
is he? Has he gone away again? There was a scar on his left arm that he
got at sea.”

The old man had disappeared during the last few words, and suddenly
there was a thud of some falling body overhead. The wretched old woman
hurried up the narrow staircase, and entered the bedroom the sailor had
occupied. The daughter followed her, but was only in time to see her
mother fall in a pool of blood and expire.

There in one room lay three dead bodies. The sailor son concealed
temporarily under the bed; the father who, at the instigation of his
wife, had killed him so that they might become possessed of his wealth;
and the old mother herself.

“For many years,” so the tale continues, “none would even approach, let
alone occupy the accursed dwelling, so that at last it fell into decay.
But those who passed at nightfall or during the dark hours did often
hear the wailing of the distracted and wicked mother, and some even say
they have seen the sailor man’s ghost.”

Pendennis Castle, upon its jutting headland, is the other ancient
building of the possession of which Falmouth can boast. It was erected
in 1543 as a portion of a scheme of King Henry VIII’s for the complete
fortification of the harbour in view of the coming war with France.
St Mawes Castle was built upon the opposite shore to Pendennis; but
the two other fortifications contemplated were never finished. The
importance of its strategic position is apparent to anyone, however
unversed in such matters; commanding as it does the coast line, the
entrance to the harbour, the Roads, and a large portion of the town
of Falmouth itself. The first Governor was John Killigrew, and he was
succeeded in the year 1567 by his son Sir John. Queen Elizabeth in
1584 appointed Sir Nicholas Parker, who was succeeded at various times
by others, including Sir Nicholas Hals (a relative of his more famous
kinsman Hals, the historian of the county); until Sir John Arundell,
of Trerice, known to history as “John for the King,” was appointed in
1643, and was perhaps the most famous of all Governors of the Castle.

Early in 1646 the Castle, which has the distinction of being the
last fortress in the country, except Raglan Castle, to hold out for
King Charles, was besieged both by land and sea, by Roundhead forces
commanded respectively by Colonel Fortescue and Admiral Batten. The
Governor, though eighty-seven years of age, stoutly refused to yield up
possession when called upon to do so; and the siege lasted six months.
Fairfax and Blake both came to the attack; and brave men themselves,
they must have been full of admiration for the stubborn old hero who
held out against them so gallantly. In Clarendon’s _History of the
Rebellion_ is the following account of a siege which was as notable for
the zeal of the besiegers as the heroism of the defenders. “The castle
refused all summons,” writes the historian, “admitting no treaty till
they had not victuals for twenty-four hours, when they carried on the
treaty with such firmness that their situation was never suspected, and
they obtained as good terms as any garrison in England.”

The defenders were (according to one account) about two hundred strong,
and consisted of two companies of one hundred each; armed pikes, sixty
men; calivers the same number; muskets, eighty men; and a few watchmen
and other servants.

There was, after the Castle’s capture, a rapid succession of Roundhead
Governors; but when the King came to his own again, Richard, Lord
Arundell, a son of the brave defender, was appointed to the post.

The Castle has seen no other vicissitudes of a warlike character since
the famous siege; but from time to time additions have been made to
strengthen it, and bring it more into conformity with modern ideas. It
is manned by companies of the Royal Garrison Artillery.

From the Castle tower there is so fine and comprehensive a view of
Falmouth, the harbour and surroundings, that none should miss it.
It is, indeed, only when seen from such a point of vantage as this
that the true extent and beauty of this magnificent roadstead can
be adequately realized. Away but a short distance under the hill of
Trefusis lies the quaint little town of Flushing, with its stretch of
quays and cottages clustered upon them, and its perfume of orange and
lemon trees which flower and fruit in the open air. Opposite is St
Mawes; and a little distance to the north-west lies Falmouth itself,
with the picturesque jumble of grey and red roofs, and the docks and
quays in which and alongside of which lie vessels from all parts
rearing slender masts skyward, or perhaps with an added picturesqueness
lent them by drying canvas flapping idly from the yards. Across the
water up above St Mawes is charming Gerrans, where one may shove one’s
nose and lie easy in any weather, conscious only of a snug haven and a
charming village.

Picturesque St Anthony should be visited--it can be reached easily in
the dinghy from St Mawes, and lies only a few hundred yards inland
from the shore of the creek--on account of its fine church, which is
generally agreed to be the best example of Early English architecture
in Cornwall, and has a beautiful Norman arch to the south door.

[Illustration: HELFORD CREEK]

But we might advise a score of other excursions up the many lovely
creeks of this beautiful haven of Falmouth. Those who have passed
through the tree environed “King Harry’s Passage” on the way up to
Truro, or have explored St Just’s creek, or Restonget, or--well a score
of others equally lovely, will not need to be reminded of the wealth of
interest and beauty here spread out before them.

But there is yet the last haven between us and the wide
Atlantic--Penzance. We must pass by unentered the many charming creeks
of the Helford River, where the woods come down to the waterside, and
the inlets provide a snug anchorage for small craft in almost any

Right onward from the Manacles almost to Penzance itself the coast is
rocky, dark, and uninviting. No trees soften the brows of the stark
looking cliffs, which are here and there torn into great fissures,
which look from a little distance out at sea like dark gashes cut with
a knife. The coast is not one safe for near approach, and there is,
indeed, nothing in the scenery to invite close inspection.

Rounding the Lizard, either in a fresh easterly or westerly wind, is
generally a wet job for craft of small tonnage, as a heavy sea speedily
gets up. But once round there is a straight run for Penzance Bay, the
last haven of any size (and that not a very good one) on the south-west

Penzance lies in the north-western curve of a fine bay, which is,
however, too open to afford an ideal anchorage, or much protection in
most prevailing winds. As one enters the bay the one striking object is
not the town--that, at a distance, is not notably picturesque, and near
by is disappointing--but the fine rock of St Michael, which, like its
Norman prototype, stands “solitary amid the waste of waters, a townlet
upon a rock.”

The origin of this outstanding mass, connected with the mainland only
by a causeway covered save at low water, is “lost in antiquity,” as
historians are wont to explain when nothing detailed or more satisfying
is forthcoming. Some authorities, however, have thought that the Roman
occupation or a period only a short time anterior to it saw the
formation--by reason of seismic convulsion--of St Michael’s Mount,
which was “cast up out of the bed of the sea.” Others assert that once
the Mount was set inland amid forest glades and primeval woodlands, and
was then known as the “hoar rock in the wood.” But whatever the origin
may be, the fact remains that at the bottom of Mount’s Bay undoubtedly
lies a forest, which was probably engulfed when the Scilly Isles were
torn away from Land’s End, which gives some colour to this latter

The legend in connexion with this tremendous event is that, when the
ancient and romantic land of Lyonesse was overwhelmed, one inhabitant,
Trevelyan, swam ashore, and landed and built his house near where the
Seven Stones now stand. And whatever truth may underlie tradition,
there to this day remains Trevelyan’s Field.

Max Müller says that the early monkish owners called the rock and abbey
“Mons Tumba,” and this connects it with the sister mount set fair and
lovely in the wide bay of Avranches.

One thing, however, appears certain, namely, that the Phœnicians in
their trade with Cornwall for tin knew St Michael’s Mount when they
lay off Marazion bartering with the inhabitants of that then important
place. As was the case with the other Mount of St Michael across the
Channel, the origin of the monastery was the vision of St Michael which
appeared to a hermit. But there is no record of the foundation of a
religious house on the rock until long after the visit of St Kyne on a
pilgrimage from Ireland in 490. Then, by permission of King Edward the
Confessor, a Benedictine Priory was established, which was afterwards
taken over by monks of the Gilbertine order who owed allegiance to
the Abbey on the Norman St Michael’s Mount. The religious foundation
underwent various vicissitudes until its final passage into secular
hands. Edward III dispossessed the alien monks of Normandy, and the
property came into the possession of the Sion Nuns, passing into the
possession of the Bassett family (probably on the dissolution of the
monasteries), and two hundred years later was sold by them to the St
Aubyn’s, whose descendant, Lord St Levan, still owns it.

Like many another Abbey throughout the land, St Michael’s Mount has
a history as a fortress as well as a sanctuary. Though far removed
from the whirlpool of civil war, which engulfed middle England in the
long struggle between the Houses of Lancaster and York, St Michael’s
Mount was destined to catch an echo of the strife which was laying the
chivalry of England in the dust on bloody battlefields and stricken
heaths. It was to this fortress that the Earl of Oxford came after
the loss by the Lancastrians of the Battle of Barnet in April, 1471.
He gained admission to the castle in the disguise of a pilgrim, and
once inside made a stout resistance to those of the triumphant Yorkist
adherents who attacked it in their endeavour to capture him. Afterwards
the Earl surrendered, on being assured of a pardon.

The next notable person to claim sanctuary in St Michael’s Mount was
Lady Catherine Gordon, the wife of Perkin Warbeck, who, on landing at
St Ives in September, 1497, to claim the English throne as Richard IV,
under the patronage of Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, sister of Richard
III, and the Scottish King, James IV, was received by the Cornish folk
enthusiastically. Lady Catherine lay in sanctuary there while Warbeck
and his adherents marched on London--only to take refuge in flight on
the approach of Henry VII’s troops when he was engaged in besieging

Although during the disturbances which followed in Cornwall on the
introduction of the Reformed Prayer Book the fortress saw some
fighting, it was not until the Civil War between King Charles and his
Parliament that it once more played a prominent part in history. It was
commanded for the King by Sir Francis Bassett, and, like most other
Cornish fortresses at that period, was gallantly defended. During the
siege a former Governor Humphry turned traitor and attempted to gain
possession for the Parliament; but his plan was frustrated, and he
himself was executed. Sir Francis Bassett surrendered eventually to
the Parliamentary forces under Colonel Hammond, the Royalist garrison
retiring to the Scilly Islands.

Since that siege the castle has played its part in no other event
of great importance, although during the Napoleonic Wars there was
a certain amount of activity within its walls, brought about by the
universal dread of invasion. But a few years previously the guns of
the castle had been brought into service for the purpose of scaring
off an Irish pirate vessel, which had chased some merchantmen into the
Bay. We fear that the weapons must have been allowed to fall into a bad
state of efficiency, for we are told “they caused the pirate ship to
desist in its attempt to capture the vessels, but alas! did no other
damage save kill two of the gunners, which sad event was caused by the
bursting of one of the cannon.”


On the northern side of the mount, which is about a mile in
circumference at its base, there is a small but snug little harbour,
along the quay of which are grouped the fishermen’s cottages and other
houses belonging to the village. Above these, to a height of nearly 250
feet, rises the Mount, crowned by the imposing and picturesque castle
and church. In the early morning, and on days when the mist struggles
with the sunshine, it is a weirdly beautiful pile. The oldest portion
of the buildings is the central tower, which is probably fourteenth
or early fifteenth century work, and forms so prominent a sea mark.
The hall and chapel date from the fifteenth century, and there is an
ancient cross just above the steps leading to the latter building. The
chapel has from time to time been altered and restored, and it was
during some building operations of recent years that a Gothic doorway
was discovered, bricked up on the right side of the east end of the
church. Behind this was found a vault approached by a flight of steps,
and in it was the skeleton of a man supposed to be that of Sir John

On the top of the tower is what is known as St Michael’s Chair, in
which recess there is just room for one person to be seated. The
tradition connected with this somewhat giddy and overhanging seat is
that any bride who has “nerve” enough to climb into it will be gifted
with the power of ruling in her own home. But, notwithstanding this,
comparatively few ladies, we were told, are prevailed upon to try.

The old mansion, which was erected upon the site of the priory, has
largely disappeared; and many of the seventeenth-century rooms have
been done away with to allow of apartments more in keeping with modern
ideas and requirements. But in the Chevy Chase room, formerly the
refectory of the monks, with its stuccoed cornice depicting hunting
subjects, a good many interesting details have been preserved.

The views from the summit of the tower and upper walls and windows are
very fine and extensive, including not only the whole of the bay, but
a stretch of the coast both eastward and westward. Perhaps the most
beautiful picture of the Mount itself is from Penzance, when the sunset
glow bathes its hoary grey walls in roseate light, and gives to the
solitary and impressive pile a mysterious beauty and significance.

In the old smuggling days Mount’s Bay was a veritable hotbed of the
contraband trade. Many are the stories told of the bold smugglers of
Penzance and Marazion; but of all that of one daring free trader, John
Carter, known as “the King of Prussia,” and his famous retreat at
Prussia Cove, a short distance eastward of Cudden Point, has the truest
savour of romance.

Carter must have been not only a desperately bold and resourceful
smuggler; but also what is known as an “original.” As a boy he
doubtless got to know every nook and cranny of the little inlet,
situated about six miles eastward of Penzance, which ultimately was so
intimately associated with him and his daring deeds. Then the place was
almost isolated from the outside world; an ideal smuggler’s retreat.
Even nowadays it is cut off from the rest of the world, and although a
most beautiful spot, comparatively few people find their way to it.

It was here, with the little island forming a natural breakwater to
the cove, that young Carter spent his youthful days, probably planning
the deeds which afterwards caused his name to be a household word in
the district. He was probably equally well versed from his youth in
the ways of the smuggling fraternity, and took to the trade himself
as naturally as the proverbial duck does to water. In those days a
“likely” spot was not often overlooked by the Cornish smugglers, and
doubtless Prussia or Bessie’s Cove was used for illicit purposes long
ere John Carter was of sufficient age to make the place notorious from
Plymouth to Penzance. A writer of the period does not give the people
of the coast just above here an enviable character, for after accusing
them of wrecking and murdering (when necessary) the unfortunate seamen
washed ashore, he goes on to say that their chief occupations were
drinking, fighting, smuggling, and all kinds of other wickedness.


Long before Carter reached his majority, he--and his brother Harry,
who, from a diary which has been preserved, appears to have possessed
a somewhat sanctimonious soul--began to play his part in the local
smuggling enterprises. And it was not long before he became recognized
as a leader on account of his masterful character and his resource
in daring expeditions planned to defraud the Customs. The nick-name
of “the King of Prussia,” by which his fame has been handed down to
posterity was bestowed upon him by his playmates in boyhood’s days; and
was doubtless traceable to the interest which the doings of Frederick
the Great were just then arousing throughout the civilized world.

The house in which “the King” lived is still by happy chance
standing to form a link with the old days of romance, which are so
rapidly passing even out of recollection. It is just a typical, low,
two-storied thatched cottage with a small fore-garden, and rising
ground at the back. When Carter came to live here first is not clear,
but it is evident that it was whilst he was quite a young man. He
soon set to work to make the Cove, over which he had set up a kind of
sovereignty, as perfect as could be for the daring enterprises in which
he intended to become engaged. He cut away the rocks at the entrance,
deepened and improved the fairway and approach to the beach; and
rendered the numerous existing caves more convenient for the stowage
of smuggled goods. In addition to all this, a good path was cut in the
cliffs connecting up the caves and beach, and road inland.

But, perhaps, the most astonishing part of Carter’s work was the fort
which he erected on the point to the westward of the entrance to the
cove, for the purpose of defending his goods. The remains of it can
still be plainly traced, though it is nearly a century and a quarter
since it was dismantled.

The battery of guns which “the King of Prussia” placed in position
commanded all the sea approaches, and for a time successfully overawed
the “preventives,” as they were doubtless intended to do. Anyway, there
are records existing of the most daring acts of smuggling which took
place right under their noses.

However, on one occasion the revenue men from Penzance, when “the King”
was absent, perhaps upon one of his periodical visits to the French
coasts, came round in force to the Cove, and took possession of a cargo
lately landed from France. The bales and “tubs” were swiftly conveyed
to the security of the Customs House Store at Penzance. And doubtless
the revenue men chuckled over their pipes that night on the easy
capture they had made. They reckoned, however, without their host. In
due course John Carter returned to the Cove to discover the loss which
had happened to him. It did not take him long to make up his mind.
“The King of Prussia” was a man of decision. He must get back those
“tubs” and bales of his. Besides (as he is reported to have told his
adherents) he had promised delivery to “a gentleman of substance and
position, and other customers, by a certain date, and as an honest man
he was bound to keep his word!”

The same night there assembled on the waste land near “the King of
Prussia’s” house two score or more of well-armed men, who marching down
to the beach took boat for Penzance, where they broke open the Customs
House, took forcible repossession of the goods, and sailed away across
the bay to Prussia Cove.

That such proceedings should have been possible at the end of the
eighteenth century seems almost incredible to the modern mind. But one
must remember that Cornwall, or at least the extreme western portion of
it, was at that time almost as isolated and remote as the Scilly Isles
or portions of the north coast of Scotland.

Such a daring exploit could not, however, long be overlooked; and the
Customs House authorities of the district determined to make a supreme
effort to put down John Carter and his gang.

So one day not long afterwards the look-out man at the Cove was
surprised to see a large cutter approaching, which his knowledge of
smuggling and revenue craft at once told him was a foe. The alarm was
given, the smugglers hastened to the beach, and manned the battery on
the point. The guns were loaded and run out, and with a daring which
must have astonished those aboard H.M.S. _Fairy_, the battery opened

For a time the smugglers held the revenue men in check, and prevented
them from landing, but at length the latter succeeded in entering the
Cove. The battery was stormed and captured. The guns were dismounted
and thrown into a pool hard by, reputed locally to be bottomless, and
the place was dismantled.

History, somewhat strangely, is silent regarding the ultimate fate of
“the King of Prussia” and his companions after their defeat. But it is
quite evident that the event put an end to Carter’s smuggling exploits;
or, at all events, to further ones of the barefaced nature in which he
had up to that time indulged with impunity.

All along the coast the revenue men were not altogether unwilling to
deal leniently with the smuggling fraternity, and even benefit by such
a course of conduct, and it seems, therefore, very probable that “the
King of Prussia” lived a quiet life upon the handsome profits of the
many successful ventures in which he had been concerned, until the time
came for him to leave the scenes of his exploits.

At all events the “stirring and veracious history of ‘the King of
Prussia’ and his comrades” forms not the least entertaining and
informing narrative of the old smuggling days in these parts.

The town of Penzance, except for its picturesque fishing fleet, and
certain old associations, is not a place of any particular charm. To
use the words of a local historian, “It is a town of to-day, and has
little or no history.” But it is not, after all, of such entirely
mushroom growth as the said historian would be held to imply. Its seal,
which dates from 1641, is an extremely interesting one. St John the
Baptist’s head on the charger appears in its design; with the legend
“Pensans,” which by some is thought to give a clue to the origin of the
town’s name, Penzance--_pen_ being Cornish for head, and _sans_ meaning
holy. Some more prosaic folk, however, assert that the name has nothing
to do with St John, and try to derive it from the ancient chapel to the
patron saint of fishermen, St Anthony, which once stood on the land
near the quay.

In the present town, which, even from the sea, is not as picturesque as
ports usually are, there is preserved in Alverton Street the old name
of the district, which comprised not only Penzance, but also Newlyn and

In the Domesday Book it is referred to as Alwaretone, and was at
that period one of the most valuable estates in Cornwall. In ancient
times there stood at Penzance, Castle Horneck, the home of the lords
of the place; and from the middle of the fourteenth century a weekly
market and a seven days’ annual fair have been held. Existing records
tell us that the town prospered to some considerable extent during
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; but at the end of the latter,
although news was brought to Penzance of the Armada’s approach, the
Spanish galleons did not even put into the bay, but stood up Channel
for Plymouth and the English fleet. Perhaps the inhabitants of the town
were lulled by this providential escape from molestation into a sense
of security which was to cost them dear. For in the year 1595 on a July
morning, when the sea and bay alike were veiled in all too secretive
mist, as Carew narrates the event, “four gallies of the enemy presented
themselves upon the coast over against Mousehole, and there in a
fair bay landed about two hundred men, pike and shot, who forthwith
sent their forlorn hope, consisting of their basest people, unto the
straggled houses of the country ... by whom were burned not only the
houses they went by, but also the parish church of Paul, the force of
the fire being such that it utterly ruined the great stone pillars
thereof. Others of them in that time burned that fisher town Mousehole;
the rest watched as a guard for the defence of these firers.”

[Illustration: PENZANCE]

After which we gather from another account the galleys moved away to
Newlyn, when, after setting that village on fire, the men who had
been landed for the purpose marched on Penzance. Here had gathered a
little band of the inhabitants--terror-stricken as they undoubtedly
were--headed by Sir Francis Godolphin, who was urging them to offer
a stout resistance. But alas! the defenders that should have been were
so consumed by fear that when Sir Francis came into the market place to
organize his force and appoint to them their several duties, he found
only “two resolute shot, and some ten or twelve others that followed
him, most of them his own servants. The rest, surprised with fear,
fled, whom neither with his persuasion nor threatening with his rapier
drawn, he could recall.”

This is not a very flattering account of Penzance valour; but the
result of the cowardice shown must have been a heavy punishment. In a
few hours the town was but a mass of smoking ruins. Having accomplished
what they had set themselves to do, the Spaniards re-embarked; and
appeared to have seen the wisdom of not proceeding further along the
coast. At all events, ere the English Fleet, which was hastening
to give them battle, could arrive, they had set sail for Spain and
made good their escape. In this wise came to pass and ended the most
complete and serious invasion of these shores ever made by Spaniards.

Penzance arose Phœnix-like from its ashes, and in the middle of the
seventeenth century “was become a place of some importance and size,
so that King James granted it a charter of incorporation.” Till then,
at least, Marazion across the Bay, behind St Michael’s Mount, had
continued the most important town in the immediate neighbourhood.
Leland speaks of it as a “great long town,” and whatever the origin of
the name may be, and whether (as tradition asserts) Joseph of Arimathea
was connected with it and its tin trade, does not nowadays much matter.

Penzance, during the Civil War, remained for the King, and the town and
its inhabitants were destined to pay a heavy price for the privilege
of loyalty. The place was seized by the Parliamentarians--at the time
they were attacking St Michael’s Mount--and they plundered, partially
burned, and sacked as though foreign invaders had landed and had been
permitted to wreck their vengeance unmolested.

At his restoration Charles II, to mark his appreciation of the Penzance
folk’s loyalty to his father, gave the town the dignity of a coinage
town. To it, in consequence, all tin within the Stannary of Penwith and
Kerrier had to be brought to have a corner or “coin” cut off to test
its quality. And, until 1838, every hundredweight of the metal was so
tested, and had to pay a tax amounting to four shillings.

Nowadays Penzance is chiefly seeking to advance its claims for
recognition as a health and holiday resort. With many, however, the
old world claim of romantic interest will weigh more heavily than
either those of climate or modern amusements. But, as a sapient guide
book relating to a more ancient town, which is also making a bid for
popularity on similar grounds, avers, “a town cannot live upon its
romantic interest alone, nor on the light of other days,” whatever that
last may be. And so we must regard Penzance from a new standpoint,
which is easier, as it possesses practically no ancient or historic
buildings, and only one street, Market Jew Street, in one of the houses
of which Sir Humphry Davy was born, which dwells in our memory as being
of any note or picturesqueness.

But sometimes Nature is more than kind to Penzance, and we have seen
her transform the distant town, as we lay at anchor on the bosom of
Mount’s Bay, into something of almost ethereal beauty, as the soft,
pearly light of a June evening enveloped it against a background of
crimson and powdered gold.


Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were
not changed. When words in quoted text are spelled differently than
elsewhere, those spellings have been retained. Old-style and dialect
spellings have been retained.

Simple typographical errors were corrected.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Page 18: Likely spurious opening quotation mark removed just before
“till they were nearer France”.

Page 24: A period may be missing after “I’ll carry my ball to Calais

Page 52: Closing quotation mark added after “laying-to in open day.”
This may not be where it belongs.

Page 61: Missing right-parenthesis added after “before his death”.

Page 62: “10ll” is followed by an explanation that the two els mean
“pounds”; the same notation is used for “8ll” on page 63.

Page 240: “philanthrophy” was printed that way.

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