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Title: The Blackmore Country
Author: Snell, F. J. (Frederick John)
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Blackmore Country" ***

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                         The Pilgrimage Series

                         THE BLACKMORE COUNTRY

                            [Illustration]

                               AGENTS--

             AMERICA: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                      64 and 66 Fifth Avenue, New York

             AUSTRALASIA: THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
                          205 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

             CANADA: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY OF CANADA, LTD.
                     St Martin’s House, 70 Bond Street, Toronto

             INDIA: MACMILLAN & COMPANY, LTD.
                    Macmillan Building, Bombay
                    309 Bow Bazaar Street, Calcutta

         [Illustration: ON THE LYN, BELOW BRENDON (page 162).]



                            [Illustration]

                                  THE
                           BLACKMORE COUNTRY

                                  BY
                              F. J. SNELL

                  AUTHOR OF “A BOOK OF EXMOOR,” ETC.

                            SECOND EDITION
                    WITH 32 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS
                          FROM PHOTOGRAPHS BY
                       CATHARINE W. BARNES WARD

                                LONDON
                        ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK

                            [Illustration]

                “So holy and so perfect is my love,

                       *       *       *       *       *

                That I shall think it a most plenteous crop
                To glean the broken ears after the man
                That the main harvest reaps.”
                     --Sir PHILIP SIDNEY.

     _First Edition, containing 50 illustrations, published 1906_
                     _This Edition published 1911_



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION


The _Blackmore Country_ having achieved a second edition, it is proper
to state that it is now presented to the public substantially in the
same form as in the original issue. Advantage, however, has been taken
of a friendly critique by Mr Arthur Smyth to effect some revision. Mr
Smyth, who was well acquainted with the Blackmore family, and indeed a
distant relation, is rather perplexed at the assertion that the
novelist’s father was a poor man; but he certainly passed for such at
Culmstock, and the fact that he took pupils, in addition to serving his
poor cure, tends to show that he was by no means too well off.

In my _Early Associations of Archbishop Temple_ it is stated with
reference to the restoration of Culmstock Church: “Nobody knew from what
source Mr Blackmore obtained the necessary funds, but it was supposed
that his wife’s relations were rich.” This is, in a sense, confirmed by
Mr Smyth, who says that Mr Turberville, R. D. Blackmore’s elder brother,
inherited considerable property from his mother; but, when I wrote the
passage above quoted, I was not aware that John Blackmore was married
twice. His first wife, who died three years after their marriage, and
before John Blackmore set foot in Culmstock, may not have been in
possession of means, although Turberville’s estate--Mr Smyth says, “his
will was proved for (I believe) £20,000”--may have been derived from his
maternal connections. Mr Snowden Ward, in his Introduction to the
Doone-land edition of _Lorna Doone_, informs us regarding R. D.
Blackmore, also a son of this lady: “A bequest from the Rev. H. Hay
Knight, his mother’s brother, put an end to his financial worries.”

Nevertheless, it may be doubted whether the novelist was ever in even
“comparative affluence.” He himself publicly declared that he lost more
than he gained from market-gardening--he was, by the way, a
F.R.H.S.--and the late Rev. D. M. Owen, Blackmore’s old schoolfellow,
with whom he maintained a lifelong correspondence, told me that he was
constantly complaining of his pecuniary limitations. Mr Owen’s reply was
that he had no excuse; he had only to write another _Lorna Doone_ to
replenish his treasury to the brim. When, also, he was asked for a
subscription to the Culmstock flower show, Blackmore declined, assigning
as the reason that he “couldn’t afford it.” This does not look like
“comparative affluence.”

Mr Smyth says that he never saw or heard of any daughters of the Rev.
John Blackmore. If he implies that there were none, he is certainly
mistaken (see Prologue), but he raises a problem which, I confess, I am
not able to solve. “In Charles Church there is a marble slab erected to
the memory of the Rev. John Blackmore by his children, J. B., R. B., M.
A. B. No allusion is made to M. A. B. in the pedigree either by the
Rev. J. F. Chanter or Mr Snell.” The only explanation which occurs to me
is that M. A. B. may represent the initials of their full sister, who
died in infancy. The Rev. John Blackmore married in 1822. Three years
later he sustained a terrible trial. “The novelist’s father,” says Mr
Ward, “was a ‘coach’ for Oxford pupils, until, in 1825, a great outbreak
of typhus fever swept away his wife, daughter, two pupils, the family
physician, and all the servants, and almost broke John Blackmore’s
heart.” R. D. Blackmore’s mother’s maiden name was Anne Basset Knight;
and the A. in M. A. B. suggests that her daughter may have been called
Anne--perhaps Mary Anne, if M. A. B. indicates that daughter. She had
long been dead, but the brothers, as an act of piety, may have chosen to
commemorate her in this way, whilst ignoring the daughters of the second
family, whom Mr Smyth never saw or heard of.

In conclusion, the demand for a second edition of this work is a
satisfactory answer to the disparaging remarks of the late Mr F. T.
Elworthy in a presidential address to the members of the Devonshire
Association for the Promotion of Literature, Science, and Art. It is a
bad precedent that the title and contents of a new work should be
officially censured on an occasion when it was by an accident that the
author was not present to be lectured for his shortcomings, just as it
was a pure accident that Mr Elworthy was not named in the book as
accompanying Dr Murray and Professor Rhys in their visit to the
Caractacus stone on Winsford Hill (p. 109)! I now repair this omission,
and at the same time express regret that the secretaries did not take
steps to delete from the reports of a learned and very useful
association criticism which, to say the least, was beside the mark.

F. J. SNELL.

_January 30, 1911._



PROLOGUE


The “Blackmore Country” is an expression requiring some amount of
definition, as it clearly will not do to make it embrace the whole of
the territory which he annexed, from time to time, in his various works
of fiction, nor even every part of Devon in which he has laid the scenes
of a romance. The latter point may perhaps be open to discussion in the
sense that, ideally, the glamour of his writing ought to rest with its
full might of memory on all the neighbourhoods of the West around which
he drew his magic circle. As a fact, however, it is North Devon and a
slice of the sister county that form his literary patrimony, while
Dartmoor is a more general possession, which he failed to seal with the
same staunch and archetypal impression. There have been many good
Dartmoor stories, and one instinctively associates that region with the
names of Baring-Gould and Eden Phillpotts; with Blackmore, hardly at
all. But from Exmoor to Barnstaple, and from Lynton to Tiverton, he
reigns supreme--and naturally, for this was his homeland, which, through
all its length and breadth, he knew with an intimacy, and loved with a
devotion, and portrayed with a skill, that will surely never again be
the portion of any child of Devon.

Richard Doddridge Blackmore was born on June 7, 1825, at Longworth, in
Berkshire--a circumstance which raises the delicate and important
question whether, after all, he can be justly claimed as a Devonshire
man. On the whole, I think, the question may be answered affirmatively,
although it is evident that he cannot possibly be described as a native
of the county. Who, however, would dream of depriving an Englishman of
his nationality merely for the accident of his being born abroad, unless
indeed he deliberately abandoned that proud title and threw in his lot
with the country of his birth, to the exclusion of his ancestral home?
And this practically represents the state of affairs as regards
Blackmore. In one sense it must be admitted he did not remain constant
to his Devonshire connections, inasmuch as he resided through a great
part of his life, and to the day of his death, at Teddington, in
Middlesex. But as against this must be set the facts that he descended
from an old North Devon stock, a stock so old that it may fairly be
termed indigenous, and that his boyish experiences were almost entirely
confined within the county. To these weighty considerations may be added
that he eventually became possessor of the ancient residence of his
race, that he always manifested the warmest interest in county concerns,
and that his great achievement in literature was inspired by
West-country legend. That well-known authority, the Rev. J. F. Chanter,
worthy son of a worthy sire, would like to say “Devon” legend, and much
may be urged in favour of his contention, notwithstanding that modern
Exmoor is altogether in Somerset. He points out, for instance, that
Bagworthy (or “Badgery”) Wood, the centre of the Doone traditions, is in
Devon. Still it were better, perhaps, to consider _Lorna Doone_ in the
light of a border romance. Indeed, on an impartial survey, it seems
almost necessary to adopt this view; and Blackmore himself was anything
but unwilling to recognise, and even to emphasise, the Somerset element
in his story.

Not long before the novelist’s death, a gentleman wrote to him from
Taunton, calling attention to the widely prevalent idea that in the
course of the tale he conveyed the impression of allocating this
charming country to North Devon rather than West Somerset; and Mr
Blackmore’s correspondent went on to mention that recently strenuous
efforts had been made to procure the inclusion of Exmoor in Devon, but
that the policy of plunder had been defeated by the vigilant action of
the Somerset County Council. In reply to this communication the
following letter was received:--

     “My dear Sir,--Nowhere, to the best of my remembrance, have I said,
     or even implied, that Exmoor lies mainly in Devonshire. Having
     known that country from my boyhood--for my grandfather was the
     incumbent of Oare as well as of Combe Martin--I have always borne
     in mind the truth that by far the larger part of the moor is within
     the county of Somerset, and the very first sentence in _Lorna
     Doone_ shows that John Ridd lived in the latter county. Moreover,
     when application is made to Devon J.P.’s for a warrant against the
     Doones, does not one of them say that the crime was committed in
     Somerset, and therefore he cannot deal with it? See also p. 179
     (6d. edition), which seems to me clear enough for anything.
     Moreover, the rivalry of the militia, both in _Lorna Doone_ and
     _Slain by the Doones_--which title I dislike, and did not choose
     freely--shows that the Doone Valley was upon the county border. I
     think also that Cosgate, supposed to be ‘County’s Gate,’ is
     referred to in _Lorna Doone_, but I cannot stop to look.[1] The
     Warren where the Squire lived is on the westward of the line, as
     Lynmouth is--or, at least, I think so--and therefore North Devon is
     spoken of the heroine who lives there. All this being so very clear
     to me, I have been surprised more than once at finding myself
     accused in Somerset papers of describing Exmoor as mainly a
     district of Devonshire--a thing which I never did, even in haste of
     thought. And if you should hear such a charge repeated, I trust
     that your courtesy will induce you to contradict it, which I have
     never done publicly, as I thought the refutation was self-evident.”

It is certainly true that at Dulverton, which, if not Exmoor, is next
door to it, visitors frequently imagine that they are in Devonshire, as
I have myself proved, but, for my own part, I have never attributed this
delusion to the influence of _Lorna Doone_. On the contrary, it has
seemed to me that a river is the culprit. The Exe is universally
esteemed a Devon stream, and lends its name to the metropolis of the
West. That in these circumstances Exmoor should be anywhere but in
Devonshire, may well appear a violation of the fitness of things, and as
coloured maps seldom perhaps emerge from their impedimenta, these
visitors revenge themselves on the makers of England by substituting for
artificial delimitations their own easy beliefs and natural assumptions.

This, however, is somewhat of a digression. I return to the probably
more interesting topic of Mr Blackmore’s Devonshire “havage,” which good
old West-country term I once heard a good old West-country clergyman
derive from the Latin _avus_--needless to say, a most unlikely etymon.
In the above-quoted letter reference is made to the novelist’s
grandfather as incumbent of Oare and Combe Martin, but, had the occasion
required it, Blackmore could no doubt have furnished a much fuller
account of his North Devon pedigree. It is extremely probable, but not
absolutely certain, that one of his remote ancestors, sharing the same
Christian name Richard, married a Wichehalse of Lynton. To have read
_Lorna Doone_ is to remember how John Ridd rudely disturbed young Squire
Wichehalse in the act of kissing his sister Annie; and I shall have more
to say of this half-foreign clan, their fortunes, and their eyry in a
subsequent chapter. Meanwhile one may note that the first entry in the
parish register of Parracombe relates to the marriage of Richard
Blackmore and Margaret, daughter of Hugh Wichehalse, of Ley, Esq.; and,
further, that the bride’s father died on Christide, 1653, and the bride
herself thirty years later. These dates are important, as they seem to
preclude the possibility of the Richard Blackmore who wedded the Lady of
Ley being the direct progenitor of the Richard Blackmore who wrote
_Lorna Doone_, though it can scarcely be questioned that he was of the
same kith and kin, and so, in the larger sense, an ancestor. In any
case, the match cannot be accepted as a criterion of the standing of the
family. _Mésalliances_ are not unknown in North Devon, one such romantic
union of erstwhile celebrity being the marriage of a small farmer’s son
with a daughter of the resident rector, a gentleman of good descent and
prebendary of Exeter Cathedral. From the time of John Ridd, and who
shall say for how many ages antecedent thereto, love has laughed at
locksmiths and gone its own wilful way.

Small farmers, however, the Blackmores were not. They were freeholders
settled at East Bodley and Barton in the parish of Parracombe, and
leaseholders of the neighbouring farm of Killington, or Kinwelton, in
the parish of Martinhoe. Over the porch of the old farmstead at
Parracombe may still be read the inscription, “R.B., J.B., 1638”; and as
the Subsidy Rolls of 16 Charles I. for Parracombe and Martinhoe contain
the names of Richard and John Blackmore, we may conjecture without
difficulty to whom the initials belonged. The first of the yeomen on
whom we can fasten as a certain ancestor of the novelist was a John
Blackmore who died in 1689. His son Richard, and grandson John, and
great-grandson John--not to mention other members of the family whose
names are duly recorded--suffered themselves to be absorbed with the
peaceful and healthful pursuit of husbandry, which they practised,
generation after generation, on their estate at Bodley. Then, towards
the end of the eighteenth century there occurred a change; and the
Blackmore name, in the person of another John, took what may be termed
an upward turn. This John Blackmore, born in 1764, betrayed a taste for
learning, and through Tiverton School found his way to Exeter College,
Oxford, where he won the degree of B.A. He was soon after ordained, and
entered on his duties as curate of High Bray, on the outskirts of
Exmoor, and in his own country and county. An antiquary and a person of
general cultivation, he was at the pains of copying the parish register,
and in the new edition did what every parson should do, set down items
of current interest, together with an informal history of the parish, so
far as it could be learned. He did also what few parsons should
attempt--adorned his copy of the register with original Latin verses.
Such specimens of new Latin poetry as I have disinterred from parochial
records are, for the most part, fearful and wonderful lucubrations as to
both sentiment and technique, whereas it is frequently the case that
voluntary jottings in the vulgar tongue gild and redeem, with their
human touches, whole continents of inky wilderness.

Not long after his advent at High Bray Mr Blackmore appears to have
married, and in process of time his wife bore him a first-born son, whom
he named John. He was, however, not quite content with his position as
curate; and accordingly he bought the advowson of the adjacent living of
Charles, in the confident expectation that it would shortly become void,
pending which happy consummation he agreed to serve as curate-in-charge.
No speculation could have been more disastrous, since, in point of fact,
the hoped-for vacancy did not occur till quite half a century had passed
over his head, and at that advanced age he did not think proper to enter
upon possession. Instead of doing so, he presented his second son
Richard to the rectory. During this protracted era of suspense John
Blackmore, senior, as he must now be designated, did not lack
preferment. In 1809 he was appointed rector of Oare, and in 1833
(pluralities being still admissible) he received in addition the
valuable living of Combe Martin; and both these appointments he
continued to hold till his death in 1842.

As has been intimated, the original Parson Blackmore had two sons, John
and Richard, each of whom, following in his footsteps, entered the
Church; and the elder at all events met with considerably worse luck
than his father. Curiously enough, his early life was full of promise,
for in 1816 he was elected Fellow of Exeter, his father’s old college,
and this might well have proved the inception of a long and successful
academic career, either in Oxford or at one of our public schools. But
in 1822 he vacated his fellowship on his marriage with Anne Basset,
daughter of the Rev. J. Knight, of Newton Nottage. Thirteen years later
he had attained to no higher position than that of curate-in-charge of
Culmstock, near Tiverton; and when he retired from that, it was only to
proceed in a similar capacity to Ashford, near Barnstaple. He was always
poor, but deserved a happier fate, since he was always good (see _Maid
of Sker_, chapter xxxix.). He died in 1858.

By his wife Anne the Rev. John Blackmore had one daughter and two sons,
Henry John, who afterwards took the name of Turberville, and Richard
Doddridge. The former produced a bizarre poem entitled “The Two
Colonels,” and was proficient in a number of sciences, notably in
astronomy, but he was eccentric to such a degree that there was grave
doubt, in spite of all his attainments, whether he was quite _compos
mentis_. He resided at Bradiford, near Barnstaple, died at Yeovil under
distressing circumstances, and was buried at Charles (in 1875). He
assumed the name Turberville, so it is said, out of resentment at the
sale of the family estates for the benefit of a half-brother, Frederick
Platt Blackmore, an officer in the army and a spendthrift; and he
notified his intention, as well as his reason, to all whom it might
concern in a printed handbill. Anger was also the motive for his writing
“The Two Colonels”; he conceived there had been discourtesy on the part
of the members of the Ilfracombe Highway Board and others. The
publication caused much excitement, and at one time an action for libel
seemed imminent. Eventually, it is believed, the book was withdrawn.

Besides the son already mentioned, the Rev. John Blackmore had by his
second wife two daughters, Charlotte Ellen, who married the Rev. J. P.
Faunthorpe, of Whitelands College, Chelsea, and Jane Elizabeth, who was
the wife of the Rev. Samuel Davis, for many years vicar of Barrington,
Devon. He was for a year or two at Bude Haven, and won some reputation
there as a preacher. Hence, his son, Mr A. H. Davis, thought he might
possibly be the “Bude Light” of _Tales from the Telling House_, but my
friend, the late Rev. D. M. Owen, who probably knew, gave me to
understand that the “Bude Light” was the Rev. Goldsworthy Gurney.

Returning to the first family--the second son was Richard Doddridge
Blackmore, the novelist. In his case, although great wit is proverbially
allied to madness, the question of sanity is not likely to be raised;
and probably the worst fault that the world will lay to his charge is
that of undue secretiveness. It is common knowledge that he interdicted
anything in the shape of a biography, and doubtless he took measures to
prevent the survival of private papers and letters which might be used
as material for the purpose. Whether or not he did this, his wish will
assuredly be held sacred by his more intimate friends, who alone are
qualified to undertake such a work. Meanwhile the novelist has to pay
for his prohibition of an authentic Life, by the unrestricted play of
_ben trovare_. Having myself been victimised by this insidious enemy of
truth, I seize the opportunity to protest that any statements regarding
the late Mr Blackmore to be found in the present work are made without
prejudice and with all reserve, as being, conceivably, the inventions
of the Father of Lies. At the same time, as due caution has been
observed and the evidence has, in various instances, been drawn from
reputable and independent witnesses who, without knowing it, acted as a
check on each other, I cannot seriously believe that these contributions
to history are either gratuitous or garbled.

An illustration, pointed and germane, is not far to seek. I always
understood from my late kind friend, the Rev. C. St Barbe, Sydenham,
rector of Brushford, who, to the deep regret of a wide circle of
acquaintance, passed away in the spring of 1904 at the age of 81, that
R. D. Blackmore, as a boy, spent many of his vacations at the moorland
village of Charles, to the rectory of which his uncle Richard had, as we
have seen, been presented by his grandfather. Mr Sydenham even went so
far as to use the expression “brought up” in this connection, which
indicates at least the length and frequency of young Blackmore’s visits.
Now the Rev. J. F. Chanter, in a paper written in 1903, shows that he
also has gained a knowledge of the circumstance--certainly by some other
means. As the rector of Charles did not die till 1880, and so lived to
see his nephew and guest grown famous, it is not to be supposed that he
allowed his share in the hero’s tirocinium to remain obscure. What more
natural than that he should communicate it freely to his neighbours,
with all the pride of a fond uncle with no children of his own? Would he
not have related also, as the harvest of imparted wisdom, that in the
rectory parlour, the scene of former instruction, great part of _Lorna
Doone_ was written? Nor must we forget the old Blackmore property at
Bodley, where the novelist’s grandfather, in order to adapt it to his
requirements as an occasional residence, had added to the venerable
homestead a new wing; and where, or at Oare rectory, the future romancer
passed blissful holidays, roaming at will in the North Devon fields and
lanes, and drinking in quaint lore, conveyed in the broad, kindly
accents of the North Devon country-folk. The Bodley estates, consisting
of East Bodley, West Hill, and Burnsley Mill, passed to the novelist’s
father, by whom they were sold a few years before his death. Mr Arthur
Smyth, referring to R. D. Blackmore’s college days, avers that even then
he was very reserved. Mr Smyth’s father often went shooting with him.
About this time a white hare was caught at Bodley, and, having been
stuffed, was treasured by the Rev. R. Blackmore in his dining-room at
Charles.

Thus the limits of the Blackmore country are definitely staked out by
family tradition, as well as by literary interest, running from
Culmstock to Ashford, and from Oare to Combe Martin, with the commons
appurtenant. The confines are somewhat vague and irregular, and I must
crave some indulgence for my method of configuration. Obviously, the
novelist’s recollections of his youth with their accompanying sentiments
and inspirations, cannot be taken as an absolute guide, for then it
would be requisite to cross the Bristol Channel to Newton Nottage, his
mother’s home, in the vicinity of which are laid the opening scenes of
the charming _Maid of Sker_. Such a course would infringe too much on
the popular conception of the phrase, and the attempt to link
localities without any natural connection, and severed by an arm of the
sea, however successfully accomplished in the romance, would in our case
involve needless confusion. What little is said about Newton Nottage,
therefore, may as well be said here.

A village in Glamorganshire, it had peculiarly sacred and solemn
associations for R. D. Blackmore. Nottage Court, the seat of the Knight
family, was his mother’s ancestral home, and it was also one of the
homes of his own childhood. Here he wrote his first book, the
above-named romance, which was ever his favourite, but the story was
re-written, and not published till a later date. For Blackmore, however,
the place had sad as well as pleasant memories, for it was here that his
father, then curate of Ashford, was found dead in his bed on the morning
of September 24, 1858, whilst on a visit to his wife’s people, and at
Newton Nottage he lies buried.

If this is crossing the Bristol Channel, so be it; we are soon back
again, and ready to discourse of Tiverton, and Southmolton, and Lynton,
and Barnstaple, and their smaller neighbours, with the moors and commons
appurtenant.[2]



PEDIGREE OF THE BLACKMORE FAMILY


  JOHN BLACKMORE of Parracombe, _d._ 1689.{*}
                     |
             RICHARD BLACKMORE === MARY ----.
               of Parracombe,   |
               _d._ 1733.{*}    |
          -----------------------
          |                     |
  RICHARD BLACKMORE,       JOHN BLACKMORE  === ELISABETH,
    _b._ 1698.{*}          _b._ 1701,{*}    |   daughter of
                           _m._ 1731-2,{*}  |   William Dovel
                           _d._ 1761.{*}    |   of Parracombe.
                                            |
       ----------------------------------------------
       |               |           |  |     |       |
    PHILPOT,        RICHARD,   2 Daughters. |    RICHARD,
  _b._ 1732-3,{*}    _b._ 1733,             |     _b._ 1742.
  _m._ 1756,{*}      _d._ 1733.             |
  R. Cook, Clothier,                 --------
        son of                       |
  the Rev. J. Cook,                  |
        Rector               JOHN BLACKMORE === ELISABETH,
   of Trentishoe.              _b._ 1739,{*} |   daughter of
                               _m._ 1762,{*} |   John Slader
                               _d._ 1805.{*} |       of
                                             |   Parracombe.
                                             |
                 -----------------------------------------
                 |                       |               |
           JOHN BLACKMORE === MARY.   RICHARD,         BETTY,
             _b._ 1764,{*} |           _b._ 1766,{*}  _b._ 1768,{*}
  _m._ 179-, _d._ 1842.{**} |             |            _m._ 1796,{*}
  Rector of Oare and Combe |           Issue.         Henry Quart
            Martin.        |                          of Molland.
                           |
         -----------------------------------------
         |                                       |
     JOHN BLACKMORE  ===  ANNE BASSET,        RICHARD
     _b._ 1794,{***}    |  daughter of         _b._ 1798,{***}
     _m._ 1822,{***}    |  Rev. J. Knight      _d._ 1880,{**}
     _a._ 1858{**}     |        of            Rector of Charles.
  at Newton Nottage;  |   Newton Nottage.        |
  Fellow of           |                       No Issue.
  Exeter College,     |
      Oxford          |
  (1816-1822){*****};     |
  C. of Culmstock     |
  and Ashford.        |
                      |
         ---------------------
         |                   |
    HENRY JOHN       RICHARD DODDRIDGE === LUCY M‘GUIRE.
  (Turberville),       BLACKMORE,
    _b._ 1824,           _b._ 1825,{****}
    _d._ 1875.{**}        _m._ 1852,
       |                 _d._ 1900,
   No Issue.      Scholar of Exeter College;
                     B.A., 1847.{*****}
                             |
                         No Issue.

{*} Parracombe Registers.

{**} Charles Registers.

{***} High Bray Registers.

{****} _Dict. Nat. Biog._

{*****} Register Exeter College.

     NOTE.--For the Blackmore pedigree and other kindly assistance, the
     author is indebted to the Rev. J. F. CHANTER, of Parracombe.



CONTENTS


                                                                    PAGE

PROLOGUE                                                              ix


_PERLYCROSS_

CHAPTER I. THE APPROACH                                                1

“ II. BLACKMORE’S VILLAGE                                             12

“ III. THE HINTERLAND                                                 33


_LORNA DOONE_

“ IV. BLACKMORE’S SCHOOL                                              49

“ V. THE TOWN OF THE TWO FORDS                                        61

“ VI. THE WONDERS OF BAMPTON                                          77

“ VII. WHERE MASTER HUCKABACK THROVE                                  89

“ VIII. BROTHERS BARLE AND EXE                                       107

“ IX. THE HEART OF THE MOOR                                          122

“ X. BAGWORTHY AND BRENDON                                           138

“ XI. THE MOUTH OF THE LYN                                           162

“ XII. ROUND DUNKERY                                                 178


_LORNA DOONE AND THE MAID OF SKER_

“ XIII. GOSSIP-TOWN                                                  201

“ XIV. THE FORGE OF FAGGUS, AND THE CURE OF
CHOWNE                                                               216

“ XV. BARUM                                                          241

“ XVI. THE SHORE OF DEATH                                            256

ENVOY                                                                277

INDEX                                                                281



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

FROM PHOTOGRAPHS BY CATHARINE W. BARNES WARD.


1 On the Lyn, below Brendon                                _Frontispiece_

                                                             FACING PAGE

2 Culmstock Vicarage and Church                                        9

3 Rectory House at Charles                                            16

4 Culmstock Church and River                                          25

5 Hemyock                                                             32

6 Culmstock Bridge                                                    41

7 Old Blundell’s School, Tiverton                                     48

8 Chapel, Greenway’s Almshouses, Tiverton                             73

9 Combe, Dulverton                                                    80

10 A Bit of Old Dulverton                                             89

11 Torr Steps, Hawkridge                                              96

12 Winsford                                                          121

13 Landacre Bridge, Exmoor                                           128

14 Bagworthy Valley                                                  137

15 Brendon, near Oare                                                144

16 Nicholas Snow’s Farmyard Gate                                     153

17 Oare Church                                                       160

18 Junction of Lyn and Bagworthy Water                               169

19 “The Waterslide,” Lancombe                                        176

20 The Cheesewring, Valley of Rocks                                  174

21 Ship Inn, Porlock                                                 185

22 Minehead Church                                                   192

23 Dunster Castle Gate, from the Outside                             201

24 Square at Southmolton                                             208

25 Whitechapel Barton                                                217

26 Tom Faggus’s Forge, Northmolton                                   224

27 Chancel, Northmolton Church                                       233

28 Ashford Church, near Barnstaple                                   240

29 Barnstaple Bridge                                                 249

30 Tawstock Church, near Barnstaple                                  256

31 Towards Morte Point                                               265

32 Combmartin Church                                                 272

Sketch Map of Blackmore Country                                      288

R. D. Blackmore, from a Photograph by Frederick Jenkins    _On the Cover_



THE BLACKMORE COUNTRY



CHAPTER I

THE APPROACH


R. D. Blackmore was about ten years of age when his father took up his
abode at Culmstock, a village in East Devon, at the foot of the
Blackdowns. Notwithstanding an inclination to wander, evidence of which
has been adduced in the previous section, the boy must have passed a
fair amount of time at home; and wherever Blackmore tarried, he became
imbued with the spirit of the place, wrested all its secrets, and
acquired an intimate acquaintance with its arts and crafts such as would
do credit to a committee of experts. Above all, he had the enviable gift
of being able to distil from the rude realities their poetic
essence--the prize of loving intelligence.

So far as Culmstock and the neighbourhood are concerned, the fruits of
his observation are to be seen in _Perlycross_, and in a much lesser
degree in _Tales from the Telling House_. The former, by no means so
_répandu_ as _Lorna Doone_, labours under the disadvantage, which is yet
not all disadvantage, of fictitious names; consequently but few are
aware that Perliton, Perlycross, and Perlycombe are pretty, but
deceptive aliases of Uffculme, Culmstock, and Hemyock. These little
places--Uffculme, however, claims to be a town--are tapped by a light
railway of serpentine construction, which branches from the main line at
Tiverton Junction. The trains are appallingly slow, chiefly on account
of the curves; and just outside the junction is a stiff gradient, the
ascent of which, especially in frosty weather, is problematical. Often
there is nothing for it but to drop back to the station and try again,
or, as the French have it, _se reculer pour mieux sauter_.

The level champaign traversed by the caricature of locomotion is
remarkable for its fertility, and for many other things redolent, I wot,
to the ordinary resident of nothing but the meanest bathos--so deadly in
use! It is otherwise with the stranger within the gates, to whom these
items of every day unfold themselves as precious boons, creating a
joyous sense of novelty and possession. A rapid but happy and accurate
description of the vale by Mr Henry, who, I believe, is an Irishman,
points the common lesson how much of beauty and wonder lies around us,
had we but eyes to see. Impatient for the hills, and doubtless as
purblind as my neighbours, I should scarce have lingered amid these
pastoral scenes but for his restraining touch, so that I rest doubly
indebted to his sage and kindly interpretation.

“I live in Uffculme. Its name might appropriately be Coleraine, for it
is indeed a corner of ferns; every lane abounds with them, the hart’s
tongue being specially abundant. Uffculme takes its name from the river
Culm, and means simply up Culm. It is noted for ‘zider’ and its grammar
school. It is a quaint and quiet village. I love its charming thatched
cottages, with their niched eaves, each niche the eyebrow of a little
window. The inns too are quaint, with their suspended signs, each a
symbolic gem. Some in the country around here bear such names as the
‘Merry Harriers,’ the ‘Honest Heart,’ the ‘Rising Sun,’ the ‘Half Moon,’
the ‘Hare and Hounds,’ etc.

“There are four streets in Uffculme, and a triangular ‘square,’ on which
a market is held every two months. In the interval the grass has its own
sweet will. Everything is still; the smoke rises like incense in the
air. Here, as I write, looking into a garden, which even now, in
October, has many flowers in bloom, I hear no sounds but the song of the
robin enjoying the glory of the morning sun, a chanticleer crowing in
the distance, and the clanging anvil of the village blacksmith.

“The narrowness of the lanes around adds greatly to the country’s
charms, their high hedgerows being a mass of many kinds of flowers.
Thoroughly to enjoy the beauties of the neighbourhood, however, it must
be viewed from one of the hills or downs. Embowered in a wealth of
greenery, Uffculme sleeps on a slope of the Culm valley. As far as the
eye can reach, lies a most beautiful panorama of diversified hill and
dale with rounded trees, every field hedged with them. The quiet herds
of Devon cattle lie ruminating and adorning the green bosom of the
country. The whole scene has a charming cultured aspect, as if some
giant landscape-gardener had laid it out. What peacefulness! How
beautiful the cattle!

    ‘Aren’t they innocent things, them bas’es,
     And haven’t they got old innocent faces?
     A-strooghin’ their legs that lazy way,
     Or a-standin’ as if they meant to pray.
     They’re that sollum an’ lovin’ an’ steady an’ wise,
     And the butter meltin’ in their big eyes,
     Eh, what do you think about it, John?
     Is it the stuff they’re feedin’ on?
     The clover, and meadow grass, and rushes,
     And then goin’ pickin’ among the bushes,
     And sniffin’ the dew when its fresh and fine,
     The sweetest brew of God’s own wine.’

“And then the Devonshire clotted cream! It is delicious, yet simply
made. The milk stands on the hob till the cream rises and attains almost
the consistency of dough. Every son of Devon, native and adopted, enjoys
this luxury to the full.

“The Culm is a little wandering river, abounding in trout. Otters are
hunted at Hemyock. Foxes also are found in the neighbourhood, and on one
occasion the noble wild red deer approached within five miles of us.
Birds of all kinds are plentiful, and flowers abound. Bullfinches are a
pest, even among the apple-trees. In my first walk, I saw a kingfisher
and a jay. The country exudes vegetation at every pore. The mildness of
the climate is evidenced by the fact that on Saturday last (October 17)
I saw in bloom the foxglove, poppy, primrose, wild anthernum, and many
other flowers. I ate a strawberry grown in the open; watched the bees on
the mignonette beds, and saw a wood-pigeon’s nest with young. The
climax is reached when I say that a man of great agricultural faith, in
the neighbouring parish of Halberton, is attempting a second crop of
potatoes.

“The country is well-watered; little rills gush from every quarter. The
natives reckon by the flowers--_e.g._, ‘He went to Canada last hyacinth
time.’ The gentlemen’s seats are lovely in the extreme, and are
surrounded by trees that would not grow ‘in the cold North’s unhallowed
ground.’ Within a stone’s throw of the ‘square,’ and in a former
Coleraine gentleman’s seat, grow Wellingtonia pines, the cypress, the
breadfruit tree, the Spanish chestnut, and other exotic beauties. A
house in the village has its walls adorned with passion-flowers, now in
bloom.

“We are out of the tourist’s track here. The motor rarely invades our
quiet life; indeed, the roads are not suited for motoring, as the
streams cross them in several places, and a foot-bridge affords the only
means of dry transit for the passengers.

“I need not dwell on the Devon dialect. It is familiar to every reader
of _Lorna Doone_. Suffice it to say that it slides out with the maximum
ease, and in defiance of every rule of grammar. Have I exhausted
Devonian joys? Nay, I could mention the melodious church-bells, the
beauty of the children, and many other matters; but I have fulfilled my
intention, if I have conveyed the quaintness, the peace, and the good
living of this part of rural Devon--a land ‘where the plain old men have
rosy faces, and the simple maidens quiet eyes.’”

Hence it appears that all the glory did not depart from Devon with
fustian coats and brass buttons.

Mr Henry, it will be observed, speaks admiringly, as well he may, of the
extreme loveliness of the country-seats. So far as the Culm valley is
concerned, none will compare with Bradfield, the immemorial home of the
Walrond family. Readers of _Perlycross_ will recollect the brave
veteran, Sir Thomas Waldron, and the wrong done to his honoured remains;
and they may perchance note the different modes of spelling the name.
Blackmore follows the local pronunciation, and the precedent of good old
John Waldron, founder of an almshouse at Tiverton, of whom Harding
remarks, “By his arms I judge his ancestors were branched from the
ancient family at Bradfield, near Cullompton, where they were located in
Henry II.’s time.”

According to Hutchins, the family of Walrond is descended from Walran
Venator, to whom William I. gave eight manors in Dorsetshire. The name
is indubitably of French origin, and apparently represents the old Latin
patronymic Valerian.

To turn from names to things, an authentic note attests that, in 1332,
John Walrond had a licence for an oratory. Presumably this was the
ancient chapel of which Lysons speaks, and which probably stood on a
site still known as the Chapel Yard, on the north side of the mansion.
The present house does not go back to so remote a time. On the north
wall are the words, “Vivat E. Rex”; and elsewhere may be seen the dates
1592 and 1604. It is considered that the house was rebuilt in sections
and at intervals, during the short reign of Edward VI., and towards the
close of that of Elizabeth.

Apart from inevitable decay, the mansion remained practically unaltered
until about the middle of the last century, when it was thoroughly
restored by the late Sir John Walrond, who planted the fine avenues of
oak and cedar. Sir John did nothing to destroy or impair the character
of the place, and the changes he introduced were extremely judicious, as
indeed was to be expected from a gentleman of his refined taste. Son of
Mr Benjamin Bowden Dickinson, of Tiverton, who assumed his wife’s name
on his marriage with the heiress of the last of the Bradfield line, he
came into possession in 1845. At that time the house consisted of north
and south gabled wings, united by the old hall, and in ruinous repair,
roughcast and whitewashed. Low offices disfigured the west side, and the
south wall was propped with timber. A farmyard and other buildings
occupied the site of the present entrance.

Such was Bradfield. To-day it is one of the most charming and beautiful
homes in the West. The most ancient and characteristic portion is the
noble hall, which is forty-four feet long by twenty-one feet wide, and
glories in a magnificent hammer-beam roof, adorned with carved angels, a
rich cornice, carved pendants, and old oak plenishings. The napkin
panelling is in excellent preservation, and the fine woodwork, once
covered with many coats of paint, is now fully exposed. Quaint and
delightful features of the apartment are the open fireplace, the
minstrel gallery, and a dog-gate which kept canine favourites below
stairs. Just off the minstrel gallery is the state bedroom, containing a
good sketch of the hall and gallery in days of yore, which gives one to
see how rich the colouring must have been. Below the gallery is the
“buttery hatch,” and beyond the “buttery hatch,” the old kitchen, now
the library.

The drawing-room, communicating by a doorway with the hall dais, and one
of the last rooms to be restored, has, in lieu of paint and whitewash,
walls of moulded oakwork, a richly panelled and decorated ceiling, and a
Jacobean mantelpiece. On the screen over the doorway are coloured
figures of Adam and Eve; and among other curios are an embroidered silk
sachet, in which is enclosed a love letter from Mr Walrond to Anne
Courtenay, written on parchment, and dated October 27, 1659, and a
prayer-book belonging to the old family chapel. Many other charming
sights the interior affords, such as the oak panelling of the
dining-room, its old chimney-piece, its pictures. And outside is a rare
plesaunce, with clipped box-trees, and great clipped yews, and a lake,
and an old bowling-green. Truly, an ideal country-house!

Another branch of the Walronds lived at Dulford House, which is also in
the neighbourhood. Neither of these mansions can be exactly identified
with the “Walderscourt” of the romance, which is represented as standing
on a spot roughly indicated by Pitt Farm, in the parish of Culmstock,
and not far from the village.

[Illustration: CULMSTOCK VICARAGE AND CHURCH (page 33).]

There are coloured effigies of the Cavalier period in Uffculme Church,
which, by the way, has a magnificent screen, sixty-seven feet in length,
probably the longest in the county. Nothing authentic is known about the
effigies, but many have the impression that they represent members of
the Walrond family. It is possible, however, that the originals of the
busts were Holways, of Leigh, since the oldest monuments in the church
were erected in memory of their dead. Leigh Court is the name of the
present mansion, but Goodleigh, as is shown by old deeds, was the
description of the more ancient manorial residence, which did not stand
on the same site. And thereby hangs a tale.

The late Mr William Wood, father of my kind friend, Mr William Taylor
Wood, of Gaddon, owned and lived at Leigh, and, being of an economical
turn of mind, he thought he would clear away the few mouldering ruins of
the old manor house, which only cumbered the ground, and thus extend the
area of one of his fields. Men were engaged for the work, and had
already proceeded some way with their task, when suddenly a workman
threw down his tools and vanished clean out of the neighbourhood. For
years there were no tidings of him. Eventually he returned, but never
vouchsafed the least explanation of his extraordinary conduct. The
people of the place, by whom a new coat or pair of boots would have been
scrutinised with suspicion, all decided that he had found a “pot of
treasure,” whilst Mr Wood, who, with all his good qualities, was
somewhat touched with superstition, commanded the operation to be
stayed.

Wandering about in this pleasant and hospitable region one gathers many
a charming idyll of bygone times. Such, for instance, is the story of
the young lady who arrived at Gaddon on a short visit and remained
fourteen years. It seems that the old housekeeper was sitting on a box
before the kitchen fire, preparing lamb’s tails for a pie (by dipping
them in water brought to a certain temperature, in order to facilitate
the removal of the wool), when all at once she fell back--dead.

The master of the house, Mr Richard Hurley, had relations living in
another part of the parish, and, on learning the sad news, sent off to
them for assistance. There were a lot of girls in the family, and they
and their mother were sitting cosily round the hearth, when there came a
knock at the door. In those days a knock at the door was enough to throw
any country household into a ferment of excitement, which, in this
instance, was not diminished when the messenger announced his errand.

“Please, master wants one of the young ladies to come over, because old
Betty has dropped dead.”

Upon this a family council was held, and the following morning Mary
Garnsey, a pretty, rosy-cheeked maiden of fourteen, mounted her horse,
and with her impedimenta slung from the saddle-bow--there were no
Gladstone bags in those days--rode over to Gaddon to aid her uncle in
his difficulty. Pleased with her agreeable company, and more than
satisfied with her efficient services, Mr Hurley became loth to part
with her, and, in fact, coaxed her to remain till she was twenty-eight,
when she left to be married. Old inhabitants may, perchance, remember
Mrs Pocock, of Rock House, Halberton. She was the lady.



CHAPTER II

BLACKMORE’S VILLAGE


At Culmstock one finds oneself in a village of considerable beauty, to
which the little stream with its border of aspens, and the fine old
church on the knoll, are the principal contributors. Hence also are
avenues leading up to the witching prospects of the Blackdown Hills,
Culmstock Beacon, in particular, being a favourite spot for picnics. So
far so good. But there are drawbacks. When one sets foot in any of these
West-country villages, one is apt to be affected with a sense of
half-melancholy. Stillness is, of course, to be expected; stillness,
indeed, is one of the great charms of the country, and a happy contrast
to the bustle and confusion of the town. But stillness, to be entirely
welcome, must not be emblematic of decay.

Not that Culmstock is altogether in that parlous state; there are many
signs of enterprise and activity. Witness the erection of tidy brick
houses in lieu of crumbling, thatched cottages, so sweet to look upon,
but not specially comfortable to live in. That, however, is not all. One
reason why cob-cottages are no longer built is that this is, to a great
extent, a lost art. A friend of mine, who is not an architect, but is a
pretty shrewd observer of things in general, has explained to me what he
believes to have been the process. The angle of a roof is formed by
“half-couples,” and in the case of cob-cottages my friend thinks that
underneath the “half-couples,” at tolerably close intervals, were set
upright posts. The whole of this scaffolding constituted the permanent
frame of the building, and as soon as it was completed by the addition
of horizontal timbers, the roof was thatched. Then the “cob,” which
resembled mortar with a thickening of hair, etc., was erected in
sections about two or three feet high, so as to envelop the posts, and
each section was allowed to dry before the mud-wall was carried higher.
This was a necessity, but, as the result, the work was slow and tedious,
and nowadays would be more expensive than building with brick or stone.

Be that as it may, the fact cannot be gainsaid that at Culmstock, and
not at Culmstock alone, the advent of the railway and the newspaper, and
the general opening-up of communications with the outer world, have made
a difference. So great indeed is the revolution that one is constrained
to admit that here, though one is in Blackmore’s village, one is yet not
properly in the village that Blackmore knew. True, there is the old
church tower, the stone-screen (Mr Penniloe’s glorious “find”), and even
the old yew-tree springing from the ledge below the battlements. The
bridge, too, is much the same, save for a tasteless, if necessary,
addition. The vicarage also stands, its back turned discourteously on
the wayfarer; and I certify that it is the identical structure which
sheltered Blackmore as a boy, though his father was never the vicar,
only curate-in-charge.

All this may be granted, but the man of feeling still mourns the
loss--for loss he knows there has been--of local life and colour. As
Pericles observed many centuries ago, a city is not an affair of walls
only; and were the material village of seventy years since more intact
than it is, the change in its social conditions would be none the less.
In the old days, Culmstock was no mere geographical expression; it was a
distinct entity, a separate organism, fully equipped for its own needs,
and harbouring, as _Perlycross_ testifies, a spirit of pride and
independence. The warlike rivalry between rustic communities like
Culmstock and Hemyock, though almost universal, may strike one as a
trifle ridiculous; but if a “bold peasantry” could be retained at the
cost of occasional horseplay, it was worth the price. What can be
conceived more admirable than a strong and healthy, and in its heart of
hearts, contented population, grouped into parishes, living on the land?

Old inhabitants with a tincture of education do not, I admit, see things
quite in this light. They are all for modern improvements, and refer
with bitter cynicism to the hardships experienced, and the low wages
earned, in days of yore, for which they have usually not a particle of
regret. But such people are not always right, and now and then one meets
with a pleasing appreciation of the olden times. Not long ago there
might have been seen, tottering about the village, a Culmstock veteran,
who had been wont to ply the flail. The staccato of the “broken stick,”
however, had yielded place to the drone of the threshing-machine, which
was not so agreeable. Suddenly he paused and cocked his ear--what was
that? From the interior of a yeoman’s barn came a familiar sound. Bang!
bang! bang! bang! ’Twas the flail; and the wrinkled old face beamed with
delight as Hodge exclaimed, rubbing his hands, “Blest if Culmstock be
dead yet!”

(Which demonstrates, by the way, the truth of Blackmore’s dictum--“There
are very few noises that cannot find some ear to which they are
congenial.”)

The task will not be easy, but let us endeavour to form some idea of
Culmstock parish as it appeared to the veteran in his long-past youth.
Most likely he was a parish apprentice, bound out at one of the
triennial meetings of the local magistrates held for that purpose in a
cottage near the church. Farmers generally appreciated the privilege of
having poor boys assigned to them as apprentices, especially as they
were not compelled to take any particular boy; but this was not
invariably so, and sometimes they would pay a tailor or a shoemaker
(say) five pounds to relieve them of the distasteful duty. We will
suppose, however, that the farmer is willing to stand _in loco parentis_
to the trembling little mortal--not more than ten years old,
perhaps--and accordingly signs his name and sets his seal to the
indenture.

Have you ever seen such a document? A more portentous agreement than
“these presents,” seeing that the business itself was so simple, was
surely never devised by misplaced ingenuity. No less than six
officials--to say nothing of the master--were parties to the deed, viz.,
two justices, two overseers, and two churchwardens; and their names were
entered in the blank spaces of the form reserved for them. I will not
inflict the whole of the rigmarole on the reader, but here is the cream
of it:--

The instrument conveys that the churchwardens and overseers between them
do put and place M. or N., a poor child of the parish, apprentice to
John Doe or Richard Roe, yeoman, with him to dwell and serve until the
said apprentice shall accomplish his full age of twenty-one years,
according to the statute made and provided, during all which term the
said apprentice the said master faithfully shall serve in all lawful
business according to his power, wit, and ability; and honestly,
orderly, and obediently, in all things demean and behave himself towards
him. On the contrary part, the said master the said apprentice in
husbandry work shall and will teach and instruct, and cause to be taught
and instructed, in the best way and manner he can, during the said term;
and shall and will, during all the term aforesaid, find, provide, and
allow unto the said apprentice, meet, competent, and sufficient meat,
drink, and apparel, lodging, washing, and all other things necessary and
fit for an apprentice.

With such tautological, though no doubt impressive verbiage, was the
poor child of the parish launched on the sea of life. Conducted to the
farmhouse, he was speedily initiated into the habits of the
occupants--rough people, but

[Illustration: RECTORY HOUSE AT CHARLES (page 225).]

sometimes not unkindly. At dinner the “missus” usually presided, with
the master on one side and the family on the other, and the servants in
the lowest places. For the broth, which was an important item in the
menu, wooden spoons were in favour, although an old fellow called Tinker
Toogood came round from time to time and cast the lead that had been
saved for him into a pewter spoon. In some farmhouses no real plates of
any description were employed; instead of that, the table was carved
throughout its length into a series of mock plates, and on these spaces
the meat was placed. Every day the table was washed with hot water, and
covers were set over the imitation plates to keep the dust off. It was
the custom to serve the pudding and treacle first, so as to lessen the
appetite and effect a saving in the meat--salt pork as a rule. Wheaten
bread was unknown. It was always barley bread, nearly black, and cut up
into chunks. These were placed in a wooden bowl.

In addition to Tinker Toogood, itinerant tailors, shoemakers, and
harness-makers were regular visitors at the farmhouses, where they
performed their tasks and were allowed free commons. Harness-menders
were the best paid; they received two shillings a day. Commons, although
free, were not always abundant; and a Mr Snip once complained, in the
bitterness of his heart, that he had tea and fried potatoes for
breakfast, fried potatoes and tea for dinner, and tea and fried potatoes
for supper. With the blacksmith the farmer made a contract, agreeing to
pay so much for the shoeing of horses, repairing of ploughshares, etc.,
and, as in the ploughing season coulter and share required to be
sharpened every night, the smithy on the hill was generally crowded.

At least fifty oxen were kept on the different farms for ploughing; and,
in the opinion of some, these animals were better than horses. Young
bullocks were stationed between the wheelers and the front oxen, but
soon became used to the work, and placed themselves in the furrow as a
matter of course. All the time a boy, armed with a goad, used to sing to
them:

    “Up along, jump along,
     Pretty, Spark, and Tender” [_i.e._, the near bullocks].[3]

Wishing to encourage his team, the boy would say, not “Woog up!” as in
the case of horses, but “Ur up!” Other cries were, “Broad, hither!”
“Tender, hither!” and the like.

In reaping, when the time came for sharpening hooks, the foreman sang
out:

    “A sheave or two further, and then--

whereupon the catchpoll asked,

    “What then?

To this the foreman replied,

    “A fresh edge, a merry look, and along agen,

and the catchpoll rejoined,

    “Well done, Mr Foreman!”

As the finale, all drank out of a horn cup.

In the first verse of an old Devonshire harvest-home song, convivial
spirits were thus addressed:

    “Here’s a health to the barley mow, my brave boys;
     Here’s a health to the barley mow!
     We’ll drink it out of the jolly brown bowl;
     Here’s a health to the barley mow!”

In successive verses they were adjured to drink it out of the nipperkin,
the quarter-pint, the half-pint, the quart, the pottle, the gallon, the
half-anker, the anker, the half-hogshead, the hogshead, the pipe, the
well, the river, and, finally, the ocean.

In the direction of Nicolashayne were three large barns (since converted
into six cottages) in front of which was a broad area of road for the
wagons to halt upon. The “Church of Exeter” has proprietary rights in
the parish; and a proctor came up from Thorverton to receive tithes on
behalf of the Dean and Chapter. Only the small tithes went to the vicar.

The grandson of Clerk Channing of _Perlycross_, a man over seventy,
tells me that he can remember the introduction of the first wagon and
the first spring-cart at Culmstock, pack-horses being used always
before. This circumstance can be accounted for in two ways, partly from
the intense conservation of rural Devonshire--at last, perhaps, broken
up--and partly from the pose of the village, with its face towards the
valley of the Culm and its back against the hills. In a rough country
like the Blackdowns the pack-horse would be certain to tarry longer
than in more cultivated regions, and a large portion of the parish of
Culmstock, though, according to Blackmore, it comprises some of the best
land in East Devon, consists of hills and commons.

The wildest tract of all is Maidendown--a dreary waste compact of bog
and scrub in the vicinity of the late Archbishop Temple’s paternal home,
Axon, and reaching out to the main road between Wellington and Exeter.
Its situation does not agree with that of the Black Marsh, or Forbidden
Land, of _Perlycross_, which is described as lying a long way back among
the Blackdown Hills, and “nobody knows in what parish”; otherwise one
might have guessed that Maidendown was the prototype of that barren
stretch with a curse upon it.

In the West country pack-horses are equally associated with moors and
lanes. Nowadays a Devonshire lane--love is compared to a Devonshire
lane--is regarded as essentially beautiful, with its beds of wild
flowers and tracery of briars; but Vancouver’s impartial testimony
compels one to think that in former days this domain of the pack-horse
was not so attractive. He says:

“The height of the hedge-banks, often covered with a rank growth of
coppice-wood, uniting and interlocking with each other overhead,
completes the idea of exploring a labyrinth rather than that of passing
through a much-frequented country. This first impression, however, will
be at once removed on the traveller’s meeting with, or being overtaken
by, a gang of pack-horses. The rapidity with which these animals descend
the hills, when not loaded, and the utter impossibility of passing
loaded ones, require that the utmost caution should be used in keeping
out of the way of the one, and exertion in keeping ahead of the other. A
cross-way in the road or gateway is eagerly looked for as a retiring
spot to the traveller, until the pursuing squadron, or heavily-loaded
brigade, may have passed by.... As there are but few wheel-carriages to
pass along them, the channel for the water and the path for the
pack-horse are equally in the middle of the way, which is altogether
occupied by an assemblage of such large and loose stones only as the
force of the descending torrents have not been able to sweep away or
remove.”

This was certainly not pleasant, although in most other respects
Culmstock was then a more interesting place than now. I do not assert
that it was more moral. About seventy years ago, a native of the
village, one Tom Musgrove, was hanged for sheep-stealing, being the last
man, it is said, to experience that fate in the county of Devon. We
stand aghast at the barbarity of our forefathers; but if ever the
penalty could be made to fit the crime, then it must be owned, Tom
deserved the rope. He was a notorious thief, whose depredations were the
common talk of the village, and, to make matters worse, his evil deeds
were performed under the cloak of religion. Once a couple of ducks were
missed, and, whilst every cottage was being searched in the hope of
regaining the stolen property, Tom, secure in his pretensions to piety,
stood complacently in his doorway, and the party of inquisitors passed
on. Just inside were the ducks, feeding out of his platter.

One night a huckster’s shop, kept by Betsy Collins, at Millmoor, was
feloniously entered and robbed. Next morning, Tom, apprised of the
event, ran off in his night-cap to condole with the poor woman in her
misfortune, and succeeded so well as to be invited to share her morning
repast. “There!” said he, “her’ve a-gied the old rogue a good
breakfast.”

As a professor of religion Tom contracted a warm friendship with a baker
named Potter, who was an ardent Methodist. Neither friendship nor
religion, however, prevented Mr Musgrove from enriching himself at his
neighbour’s expense. Profiting by an opportunity when Potter was at
chapel, and closely engaged with pious exercises, Tom and his one-armed
daughter broke into the bakehouse and carried off Potter’s bacon, the
lady burglar aiding herself with her teeth.

These breaches of morality appear to have been condoned--at any rate,
they did not land the culprit in any serious trouble. But at last Tom
went a step too far. Down in the hams, or water-meadows, between
Culmstock and Uffculme, he seized a large ram, which he slew, brought
home, and buried in his garden. The crime was traced to his door,
professions and protestations proved unavailing, and Musgrove, tried and
convicted at the following Assizes, was publicly executed at Exeter
Gaol. It will be remembered that Mrs Tremlett’s “dree buys was hanged,
back in the time of Jarge the Third, to Exeter Jail for ship-staling”
(_Perlycross_, chapter xxvi.)

Sheep-stealing was not the only excitement. In Blackmore’s youth--and
_Perlycross_ is built on the circumstance--smuggling was carried on with
spirit (in both senses) over the Blackdowns, and queer stories are told
of fortunes made by “fair trade,” in the conduct of which a mysterious
tower, out on the hills, is said to have played an important part. An
octogenarian of my acquaintance admits that, as a boy, he shared in
these illegal adventures, which did not receive that amount of social
reprobation they may have deserved. He does not deny that he slept in a
friend’s house over kegs of brandy which he knew to be contraband, nor
does he disguise the fact that he was not a mere sleeping partner. He
acknowledges being sent with a keg to meet a fellow-conspirator, who for
the sake of appearances toiled in the local woollen factory, but out of
business hours drove a lucrative trade with the farmers in the forbidden
thing. Worst of all, on one occasion, when an excise officer was
reported to be in the village, a cask was hastily transferred to his
shoulders, which, as being youthful, were less likely to attract
suspicion, and he actually walked past the Government man--barrel and
brandy and all! Horses laden with the foreign stuff came up from Seaton.
They had no halters, and were guided, says my friend, by the scent, the
journey being naturally performed in the dark.

Smuggling, however, took various forms. Men from Upottery, Clayhidon,
and elsewhere would halt a cart on the outskirts of the village, and go
round with brandy or gin in bladders, which they carried in the pockets
of their greatcoats. One Giles, of Clayhidon, had a donkey and cart
with a keg of brandy concealed in a furnace turned upside down. A
Culmstock man called Townsend, landlord of the “Three Tuns,” is said to
have been ruined by a smuggler, who sold him a gallon of brandy and
demanded accommodation, as usual. The publican refused it on the ground
that the house was already full, upon which the smuggler, stung with
resentment, informed the police, and Townsend was fined £270.

By these instances, something, it may be hoped, has been done towards
reconstructing the Culmstock in which Blackmore grew up, and which
helped to make him what he was--essentially the prophet of the village
and rural life. And here I must rectify a possible misunderstanding,
Because stress has been laid on changes in the social conditions of the
parish, as being of deeper significance, it must not be inferred that
there have been no alterations, or none of any importance, in the face
of things. The contrary is the truth, and, on a reckoning, one is
tempted to say with Betty Muxworthy, “arl gone into churchyard.”

Culmstock churchyard has indeed swallowed up, not only successive
generations of the inhabitants, but a goodly share of the village
itself. This is the more regrettable, as the portions absorbed are
precisely those which, being redolent of the olden times, one would have
liked preserved. The shambles, a covered enclosure for butchers
attending the weekly market, has gone the way of all flesh. So also has
the stockhouse, which was, rather inconsequently, an open

[Illustration: CULMSTOCK CHURCH AND RIVER (page 12).]

space where the stocks were kept. Hard by stood an inn, called the “Red
Lion,” which either failed to draw sufficient custom, or having a
handsome porch, was deemed too good for a common inn and metamorphosed
into a school. A Mr Kelso arriving with wife and daughters three,
accomplished the transformation, and, according to local tradition, he
had the honour of instilling the rudiments of learning into the late
Archbishop Temple. This, not the National School which was built in the
Rev. John Blackmore’s time and mainly through his exertions, was the
academy of Sergeant Jakes, the position of which is plainly defined in
chapter xxxvi.[4]

There was formerly a considerable trade at Culmstock in combing and
spinning wool. Thirty hands are now employed at the mill (no longer an
independent concern, but a branch establishment of Messrs Fox Brothers,
of Wellington); once four hundred were busy at home. Soap also throve.
It was made on the right shoulder of the hill, and the manufacturer, a
Mr Hellings, kept seven pack-horses to transport it to Exeter. Culmstock
soap had a great vogue in the cathedral city, and it was a common
observation that no one had a chance till Hellings was “sold out.” In
the neighbouring village of Clayhidon was a silk factory, employing, I
believe, a hundred hands, and run by a gentleman of the Methodist
persuasion, whose house and chapel adjoined--the three together
producing a combination of the earthly and the heavenly which impressed
my informant as the acme of convenience. A similar factory in Red Lion
Court, Culmstock, met with speedy failure.

These industries are now extinct, and one is somewhat at a loss in
seeking for “live” interests, although it is impossible to forget that
Hemyock is a famous mart for pigs. The whole district is piggy, and the
sleek black animal with the curly tail is as highly respected, in life
and in death, as his congener in that porcine paradise, Erin. I was
talking to an old fellow at Culmstock, it may have been two years ago,
and the conversation turned on swine. Rather to my surprise, he spoke of
a certain female of the breed as having been “brought up in house,” and
with full appreciation of the fun, volunteered a local saw to the effect
that “when a sow has had three litters, she is artful enough to open a
door.”

Culmstock, it is not too much to say, is redolent of Waterloo. The
beacon was often aflame during the Napoleonic wars, and, upon their
conclusion, the famous Wellington Monument was erected at no great
distance, in honour of the Iron Duke, who took his title from Wellington
in Somerset, the Pumpington of _Perlycross_.

Thanks to the industry of Mr William Doble, who is, I believe, a
descendant of more than one of the local heroes, it is possible to
restore the atmosphere which brought about the creation, years
afterwards, of Sir Thomas Waldron and Sergeant Jakes. When R. D.
Blackmore was a boy, many were still living who could remember the
incessant din of the joy-bells on the announcement of the victory--a
din continued for several days; and the scene in the Fore-street, the
“grateful celebration,” when high and low, indiscriminately, turned out
to share the feast. Naturally, however, the festivities were dashed with
some amount of sorrow and anxiety, as it was not yet known what had been
the fortunes of the gallant fellows who had gone forth to fight
England’s battle. Two stanzas of a song, which an old lady of Culmstock
sang as a girl, reflect with simple pathos the dreadful suspense of
relations and friends.

    “Mother is the battle over?
     Thousands have been slain they say.
     Is my father coming? Tell me,
     Have the English gained the day?

    “Is he well, or is he wounded?
     Mother, is he among the slain?
     If you know, I pray you tell me,
     Will my father come again?”

A rough list of the Culmstock warriors comprises the following names:--

    Major Octavius Temple, (father of the late Archbishop).
    Dr Ayshford.
    Sergt. J. Mapledorham.
    Sergt. W. Doble.
    Sergt. Gregory.
    William Berry.
    William Sheers.
    Robert Wood.
    Thomas Scadding.
    Richard Fry.
    Abram Lake.
    William Gillard.
    John Jordan.
    Thomas Andrews.
    John Nethercott.
    John Tapscott.
    “Urchard” Penny.
    James Mapledorham, jun.
    Betty Milton.
    Betsy Mapledorham.

Mapledorham, was too much of a mouthful for Culmstock people, so they
consulted their own convenience by calling the couple Maldrom. The
excellent sergeant already possessed a long record of service when
summoned to the final test of Waterloo, and in several campaigns he had
been accompanied by his faithful Betsy. Equally adventurous, Betty
Milton was full of reminiscences of her hard life in the Peninsula.

William Berry, too, was fond of story-telling. He related, with humorous
glee, that he had once captured a mule with a sack of doubloons.
Unfortunately a wine-shop proved seductive, and whilst he was regaling
himself therein, an artful Spaniard made off with the booty. Robert,
better known as “Robin,” Wood was literary, and published a penny
history of his exploits, of which, alas! not a single copy is known to
exist. William Sheers, figuratively speaking, turned his spear into a
ploughshare, as he took to shopkeeping and became a pronounced Methodist
and zealous supporter of the Smallbrook Chapel. I can just remember this
bearded veteran, who in his last days was a victim to a severe form of
cardiac asthma. Tapscott and “Urchard” Penny were both ex-marines. The
former had been present at the Battle of Trafalgar and rejoiced in the
nicknames “John Glory” and “Blue my Shirt.” As for Penny, he was
sometimes called “Tenpenny Dick,” the reason being that he would never
accept more than tenpence as his day’s wage. When his turn came to be
buried, the bystanders observed that water had found its way into his
last resting-place, so that, it was said, he remained constant to the
element in which he had so long served.

The foremost of the group of veterans is claimed to have been Doble,
who, after starting in life as a parish apprentice, at the age of seven,
took part in seven pitched battles in the Peninsula, and ended his
military career at Waterloo. He retired from the service on a pension of
twelve shillings a week, and was the proud owner of two medals and nine
clasps. As a civilian, he was the trusted foreman of the silk factory in
Red Lion Court, which, despite his probity, soon came to grief; and at
his funeral his old comrades assembled, some from considerable
distances, to pay a last tribute to the brave soldier who had rallied
the waverers at Waterloo.

Dr Ayshford used to say that he had three sources of income--his
pension, his practice, and his property. On the strength of these
resources he kept a pack of hounds. He was naturally very intimate with
the Temples, and I have been told by a descendant that it was thanks to
his generosity that the late Archbishop Temple was enabled to proceed to
Oxford. _Mutatis mutandis_, it seems not improbable that by Frank
Gilham, Blackmore may have intended his schoolmate. Think of it. Major
Temple was not only an officer of the army, but a practical farmer, and
the late primate could plough and thresh with the best. Gilham is
described as no clodhopper: he “had been at a Latin school, founded by a
great high priest of the Muses in the woollen line,” _i.e._, Blundell.
Again, his farm adjoins the main turnpike road from London to Devonport,
at the north-west end of the parish; and where is Axon, the Temples’ old
place? The name “White Post” is perhaps adapted from “Whitehall,” a
fine old-fashioned farmhouse between Culmstock and Hemyock.

Like Parson Penniloe (see _Perlycross_, chapter xxxiii.), Parson
Blackmore kept pupils--a fact to which allusion is made in _Tales from
the Telling House_. The Bude Light was the Rev. Goldsworthy Gurney. The
existence of a wayside cross, from which and the fictitious description
of the Culm was formed the name of both village and romance, is
attributed to the public spirit of one Baker, who lived in the
Commonwealth time, and usurped the manor; but whether it was anything
more than a tradition in Blackmore’s youth, is perhaps doubtful.
Priestwell is Prescott, Hagdon Hill Hackpen, and Susscott Northcott.
Crang’s forge, had any such institution existed, would have been at
Craddock.

The reader, however, may rest assured that Blackmore did not select
these fanciful appellations without excellent reason. He desired for
himself a large freedom, which, as we have seen, he used in transporting
mansions, and other feats of imagination. One more illustration of this
spiritual liberty may be cited. By the Foxes he evidently means the
Wellington family. The dialogue between Mrs Fox of Foxden and Parson
Penniloe, in chapter xliv., is sufficient to settle that. The name
Foxdown, too, is evidently based on that of Mr Elworthy’s residence,
Foxdene. Yet in chapter xii. Foxden is stated to be thirty miles from
Perlycross by the nearest roads. On the other hand, Pumpington, as
Wellington is called in _Perlycross_, is just where it should be
(chapter xxiv.).

Turning to another matter, Blackmore has idealised the bells, inasmuch
as he states that on the front of one of them--the passing bell--was
engraven,

     “Time is over for one more”;

and on the back,

     “Soon shall thy own life be o’er.”

The Culmstock set is an interesting collection of bells, but not one of
them is adorned with mottoes such as those. One bears the inscription
“Ave Maria Gracia Plena,” and this was cast by Roger Semson, a
West-country founder of repute, who was dwelling at Ash Priors, in
Somerset, in 1549, and who stamped his initials on the bell. Another of
his bells, at Luppitt, is at once more and less explicit on this point,
since the inscription runs “nosmes regoremib.” To make sense, this must
be read backwards. Two modern bells, placed in the Culmstock belfry in
1852 and 1853 respectively, awaken proud or painful memories. The former
was cast in memory of the Duke of Wellington, the cost being defrayed by
subscription, while the latter was “the free gift of James Collier, of
Furzehayes, and John Collier, of Bowhayes.” John Collier, who was killed
by lightning at Bowhayes, was the sporting yeoman with the otter hounds,
to whom Blackmore alludes. The old house, by the way, was reputed to be
haunted, and for years no one would live in it.

Blackmore’s description of the vicarage is literally correct, save that
he calls it “the rectory.” A long and rambling house it certainly is,
and the dark, narrow passage, like a tunnel, beneath the first-floor
rooms, is a feature explained by the higher level of the front of the
house “facing southwards upon a grass-plot and a flower-garden, and as
pretty as the back was ugly” (_Perlycross_, chapter vi.).

[Illustration: HEMYOCK (page 26).]



CHAPTER III

THE HINTERLAND


Although Culmstock and its immediate vicinity is somewhat deficient in
what I have ventured to term “live” interests, it must not be inferred
that the neighbourhood has nothing further to show; and among the
objects that deserve to be scheduled as worthy of attention are the
colossal stone quarries at Westleigh, which, whether viewed from the
parallel line of railway or from the opposite height on which stands
Burlescombe Church, present an imposing spectacle. For ages they have
been the principal source of supply for the district, huge quantities of
limestone having been drawn from them for building and agricultural
purposes. Much of it was formerly conveyed to Tiverton in barges towed
along the canal, the terminus of which was fitted with a number of
kilns. These, in my boyhood, I have often seen burning, and regarded
with no little awe, owing to stories that were circulated of persons
having gone to sleep on the margin, fallen over into the glowing
furnace, and been consumed to powder. They are now a picturesque ruin.
Older men can recall a yet earlier time when pack-horses came to
Westleigh from Tiverton and fetched lime in boxes. In front was a man
riding a pony, and the horses followed without compulsion.

The string of pack-horses mentioned in chapter ii. of _Lorna Doone_, as
arriving from Sampford Peverell, may be a reminiscence of this traffic.

Not far from the entrance to the Whiteball tunnel, and in the
neighbourhood of the great limestone quarries, in a pleasant meadow
facing south, are the ruins of Canonsleigh Abbey. To a connoisseur like
Mr F. T. Elworthy, these remains tell their own story, and it is thanks
to that gentleman’s investigations and researches that we are able to
furnish a concise account of the ancient nunnery. A gateway yet stands,
though unhappily disfigured by the desecrating touch of modern man, and
near it is a doorway of red sandstone leading to a staircase doubtless
belonging to the porter. In the upper storey, square-headed
windows--wrought, we may believe, in the fourteenth century--command the
approach in either direction; other features are less easy to determine,
since there are modern walls and a modern roof, which have been added
for the purpose of turning the place into a shed, and incidentally
obscure the older architecture.

Without spending more time here, let us pass to a quadrangular building
of massive construction, and supported at two of its angles by solid
buttresses. Situated at the east end of the convent, this is considered
to have been a great flanking tower communicating, by means of strong
walls (fragments of which yet remain), at the angles opposite to the
buttresses, with the residential portions. The outer or enclosing wall
of the abbey precincts started from the middle of the east wall of the
tower; and under the middle of the tower flowed a stream, which issued
through a covered exit and continued its course outside the boundary
wall, washing its base. The reason for this somewhat peculiar
arrangement was a good one--the supply of the abbey stews; but its
effect was to throw the tower out of line with the walls and the other
buildings.

Inside the walls were two spaces, irregular in shape, and clearly open
courtyards, from one of which a doorway led into the tower. The chief
entrances seem to have been from the two or more floors of the domestic
quarters. On the side next the convent, approached by a massive doorway,
is a narrow chamber, conjectured to have been a “guard-room” for
refractory nuns. Over this, but running the entire length of the
building, and not, like the lower floor, divided by wall and doorway, is
a floor supported by beams.

This tower, with the plaster clinging to its walls--how can we explain
its survival when the rest of the once stately abbey has vanished?
Probably the reason lies partly in its strength and partly in its
plainness and the absence of wrought stone tempting human greed. As has
been well said, “it still stands a picturesque and sturdy relic of an
age of good lime-burners and honest masons.” The wrought stone of one or
two windows in the adjacent walls has been removed, but what indications
remain suggest the close of the twelfth century as that virtuous age.

The Priory of Leigh was founded, Dr Oliver says, in the latter half of
the twelfth century, and Prebendary Hingeston-Randolph opines, before
1173. In its infant days, it seems to have been a dependency of Plympton
Priory--at any rate, in the estimation of the latter monastery, whose
head claimed the right to appoint the superior of Leigh. This demand was
resisted, and in 1219 the then Bishop of Exeter composed the quarrel by
deciding, as a sort of compromise, that the Prior of Plympton might, if
he chose, be present at the election.

In the second half of the thirteenth century there were scandals at
Leigh calling for episcopal cognisance and visitation; and these
disorders proving incurable, Bishop Quivil went the length of ejecting
the prior and canons, and transferring the monastery, with all its
belongings, to a body of canonesses of the same rule of St Augustine.
And Matilda de Tablere became the first Prioress of Leigh. Next year,
Matilda de Clare, Countess of Gloucester and Hertford, presented the
convent with the (then) great sum of six hundred marks, in
acknowledgment of which Bishop Quivil erected the priory into an abbey,
and appointed the countess its abbess.

The patron saints, under the old régime, had been the Blessed Virgin
Mary and St John the Evangelist. St Ethelreda the Virgin was now added,
and practically displaced St Mary, whose name is omitted in later
descriptions. Another change affected the name of the place, “_Mynchen_”
being often substituted for “_Canon_”-leigh. “Mynchen” is the old
English feminine of “monk,” and therefore equivalent to the modern
“nun.”

The indignant canons did not take their extrusion meekly. They appealed
to the archbishop, and, through him, to the king, against the
usurpation of the “little women,” but they appealed in vain.

Sad to relate, the ladies do not appear to have behaved much better than
their predecessors. In 1314 Bishop Stapledon, Quivil’s successor,
addressed a letter to his dear daughters in Christ, telling them in
Norman-French that he had heard of many _deshonestetes_, and calling
particular attention to the fact that there was an entrance into the
cellar where a man brewed _le braes_, and another under the new chamber
of the abbess! These he ordered to be closed by a stone wall before the
following Easter.

The abbey was suppressed in February 1538, and at the end of the same
year the king granted a lease of the site and precincts, with the tithes
of sheaf and the rectories of Oakford and Burlescombe, to Thomas de
Soulemont, of London. The inmates, however, were not turned adrift on
the charity of the cold world. Each received a pension, and this, in the
case of the abbess, Elisabeth Fowell, was considerable. There were
eighteen sisters in all, and some of them, as is proved by their
names--Fortescue, Coplestone, Sydenham, Carew, Pomeroy--were of good
West-country extraction.

In course of time the property passed through various hands, and out of
the spoils of the abbey a certain owner appears to have built a mansion,
which was demolished in 1821.

From Canonsleigh let us away to Dunkeswell, about equidistant from
Culmstock, but in another direction. On the journey we may look again at
the grassy plateau which has Culmstock Beacon at one extremity and the
Wellington Monument, set up in honour of the Iron Duke and his
victories, at the other. This stretch of moorland is yet in its
primitive state, and the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, whose property it
is, exercise zealous supervision over it. Time was when the villagers
depastured their donkeys thereon, but of late years the privilege seems
to have been withdrawn.

The Blackdowns, generally, have been enclosed and turned into farms; and
although one sometimes stumbles on desolate fields with patches of
gorse, mindful of their ancient savagery, this does not affect, to any
appreciable extent, the character of the country. On the whole, a ride
or walk across the long level chines is not specially delightsome, save
indeed for the wholesome air and an occasional glimpse of a fairy-like
_mappa mundi_ spread out at their base. It is only when one descends
into charming little villages, like Hemyock, or Dunkeswell, or
Broadhembury, with their orchards fair and hollyhocks, that complete
satisfaction is attained, and then it _is_ attained.

Amidst so much that is bare (and on this subject we have not said our
last word) the ivied ruins of Dunkeswell Abbey, nearer Hemyock than
Dunkeswell village, and lending its name to a very respectable hamlet,
assuredly deserve remark. Situated in a charmingly secluded spot, they
consist merely of parts of the gatehouse and fragments of walls. The
latter have a blackened appearance as if the destruction of the
buildings had been accelerated by fire; more probably, however, this is
due to the mould of age. In its heyday the abbey boasted an imposing
range of buildings, the outlines of which may still be traced in the
grass, when, in the drought of summer, it withers, more rapidly than
elsewhere, over the foundations.

The history of the abbey is almost as scanty as its remains. It was
founded in 1201 by William Lord Briwere or Bruere, on land that had
previously belonged to William Fitzwilliam, who, having borrowed from
one Amadio, a Jew, was compelled to mortgage his manor of Dunkeswell.
According to one version, Briwere redeemed the land from the Hebrew, but
a charter of King John shows the vendor to have been Henry de la
Pomeroy. There is clearly a tangle. Possibly Pomeroy bought Dunkeswell
from the mortgagee and resold it to Briwere, who, in any case, bestowed
it on the Cistercians of Ford.

Just outside the north wall of the modern church may be seen a stone
coffin, with depressions for the head and heels. It is one of two that
were discovered some thirty years ago covered with plain Purbeck slabs,
and containing skeletons--a man’s and a woman’s; in all likelihood,
those of the powerful Lord Briwere and his good lady. The body of the
founder, it is known, was laid to rest in 1227 in the choir of the abbey
church; and it is only natural to suppose, though there is no evidence
to prove it, that husband and wife shared a common tomb. The bones,
placed together in one of the coffins, were reinterred, while the other
coffin, as I said, has been suffered to remain above-ground, a
gazing-stock for posterity.

The abbey was richly endowed by its founder with lands and tenements,
including the manor of Uffculme and the mill there; and his munificence
was supplemented by liberal gifts from the monks of Ford and others. At
the date of its surrender, February 14, 1539, the annual value of the
property amounted to £300--a large income in those days.

Most of the notices relating to the abbey are drawn either from the
Coroners’ or De Banco Rolls, and, as they are concerned with actions for
debt or trespass, are anything but entertaining. The one exception is
the account or accounts of the storming of Hackpen Manor by John Cogan,
of Uffculme, his son Philip, and others, in the year of grace 1299.
Entering the buildings _vi et armis_, they ejected the monks and lay
brethren, who, after the custom of their order, were carrying on farming
operations there; and beat and wounded two of the abbot’s servants to
such purpose that he was deprived of their services for a year or
longer. Moreover, they were said to have captured three score oxen and a
score of cows, and driven them to Cogan’s manor of Uffculme, whither
also they bore certain _furcæ_, which were there burnt.

To this grave indictment Cogan replied, denying the trespass, and
alleging that the two manors adjoined, and that the abbot desired to
“lift” _furcæ_, etc., the property of Cogan, whereupon he instructed his
men to prevent him, which they did. Now as to those _furcæ_. Writing
aforetime on the subject, I fell into the pardonable error, if error it
be, of supposing that the term, being employed in an agricultural or
pastoral context, denoted “pitchforks.” It is my present

[Illustration: CULMSTOCK BRIDGE (page 13).]

belief that these _furcæ_ were the kind of thing that gave its name to
Forches Corner, just over the Somerset border--in other words, gallows.
The abbot, as lord of Broadhembury, had not only assize of bread and
beer in that manor, but, very certainly, a gallows. The Lady Amicia,
Countess of Devon, had at least one gallows, and considering the extent
of her domains, probably gallows galore; and apparently John Cogan had
one. The Abbot of Dunkeswell, it seems to me, must have had at least
two. If this reading be correct, the undignified squabble was all about
that grisly symbol of mortality and power.

It is possible that a distorted version of this affair yet lingers in
Culmstock tradition. I have heard from a Methuselah of the place that,
according to an old tale, a band of freebooters named Sylvester made an
eyry of Hackpen, whence they descended to the more fertile regions
below, raiding the farms, and carrying off the fleecy spoil to their
hold on the hill.

On the break-up of the monastery the site of the buildings, the home
farm, and other lands were assigned by letters patent to John, Lord
Russell, who showed himself an utter vandal. The lead of the roofs and
the bells, of which there were four in the church tower, were the
special objects of his rapacity; but all was grist that came to his
mill, and, as the result, the fabric was left in a condition in which it
was bound to become “to hastening ills a prey.” As there was never an
abbey at Culmstock, either Canonsleigh or Dunkeswell probably served as
a model for the ruins described in _Perlycross_. The latter is the more
likely, owing to the presence of the “district” church built by Mrs
Simcoe, close to the remains of the ancient abbey.

At the southern end of the Blackdowns is Hembury Fort, an old British
encampment, of triple formation and considerable extent, which commands
perhaps the finest view in the neighbourhood. It is believed by some to
have been also a Roman station--the Moridunum (or Muridunum) of
Antonine. On this point, however, there is considerable doubt, there
being other claimants, of which High Peak on the coast is one, and
Honiton another. The very latest view of the matter is that given by
Canon Raven in _The Antiquary_ of December 1904, in which he inclines to
the opinion that the legion divided the year between a winter at Honiton
and a summer at Hembury, with the advantage of a strong fort to retire
upon in case of Dumnonian risings.

In writing of these distant ages, I have often felt how remote they are
in another sense. Such a term as “Dumnonian,” for instance, though we
know its geographical significance as referring to the inhabitants of
south-west Britain--how little it conveys, and perhaps can be made to
convey, to us of the life that people lived, even if we are sure that
beneath their breasts beat human hearts like our own, with interests and
affections strong and manifold! Much gratitude, therefore, is due to the
late Rev. William Barnes, author of the classic Dorset poems, for his
bold attempt to reconstruct for us the mode of existence and
surroundings of those ancient Britons, of whom all have heard from their
childhood. This also may be poetry, but it is worth perusing only as
such. The picture he describes is that of a little pastoral settlement
occupying a valley, and finding refuge in time of war in a great camp
that crowns a neighbouring hill; and the season is the end of summer,
after the reaping of oats and rye and the mowing of lawns and meadows
round the homesteads.

“The cattle are on the downs, or in the hollows of the hills. Here and
there are wide beds of fern, or breadths of gorse and patches of wild
raspberry, with gleaming sheets of flowers. The swine are roaming in the
woods and shady oak-glades, the nuts are studding the brown-leaved
bushes. On the sunny side of some cluster of trees is the herdsman’s
round wicker-house, with its brown conical roof and blue wreaths of
smoke. In the meadows and basins of the sluggish streams stand clusters
of tall elms waving with the nests of herons; the bittern, coot, and
water-rail are busy among the rushes and flags of the reedy meres. Birds
are ‘charming’ in the wood-girt clearings, wolves and foxes slinking to
their covers, knots of maidens laughing at the water-spring, beating the
white linen or flannel with their washing bats; the children play before
the doors of the round straw-thatched houses of the homestead, the
peaceful abode of the sons of the oaky vale. On the ridges of the downs
rise the sharp cones of the barrows, some glistening in white chalk, or
red, the mould of a new burial, and others green with the grass of long
years.”

Close to Hembury Fort is a house built by Admiral Samuel Graves, whose
best title to fame is that he invented the lifeboat. The fort is in the
parish of Payhembury. The adjacent parish of Broadhembury, a picturesque
village among the hills, could vaunt in ancient days a cell of Cluniac
monks belonging to Montacute Priory, Somerset; and from 1768 to 1775 the
incumbent was none other than Augustus Toplady, author of “Rock of
Ages.” The Grange, a fine old Jacobean manor house, long the residence
of the Drewes, was built in 1610 by an ancestor of theirs, who was
sergeant-at-law to Queen Elizabeth--Edward Drewe. It was modernised
about the middle of the last century.

At one time the Blackdowns must have presented a very different
appearance from that which they do now, and the cause of the
transformation may be found in a measure passed in the thirty-ninth year
of His Majesty King George the Third, up to which time the commons of
Church Staunton, Clayhidon, and Dunkeswell produced little but heath,
fern, dwarf-furze,[5] and very coarse, tough and wiry herbage. At the
beginning of the last century these lands were taken in hand with a view
to cultivation or planting.

The Napoleon of the reclamation was General Simcoe, an officer who,
having greatly distinguished himself in the American War, afterwards
settled down on the Blackdowns. Altogether he enclosed about twelve
thousand acres, and part of his design was to build two or three
farmhouses, assigning to each of them about three hundred acres. The
remaining allotments he portioned out to adjacent farms belonging to
him, or converted into plantations. At Wolford Lodge--the name of his
residence--he carried out some interesting experiments in arboriculture.

One practice adopted at Wolford, and apparently with success, was that
of pruning the young oak, the stem being left clean to a height of
twenty feet, and a proportionate top being allowed. The wounds soon
healed and became covered with bark, and the result is said to have been
a notable increase in the strength and substance of the stock.

General Simcoe paid much attention also to the culture of exotic trees.
The black spruce of Newfoundland, the red spruce of Norway, the Weymouth
pine, pineaster, stone and cluster pine, the American sycamore or
butterwood, the black walnut, red oak, hiccory, sassafras, red bud,
together with many small trees and shrubs of the sorts which, in the
Western hemisphere, compose the undergrowth of the forests--all these
different species were introduced and found to flourish at Dunkeswell.

The soil of Dunkeswell Common consisted chiefly of a brown and black
peaty earth on beds of brown and yellow clay and fox-mould, all resting
ultimately on a deep stratum of chip sand. Wherever the chip sand and
marl emerged, the more retentive stratum of the latter held up the
water, which burst forth into springs or formed “weeping
ground”--“zogs,” as it is termed by the natives, who add that you must
be careful where you plant your foot. Many of the morasses and peaty
margins along the declivities and side-hills abounded with bog-timber.
Out of a bed of peat near Wolford Lodge was raised an oak of this
description, about twenty feet long and squaring thirteen inches at the
butt. The whole of its sap was gone, and, to judge from its appearance,
it might have been a fork of a much larger tree. Before it was taken up,
General Simcoe received and refused an offer of five guineas for it.
Local opinion favours Roughgrey Bottom, Dunkeswell, as the original of
Blackmarsh or the Forbidden Land of _Perlycross_. The situation is
fairly suitable; it was not far from the Blackborough quarries (see
chapter xxxviii.).

There is probably still preserved at Wolford Lodge, which is a
treasure-house of interesting curios, a specimen of the serpent stone,
or _cornu ammonis_, found at the Blackborough quarries, which in their
time have produced a large crop of fossilised shells, and delighted the
geologist with instructive visions of the underworld. The specimen in
question exceeded fourteen inches in diameter.

Once upon a time the Blackdowns were generally known as the Scythestone
Hills, and travellers often digressed from the beaten track in order to
pay a visit to the whetstone pits at Blackborough, which were justly
regarded as a remarkable scene of industry, and, indeed, one of the
sights of the West. These quarries were worked in the following way. A
road or level about three feet wide and about five and a half feet high
was driven from the side of the hill to a distance of three or four
hundred yards. All the loose sandstones within eight or ten yards of
the road were extracted, pillars being left to support the roof of the
mine, until, having served their purpose, these also were gradually
worked out and the whole excavation suffered to fall in. The size of the
stones rarely exceeded that of a horse’s head; and all were more or less
grooved and indented, their appearance suggesting that they had been
subjected to the action of rills or running water. Many years have
elapsed since the pits were in full working order. A little while ago
there were two shafts remaining; to-day there is only one, and, most
probably, by the time this paragraph is in print, the doom of the mines
will be irrevocably sealed, and Finis appended to their history. Dr
Fox’s strange adventure in this weird spot must be in the recollection
of all readers of _Perlycross_ (chapter xii.).

But there is another wonder at Blackborough besides the quarries, and
that is Blackborough House--a great rambling mansion, with windows and
doors innumerable. The building, which is rented by an aged lady and her
daughter, is so utterly inconsequent as to inspire curiosity concerning
its origin in this lonely out-of-the-way place. Well, a good many years
ago, Dr Dickinson, of Uffculme, was in one of the eastern counties when
he fell in with an old admiral who knew the spot, knew its former
owner--the eccentric Lord Egremont--and told him all about it. Long
before, the earl and the admiral were looking over the property, when
the latter chanced to remark that it might be a good thing to erect a
residence there. My lord was impressed with the notion, and the
construction of this gigantic tenement--in its way almost as
extraordinary as Silverton House, now demolished, which stamped him as
an _aedificator_ that neither reckoned nor finished--was his mode of
giving effect to the idea.

In the middle of the last century Blackborough House was a warren of
young students professedly reading with the Rev. William Cookesley
Thompson, most of whom were of Irish nationality. They were a wild set,
and enjoyed nothing so much as sharing in one of the country revels,
which were then so common in Devonshire. On one occasion they made their
way to Kentisbeare Revel, where an old woman had a gingerbread stall.
Evening came on, and to avoid a slight sprinkling of rain, the dame took
refuge in the doorway of the inn. At the same instant a wagonette or
some such vehicle emerged from the adjoining passage, and turning a
sharp corner, overturned the old woman’s stall, whose contents, tilted
into the roadway, were eagerly scrambled for by children. Of course
there were profuse, if not very sincere, apologies, and sympathetic
promises of compensation, but whether they were ever honoured in the
sequel my informant is inclined to query.

One great feature of a revel was wrestling, and this reminds me that at
Kentisbeare there are about fifty acres of common, which were once the
subject of debate between that parish and Broadhembury. After much
bickering it was agreed to settle the point by “fair shoe and stocking,”
with the result that the men of Kentisbeare were victorious, and
acquired firm possession of the disputed territory.

[Illustration: OLD BLUNDELL’S SCHOOL, TIVERTON.]



CHAPTER IV

BLACKMORE’S SCHOOL


In 1837 R. D. Blackmore underwent a momentous experience, that being the
year in which he entered, a trembling novice, the portals of the famous
school, founded by Mr Peter Blundell, clothier. With all its many
virtues as a place of learning, Tiverton School long maintained a
reputation for roughness, and those days were among its roughest. It
might have appeared, therefore, a providential circumstance that the boy
had a sturdy sponsor in Frederick Temple, with whom he at first lodged
in the simplicity of Copp’s Court, though afterwards he became a boarder
inside the gates. Nor can it be doubted that Temple, ever “justissimus
unus,” must sometimes have interposed to prevent any unconscionable
bullying of his delicate charge. Unfortunately he seems to have taken a
severe view of his duties as amateur father; and on one occasion, many
years later, when he handed to a prize-winner a copy of _Lorna Doone_,
he mentioned, with a humorous twinkle, that he had often chastised the
author by striking him on the head with a brass-headed hammer. We have
it on the authority of Mr Stuart J. Reid that Blackmore neither then
nor subsequently felt the least gratitude for these attentions, and was
wont to refer to his distinguished contemporary in language the reverse
of flattering. And what he felt about his schoolfellow, he felt--or Mr
Reid is mistaken--about his school, the retrospect of the misery and
privations of his boyhood affecting him to his latest hour with a lively
sense of horror and reprobation.

One would not have thought it. The opening chapters of _Lorna Doone_,
though candid, seem written with relish of the little barbarians at
play, just as if Blackmore had settled with himself that the trials of
child’s estate were goodly exercises for the larger palæstras of life
and literature. The filial note is never wanting, and those classic
pages, so redolent of the place, and so descriptive of its customs, even
to the verge of exaggeration, appeal to the younger generation of
“Blundellites” as a splendid and enduring achievement, to which Mr
Kipling’s _Stalky and Co._, and Mr Eden Phillpott’s _Human Boy_, and
even _Tom Brown’s Schooldays_, must humbly vail.

It would be a considerable satisfaction to report that the scenes which
Blackmore pictured are still in all respects as he painted them; but to
do so would be to tamper with truth, and lead to unnecessary
disappointment. In the first place, the school, as a society of men and
boys, was removed in 1882 to a new and more convenient abiding-place
about a mile distant, where it has renewed its youth, and flourishes
with such a plentitude of numbers as was never known on the traditional
site by the bank of the Lowman. The venerable buildings--it moves a
nausea to tell--have been remodelled into villas. Apparently there was
no remedy, for, although there was talk at the time of acquiring them as
a local museum and library, like the Castle at Taunton, nothing came of
it all, Tiverton being a small town, and philanthropists few and far
between. To be sure, some stipulation was required that the elevation
should be preserved _in statu quo_; but this has been only partially
observed. The new residents could not be expected to live in dungeons,
and so, for the admission of air and sunshine, the Jacobean windows have
been extended and deprived of their pristine proportions. Within, the
carved oak ceilings and panels have fled before an invasion of varnished
deal, and the whole of the beautiful interior has become a memory.

Would that I could stop here, but stern Clio bids me go on and declare
that, a quarter of a century ago, might have been seen over the outer
gateway an original brass plate with a curiously inaccurate inscription,
recording the circumstances of the foundation in 1604, with a pair of
ambitious elegiacs, which not even the most lenient Latinist could with
safety to his soul pronounce elegant. This brass is now at Horsdon, in
charge of the new school, which has also the mystic white “P.B.” pebbles
that adorned the pathway outside the boundary wall. The pathway is
another ghost. Not only have the pebbles, both white and black, been
uprooted, but sacrilegious hands have been laid on a most sensible and
delightful old barricade, formed of heavy posts and heavy angular beams,
which ran the whole length of the wall, and was closed at each end with
a gate. How Dr Johnson would have loved it!

But the zeal for improvement, which set in during the seventies, is not
accountable for all the changes that have marked the spot since
Blackmore’s time; and without more explanation, many of the allusions in
_Lorna Doone_ must appear mysterious and unintelligible. When Blackmore
was at the school, the converging lines of railway, with their
passengers and goods stations, and multiplex ramifications, and the
adjacent coal-yards and slaughterhouse, were still in the future, and
the sites they now occupy were pleasant meadows. At the north-west
corner, the point nearest the school, was a “kissing”-gate, whence a
footpath, traversing the first meadow, led to another gate of the same
amorous description. The main path then struck across to the right and
joined the coach route, afterwards called the “old” London road,
opposite Zephyr Lodge. Another track pursued an easterly direction to a
pretty white timber bridge, which spanned the Lowman with a shallow
arch, and near which was the celebrated Taunton Pool. This bridge
afforded access to Ham Mills, remembered as a couple of low, white
thatched cottages, very picturesque, whither it was the custom of the
inhabitants to repair for Sunday junketings.

From the entrance-gate near the school to the corner of the London road
ran a quickset hedge, which extended to a point over against a
comparatively modern building, which still exists and formerly served as
a turnpike, the old London road having been moved further up the hill
to make room for the Exe Valley railway bridge. In a similar fashion,
the construction of the branch line to the Junction, or “Park” station,
as the old people call it, necessitated a great diversion of the Lowman,
which previously described a zigzag erratic course, and shot much nearer
to the Lodge and London road, so that the little torrent, known to the
natives as the Ailsa, and to Blackmore and his boarders as the Taunton
brook, joined it almost at right angles.

Blackmore, of course, described the locality as he knew it in his own
schooltime. He does not appear to have urged his researches so far back
as the assigned age of John Ridd, or he would have eschewed certain
anachronisms which, in default of this precaution, have crept into his
narrative. They are of no particular consequence, but may be mentioned,
as it were, by the way.

To begin with, there were no iron-barred gates for the boys to lean
against in 1673, nor for twenty years afterwards. Until 1695, there were
only wooden gates, with a small door for entrance, and it may be noticed
incidentally, that at the time of their removal they were much decayed.
Nor again, in 1673, were there any porter’s lodges. These accessories
were first built at the close of the seventeenth century. There being no
lodges, the porter was evidently the invention of a later date--1699,
apparently. The “old Cop” of the romance, with his sympathetic boots and
nose, was the identical functionary of Blackmore’s youth. His name was
George Folland, and he succeeded Hezekiah Warren in 1818.

Another chronological error has to do with the Homeric fight between
John Ridd and Robin Snell, which the author paraphrases as an “item of
importance.” As such I will treat it--to the extent of proving that it
can never have taken place. The fleshly existence of the victor has been
warrantably challenged, but no such question can arise as to his
antagonist. Not that he was called Robin, but the voluntary statement
that he became thrice Mayor of Exeter is a plain indication of the
person implicated. Now, a visit to the north aisle of the choir of
Exeter Cathedral will reveal the presence of three gravestones placed
there to the memory of his father, his mother, and himself, with their
arms. The inscription which mostly concerns us here is the following:--

“Here, at the Feet of his Father, lyeth the Body of John Snell, Esq.,
who served this City three times as Mayor, and several times as one of
her Representatives in Parliament, served her faithfully and diligently,
fearing God and honouring the King. He died ye 26 of Aug. A.D. 1717,
ætat suæ 78. Here also lyeth Hannah, his virtuous and religious wife.”

The Rev. John Snell, the mayor’s father, was a notable man. Son of the
Rev. Arthur Snell, M.A., and born at Lezant, Cornwall, in or about 1610,
he was educated at Blundell’s School, Tiverton, and Caius and Gonville
College, Cambridge, where he graduated M.A. In February 1634-5, he was
instituted to the rectory of Thurlestone, South Devon, from which he was
ejected in or about 1646. Reinstated in his living at the Restoration,
he was, in 1662, elected Canon Residentiary of Exeter Cathedral. This
honourable post he resigned January 4, 1678-9, and died the following
April. It may be added, as an almost, if not quite unprecedented
circumstance, that he was succeeded in his canonry by two of his sons,
Thomas and George; and, as a Rev. John Snell, Vicar of Heavitree, died
Canon of Exeter, September 4, 1727, I am by no means certain that a
fourth member of the family--probably a grandson of the original John
Snell--did not rise to the same office and dignity.

It is natural to inquire whether there can be found any explanation of
this prosperity. The answer is partially, yes. As chaplain to the
Royalist garrison, the rector of Thurlestone went through the siege of
Fort Charles, Salcombe, and in Walker’s _Sufferings of the Clergy_ may
be read the story of his persecution by the lying Roundheads, when his
first-born son was a boy in jackets.

Many more particulars might be adduced--especially the tradition that
“Robin” Snell was killed in a riot--but enough! There remains the
question, how came the novelist to know or care aught about this
personage. On this point there can be no mistake, as I had it from Mr
Blackmore himself that he remembered a schoolfellow named Snell, who
must have been either my father or my uncle, the late Mr W. H. Snell,
who entered the school on the same day (August 16, 1837) as Blackmore.
The latter was uncommonly well posted up in the history of his family,
and from him probably the information was derived. There are many Snells
in Devonshire. The principal families of that name were long settled in
the neighbouring parishes of Chawleigh and Lapford, where they were
small landowners, and intermarried with the Kellands and Melhuishes.
Curiously, as one may think, in John Ridd’s time Grace Snell, of
Lapford, wedded Dr Thomas Bartow, son of Peter Bartow, of Tiverton, and
thus became sister-in-law to Philip Blundell, of Collipriest, who was of
the kindred of the famous Peter, and a feoffee of the school.

While it is natural to regret, and needful to state the alterations that
have taken place in the time-honoured premises and their immediate
surroundings, it must not be supposed for a moment that modern vandalism
has wiped out every feature of interest. The “Ironing Box,” or triangle
of turf, whereon John Ridd fought his great fight with Robin Snell, is
still there. So also are the paved causeways and rows of mighty limes
(save for sad gaps caused by a recent storm), and the porches and the
lodges,--all vestiges of former days of which the present generation of
Blundellites are not unmindful. Every seven years do they meet--old boys
and new--in the historic Green, thence to perform a pilgrimage on St
Peter’s Day to St Peter’s Church, after the example of their ancestors,
which pleasant and pious custom neither time nor circumstance will, it
is to be hoped, cause to fall into desuetude.

“Blundellites” is _à la_ Blackmore; the more usual, the official,
appellation is “Blundellians.” The school magazine is called _The
Blundellian_, and I am indebted to an anonymous letter which appeared in
its columns (April 1887), and was indited, no doubt, by my late friend,
the Rev. D. M. Owen, for quotations from a private communication,
unquestionably the production of R. D. Blackmore himself. The extracts
are as follows:--

“I am much obliged for a copy of the _Blundellite_, which certainly was
the ancient and therefore more classical form of the word. My father
always called himself a ‘Blundellite,’ and so did my uncles, and I
believe my grandfather. All went from Peter to Ex. Coll. (Oxford);
however, the juniors have fixed it otherwise and so it must abide....
‘Blundellian,’ if anything, is the adjectival form, at least according
to my theories, though even then ‘Blundelline’ would seem more elegant.
‘Scholæ Blundellinæ Alumnus’ is in most of my father’s school-books (in
1810). And I think we find the distinction between the ‘ite’ and the
‘ian’ in good writers, _e.g._, a ‘Cromwellite,’ but the ‘Cromwellian’
army, a ‘Jacobite,’ a ‘Carmelite,’ etc.... All, I maintain, is that, in
my days, we never heard of a ‘Blundellian,’ _i.e._, in school talk, or
from the masters.”

Blackmore’s mention of his grandfather, by which he evidently intends
his paternal grandfather, having been at Blundell’s school, is worthy of
note. Many years ago the novelist himself acquainted me with the fact,
but the curious thing is that the name of John Blackmore, the elder,
apparently does not occur in the school register. This has recently been
edited by Mr Arthur Fisher, who shows that during certain periods it was
ill kept, and there seem to have been frequent omissions. One of the
uncles must have been a brother of his mother, and, strange to say, his
name also is wanting. The entries referring to other members of the
family are:--

     1162. JOHN BLACKMORE, 15, son of John Blackmore, clerk, Charles,
     South Molton, Aug. 13, 1809--June 29, 1812.

     1498. RICHARD BLACKMORE, 15, son of John Blackmore, clerk, Charles,
     South Molton, Feb. 19, 1816--Dec. 18, 1817.

     1258. RICHARD DODDRIDGE BLACKMORE, 12¼, son of Rev. John Blackmore,
     Culmstock, Wellington, Aug. 16, 1837--Dec. 16, 1843; elected to an
     exhibition on---- 1843; Giffard Scholar at Exeter Coll., Oxford.

Blackmore’s schooldays are now so remote, the survivors so few, that it
is hard to recover many details. I have been favoured, however, with
communications from two of his contemporaries--Colonel H. Cranstoun
Adams and the Rev. E. Pickard-Cambridge; and at this distance of time it
is not likely that much more can be gleaned. Colonel Adams writes:--

“He was a very quiet little fellow, and was looked upon as being very
clever. He was always ready to help any juniors in their work, and often
assisted me. There was really nothing very particular about him, except
that he was quieter than the average run of boys. He joined in all the
games, and I recollect his having one fight in which he got very much
knocked about; but he was extremely plucky about it, and his opponent
got a caning for daring to fight a monitor, which Blackmore was at the
time.... He was a popular boy, and kind-hearted; but, although he was
looked upon as clever, I don’t think any of us thought he would become
the author of such a work as _Lorna Doone_.”

Mr Pickard-Cambridge sends the following:--

“R. D. Blackmore was a day-boy, and I believe remained so; but it is so
long since my schooldays that my memory fails me. He was a clever boy at
schoolwork. I used to go and stay with him at his father’s vicarage,
Culmstock, at the Easter holidays, and when there became acquainted with
Temple and his relations. After we left school, I never saw him, but
learned his mode of life from public reports.

“He was a small, unhealthy-looking boy, and I could never have dreamt
that he would turn out such as I see him in his photograph by Mr
Jenkins.

“Now it may be interesting if I tell you what happened one afternoon as
I and Blackmore were walking up the Lowman. We came to a gate at the end
of a field, and just before we got over it, I saw something sitting on
the gate at the opposite end of the field. It was a figure dressed in
white clothing, no head appearing, and while I was wondering what it
was, it suddenly disappeared to the right of a gate thro’ a hedge.

“I said to Blackmore, ‘Did you see that white figure sitting on the
gate?’

“‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I could not make out what it was.’

“When we got to the gate, we hunted the hedge and all about by the
stream, but could not find or see anything; so we came to the conclusion
that it must have been a ghost. When we got back to the school, I
believe we told what we had seen; anyhow, we thought no more about it.
But about three days afterwards, some people coming by the coach from
Halberton saw the same apparition about the same spot, and told of it
in the town, and it came to our ears, and then we immediately related
what we had seen.

“This was a great confirmation of our story, and there it must end. But
I can state that all that I have said was true. I am no great believer
in ghosts, but have related the above whenever in conversation ghosts
have come to the front.”



CHAPTER V

THE TOWN OF THE TWO FORDS


An imaginative mind, anxious for exercise, might easily find a worse
pretext than the probable appearance of Tiverton at different epochs in
its history. Three monstrous fires--in 1598, 1612, and 1731--have
reduced the town to ashes, so that, despite its antiquity, it presents,
on the whole, an extremely modern aspect, which, as time goes on, tends
to become accentuated. Still certain buildings remain--not many, I
fear--from which, like Richard Owen in another sphere of palæontology,
the lover of the past may gather ideas for his reconstructive task. _Ex
pede Herculem._

Every stranger, on arriving at Tiverton, is at once struck by the
Greenway almhouses, with their quaint little chapel. These were
miraculously preserved in the earlier devastations, when, according to
contemporary notices, the fire “invironed those sillie cottages on every
side, burning other houses to the grounde which stood about them, and
yet had they no hurt at all.”[6] In the third welter of flame the
almhouses were less fortunate, and it is a singular fact that the only
life lost on this occasion--on the two previous there had been many
victims--was that of an inmate who obstinately refused to quit the
building, saying, “Who ever heard of an almshouse being burnt?” When, at
last, he was convinced of the peril of optimism, and he would fain have
made good his escape, it was too late--all egress was barred. Even in
this, however, there was something miraculous, for, though the
almshouses were burnt and transformed into fiery catacombs, the chapel
was inexplicably preserved, and remains to this day, with all its rich
ornaments and emblematical figures untouched. The inscriptions, however,
or, as Blackmore playfully expresses it, “the souls of John and Joan
Greenway” are not “set up in gold letters.” Had the name “Gold Street”
anything to do with this idea?

The founder of the almshouses was John Greenway, born about 1460, of
whom little is known that is authentic. Apparently of lowly origin, “by
ability and industry he acquired an ample income” as a merchant. So says
Harding, but it is seldom that ample incomes are acquired by brains and
diligence alone. The stroke of luck may almost always be charged as a
contributory factor. If legend may be believed, Greenway was positively
inspired to wealth-making. A simple weaver, young and without prospects,
he dreamed a dream which was thrice repeated. Each time a mysterious
voice admonished him to proceed to London town, and there, on London
Bridge, to await a cavalier on a white nag, who would have a message for
him. The sanguine youth obeyed these supernatural instructions; and,
taking his stand on the appointed spot, was accosted by an unknown
horseman, by whom he was told to return forthwith to Tiverton and dig in
a certain quarter. Again Greenway obeyed, and was rewarded by the
discovery of a crock or pot of gold, which, as his initial capital,
enabled him to launch out into business, and ultimately to found these
almshouses in 1517. There is a notion that amidst the exterior carvings
of St Peter’s Church, where Greenway built him a lovely chantry with
wagon roof and Renaissance door, is sculptured the crock of plenty, but
hitherto--owing perhaps to _embarras de richesse_--it has escaped
detection.

Now the embellishments of Greenway’s two chapels deserve close
attention, not only on account of their beauty, but for other reasons
that will immediately appear. Greenway is represented by his arms (_a
chevron between 3 covered cups, on a chief 3 sheep’s heads erased_), his
staple-mark, and his cipher, which are figured on shields inserted in
the quatrefoil of the cornices of the chapel in Gold Street and its
porch; and by the following rhyme inscribed in bold letters under the
main cornice:--

    “Have grace, ye men, and ever pray
     For the sowl of John and Jone Grenway.”

These marks of parentage are merely what one would expect, but the walls
have other symbolism, some of which demands comment. In two compartments
of the upper cornice are to be found the arms of Courtenay and an eagle
rising from a bundle of sticks. These devices are repeated on a larger
scale over the archway, with the addition of the arms of England. The
eagle montant, to borrow a term from falconry, is understood to typify
the mythical phœnix, and may be regarded as alluding to the
vicissitudes of that illustrious and ever-resurgent family.

The arms of England present no difficulty. They are to be explained by
the marriage of William Courtenay, 10th Earl of Devon, with Katherine,
youngest daughter of Edward IV., her elder sister Elizabeth being the
consort of Henry VII. Miss Strickland, by the way, records a quaint
incident in connection with a tournament held at the wedding of Prince
Arthur, when “Lord William Courtenay (brother-in-law of the Queen) made
his appearance riding on a red dragon led by a giant with a large tree
in his hand.” What time the almshouses were building Katherine de
Courtenay was actually resident at Tiverton Castle, and she was buried,
in 1527, with immense pomp in the Earl of Devonshire’s chapel, which was
destroyed by the Puritans, and is believed to have stood on the north
side of the chancel in St Peter’s Church. In her honour was erected that
large achievement in the centre of the porch, consisting of Courtenay
and Rivers quarterly, impaling quarterly, 1st France and England
quarterly, 2nd and 3rd Burgh, 4th Mortimer. It is surmounted with the
Courtenay badge before-mentioned, and the supporters are St George and a
woman.

It would be incompatible with the limits of this work to enter upon a
minute description of all the charming imagery of this beauteous
chantry. Much of it speaks for itself, but it may be as well to put the
reader on his guard against a false blazoning of one of the coats of
arms, which displays what looks suspiciously like a tiara. It may
possibly be permissible to use the term, but subject to the
understanding that we have here nothing to do with any papal insignia.
_The three clouds radiated in base, each surmounted with a triple
crown_, are for the Drapers’ Company; just as the _Barry nebulée_; _a
chief quarterly, on the 1st and 4th a lion passant guardant, on the 2nd
and 3rd two roses_, are for the Merchant Venturers of London. Attention
may also be drawn to a series of sermons in stones, or small sculptures
illustrating the chief events in the life of our Lord; on account of the
height at which they are ranged, they might easily be passed unnoticed.

Viewing the decorations generally, we cannot but observe that the place
of honour is assigned to the Courtenays; and, probably on the strength
of this fact, Harding speaks of the Marquis of Exeter as Greenway’s
great patron. In this he may be mistaken, since, on the death of her
husband, the Lady Katherine succeeded to the manor of Tiverton, and
doubtless exerted much influence in the town and county during the
sixteen years of her widowhood. This brings us to the stately home in
which, more than anywhere else, those sorrowful years were spent.

Due north of St Peter’s churchyard, from which only a wall parts them,
are the precincts of Tiverton Castle whereof there exist somewhat
extensive remains in varying degrees of preservation. This was for
several centuries one of the chief residences of the Courtenays, and in
the Middle Ages was a strong place of arms. On the west is a precipice,
which runs down sixty feet sheer to the River Exe and secured the
castle on that side; in other directions it had towers and turrets, and
ramparts and moats, and all that military science then knew in the way
of elaborate fortification. Two of the towers yet stand--a square and a
round, while the ivy-covered ruin, which is detached from the rest of
the buildings, at the south-west angle of the castle grounds, is
supposed to represent the oratory or chapel. From its position it was
evidently distinct from the Earl of Devonshire’s Chapel, mentioned
above, and must have been a private sanctuary reserved to the household.

The castle is stated to have been built by Richard de Redvers or Rivers,
who was an Earl of Devon in his time--about 1106; it came into the
possession of the Courtenays on the extinction of the Redvers family in
1274, when Hugh de Courtenay, great-grandson of Mary de Redvers,
succeeded to all their estates. His immediate predecessor was Isabella
de Fortibus, born Redvers, who is credited with the gift of an ample
stream of water known as the Town Lake, a section of which, enclosed
between paved banks, may be observed in Castle Street. She, of course,
was _not_ a Courtenay; and it is with these rather than with other
possessors of the castle that we are mainly concerned. As, with brief
intervals, they were the ruling element in the town for a period of
three centuries, it is natural to inquire what manner of men were those
great lords, and how it went with the neighbourhood when they were
uppermost.

With their emblems around us, and with the odour of sanctity investing
the places where those emblems appear, there is a palpable danger of
attributing to the Courtenays a larger measure of piety than is at all
their due. Of him who is called sometimes the Good, sometimes the Blind
Earl, no word of censure may be spoken; and as for the husband and
descendants of Katherine--William, Henry, Edward--their tragic fates
evoke that infinite compassion for which the blood of the innocent cries
always, and never in vain. Even the guilty Courtenays were not devoid of
redeeming qualities; they were stout warriors, and loyal to their king.
Yet two of the race, father and son, both of them named Thomas, were the
authors of a felon deed--a deed as black as any that soils the pages of
history, or swells the calendar of crime. To all appearance the plot was
hatched in Tiverton, and Tiverton yeomen were the willing, or unwilling,
instruments of the scandalous theft, the inhuman murder. The whole may
not be told here; let what follows suffice.

On Thursday, October 23, 1455, Nicholas Radford, sometime “steward” of
the Earl of Devon, now an old man and a justice, was dwelling in God’s
peace and the king’s in his own place at Upcott, in the parish of
Cheriton Fitzpaine. The same day and year came Sir Thomas Courtenay,
eldest son of the earl, with a body of retainers to the number of
ninety-four, armed with jacks, sallets, bows, arrows, swords, bucklers,
etc., who beset the house at midnight, and with a great shout fired the
gates. Naturally at that hour Radford, his wife, and his servants, were
in bed, but awakened by the sudden commotion, the good old man opened
his window, and demanded whether there were among them any gentlemen.

“Here is Sir Thomas Courtenay,” answered one of the yeoman; and almost
at the same moment the knight called out to him, “Come down and speak
with me.”

The old man, however, would not comply, until Courtenay swore as a true
knight and gentleman, that neither his person nor his property should be
molested. Relying on this promise Radford descended with a lighted torch
and ordered the gates to be thrown open, whereupon, much to his alarm,
the rabble of followers began to stream in. The knight reassured him,
and standing by his cupboard, condescended to drink of his wine. Whilst
Courtenay held the master of the house with tales, his men plundered the
mansion of its treasures. Money and bedding, and furs, and books, the
ornaments of his chapel and the like--they carried them all away on
Radford’s own horse, and did not spare even his sick wife, but rolling
her out of bed, took away the sheets she was lying in.

Sir Thomas now said to the justice, “Have done, Radford, for thou must
need go with me to my lord my father.” The old man expressed his
readiness, and bade his servant saddle a horse, only to receive the
reply that his horse had been removed and laden with his own goods.
Hearing this, Radford said to his visitor,

“Sir, I am aged, and may not well go upon my feet, and therefore I pray
you that I may ride.”

“No force (odds), Radford,” was the answer, “thou shalt ride enough
anon, and therefore come on with me.”

Accordingly they went on together about a stone’s throw, when Sir
Thomas, having secretly conferred with three of his men--two of them
Tiverton yeomen--set spurs to his horse and rode on his way, exclaiming,
“Farewell Radford!”

In a trice Nicholas Philip slashed the old justice across the face with
his sword, and as he lay on the ground, dealt him another stroke, which
caused the brain to drop out from the back of his head. His brother,
Thomas Philip, cut the victim’s throat with a knife, while the third
man, with surely supererogatory caution, pierced him through the back
with a long dagger. Thus was Nicholas Radford feloniously and horribly
slain and murdered.

As an aggravation of the crime, on the following Tuesday the old man’s
godson, Henry Courtenay, with certain of the ruffians, arrived at
Upcott, where the body of Radford lay in his chapel, and opened a mock
inquest. One of them, Richard Bertelot, sat as coroner, and the
murderers were summoned by strange names. They answered, “scornfully
appearing,” made what presentment they chose, and gave out that they
should accuse Radford of his own death. They then compelled his servants
to carry the body to the church of Cheriton Fitzpaine, John Brymoor,
_alias_ Robyns, a singer, leading the way with derisive songs and
catches, as it was borne along.

Gaining the churchyard, they took the murdered man out of his coffin,
rolled him out of his winding-sheet, and cast him all naked into the
grave, where they threw upon his head and body sundry stones that
Radford had provided for the making of his tomb, crushing them. They had
no more pity or compassion for him than for a Jew or a Saracen.

It seems that in January of this year the justice had sold a good deal
of land, including the manors of Calverleigh, Poughill, and Ford, for
£400, and this large sum in cash is believed to have been the incentive
of the murder. The Earl of Devon, who was no doubt accessory before the
fact, speedily prepared an expedition to Exeter in order to obtain
possession of such goods and chattels as Radford had lodged with the
Dean and Chapter; and in November, he and his son Thomas assembled an
armed retinue of a thousand or more at Tiverton, and marched to the
city. We need not follow their proceedings there--they were
outrageous--and, as signalising the barbarous character of the age, be
content to note that neither the Earl nor his son received the penalty
they deserved. Providence, however, suffered neither of them to escape.
The Earl was poisoned at Abingdon, and his son and successor beheaded at
York, after being taken prisoner at the battle of Wakefield, 1461.

The subsequent history of the castle must be traced briefly. After
passing through various hands, it was purchased by Roger Giffard, fifth
son of Sir Roger Giffard, of Brightleigh, in the parish of
Chittlehampton, who pulled down the greater part of the buildings, and
named it “Giffard’s Court.” Nevertheless, it was in a condition to repel
an attack by the Parliamentarian forces under Massey in October 1645,
though two days later it was stormed by Sir Thomas Fairfax at the head
of an army outnumbering the somewhat disaffected garrison by thirty to
one. The owner of the castle was then Roger Giffard, grandson of the
first-named Roger, and despite the fact that the defence of the place
was entrusted to Sir Gilbert Talbot, as military governor, there is no
reason to suppose that Giffard was an absentee. Like his more famous
kinsman, Colonel John Giffard, of Brightleigh, Roger was a devoted
Royalist, and is mentioned among those persons who were fined for their
loyalty. Blackmore’s reference to bales of wool used in the defence is
strictly historical (see _Lorna Doone_, chapter xi.).

The modern house was built in 1700 for Peter West, who came of an old
Tiverton mercantile stock connected with the Blundells. In 1594 John
West had married Edy, daughter of James Blundell, and niece of Peter
Blundell and his sister Elinor, wife of John Chilcott, of Fairby, and
mother of Robert Chilcott, the founder of Chilcott’s School, which
stands at the lower end of St Peter Street, and, with its mullioned and
transomed windows, its handsome archway, and solid, iron-studded, black
oak door, forms an interesting specimen of Jacobean architecture. Peter
West’s daughter Dorothy took for her bridegroom Sir Thomas Carew, of
Haccombe, and thus manor and castle passed into the possession of the
distinguished family which still owns them.

We have enjoyed many opportunities of estimating the wealth and
importance of the “woollen” merchants of Tiverton; but, if anything yet
lack, the reader may station himself before the great House of St
George, nearly opposite Chilcott’s School, and consider it at his
leisure. This seemly residence, with its garden close, was built
apparently by George Skinner, merchant, whose initials were formerly to
be seen on the northern termination of the hood-mould. On the southern
termination is the date 1612--the date of the second great fire. As the
house is thoroughly Jacobean in style, it is natural to conclude that it
is in all essentials the identical structure erected in that memorable
year, but the confused account in Harding’s _History of Tiverton_
contains documentary evidence showing that it was “demolished and
consumed by reason of the late unhappy wars” (_i.e._, the Civil War),
and suggests that the “messuage” was rebuilt at various periods, from
1541 onwards. I shall not attempt to unravel the mystery, but content
myself with observing that, beyond any question, the building has been
altered, and that within living memory. Once, and for long, it rejoiced
in another storey, but modern wisdom having determined that the edifice
was “top-heavy,” the upper portion was removed.

About the year 1740 the manufacture of serges, druggets, drapeens, and
the like began to decline, and, later, the effects of the American
Revolution were severely felt in the town. In 1790, however, there were
still a thousand looms and two hundred woolcombers in the neighbourhood.
Then came the great war with France, which almost paralysed the local
firms; and on its cessation the Tiverton manufacturers vainly
endeavoured to restore old connections with the Continent. It was plain
that the ancient trade

[Illustration: CHAPEL, GREENWAY’S ALMSHOUSES, TIVERTON (page 61).]

in wool, on which so many depended, was in its last throes. The end was
sudden and dramatic. One morning, when the workpeople were at breakfast,
the inhabitants of Westexe were startled by the loud report of a gun,
and the news soon spread that Mr Armitage, the manager of a large mill,
which had been built in 1790, and in which, as in a last refuge, the
remains of the staple industry were concentrated, had shot himself in
the counting-house.

The ruin of the place now seemed certain. Happily, however, the
following year (1815), Messrs Heathcoat, Boden, and Oliver purchased the
mill, and by extensive additions, converted it into an immense lace
factory. In 1809 they had obtained a fourteen years’ patent for a
greatly improved bobbin-net machine, of which Mr Heathcoat was the
inventor, and erected a factory at Loughborough. The firm removed to
Tiverton in consequence of the injury done to the machines by the
Luddites, and thither a number of their men accompanied them. Some of
the Leicestershire “hands,” about the year 1820, had a dispute with Mr
Heathcoat, who had become sole proprietor of the factory, and, this
having ended in their discharge or voluntary retirement from his
service, they determined to set up an opposition concern. It is believed
that the artisans had machines of their own brought down along with
those of Mr Heathcoat and installed in the mill under some arrangement
with him. Anyhow, they resolved to start lace-making on their own
account.

Money, of course, had to be provided, and this to a limited amount--very
limited for such a venture--was found them by a physician of the town
named Houston, whilst premises were secured behind, or near what is now
the Golden Lion Inn, Westexe. Here the quixotic scheme was launched, and
here it came to an inglorious end, after a futile imitation of the frog
in the fable. The credulous doctor, who lived in a house, now a
saddler’s shop, next the “White Ball,” and whose backyard abutted on the
infant factory, lost what he had lent, and no doubt learnt a lesson.

Hardly more felicitous was Mr George Cosway’s attempt to resuscitate the
woollen industry. Mr Cosway “took up arms against a sea of troubles”;
his capital was none too large, and in the face of powerful competition
in other parts of the country, his factory in Broadlane was never a
conspicuous success. On his death it was closed, and that finally. Mr
Cosway belonged to the same family as the famous miniaturist, one of
whose larger paintings, designed for an altar-piece, hangs on the north
wall of St Peter’s Church. The subject is “St Peter delivered by an
Angel,” and the picture was Richard Cosway’s gift to the town of which
he was a native. The larger painting on the other side of the vestry
door, the subject of which is “The Adoration of the Magi,” is a very
fine work by Gaspar de Crayer, and an almost exact reproduction of a
picture by Rubens in the Antwerp gallery.

It would be improper, I suppose, to refer to Tiverton without mentioning
Lord Palmerston, whose Parliamentary connection with the borough
extended from 1835 to 1865--just thirty years. As an Irishman, the
popular statesman must have been perfectly at home in the town, which is
always lively at election times, and during his early acquaintance with
it, had an unenviable reputation as a rival to Donnybrook Fair. Most of
the inhabitants had their chosen inn, the tradesmen being accommodated
in the parlour, the artisans in the bar, and the labourers in the
kitchen; and the consumption of beer and spirits almost exceeds belief.
One would make ten glasses of grog his nightly quantum, another was not
content with fewer than eighteen, while a third drank gin and water by
the bucketful. Every now and then women would have a fight in the
streets. A ring would be formed, whereupon the trulls grappled with each
other, and with their long hair streaming down their backs, and blood
down their faces, presented a pitiful and degrading spectacle. Things
are better now.

Speaking of the Tiverton inns reminds me that John Ridd and Fry lodged,
on the eve of their departure, at the “White Horse,” in Gold Street.
This tavern is still in existence, and as it is not specially
picturesque, the reader may be at a loss to conceive why Blackmore
should have selected this particular house of entertainment. The
novelist, however, knew what he was about. In the seventeenth century it
may have been the most important inn in the town. On the entry of the
Royalists into the town in the month of August, 1643, they were stoned
by the mob, many of whom were killed or wounded by the fire of the
soldiers; “and,” says Harding, in recounting the circumstance, “the
effect produced was a dispersion of the remainder, when one, John Lock,
a miller, was taken and executed at the sign of the White Horse, on the
north side of Gold Street” (_History of Tiverton_, vol. i., p. 58).



CHAPTER VI

THE WONDERS OF BAMPTON


The country between Tiverton and Bampton reminds us how comparatively
new are many of our main roads. Beginning with the town, although
Bampton Street is one of the principal thoroughfares, this is not the
case with Higher Bampton Street; and of both it may be stated with
absolute assurance that they do not owe their names to accident or
caprice. They were christened thus because they were a direct
continuation of the old road from Bampton, the whole of the present
route through the picturesque Exe valley not having been constructed
until long after the days of John Ridd and the less mythical Bampfylde
Moore Carew. For this reason “Jan,” on his way home, would have
proceeded first to Red Hill, with the inn at its foot;[7] and hereafter
we shall cease to wonder that Carew and his companions fell in with the
convivial gipsies at the same “Brick House,” since it adjoined the
king’s highway. Hence, he climbed the steep ascent of Knightshayes, from
whose summit he might have cast a last lingering look at the town.
Afterwards he would, for some time, have seen nothing but the hedgerows
and a stretch of desolate road.

Even to Ridd, however, the glory of the Exe was not utterly forbidden,
inasmuch as from Bolham onwards there was some kind of road. Moreover,
on the opposite side of the river was an accommodating lane, from which
lesser lanes scamper off to the “weeches” of Washfield and Stoodleigh
Church, and which, steadily pursued in its northward trend, has coigns
of vantage imparting grateful visions of Rock, with its sweet old
cottages, and the romantic Fairby Gorge, and the woody amphitheatre of
Cove Cliff, together with such pretty accessories as a wayside spring,
trim dairies, rich orchards, a modern suspension bridge, an old-world
bridge, and beside it a quaint little lodge, with its porch and its
bonnets of thatch--a miracle of rustic beauty! But it really matters not
from which side the landscape is viewed, the prospects are equally
charming; and the only cause for regret, from an æsthetic standpoint, is
the railway, whose rigid track, bisecting the valley as far as the
Exeter Inn, brusquely intrudes on its soft contrasts of forest, stream,
and lea.

From the inn, one branch of the new road still follows the river through
a sylvan paradise, while another, nearly parallel with an older lane,
yclept Windwhistle, leads on to Bampton along the tributary Batherum, On
quitting that highway of loveliness, the Exe, one is conscious of a
difference--the outlook is more tame. However, as one approaches the
town, the scenery improves, and of the town itself it must be conceded
that it is beautifully situated among the hills.

For me, Bampton is a place with sacred memories; but I am well aware
that, to sound its depths of sentiment, an initiation is necessary. A
stranger strolling listlessly through the churchyard, or seated with
callous heart against a walled-up yew--to him it is all a void. What can
he know of all the unrecorded history which, for certain souls, has
transfigured the spot into a shrine? Moreover, although a fair resident
informed me recently that Bampton “stands still,” I have an
uncomfortable conviction, forced upon me in a brief visit, that this is
not quite the case, that it has exchanged some of its old Sabbatic calm
for an irreverent spirit of enterprise and strivings to be “up-to-date.”
Thanks to a disciple and friend of the late Mr Cecil Rhodes, the
quarries have been galvanised into stupendous energy, and, aided by the
contrivances of modern science, are now working at high pressure, and
all Bampton is cock-a-whoop over the same. Well, well, one must have
patience. Only suffer me to write of _my_ Bampton, which was also
Blackmore’s Bampton, not the Bampton that now is.

In those far-off days of 1891-3, the quarries were not wholly quiescent;
even then they were shedding their riches, but in a decent, leisurely
way, leaving many a grass-grown plot and fern-clad lovers’ walk, and
tokens of vanished industry in what we termed “the rubble-heaps.” The
distinctive feature of Bampton stone is that it contains a large
proportion of “chert” or flint, which makes it good for roads. The
principal structures in the neighbourhood--including the county and
other bridges--are built of it, and, judging from the age of the church
tower, these black limestone beds have been worked for at least six
hundred years.

The topography asks some explaining. A noter hies here, noting. Somebody
has told him of Bampton Castle, and forthwith the heady ass swoops on a
circular shed on the quarry plane as a relic. To be sure, at the
south-east entrance of the town there are plentiful suggestions of
military operations. The wind-swept knoll, whence you catch the first
glimpse of Bampton, would be a fine station for a park of French
artillery, to which the exposed railway station, with its less warlike
engines, could offer but a faint resistance. A few paces further on, and
you come to what is uncommonly like a bastion, crowned by the
pseudo-Bampton Castle. Of the real Bampton Castle, at the opposite end
of the town, nothing remains but the site and some rather doubtful
fortifications in what is now an orchard.

But there _was_ a castle, for in 1336 Richard Cogan had a licence from
the Crown to castellate his mansion-house at Bampton, and to enclose his
wood at Uffculme, and three hundred acres for a park. The exact site of
the castle is believed to have been on a lower level, but closely
adjacent to the existing Mote. The origin and purpose of this great
mound, which is artificial, is not perhaps free from obscurity, but a
former resident favours the following elucidation: The name of

[Illustration: COMBE, DULVERTON (page 91).]

the place is derived from the Saxon word _mot_ or _gemot_ (a “meeting”),
and it was probably the seat of the Hundred-mote, or court of
judicature, Bampton being the head manor of the hundred.[8] It was also
a burgh, or fortified place, and by the laws of King Edgar the
Burghmote, or Court of the Borough, was held thrice a year. The parish,
it may be observed, is still divided into Borough, East, West, and
Petton quarters, and the ancient office of portreeve is yet retained.
Some time before Domesday and the Geldroll, the king gave Bampton to
Walter de Douay. From Walter’s son, Robert de Baunton, the lordship
passed through the Paynells to the Cogans, and from the Cogans to the
Bourchiers, Earls of Bath, who, so far as is known, were the last owners
of the barony to reside at the castle. The Bourchier knot is to be seen
in the church--on the screen and the roof-bosses.

Apart from such rather dry particulars, it is not much that I can tell
you of the public annals of Bampton, but one morsel relating to the
Bourchier reign you must swallow, if only for its rarity. In May 1607,
Walter Yonge, of Colyton, thus wrote in his diary: “There were
earthquakes felt in divers parts of this realm, and, namely, at
Barnstaple, Tiverton, and Devonshire; also I heard it by one of Bampton
credibly reported that there it was felt also. And at Bampton, being
four”--Tush, Squire Yonge, it is full seven--“miles from Tiverton, there
was a little lake which ran by the space of certain hours, the water
whereof was as blue as azure, yet notwithstanding as clear as possible
might be. It was seen and testified by many who were eye-witnesses, and
reported to me by Mr Twistred, who dwelleth in the same parish, and felt
the earthquake.”

Can it be that this “little lake”--good Devonshire for running
water--was the shut-up and buried, but by no means dared or dead,
Shuttern stream? Perchance it was. Flowing under broad Brook Street, in
times of flood he emerges and revenges himself for his confinement,
spreading across the roadway, and swamping the sunken cottages, and
waxing a lake indeed, in the Biblical acceptation of the term. But the
Shuttern was not shut up or buried for many a year after the miracle. He
flowed muddily along in open channel, though straitly enclosed by banks
and spanned at intervals by bridges--a poor copy of a Venetian canal and
a rare playground for the oppidan ducks. Now they have to waddle their
way, and a long way it is for some of them, to the Batherum, a few, it
may be, tumbling down the hill from Briton Street. And let not Master
Printer, in his wisdom, correct to “Britain Street,” as he hath
aforetime been moved to do. For “Briton” is the recognised and official
spelling, and who is he that he should alter and amend what has been
approved by lawful authority?

The Conscript Fathers of the town are greatly exercised at such odious
disguisings of the true and proper form, which they rightly decline to
sanction or accept. I am with them, heart and soul. Here in Beamdune, in
this very street, the ancient Britons--’twas in 614--fought a great
fight for freedom against the West Saxons, and there were slain of them
forty and two thousand. The present inhabitants are descended from the
vanquished, the Britons. You doubt it? Then little you know of their
intermarriages. An outsider has no chance. Why even the pedlars and
pedlaresses complain of Bampton’s closeness. “They’re no use,” they
exclaim, “they deal only with their own people.” You still doubt? Then I
renounce you as a heathen man and a publican.[9]

Bampton’s chief boast is its fair, which is held on the last Thursday in
October, and attracts thousands of visitors, many of them coming from
considerable distances. It is not easy to say precisely why, since there
are other places nearer the moor, but for a long succession of years the
town has served as the principal mart for the wild Exmoor ponies,
deprived of which the fair would no doubt rapidly dwindle. These shaggy
little horses--a good number of them mere “suckers”--are sold by
auction, and the incidents connected with their coming and going, and
their manners in the sale-ring, constitute the “fun of the fair.”

On the last occasion when I travelled to Bampton Fair, my compartment
was entered by a gipsy belle with abundance of raven hair in traces, the
dark complexion of her race, the regulation earrings and trinkets, and
much conversational fluency. She had come up from Exeter on the chance
of meeting with some of her people whom she had not seen for several
years. That brought to my recollection a prevalent belief that the
Romany folk have a septennial reunion, no doubt intended to be cordial
and friendly in the extreme. Nevertheless, I can answer for it that the
intention is not always fulfilled, for on one fair day two rival tribes
fought a pitched battle with blackthorns, etc., in the orchard of the
Tiverton Hotel. And the women will fight like the men, and with the men.
They are artful beggars. A gipsy matron guided round a youngster of
three or four years, with his small legs already encased in trousers, to
claim a penny, because on one hand he had little excrescent thumbs. The
boy could hold a penny between these thumbs, and, on being given a coin,
was told to say “Thank you,” his mother expressing her gratitude with
the wish, “May you enjoy the lady you loves!”

It is a safe assumption that no one visits a place of the size of
Bampton--at all events, at ordinary times--without having a look at the
church. Ten years ago you would have been rewarded with the spectacle of
high pews, over the backs of which I can remember feminine eyes taking
stock of the congregation. Nose and mouth were not visible, and
consequently the fair damsels had somewhat the appearance of hooded
Turkish ladies. Now that Bampton Church has been swept and garnished and
the arcade straightened--it fell over quite two feet and crushed the
timbers in the aisle--the building hardly seems the same, but the most
valuable features, to an antiquary, remain untouched.

Entering the chancel from the churchyard, you will find against the
north wall fragments of bold and graceful sculpture, with tabernacle
work, tracery, shields, the symbol I.H.S., and the Bourchier knot and
water bouget, or budget, as it is sometimes written. Perhaps “bucket”
may be permissible as a variant, since the bearing, which is in the form
of a yoke with two pouches of leather appended to it, was originally
intended to represent bags slung on a pole which was carried across the
shoulders--an arrangement adopted by the Crusaders for conveying water
over the desert. To return to the fragments, they were part of two
ancient monuments which, according to the Rev. Bartholomew Davy,
formerly stood in the chancel; on their removal, about a hundred years
ago, the sides were used to line the wall.

That the monuments covered the remains of Sir John Bourchier, knight,
Lord Fitzwarner, created Earl of Bath July 9, 1536, and those of his
father, is certain. The will of the former, bearing date October 20,
1535, and proved June 11, 1541, expressly directs that his body shall be
buried in the parish church of Bampton, Devon, in the place there where
his father lies buried, and that a tomb or stone of marble be made and
set over the grave where his body shall be buried, with his picture,
arms, and recognisances, and the day and the year engraven and fixed on
the same tomb within a year after his decease. During the restoration
the workmen discovered under the place where the organ now stands, a
vault containing several ridged coffins, believed to be those of members
of the Bourchier family, but, as the dates were not taken, this is
merely a matter of speculation.

Behind the organ is a triptych of black marble, one compartment of which
perpetuates the memory of a lady. The two others contain the following
inscriptions:--

“Vnder lyeth the body of Arthur the sone of John Bowbeare of this Town,
Yeoman, who departed this life the 17 day of December Anno Dom 1675.”

“Here vnder lyeth ye body of John the sone of John Bowbeare of this
Town, Yeoman, who departed this life the 12 day of May Anno Domi 1676.”

According to local tradition, Arthur and John Bowbeare were giants, like
John Ridd; and it will be noted as a further coincidence that they were
of the yeoman class. The name is still preserved in Bowbear Hill, to the
south-east of the town, and in Higher and Lower Bowbear Farms. Another
interesting point is that John Ridd may have entered the town of his
fellow-giants, who were still alive, though soon to die, not by the old
Tiverton road, but by an ancient track which ran down Bowbear Hill. This
track, now disused, was an old Roman road, and, having been paved, is
still known as Stony Lane.

Giants are said to be usually short-lived--a charge which cannot be laid
against the Vicars of Bampton. On consulting the list I find that from
1645 to 1711 the living was held by the Rev. James Style, from 1730 to
1785 by the Rev. Thomas Wood, and from 1785 to 1845 by the Rev.
Bartholomew Davy. In the case of the last-mentioned divine--familiarly
known as “old Bart Davy”--the patience of some member of his flock was
evidently exhausted, for one fine morning there was found, nailed to the
church door, the following lamentation:--

    “The Parson is a-wored out,
       The Clerk is most ado;
     The Saxton’s gude vor nort--
       ’Tis time to have all new.”

According to the son of the last parish clerk of Bampton, there was a
servant of Mr Trickey, of the Swan Inn, named Joe Ridd, or Rudd, who
amused the townspeople of a generation or two ago with stories of the
“girt Jan Ridd,” of Exmoor, ostensibly an ancestor. One of these stories
was that the huge yeoman, “out over,” broke off the branch of a tree and
used it as a weapon. This circumstance gives special point to the
statement in chapter liii. of _Lorna Doone_, that “much had been said at
Bampton about some great freebooters, to whom all Exmoor owed suit and
service, and paid them very punctually.” Moreover, in Mr Snow’s grounds
at Oare is a mighty ash, whose limbs incline downwards, they (it is
said) having been bent out of their natural set by the constraining
power of the matchless Ridd.

Blackmore not only conducts his hero and heroine through Bampton as a
place on their line of route, but alludes to it respectfully (see
chapter xiii.) as one of the important towns on the southern side of the
moor, though he dare not for conscience’ sake compare it with
metropolitan Taunton.

[Illustration: A BIT OF OLD DULVERTON.]



CHAPTER VII

WHERE MASTER HUCKABACK THROVE[10]


The stage from Bampton to Dulverton was not easy for John Ridd and his
serving-man, nor is it easy for us. From the very heart of the town is a
toilsome ascent to High Cross, fitly so named, and reputed to be
haunted. Chains have been heard to rattle there, and the enemy of
mankind is alleged to have a predilection for the spot. On this subject
an old Bamptonian once told me an amusing story. In the days when the
“bone-shaker” wooden bicycle was a novelty, and the Barretts (relations
of Mrs Barrett Browning) resided at Combehead, someone belonging to the
house was riding down the hill in the twilight on his machine, which was
rattling and creaking to a merry tune. Half-way down he encountered a
labourer, who, never having seen or heard of anything of the kind, and
totally at a loss to account for the phenomenon in the “dimpse,” as he
would have called it, incontinently jumped to the conclusion that the
strange shape advancing towards him was that of Apollyon, and, in abject
terror, turned and fled.

Whatever the explanation may be--whether it is the beetling trees or the
unfrequentedness--there is no doubt, as is proved by the universal
testimony of those who have used the road, especially by night, that it
differs from most roads in being distinctly uncanny.

Combehead is the property of the lord of the manor (Mr W. H. White), and
the manor is, roughly speaking, the parish. But just as there are wheels
within wheels, so there may be manors within manors, and it happens that
Mr Wensley, an excellent yeoman who lately purchased the farm which he
had previously occupied as a tenant--Birchdown, at the right base of the
hill--is also a lord, though he modestly disclaims any intention of
proceeding to the Upper House of Parliament. Locally, however, he has
his rights, and I believe the other lord has to pay his lesser brother
“quit-rent” for certain land “within the ambit” of the manor of Bampton.

From the summit of Grant’s Hill one gains the first sight of Somerset,
and very prepossessing one finds it, with the twin valleys of the Exe
and Barle cleaving the high ground, and Pixton enthroned between. By
their junction the two rivers form a wide basin in which lies the
township of Exebridge. This, as will be shown, was the scene of one of
the exploits of the famous Faggus. There is nothing uncanny about
Exebridge; indeed, it may be called an open, sunny hamlet. Nevertheless,
the river here has its black pool, to which was “banished”--when or for
what reason I cannot say--Madam Thorold, of Burston, an old house in the
neighbourhood. In like manner, but rather less cruelly, Madam Gaddy, of
Great House, Bampton, was “banished” to Barton, with leave to return at
a cock’s-stride a year. When she gets back, she will be horrified to
find her grand old mansion gone and a modern public-house usurping its
name and place. Similarly, the late Captain Musgrove, of Stone Farm,
Exford, is reputed to have been conjured away by so many parsons to
Pinkery Pond, whence he is on his way back at the conventional
cock’s-stride.

As chance wills, without going out of my way, I have it in my power to
supplement these brief, but poignant, accounts of the supernatural with
other and more detailed ghost-stories derived from the history or
traditions of the Sydenham family. Close to Dulverton Station are two
roads branching off to the left; either of these will conduct you to the
village of Brushford, and from there to the entrance to Combe, a
beautiful Elizabethan manor-house built in the usual shape of an E. The
Sydenhams were a distinguished Somersetshire family, and, although some
of its branches are extinct, and others fallen from their high estate,
there are left ample proofs of its former greatness, and, if I may be
permitted to say so much of those whom I have been privileged to know as
friends, “still in their ashes glow their wonted fires.”

It was in 1568 that John Sydenham bought the manor of Dulverton from
Francis Babington, a gentleman of the Privy Chamber, but the connection
of the family with Dulverton is of much longer standing; and as a John
de Sydenham is mentioned as marrying Mary, daughter and heir of Joan
Pixton, of Pixton, in the fourteenth century, this may perhaps be taken
as the period of their first settlement in the neighbourhood. They had
other homes in Somerset--notably at Brympton d’Evercy, near Yeovil, now
the property of Sir Spencer Ponsonby Fane; and the canopied monument,
erected in the little church hard by, to a Sydenham by a Sydenham, is
worth going a day’s journey to see.

So far as the house and estate of Combe are concerned, they first came
into the possession of the Sydenhams through the marriage of Edward, son
of John Sydenham, of Badialton (Bathealton), with Joan, daughter and
heir of Walter Combe, of Combe, in 1482. Part of the original mansion
still remains, and is used as servants’ quarters; the house, however,
was rebuilt during the reign of Elizabeth, and probably towards its
close, as two medals, struck to commemorate the defeat of the Armada,
were found, some few years ago, beneath the floor of the entrance porch.
The main entrance of the older building appears to have been in the east
wing, where cross-beams, over what were once two very wide doorways, are
still to be seen. The second doorway opened into the inner court or
quadrangle. The stone, a species of shillett, was quarried near the
house, and, instead of mortar, clay was largely used. A better sort of
stone was employed in the later building, with plenty of lime and sand.
The oak work is magnificent.

There was a close connection between the Sydenhams of Combe and those of
Brympton. Humphry, well-known as the “silver-tongued,” Sydenham, was a
scion of the latter branch. He entered at Exeter College, Oxford, became
Fellow of Wadham in the same university, and then chaplain to Lord
Howard, of Escrigg, and Archbishop Laud successively. Appointed rector
of Pockington and Odcombe, he resided in the latter place (Tom Coryate’s
native village); and his preferments included a prebendal stall at
Wells. On the establishment of the Commonwealth, he was deprived of his
living by the Commissioners, and retired to Combe, where he performed
the church service for tenants and others who chose to attend in the
chapel-room over the hall. This eloquent divine was buried at Dulverton.

Major Sir George Sydenham, another brother of Sir John Sydenham, of
Brympton d’Evercy, and a knight-marshal in the army of Charles I., had
married his cousin Susan, daughter of George Sydenham, of Combe; and,
whilst staying with his wife at her father’s house, received an urgent
summons to accompany his brother on some public occasion. Nothing more
was heard of him until one night, as his wife was sleeping peacefully,
he appeared to her in his military dress, but deathly pale. Starting up
in affright, she exclaimed that her husband was dead, and announced her
intention of joining him. Accordingly, the next morning she set out, and
on the way was met by a messenger who unluckily confirmed her
presentiment, saying that her lord had died suddenly.[11]

Ever since then the spirit of the major has had an uncomfortable trick
of turning up at unexpected hours in the mansion in which he made his
first apparition. One day Mrs Jakes, a tenant of the family, was
ascending the stairs, when she met a strange figure coming out of one of
the rooms, and, according to her account, motioned as if he would snuff
the candle for her. She was not alarmed, because Sir George looked
kindly on her, and it was only later that she remembered the story of
the ghost.

More extraordinary still were the circumstances of another visit. When
the late rector of Brushford was a young man, he invited a
college-friend to stay with him. The evening of his arrival was spent
in the usual way, with plenty of fun and pleasantry, after which the
party broke up for the night. The following morning the guest came down
in the same good spirits, but he had a tale to tell.

“You fellows thought you were going to frighten me last night,” he
observed. Everybody disclaimed such an intention, and begged to know
what he meant. There were signs of incredulity on the part of the
collegian, and then he was induced to explain that an old cavalier
arrayed in a wide cloak and Spanish hat had presented himself at his
bedside. The spectacle, however, had given him no concern, as he had
taken it for a practical joke.

Major Sydenham’s portrait was painted at Combe, and is still in the
possession of the family. It is that of a man with the pointed beard and
moustache of the period, wearing a cavalier’s hat and feather; and
within living memory was concealed behind curtains. In view of what was
said about the subject, this was not unnatural, but the picture itself
had a peculiar quality. A boy, it is remembered, refused to look at it,
and hid under the table, because the eyes followed him.

I have not yet done with the Sydenham phantom. As may easily be
supposed, the country-side has its legends of these great people, who,
it is averred, drove a carriage with six or eight horses shod with
silver. Amongst the legends is one that narrates the laying of Major
Sydenham’s ghost, whose visits became so frequent and inopportune that
the family at Combe resolved on serious measures to prevent their
recurrence. They communicated with the Vicar of Dulverton, desiring him
to perform the rite of exorcism, and accordingly that divine, attended
by his curate, proceeded to the large upper room still known as “the
chapel,” where, as we have seen, the “silver-tongued” Sydenham had so
often read prayers under the Commonwealth. At the conclusion of the
service the man-servant was ordered to lead a handsome watch-dog to
Aller’s Wood, on the border of the present highway to Dulverton, and
there release him. Particular instructions were given him on no account
to hurt or ill-use the animal, but these he seems to have disobeyed. The
result was a sudden flash of lightning, followed immediately by a loud
clap of thunder, in the midst of which the dog disappeared. On returning
to the house the terrified emissary reported the occurrence, but the
opinion was expressed that the spirit had been effectually laid.

The country-side, however, was unwilling to resign its ghost, and,
amongst other “yarns,” the following has been told. There is a stone
staircase at Combe, and one step was always coming out. If it was put
back one day, it was found dislodged the next; and this was believed to
be Major Sydenham’s work. At length the two Blackmores, father and son,
were sent for. They were masons of Exebridge, and skilled men at their
trade, of which they were proud. They thought they had secured the step
in its place firmly.

“Damme, Major Sydenham, push it out if

[Illustration: TORR STEPS, HAWKRIDGE (page 109).]

you can,” exclaimed one of them. No sooner said than done.

I now come to what may be either the basis or a variant of the main
tradition, unless, as may well be the case, it is an entirely
independent narrative--namely, a circumstantial relation quoted in the
_Treatise of the Soul of Man_, which edifying composition was published
in 1685. It is, word for word, as follows:--

“Much to the same purpose is that so famous and well-attested story of
the apparition of Major George Sydenham to Captain William Dyke, both of
Somersetshire, attested by the worthy and learned Dr Thomas Dyke, a near
kinsman of the captain’s, and by Mr Douch, to whom both the major and
captain were intimately known. The sum is this:--The major and captain
had many disputes about the Being of a God and the immortailty of the
Soul, on which points they could never be resolved, though they much
sought and desired it, and therefore it was at last fully agreed betwixt
them, that he who died first should on the third night after his
funeral, come betwixt the hours of twelve and one, to the little house
at Dulverton in Somersetshire; and the captain happened to lie that very
night which was appointed in the same chamber and bed with Dr Dyke. He
acquainted the doctor with the appointment, and his resolution to attend
the place and hour that night, for which purpose he got the key of the
garden. The doctor could by no means divert his purpose, but when the
hour came he was upon the place, where he waited two hours and a half,
neither seeing nor hearing anything more than usual.

“About six weeks after, the doctor and captain went to Eaton, and lay
again at the same inn, but not the same chamber as before. The morning
before they went thence the captain stayed longer than was usual in his
chamber, and at length came into the doctor’s chamber, but in a visage
and form much differing from himself, with his hair and eyes staring and
his whole body shaking and trembling. Whereat the doctor, wondering,
demanded, ‘What is the matter, cousin captain?’ The captain replies, ‘I
have seen my major.’ At which the doctor seeming to smile, the captain
said, ‘If ever I saw him in my life, I saw him but now,’ adding as
followeth. ‘This morning (said he) after it was light, someone came to
my bedside, and suddenly drawing back the curtains, calls, ‘Cap, cap,’
(which was the term of familiarity that the major used to call the
captain by), to whom I replied, ‘What, my major.’ To which he returns,
‘I could not come at the time appointed, but I am come now to tell you
that there is a God, and a very just and terrible one, and if you do not
turn over a new leaf, you will find it so.’ This stuck close to him.
Little meat would go down with him at dinner, though a handsome treat
was provided. These words were sounding in his ears frequently during
the remainder of his life, he was never shy or scrupulous to relate it
to any that asked him concerning it, nor ever mentioned it but with
horror and trepidation. They were both men of a brisk humour and jolly
conversation, of very quick and keen parts, having been both University
and Inns of Court gentlemen.”

The intimacy to which this narrative bears witness, though easily
accounted for in officers of the same regiment, is further explained by
the fact they were near neighbours at home. The Sydenhams, as has been
shown, dwelt at Combe, and the Dykes, I may now add, at Pixton, the
former residence of the Sydenhams, whilst the salutation “Cap, cap”
indicates much friendliness. The Dyke dynasty came to an end when Sir
Thomas Acland (seventh baronet) married Elizabeth Dyke, and joined her
estates at Dulverton and elsewhere to his own vast patrimony. With them
I am not concerned, more than to state that they were the grandparents
of John Dyke Acland, who wedded in 1771 the Lady Christian Harriet
Caroline Fox-Strangways, sister of Stephen, first Earl of Ilchester.

In the commonplace book of Thomas Sayer, parish clerk and schoolmaster
of Dulverton, I find the following entries relating to the family:--

“Jn^{o} Dyke Acland, Esq., married Jan^{y} 7, 1771. The above Jn^{o}
Dyke Acland born Feb. 18, 1746, and died Nov. 15, 1778. The old Sir
Thos. Dyke Acland, Father of above Jn^{o} Dyke Acland, born Aug. 12,
1722, and died Feb^{y} 20, 1785.”

The same manuscript includes particulars regarding Pixton House, which
prove the existing structure, the “frozen music” of which is superbly
classical, to be differently laid out from its predecessor, which we may
conjecture to have been of some type of English domestic architecture,
and, according to Saver’s measurements, contained some fine rooms. The
old house was pulled down in February 1803, and the new, built by
Hassell, of Exeter, was finished in November 1805. This work was carried
out on the initiative of Lady Harriet Acland, after whom the private
road through the serried woods of the sequestered Haddeo valley is named
“Lady Harriet’s Drive”--doubtless, because she ordered its construction.

Two or three years ago Mr Broomfield, of Dulverton, showed me an old
picture, dim, dirty, and discoloured, yet significant. Through the crust
of time one could discern a man, a woman, and a boat; and the attitudes
and certain of the details convinced me that the faded, and not very
valuable, heirloom represented a scene in the life of the great lady of
Pixton, to which _she_ must have looked back with horror, and her
posterity will ever refer with pride. I will try to interpret that
picture, and conjure up the scene it so feebly portrays.

It was the year 1777, and Major Acland’s grenadiers, forming the
advanced guard of General Fraser’s brigade, were advancing against the
American insurgents. Lady Harriet had already endured cruel privations,
and in the course of the previous year had nursed her husband through a
dangerous bout of sickness, contracted in the campaign. Now it had begun
again. Only a short time before, the tent they were sleeping in had
caught fire, and most of their clothing had been burnt. It was winter,
and bitter cold.

Now, however brave a woman may be, unless she is a professed Amazon, she
is not expected to fight, and, as an action was about to take place,
Acland requested his wife to remain with the baggage. In a small log-hut
with three other ladies--the Baroness Ruysdael, Mrs Ramage, and Mrs
Reynell--Lady Harriet spent hours of agonising suspense, the high notes
of the incessant musketry fire mingling with the diapason of the
artillery, to be varied erelong by the groans of the wounded borne into
their place of shelter, and littering the ground around.

After a while the news reached Mrs Ramage that her husband had been
killed. Then came another message that Lieutenant Reynell had been
dangerously wounded; and finally, at the close of the day, Lady Harriet
received the information that Major Acland, seriously hurt, was in the
hands of the enemy.

With equal courage and affection, the devoted woman resolved to go in
search of him, and that without delay. Accordingly, with Dr Brudenell,
chaplain of the regiment, she entered a small boat and proceeded down
the river to the enemy’s outposts. Here they were challenged by the
sentry, and Brudenell, hoisting a white handkerchief on a stick,
attempted to explain their errand. The sentinel, however, proved
obdurate, not only refusing to carry any message to the officer in
command, but warning them not to move, or he would fire on the boat. So
all through that inclement night, insufficiently clad, without a
particle of food, and in imminent danger of becoming a target for the
foe, they sat and waited.

With the morning their situation improved. The general, on being made
cognisant of the facts, received the lady with soldierly sympathy, and
accorded her full permission to attend on her husband until his
recovery.

Soon after they returned to England, and to Pixton, but Colonel Acland
was born to ill-luck. He fought a duel on Bampton Down, November 11,
1778, with Captain Lloyd, an officer of his own regiment, whom he had
offended by praising the humanity of the American people, and caught a
chill. Four days later he was dead.

Lady Harriet had two children--Elizabeth Kitty and John Dyke. The
latter, after succeeding to the baronetcy, died at the age of seventeen,
whilst his sister married, in 1796, Lord Porchester (afterwards second
Earl of Carnarvon), and died in 1816. Lady Harriet outlived both husband
and children, dying in 1818.

The present possessor of Pixton is the Dowager Countess of Carnarvon;
and her sons are the lineal descendants of the intrepid woman whose
adventures I have described.

Pixton Park, with its beeches and herd of fallow deer, and Lady
Harriet’s Drive, flanked on each side by gorgeous oak woods or oak
coppice, vocal with streams, and centred by brown Haddon, are among the
features which enable Dulverton to maintain its proud claim to
extraordinary beauty of scenery. In this respect it has no superior in
the West Country, and Tennyson, who visited the neighbourhood not long
before his death, went away delighted with it. An account of this visit
appears in the life of the poet by his son, the present Lord Tennyson;
and, although rather inaccurate in some of the details, yet, as a piece
of impressionism, deserves to be reproduced.

“In June, Colonel Crozier lent us his yacht, the _Assegai_, and we went
to Exmouth, and thence by rail to Dulverton--a land of bubbling streams,
my father called it.

“Lord Carnarvon had told him years ago that the streams here were the
most delicious he knew.

“We drove up the Haddon valley, and to Barlynch Abbey on the Exe. The
ragged robin and wild garlic were profuse. We returned by Pixton Park.

“The Exe is ‘arrowy’ just before its confluence with the Barle, running,
as my father remarked, ‘too vehemently to break upon the jutting rocks.’
We sat next on a wooden bridge over the Exe, and he said to me, ‘That is
an old simile, but a good one: Time is like a river, ever past and ever
future.’

“In the afternoon, we drove through the Barle valley to Hawkridge, then
to the Torr Steps, high up among the hills, with an ancient bridge
across the river, flat stones laid on piers. Some tawny cows were
cooling themselves in mid-stream; a green meadow on one side, on the
other a wooded slope. ‘If it were only to see this,’ he said, ‘the
journey is worth while.’

“We climbed Haddon Down [Draydon Knap?], and then to Higher Combe--a
valley down which there was a most luxuriant view, the Dartmoor range as
background, almost Italian in colouring.”

Lord Tennyson adds, that, at Dulverton, his father began the Hymn to
the Sun in a new metre, for his “Akbar.”

A most exquisite view is to be obtained from Baron’s Down, situated on
the lofty height of Bury Hill. Formerly the seat of the Stucley Lucases
(who were as great in stag-hunting, or nearly so, as Tennyson was in
poetry), it afterwards served as the country-house of Dr Warre,
Headmaster of Eton, who resigned his tenancy, much to the regret of his
neighbours and friends, as recently as last year.

Of Dulverton town, as distinct from its environs, it is impossible to
say much. It is, however, one of the chief centres of Exmoor
stag-hunting and fishing, and the hotels, which thrive on these
attractions, provide adequate accommodation. Owing to the constant
stream of fashionable visitors from all parts of the world, Dulverton,
though in point of size a mere village, wears, during the season, a
quite cosmopolitan aspect; and, as if to emphasise its superiority to
other rustic communities, the enterprising inhabitants have lately
caused to be installed a system of electric lighting by means of high
poles with wire attachments.

Here, it will be remembered, dwelt Master Reuben Huckaback, John Ridd’s
maternal uncle, who, when bound on the back of the frightened mountain
pony, described himself as “an honest hosier and draper, serge and
long-cloth warehouseman, at the sign of the Gartered Kitten, in the
loyal town of Dulverton.” Huckaback, I am disposed to think, was
Blackmore’s creation, the name in itself being suspicious. What is
Huckaback? Nuttall defines it as “a kind of linen with raised figures
on it, used for tablecloths and towels”--the sort of thing that a
shopkeeper in Uncle Ben’s line would be likely to sell. Blackmore, no
doubt, somewhat exaggerates the commercial advantages of Dulverton, but
in the good old days, tradesmen managed to subsist very comfortably, and
even to retire on a competence. The premises now occupied by Mr Bayley
were probably those Mr Blackmore had in his eye, though their
spick-and-span appearance does not suggest anything venerable. The
proprietor, however, has good warrant for ascribing a decent antiquity
to the house, whose traditional sign is the Vine, not the Gartered
Kitten. That it may have been partially remodelled or reconstructed
since the seventeenth century, is readily granted, as being in the
nature of things, but, having been the head shop at Dulverton time out
of mind, it is, at all events, in the apostolic succession.

Some Dulverton streets bear interesting names. Thus we have Rosemary
Lane and Lady Street. The latter was formerly much narrower at its
entrance into Fore Street, and an old inhabitant once told me that he
believed that anciently it had been built over, and that the front of
the superincumbent structure was adorned with an image of the Virgin
Mary.

The widening process involved the demolition of two ancient cottages,
which had formed the Nightingale Inn; and amongst the débris was
discovered an old coin, on seeing which a local connoisseur forthwith
pronounced it Spanish, adding that it had been probably left by the Dons
when they invaded England in 1600. A companion denied that England was
ever invaded by the Spaniards, but the other would not be contradicted.
“He knowed they did, and it weren’t likely they could pass Dulverton
without stopping for a drink.” In point of fact, the coin was a poor
specimen of a sixpenny bit, struck in 1566.



CHAPTER VIII

BROTHERS BARLE AND EXE[12]


It is now time to quit Dulverton, and one has to face the somewhat
complex question in which direction one’s steps should next be turned.
There are three main routes--by the railway to Barnstaple; by the
“turnpike” to Dunster and Minehead; and by one of several roads to
Simonsbath, the heart of the moor. All these ways lead to interesting
places--places much too interesting to be passed by; and it is at one’s
choice which to seek out first. That is assuming that one intends to
establish Dulverton as one’s base, making longer or shorter excursions
to the spots hereafter to be named. To recommend such a course, however,
would be obviously impolite to other towns equally avid of patronage.
They must all be visited in turn--so much is certain.

As a start must be made, and a selection may not be avoided, I will fall
back on the line I always followed as a boy, and once more breast Mount
Sydenham, with its chaplet of firs. When the panting and perspiring
traveller reaches a turn of the road he may hap to espy a hollow in a
field on the left. That is Granny’s Pit, where an old woman with
dishevelled tresses has been viewed, bewailing her daughter. A few more
paces bring us to the grove of firs, whence the sinuous Barle may be
surveyed far below in all his sylvan glory. This may be Blackmore’s
“corner of trees,” if Ridd followed this route, and not Hollam Lane,
which runs parallel with it. Stepping back into the lane, one soon finds
oneself on Court Down, which, though not of any great extent, is a
genuine bit of moorland “debated” by green fern, and purple heather, and
golden gorse, embosomed in which there may stand at gaze fleecy,
white-faced sheep of the horned variety peculiar to Exmoor.

Nature’s “much-admired confusion,” however, is exhibited on a much
grander scale in the undulating sweep of Winsford Hill, which, from
Mountsey Hill Gate to Comer’s Gate, boasts four miles of continuous
brake. This free and joyous expanse is the native heath of Sir Thomas
Acland’s wild Exmoor ponies, which, in their shaggy deshabille may at
times be seen grazing on the rough sward, or scampering playfully over
moss and ling. They suffer none to approach.

At Spire Cross is a confluence of roads, that to the left being one way
to Torr Steps, an old Keltic bridge formed of large, loose slabs laid
athwart low piers, which bears a family likeness to Post Bridge on
Dartmoor, but the latter is grooved for chariots. It is well to point
out that this charming vestige of prehistoric civilisation--a gem in a
lovely setting--is by no means isolated. The remains of several British
castles are to be found in the neighbourhood, Mountsey Castle being
quite near; and up on the hill, not far from Spire Cross, but in the
opposite direction, is a menhir. The stone carries an inscription,
which, though extremely rude and partially obliterated, is yet
distinctly legible; and the monument is supposed to mark the
burial-place of a Romanised British chieftain--the “grandson of
Caractacus,” which is the English rendering of “Carataci Nepos.” Dr
Murray recently took a “squeeze” of the face of the stone, from which a
cast was made, now at Oxford; and both he and Professor Rhys, who
accompanied him, were convinced of the genuineness of the scrawl. The
actual lettering appears to be: CVRAACI EPVC. Moreover, beside the road
to Comer’s Gate are three immense cairns, known as the Wambarrows. This
is the highest point of Winsford Hill--1405 feet above the level of the
sea.

Around all these spots cluster superstitions weird or bizarre. The
menhir is an index of buried treasure. The Wambarrows are the haunt of a
mysterious black dog. Round Mountsey Castle a spectral chariot races at
midnight, to disappear into a cairn in a field at the foot of the hill.
As for Torr Steps, the legend is that they were placed there by the
devil, who menaced with dire penalties the first mortal that should
presume to use them. The sable monarch took his seat on one bank of the
stream, while the other was occupied by a parson, eager to try
conclusions with him. The holy man was astute, and, as a preliminary
measure, dispatched a cat across the bridge. On touching the opposite
side she was ruthlessly rent in pieces, whereupon, the charm having been
shattered, the parson boldly strode over the causeway and engaged the
devil in a conflict of words, each abusing the other in good set terms.
In the end the enemy of mankind retired vanquished, resigning the bridge
to all and sundry. Close above these steps was one of the two homes of
Mother Melldrum (see _Lorna Doone_, chapter xvii., where Blackmore
alludes to the legend of their origin).

It appears that the Oxford _cognoscenti_ went down into the stream in a
vain search for more inscribed stones. This reminds me of a curious
story of the Barle, the willows on whose banks, by the way, overhang its
amber bed so as to form almost an arch. On a hill to the right, looking
downstream, stands Hawkridge Church, and what is termed, in
contradistinction to the parish, Hawkridge town. Well, once upon a time
a villager was asked to take the place of the bass-singer in the choir
for one Sunday only, and consented. A day or two later he was discovered
by the incumbent, a well-known hunting parson, wading up and down the
little river apparently without aim or object. The cleric drew rein,
and, much amazed, inquired the meaning of this extraordinary procedure.
“Plaze your honour,” was the reply, “I be trying to get a bit of a hooze
on me.”

In other words, he was attempting to catch a cold, so that he might
become hoarse, this being, as he thought, the best means of qualifying
himself for the successful discharge of his duty.

    “Where the swift Exe, by Somerset’s fair hills,
     In curving eddies, borders pastures deep,
     Near fern-fringed slope of lawn, where babbling rills
     Sing sweetest music, mid thick foliage peep
     Five bridges, and thatched roofs. The grey Church Tower
     O’er all looks down on groves of oak and pine:
     Red deer, red Devons, ponies of the moor,
     Delight the traveller in this home of mine.”

This acrostic, in praise of a charming village, is the composition of
the Rev. Prebendary W. P. Anderson, vicar of Winsford, who has resided
there ever since 1857, and the lines show that his experience of the
place has been like the place itself--happy. Far otherwise was it with
one of his predecessors. In the church porch may be seen a list of the
parish clergymen, not so dry as such lists are wont to be, from which it
appears that early in the fourteenth century Winsford had a blind
vicar--one Willelmus. Being unable to perform all the duties of his
office, he was allowed two coadjutors, of whom it is recorded, to their
eternal infamy, that they were deprived “for starving the Blind Vicar.”
This conduct, inhuman at the best, was the more scandalous in that the
Priory of Barlynch, to which the advowson belonged, had, in 1280,
endowed the vicarage with the whole tithe of wool, lambs, chicken,
calves, pigs, sucklings, cheese, butter, flax, honey, and all other
small tithes and oblations and dues pertaining to the altar offerings.
And yet he starved--the Blind Vicar!

Barlynch Priory, a community of Austin Friars stood, where its remains
yet stand, some two or three miles down the Exe. Shaded by what the old
charter calls “the mountain of the high wood of Berlic,” its situation
was in the highest degree romantic; and if the prior had a lust for
venery, his taste might easily be gratified, for in the adjacent woods
or “copes,” the deer would have found abundant shelter, and thither they
doubtless resorted to pass the long summer day under the dense foliage.

Returning to Winsford, Mr Anderson’s lines omit one trait which to many
will seem the chief glory of the village--namely, the old inn. The
“Royal Oak” is a hostelry such as one does not see every day. Its
thatched roofs, and low ceilings, and projecting windows, and general
crinkle-crankle are eloquent of the olden time, and the sign, as was the
case with all ancient signs, hangs from its own post--a reminder of
Boscobel. Hence, by a beautiful rustic lane the traveller wends his way
to Exford, and on the outskirts of the village encounters the church.

On a pedestal in the churchyard stands the mutilated shaft of a
venerable preaching cross, and hard by the gate one observes an
“upping-stock,” or “upstock,” for the convenience of women in mounting
their horses after divine service.

Before Exmoor was disafforested and, yet later, made a parish of itself,
it is probable that Exford was the ecclesiastical capital of the
district--at any rate, of the southern portion of the moor. The parish
stands on the very verge of the old forest, and during the reign of King
John was actually brought within its limits. Lanes in the neighbourhood
were, in more scrupulous times, the forest-bounds, and along these
tracks, still passable, were certain marks mentioned in the
Perambulations, almost all of which can be identified. One such track,
partly diverted from its old course--which, however, may be easily
traced--led from what is now a cottage, but was once a small farmhouse,
straight to the church. This cottage bears the name of Prescott, and
still contains a round-headed stone doorway, and a little square window
let into the side of the big fireplace. The late vicar, the Rev. E. G.
Peirson, suggests that this may have been the original priest’s cot or
parsonage house. “I like to think,” he says, “that my predecessors,
before they came into permanent residence here, used to stop at that
house when they came over the moor, and clean themselves before going
into the church.” He adds, however, that in that case the cottage or its
name must date a long way back, as there would seem to have been clergy
resident at Exford early in the twelfth century.

Mr Peirson’s theory is pretty, but a simpler explanation is that the
cottage belonged to the glebe. It is curious that just at the point
where the old lane used to strike the churchyard, a few projecting
stones still form a rough stile over the wall.

Probably it will affect most people with a feeling of surprise that
there should be any connection between a place so far inland as Exford
and smuggling, yet the same is true. In an orchard above West Mill was
formerly an old malt-house, where malt was made and whisky distilled.
But the most interesting spot to excise men lay rather to the north, at
Pitsworthy Cottage. Here was an old stone building used as a turf-house;
but the room where the turf was stowed had a party-wall concealing
another chamber, to which access could be obtained only by a secret
entrance under the office of the thatch. Ordinarily this was blocked by
a large stone fitted with a swivel. Long after, pieces of hoops and
decayed staves were discovered in this hiding-place. Wooden hoops are
seen even now round brandy casks, but these were smaller and adapted to
the kegs which the smugglers, landing under Culbone, transported to
Hawkcombe Head, and Black Mire, and White Cross, and right down to
Pitsworthy. There was no road across the moors in those days--I am
thinking of the “forties”--and a man called Hookway is remembered as
travelling from Culbone with pack-horses.

More of smuggling anon. Meanwhile, I am disposed to record, for the
first time, the nefarious doings of Jan Glass and Betty, his wife.
Sheep-stealing was a fashionable pursuit on Exmoor; and at Brendon Forge
(see _Lorna Doone_, chapter lxii.) the conversation was divided between
the hay-crop and “a great sheep-stealer”--apparently not the same
individual whose hanging set up strife between the manors of East Lyn,
West Lyn, and Woolhanger on account of his small clothes, since he is
described as “a man of no great eminence” (_Lorna Doone_, chapter lv.).
Be that as it may, Jan was a daring sheep-stealer, and yet, in his way,
a public benefactor. Often, during a hard winter, he would bring into
Exford stolen mutton, which he retailed at twopence a pound, and at such
times the inhabitants were fairly kept alive by him. His _modus
operandi_ was to go and gather the sheep--his own and others--on Kitnor
Heath and Old Moor into Larcombe Pound at the entrance to his farm,
where there was a convenient avenue or grove of beech-trees. Having
brought them so far, he would kill the strange sheep, and turn out his
own again over the allotments.

Jan played this trick so often that old Farmer Brewer determined to take
him, if possible, in the act. With this object in view he “redded” his
sheep, and as he could stand in his farm and observe the manœuvres,
saw Glass driving among the sheep some red ones. With all speed Brewer
made his way across, but by the time he reached Larcombe, Glass had
killed and skinned the sheep that were not his own.

In the meantime Betty had not been idle. She had dipped the skins in hot
water, so that the wool had come off as easily as from a lamb’s tail,
and had given the skins to the dogs.

What had become of the wool? Farmer Brewer, anxious to ascertain,
glanced around and spied a large pot. Lifting the cover, he found the
fleeces, and, turning to the disconcerted woman, exclaimed:

“Aw, fy, Betty! Here’s the wool!”

This led to Glass’s conviction, and he was sentenced to seven years’
transportation. He had certainly had a wonderful career. He did not
confine his attention to sheep, but was quite as notorious for stealing
colts. Not being able to keep her from her foal, he had been known to
kill the mare and throw the carcass into the pond. His thefts of sheep
from “Squire” Knight alone used to average fifty or sixty a year. He
would gallop into a flock, pick up one of the sheep, as a hawk or a
raven would pick up a small bird, and carry it home on the top of his
saddle. It may seem strange that he was permitted to indulge in these
malpractices so long, but he lived in a very out-of-the-way place. There
were no police in those days, sheep were gathered only once or twice in
the year, and the animal he appropriated might possibly be crippled or
diseased. Anyhow, until Farmer Brewer interfered, nobody took any
notice.

Glass lived to return after being transported, and eventually found
himself on a bed of sickness, when he was visited by an old farmer,
James Moore.

“Jan,” said he, “I yur thee art very bad, and thee hasn’t got nort to
eat. I’ve killed a sheep and brought thee a piece of mutton.”

“Aw, maister,” answered the poor man, “I thort thee’d a bin the last man
to come to zee me.”

“What vur, Jan?”

“Well, I don’t know, maister, how I can taste the mutton, for I’ve stole
scores o’ sheep from thee at the time you lived to Thurn and the time
you lived to Ashit.”

“Never mind, Jan, I freely forgive thee, and I aup that God’ll do the
same.”

Glass never got over the illness, but soon after this touching interview
gave up the ghost, and was buried in Exford churchyard.

Betty Glass was just as resolute a thief as old Jan, and, whilst at
Larcombe, was very intimate with Sally Bristowe (or “Bursta,” as the
name was pronounced), at Rocks, an adjoining farm. On one occasion,
Betty paid a visit to Sally at harvest time, when young turkeys were
about, and after she had been hospitably entertained, eating what she
liked and drinking what she liked, she had the good taste to go out and
steal a score of the aforesaid small turkeys. Shortly afterwards, Sally
happened to open the door and found the heads of some of the birds lying
in the yard, whereupon she set out in pursuit of old Betty, overtook
her, and discovered the bodies of the turkeys in the old woman’s apron,
blood still flowing from them.

“Now, Betty,” quoth the indignant woman, “however could’st thee steal my
turkeys after I’d gi’d thee plenty to eat and drink.”

“Aw, for goodness sake,” was the reply, “keep dark. I’ll give thee a
guinea. Say nort about it.”

Sally thereupon accepted the guinea, deeming it better to do so than
institute proceedings. This was certainly a mistake, for a week or two
later, when Betty was in company with Farmer Brewer, and three sheets in
the wind, she remarked, “Hey, Jimmy, what’s think of Sal Bursta’s
spot-faced yo? D’ye think I be going to give her a guinea for nort?”

From which it was evident that she stole the ewe to make good the loss
of the money. Sal undoubtedly lost the sheep.

During a visit to Minehead, seeing nothing else on which she could
conveniently lay hands, Betty appropriated two 7-lb. weights; but she
had not gone more than a mile or two from the town when she found the
weights too heavy to carry, and dropped them beside the hedge.

At that time the Crown Inn, Exford, was kept by Nicholas and Mary
Harwood. One day when Betty was on the spree, Mrs Harwood entered the
house and looked over the old woman’s wardrobe. To her surprise she
found three of her own dresses and several petticoats, which she brought
down into the kitchen, and, spreading them out before old Betty,
inquired how she came by them.

“Needn’t make so much fuss about it,” was the easy response, “for, if
I’d sold ’em, you’d a had the coin.”

As Betty was a good customer at the Crown, Mrs Harwood “kept dark” and
condoned the offence.

On another occasion, Betty brought a bag into the “White Horse” and put
it behind the settle. A man, called Mike Adams, was in the room, and
mischievously turned the bag mouth downwards, so that when old Betty
took it up, out fell the mutton--very likely a joint of Sal Bristowe’s
spot-faced ewe. On hearing the thud, Mike ran round the settle, and was
immediately “squared” by Betty, who observed, “Say nort, and I’ll sell
it and spend the money.”

Before her marriage with Jan, Betty had an illegitimate son, Jack Reed.
In due time this boy was apprenticed to the husband of Sal Bristowe, who
kept a farm and proved a rough master. Things grew so bad that at last
the lad declared that, if he stayed there, he should be either
transported or hanged. Luckily he had a warm friend in young Sally
Bristowe. They had grown up boy and girl together, and shared each
other’s confidences. Privately, Sally made a collection for Jack, and
amassed the large sum of sixteen shillings, which she placed in his
hands.

The ’prentice had now to look out for a favourable opportunity of
escape, and this offered when Farmer Bristowe went to Bratton Fleming
Fair, since by running away at this time the boy was assured of a day’s
start. On going to bed, Jack ostentatiously bolted the door, but
unbolted it “with the same,” so that the old woman might not hear when
he made his exit. The plan worked perfectly, and Jack ultimately settled
down at Bristol.

The master of the Devon and Somerset staghounds (Mr R. A. Sanders)
resides at Exford, and here are the kennels of the pack. The latter are
substantial stone buildings with gable ends, and stand on the slope of a
hill, close beside the road to Simonsbath. One enters first the
“cooking-house,” the lobby of which is hung around with antlered heads,
brow, bay, and tray. Some heads are preserved on account of their
peculiarities or misshapen forms; and to each head is attached a plate
setting forth the date and place of the capture of the animal.
Advancing, one is conscious of a pungent odour, which is found to
proceed from a chamber where a huge furnace is burning fiercely, and a
seething mass of horse flesh is being boiled off the bones for the dogs.
Some of this boiled flesh is in a large wooden trough, and, mixed with
oatmeal, flour, or biscuit, is undergoing a process of solidification.
In the adjoining room are two larger troughs, in one of which biscuit is
soaking, whilst the other contains a quantity of oatmeal paste. Both
sorts of food are intended for the younger dogs.

The kennels of these hounds, situated at a short distance, are provided
with an extensive boarded-in grass plot, which forms their
exercise-yard. When heavy rain does not permit of a parade, they will be
found on the bench. A magnificent lot of dogs, containing the blood of
the most celebrated hounds in the best packs, they are not much
disturbed by the entrance of strangers. Some of them half step down from
the bench, when you pat and stroke them; they do not attempt to bite,
and are, in fact, exceedingly quiet, unless you are foolish enough to
strike them. Then you will see. Although the hounds are so much alike,
the huntsman has the name of each dog on the tip of his tongue, and
when, he calls, the animal is back in his place in an instant--so
absolute is his command.

As regards the older hounds, they are kennelled in the same fashion,
reclining on a bench with a thick layer of clean straw. They have had a
season or two’s “blooding,” and during that time some of them, by their
doings in the pack, have made a name for themselves. A few years ago two
of them had the honour of appearing on several public platforms in
attendance on the huntsman, the late Anthony Huxtable, a merry dog
himself, who, as he could troll a rattling hunting-song, was in great
request at local concerts, and on such occasions brought the hounds with
him as a bit of realism.

Another kennel houses the oldest hounds--dogs which have hunted for
seven seasons or more, and are still fit.

[Illustration: WINSFORD (page 111).]

It is a curious fact that nothing upsets hounds so much as thunder. A
flash of lightning followed by a loud crash of thunder makes every dog
spring to his feet and relieve his feelings by low whines and growls.

A Faggus incident (see below, chapter xiv.) is duly credited to Exford
by Blackmore, who entrusts the telling of it to John Fry (_Lorna Doone_,
chapter xxxix.). He appears, however, to have robbed the parish of a
still more thrilling episode (see chapters xiv. and xvi.).



CHAPTER IX

THE HEART OF THE MOOR


From Exford to Simonsbath the road presents few points of interest. At
White Cross enters the highway that leads from Spire Cross to Comer’s
Gate, and thence between hedges to Chibbet (always so spelt and
pronounced, but query Gibbet?) Post, a rendezvous of the staghounds and
other packs; and perhaps the spot where Red Jem hung in chains, but it
is more than two miles from Dunkery. After White Cross we arrive at Red
Stone Gate, where we alight or not as we choose. Red Stone, having been
mentioned in the perambulation records as a landmark of the old forest,
has some claim to be considered historic. Then we pass what is commonly
known as Gallon House, a white-washed building with a porch, standing
back from the road and formerly a public-house. Its proper name was the
Red Deer, and it is said to have been called Gallon House from the fact
that “drink”--beer is always or often thus described hereabouts--was
sold only by the gallon. That may or may not have been the case, but, as
regards intoxicants, Exmoor is still under restrictions. To ensure the
respectability of the neighbourhood, the “Exmoor Forest” Hotel (late
the “William Rufus”) is limited to the sale of wine, no beer or spirits
being obtainable. This rule was imposed by Sir Frederick Knight, and is
maintained in full force by his successor, Lord Ebrington.

The proper name of Gallon House was the “Red Deer,” but Blackmore was
evidently acquainted with the other description. John Fry is led by a
shepherd to a “public-house near Exford,” where “nothing less than a
_gallon of ale_ and half a gammon of bacon” brings him to his right mind
again (_Lorna Doone_, chapter xxxi.).

The associations of Gallon House and its vicinage are tragic, since it
was in a cottage situated in the rear that William Burgess, in the
fifties of the last century, murdered his little daughter. He then
conveyed her body across the road and down into the valley, where he
buried it; but, fearing detection, he again removed the poor child’s
corpse and threw it down the shaft of the disused Wheal Eliza, a
copper-mine. Here it remained undiscovered for months, but at last,
through the untiring exertions of the Rev. W. H. Thornton, then curate
of Exmoor, it was found, and the unnatural father expiated his crime on
the gallows.

In his privately printed _Reminiscences_, Mr Thornton has given a
detailed account of the whole episode.

The Wheal Eliza appears to have been the original of Uncle Ben’s
gold-mine, so far as situation is concerned.

The next stage is to Honeymead Two Gates, with Honeymead Farm[13] lying
away to the left. “Two Gates” is quite an Exmoor term. We meet with it
again in Brendon Two Gates, and it stands for an arrangement whereby on
both sides of the posts are suspended separate gates, so hung as to fall
inwards. These effectually prevent stock from getting either in or out
of the enclosures _proprio motu_, whilst the farmer, by crooking back
the near gate with his whip, and pushing his horse against the other,
can pass through without having to dismount. To judge from the maps,
Simonsbath is the hub of the moor. In some senses this is true and
soothfast, but as one travels along the excellent highway and looks
across the country, there is little suggestion of either moor or forest.
The land is evidently poor, but everywhere one’s glance falls on
enclosed fields, and Winsford Hill harmonises much better with one’s
preconceived ideas of Exmoor than this eminently civilised region.
Doubtless the landscape presented a very different aspect before Mr
Knight’s advent in 1818, and one hardly knows whether to thank him for
his pioneer improvements or not. At all events, one would have preferred
the dry-wall system that obtains in the North Forest, to fences that
seem stable and permanent, though shivering sheep may be of a different
opinion.

Cloven Rocks, the next point, has no obvious right to the name. Its
situation, however, may be indicated by stating that it lies at a bend
of the road, and a tiny stream trickles down through the bare turf. It
may be needless to remind the reader that Cloven Rocks is twice
mentioned in _Lorna Doone_ as adjacent to the Wizard’s Slough, a
perilous morass that has since been drained. Whether the story which
appears in chapter lviii. of the romance is based on a real tradition,
or is the offspring of Blackmore’s fertile imagination, I am unable to
say. It has, at any rate, a genuine ring, and all Exmoor once teemed
with strange legends, which the present “more enlightened” generation
has chosen to forget.

Which reminds me. The little stream above referred to is called White
Water, and joins the Barle at Cow Castle, an old British camp, which is
situated on one of three hills. Cow Castle is the name of the principal
eminence as given in the maps, and Cae Castle it is sometimes called by
the learned. To the natives, however, it is known as Ring Castle, and is
so described in a delightful article contributed by the Rev. George
Tugwell, M.A., author of an excellent _North Devon Handbook_, to
_Frasers Magazine_ in 1857. His delineations of the scenery are worthy
of a Blackmore or a Black, and would that I had room for some of them!
As I have not, I must confine the quotation to the dialogue between the
wanderer and a peasant, carried on by the blaze of the latter’s peat
fire.

“‘Half an hour before we met you and little Nelly, we discovered an old
British camp--a real discovery, an indubitable camp, with its line of
earthworks as perfect, gateway and all, as when it was first piled--and
to be found in no book or antiquarian memoir in all the three kingdoms.
There it stood, a circular crown on the brow of a lonely conical hill,
washed on three sides by the wanderings of the Barle, out of bow-shot
from all the neighbouring heights, with plenty of water, and provisions
in abundance, for three valleys trended from it in a triple direction,
commanding a wide and glorious view of peak and ravine, centrally placed
in the very heart of “the forest.” In truth, those old Britons knew
something of the art of fastnesses, if they were not well skilled in the
art of war. Did you ever see the stronghold of your ancestors, friend
Jan?’

“‘I’m thinking we’re somehow about Ring Castle!’ quoth Jan, with sly
good humour in his eye. ‘Camp indeed! I don’t know much about camps [we
omit the Doric]; but all I know is, that it was something far different
which built Ring Castle.’

“Hereupon, dropping his voice, he hurled up the broad chimney a whole
series of mystery-betokening smoke cloudlets.

“‘Did you ever hear tell on Pixies?’ quoth Jan again, after a pause.
‘And fairy rings?’ he added, as Nelly emerged from a dark corner, and
nestled close to her father’s shoulder. We suggested that we had heard
of the Devonshire fairies, a race of spirits peculiar for their
diminutive size and perfect beauty, and for their friendly dealing with
mankind.

“‘Well,’ said John, ‘this here be all about it.’

(And he proceeded to tell us so pretty a legend that we cannot refrain
from translating it for the benefit of the uninitiated in the Devonshire
dialect.)

“‘Ever so long ago, the Pixies were at war with the mine spirits who
live underground all about the forest and the wild hill-country around.
Now, the Pixies being perfectly harmless, and withal good-natured to
excess, weren’t at all a match for the evil-nurtured earth-demons, who
were always forging all kinds of fearful weapons in their underground
armouries, and overcoming their poor little foes by all manner of unfair
and unexpected stratagems. But the Pixie Queen of those days being like
all women, fertile in resources, bethought her of a means of escape from
the unbearable tyranny of the oppressors. Ever since the days of Merlin,
running water, the numbers three and seven, and the mysteries of the
emblematic circle, have been sure protections against the machinations
of the foul fiend and his allies. And the fairy queen, like a wise
woman, recollected this fact, and, like a wiser woman, applied it; for
she assembled all her subjects, and bade them build on the summit of
this central Exmoor Peak that strange circle which you have seen to-day.
But it was no common building this, for with every stone and turf that
the builders laid, they buried the memory of some kindly deed which the
good Pixies had done to the race of men; and so, when the magic ring was
completed, the baffled demons raved and plotted in vain around its
sacred enclosure. Nor was this all; for when the grey morning broke upon
that first night of victory and repose, as the driving mists rolled
upwards and swept along the hill-tops like the advance-guard of a
victorious army [we are not sure that this was Jan’s own similitude],
from the summit of the fairy fortification there rose ring after ring of
faintest amber-tinted vapour, and floated away in the brightening sky,
each on its own mission of safety and peace.

“‘For these tiny wreathlets wandered hither and thither all over the
broad expanse of the Exmoor country, and wherever the grass was
greenest, and the neighbouring stream sang most merrily, and the
sunlight was purest, and the moonbeams brightest, there these magic
circles sank down softly on the level sward, and left no trace behind
them of what they had been, or whence they had journeyed.

“‘But from each soft resting-place there sprang a ring of greenest
grass, which flourished and grew year by year; and within those safe
enclosures the Pixies danced on moonlight nights in peace and security,
unharmed by the demon rout, who were never seen aboveground after that
memorable morning. So you see that kind hearts and actions do not go
unrewarded, even in other spheres than our own.

“‘And so,’ concluded Jan, ‘that’s my story about the building of the
Pixie’s camp; and wise folk may talk for a year and a day without making
me believe that there’s any other reason for fairy rings, at all events,
hereabouts in Exmoor Forest.’

“Of course it would have been absolute cruelty, after so fanciful a
legend, to have instilled any botanical ideas into Jan’s head, with
regard to the law of the circular increase of fungi and the like; so we
‘left him alone in his glory,’ and felt duly thankful for the pleasure
he had given us.”

Lower down the river is Landacre Bridge, where Jeremy Stickles had so
narrow an escape

[Illustration: LANDACRE BRIDGE, EXMOOR.]

from flood and foeman (_Lorna Doone_, chapter xlvii.), and lower down
still is the moorland village of Withypool. In summer, the water-meadows
here, with background of brown moor, are lovely, but in rainy seasons
Withypool is a wet place indeed, the little streams being even more to
be dreaded that the raging of the Barle and Kennsford Water. In passing
through the village a few years ago, I happened to hear that there are
five wise men of Withypool, whose names were mentioned to me. One, I
believe, was a follower of St Crispin, whom his neighbours, on account
of his being at once “long-headed” and little of stature, called, Torney
Mouse. Here also resides the renowned “Joe” Milton, a champion of the
old wrestling days, in which he bore off many a trophy.

When the snow lies piled in impracticable drifts on the main Exford
road, the Simonsbath people creep round to Dulverton and the world by
way of Withypool. Let us proceed to the capital of Exmoor by this route.
As we do so, it may be well to say something of the term “forest,” as
applied to Exmoor. To anyone who knows the country, such a description
must inevitably suggest the famous etymology, _lucus a non lucendo_;
except at Simonsbath, there is hardly a tree to be seen. But, according
to legal usage the word does not of necessity connote timber; it
indicates nothing more than an uncultivated tract of country reserved
for the chase. The term indeed is said to be identical with the Welsh
_gores_ or _gorest_ (waste land), whence comes also the word “gorse,”
used alternately with “furze,” as being a common growth on wastes. From
the earliest times, Exmoor was a royal hunting-ground, and so remained
until that portion of it which still belonged to the Crown was sold, in
1818, to Mr John Knight, of Worcestershire. The Crown allotment
comprised 10,000 acres; subsequently Mr Knight bought 6000 more, and so
became owner of, at least, four-fifths of the forest.

Much has been written concerning those ancient denizens of the moor--the
ponies. In my _Book of Exmoor_, I have dealt almost exhaustively with
the subject as regards the pure breed; and every year experts in horsey
matters favour the British public with accounts of those wary little
animals in various periodicals. Sportsmen, however, have often put to me
the question, “After all, what good are they?” That they are good for
some purpose, is proved by the ready sales at Bampton Fair; but it is
true, nevertheless, that the breed labours under a grave disadvantage in
point of size, and those interested in the problem have often essayed to
produce a serviceable cross.

Instead of treating once again those aspects of pony science which have
been discussed _ad nauseam_, I propose to devote attention almost
exclusively to Mr Knight’s remarkable efforts in this direction, full
particulars of which have never, so far I know, been embodied in any
permanent work.

For some years previous to the sale of the forest, the price of the
ponies ranged from four to six pounds, but the exportation of this class
of live-stock, as well as sheep, did not always proceed on regular or
legitimate lines. The Exmoor shepherds, in defiance of the “anchor
brand,” took liberal tithe of them, and, at nightfall, passed them over
the hills to their crafty Wiltshire customers. On the completion of the
sale the original uncrossed herd was transferred to Winsford Hill, where
Sir Thomas had another “allotment,” only a dozen mare ponies being left
to continue the line. At that time Soho Square was as fashionable a
quarter as Belgravia, and one of its residents was the celebrated
naturalist, Sir Joseph Banks, who invited Mr Knight to a dinner party.
Bruce’s Abyssinian stories were then all the rage, and the conversation
chanced to fall on the merits of the Dongola horse, described by the
“travelling giant” as an Arab of sixteen hands, peculiar to the regions
round about Nubia. Sir Joseph consulted his guests as to the
desirability of procuring some of the breed, and Lords Hadley, Morton,
and Dundas, and Mr Knight were so enamoured of the idea that they handed
him there and then a joint cheque for one thousand pounds to cover the
expense.

Over and above their height, the Dongola animals had somewhat Roman
noses, their skin was of a very fine texture, they were well chiselled
under the jowl, and, like all their race, clear-winded. As regards their
action, it was of the “knee-in-the-curb-chain” sort, whilst their short
thick backs and great hindquarters made them rare weight-carriers. As
against all this, the “gaudy blacks” had flattish ribs, drooping croups,
rather long white legs, and blaze foreheads. Perfect as _manège_ horses,
the dusky Nubian who brought them over galloped them straight at a wall
in the riding-school, making them stop dead when they reached it.
Altogether ten or twelve horses and mares arrived, of which the Marquis
of Anglesey observed that they would “improve any breed alive.” Acting
on his advice, Mr Knight bought Lord Hadley’s share, and two sires and
three mares were at once sent to Simonsbath, where the new owner had
established a stud of seven or eight thoroughbred mares, thirty
half-breds of the coaching Cleveland variety, and a dozen twelve-hand
pony mares. The result of the first cross between these last and one of
the Dongolas was that the produce came generally fourteen hands two, and
very seldom black. The mealy nose, so distinctive of the Exmoors, was
completely knocked; but not so the buffy, which stood true to its
colour, so that the type was not wholly destroyed.

The West Somerset pack often visited Exmoor to draw for a fox, and on
such occasions the services of white-robed guides were usually called
into requisition; but the half Dongolas performed so admirably that this
practice gradually fell into disuse. They managed to get down the
difficult hills so cleverly, and in crossing the brooks were so close up
to the hounds, that nothing further was necessary.[14]

The cross-out was intended for size only, not for character. No sire
with the Dongola blood was used, and such mares as did not retain a
good proportion of the Exmoor type were immediately drafted. The first
important successor of the Dongola was Pandarus, a white-coloured son of
Whalebone, fifteen hands high, who confirmed the original bay, but
reduced the standard to thirteen hands or thirteen and a half. Another
sire was Canopus, a grandson of Velocipede, by whom the fine breeding as
well as the Pandarus bay was perpetuated.

Meanwhile the colts were wintered on limed land, and thus enabled to
bear up pretty well against the climate. Later, however, the farms were
let by the late Sir Frederick (then Mr F. W.) Knight--a course which
necessitated the withdrawal of the ponies to the naked moor, where, if
the mares with the first cross could put up with the fare and the
climate, they grew too thin to give any milk. On the other hand, those
which were only half bred stood it well with their foals. About 1842 the
whole pony stud was remodelled. The lighter mares were drafted, and from
that time Mr Knight resolved to stick to his own ponies and the
conventional sire. For many years this was strictly observed, and apart
from the chestnut Hero, a horse of massive build sprung from a Pandarus
sire, and the grey Lillias, of almost unalloyed Acland blood, no colour
was used but the original buff.

An able judge who visited the moor in 1860, included in his report the
following remarks, which are worth quoting:--

“The pony stock consists of a hundred brood mares of all ages, from one
to thirteen. The mares are put to the horse at three, and up to that
age they share the eight hundred heather acres of Badgery with the red
deer and the blackcock, protected on all sides by high stone walls,
which even Lillias, the gay Lothario of the moor, cannot jump in his
moonlight rambles....

“The bays and the buffy bays (a description of yellow), both with mealy
noses, are in a majority of at least three to one. The ten sires are all
wintered together in an allotment until the 1st of May, apart from the
mares; but Lillias, who has more of the old pony blood than any of them,
twice scrambled over at least a score of six feet walls, and away to his
loved North Forest. It is a beautiful sight to see them jealously
beating the bounds, when they are once more in their own domains; and
they would, if they wore shoes, break every bone in a usurper’s skin.
The challenge to a battle royal is given with a snort, and then they
commence by rearing up against each other’s necks, so as to get the
first leverage for a worry. When they weary of that they turn tail to
tail, and commence a series of heavy exchanges, till the least exhausted
of the two watches his opportunity, and whisking round, gives his
antagonist a broadside in the ribs, which fairly echoes down the glen.
In the closing scene they face each other once more, and begin like
bull-dogs to manœuvre for their favourite bite on the arm. The first
which is caught off his guard goes down like a shot, and then scurries
off with the victor in hot pursuit, savagely ‘weaving,’ while his head
nearly touches the ground, and his ‘flag’ waves triumphantly in the air.
With the exception of Lillias, the ten are generally pretty content
with their one thousand acres of territory, and like Sayers and Heenan,
they are ultimately ‘reconciled’ in November.

“The percentage of deaths is comparatively small, and during last
winter, when many of the old ponies fairly gave in on the neighbouring
hills, Mr Knight’s ponies fought through it, but five or six of them
died from exhaustion at foaling, or slipped foals at ten months. Their
greatest peril is when they are tempted into bogs about that period by
the green bait of the early aquatic grasses, and flounder about under
weakness and heavy pressure till they die. The stud-book contains some
very curious records. ‘Died of old age in the snow,’ forms quite a
pathetic St Bernard sort of entry. ‘Found dead in a bog’ has less poetry
about it. ‘Iron grey, found dead with a broken leg at the foot of a
hill,’ is rather an odd mortality comment on such a chamois-footed race;
while ‘grey mare c. 22 and grey yearling, missing; both found, mare with
a foal at her foot,’ gives a rather more cheery glimpse of forest
history.”

The “forest mark,” with which the foals are branded on the saddle-place,
was changed by Mr Knight from the Acland anchor to the spur, which
formed part of his crest, and is burnt in with a hot iron, just enough
to sear the roots of the hair. No age eradicates it. Should a dispute
arise concerning a wandering pony, the hair is clipped off, and once it
happened that after a white sire had been lost for three seasons he was
discovered in this manner by the head herdsman’s brother. The spur has
only one heel, and the brand can be affixed with a rowel pointing in
four directions, on each side of the pony, beginning towards the neck.
It thus coincides with a cycle of eight years, and is available as a
guide if the footmarks are prematurely worn out.

The hoof-marks are of two kinds--that of the year of entry on the off
hoof, and the register figure of the dam on the near. In the second week
of October the Dominical letters of their year are placed on the
yearlings, and the registered hoof-marks renewed on the mares. The foal,
of course, is not marked on the foot, but an exact record is taken of
his dam and all his points.

Until 1850 the ponies were sold by private contract. Sales were then
established, and in 1853 an auditory of two hundred persons assembled at
Stony Plot, the knoll with its belt of grey quartz boulders where now
stands the church. The following autumn the venue was altered to Bampton
Fair. There is a curious story or legend--I hardly know what to make of
it--that after one of the Simonsbath sales a Mr Lock, of Lynmouth,
roasted an Exmoor pony for his friends, who, if they ever partook of the
repast, must be credited with fine Tartar taste.

According to one version the original Exmoor ponies, with their buffy
bay colour and mealy nose, were brought over by the Phœnicians during
their visits to the shores of Cornwall to trade in tin and metals; and
ever since that time the animals have preserved their characteristics.
We do not propose to go so far back into the recesses of history, but
will return for a moment to the now rather distant date, 1790, before

[Illustration: BAGWORTHY VALLEY (page 141).]

which hardly anything is known of Simonsbath. At that period there are
said to have been only five men and a woman and a girl on Exmoor. The
girl drew beer at the Simonsbath public-house, and the customers were a
decidedly rough lot. Doones indeed there were none--their day was
past--but the illicit love of mutton was universal in the West country,
as was also a partiality for cheap cognac. Smugglers slung their kegs
across their “scrambling Jacks” at night, and hid their treasure in the
rocks, or left it at a certain gate till the next mystic hand in the
living chain gave it a lift on the road to Exeter. When they did not
care to do this, there were always friendly cellars under the old house
at Simonsbath. The ale was decent, the landlady wisely deaf, and who can
doubt that the old ingle, where the date 1654 still lingers on a beam
shorn or built into half its length, heard many an exciting tale of
contraband prime brandy and extra parochial liberties which would have
extorted blushes from an honest beadle and groans from a conscientious
exciseman?

Simonsbath having been formerly so insignificant, it is not to be
wondered at that Blackmore only refers to it as the abode of a “wise
woman,” by which he means a witch (_Lorna Doone_, chapter xviii.).



CHAPTER X

BAGWORTHY AND BRENDON


Simonsbath is the centre of several converging roads, all of them
waiting to help the traveller out of Exmoor before he is well in it. A
drive from Lynton or some other fairly populous or fashionable resort,
followed by a lunch at the Simonsbath Hotel, is many people’s conception
of the proper method of “doing” Exmoor; but, while pleasant enough as an
excursion, such a mode of exploration permits of only scanty guesses and
imperfect glimpses of the inner fastnesses, which seem for the most part
far away.

If the excitement of the chase be not too distracting, possibly the best
way of acquainting oneself with the country is by following the
staghounds; but should that be impracticable, the most useful advice the
writer can offer is to follow the watercourses. Any one of these, if
patiently traced, will usher the pilgrim into Nature’s mysterious
solitudes, which, if he be at all of a contemplative turn of mind, will
awaken in him many a pleasant or pensive reverie. In any case, one must
get away from the roads, the very excellence of which is evil, as
tempting to sloth.

I cannot, however, send forth an innocent person into the wilds without
referring to the bogs. Personally, I have a considerable respect for
Exmoor bogs, as I have for “they Hexëmoor vogs,” which are equally
treacherous, and make one wet through as sure and as fast as any rain;
nor is it so many years ago that Sheardon Hutch and similar names were
sounds of terror in my ears. Familiarity breeds contempt, and therefore
those at home in the district--some of them, at all events--are apt to
disparage these man-traps, which are not by any means confined to the
low lands, but are found on the summits of hills, especially the
notorious Chains. In many places black decayed vegetable matter has been
accumulating for ages to a depth of several feet, and as the rocks
beneath are of the transition class, impervious to water, the rain is
retained and saturates the bog-mould. After much wet weather, there are
spots that will not bear the weight of a man, let alone a horse, and in
riding over the moor, they constitute so real and serious a danger that
great care should be exercised to avoid getting into them. Otherwise it
may prove an impossible task to extricate the devoted “mount.” There is
one consolation--heather will not grow on those deep bogs, and wherever
its purple bells show, the ground is safe.

The Exmoor hills are variously configured. Sometimes they take the form
of a bold foreland, sometimes of a continuous ridge, sometimes of an
isolated cone or orb. A very intelligent moorman reminded me, somewhat
superfluously, when I looked in upon him on a September evening, that
all the hills have names, and queer names some of them are--_e.g._,
“Tom’s Hill,” “Swap Hill,” “Scob Hill,” etc., etc. The meaning of not a
few is anything but plain, but one “termination,” if the phrase be
permitted, speaks for itself. I allude to the expression “ball,” which
is frequent on Exmoor, and much more likely to be derived from visual
impression than any long-descended traditions of Baal, to which a late
friend of mine, out of regard for the Phœnicians and their
hill-altars, was anxious to assign it. Thus we have Cloutsham Ball
(famous as the scene of the opening-meet of the Devon and Somerset
Staghounds), Ware Ball, Ricksy Ball, Ferny Ball, and, as a gloss, Round
Hill. The intersecting valleys have somewhat the character of huge
corridors leading in and out of each other, and the smaller “combes,”
running up into the hills, may be likened to stairways of providential
appointment, for the Exmoor “sides” are not quite perpendicular. The
hill-tops and slopes are dotted with sure-footed Exmoor horned sheep and
Cheviots, beautiful long-tailed ponies, and a few red cattle. The grass
is of two sorts--a short, close variety found in the drier parts, and
tall sedge grass on wet ground, where it grows rankly. Sheep are fond of
the former when it comes up green and fresh after the annual “swalings,”
which take place in February or March. Exmoor sheep have faces like
those of the native deer, being free from wool, while the sharp-pointed
nose resembles that of a fox.

Simonsbath village is in a sheltered position on the left bank of the
Barle, and, thanks to the care of the late Sir Frederick Knight and his
father, it is further protected against the keen winterly gales by ample
plantations of fir and other trees. Hence we again mount the hills, this
time in the direction of Brendon Two Gates, where the “forest” ends.
After a time we gain a point from which a good view is obtained of the
Prayway (or Prayaway) Meads. There are no hedges here, and, with the
inconsistency of human nature, one misses them. It seems so odd to stand
and gaze over a grassy expanse that has never been enclosed, and yet has
much the look of ordinary meadow. Through the midst flows the Exe, here
quite a baby-stream; we are, indeed, not far from its source. To those
who are familiar with its lower reaches, and call to mind the river as
it appears (say) at Cowley Bridge, the sight is inexpressibly absurd.
The absence of trees and shrubs makes Prayway seem bare and forsaken.
The high sloping banks are like deserted ramparts or--but the name may
have some influence--the nave of a vast natural cathedral haunted by the
ghosts of dead Britons. Continuing our route, we arrive at a gate,
inside which is a sort of quarry known as Black Pits. The gate opens
into a common, at the other end of which is Brendon Two Gates. The
origin of this term has been explained; it may be well to add that at
present it is a misnomer.

We now for the first time catch sight of Bagworthy, lying over on the
right, and Bagworthy, as the reader may happen to remember, was, or has
been imputed to be, the stronghold of the savage Doones. This is, in a
sense, the parting of the ways. The traveller may either quit the
beaten track for the carpet of sward in quest of a shepherd’s cot,
whence he may easily proceed to the traditional site of Doone Castle and
down the Doone valley, along the Bagworthy Water, to Malmsmead, where
the Bagworthy water unites with the East Lyn, and so by Cosgate or
Brendon to Lynton; or he may stick to the road, which will take him by a
shorter cut to the same destination, by Farley and Cheriton and the
aforesaid Scob Hill. It may be that, like the mythical churchmen of old,
when asked to state which see he preferred--Bath or Wells--the
latter-day pilgrim may elect for “both.” I will assume, however, that
his immediate objective is the famous valley, and that, once there, he
will pursue without faltering the longest way round.

Technically we are no longer on Exmoor. Bagworthy, Badgworthy, or
Badgery--all are permissible forms--is in the parish of Brendon and the
county of Devon. In ancient times the wood is said to have covered a
much greater area, and a century ago some of the older shepherds could
point out its former limits. Within their recollection and since their
time, its dimensions steadily contracted, until the disappointment with
the valley, to which visitors so often and freely own, became
explicable.

Now it must be admitted that in _Lorna Doone_ there is a large spice of
exaggeration, and this quality is naturally reflected in the
illustrations with which the goodlier editions are adorned. Such
deviations from the literal have brought it to pass that nowhere is
Blackmore in so little esteem as among the hills he pictured so
lovingly. Even the humble writer of the present volume probably enjoys
on Exmoor a greater measure of esteem as a more trustworthy historian of
the neighbourhood. But, sensible people will agree, the writer of a
romance must be in a large measure a law unto himself, and he is under
not the least obligation to consult the feelings of plain folk incapable
of sharing his flights of imagination. It is a question of the light
“borrowed from the youthful poet’s dream,” and I am inclined to apply
the phrase in a somewhat distinct and definite sense. A romance--this
romance in particular--may be regarded as a fairy-tale raised to a
higher plane of evolution, and Blackmore seems to have possessed the
godlike faculty of reflecting in his pages the shining images of his
boyish fantasy, when, to copy Kingsley, every goose was a swan and every
lass a queen. On this point I shall say no more, but return forthwith to
the matter-of-fact. This includes the deep pool and the waterslide, but
the reality of Doone Castle, or its remains, cannot for various reasons
be taken for granted.

The first printed notice regarding these malefactors occurs in Mr
Cooper’s _Guide to Lynton_, published in 1851, and runs as follows:--

“The ruins of a village long forsaken and deserted stand in an adjacent
valley, which, before the destruction of the timber, must have been a
spot exactly suited to the wants of the wild inhabitants. Tradition
relates that it consisted of eleven cottages, and that here the ‘Doones’
took up their residence, being the terror of the country for many miles
round. For a long time they were in the habit of escaping with their
booty across the wild hills of Exmoor to Bagworthy, where few thought it
safe or even practicable to follow them. They were not natives of this
part of the country, but having been disturbed by the Revolution from
their homes, suddenly entered Devonshire and erected the village alluded
to. It was known from the first to the inhabitants of the neighbouring
villages that this village was erected and inhabited by robbers, but the
fear which their deeds inspired in the minds of the peasants prevented
them from attacking and destroying it. The idea is prevalent that before
their leaving home they had been men of distinction, and not common
peasants. The site of a house may still be seen on a part of the forest
called the Warren, which is said to have belonged to a person called
‘the Squire,’ who was robbed and murdered by the Doones.

“A farmhouse called Yenworthy, lying just above Glenthorne, on the left
of the Lynton and Porlock road, was beset by them one night; but a woman
firing on them from one of the windows with a long duck-gun, they
retreated, and blood was tracked the next morning for several miles in
the direction of Bagworthy. The gun was found at Yenworthy, and was
purchased by the Rev. W. S. Halliday. They entered and robbed a house at
Exford in the evening before dark, and found there only a child, whom
they murdered. A woman servant who was concealed in an oven, is said to
have heard them say to the unfortunate infant the following barbarous
couplet:

    ‘If any one asks who killed thee,
     Tell ’m ’twas the Doones of Bagworthy.’

[Illustration: BRENDON, NEAR OARE (page 150).]

“It was for this murder that the whole country rose in arms against
them, and going to their abode in great haste and force, succeeded in
taking into custody the whole gang, who soon after met with the
punishment due to their crimes.”

This excerpt represents the legend of the Doones which Blackmore
inherited, and which it is absurd to designate as his invention. What he
did was to add colour and definition to an already existing, though
faded, tradition. How much of the substructure of _Lorna Doone_ is due
to his imaginative genius, is a fascinating problem, which, it is to be
feared, it is beyond the wit of man to solve satisfactorily. In the
above quotation, for instance, no mention occurs of the heroine, but it
does not follow that she found no place in the local tales, and
Blackmore, quite as good an authority as the writer of the guide, and on
this particular subject even better, expressly affirms the contrary.

As to the time of the Doones, Mr Cooper, it will be noticed, says “after
the Revolution.” This is altogether opposed to Blackmore’s account,
which sets back their advent to a date long anterior to 1688. Mr Edwin
J. Rawle, whose valuable _Annals of the Royal Forest of Exmoor_ entitles
him to a very respectful hearing, is absolute in rejecting any
historical basis for the tradition, the mere existence of which he
tardily acknowledges. Mr Rawle’s theory is that “Doone” really stands
for “Dane,” the sea-wolves in the olden times having harried the
neighbourhood pretty severely. I do not know what philologers may say of
this suggestion, but the vagaries of the local dialect suggest a far
more plausible explanation. In the romance John Fry speaks of his
“goon,” meaning his “gun.” Now “Dunn” is a fairly common patronymic in
the West Country, and I am informed that the natives formerly pronounced
the vowel in an indeterminate manner consistent with either spelling.

Blackmore, however, evidently regarded the name as identical with the
Scottish “Doune,” and his assertion of a high North British pedigree for
the robbers has been wonderfully seconded of late by the publication of
Miss Ida Browne’s _Short History of the Original Doones_, which, if
correct in every particular, proves amongst other things how extremely
imperfect and untrustworthy are many of the records on which the
scrupulous historian is wont to rely. Mr Rawle will not have that it is
correct, and her pleasant and plausible narrative is the object of a
fierce onslaught in his brochure, _The Doones of Exmoor_. Personally, I
have always favoured the notion that the rogues were a similar set to
the Gubbinses and Cheritons, little communities of moorland savages, and
that their rascalities, handed down from generation to generation, were
magnified and distorted in every re-telling. This solution has the
advantage of being easily reconciled with Mr Rawle’s demand for
authentic evidence of their monstrous doings and Blackmore’s and Miss
Ida’s Browne’s insistence on their Scottish nationality. To me, however,
it seems like beating the air to attempt any final settlement of the
question on our present information, and if I again refer to the lady’s
booklet--already I have given the substance of it in my _Book of
Exmoor_--it is not so much from the belief that it casts any certain
light on the actuality of the Exmoor marauders as on account of the
possibility--which she notes--that Blackmore by some means obtained
access to the evidence now in her possession.

This consists of a manuscript entitled “The Lineage and History of our
Family, from 1561 to the Present Day,” compiled by Charles Doone of
Braemar, 1804; the Journal of Rupert Doone, 1748; oral information, and
certain family heirlooms. Assuming these to be genuine, there is
obviously much likelihood, in view of the numerous points in common,
that Blackmore succeeded in getting hold of the written testimony of the
later Doones; and, indeed, the circumstance may have been the factor
which led him to elaborate the romance on a scale transcending that of
his other stories, since he must have realised that here he had struck
an entirely original vein of historical fiction.

Before quitting this part of the subject, it is desirable to present the
views of the Rev. J. F. Chanter, who has given much attention to the
problem, and whose long and intimate acquaintance with the district
invests his opinions with exceptional importance. In a letter received
from him, he remarks:--

“I may say that, as far as I am concerned, I accept as genuine the main
facts of Miss Browne’s story, but not its details, _i.e._, the
relationship between Sir Ensor and Lord Moray, or even Sir Ensor being a
knight. The title ‘Sir’ was given at that date to many who were neither
knights nor baronets, _e.g._, the clergy always; and as I find in rural
districts, even to this day, a lady of the manor is spoken of, and
written to, as Lady so-and-so. Mr Rawle’s criticism is entirely
negative; his position seems to be this:--Miss Browne’s paper states
that Sir Ensor was twin brother of Lord Moray. Now Lord Moray had no
twin brother; therefore the whole claim falls to the ground.”

To this I answer:

“1. If the claim of Charles Doone of Braemar, as to the ancestry of his
family, is wrong, it is absurd to say he had no ancestors. We are all
apt to claim as ancestors people who were not really so, and many of the
published pedigrees do this, claiming as ancestors some of the same
name, though there is no evidence of the link.

“2. The peerage is no evidence that Lord Moray had not other brothers,
though not twins. There is, for instance, evidence that Lord Moray had a
brother mentioned in no peerage I ever saw, one John Stuart who was
executed for murder in 1609.

“3. There may have been merely a tribal connection between the Doones of
Bagworthy and the Stewarts of Doune, and a tribal feud caused them to
fly to a remote spot; and they were recalled on a later Lord Moray
wanting every help when he fell from Royal favour.

“Be this as it may, Miss Browne’s story fits in so wonderfully with
Blackmore’s romance that I cannot conceive he had not heard of it. This
I can vouch for--Miss Browne did not invent it.

“Now as to Miss Browne’s documentary evidence, I had the original of
Charles Doone’s family history, and it was undoubtedly a genuine
document of the age it purported to be. I made a full copy of it. Of
other documents I only saw copies. The originals she stated to be in the
possession of a cousin in Scotland, and promised to get them for me as
soon as she could. I have, however, not seen them as yet. The relics
also seem to me genuine.”

It must not be supposed that these were Blackmore’s only sources of
information--they deal in the main with merely one side of the story.
Other material, both written and oral, was available on the spot. Mr
Chanter observes on this point: “I myself can perfectly recall that,
when I first went to a boarding-school in 1863, there was a boy there
from the Exmoor neighbourhood who used to relate at night in the
dormitories blood-curdling stories of the Doones.” That boy, it is
interesting to know, is still alive. At any rate, he was alive in July
1903, when he addressed to the _Daily Chronicle_ the following letter in
answer to a sceptical effusion from a correspondent signing himself
“West Somerset.” “‘West Somerset’ could never have known Exmoor half so
intimately as was the case with myself during my boyhood, youth, and
early manhood, or he must have heard of the Doones. During the ‘fifties’
and ‘sixties’ of last century I lived on Exmoor, knew it thoroughly, and
rarely missed a meet of the staghounds. The stories or legends of the
Doones were perfectly familiar to me. They varied much, but the germs of
the great romance were so well known and remembered by me that when it
was issued, one of its many charms was the tracing of the writer’s
embroidery of the current tales. I have hardly been in the district
since 1868, but my memory is sufficiently good to remember the names of
several from whom I heard the traditional annals. Among them were John
Perry, the old ‘wanter’ or mole-catcher of Luccombe; Larkham, the
one-armed gamekeeper of Sir Thomas Acland, and above all, Blackmore, the
harbourer of the deer.[15] The name of another old man, who allowed me
on two occasions to take down Doone stories at the inn at Brendon, has
escaped me. So familiar were these stories to me when I was a boy that I
used to retail them with curdling embellishments of my own in the
dormitory of a West-country boarding-school. The result of this was that
a room-mate of mine, either just before or just after he went to Oxford,
wove my yarns (he had not himself then ever visited Exmoor) into a
story, which he called ‘The Doones of Exmoor.’ This tale was eventually
published in some half-dozen consecutive numbers of the _Leisure Hour_.
My copy of it has long been lost, but I remember that, though it was
delayed some time by the editor, it appeared three or four years before
_Lorna Doone_. Moreover, I had a letter from Mr R. D. Blackmore, soon
after his immortal work was issued, wherein he acknowledged that it was
the accidental glancing at the poor stuff in the _Leisure Hour_ that
gave him the clue for the weaving of the romance, and caused him to
study the details on the spot. I have never been across Exmoor since
_Lorna Doone_ was published, but I am sure that I could at once find my
way either on foot or horseback to the very place that I knew so well as
the stronghold of the Doones, either from the Porlock or the Lynton
side.”

I am permitted to quote also a passage from a private letter of Miss
Gratiana Chanter (now Mrs Longworth Knocker), author of _Wanderings in
North Devon_, who is a firm believer in the Doones.

“I wish you could have a talk with old John Bate of Tippacott [he is
dead]; he gave me a most exciting description one day of how the Doones
first ‘coomed in over.’ No dates, of course; you never get them. He said
there was a farmhouse in the Doone Valley where an old farmer lived with
his maidservant. ’Twas one terrible snowy night when the Doones first
‘coomed.’ They came to the house and turned the farmer and his maid out
into the black night. Both were found dead--one at the withy bank and
the other somewhere else. He said, ‘They say, Miss, they was honest folk
in the North, but they took to thieving wonderful quick.’

“Bate, and one John Lethaby, a mason, were both at work at the building
of the shepherd’s cot in the Doone Valley, and had tales of an
underground passage they found that fell in, and that they took a lot of
stones from the huts for the shepherd’s cot.”

To return to Mr Chanter, we learn that, even before those nightly
entertainments in the dormitory, he had read about the Doones in an old
manuscript belonging to his father, and he adds that there were to be
found at that period in North Devon several such manuscripts, which, he
thinks, had a common origin, and might be traced to the tales of old
people living in and around Lynton seventy or eighty years ago. In range
of information and power of memory none might compare with a reputed
witch, one Ursula Johnson, who, though now practically forgotten, can be
proved from the parish register to have been born a Babb in 1738--not
forty years after the exeunt of the Doones. The family of Babb were
servants to Wichehalses, and one may recall the circumstance that in
chapter lxx. of _Lorna Doone_ John Babb is represented as shooting and
capturing Major Wade. Ursula was not so ignorant as many of her gossips,
and upon her marriage to Richard Johnson, a “sojourner,” could sign her
name--a feat of which the bridegroom was incapable. Her long life
reached its termination in 1826, when she was, so to speak, within sight
of ninety.

Seven years later a locally well-remembered vicar, the Rev. Matthew
Murdy, came to Lynton, and being keenly interested in the old lady’s
stories, began a collection of them. Subsequently two friends of his, Dr
and Miss Cowell, entered into his labours by “pumping” Ursula Fry, a
native of Pinkworthy on Exmoor, and Aggie Norman. Both were tough old
creatures, the former dying in 1856, at the age of ninety, and the
latter in 1860, when she was eighty-three. In Mrs Norman, who passed a
good deal of her time in a hut built by her husband on the top of the
Castle Rock, in the Valley of

[Illustration: NICHOLAS SNOW’S FARMYARD GATE (page 159).]

Rocks, Lynton, Mr Chanter identifies the original Mother Meldrum.

Mr Mundy reduced the tales to something like literary shape, and they
were then transcribed by the older girls in the National School, whose
mistress, Miss Spurrier, saw that the copies were properly executed. An
old lady residing at Lynton possesses one of the documents, dated 1848,
of which the contents include a description of the neighbourhood,
reference to Ursula Johnson, and three “legends”: those of De
Wichehalse, the Doones of Bagworthy, and Faggus and his Strawberry
Horse. In the _Western Antiquary_ of 1884, part xi., may be found an
excellent account of the manuscript by the late Mr J. R. Chanter, who
quotes the following observations by the editor:--

“The recent introduction of candles into the cottages of the
neighbouring poor has tended greatly to produce the most lamentable
decay of legendary lore: the old housewife, crouching over the
smouldering turf, no longer enlivens the tedious winter evening with
well-remembered tales of the desperate deeds of the outlaws or the
wonders wrought by the witches or wisemen, and many of the curious
legends are in danger of being consigned to utter oblivion, unless
immediately collected from the old peasants, who are falling fast: their
children being by far too much engrossed by the Jacobin publications of
the day, to pay any attention to these memorials of the days of yore.
From these causes much has already been lost.”

That R. D. Blackmore obtained a sight of one of these MSS. is, on the
face of it, extremely probable, but for certain elements of the story
he might well have been indebted to his grandfather, the Rector of Oare.
Such are the account of the great frost, the mining and wrestling
incidents, and the tales of the Doones, in chapters v. and lxix., which
the notes pronounce to be authentic, and which differ from other
versions.

I come now to the facts of the Wade episode mentioned in chapter lxx. of
_Lorna Doone_. In this same parish of Brendon is a hamlet called
Bridgeball, and on a hill just above the hamlet is Farley farm, where a
comparatively new house occupies the site of an older structure pulled
down in 1853. It was on this farm that Major Wade, one of the leaders in
the Monmouth Rebellion, was captured after the battle of Sedgemoor.
Driven ashore in an attempt to escape down the Channel, he succeeded in
concealing himself for several days among the rocks at Illford Bridges,
and made a confidante of the wife of a little farmer named How, who
lived at Bridgeball in a house of which he was the owner, while the
field behind it and a portion of land near the present parsonage were
also his property. The good woman provided him with food so long as he
continued in his rocky hiding-place, and interceded for him with a
farmer at Farley named Birch, who consented to harbour him for a time.
Situated on the verge of Exmoor, no refuge could have appeared more
secure than this isolated spot, but the event proved that Wade might
have been as safe, or safer, in a great and populous centre. To his
credit it must be recorded that, after obtaining his pardon, the gallant
gentleman did not forget his benefactress, on whom he settled an
annuity. The particulars of his capture have been preserved in the
Lansdowne MS., No. 1152, which contains the following rather dramatic
reports:--


“_To the Right Hon. the Earl of Sunderland, Principal Secretary of
State._

“BARNSTAPLE, _y_{e} 31st July 1685_.

     “My Lord,--I here enclosed send your Lop. an account of y^{e}
     apprehending of Nathaniel Wade, one of y^{e} late rebells. I came
     to this towne to-day, and can, therefore, only give y^{r} Lop.
     w^{t} relation I have from y^{e} apothecary and chirurgeon w^{ch}
     they had drawn up in a letter designed for Sir Bourchier Wrey;
     their examination of him is enclosed in y^{e} letter, to w^{ch} I
     refer your Lop. He continues very ill of a wound given him at his
     apprehending sixteen miles hence, at Braundon parish in Devon. I
     designe to examine him as soon as his condition will permitt, he
     promising to make large and considerable confessions; and herein,
     or if he dye, I humbly desire your Lop.’^{s} directions to me at
     Barnstaple, and shall herein proceed as becomes my duty to his
     Majesty and your Lop.--My Lord, y^{r} Lop.’^{s} most humble
     Servant,

RICHARD ARMESLEY.”



“_To the Honourable Sir Bourchier Wrey, K^{t}. and Bart., in London._

“BRENDON, _30th July ’85_.

     “Hon^{rd} Sir,--This comes to give you an account of one, not y^{e}
     least of y^{e} rebells, who was taken up last Monday night at a
     place called Fairleigh in y^{e} p’ish of Brundun, by Jno.
     Witchalse, Esq., Ric^{d} Powell, Rec^{t} of y^{e} same, Jno. Babb,
     serv^{t} to Jno. Witchalse and Rob. Parris. They haveing some small
     notice of a stranger to have bin a little before about y^{t}
     village, came about nine of y^{e} clock at night to one Jno.
     Burtchis house. As soon as they had guarded y^{e} house round, they
     heard a noise. Watching closely and being well armed, out of a
     little back door slipt out this person within named, and two more
     as they say, and run all as hard as they cold. Babb and Parris
     espieing them, bid them stand againe and againe. They still kept
     running, and they cockt their pistols at them. Parris his mist
     fire, but Babb’s went off, being charg^{d} w^{th} a single bullett,
     w^{ch} stuck very close in y^{e} rebells right side; ye entrance
     was about two inches from y^{e} spina doris. Y^{e} bullett lodged
     in y^{e} under part of y^{e} right hypogastrind, w^{ch} we cut out.
     Y^{e} bullett past right under y^{e} pleura; from the orifice it
     entered to y^{e} other, w^{ch} we were forced to make to extract
     y^{e} bullett (having strong convulsions on him): it was in
     distance between six and seven inches. He was very faint, having
     lost a great quantity of blood. Y^{e} orifice we made (y^{e}
     bullett lying neere y^{e} cutis) was halfe an inch higher y^{n}
     y^{e} other. It begins to digest, and his spirits are much revived,
     only this day about 10 of y^{e} clock he was taken with an aguish
     fitt, w^{ch} I suppose was caused by his hard diet and cold lodging
     ever since y^{e} rout, he leaving his horse at Illfordcomb. Ever
     since Tuesday last in the afternoon, Mr Ravening and myself have
     bin w^{th} him, and cannot w^{th} safety move from him. We desire
     to know his Maties pleasure w^{t} we shall due w^{th} his corps, if
     he dyes, w^{ch} if he does before ye answer, we think to embowell
     him. We will due w^{t} possible we can, for he hath assur^{d} us,
     y^{t} as soon as he is a little better, he will make a full
     discovery of all he knows, of w^{ch} this inclosed is part, by
     w^{ch} he hopes to have, but not by merrits, his pardon. Here is
     noe one y^{t} comes to him y^{t} he will talk soe freely w^{th} as
     w^{th} us; if you will have any materiall questions of business or
     p’sons to be askt of him, pray give it in y^{rs} to us. We will be
     privat, faithfull, to o^{r} King, whome God long preserve. W^{ch}
     is all at present from them who will ever make it their business to
     be.--S^{r} y^{r} most humble Serv^{ts},

“Nic^{s} Cooke and HENRY RAVENING.”



The addressee was Sir Bourchier Wrey, of Tawstock, Bart., son of another
Sir Bourchier, and grandson of Sir Chichester Wrey, who married Ann,
youngest daughter of Edward Bourchier, Earl of Bath.

Bagworthy and Farley are both in the parish of Brendon, but we must not
forget that, as regards bodily presence, we are still in the Doone
valley, and not far from Oare, where, according to Rupert Doone’s Diary,
his ancestors, on quitting Scotland in 1627, first fixed their
residence. They then removed to the upper part of the Lyn valley, on an
estate bounded on one side by Oare and on the other by Bagworthy. The
Doone valley, which used to be called Hoccombe, is a glen lying between
Bagworthy Lees and Bagworthy, and Mr Chanter expresses the belief that
this name and that of “Lorna’s Bower” were first applied to the small
sidecombes by his cousins, the Misses Chanter, soon after the
publication of _Lorna Doone_. Ruins of the traditional “Castle,”
rectangular in form, are still to be traced, and consist of two groups.
Unfortunately, stones were taken from them to build an adjoining wall,
and now it is impossible to state the character of the buildings, some
of which were probably houses, and others cattle-sheds. Miss Browne,
indeed, is of opinion that they were all of the latter description, and
that the real home of the Doones was in the Weir Water valley, between
Oareford and the rise of the East Lyn. So far as Hoccombe is concerned,
Blackmore has idealised it with a vengeance. The “sheer cliffs standing
around,” the “steep and gliddening stairway,” the rocky cleft or
“Doone-gate,” the “gnarled roots,” are all purely imaginary. As regards
“Doone track” or “Doones’ path,” it directly faces the valley, and after
crossing the Bagworthy Water, ascends the Deer Park and Oare Common, and
so to Oare. Being covered with grass or hidden by heather and scrub, it
is not easy to follow, but viewed at a little distance it presents the
appearance of a broad terraced roadway, not improbably Roman, and
connecting Showlsborough Castle, near Challacombe, with the coast. The
site of the house where the “Squire” was robbed and murdered by the
Doones is still visible in the part of the forest known as the Warren
(_Lorna Doone_, chapter lxxii.).

Exmoor was once a paradise of yeomen, thrifty sons of the soil, who
owned their own farms. They consisted of two classes: those who did the
work themselves, with the assistance of their family and jobbing
workmen, to whom they paid good wages; and the owners of large farms,
where labourers were constantly employed at a shilling a day. The former
sort is entirely extinct. Many of their descendants have been merged in
the mass of common labourers; a few have risen to the rank of large
farmers; others have emigrated.

The more substantial class of yeomen is still represented in the
district. The late Mr W. L. Chorley, Master of the Quarme Harriers, was
an excellent specimen of the order, but the most relevant example is
that of the Snows, whom Blackmore treats somewhat unfairly. The family
may not have been rich in what Counsellor Doone described as the “great
element of blood,” but a genuine yeoman of the type in question would
hardly have been dubbed “Farmer Snowe,” and he certainly would not have
perpetrated such an awful lapse as “pralimbinaries.” I have been
informed by a correspondent that Blackmore apologised to the family for
his painful caricature, which was only just, in view of their actual
status and the esteem in which they are held by their neighbours. About
the year 1678, two-fifths of the manor of Oare belonged to the family of
Spurrier, and passed by marriage at the beginning of the eighteenth
century into the possession of Mr Nicholas Snow, who left it to a son of
his own name. The latter, in 1788, purchased the other three-fifths,
and, at his death in 1791, bequeathed the manor to his youngest son,
John Snow, who died without issue, leaving the property to his nephew,
Nicholas Snow--the “Farmer Snowe” of _Lorna Doone_.

It will be noticed that the Snows did not become landowners at Oare
until long after the period of the story. As for the Ridds, or Reds, the
only mention of the name in the parish register occurs in the year 1768,
when John Red was married to Mary Ley. The real Plover’s Barrows was
Broomstreet Farm, in the neighbouring parish of Culbone; at any rate, a
John Ridd was resident there. A John Fry, no mere farm-servant, was
churchwarden of Countisbury, of which Jasper Kebby was likewise a
parishioner. Plover’s Barrows has been identified by Mr Page with Mr
Snow’s residence--“according to Blackmore, anciently the farm of the
Ridds.” But in _Lorna Doone_ (chapter vii.) the two farms are
represented as adjoining, and Plover’s Barrows is evidently further
upstream (see _Lorna Doone_, chapter xiv.: “In the evening Farmer Snowe
_came up_.”) The same writer speaks of the Snows as having been seated
at Oare since the time of Alfred. Can Mr Page be thinking of John Ridd’s
boast to King Charles (_Lorna Doone_, chapter lxviii.)?

Oare Church, where the elder Ridd lay buried, where his son stole the
lead from the porch to his subsequent shame, and where the brute Carver
shot Lorna on her bridal morn, has received an addition in the shape of
the chancel

[Illustration: OARE CHURCH.]

since the last disastrous event--which, as things are, rather falsifies
the narrative. Graced with ash and sycamore, the little cemetery is as
Blackmore describes it, “as meek a place as need be.”



CHAPTER XI

THE MOUTH OF THE LYN


The scenery of the district described in many excellent guide-books may
not tally in every particular with the superb word-portraiture of _Lorna
Doone_, but that it possesses charms of supreme merit will be admitted
by all who know the country, whether as residents or visitors. Almost
before R. D. Blackmore was breeched, the poet Coleridge testified: “the
land imagery of the north of Devon is most delightful”; and his
brother-in-law, Robert Southey, is equally emphatic.

“My walk to Ilfracombe,” he says, “led me through Lynmouth, the finest
spot, except Cintra and Arrabida, that I ever saw. Two rivers [_i.e._,
the East and West Lyn] join at Lynmouth. You probably know the hill
streams of Devonshire. Each of these flows through a combe, rolling over
huge stones like a long waterfall; immediately at their juncture they
enter the sea, and the rivers and sea make but one noise of uproar. Of
these combes, the one is richly wooded, the other runs between two high,
bare, stony hills. From the hill between the two is a prospect most
magnificent, on either hand combes, and the river before the little
village--the beautiful little village--which, I am assured, by one who
is familiar with Switzerland, resembles a Swiss. This alone would
constitute a view beautiful enough to repay the weariness of a journey;
but, to complete it, there is the blue and boundless sea, for the faint
and feeble outline of the Welsh coast is only to be seen, if the day be
perfectly clear.”

Inland, it is certain, the moorland streams--Lancombe, Bagworthy Water,
the East and West Lyn, etc.--and all that they imply, are paramount
attractions; and Miss Gratiana Chanter both truly and happily observes
that, “to follow one of these tiny streams from its birth to its end, is
a dream of delight to those who love to be alone with nature and her
many marvels.” Another reason why we should seek the “founts of Lyn” is,
that there Jeremy Stickles gave his pursuers “a loud halloo” on feeling
himself secure (see _Lorna Doone_, chapter xlvii.).

The name “Lyn” is said to be derived from the Saxon word _hlynna_,
signifying a torrent. The East Lyn, rising above Oare, John Ridd’s
birthplace, flows in a north-westerly direction to Malmsmead, where it
unites with the Bagworthy Water, which at this point is the richer for
two or three tributaries, including Lancombe (or Longcombe) stream and
its waterslide. From the bridge and the thatched cottages that define
this spot, the river pursues its course past Lyford Green and Lock’s
Mill, where it encounters a weir, to Millslade and its meadows, and the
blacksmith’s forge, “where the Lyn stream runs so close that he dips
his horse-shoes in it,” (_Lorna Doone_, chapter lxii.), and thence
through woodlands to pretty Brendon. Here the Farley Water, arriving
from Hoar Oak by way of Bridgeball and Illford Bridges, joins the East
Lyn, and their confluence is known as Watersmeet, a poetical description
not belied by the rare beauty of the scene.

Meanwhile, from the hills around Woolhanger the water gathers into two
streams, which are trysted at a place called Barham, whilst at
Cheribridge another brook, hailing from Furzehill, helps to swell the
current. Passing Barbrook Mill and Lynbridge, the West Lyn weds the East
Lyn in private grounds at Lynmouth, and then the combined torrent eddies
tumultuously into the sea. Nothing can excel the cataracts of the West
Lyn, dashing athwart huge boulders and down a chasm of grey rock, in an
incline stated to be “one in five.” Clothing the sides of the ravine are
oaks and beeches and thickets of underwood, while ferns of the most
exquisite sorts fringe the banks.

        “Here are mosses deep,
    And thro’ the moss the ivies creep,
    And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
    And from the craggy ledges the poppy hangs in sleep.”

It must not be forgotten, however, that the road _via_ Brendon, Illford
Bridges, and Barbrook was that taken by John Ridd and Uncle Reuben on
their visit to Ley Manor (_Lorna Doone_, chapter xv.).

All who are fond of quaint authors will find a congenial companion in
old Thomas Westcote, whose _Survey of Devon_, written in the reign of
James I., or during the early years of his successor, is stored with all
manner of gossip, set forth with many a stroke of arch or _naïve_
humour. In his book, at all events, he approaches Lynton by much the
same route as we have followed, and then spins us an amusing yarn about
the finny visitors and a certain parson.

“For our easier and better proceeding, let us once again return to
Exmoor. We will, with an easy pace, ascend the mount of Hore Oak Ridge;
not far from whence we shall find the spring of the rivulet Lynne,
which, in his course, will soon lead us into the North Division, for I
desire you should always swim with the stream, and neither stem wind nor
tide. This passeth by Cunsbear, _alias_ Countisbury, and naming Lynton,
where Galfridus Lovet and Cecilia de Lynne held sometime land, and,
speeding, falls headlong with a great downfall into the Severn at
Lynmouth; a place unworthy the name of a haven, only a little inlet,
which, in these last times, God hath plentifully stored with herrings
(the king of fishes), which, shunning their ancient places of repair in
Ireland, come hither abundantly in shoals, offering themselves (as I may
say) to the fishers’ nets, who soon resorted hither with divers
merchants, and so, for five or six years, continued to the great benefit
and good of the country, until the parson taxed the poor fishermen for
extraordinary unusual tithes, and then (as the inhabitants report) the
fish suddenly clean left the coast, unwilling, as may be supposed, by
losing their lives to cause contention. God be thanked, they begin to
resort hither again, though not as yet in such multitudes as heretofore.
Henry de Lynmouth, after him Isabella de Albino, and now Wichals,
possesseth it. A generous family: he married Pomerois; his father,
Achelond, his grandfather, Munck.”

Concerning the “generous family” more anon; we have not quite done with
the sign of Pisces. Originally Lynmouth was a little village--Blackmore
speaks of it as “the little haven of Lynmouth” (_Lorna Doone_, chapter
xxxix.)--whose inhabitants dwelt in huts and depended for a livelihood
on the curing of herrings, which was carried on in drying-houses. From
the beginning of September to the end of October shoals of these fish
frequented the shore, and sometimes their number was so great that tons
of them were thrown away or used as manure. In 1797 the herrings
deserted the coast, and the peasantry attributed their conduct to the
insult just referred to. The common duration of truancy was computed at
forty years--a calculation which seems to hold true of the period
between 1747 and 1787. The following decade consisted of fat years, when
the sea at Lynmouth yielded rich autumnal harvests, and masses of
herrings were sent to Bristol, whence they were shipped to the West
Indies. From 1797 to 1837, and indeed longer, the fish fought shy of the
place, but not entirely. On Christmas Day, 1811, there was an
exceptional and very abundant shoal of herrings, and the inhabitants
were called out of church in order to take them out of the weirs. A
similar gift of fortune marked the year 1823. Practically, however, the
fishermen’s avocation was gone, and they had to look elsewhere for a
livelihood. Happily, they did not look in vain. Pastured on the
surrounding hills were large flocks of sheep, and in the neighbouring
towns there was a constant demand for yarn. This was of two kinds--one
for the woof, consisting of worsted, which was supplied by the Yorkshire
mills; the other for the warp, which was of softer texture, and then
made by hand. The latter industry became the chief--almost the
sole--prop of Lynton and Lynmouth, where the good people diligently
applied themselves to spinning, and by this means kept the wolf from the
door.

The sea-fishing is not altogether unconnected with the history of the De
Wichehalses, since the original fishermen are stated to have been Dutch
Protestants forced by religious (or irreligious?) persecution to
emigrate from their homes by the Zuyder Zee. The names Litson, Vellacot,
etc., still borne by local families, are quoted as evidence of Dutch
extraction. A trade in cured herrings sprang up with Scotland, and the
Dutchmen not only had commercial transactions with Scotch sailors and
traders, but married, many of them, braw Scotch lassies who came to buy
their herrings. The possible bearing of this intercourse on the problem
of _Lorna Doone_ will not escape attention. It was at Lynmouth that old
Will Watcombe, the great authority on the “Gulf Stream,” lived and
sought to be buried (_Lorna Doone_, chapter xii.).

Now as to the Wichehalses, whose name Blackmore spells with a
supererogatory “h”--Whichehalse. The Protestants of the Low Countries
had often attempted, by petition and remonstrance, to bend the stubborn
will of their master, Philip II., and not a few of the Gueux or
Beggars--a sobriquet bestowed on the Huguenot conspirators who met at
Breda--left the country in despair. In 1567 the Spanish despot
dispatched to the ill-fated land the Duke of Alva with an army of 20,000
men, and the latter signalised his arrival by instituting a “Council of
Blood,” which resulted in the execution of 1800 patriots, while 30,000
more were reduced to abject straits by the confiscation of their
property. Hordes of terrified Dutch folk fled to England, in the wake of
the nobles, and a certain number of them settled, as we have seen, on
the north coast of Devon.

Hugh de Wichehalse belonged, strictly speaking, to neither class of
fugitives. The head of a noble and wealthy family, which had early
become converts to the principles of the Reformation, he continued to
struggle for his beliefs until the fatal day of Gemmingen, when,
escaping the clutches of the vindictive Spaniards, he crossed the
channel with his wife and children. The bulk of his property had
already, by a timely precaution, been removed hither.

Such is the tradition which has to be reconciled with the pedigree of
the family in the visitation of 1620. This shows three generations, and,
to say the least, would be consistent with a much longer settlement in
the county. The following is a copy:--

[Illustration: JUNCTION OF LYN AND BAGWORTHY WATER (page 163).]

                      NICHOLAS WICHALSE = MARGERIE,
                  of Chudley, in Devon, |   d. of
                           gent.        |
      +--------------+------------------+----------+-------+-------------------------+
      |              |                  |                  |                         |
MARGERY,       JOHN  = JOANE,         JOANNA,      WILLM.  =   ELLEN,      NICHOLAS  = MARY,
wife to     WICHALSE | D. and Co-h.   Wife of    WICHALSE, |    d. of      WICHALSE  | d. and h.
 Peter         of    |     of       Bartholomew  2 sonne.  |   Humphry        of     |    of
Lutton      Chudley, |  Cotwell,    Borringdon             |   Walrond    Barnstaple | Richard Welsh
  of       in Devon. |  b. ----     of Ydford.             | of Bisofield, in Devon, |  of Pilton.
Nowleghe,            | d. and co-h.                        |  in Devon,     3 sonne. |
 Devon,              |  of ----                            |  relict of              |
 gent.               |                                     |  Anthony              JOANE.
                     |                                     | Fortescue.
                     |                                     |
                     |                             +-------+-------+
                     |                             |               |
                     |                          RICHARD         MARGERY.
                     |                          WICHALSE.       JANE.
                     |                                          JOANE.
    +----------+--------------+-------------------------------+
    |          |              |                               |
CHRISTIAN,   JOHN,     2.  RICHARD    =  ELINOR,            JOANE,
  2 dau.     GEORGE,   3.  WICHALSE       d. of        ux. Thos. Sterte
ELLEN, 3.    NICHOLAS, 4.  of Chudley,  John Marwood      of Stert,
             BENNET,   5.  eldest son.  of Westcott,       Devon.
             THOMAS,   6.              in Count. Devon.
             PIERCE,   7.
             JOHN,     8.

On one point there is no possible doubt--namely, that the Wichehalses
were once owners of a manor-house at Lynton, standing on the site of the
handsome residence known as Lee Abbey. Traces of the old structure were
to be seen in an intermediate building, and gave indications of much
splendour, while, as could be easily recognised, the adjacent fields and
orchards formed part of the erstwhile pleasure-grounds. Just above Lee
Abbey is Duty Point, famous for its beautiful views--northwards, the
belt of silver sea, southwards the heathery hills, eastwards the Valley
of Rocks, and westwards the grey oaks of Woody Bay; famous, too, as the
scene of romantic tragedy. The principal personages of the story were
old Wichehalse, his daughter Jennifried, and cruel Lord Auberley. One
evening the lovelorn maiden fell or threw herself over the terrific
precipice; and, hungry for revenge, her father met and slew the false
suitor at the battle of Lansdown, near Bath--one of the memorable
encounters of the Great Civil War. It is needless to recapitulate the
details of the narrative. The story has been told by Blackmore in his
_Tales from the Telling House_; and before that, it was told very
pathetically by Mr Cooper in his _Guide to Lynton_.

On the south wall of Lynton Church, close to the west window, is the
following inscription on the monument of Hugh Wichehalse of Ley, who
departed this life, Christide Eve, 1653, æt. 66.

    “No, not in silence, least those stones below
     That hide such worth, should in spight vocal grow.
     Wee’l rather sob it out, our grateful teares
     Congeal’d to Marble shall vy threnes with theirs.
     This weeping Marble then Drops this releife
     To draw fresh lines to fame, and Fame to greife;
     To greife which groanes sad loss in him t’ us all,
     Whose name was Wichehalse--’twas a Cedar’s fall.
     For search this Urn of Learned dust, you’le find
     Treasures of Virtue and Piety enshrin’d,
     Rare Paterns of blest Peace and Amity,
     Models of Grace, Emblems of Charity,
     Rich Talents not in niggard napkins Layd,
     But Piously dispenced, justly payd,
     Chast Sponsal Love t’ his Consort; to Children nine
     Surviving th’ other fowre his care did shine
     In Pious Education; to Neighbours, friends,
     Love seald with Constancy, which knowes no end.
     Death would have stolne this Treasure, but in vaine--
     It stung, but could not kill; all wrought his gaine.
     His Life was hid with Christ; Death only made this story,
     Christ cal’d him hence his Eve, to feast with him in glory.”

The subject of this epitaph would have been the hero of the legend. One
may observe, in passing, the play upon words, the Scotch elm being often
termed the _wych_ elm. This suggests a possible, and indeed probable,
derivation of the name. The reader should compare Blackmore’s account of
the family, and especially his portrait of Hugh Wichehalse, in chapter
xv. of _Lorna Doone_.

According to the folklore of the district it was intended to build the
church at Kibsworthy, opposite Cheribridge, on the Barnstaple road, and
day after day the workmen brought materials to the spot. Each morning,
however, it was found that they had been carried away during the night
to the present site--it was supposed by pixies; and finally, those
little gentlemen had their way. Obviously, little dependence can be
placed on folklore where questions of fact are concerned. A small
volume, entitled _Legends of Devon_, printed at Dawlish in 1848,
contains another story about a church equally void--the story, and the
church, too--of foundation. In the middle of the twelfth century, it is
said, Lynton Castle was the abode of a family named Lynton, in whom the
Evil One, from the year 500, had taken a malicious interest. Reginald of
that ilk then resolved to erect a church at Lynmouth in honour of his
God, and chose for it the site of an old abbey. This devout undertaking
ended the long and dreadful spell. “The castle fell, the cliff heaved as
if in pain, and the terrible convulsion formed the valley of rocks. The
devil was seen scudding before the wind; he had lost his hold on the
House of Lynton.” Unfortunately, there never was a castle at Lynton, nor
an abbey or church at Lynmouth. Moreover, one learns from Hazlitt, that,
according to the popular belief, the rocks represent persons caught
dancing on a Sunday, and so, like Lot’s wife, transformed into stone.

The “Valley of Rocks,” is not the primitive name of this singular and
romantic spot. The Devon peasantry knew it of old as the “Danes” or
“Denes”--a term probably connected with the word “den,” and signifying
“hollows.” Prebendary Hancock, in his estimable _History of Selworthy_,
shows it to be a commonplace name in this corner of the world. One is
tempted to inquire--who christened the locality the “Valley of Rocks?”
The problem is perhaps insoluble, but the _London Magazine_ for 1782
contains a poem on the “Valley of Stones,” in a note on which it is
stated that the place owed this name to Dr Pococke, Bishop of Upper
Ossory, who had visited it “some years since” with Dr Mills, the Dean of
Exeter.

Some have found fault with the name “Valley of Rocks” as too ambitious,
but attempts to belittle the grandeur of the spot would have received
small support from Southey, who wrote about the scene in the language of
ecstasy.

“Imagine a narrow vale between two ridges of hills somewhat steep; the
southern hill turfed; the vale which runs from east to west covered with
huge stones and fragments of stone among the fern that fills it; the
northern ridge completely bare; excoriated of all turf and all soil, the
very bones and skeletons of the earth; rock reclining upon rock, stone
piled upon stone; a huge, terrific mass--a palace of the pre-Adamite
kings, a city of the Anakim, must have appeared so shapeless, and yet so
like the ruins of what had been shaped after the waters of the Flood had
subsided. I ascended, with some toil, the highest point; two large
stones inclining on each other formed a rude portal on the summit. Here
I sat down. A little level platform, about two yards long, lay before
me, and then the eye immediately fell upon the sea far, very far below.
I never felt the sublimity of solitude before.”

Southey evidently referred to the “Castle Rock” on the right. On the
left is the pile of stone which marked the abode of Mother Melldrum (see
_Lorna Doone_, chapter xvii.). Blackmore mentions two names by which the
place was known--the “Devil’s Cheese-ring” and the “Devil’s
Cheese-knife,” which he states to be convertible; but there appears to
have been a third--the “Devil’s Cheese-press.”

At one time the valley was the fitting haunt of a herd of wild goats,
but the animals had to be destroyed--they butted so many sheep over the
adjoining cliffs.

It would be pardonable to imagine that Lynton is indebted for its
popularity as a watering-place to _Lorna Doone_, but this would betray
ignorance of its history. I have spoken of the spinning industry
formerly carried on by hand; when that ceased owing to the introduction
of machinery into the towns, the dealers, who had employed people to
work up the wool or bought up the poor folk’s yarn and taken it to
larger markets, found their occupation gone. What was to be done? Mr
William Litson, one of the persons in this predicament, hit upon the
idea of opening an hotel. This was at the beginning of the last century,
but already visitors, hearing reports of the rare and beautiful scenery,
wended their way to Lynton, although not in large numbers. For their
accommodation Mr Litson acquired the “Globe,” and furnished also the
adjoining cottage. Among the first to patronise his establishment were
Mr Coutts the banker, and the Marchioness of Bute. From that time the
tale of visitors rapidly grew until, in 1807, the enterprising Mr Litson
was encouraged to build the “Valley of Rocks” Hotel. The ball had now
been fairly set rolling; hotels, lodging-houses, and private residences
multiplied, and in the middle of the last century--years before a line
of _Lorna Doone_ had been written or so much

[Illustration: THE CHEESEWRING, VALLEY OF ROCKS.]

as meditated--Lynton and Lynmouth were in all essentials the same as
they are now.

To the lover of nature and the simplicity of country life this
conversion of scenery into shekels, and Exmoor into Bayswater,
represents by no means pure gain, albeit the lover of humanity may
decide otherwise--on the principle of the greatest happiness of the
greatest number. Both sorts, however, may unite in casting curious
glances at the old Lynton which courted neither aristocratic nor
democratic favour, and actually had a revel. This began on the first
Sunday after Midsummer Day, and lasted a week. When the congregations
emerged from the parish church, there awaited them near the gate a
barrel of beer, and the majority of them were speedily “at it,” quaffing
a glass or discussing revel-cake--a special confection made of dark
flour, currants, and caraway seeds. The principal feature in this, as in
all revels, was the wrestling, in anticipation of which big sums were
laid out in prizes. Silver spoons, for instance, were sometimes an
incentive to competition. However, what with the drunkenness and the
collusion that characterised too often the annual festival, the custom
became obsolescent, and then obsolete, having incurred the taboo of the
“respectable inhabitant” and the genuine sportsman alike.

In chapter xv. of the _Maid of Sker_ mention is made of the practice of
singing hymns at funeral processions on the Welsh side of the Bristol
Channel. The same practice obtained on the North Devon side. One of the
singers gave out the words verse by verse and the dirge was chanted to
peculiar music reserved for such occasions. The first two or three
verses were sung on the removal of the coffin from the house before the
procession started, and the rest at intervals _en route_ to the church.
The following is a hymn used at the funeral of a grown-up person:--

    “Farewell, all my parents[16] dear,
       And, all my friends, farewell!
     I hope I’m going to that place,
       Where Christ and saints do dwell.

    “Oppressed with grief long time I’ve been,
       My bones cleave to my skin;
     My flesh is wasted quite away
       With pain that I was in.

    “Till Christ his messenger did send
       And took my life away,
     To mingle with my mother earth,
       And sleep with fellow clay.

    “Into thy hands I give my soul;
       Oh! cast it not aside;
     But favour me and hear my prayer,
       And be my rest and guide.

    “Affliction hath me sore oppressed,
       Brought me to death in time;
     O Lord, as thou hast promised
       Let me to life return.

    “How blest is he who is prepared,
       Who fears not at his death;
     Love fills his heart, and hope his breast,
       With joy he yields his breath.

[Illustration: “THE WATERSLIDE,” LANCOMBE (page 163).]


    “Vain world, farewell! I must begone,
       I cannot longer stay;
     My time is spent, my glass is run,
       God’s will I must obey.

    “For when that Christ to judgment comes,
       He unto us will say,
     If we his laws observe and keep,
       ‘Ye blessed, come away!’”

A friend of mine wrote to Blackmore respecting the harvest-song in
_Lorna Doone_ (chapter xxix.), being under the impression that it might
be a true farmhouse ditty such as were common until a comparatively
recent date. The romancer, however, admitted that the composition was
his own.



CHAPTER XII

ROUND DUNKERY


West of Lee Abbey and Duty Point lies much that is interesting, but this
is also true of the country to the east of Lynton. For the moment we
mount the coach with the intention of making a circuitous return to
Dulverton. The writer does not forget his first experience of North
Devon coaching. The placards showed four noble steeds, full of fettle
and the joy of life; but “galled jades” would better have described the
aspect of the miserable brutes condemned to drag the trunk-laden vehicle
up those frightful ascents. Once on the summit, however, the going was
easy, and passengers resumed their seats with a safe conscience, so far
as cruelty to animals was concerned.

The drive from Lynton to Porlock, and from Porlock to Minehead, over
breezy commons or through entrancing sylvan scenery, is gloriously
exhilarating, and might put heart into the most confirmed dyspeptic.
Which reminds me that in the neighbourhood of Porlock and Minehead there
used to be gathered from the rocks vast quantities of laver, which was
pickled and exported to large centres, such as Bristol, Exeter, and
London. This sea-liverwort was eaten at the tables of the rich as a
great delicacy. The hills and heaths also minister to the palate, since
they produce various sorts of wild fruit--the dwarf juniper, the
cranberry, and the whortleberry. The last, a most delicious fruit, is
often made into pies, and the writer, when staying in the neighbourhood,
is always glad if he finds one before him, knowing that he can command
instant popularity, especially with the fair, by suggesting a second
helping. Other bipeds appreciate it no less, since it is the summer food
of the black game, and the decrease in the number of the species on the
Brendon and Quantock hills has been attributed to the great demand for
this fruit in the large towns. The berries grow singly, like
gooseberries, the little plants being from a foot to eighteen inches in
height. The leaves are ovated, and of a pale green colour.

Porlock and Porlock Weir are both charming places. Perhaps the most
memorable object at the former--if the epithet may be applied to an
object rather than a speech or event--is the old Ship Inn at the foot of
the hill. This quaint survival of an older day is closely associated
with the poet Southey, who used to wander thus far from his home on the
Quantocks; and in the parlour, on the right of the main entrance, is a
nook still known as “Southey’s Corner,” where he is said to have indited
his sonnets and other poetry on the landscapes he so warmly admired.

    “Porlock, thy verdant vale so fair to sight
     Thy lofty hills, which fern and furze embrown,
     Thy waters that roll musically down,
     Thy woody glens the traveller with delight
     Recalls to memory,” etc.

Then there is the church with its spire, which, if not beautiful, is at
least peculiar, being faced with wooden shales. Opinions differ as to
whether or not it was once of superior altitude, but tradition alleges
that in the year 1700, a great storm arose and the tower suffered.
Porlock tradition possesses unusual claims to respect, the reason being
that it has been proved, in one instance at least, to be remarkably
accurate. In the preface of his excellent _History of the Ancient Church
of Porlock_, the late Prebendary Hook, alluding to the great monument,
observes: “There had always been a tradition handed down from sexton to
sexton, that the effigies were those of Lord Harington and his wife, the
Lady of Porlock. But neither Collinson, the historian of Somerset, nor
Savage, in his _History of the Hundred of Carhampton_, knew anything of
it, and the former speaks of it as the tomb of a Knight Templar, though
he does not explain how a wife happened to be there! But investigation
proved the truth of the tradition, as is shown in the beautifully
illustrated volume entitled _The Porlock Monuments_, now, unfortunately,
out of print.”

It may be worth recalling that one of Miss Ida Browne’s relics is an old
flint-lock pistol, engraved midway between stock and barrel with the
name “C. Doone,” whilst on the reverse side is the word “Porlok.” Miss
Browne is in some doubt as to whether the weapon was purchased in the
village, or a C. Doone resided there, but she inclines to the latter
opinion.

Porlock served as market town for the Ridds; indeed, it was in returning
from Porlock market that Ridd’s father was murdered (_Lorna Doone_,
chapter iv.). There also dwelt Master Pooke, and there a lawyer made
John Ridd’s will.

Just off the road to Minehead, in the parish of Selworthy, stands
Holnicote (pronounced Hunnicot), the Exmoor seat of the Acland family--a
comparatively modern mansion, its predecessors having been destroyed by
fire. In the widest sense, this old West-country race is best known
through Mr Arthur Acland, late Minister of Education, and his father,
the late Sir Thomas Acland, who was contemporary with Mr Gladstone at
Oxford, and, like him, the winner of a “double first,” and between whom
and the distinguished statesman there was maintained to the very last a
close and uninterrupted friendship. Locally, although the late baronet
was always most highly esteemed, it is doubtful whether he was quite as
popular as his sire, still referred to by the departing generation as
“the _old_ Sir Thomas.” One of my childish recollections is lying in bed
one dark night at Tiverton and listening to a muffled peal on St Peter’s
bells. It was the first muffled peal I ever heard, and I was much
impressed when told that it was rung to mark the passing of a great
county magnate, Sir Thomas Acland, tenth baronet, and for forty years a
member of Parliament. This was in 1871.

When at Holnicote--the family has another seat, Killerton, near
Exeter--the _old_ Sir Thomas made it a rule to attend church twice on
Sundays, and in the afternoon he usually brought with him two or three
favourite dogs, which were shut up in Farmer Stenner’s barn during the
service. The Acland pew was in the parvise over the south porch, while
in the west gallery the village orchestra, comprising fiddle,
violoncello, flute, hautboy, and bassoon, was yet in its glory. Animated
by something of the feudal spirit, the choir, on the first Sunday after
the baronet’s arrival, invariably indulged in an anthem. On one such
occasion, back in the fifties, the Rev. Edward Cox, rector of the
neighbouring parish of Luccombe, chanced to be officiating, and at the
conclusion of an elaborate performance, graced by startling orchestral
effects, was so unnerved that he forgot his place in the service, and
began in a faltering tone the Apostles’ Creed! Naturally there was some
confusion, which was ended by Sir Thomas himself coming to the rescue.
Bending forward from his seat in the gallery, he not only seconded the
clergyman with stentorian accents, but waving his hand peremptorily,
signed to the congregation to repeat the creed over again. The command
was obeyed, and with such fervour that soon every corner of the church
was echoing with the confession of faith. After the service Sir Thomas
waited for Mr Cox in the porch, and slapping him on the back, remarked
cheerily, “Well done, well done! Whenever you are in doubt, fall back on
the articles of your belief, and I’ll support you!”

The pew occupied by Sir Thomas was originally a priest’s chamber, and
was transformed into a pew by the Hon. Mrs Fortescue, whose husband was
a pluralist rector of the old school, and a rare lover of port wine. Her
brother, the Rev. Robert Gould, born in the rectory house at Luccombe,
was a remarkable fisherman and an equally remarkable shot. Once he is
said to have caught such a quantity of fish in Bagworthy Water as to
make his basket ridiculous, and he was forced to requisition a boy and
horse to carry his spoil away. At another time he walked from
Ilfracombe, where he resided, to Allerford, on a visit to his
mother--most probably by way of Hangman Hill, Showlsborough Castle,
Cheriton Ridge, and Bagworthy. However that may be, he was able to bring
as a present to the old lady, forty snipe--a snipe for every mile, as he
said. The same accomplished gentleman shot two bitterns in Porlock
Marsh--a feat which, it is safe to assert, has never been repeated in
that quarter or, perhaps, in England. The birds were stuffed, and passed
into the keeping of his sister, Mrs Fortescue.

The Rev. W. H. Thornton avers that Mr Fortescue was in the habit of
winking his eye and confessing that he had excellent cognac in his
cellar. _Apropos_ of this weakness, he reports these not quite
“imaginary conversations.”

“‘I found one morning that both my horses were gone,’ he would say, ‘but
James Dadd (his coachman), James Dadd knew which way to search, and we
found them loose in a lane beyond Exford, and there was a keg of this
brandy left under the manger too. Will you try it?’

“Now, in all my intercourse with smugglers, illicit distillers, and
such-like people, I have remarked the peculiarity that their wares
either were, or were honestly deemed to be, of extra quality! Was it
that the sense of irregularity added flavour to the dram, or were the
smuggled spirits really particularly choice? I do not know, but later in
my life I sat by the deathbed of a very old smuggler, who told me how he
used to have a donkey with a triangle on his back, so rigged up as to
show three lanthorns, and how chilled he would become as he lay out
winter’s night after winter’s night, watching on the Foreland or along
Brandy Path, as he called it, for the three triangled lights of the
schooner, which he knew was coming in to land her cargo, where
Glenthorne[17] now stands, and where was the smugglers’ cave. ‘Lord
bless ee, sir,’ and the dying man of nearly ninety years chuckled, ‘we
never used no water. We just put the brandy into the kettle, and heated
it, and drinked it out of half-pint stoups.’”

If it is to be a question of retailing smuggling stories, I also can
tell one of Exmoor origin, only it relates to Minehead, whither our
course now lies. Many years ago--I fancy it was in the forties--there
was a certain quay-lumper, who “caddled about” anywhere, away under
Greenaleigh. His name was Moorman. Just about this time a French vessel
was on her way with a cargo of smuggled brandy, but a fall-out between
uncle and nephew, on account of the former refusing to lend money, led
to information being given, with the result that one of Her Majesty’s
cutters was seen cruising up and down before Minehead. The whole town
was in an uproar.

After a while the foreigner drew in under Greenaleigh, and discharged
her cargo; and

[Illustration: SHIP INN, PORLOCK (page 179).]

Moorman, having been called to assist, was rewarded with a sum of money
and a quantity of brandy. It was beautiful brandy, and Moorman’s wife
very kindly gave some of it to her neighbours, remarking as she did so,
“My old man helped discharge the cargo.” This observation was carried to
the excise officers, who searched for Moorman, and insisted on his
telling them where the spirit was concealed. As a matter-of-fact, it had
been hidden in the sand; but this was perfectly smooth, and Moorman,
though he made a show of looking for them, declared he could not find
the kegs. Just as they were about to give up in despair, one of the
party hitched his foot in a rope, with which, it turned out, the kegs
had been slung together. Several persons were arrested in connection
with the affair, among others an old Mr Rawle, a farmer; and some few
were sent to prison. As for the cutter, she had been lying useless in
Minehead harbour, in low water.[18]

It cannot be charged against Minehead that “the hobby-horse is forgot,”
and those mindful of him belong, for the most part, to the seafaring
class. Early on May morning, they perambulate the town with the idol, a
rough similitude of the equine species, decked off with ribbons; the
“counterfeit presentment” being supported on the shoulders of a man
whose legs are concealed by the trappings, and who is responsible for
its motions. Its progress through the streets is heralded by the tap of
the drum, and horseplay--seldom is the expression so apt--is the order
of the day. For it may be taken for granted that there is more than one
performance, and the worship of the beast is resumed at intervals till
vesper-time. However, the custom, which was formerly observed at
Combmartin also, is gradually dying out.

Probably one of the most sensational events in the annals of Minehead,
which do not appear to be particularly rich in historic interest, is a
seventeenth-century episode, in which the chief actors were the Rev.
Henry Byam, rector of Selworthy, and “another.” A notable man was Henry
Byam, who was born at Luccombe, in 1580. Being a devoted Royalist, he
attended Prince Charles in his flight to the Scilly Islands, and thence
to Jersey. Byam was in great esteem as a preacher, and his sermons were
edited by Hamnet Ward, Prebendary of Wells, who states that “most of
them were preached before His Majesty King Charles II., in his exile.”
Perhaps, however, the discourse which will most attract modern readers,
is that entitled: “A Return from Argier.--A Sermon preached at Minehead,
in the County of Somerset, the 16th of March, 1627, at the re-admission
of a Relapsed into our Church.” It seems that a young Minehead man had
been taken prisoner by the Turks and compelled to embrace the
Mohammedan religion. Having escaped, he returned to Minehead, where,
clothed in Turkish attire, he had to stand in St Michael’s Church,
whilst the rector of Selworthy “improved” the occasion. In one part of
the sermon, the preacher addressed himself directly to the offender:

“You whom God suffered to fall, and yet of His infinite mercy vouchsafed
graciously to bring you home, not only to your country and kindred, but
to the profession of your first faith, and to the Church and Sacraments
again; let me say to you (but in a better hour), as sometime Joshua to
Achan: ‘Give glory to God, sing praises to Him who hath delivered your
soul from the nethermost hell.’ When I think upon your Turkish attire, I
do remember Adam and his fig-leaf breeches; they could neither conceal
his shame, nor cover his nakedness. I do think upon David clad in Saul’s
armour. How could you hope, in this unsanctified habit, to attain
Heaven?”

But it is time that we set out for Dunster, which is as rich in striking
memories as the seaport town is poor. The two places, however, are not
altogether separable; indeed, it must be evident at a glance that small
towns situated at so short a distance from each other--two miles and a
half--will have been influenced, though in varying degrees, by the same
incidents and accidents, and freaks of fortune. If we go back to the
first quarter of the fifteenth century, we find that a “shipman” of
Minehead, called Roger King, was employed in conveying provisions from
this part of the world to Normandy, where war was then raging; and his
return cargo often consisted of wine, which Lady Catherine Luttrell, of
Dunster Castle, readily purchased from him. Once Sir Hugh Luttrell
embarked on a vessel called the _Leonard of Dunster_, taking with him
five live oxen and two pipes of beer for consumption during the voyage.
His expenses, including repairs, amounted to the then considerable sum
of £42, 3s. 1d.; but the master, Philip Clopton, having been paid £40,
10s. by certain foreign merchants for a freight of wine on the journey
home, the lucky knight had merely to make good the difference--£1, 13s.
1d. In 1427, several Minehead fishermen, tenants of Sir Hugh,
adventuring as far as Carlingford, were captured by a Spaniard named
Goo, and having been conveyed to Scotland, were confined in Bothwell
Castle, whence a special letter, addressed to the King of Scotland in
the name of Henry VI., was necessary to procure their release.

In the Middle Ages, Dunster itself was a seaport, and, in the reign of
Edward III., writs directed to the bailiffs forbade friars, monks, or
treasure to quit the realm by that door. It is to be observed in this
connection that the river Avill, before joining the sea, widens out at a
place called the “Hone” or the “Hawn”--no doubt the site of the old
_haven_, of which term its present name is a corruption.

To many, Dunster Castle is indissolubly associated with the family of
Luttrell, and no wonder, seeing the ages that have elapsed since it was
owned by persons of different descent. Its earliest lords, however, were
Mohuns--a name which at once awakens recollections of Thackeray and the
famous duel between Lord Mohun and the Duke of Hamilton in Hyde Park,
in 1712. The first Mohun of Dunster was a gallant leader called William
the Old, who attended his namesake, the Conqueror, with a large retinue
to the field of Senlac, and received Dunster as a part of that day’s
spoil. The family had large possessions in Normandy, and drew their
name--De Moion--from a village near St Lo.

The history of the English branch, or rather branches, is by no means
devoid of interest. The founder of Newenham Abbey (Devon), for instance,
was Reginald de Mohun, who died in 1246. In recognition of his
munificence, he received from the Pope the gift of a golden rose, and as
such a present was made only to persons of high rank, His Holiness
dubbed him Earl of Este (or Somerset). The monkish chronicler reports
that Reginald had seen in a vision a venerable man, who bade him make
his election between going with him then, in which case he would be
safe, or remaining until overtaken by danger. De Mohun at once accepted
the former alternative, but the old man would have him stay till the
third day, when the confessor saw in another dream the same old man
leading a boy “more radiant than the sun, and vested in a robe brighter
than crystal,” which boy, he heard him say, was the soul of Reginald de
Mohun. The chronicler further states that he was present when Reginald’s
tomb was opened nearly a hundred years later, what time the body was
perfect, and exhaled a most fragrant odour.

I now pass to the year 1376, when the Lady Joan, relict of Sir John de
Mohun, sold the right of succession to the barony for £3333, 6s. 8d. to
the Lady Elizabeth Luttrell, the receipt being still in the possession
of the present owner, Mr G. F. Luttrell. It is worth remarking that Mr
Luttrell is a descendant of the Mohuns of Beconnoc (the junior branch
which produced the Lord Mohun before mentioned), through the marriage of
his ancestor, John Fownes, with the heiress of Samuel Maddock, her
mother having been the daughter and ultimate heiress of the third Lord
Mohun of Okehampton.

The Lady Elizabeth Luttrell was the daughter of Hugh Courtenay, Earl of
Devon, and Margaret, daughter of Humphry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and
Essex, who was styled “the flower of knighthood, and the most Christian
knight of the knights of the world.” Her husband was a less considerable
person, being only a cadet of a younger branch of the baronial family of
Luttrell of Irnham. Their son was the Sir Hugh Luttrell already referred
to, who, in his time, was governor of Harfleur and Grand Seneschal of
France--in fact, the right-hand man of Harry the Fifth. He rebuilt
Dunster Castle in somewhat the form we find it to-day, and added a new
gate-house. The alabaster effigies on the north side of the chancel of
the conventual church are those of Sir Hugh and Lady Catherine Luttrell.

There are black sheep in every family, and among the Luttrells one black
sheep was pretty clearly James, grandson of great Sir Hugh. The latter
had a receiver-general named Thomas Hody, and it was probably his
son--one Alisaunder Hody, at any rate--that drew up a complaint against
James Luttrell which enables us to see what manner of man he was.
First, it seems, Luttrell ascertained from Hody’s unsuspecting wife
where her husband was likely to be for the next three days, and then
clapped one of his servants into Dunster Castle, where he kept him
closely confined for a night, to prevent him from giving information.
Luttrell’s next move was to set out with a party of thirty-five
followers, with bows bent and arrows in their hands, for the house of
Alisaunder’s father-in-law, Thomas Bratton, with the intention of
murdering the object of his resentment.

In the course of another expedition, in which he was attended by
twenty-four armed retainers, he fell upon John Coker, a servant of Hody,
and beat and wounded him so that his life was despaired of. His greatest
coup, however, was his attack on Taunton Castle, where he broke open the
doors and searched for Alisaunder, confiscated seven silver spoons, five
ivory knives, and other goods belonging to him, struck his wife, and
threatened to kill her with their daggers. A servant, Walter Peyntois,
was stabbed, almost fatally, while “Sir” Robert, Alisaunder’s priest,
was assaulted, dragged to the ground by the hair of his head, and beaten
by the ruffians with the pommels of their swords.

Whatever his faults, James Luttrell was undoubtedly brave, and, taking
part in the strife of the Roses, was knighted on the field after the
battle of Wakefield. At the second battle of St Albans he received a
mortal wound, and in the first Parliament of Edward IV. his property was
forfeited to the Crown. The attainder was reversed on the accession of
Henry VII.

Another fighting Luttrell was Sir John, who served in the Scottish wars
of the mid-sixteenth century, won the name of a “noble captain,” and was
ultimately taken prisoner in the fort of Bouticraig. Among the treasures
of Dunster Castle is preserved a painting of Sir John Luttrell by a
Flemish artist, Lucas de Heere, dated 1550; and a very extraordinary
painting it is.

In the great Civil War, the Luttrell of the period, whose Christian name
was Thomas, espoused the side of the Parliament, and “Mistress” Luttrell
commanded the men in the castle to “give fire” at sixty of Sir Ralph
Hopton’s troopers, who had come to demand entrance, but after this
reception deemed it expedient to retire. In 1643 the owner, rather
weakly, surrendered the place, of which Francis Wyndham now became
governor. Two years later, Colonel Blake, with a Parliamentarian force
from Taunton, began the investment of the castle, which finally
capitulated on April 19, 1646.

In 1645, after the battle of Naseby, the Prince of Wales (afterwards
Charles II.) was commanded by his father to take up his quarters at
Dunster, in order to escape the plague, which was raging at Bristol.
This was to jump from the frying-pan into the fire, as the contagion was
so bad at Dunster that the inhabitants feared to venture into the
streets. However, there is no doubt that the prince visited the castle,
where a room leading out

[Illustration: MINEHEAD CHURCH (page 187).]

into the gallery is called “King Charles’s Room.” The “King’s Chamber,”
mentioned in the inventory of 1705, adjoined the gallery; but the
evidence does not point conclusively to the traditional apartment,
which, being very narrow, with no window and only a stone bench, might
have done fairly well as a place of concealment, more especially as
there is a secret door in one of the walls. But at this time the
Royalists were in possession, and there was no obvious motive for
selecting the incommodious lodging for a guest of princely blood.

To conclude this account of the Luttrells, the male line came to an end
on the death of Alexander, in 1737. Ten years later, his daughter
married Henry Fownes of Nethway, and from him the present owner, Mr
George Fownes Luttrell, is descended.

From the lords of Dunster let us turn to the place which, in spite of
inevitable changes, retains a greater variety of mediæval features than
may easily be found within the same compass. A complete description of
the castle and park is impossible here, but it may be mentioned that
very full information is contained in Mr G. T. Clark’s preliminary essay
in Sir H. C. Maxwell-Lyte’s standard work. One thing is certain--that
the aspect of the castle has been considerably altered from what it was
in mediæval times. During the eighteenth century sad liberties were
taken with the buildings. Spurious Gothic windows were inserted, and a
thoroughly incongruous chapel erected. The restoration undertaken by Mr
G. F. Luttrell rectified these absurdities, but went much further. The
northern tower of the principal façade was pulled down and rebuilt, and
a new wing was added. The old Edwardian gateway has been left intact.

About the year 1775, through the caprice of the then owner, was erected
the Conegar Tower, which is merely a hollow shell standing on a conical
hill. Owing to its commanding position it is a prominent landmark,
rising amidst woods which in the summer season are a mass of foliage,
whilst intersecting footpaths form shady alleys in which it is a joy to
wander. It is pleasant to add that the master of this splendid domain
has always observed a most generous and unselfish attitude to strangers
desirous of inspecting his house and grounds.

But Dunster has other wonders hardly inferior to the castle itself. One
may instance the Yarn Market, with its broad, overhanging penthouses,
manifold gables, and pyramidal roof, in one of the beams of which is a
hole said to have been caused by a cannon shot fired from the castle in
the time of the Civil War. Such a ball, however, could not have passed
the intervening woodwork leaving it uninjured, so that the story is, at
least, doubtful.

Hard by is the Luttrell Arms Hotel--a perfect treasure-house of
antiquities. These comprise a gabled porch pierced with lancet holes for
crossbows, a façade of oak, elaborately carved, and an oak chamber, with
an open roof of timber work, somewhat resembling that of Westminster
Hall. In Room 13 are emblazoned the Luttrell Arms--_or, a bird between
three martlets sable_. With these are impaled _a chevron between three
trefoils, slipped, proper_.

Says an anonymous writer: “In old times it was the custom of every
gentleman to set up his family shield on the house in which he
sojourned; this served as a rallying-point to his followers, and, in my
opinion, was the origin of the signs formerly displayed on houses of
business of every kind, but now confined to inns only.” In the present
instance the suggestion is not particularly helpful, as there are
reasons for supposing that the building once belonged to the Abbey of
Cleeve. Nothing, however, is certainly known of its origin and history,
and it is quite possible that it was at one time in the occupation of a
cadet of the great family at the castle.

Room No. 12 boasts a far more notable feature--namely, an elaborate
mantelpiece bearing two shields, one emblazoned with the arms of
England, and the other with those of France; also a poor bust of
Shakespeare, two large Elizabethan female figures, and a central
medallion showing a prostrate man, nude, and worried by three dogs,
clearly intended for Actæon, who was torn to pieces by his hounds for
looking on Diana whilst bathing.

The “Luttrell Arms” is mentioned in chapter xxvii. of _Lorna Doone_,
which tells also of Ridd’s mother’s cousin, the tanner, and his bevy of
daughters, all resident in the town.

Another architectural curiosity is a weather-tiled house on the north
side of Middle Street. This is usually described as “the Nunnery”--a
quite modern appellation, born of pure fancy. Even so late as the last
century it was known as the “High House,” while a yet older name was
the “Tenement of St Lawrence.” Yet another interesting old structure is
“Lower Marsh,” with rich Perpendicular oratory over its entrance porch.

Next, as to the church. At the entrance to the churchyard stands a
quaint timber building which goes by the name of the Priest’s House. The
church itself is a magnificent specimen of its kind, and worthy of the
name of a cathedral. The most ancient part of it is the Norman arch at
the west end. The east end is Early English, and nearly all the rest
Perpendicular, including the old and beautiful rood-screen of open work
with fan tracery headings, over which are four rows of ornaments. The
portion of the church to the west of the screen is called by the
inhabitants the “Parish Church,” while the eastern section is termed the
“Priory Church.” The reason is that this was formerly the chapel of the
Priory of Dunster, which belonged to the Benedictine monks of Bath; and
shortly after the dissolution of the monasteries the priory was acquired
by the Luttrells, who have long claimed the part of the church assigned
to the monks by the award of the Abbot of Glastonbury and his
colleagues, and erected therein a number of funeral monuments, yet
remaining, in various states of preservation. To the north-west of the
church are the ruins of the priory, the great barn in which the good
monks stored their grain, and two great gateways that led into the
priory precincts.

Every visitor to Dunster is admonished to make the ascent of Grabhurst
(or Grabbist) Hill, on the southern slope of which there was in the
Middle Ages a vineyard--not, by the way, a solitary example in the
England of that distant time. The view from the summit is extremely
beautiful. In the foreground are moors, in the background the sea, and
on the right and the left hand towards Minehead and St Audries, varied
and charming landscapes. On one side of the ridge may be descried a
typical farmhouse, nestling amidst bright, green meadows and clumps of
trees; and over the deep, narrow valley towers the massive form of old
Dunkery and other heights in shadowy perspective.

Still grander are the prospects to be obtained from Dunkery Beacon
itself--the most commanding landmark of the district. About eight miles
south of Minehead, Dunkery is a mountain large and high, with a base
about twelve miles in circumference and an altitude of 1700 feet. With
the exception of Cawsand Beacon, it is the highest summit in the West of
England. One approach to it is from Wootton Courtenay, the distance from
the parish church to the top of the hill being three miles; another is
from Cutcombe, in which parish part of Dunkery lies. The hilly character
of the country is well illustrated by the name of the hostelry at the
corner, where the road to Dunkery digresses from the “Minehead
turnpike”--“Rest and Be Thankful.”

The view from the beacon embraces an immense tract, the sky-line being
quite five hundred miles in circumference. To the south-west can be
discerned the tors near Plymouth; northwards, the Malvern Hills, in
Worcestershire--regions more than two hundred miles apart. North and
north-west, nearly a hundred and thirty miles of the Bristol Channel,
and behind it the coast of Wales from Monmouthshire to Pembrokeshire.
Most of Somerset, Devon, and Dorset, with parts of Wiltshire and
Hampshire, are included in a spectacle which premises a clear atmosphere
and not too bright a sun, lest the prospect be obscured by haze.

On Dunkery top is a vast quantity of rough, loose stones of all shapes
and sizes, and ranging from one pound to two hundred pounds in weight,
together with the remains of three large hearths, built of unhewn
stones, and about eight feet square. They compose an equilateral
triangle, in the interior of which is another and larger hearth. More
than two hundred feet lower, on the slope of the hill, and nearly a mile
distant, are two other hearths, with the same accompaniment of loose
stones scattered in large numbers around. These are undoubtedly ruins of
old-world beacons which, in periods of civil commotion or when foreign
invasion threatened, were used to rouse the countryside and pass the
fiery message from one end of the realm to the other. According to
_Lorna Doone_ (chapter iii.), the marauders prevented this legitimate
use by throwing a watchman on the top of it. Chapters xliii. and xliv.
contain a vivid description of the firing of the actual beacon in Doone
Glen.

For the neighbours the beacon is a huge barometer. Often it is covered
with clouds, and this is regarded as an infallible sign of rain; hence
the saying:

    “When Dunkery’s top cannot be seen,
     Horner will have a flooded stream.”

A former inhabitant of Luccombe, with a nicer ear for rhyme, penned the
following pretty song on Dunkery Beacon, evidently modelled on “Sweet
and Low,” but worth quoting all the same:--

    “Stern and black, stern and black,
     Low lies the storm on the mountain track:
       Black and stern, black and stern,
       Hardly may we thy face discern
     By the light westward--lurid and red--
     And the thunder voices are overhead!
       Where the lightning is never still,
       Who’ll now come with me over the hill?

    “Grey and sad, grey and sad,
     With a rain-wrought veil are thy shoulders clad:
       Sad and grey, sad and grey,
       Weird is the mist creeping up to-day,
     Ghostlike and white from the stream where it lay,
     Hanging a shroud o’er the lone wild way;
       Hidden and still, hidden and still,
       Who’ll now come with me over the hill?

    “Fair and bright, fair and bright,
     Purple and gold in the autumn light,
       Bright and fair, bright and fair;
       The butterflies float in the warm, soft air,
     Float and suck ’midst the heather bells,
     And green are the ferns in the dear-loved dells;
       Now who will, now who will
       Come with me, come with me over the hill?”

The “Minehead turnpike,” as it is termed, dates from the reign of George
IV. Before that period the road, after leaving Timberscombe, passed up
the long steep ascent of Lype Hill. The present highway is a trotting
road of undoubted excellence. Being cut through hanging woods in some
sections, and along the banks of the Exe in others, it is perhaps the
finest and most romantic drive of its kind in the kingdom.

     NOTE.--Watchet, the burial-place of Lorna’s mother--a rather
     forlorn little haven by the wash of the Bristol Channel, lies
     somewhat apart from our suggested route, but is easily accessible
     by the railway, by which it is half-spoilt. St Decuman’s Church,
     alone on the hill, contains exceptionally fine monuments of the
     Wyndham family, with effigies.

[Illustration: DUNSTER CASTLE GATE, FROM THE OUTSIDE (page 193.)]



CHAPTER XIII

GOSSIP-TOWN


We have now returned to Dulverton, but our pilgrimage is not yet over,
for we have yet to explore a territory which may be termed the joint
property, or “debateable ground,” of _Lorna Doone_ and the _Maid of
Sker_. The Devon and Somerset line, connecting as it does with the light
railway to Lynton, and the London and South-Western branch from Exeter
to Barnstaple, will be found extremely convenient for our purpose,
although these “iron roads” do not in every instance land us at the
precise spots where we would be. So, peradventure, it may be wisdom to
set up our headquarters at Southmolton and Barnstaple in succession, and
peregrinate from those centres at our discretion.

First, a word of explanation as to the title of this chapter. Far be it
from me to give evil pre-eminence to Southmolton as a school for
scandal, but in chapter xii. of _Lorna Doone_ Blackmore distinctly
states that it is “a busy place for talking.” There is no going from
that.

Southmolton, like Bampton, is subject to the “slings and arrows” of
outrageous criticism as a place where it is “always afternoon.” If that
be so, all I can say is that, personally, I invariably find the P.M.
extremely pleasant, and nothing will induce me to cast a stone at a town
so hospitable. Moreover, it is beyond question an important hub of
Blackmore associations, and the faithful votary of the novelist _must_
betake himself thither. Whether or not the fact be due to this
circumstance, it seems certain that more visitors patronise the
neighbourhood than formerly, and Mr Brown, the obliging chemist, informs
me that he has developed negatives for Americans, from whom he has
received flattering testimonials. Well done, Mr Brown! The following
entry in the visitors’ book at the “George” has an independent interest.

“July 3rd, 1888--Dr Walter B. Gilbert, of New York, U.S., who was saved
by being thrown out of the window at the corner house opposite, during
the fatal fire of July 1835.”

This reminds one of an early incident in the life of a famous divine,
who declared that “the world was his parish.” It was certainly Dr
Gilbert’s.

On one occasion when I stayed at the “George,” where, it may be
remembered, Master Stickles filled his little flat bottle with “the very
best _eau de vie_” (_Lorna Doone_, chapter xlvii.), the fair was in full
swing, and I recollect that, among other attractions, there was a negro
marionette of large size, with aggressive, red lips. A young man
indulged in an entertaining dialogue with him as a prelude to the sale
of quack medicine. Now, the proletariat is master at Southmolton, and
the Corporation dare not remove from the Square the shooting-galleries,
ginger-bread stalls, confetti tents, and other encumbrances connected
with this event. It was whispered to me that at the time of an
Agricultural Show, when the band of the Plymouth division of the Royal
Marines was to perform in the market, the Mayor offered £10 for an hour
and a half’s suspension of the strident and powerful tones of a
steam-organ, but in vain. This mechanical purveyor of popular airs
represents the combined snort of a tornado of galloping horses fitted to
a roundabout of the most modern type. In the old-style roundabout a boy
worked a turnstile, and in doing so sometimes slipped or fell, when he
received pretty severe contusions. This arrangement was succeeded by a
cog-wheel in charge of a man.

At fair time, East Street is blocked with Exmoor sheep and North Devon
cattle, and _à propos_ of this, you may notice over the entrance to the
market three carved rams’ heads. On the first day of the fair, a white
sheepskin glove is projected on a pole from a ring on the side of a
“Star.” Locally, this is supposed to signify the “hand of welcome,”
which accounts perhaps for the nosegay. Another and less romantic
version declares it the “hand of authority.”

Let us stroll through the town in search of adventures. Naturally, our
steps will be directed, in the first instance, to the parish church, of
which the inhabitants are extremely proud. Well, it is handsome, very
handsome--sumptuous, if you like--but the interior is nearly all
brand-new. As to that, however, there are exceptions, and I will
undertake to affirm that the amazing gargoyle on the north side of the
chancel arch, albeit there are gargoyles on the Town Hall and gargoyles
on the “George,” is not of our time. Apparently, it is the face of a
craftsman, and, quite possibly, that of the master-builder of the
church. The pulpit also is ancient; the four evangelists’ flattened
countenances and noses sadly out of repair proclaim a reckoning with
time. The font is ancient and goodly. The tower is a fine one, as is
also that of Northmolton; but if you would see what North Devon can show
in the shape of church towers, away to Chittlehampton. There is a local
proverb: “Southmolton for strength; Chittlehampton for beauty,” and
tradition states that the tower of the fane of St Heriswitha was erected
by a pupil of the man that built Southmolton tower.

For my own part, I find Southmolton churchyard, with its walled and
paved avenues, more stimulating than the church. The margins of four
banks were, it appears, planted with lime-trees in 1735-6, and
twenty-five years later the New Walk was adorned with similar trees.
These in 1866 were rooted up by a “fanatical iconoclast,” but others
took their place, and so there is at present not much occasion to find
fault.

I remember one September evening standing in this churchyard and talking
to that worthy man, the sexton, when he mentioned to me casually that it
was the scene of a desperate battle. Particulars he had none to give,
and for the nonce I had forgotten my history book, so we stood and gazed
in silence, with a sense of vague respect and profound mystery, at the
home of the dead, on which the shades of evening were rapidly falling.
Too late to enlighten him, I recalled the abortive rising of the
Cavaliers in 1655, when Sir Joseph Wagstaffe, aided and abetted by a
couple of Wiltshire squires, Hugh Groves and John Penruddock, and a
force of loyal Cornishmen, proclaimed Prince Charles king at
Southmolton, after a rather discreditable fiasco at Southampton.
Cromwell’s troops were soon on their traces, and in a bloody fight,
mainly in the churchyard, the Royalists were hopelessly defeated.
Wagstaffe and a few of his officers escaped by jumping their horses over
the north-west portion of the churchyard wall (on which some forty years
ago a lime-house was built), and, crossing Exmoor, arrived at
Bridgewater. Groves and Penruddock, with twenty others, were captured
and conducted to the castle at Exeter, where they were arraigned for
high treason, found guilty, and executed. The leaders were beheaded and
the rest hanged, the drawing and quartering, ordinarily a feature in
such ceremonies, being omitted.

Comedy, as well as tragedy, may claim Southmolton churchyard for her
own, for here Bampfylde Moore Carew, the famous King of the Gipsies,
wreaked dire vengeance on the local bellman, who had insulted him, by
appearing in the likeness of Infernal Majesty, and chasing the
affrighted officer among the tombs. The fact that the ghost of an old
gentleman not long deceased was reputed to walk the churchyard probably
made this characteristic revenge more easy.

A ruinous building, to which no stranger uninitiated would direct more
than a passing glance, stands back from the road on Factory Hill. Once
it was a celebrated academy, at which nearly all the youth of
Southmolton, and doubtless many boys of the neighbouring parishes,
received their education. In this now abandoned seat of learning there
were two departments--an English school and a Latin school--for which
there were separate halls. The place wears a horrible appearance of
neglect and desecration, but some of the old fittings yet remain, and
when I inspected it, there were even some loose forms amongst the
miscellaneous lumber. The founder was one Hugh Squier, a lesser Peter
Blundell, who left injunctions that his portrait should be hung in what
is now the sitting-room of a cottage, but was then, no doubt, the
master’s house, and that there, as if he were bodily present, his
trustees should dine once a year. The portrait has been removed to the
Town Hall. There is also a beautiful miniature of Squier attached to the
mayor’s chain of office, which is probably at his worship’s.

Southmolton has been a great place for poets, the best of them being
perhaps Richard Manley, a journeyman saddler, who died in 1832. The
following lines are taken from a poem after Gray, entitled
_Recollections of Schoolboy Days_, and supposed to be written in front
of Squier’s Free School, where the author had been taught reading,
writing, and arithmetic:--

    “Ah! it was there, where yon green trees are bending,
       And waving gently to the sunny air,
     Where schoolboys dally, anxiously contending
       For empty honours in their sports--’twas there
     Young life to me with hope and joy was beaming;
       Its sun in brightness rose, in sweetness set;
     And childhood’s happy hours were spent in dreaming
       Of future bliss and happier moments yet:
     And now those dreams are vanisht and forsaken
     By childhood’s hopes: to manhood I awaken.”

Personally, I must confess, I should not have appreciated the pathos of
the scholastic derelict but for my good friend, the late Mayor of
Southmolton, who offered his services as cicerone. Mr Kingdon was
formerly associated with the firm of Crosse, Day, and Crosse,
solicitors, and he recollects Blackmore coming into their office, his
object being to look over some documents relating to the Manor of Oare.
On leaving, he complained that he had not found much to the purpose; but
Mr Kingdon is not so sure.

Speaking of Mayors--and we must not forget that Master Paramore was a
high member of the town council (see _Lorna Doone_, chapter xii.)--the
chief magistrate of Southmolton is noted for the splendour of his
official retinue--doubtless a legacy from the days when corporations
were wont to insist more than they do now on outward show and ceremony.
Mr Mills, a local historian, gives an excellent account of the old
style, founded in part on his own recollections:

“The Bailiff’s livery is a coat and vest of cerulean colour, with red
facings, velveteen breeches, and a gold-laced, three-cornered hat. This
functionary formerly, as part of his livery, wore red stockings, but on
the appointment of Mr Philip Widgery about sixty years ago (1892), he
besought the Corporation to provide him with gaiters--alleging as a
reason that his legs were the same shape as German flutes. His petition
was granted, and he and his successors have had their legs encased in
drab gaiters. The Sergeants at Mace have three-cornered hats and ample
blue cloaks--both hats and cloaks being trimmed with gold lace.

“Prior to the Municipal Corporations Reform Act, 1834, these three
officers always proceeded with the Mayor and other members of the
Corporation to the Parish Church every Sunday morning. All the members
wore robes; those who had passed the office of Mayor wore scarlet gowns,
the other members were robed in black. A posse of the borough constables
always preceded this procession, carrying blue staves with the borough
arms in gilt letters on the upper end. These staves were about six feet
long, and are preserved at the Guildhall. As soon as the second lesson
had been read, the four took their staves in their hands, and holding
them aloft, marched sedately out of church, to pay visits to the
public-houses, in order to see if any person was tippling in them during
Divine Service. The first place of call was the ‘Ring of Bells,’
adjacent to the churchyard, where, knowing the exact time their visit
would be paid, the landlord had four half-pints of ale in readiness for
their delectation as soon as they arrived. A similar visit was next paid
to the ‘King’s Arms,’ and similar treatment awaited them there.
Generally by the time these two visits had been paid, the congregation
at the church had been dismissed, and the vigilant constables retired to
their respective homes to preside over the family dinner, and to

[Illustration: SQUARE AT SOUTHMOLTON (page 204).]

say grace, after eating it, as good churchmen should do.”

We are now to travel back three centuries and more, to the reign of
Queen Elizabeth.

Leaving Southmolton for a time, we set out in the first instance for an
ancient manor-house about three miles distant, in the parish of Bishop’s
Nympton. In doing so, we pass two old factories, which formerly gave
employment to three hundred combers, etc. One of them is now a grist
mill, while the other is turned to account as a collar factory, in which
a score or two of women imitate the “little busy bee.” As for the men
who once worked in the mills, on the break-up of the industry some
transferred their services to Mr Vicary, of North Tawton, while others
migrated to Yorkshire.

A well-remembered character at Southmolton, Chappie, the parish clerk,
was seated as usual at the foot of the pulpit, when the late rector, Mr
King, being momentarily at a loss, whispered down to him, “What do they
make at the factory?” Chappie replied in an audible tone, “Serge.”
Whereupon the preacher resumed, “I am informed,” etc., drawing an
illustration from the fabric.

Through winding lanes and some rough fields, which Leland would probably
have described as “morisch,” lies the approach to Whitechapel, and were
it not for the railway, with its “level crossing,” the spot would be
rightly described as sequestered, and such as could hardly be excelled
as the scene of a tragedy or perhaps a romance. The house stands on the
slope of a green hill, against which its white walls stand pleasantly
outlined. It has two courtyards, the inner being entered by a gateway
flanked by tall brick pillars surmounted by huge globes. It is said that
on this inner platform were mounted cannon--a battery of five pieces of
ordnance. About fifty years ago the original mullioned windows were
removed by a farmer-tenant, and deposited in a cellar, where they were
lately discovered. Some of them have been re-inserted in the right end
of the building. In the rear the remains of an old hearth have been
found, showing that cooking was carried on outside the house proper. The
interior is remarkable for a splendid oak screen. The place is now in
thoroughly good hands, but it has naturally suffered from having been so
long a farmhouse, the occupiers of which were profoundly indifferent to
its contents and history. The present owner, Captain Glossop, when I met
him, was bringing taste and energy to bear on the old mansion, although
portions of it were beyond repair.

Working backwards, I find that at the beginning of the last century the
property was in Chancery, and sold by the order of the Lord Chancellor
by public auction. The purchaser was a familiar figure in Southmolton, a
Mr Sanger, who occupied Whitechapel till his death. He made it his boast
that he cut down and sold enough timber on the estate to pay the whole
of the purchase money. At one time the property belonged to an ancestor
of Sir John Heathcoat-Amory; and during the Civil Wars it was the
residence of Colonel Basset, one of Prince’s “Worthies.” Blackmore
clearly remembered this circumstance when he introduced Sir Roger
Bassett into his work (_Lorna Doone_, chapter xlvi.), and allowed him to
be victimised by the joint cunning of lawyers and outlaw.

According to Prince, the place was the original home of all the Bassets;
and the walls, as they now stand, were built during the reign of
Elizabeth by Sir Robert de Basset, on the site of an earlier structure,
and in the fashionable shape of an E. A few years later the knight lost
his wife, and having had the good fortune to win the heart and hand of
Mistress Beaumont of Umberleigh, removed to her mansion, standing where
once had stood King Athelstan’s palace. Umberleigh was afterwards the
property of John o’ Gaunt, from whom it passed to a relative--a fact to
which old doggerel lines bear witness:

    “I John o’ Gaunt, do give and grant,
     From me and mine, to thee and thine,
     The barton fee of Umberlee.”

Sir Robert de Basset not only bade adieu to Whitechapel, whither he
never returned, but shortly before the death of Queen Elizabeth, he made
another change, and for the sake of his wife’s health, took up his
residence at Heanton Court, she having brought to him the manors of
Sherwill and Heanton Punchardon. Situated on the right bank of the Taw,
about three miles below Barnstaple, Heanton Court is now only a
picturesque farmhouse, but sixty years ago, according to an eye-witness,
the walls were still worse, and resembled a dilapidated factory. This
place, as will be shown more plainly hereafter, was the original of the
Narnton Court of the _Maid of Sker_.

Now Sir Robert and his wife were both descended from the
Plantagenets--his wife certainly, and Sir Robert himself, if there was
any truth in the allegation that his great-great-grandmother was the
illegitimate daughter of Edward IV. Be that as it may, the knight saw
fit to join himself to the inglorious company of claimants to the vacant
throne of the Virgin Queen, two hundred in number; and, on the accession
of King James, he had, in consequence to escape down the river Taw and
sail into the open sea _en route_ for the Continent. Two years later an
edict was promulgated, assuring the pretenders that, on dutiful
submission, they would be allowed to escape with a fine. So the Bassets
came back, and on bended knees craved King Jamie’s forgiveness. Mrs
Basset of Watermouth Castle is said to be the possessor of the
embroidered silk apron worn by Lady Basset on this memorable occasion.
The monarch used rough language, intimating to the male suppliant that
he was a big bird, and that he must clip his wings--no idle threat,
since he imposed a fine necessitating the sale of fifteen manors. The
title also was annulled.

The next station to Umberleigh on the London and South-Western line is
Burrington, where Mrs Shapland was discovered (_Maid of Sker_, chapter
lxiv.).

About three miles and a half west of Southmolton lies the parish of
Filleigh, in which is situate Castle Hill, the beautiful seat of Earl
Fortescue, with its park of over eight hundred acres, a feature of which
is an avenue of trees nearly a mile long, leading to a triumphal arch.
The name Castle Hill is actually a misnomer, as the mansion is not of
the old baronial type; but the top of the wooded eminence, on whose
slope it stands, has an artificial ruin, serving to keep the description
in countenance. From the terrace the ground drops away to an ornamental
lake, and what with the clusters of trees, the shrubbery, and the rare
garden, Castle Hill may be fairly commended as a domain worthy of the
ancient family by which it is owned. One old building which has now
disappeared, was called the “Hermitage.” This was the subject of a poem
by Mr Badcock, a native of Southmolton, in the _London Magazine_ for
1782, but I have been unable to discover much about it, save that it
bore the inscription: “I have seen an end of all perfection, but Thy
commandment is exceeding broad”--a suitable text, one may think, for a
hermitage.

The grounds of Castle Hill were remodelled by Hugh Fortescue, Lord
Clinton, created Earl Clinton and Baron Fortescue in 1746. He died
without issue in 1751, when the earldom became extinct. The barony
passed to his half-brother Matthew, who died in 1785, and was succeeded
by his son Hugh. In 1789 the latter was created Earl Fortescue and
Viscount Ebrington, the second title being derived from his
Gloucestershire seat, Ebrington Hall. He was followed by his son, also
called Hugh, who had taken an active part in the debates on the Reform
Bill in the Lower House, and was appointed Lord-Lieutenant and Custos
Rotulorum of the County of Devon. An interesting episode in this
nobleman’s career was a visit to Napoleon in December 1814, of which he
published a vivacious description.

The present earl was born in 1818. As is well known, he has long
suffered from an affection of the eyes, brought about by a conscientious
discharge of public duty. Viscount Ebrington, his eldest son, now
occupies the honourable position so ably filled by his grandfather.

For a full history of the Fortescue family in all its branches, the
reader is referred to the late Lord Clermont’s large and handsome volume
on the subject, of which it contains an exhaustive account. Here it may
be observed that the name, which is a little remarkable, is traced to an
incident in the battle of Senlac, when Richard le Fort saved the life of
William, Duke of Normandy, by protecting him with his shield from the
blows of his assailants. From that time, and for that reason, he was
known as Richard le Fortescue, or Strong Shield. Such, at least, is
Holinshed’s story. Tradition further states that after the Conquest
Richard returned to Normandy, where his descendants through his second
son, Richard, continued to flourish till the eighteenth century. The
eldest son, Sir Adam, who had also fought at Senlac, remained behind in
England, and was the ancestor of all the English Fortescues.

Among the benefactors of Southmolton occurs the name of Lord Fortescue
of Credan, who left £50 to the poor of the parish. A Justice of the
Common Pleas, and descended from an offshoot of the Castle Hill branch
(which, by the way, is not the senior), the _Conveyancer’s Guide_
preserves the following amusing anecdote respecting him. The baron was
the possessor of one of the strangest noses ever seen, much resembling
the trunk of an elephant. “Brother, brother,” said he to the counsel,
“you are handling the case in a very lame manner.” “No, no, my lord,”
was his reply, “have patience with me, and I will make it as plain as
the nose on your lordship’s face.”



CHAPTER XIV

THE FORGE OF FAGGUS AND THE CURE OF CHOWNE[19]


A “TOWN” by courtesy (though Blackmore shows it no courtesy, dubbing it
“a rough rude place at the end of Exmoor”), Northmolton is an
inconsiderable village--that is, as regards size and population; very
pretty, however, and romantic. Despite its comparative unimportance some
of the inhabitants of the larger Molton cherish respect for its smaller
neighbour as the seat of ancient tradition. I remember talking to a
tonsorial artist--one does not speak of “barbers” nowadays--and a native
of Southmolton, who referred with bated breath to the Court Leet and
Baron held in the sister parish, and the strange customs connected with
such tribunals; and he evidently considered the Southmolton Town Council
a mere mushroom institution of scant interest compared with the feudal
juries. I determined to look into the matter.

There are two routes between South-and Northmolton--one the present
highway along

[Illustration: WHITECHAPEL BARTON (page 209).]

the richly wooded valley of the Mole; the other, doubtless more ancient,
over the hill to the right, from the summit of which is obtained an
excellent view of the village situated on the opposite ridge.

Northmolton is known far and wide as the birthplace of the renowned Tom
Faggus, who from being a smith turned highwayman. It is only a few years
ago since the forge at which he is supposed to have toiled was pulled
down. It stood at the bottom of the square, next to and facing the
“Poltimore Arms”; and picture post-cards, showing what it was like, are
on sale in the village. Just as I presented the reader with the
pre-Blackmorian legend of the Doones, drawn from Mr Cooper’s _Lynton_,
so I reproduce from the same source the legend of Tom Faggus, as it
existed before the publication of the romance.


_Faggus and his Strawberry Horse._

Faggus was a native of Northmolton, and by trade a blacksmith, but being
engaged in a lawsuit with Sir Richard Bampfylde, he was ruined, and
obliged to leave his home.

He then turned a gentleman-robber, and for many years collected
contributions on the highways, sometimes in company with a companion
named Penn, but more frequently alone.

Many stories are told concerning his famous enchanted strawberry horse,
and it was chiefly by means of this horse that Faggus escaped punishment
for so long a time.

On one occasion a large party of farmers agreed to ride home together
from Barnstaple Fair for the purpose of avoiding an attack from Faggus,
who was supposed to be in the neighbourhood. However, when they arrived
at the post on the top of Bratton-down, Faggus rode up, a cocked pistol
in each hand and the reins lying on the neck of his strawberry horse; he
threatened them with instant death, if they did not deposit their purses
at the foot of the post. The farmers obeyed him in silent awe, and
Faggus rode off with his booty.

He was seized while sitting in the ale-house at Simonsbath, but at his
shrill whistle his invaluable horse, having broken down the stable door,
rushed into the house, and after seriously maltreating the enemies of
his master with his hoofs and teeth, bore him off in triumph. On another
occasion he was recognised in Barnstaple and closely pursued to the
bridge, where he was met by a party of constables, who blockaded the
other end. Seeing all hopes of escape by the road completely cut off, he
boldly put his horse at the parapet of the bridge. This he cleared, and
swam off, to the great disappointment of his numerous assailants, who
had considered his capture now as quite certain.

Intelligence being received at Exford that Faggus was to pass through
that village on a certain day, a number of men were stationed in a
certain part of the road to endeavour to seize him. They had not been
long at their post, when Faggus rode up in complete disguise.

“Pray, my good friends,” said he, “may I ask for what purpose you are
waiting here in such numbers?”

On being answered that they were waiting for Faggus, he replied that he
knew him well for a great rascal, and volunteered his services in
assisting to take him. After a little more conversation he asked what
firearms they had; four or five guns were produced. He proposed that
they should be discharged and reloaded, to secure their going off when
required, as the dampness of the morning might have injured their
priming. This was agreed to, and when his advice had been taken and the
guns put for a moment _hors de combat_, he produced his pistols, and
having declared his name and robbed his terrified adversaries, galloped
away.

It being discovered on another occasion that Faggus had taken refuge in
a house at Porlock, the whole of the inhabitants assembled; some seized
the rusty arms which had long hung neglected over their chimneys, or
been emptied only in inoffensive war against the timid wild-fowl; others
armed themselves with scythes, pitchforks, and other rustic weapons.
They surrounded the house in a formidable array, shouting aloud, “Faggus
is taken!” “Faggus is taken!” But they were mistaken. The door suddenly
opened, and he rushed forth mounted on his strawberry horse, dashing
through the crowd. Regardless of the blows and shots aimed at him from
all sides, he disappeared, leaving them astonished and confounded at his
daring and good fortune. He was at length captured in an ale-house at
Exebridge, in the following curious manner.

One of the officers, equipped as an old beggar woman, entered the
tap-room where Faggus was. With his usual kindness he ordered the
supposed vagrant some food and liquor, and sat down near him. At a
preconcerted signal the disguised constable, rising quickly, pulled the
chair from under Faggus, and being thereupon joined by others who were
concealed in the room, instantly fastened a rope to Faggus’ feet and
hoisted him up to the bacon rack. The shrill whistle Faggus gave, as was
his custom when in difficulty, was given in vain, for the poor horse had
been shot in the stable at the very moment the attack was made upon his
master. All was now over with poor Faggus. He was tried and hanged at
Taunton at the ensuing assizes.

Through his whole career not one act of cruelty was ever laid to his
charge, while numerous are the acts of kindness and charity to the sick
and the distressed that are recorded of him. Like the celebrated Robin
Hood, he seems to have taken from the rich to give to the poor, for it
required but little to supply his own immediate wants, living as he did
in the most frugal manner.

On my last visit to Northmolton I was fortunate in making the
acquaintance of Mr Dobbs, who represents the oldest firm of auctioneers
in the district, his father and grandfather having wielded the fateful
hammer before him. From this informant I learnt that over forty years
ago, long before he set eyes on _Lorna Doone_, he gathered many
particulars regarding Tom Faggus from Harry Lake, the parson’s boy, who
possessed a history of that half or wholly fabulous hero, which he was
in the habit of reading whilst seated on the vicarage steps, waiting for
his master and in charge of his Bucephalus. Harry afterwards emigrated
to America, taking his book with him, but Mr Dobbs is able to recollect
that Faggus had a relative living in Milk Street, Exeter--a poulterer.
One anecdote in the book, which is mentioned also in _Lorna Doone_, was
to the effect that once when Sir Robert Bampfylde, who had ruined Faggus
and occasioned him the loss of his house, was riding to Barnstaple, he
met the highwayman, who made him give up his purse. The next moment he
threw it back, saying, “There is a rule among robbers not to rob
robbers.”

It is worth while to observe that if Faggus lived at the period to which
Blackmore assigns him, the head of the family would have been, not Sir
Robert, but Sir Coplestone, Bampfylde, one of Prince’s “Worthies.” As
for the tale of tyranny, it is somewhat improbable; but, if true, is the
more deplorable, in that the Bampfyldes themselves had endured pecks of
financial trouble--a fact candidly and explicitly set forth on the great
monument in the church, where mention is made of “diuturna litigia et
graves impensas,” which had nothing whatever to do with poor Faggus, but
were undertaken for the object of regaining possession of their estates.

The two chiefs--Amias, to whom the monument was erected, and John, by
whom it was erected, “pietatis ergo”--were both endued with the bump of
philo-progenitiveness. The former was the father of twelve sons and five
daughters, and the latter of eight sons and seven daughters. The
sculptor has made a brave attempt to introduce as many figures as
possible into his imposing work of art, but there was evidently scope
for a sort of human ant-hill. From the way the numbers are paraded, the
Bampfyldes, like the Hebrews of old, manifestly regarded a large family
as a merit, or, at least, a blessing. “Happy is the man that hath his
quiver full of them.” Apart from the monument, the most striking feature
of the church is the gorgeous display of carved oak in the chancel. The
insertion of modern work in the old oak pulpit was a most wretched
inspiration, whoever may have been responsible for it.

The Bampfylde family acquired the property by marriage with a coheiress
of the St Maurs; and in the course of centuries their honourable name
has undergone almost every possible variety of spelling. Bamfylde,
Bampfylde, Baumfield, Bampfeild, are some of the forms I have met with,
but I will not answer for it that the list is exhaustive. The first
baronet was Sir John Bampfylde, who received the title in 1641. The
sixth baronet, the Right Hon. Sir George Warwick Bampfylde, was raised
to the peerage in 1831 as Baron Poltimore, that being the name of
another estate belonging to the family near Exeter. The present Lord
Poltimore was born in 1837. He owns not only Court Hall, a fine old
mansion standing to the east of the church, and almost hidden by trees,
but Court House, an ancient ivy-covered structure, formerly the
residence of the Parkers, the Earl of Morley’s ancestors.

There lived in the village in those days a charitably-disposed old
lady, one Mrs Passmore, a dressmaker; and at Christmas-tide the dear old
soul had always ready basins full of coppers, threepenny-bits, sixpenny
bits, etc., to be distributed in the shape of doles. The Lady Morley of
the period is said to have taken it into her head that this amiable
custom detracted, in some measure, from the honour and reverence due to
herself; so she suggested to Mrs Passmore that, as no doubt their
charities overlapped, and some people had more than their share, while
others had nothing, it might be well to entrust her with the combined
funds, and allow her to act as almoner.

“No, my lady,” was the reply, “I don’t think I will. You know they come
and say, ‘Thankee, Lady Morley!’ and ‘God bless ee, Lady Morley!’ but if
I give away my own money, I shall have all the God bless ee’s mysel’.”

An apprentice of Mrs Passmore was the rather noted Mrs Treadwin, who
wrote a book on lace, and from whose shop on the north-east side of
Exeter Cathedral were supplied the wardrobes of generations of queens
and princesses, including the wedding-dress of Queen Victoria.

The almshouses, the inmates of which live rent free and receive
fourpence a week, were originally Parker property; and on the panelling
round the chancel of the parish church may be detected the initials “T.
P.,” supposed to refer to one of the family--_not_ to the well-known
editor and Parliamentarian.

The Court Leet and Baron is held at the Poltimore Arms. In the
bar-parlour of this hotel is a curious object--namely, a fire-back of
cast-iron, bearing the inscription, “^{16} H S I ^{89}.” The purpose of
the utensil is to throw the fire forward and prevent it from burning the
bricks. The venue of the Court Leet, however, is not the bar-parlour,
but the large state-room on the right, where a feast, to which Lord
Poltimore contributes thirty shillings and a hare, is held once a year.
The _personnel_ consists of sixteen jurymen, twelve of whom form the
king’s jury, and four that of the manor. The presiding officer is the
Portreeve (commonly known as the “Mayor”), and his subordinates include
a Bailiff, Ale Tasters, and Searchers of the Market. The Court Leet
possesses copper cups used as measures, but it may be mentioned,
parenthetically, that the Searchers have not been round lately, as they
found on a certain occasion that their own weights were not just. Mr
Dobbs’s father served for a long time as Bailiff, the only pay he
received being a dinner, while Mr Dobbs himself has been Portreeve, and
though now quit of the office, is chaffingly greeted as “Mr Mayor.” This
jest has been doing duty for at least half a century, but somehow the
humour does not grow stale, and nobody is so foolish as to object.

The most colossal witticism attaching to Northmolton concerns a certain
Peter, which appellation is, or used to be, in great favour in the
village. The Peter in question was taken ill and died, whereupon a
district visitor, or somebody of the sort, called to condole with the
widow.

“So you have lost your good man?”

“Iss,” replied Betty, “Peter’s gone to Belzebub’s bosom.”

[Illustration: TOM FAGGUS’S FORGE, NORTHMOLTON (page 217).]

“Pst!” said the visitor, “you don’t know what you’m talking about.”

“P’raps I don’t,” answered Betty, placidly, “Peter and me never could
mind the names of great folks.”

Five miles from Northmolton is the village of Charles, so long the home
of the Rev. Richard Blackmore, the uncle of the novelist. During his
incumbency a Northmolton man, fond of lifting his right arm, called on
business at the rectory, and was immediately taken in hand by the
rector’s wife.

“Did you notice any wood-stacks as you came along?” she inquired.

“Yes, ma’am--a good many.”

“And did you see any pigs?”

“Pigs, ma’am? Yes, I ran up against one.”

“Ah, well; do you know why there are so many pigs at Charles?”

“No, I don’t,” replied the man, puzzled.

“Then I will tell you--because there is no public-house here,” concluded
the lady, triumphantly.

Almost due north of Charles is the parish of High Bray, where is a
farmhouse called Ludcote, Liddicot, or Lidcote. The last is Sir Walter
Scott’s spelling of the name, which is, after all, a secondary matter.
What is of more importance is the imputed connection with the place of
Amy Robsart and her family. Chapter xii. of _Kenilworth_ commences as
follows: “The ancient seat of Lidcote Hall was situated near the village
of the same name, and adjoined the wild and extensive forest of Exmoor,
plentifully stocked with game, in which some ancient rights belonging
to the Robsart family entitled Sir Hugh to pursue his favourite
amusement of the chase.” On the faith of this statement it has been
generally assumed that the unhappy Amy sprang from a good old Devonshire
stock. Reference to the standard authorities, however, has failed to
discover the slightest trace of such a family, and one or two
antiquaries of repute, whom I have consulted, confess themselves utterly
at a loss to explain the allusion. It is a suspicious circumstance that
in neither his introduction nor his notes does the author throw any
light on the Devonshire connections of his heroine, and for all these
reasons combined I am disposed to regard this portion of his narrative
as wholly imaginary.

As the topic is literature, I may here allude to a contemporary writer,
whose portrait I purchased in a shop opposite the Poltimore Arms. At the
time I was quite ignorant of his precise claim to celebrity, and the
silk hat, frock coat and walking-stick were too conventional to suggest
genius, though the face, perhaps, was not strictly normal. However,
experience told me that no man would figure on a picture post-card
unless possessed of unusual gifts, and it turned out that Mr Richard
Slader was a poet and a solitary, whose recreations--to borrow a hint
from _Who’s Who?_--consist in keeping a hundred head of poultry and
selling nuts and blackberries at Southmolton Fair. About forty-five
years of age, and careless of appearances, he might be taken, as
somebody expressed it, for an “old tramp,” but he belongs to a
respectable family; indeed, the name occurs in the Blackmore pedigree.
Moreover, it is known that his father left him a good round sum of
money. Slader talks broad Devonshire, and “Rachard and his pigs” have
passed into a proverb. Swine have been a source of infinite worry to
him. Certain of the species owned by his sister at Pixyweek became
infected with anthrax, and were ordered by the police to be destroyed.
This annoyed Mr Slader, and he gave vent to his indignation in a poem.
On another occasion he was summoned for allowing his own pigs to stray
on the highway, convicted, and fined. Resentment at this petty tyranny
led to his penning an effusion, which was printed and circulated in
leaflet form.

Like all poets, Mr Slader has his critics and detractors. In a
counter-leaflet put forth by some “snake in the grass,” he is reviled as
the “silly old man of Northmolton,” but the hiss of these ignoble
stanzas is as far beneath his polished verse as it is possible to
conceive. It is proper to add that Mr Slader indited pathetic and very
pious compositions on the deaths of his mother and sister, so that his
graceful muse is not always wedded to satire.

“With various talents, variously we excel,” and as at Molland Cross we
are not very far from Molland parish, in which Tom Faggus had land
(_Lorna Doone_, chapter xlvi.), I am tempted to make a passing allusion
to another family represented in the Blackmore pedigree--the Quartlys of
Champson. When the Quartlys first sprang into fame as cattle-breeders, I
cannot precisely state, but as such they certainly enjoyed a high
reputation at the commencement of the last century, and they attained
perhaps the acme of distinction during the reign of George IV., when
their red kine were never shown at Smithfield without winning first
prizes. The best animal painters in England visited Champson to inspect
the stock, and among the rest came H. B. Chalon, animal painter to the
king, who drew a sketch of two cows, afterwards engraved by Raddon for
Mr White, of Pilton House, and dedicated to Mr T. W. Coke, M.P. for
Norfolk.[20]

The Quartlys no longer reside at Champson, the death of the late Mr John
Quartly on the railway, a few years ago, having led to the severance of
a connection which had lasted for generations.[21]

The parish of Molland is associated with that of Knowstone. For
centuries they have been consolidated as one benefice, and formed the
original of Blackmore’s “Nympton-in-the-Moors.” Here, I must improve on
this precedent by including a third parish, Lapford, which lies in a
southerly direction. The reason is as follows. A reader of the _Maid of
Sker_, who is also familiar with North Devon, must be struck with the,
no doubt, intentional looseness of the geographical references. From a
perusal of the romance, it would be natural to conclude that
“Nympton-in-the-Moors” is much nearer Barnstaple and the coast than is
actually the case,[22] and that no considerable town like Southmolton
is interposed between them. Southmolton is ignored also in favour of
Tiverton, for, although “Nympton” is in the rural deanery of the former
town, it is to the old church of St Peter, Tiverton, that Chowne is
appointed by his bishop to bring his young people to a “noble
confirmation” (_Maid of Sker_, chapter liii.). The name “Nympton” is
common in Devon, where there are four or five villages so called, and
distinguished from each other by some addition like “King’s,”
“Bishop’s,” “George,” etc. Besides these there is the form “Nymet”
(apparently contracted in the first syllable of “Nympton”), which is
found in Nymet-Roland, near Lapford, which, by virtue of the
watercourses, stands in more direct relation to Barnstaple than the
parishes before named. Still, I do not deny that on the whole, Blackmore
intended by “Nympton-in-the-Moors” Knowstone-cum-Molland, of which the
Rev. John Froude (“Parson Chowne”), who died in 1852, was incumbent for
forty-seven years. It is distinctly stated that “Parson Chowne happened
to have two churches” (_Maid of Sker_, chapter xxviii.), but it appears
to me that, for certain purposes, he blended with them the parish of
Lapford, of which his nephew, the notorious John Radford (“Parson
Rambone”), was rector.

It was at Nymet-Roland that the “naked people,” who bulk so largely in
the _Maid of Sker_, lived in semi-nudity and utter savagery, in an old
cottage of clay, of which one wall had given way, so that in their only
room grass grew on the earth floor. They stole what clothes they
required, and continually got into trouble with the police, one of whom
was felled to the ground by a girl of the family. Contrary to
Blackmore’s account, they were finely built, muscular, and strong. The
patriarch of the race died at Whitstone, having spent his declining
years in a cider cask; and about 1860 the family was dispersed. These
people were called Cheriton, and as they lived on their own freehold,
could not be interfered with, until financial difficulties arose, which
compelled them to give up possession.

Froude’s real “lambs” were not of this description, but ordinary village
folk. With these his word was law, and no matter how extravagant his
commands, they were obeyed to the letter. Though a man of unquestioned
ability, the parson hardly possessed the diabolical cunning of Chowne,
but it is to be feared that he had no small share of his cruel malice,
and he carried buffoonery to a pitch utterly inconsistent with his cloth
and calling. His moral character was such that his relations, some of
whom I know, regard him as outside the pale of apology; while old
labourers, who remember his white hat, though perhaps none too good
themselves, are shocked to recall such conduct in a “minister.” Froude
never issued instructions directly; he preferred oblique methods. Thus
he would be riding along where a group of men were at work, and begin to
mutter, “I’m certain sure Farmer Besley’s fuzz-brake will be burnt--I
know ’twill.” The nearest man would prick up his ears, and, having
accomplished the prophecy, would return to the spot, where he would
find a sovereign on the gatepost. At another time, Froude would say to a
follower severely, “Look here, John, don’t you cut off that donkey’s
tail”--pointing to an animal on the other side of the hedge. The next
day the unfortunate animal would be found minus its appendage. Froude’s
“lambs” were staunch to him, and years afterwards one of them, called
Peagram, who lived at Southmolton, refused to divulge anything of their
relations.

Parson Chowne was a marrying man--having, it will be recollected, three
wives in succession; Froude was twice married, his second wife being
Miss Halse, daughter of “Squire” Halse, a yeoman farmer of Pulworthy.
Tradition says that he officiated at the lady’s christening, and, at the
convivial party given in honour of the event, observed that, if the girl
baby lived to grow up, he would marry her. From another source I have
heard that, when he was courting her, he and her father would stay up
late, drinking, and Froude, by no means so abstinent as the terrible
Chowne, generally got into a condition which rendered it necessary for
him to be “personally conducted” to Knowstone by one of the men, who
would ride behind him, buoy him up in the saddle, and lift him from his
horse at the end of the journey, and make himself responsible for his
safety. Sad to say, Froude was neither civil nor grateful, and although
consciously incapable, heaped all kinds of profane and opprobrious
epithets on his companion. “You only do it for your guts’ sake. Go
back--go back, or I’ll yaw (thrash) tha.” Bragg did not dare to
dismount, knowing that if he showed signs of fear Froude would be as
good as his word, and give him a good horse-whipping.

Froude could be a perfect gentleman if he chose, and, when in his
capacity as master of hounds, he entertained sportsmen like Lord
Portsmouth to dinner, he acquitted himself with surprising ease and some
amount of refinement. But he was always relieved when such ordeals were
over and he had attended the last of his guests to the door. He would
then turn to a boon companion with the remark, “Thank Heaven, George;
I’ve been a gentleman long enough. Come into the kitchen, and have some
grog.”

Radford was nothing like so prominent a character as Froude, but he was,
if possible, even more disreputable. He was tall and well built, and his
favourite recreation was fighting. As to time and place, he was not at
all particular, and was often seen in the boxing booths at Southmolton
Fair giving an exhibition of his powers. Radford seems to have had quite
a mania for pugilism. Once he invaded a gipsy encampment, and offered a
sovereign to any of them who could beat him. The best man was picked,
but proved of no use against the parson, who thereupon offered to fight
the next, and eventually went through about a dozen of them, each new
opponent being buoyed up with the hope that Radford was getting worn out
with his exertions. But the hope turned out delusive.

In the same way, when the railway was being cut between Exeter and
Barnstaple, Radford appeared among the navvies, issuing challenges

[Illustration: CHANCEL, NORTHMOLTON CHURCH (page 222).]

right and left, and, as they were accompanied with offers of money, his
gages of battle were eagerly taken up. The navvies, as a rule, fared no
better than the gipsies, but one man named Tolly, who was afterwards a
stationmaster on the line, was credited with the proud distinction of
having beaten the redoubtable rector.

The Hon. Newton Fellowes, afterwards Lord Portsmouth, used to drive a
four-in-hand, and occasionally experienced trouble with lazy carters,
who did not make room for him as fast as he could wish, and whom he
punished with a slash of his whip. One day Radford got himself up as a
carter, and, lying down inside the cart, pretended to be asleep. On came
Newton Fellowes, who, finding the carter deaf to his commands, flew into
a perfect fury and began to flourish his whip. At the first touch up
jumped Radford, and administered to his lordship the worst drubbing he
ever had in his life.

As I have said, however, Radford was by no means Froude’s equal, and as
the Parson Rambone of the romance, rightly holds a secondary place.
Radford, not Russell, was the original of the character, since Blackmore
himself told Mr Bryan, of Southmolton, that the former was his model.
Froude’s redeeming virtue was his success as a sportsman, and the
following article from the _Sporting Magazine_ for 1821 shows in what
esteem he was held by the hunting community.


_Close of Mr Froude’s Season in North Devon._

Experience teaches us that happiness is unattainable without
reciprocity. I do not mean that in all our actions we are to look out
for an equivalent; reason and Scripture equally denounce such
selfishness; but if in our amusements and recreations we are partially
dependent on others, some attention must inevitably be paid to the
feelings and predilections of our fellow-mortals. The galling yoke of
feudalism is long ago removed; and it is better to be loved than
dreaded. The rod of iron may chastise, but cannot win the affections,
nor repress resentment; which, if not cancelled by kindness will, sooner
or later, burst forth with the devastating fury of an avalanche. When a
perfect understanding is established between sportsmen and farmers, game
is seldom wanting, and every facility is afforded in following the
hounds. A more harmonious feeling of unanimity and respect I never
beheld, than at a hunting feast the other day at the house of Mr Froude,
the master of a crack pack of harriers in the North of Devon. I may say
_the_ crack pack; in which Nimrod will, I think, agree, as he has
signalised some of the hounds in your magazine, particularly old Guilty.
We need not refer to Buffon for arguments to prove the sagacity of the
canine species, as old Guilty has given abundant proof of it. The
efficient number of the pack is about twenty-five couples; the hunting
days are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: Guilty, though kept at a
farmhouse nearly three miles distant from the kennel, always attended of
her own accord on hunting mornings. If too late, one of the servants had
only to point to her the direction the hounds went, and she invariably
joined them without the aid of a compass.

At the end of a hunting season it is a custom with many masters of
hounds to invite the yeomen and farmers over whose land they hunt, to
dinner, thereby verifying the old adage, _finis coronat opus_. The other
day I was present at one of those dinners or hunting feasts given by Mr
Froude, where there were from fifty to sixty persons enjoying the good
things of life, and where

    “The story ran in such familiar strains,
     With so much humour and so little pains.”

On such occasions particular customs are strictly observed. The host
resigns his domestic sovereignty into the hands of his guests, who
appoint a Tapster from their own body, a Sword to enforce fines, and a
Judge to settle disputes and to keep up ancient customs, who, in this
instance, executed his office with the impartiality of a Rhadamanthus,
particularly in seeing that his Sword performed his duty with justice in
the sconcing department. On a table were huge flagons of foaming old
October, with four magnums, or, as the classics say, _magna_, of
spirits, surrounded with drinking cups, horns, and glasses, marked with
hunting devices. Among other toasts, “the King” was drunk, while
standing, at _one draught_, in tolerably large tumblers: and those who
were not particular in doing so were fined, as his Judgeship said, for
cutting His Majesty in two--such being the established rule handed down
from their forefathers. At all events the toast was a loyal one, and I
wonder King Charles had it not inserted among his golden rules.
Youngsters on their first introduction had to pledge the Judge in a
glass of neat spirits; and after this matriculating ceremony was over
they were considered as efficient members. One of the initiated gave us
a hunting song; and his memory having failed him in three or four
instances, the inexorable Judge fined him a wineglassful of brandy for
each omission; and ere he finished his melody, his head reclined on the
mahogany, and he softly reposed himself in the arms of Morpheus. I was
excused fines, not being a member of the club.

    “It always has been thought discreet
     To know the company you meet;
       And sure there may be secret danger
       In talking much before a stranger.
     Agreed: what then? then drink your ale,
     I’ll pledge you, and repeat my tale.”

His Lordship the Judge now stood up to propose THE TOAST--viz., “Success
to the merry harriers and their worthy master! Whoever does not preserve
game, and allow him to follow his hounds wherever he pleases, is a
craven, _et cetera, et cetera_!”--(what the _et ceteras_ are I must beg
leave to be silent)--which was received with tumultuous applause. The
contents of the cups disappeared with such a magic rapidity that
Macbeth’s words, “Damn’d be he who first cries hold! enough!” would have
been an exceedingly appropriate motto. I did not see the finale; but I
saw quite enough to convince me that a little attention timely applied
has gained Mr Froude the goodwill of all his neighbours. Our English
yeomen are composed of too tough materials _to be driven_; they require
as much management as a restive horse; however, with a little tact they
can _be easily led_. A rough, generous, and hospitable yeoman is a
perfect epitome of JOHN BULL. Who can read Sir W. Scott’s description of
Dandy Dinmont without a feeling of admiration? The neighbouring poor
also partook of the entertainment; and the day is always looked upon as
a jubilee by the villagers.

Mr Froude is generally allowed to be one of the first hare-hunters in
the West of England. One glance of his is sufficient to find out the
good and bad points of a dog. His first instructions he received at the
hands of the late Mr Karslake, and it may be justly said of him that he
was bred up at the feet of Gamaliel. The moment his leading-strings were
thrown aside, he set about organising a pack of harriers, to which he
has ever since devoted the greater part of his time. Hounds are kept by
many for the sake of effect and parade, by way of getting a name in the
Sporting World; but it cannot be said so in this instance. Sportsmen
being so few in the neighbourhood of Knowstone, the field mostly
consists of persons staying at the Vicarage, a few surrounding friends,
and an occasional wandering lover of the chase, attracted by the fame of
the Knowstone pack. The hounds, in size, shape, and colour, bear a
wonderful similarity to each other. I recollect once, on meeting the
Tivy-side Hunt on the Welsh Hills, my remarking that one of the hounds
bore a strong similarity to Mr Froude’s breed of hounds, which I found
on inquiry came from Devonshire--so strong is the family likeness
through the whole pack. When a man’s principal attention has for years
been devoted to the breed of hounds, it must ultimately arrive at the
maximum of perfection, particularly if the person, like Mr Froude,
understands his business well. The prominent points of his hounds
are:--height nineteen inches, considerable length of back, immense
strong loins, with firm and well-shaped haunches, productive of speed
and durability: they are particularly quick in all their movements: one
should have the flying arrow of Ababis to follow them; and their note is
sharp and cutting. A friend of mine used to say that “a deep-mouthed
Southern hound” sounded well in poetry, but it always reminded him of a
cathedral bell. The deep and solemn tone of Great Tom is very well at
Lincoln; but the sharp and cheering cry of harriers is much more
invigorating to the spirits on a raw and cold morning on the bleak hills
of Devonshire.

Had Nimrod time during his Devonshire Tour to call on Mr Froude, he
would have had many amusing anecdotes. One of those whose minds are
chiefly devoted to the admiration of their pretty selves happened once
to join the Knowstone pack, and kept on in spite of hints, though
pointedly given, clearing banks and furze bushes to the manifest danger
of the dogs’ lives. A hare at last was started; off went the parson and
the dandy side by side until they came to the margin of a bog. His
reverence instantly tightened one of his bridle-reins, and continued to
spur his nag, which gave it the appearance of shying. The dandy went in
neck and crop; and thus the nuisance was got rid of by “his own act and
deed,” as the lawyers say. However, he was soon landed, and had every
attention paid him. This I had from the late poor Jack Harvey, who was
a tolerable master of the laconic style. The late Marsh, Fauntleroy &
Company used to be his bankers. I recollect when he wanted the needful
to go to Warwickshire, his addressing Mr Marsh thus: “Dear Agent, send
me some coin. I am yours, etc.” When his house in Devon was burnt, he
acquainted his guardian with the accident thus: “Dear Nunky, I have no
_domus_: ditto is burnt.” His brother, who was then studying at St
John’s, Cambridge, offered him his purse: for his kind offer he was
answered thus: “Dear George, I thank you for your Balm of Gilead letter;
send me fifty pounds.” Coulton himself could not have improved on this.

Mr Froude has hunted the fox more frequently for the last two years than
he used to do, and has bred two couples of hounds out of a favourite
harrier bitch of his own by a clever foxhound from the celebrated blood
of George Templar, Esq.: these are reserved expressly to go with the
harriers, when drawing for a fox, to keep them steady to the varmint.
Here instinct is clearly shown on the drag; and when the pack is well
settled to the line of scent, the quickness and vivacity of the merry
harrier are quickly apparent. They have this season, I hear, had some
brilliant runs, an animated account of which has been given in our
provincial papers by a gentleman from the neighbourhood of Exeter,
attracted to visit the pack by common fame, like the Queen of Sheba,
when she paid a visit to Solomon.

The hunting season is now over; the horn is replaced in its case; the
whip is suspended from the nail, denoting a suspension of field sports.
The fox and the hare are allowed to revel unmolestedly over hill and
dale, secure from the thrilling “tally-ho” and “gone away” of the keen
and determined sportsman. A straggling hound may now and then steal
unperceived to remind them of their implacable foes. However, the period
will arrive

    “When bright Aurora shall unbar the morn,
       And light discover Nature’s cheerful face;
     The cracking whip and the loud-sounding horn
       Will call blithe huntsmen to the distant chase.

    “Eftsoons they issue forth a goodly band,
       The sharp-tongued hounds with music rend the air,
     The fiery coursers strike the rising sand;
       Far through the thicket flies the frighted hare.

    “Froude the honour of the day supports,
     His presence glads the woods, his orders guide the chase.”
                            --LEEK.

[Illustration: ASHFORD CHURCH, NEAR BARNSTAPLE.]



CHAPTER XV

BARUM


To Barnstaple, capital of North Devon, and capital also of the _Maid of
Sker_, or such portions of the story as relate to the county, proceed we
now. Already we have winged brief flights to the neighbourhood in
connection with Heanton Court and Ashford, one of Blackmore’s early
homes described so lovingly in the above-named romance. The scenes
appear very real, and would have been still more so but for the
construction of the railway, which shuts off from the view the house and
the old boat-stage (_Maid of Sker_, chapter xxxix.). The true name of
“Deadman’s Pill,” which was opposite Ashford, is Fremington Pill or
Penhill, a creek in which there was a sort of dock, where the larger
vessels anchored, and received or delivered cargoes.

Barnstaple is a place on which it would be a pleasure to bestow many a
page of garnered lore, and the district around is no less delightful to
the lover of the past. This being the case, it may be well to premise
that my hope is, in a subsequent volume on the Kingsley country, to
amplify the account here given, and this must excuse seeming
deficiencies.

The recollections of old inhabitants are always interesting, and it may
be laid down that, next to our own, no age attracts like that
immediately preceding it, out of which we are sprung, and in which
Blackmore flourished. Therefore I account it a fortunate accident that
made me for a short time an inmate in the house of Mr Parminter, one of
the makers of modern Barnstaple, who drew my attention to a remarkable
fact--that in the old days the town was provided with iron gates, which
were closed at night, to keep out tramps and travellers. Mr Parminter
remembers two--those in High Street and Cross Street. Boutport Street,
where Parson Rambone challenged all and sundry, must also have had its
gate.

A great support of old Barnstaple was the shipping industry. Vessels of
one hundred to two hundred tons were built here and owned by Barnstaple
men, amongst whom was Mr Bament, father of Mrs Carruthers Gould, who was
also a tanner. The ships were employed in different services, and known
as London traders, Liverpool traders, Bristol traders, etc., according
to the port of arrival. Their cargoes were of all kinds--groceries,
draperies, and general merchandise. There was also a considerable
traffic in Scotch herrings. The quays, of which there were four--three
above Barnstaple Bridge--were at right angles to the river. At present,
ships are barred from coming up beyond a certain distance by the railway
bridge. Below this, however, is the Rolle Quay (so called after the
Rolle family, to whom it belongs), which is still accessible, and where
much business is done. When in Barnstaple recently, I watched a sailing
ship from the opposite bank, and her action in entering curiously
resembled that of a mouse stealing into its hole. One of the services of
the Barnstaple vessels was as emigrant ships, and Mr Bament helped to
export hundreds of sturdy colonists to the Antipodes. In the _Maid of
Sker_ (chapter xxx.), the “Tawton fleet” of brown-sailed lighters is
referred to; the river is navigable for barges and small craft to about
three miles above the town.

Mr Parminter has many appetising reminiscences of parliamentary
elections, which in days of yore were in the hands of the freeman. This
position was esteemed a valuable privilege, since it carried with it
other rights, not merely that of voting. Mr Parminter, for instance, as
a freeman, was able, when building a chapel at Ilfracombe, to convey all
the material by sea without paying quay dues. As to politics, however.
Adjoining the North Walk is a mansion called the Castle, in the grounds
of which is a raised mound, on which in former times guns were mounted
for the defence of the river passage. This house was occupied for many
years by Mr Brembridge, M.P. for the borough (commonly known as “Dick
Brembridge”), who was pitted against Lord Ebrington, the present Lord
Fortescue, on one occasion, and, together with his colleague, unseated
for bribery. His lordship, however, was unable to occupy either of the
vacant places, as one of his own agents was convicted of corruption, to
the tune of £10. This was really a modest amount, seeing that in 1841 as
much as £80 was paid for a single vote. There were other modes of
gaining or retaining support, and amongst these may be reckoned a
champagne breakfast at the King’s Arms, which Mr Parminter recollects
attending when quite a boy, with his father. A famous contest was that
in which Messrs Hudson and Gore, the former a wealthy brewer, succeeded
in ousting the Hon. John Fortescue, brother of the present Earl, and Sir
John Palmer Chichester (“Arlington Jack”), representing two of the
oldest local families.

All the world has heard of Mr F. Carruthers Gould, the renowned
caricaturist, but all the world may not know that, although not a
resident in the town, Mr Gould is a thorough Barnstaple man, and his
wife, as we have seen, is a Barnstaple lady. The Goulds are an old
Barnstaple family. The grandfather of F. C. G. was a lime and slate
merchant, and his father, Mr Richard David Gould, a very clever
architect, in large practice, who designed the market and many private
residences, including the house in which Mr Parminter lives and I
lodged. Prior to this my excellent landlord occupied the Castle, an
hotel which he built for himself in the street of the same name, where
he had Mr R. D. Gould himself as a paying guest. In his youth Mr
Carruthers Gould was a clerk in the Old Bank, and, whilst in that
position, presumed to caricature old Trewin, the jailor--a terrible
personage, with a great capacity for holloaing. The sight of the picture
enraged him beyond measure, and it is said he was almost for murdering
the daring young artist.

For many years Barnstaple has known no such benefactor as the late Mr
W. F. Rock, who, I believe, started in life as a linen-draper and lived
to found the North Devon Athenæum, which originated in a debating
society. He was the author of a dialogue in the North Devon dialect, and
took an interest in many other things besides literature. For instance,
he gave a most useful stimulus to the slumbering artistic taste of the
townspeople; and the wonderful development of Barum ware and cabinet
work may be attributed, directly or indirectly, to the seed sown by this
wise and patriotic townsman.

From this gossip of recent days I turn to severer researches, suggested
in part by points that have already cropped up--for instance, the matter
of the castle. When Barnstaple Castle was first erected, whether by King
Athelstan or some other Saxon ruler, cannot be accurately stated. This
much is certain--that there was ample reason for such a fort in
Anglo-Saxon times, since the berserker Hubba appeared in the
neighbourhood, and at the mouth of the Taw is the so-called Hubba-stone,
supposed to mark his grave. Two other Norse chieftains, Crida and Putta,
are reputed to have given their names to Croyde and Putsborough. The
castle was rebuilt or considerably extended by Judhel de Totnes, a
favourite of William the Conqueror, to whom he, William, granted the
borough of Barnstaple, and who occasionally resided there. He also
repaired the town walls. Judhel was afterwards banished, and the barony
and castle, after passing through a number of different hands, came at
length to Sir John Chichester, who in 1566 conveyed the entire manor,
with the exception of the castle, to the corporation, in whom it is
still vested. For some reason the fortress attracted the jealous
attention of the Government, and in the reign of Henry III., A.D. 1228,
a precept was directed to the Sheriff of Devon, commanding him to reduce
its walls to a height not exceeding ten feet. According to Fuller, it
was in the following century the principal residence of the worthy Lord
Audley, but in Leland’s time (1542) it was already a ruin.

“The town of Berdenstaple,” he says, “hath been waulled, and the waulle
was in compace by estimation half a myle. It is now almost clene
faullen. The names of the four gates by east, west, north and south, yet
remain, and manifest tokens of them. There be manifest ruines of a great
castelle at the north-west side of the towne, a little beneath the towne
bridge, and a place of dungeon yet standeth.”

The next notice of the castle is found in the Journal of Philip Wyott,
Town Clerk of Barnstaple from 1586 to 1608: “1601, nineteenth day of
December, at night, some of the castle walls was blown down and blown
into the Castle, and did no harm, saving some ravens were found dead,
and belike sat within the wall.” Elsewhere the Journal tells how two
hundred trained soldiers were reviewed in the Castle Green, and, how, in
October 1606, a great flood “threw down the whole house wherein James
Frost did dwell, whereby himself was slayne, and two children lying
within bed was slayne, with the falling of the walls, and all the walls
between that and the Castle fell.”

The aforesaid mound, and some remains of two or three massive walls
incorporated with the Castle House, alone are left to mark the site of
the once proud river-fort. With regard to the mound, time was when it
was surmounted by a small keep or watch-tower, and it is supposed that
part of a wall on one side of it is a remnant of the ancient building.
This had plainly vanished in 1727, when trespassers on the mound were
put on their trial at Exeter.

Next, as to shipping. Barnstaple was one of the subsidiary Cinque Ports,
and, as such, assisted in repelling the Spanish Armada. The local
contribution to the English fleet amounted to five ships out of a total
number of 197. Old Philip Wyott says briefly: “Five ships went over the
bar to join Sir Francis Drake at Plymo,” but Stow, in his _Annals_,
supplies the names of three of them--the _Tiger_, the _God Save Her_,
and the _Galleon Dudley_. On the dispersal of the dreaded Armada,
letters of marque were issued by the English Government, and piracy
having become both legal and respectable, Barumites engaged in it with
considerable energy and success, the reprisal ships bringing in freights
of gold, ivory, and wine. The _White Hart_, the _Blessing_, the
_Prudence_, the _John of Braunton_, and the _Mayflower_ were the names
of some of these Barnstaple vessels, and in the case of the two last,
complete lists of the “governors” and crews in 1612, together with
inventories of the fittings, are yet extant.

One of the sights of Barnstaple is Queen Anne’s Walk, with its
convenient colonnade, in which one may see old men, who have borne the
burden and heat of the day, resting placidly and watching the stream of
traffic surge past them. Originally the building was intended as an
exchange or merchant’s walk, and did not acquire its present name till
1708, when it was restored by the Corporation, with the help of some
noblemen; and the statue of Queen Anne, in the costume of the period,
was presented by Mr Rolle, of Stevenstone.

Not far away is Barnstaple Bridge, with its many arches, spanning the
river Taw--the scene of one of Tom Faggus’s exciting adventures.
Westcote has a quaint tale concerning the origin of this stately bridge,
which, he declares, was due to two maiden ladies, sisters, who were
spinsters in both senses. Not only did they spin themselves, but they
taught young children the art, and with the proceeds of their industry
brought about the completion of the first two piers. Nor was this all.
They obtained a license to go a-begging among good and charitable people
with a view to accumulating funds for the finishing of the structure.

A terrible episode in the history of Barnstaple was the visitation of
the plague in 1646. This came direct from the Levant in a vessel laden
with wool, and after decimating Bideford, extended its ravages to the
larger town. There is a gruesome tradition on the subject, which is
worth recording, and may possibly have some foundation in fact. It is as
follows. Four brothers, sons of Thomas and Agnes Ley, were fishing on
the banks of the Taw, when the tide floated up a bundle. This they drew
to the shore, and discovered that it was simply bedding and rugs, which
had no doubt been the property of a

[Illustration: BARNSTAPLE BRIDGE.]

sailor, and had for some reason been thrown into the sea. The sequel
rendered it well-nigh certain that the poor man had died of the
pestilence, with which all four brothers became infected, and of which
they all died. As a precaution against the further spread of the
disease, the corpses were ferried across the river to the Tawstock bank,
and interred at high-water mark. Here a monument was erected to their
memory, and an enclosure formed by seven elms, which, through some
confusion, resulted in the spot being named the “Seven Brethren Bank.”
In 1791 a certain Elizabeth Horwood made a copy of the inscription on
the tombstone, which she described as standing in Higher Pill Marsh, on
the east side of the gut that emptied itself into the Taw, a little
above the higher Tawstock marsh and bank. The epitaph, apparently
genuine, is stated to have been:--

     “To the memory of our four sweet sons, John, Joseph, Thomas, and
     Richard, who immaturely taken from us altogether, by Divine
     Providence, are Hear inter’d, the 17 August, Anno 1646.

    “Good and great God, to thee we do resigne
     Our four dear sons, for they were duly thine,
     And, Lord, we were not worthy of the name
     To be the sonnes of faithful Abrahame,
     Had we not learnt for thy just pleasure sake
     To yield our all as he his Isaack.
     Reader, perhaps thou knewest this field, but ah!
     ’Tis now become another Macpelah.
     What then? This honour it doth boast the more,
     Never such seeds were sowne therein before,
     W^{ch} shall revive and Christ his angells warne
     To beare with triumphe to the heavenly Barne.”



From tragedy to romance. Mr Charles Cutcliffe, of Weach, a solicitor
residing at Bideford, is the narrator; Madam Chichester, daughter of the
Rev. Charles Howard, and relict of Arthur Chichester, of Hall, the lady
implicated, and the Rev. George Bradford, the eloping parson. The
incident is succinctly related in the following letters--with a rider.

“May 21, 1728.--There was a very great storm at Pill last Friday. I mean
within doors, for that morning ab^{t} one, the parson of Tawton and
Mad^{m} Chichester ridd away together without a serv^{t}, in order to be
married; but where the jobb was done, I don’t yet hear with certainty.
The parson yesterday made a visit in his coach, and no doubt looks very
grand.

“June 9, 1728.--I think I wrote you that the Viccar of Tawton had
married Mad^{m} Chichester. I must now acquaint you that Coz^{n} Moll
Chichester was married to Mr Waldron, her old sweetheart, the Monday
following, but not discovered till last week. I had the pleasure
yesterday of bringing father and daughter together at Pill, where all
things were perfectly reconciled, and am forthwith to prepare an
handsome settlement.”

Tawstock Court, a long castellated building, and Tawstock Church, which
has been called the “Westminster Abbey of the West,” encompassed with
old woods, and so closely linked that they may almost be regarded as
one, are near neighbours of Bishop’s Tawton, the home of the romantic
vicar. Their unity of interest may be illustrated by an ancient custom
depicted in a print belonging to Sir Bourchier Wrey, and a much valued
heirloom. In the churchyard are two ivy-covered pillars, the remains of
a gateway through which the family at the mansion walked on their way to
church, while behind them, in solemn procession, marched their servants
and retainers.

A full account of the contents of this most sumptuous church is beside
my purpose, but attention may be drawn to some of its more important
features. In the north transept is a square wainscoted seat, which has a
canopy adorned with coloured bosses, and on the cornice are Bourchier
knots. The latter circumstance suggests that it was the state pew of the
Bourchiers, Earls of Bath, though the opinion has been hazarded that it
was a confessional box. The late Sir Gilbert Scott thought the best
piece of carving in the building the little gallery leading into the
belfry, the principal adornment being the vignette or running decoration
of leaves and tendrils. The bench-ends also, with their alto-rilievo of
rose, pomegranate, and royal arms, are excellent specimens of
wood-carving.

The beautiful screen was erected by John Bourchier, second earl, whose
arms and quarterings, impaling those of his countess, the Lady Elinor,
are to be seen on the outside of the church over the priest’s door.

The monuments are of almost unparalleled splendour. The “goodliest of
all,” as Risdon has it, is that erected to the memory of William
Bourchier, third earl, and his wife, Lady Elisabeth Russell, daughter of
Francis, Earl of Bedford, whose armorial bearings are fully blazoned.
The recumbent figures of the earl and countess are life-size, and the
colouring of their crimson robes, lined with ermine, is still perfect.
The fifth and last earl, Henry, was honoured with a large sarcophagus,
which is surmounted by “an elegant black urn,” supported by four
griffins. Beside it stands the marble statue of his wife, the Lady
Rachel Fane, daughter of Francis, Earl of Westmorland. The work of
Bernini, a famous Florentine sculptor it is mounted on a decorated
pedestal of circular form. A square canopy, built in memory of Lady
Fitzwarren and her babes in 1586, adorns the south wall, and under an
arch in the north wall of the chancel is the recumbent figure of a lady,
_temp._ Edward III., carved in wood.

An ancient chest in a small room, to which access is gained by a flight
of old oak stairs, preserves the remains of a collection of armour of
the style worn by musketeers in the reign of Charles I., and till 1832
“as good as new.” In that year a visitor requested permission to
purchase it, but was informed that he was just too late--it had been
sold to a Taunton man as old iron. And so nearly the whole of the
morions, gorgets, back and breast-plates, wheel-lock guns and
bandoliers, which were deposited in this chamber until comparatively
recently, have been irrecoverably lost.

Another village within easy reach of Barnstaple is Landkey, the original
home of the great Devonshire family of Acland. If, however, I allude to
it here, it is on account of an extraordinary story, for which old
Westcote vouches, and which may as well be given in his own quaint
language.

“In this parish of Landkey are two towns (indeed both will make but a
pretty village were they joined), named Easter and Wester Newlands; a
thoroughfare much travelled, as being not passing two miles from
Barnstaple. These are somewhat dangerous to be passed by strangers; not
for thieves or such like, but to those whose tongues are ushers to their
wits, and walk before them, such I mean as bring the cause with them;
for if out of their blindness and boldness (for it is no other), though
they term it valour, they shall cry out these words (I am almost afraid
to whisper them), “Camp-le-tout, Newland,” held of the good women very
scandalous to their honesty, they are instantly all up like a nest of
wasps with the first alarum, the streets are corded, the party (or more,
if more be in the company) beaten down from his horse (if he ride) with
stones, or other dog-bolts always in readiness, so taken and used at the
pleasure of the good townswomen, washed, shaved, and perfumed (and other
like dainty trimming, not for modesty to be spoken) that he that travels
that way a fortnight after may smell what hath there been done; and he
that hath made the trial will confess, by experience, that it is folly
for a wise man to anger a multitude causelessly.

    “Believe what I set down for your behoof
     Or come that way and find it true by proof.”

The great event in Barnstaple was, and perhaps is, its fair, for which
David Llewellyn arrived just in the nick of time, establishing his
headquarters at the “Jolly Sailors” in Bear Street. I cannot find that
any hostelry of that name ever existed in this thoroughfare, which,
however, boasted the “Ebberly Arms,” the “Rolle Arms,” and the
“Northmolton Inn.” The importance of Barnstaple Fair is beyond dispute,
and formerly was much greater. It is still the largest in the county,
both for business and pleasure. The opening ceremony is quaint; for a
company assemble in the Guildhall, where the Mayor provides a feast of
mulled ale, toast, and cheese. On such occasions the civic plate is
displayed, including two massive silver flagons, which are among the few
Elizabethan municipal drinking-vessels in the country; and another
interesting piece is the punch-bowl presented by Thomas Benson, who
forgot to supply the ladle, but afterwards repaired the omission, and
caused the latter to be inscribed “He who gave the bowl gave the ladle.”
Benson represented Barnstaple in Parliament, but having cheated the
Government by sending convicts to Lundy Island instead of abroad, was
compelled to fly the country. Numerous speeches are made by the Mayor
and others, after which a procession is formed and wends its way to the
High Cross, where the Fair is formally proclaimed.

The duration of the Fair is three days, the first being devoted to the
buying and selling of cattle. In the middle of the last century £20,000,
it is said, was often expended in the purchase of live stock. The cattle
fair used to be held in Boutport Street--the scene of Rambone’s
swagger. On the second day was the horse fair, and, in conjunction
therewith, a stag-hunt was held. The meet was on the borders of Exmoor.
The third day was given up to sight-seeing and all manner of
amusements.



CHAPTER XVI

THE SHORE OF DEATH


In relation to the _Maid of Sker_, the most important places in the
immediate vicinity of Barnstaple are undoubtedly Heanton Court,
Braunton, and Saunton. Heanton Court, as we have seen, is only a memory.
In the early part of the seventeenth century it was described as a
“sweet, pleasant seat”; and the account proceeded, “the house is a
handsome pile, well-furnished with every variety of entertainment which
the earth, the sea, and the air can afford. A place, whether you respect
pleasure or profit, daintily situated on an arm of the sea.” A later
notice speaks of it as standing at the bottom of a park, very near the
river Taw, and acquaints us that it had a new front of two storeys, each
of which contained eleven windows, and was ornamented with battlements,
while at either end was a tower. Other particulars have been given in a
previous chapter (see p. 211), and need not be recapitulated here. The
reader, however, may be assured of the identity of Blackmore’s Narnton
Court with this historic mansion.

Braunton is a village not easily forgotten. The scenery is magnificent,
and the great hills

[Illustration: TAWSTOCK CHURCH, NEAR BARNSTAPLE (page 250).]

furnish admirable opportunity for climbing. On alighting at the railway
station, the stranger will encounter an array of coachmen anxious to
whisk him off without delay to Saunton Sands, but he will do well to
resist their importunities until, at least, he has inspected the
interior of Braunton Church. If he converses with the natives, somebody
will be sure to tell him that three successive attempts were made to
erect it on Chapel Hill, and that each time the building collapsed, the
assumed reason being that the spot chosen by man was not the site
approved and predestined by Heaven. He will learn also that in the panel
work of the roof of the church, carved on one of the bosses, is the
representation of a sow with a litter of pigs. This singular emblem is
associated with St Brannock, the Irish missionary; indeed, the very name
of the place is said to have been originally Brannock’s town, and it is
averred that he founded a church on the site of the present one. As for
the sow and her offspring, the legend is that St Brannock was commanded
in a dream to rear a Christian temple on the spot where he should light
on this vision of fecundity; and it is added that he fetched the timber
on a plough, to which he yoked the red deer of the adjacent forests,
“who mildly obeyed him,” while he milked the complaisant hinds. The old
writer concludes summarily: “But to proceed no farther and to forbear to
speak of his cow (which, being killed, chopped in pieces, and boiling in
his kettle, came out whole and sound at his call), his staff, his oak,
and his man Abel, which would seem wonders--yet all these you may see
lively represented unto you in a fair glass window as this present, if
you desire it.”

Mr Z. E. A. Wade characterises this venerable tradition rather fiercely
as a “senseless story,” and proposes a symbolic interpretation which is
certainly ingenious, and in the main not unlikely to be correct.

“Popular story says he tried in vain to build on a certain spot, but was
bidden in a dream to rear his proposed church where he should encounter
a litter of pigs. He was to rebuild the work of earlier saints, the
_pige_ or _pigen_, female teachers, who had before his day fulfilled the
promise of the Psalmist, ‘The women that publish the tidings are a great
host.’ _Pige_ is the Danish word for a maid; _piga_ is the Anglo-Saxon
form, hence the diminutive of Margaret. So Peg-cross is not unknown....

“The cow or ox of sacrifice--also on an ancient church of Youghal--which
finds place in his story, is suggested by the name of the place whence
he came, Cowbridge, and by the covering of the boat in which he and his
fellow-travellers came. His staff and oak explain themselves.... The
‘man Abel’ in the story carries sticks; ‘Isaac carrying wood represents
Christ bearing the Cross,’ said Bede in A.D. 677, a few years after
Brannock’s time. ‘Under wood, under rood.’ This saint’s man was ‘the man
Christ Jesus.’ The hart was one of the earliest types of the Christian,
to be met with over and over again in the Catacombs, and on
baptisteries, and the image of the 42nd Psalm is still used in sacred
song. It is said of monks in St David’s school ‘that they were required
to yoke themselves to the plough and turn up the soil without the aid
of oxen.’ The harts at Braunton, like those on the sketch from St
Andrew’s, were converts.”

At Braunton dwelt the fair Polly, after her days of service, and before
she wedded old David (_Maid of Sker_, chapter lxiii.).

Now as to Saunton Sands, which are perhaps three miles in length, and
viewed from the high ground at Braunton, form, with their grotesque
hummocks, a weird background to the smiling landscape. Although efforts
have been made to bind it by means of vegetation, sand continues to be
blown inland, and Westcote states that in his time the wind drove it to
large heaps near the house or court, by which he apparently intends
Saunton Court, now a farmhouse. Between Saunton and Braunton the ruins
of an ancient settlement have been seen amidst trees that have been
“thrown down and overwhelmed.” Westcote goes on to declare that a great
quantity of the sand was removed every day to serve as manure for the
fields, yet there was no diminution in the sum total, the wind
constantly supplying the deficiency. On these grounds the old historian
makes the name of the place “Sandton, _quasi_ Sand-town.”

To this Mr Wade demurs, his own derivation being “Sancton,” a holy
place. It seems that on Saunton Sands were chapels of St Sylvester, St
Michael, and St Helen, as well as numerous palmer’s crosses; and he
suggests that since the Celtic missionaries set foot in the country in
the sixth and seventh centuries, hundreds of acres have been submerged
by the sands. This idea is more than probable, and will remind the
reader of the early chapters of the _Maid of Sker_, which contain
realistic descriptions of similar visitations on the coast of Wales. In
the same work Blackmore frequently alludes to the Saunton Sands, the
scene of the fictitious burial of the Bampfylde infants.

More famous than Saunton Sands are Woolacombe Sands, chiefly owing to
their associations with the Tracys, some of which are purely mythical.
There is a sensational story of two brothers fighting a duel on
Woolacombe Sands for the hand of a waif who had been rescued from the
sea by their father; and a notion exists that they were possibly Henry
de Tracy, who died in 1272, and his brother and co-heir Oliver, who
followed him within a year or two after. Dark hints are thrown out that
one of the duellists was rector of Ilfracombe from 1263 to 1272.

The most celebrated member of the family came earlier, and he owes his
celebrity to the fact that he was one of the four assassins of Thomas à
Becket. According to Risdon, who is decidedly wrong, William de Tracy,
after the commission of the deed, lived in retirement at Woolacombe; and
on the south side of Morthoe Church is an altar tomb, which Risdon and
Westcote agree in assigning to the murderer (or patriot). The Devonshire
tradition is in flat contradiction to the official version of the Church
of Rome, which imputes that William de Tracy died at Cosenza, in
Calabria, within four years of the sacrilege; but other accounts testify
that four years after Becket’s death Tracy was Justiciar of Normandy,
and that he survived his victim fifty-three years. These various stories
are clearly irreconcilable, but one thing appears certain, that the
altar tomb with the figure engraved on the grey marble and bearing the
half-erased inscription, _Sqre [Guillau] me de Tracy [gist ici Dieu de
son al] me eyt merci_, has absolutely nothing to do with any secular
person. The figure is that of a priest in his robes, holding a chalice
with both hands over his breast, and that priest was William de Tracy,
rector of Morthoe, who died in 1322.

Blackmore does not say much of the Tracys, although he brackets them
with the Bassets and “St Albyns” as an old West-country family. (See
_Maid of Sker_, chapter lxvi.).

It is singular to find a remote spot like Woolacombe identified with
political adventure, although it might have been, at one time, an apt
place “to talk treason in.” Odd to say, the Tracys of Woolacombe-Tracy
have not been the only men to bring the great world, as it were, to
these yellow sands. Already I have quoted the gossiping Cutcliffe; now I
will quote him once more. In a letter of October 8, 1728, he writes:

“Last Sunday se’nnight, the Duke of Ripperda (who lately escaped out of
the Castle of Segovia) was putt on Woolacombe Sands, out of an Irish
barque; he had no one with him but the lady who procured his
deliverance, the corporal of the guard, and one servant. He was
handsomely treated at Mr Harris’s, and last Tuesday went on to Exon.”

The Mr Harris by whom the stranger was entertained was John Harris, of
Pickwell, in the parish of Georgeham, who was twice M.P. for Barnstaple,
and died in 1768, aged sixty-four. Who was the Duke of Ripperda?

Protestant, Catholic, Mussulman, soldier, courtier, diplomatist,
Dutchman, Spaniard, Moor--all these parts were supported (not, of
course, at one and the same time) by the extraordinary character, who
appeared momentarily, in his meteoric career, on the north-west coast of
Devon. The whole of his chequered life cannot be recorded here. Suffice
it to say that he was born towards the end of the seventeenth century,
and came of a distinguished family in Holland. Having won his spurs as a
soldier, he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Madrid, where he became
the trusted minister of Philip V., and was created a duke. Incurring the
hostility of the Spanish grandees, he was accused of treason and thrown
in 1726 into the Castle of Segovia, whence, at the date of the above
letter, he had just escaped. He next turned Mahomedan, and took service
with the Emperor of Morocco, who appointed him commander in his army.
His attacks on the Spaniards proving unsuccessful, he was imprisoned,
and solaced his captivity by elaborating a sort of _via media_ between
the Jewish religion and Islamism. In 1734 he was ordered to quit the
country, and found an asylum in Tetuan. He died in 1737.

The northern horn of Morte Bay is formed by Morte Point, with Morte
Stone in close proximity. As the spot is unquestionably dangerous, there
is no risk, I imagine, in accepting the ordinary and obvious
etymology--Mort, Morte Point and Morte Stone are as tragedy and comedy.
Concerning the latter there is an ancient saw, “Would you remove Morte
Stone?” and for centuries it has been held that no one can accomplish
the feat save the man who can rule his spouse. Another tradition asserts
that the stone can be moved by a bevy of good wives exercising
sovereignty over their husbands. In this connection it may be noted that
the old fable of Chichevache and Bycorn (the former a sorry cow, whose
food is good women; and the latter fat and well-liking, owing to
abundance of good and enduring husbands) is represented on the corbels
of Ilfracombe Church amidst a menagerie of apes, mermaids, griffins,
gnomes, centaurs, cockatrices, and other extinct hybrids too numerous to
mention.

Morthoe has a bad record for wrecking operations, which brought much
discredit on this coast, and of which it was one of the principal
centres. Prayers are said to have been offered that “a ship might come
ashore before morning.” To facilitate this blessed consummation, a
lantern was tied to some animal, and by this wandering light poor
mariners were lured through the treacherous mist to their doom. Even
women were to be found cruel enough to participate in this murderous
trade, and the tale is told that one of Eve’s daughters held a drowning
sailor under water with a pitchfork. Another, a farmer’s wife living at
a certain barton, secured as a prize some chinaware, which was arranged
on her dresser. One day a sailor’s widow happened to enter, and
recognising the ware as belonging to her late husband’s craft, seized a
stick and smashed it to atoms. The farmer’s wife thereupon became a
prey to remorse, and not long afterwards gave herself up to justice. A
painful story regards the wreck of an Italian ship, when the only person
on board to reach the shore was a young and beautiful lady, who bore
with her a casket of precious family jewels, saved at the risk of her
life. Utterly unmoved by her tears and entreaties, the savage wreckers
carried her off to one of their vile haunts, and nothing was heard of
her again. Many years after the event, the jewels, it was said, were
still in the neighbourhood.

The last recorded instance of this shameful practice on the north-west
coast of Devon occurred in 1846, at Welcomb, near Hartland, where a
vessel and her ill-fated crew were ruthlessly sacrificed to the cupidity
of heartless local wreckers. By the way, Blackmore’s account of a wreck
in the _Maid of Sker_ is perhaps founded on the circumstance that at the
commencement of the great war two transports from the French West India
islands, laden with black prisoners, were driven ashore at Rapparee
Cove, many lives being lost, whilst, afterwards, gold and pearls were
washed about among the shingle.

Rapparee Cove is at Ilfracombe, which Blackmore describes as “a little
place lying in a hole, and with great rocks all around it, fair enough
to look at it, but more easy to fall down than to get up them” (_Maid of
Sker_, chapter lxv.).

Historically, Ilfracombe has not much of interest save the escapades of
the saint-like Cavalier, Sir Francis Doddington, who in

[Illustration: TOWARDS MORTE POINT.]

September 1644 set the place on fire, but was beaten out by the townsmen
and sailors, with the loss of many of his followers. Ten days later he
returned, and, falling on the town with his horse, succeeded in
capturing it. “Twenty pieces of ordnance, as many barrels of powder, and
near 200 arms,” were amongst his spoils. Ilfracombe was retaken for the
Parliament in April 1646.

Sir Francis was no lukewarm partisan, for meeting one Master James,
described as “an honest minister,” near Taunton, he demanded whom he was
for? “For God and His Gospel,” was the other’s reply, whereupon the
enraged knight immediately shot him.

It was to Ilfracombe that Colonel Wade, Captains Hewling and Carey, and
others fled after the battle of Sedgemoor, and here they left Ferguson,
their chaplain, and Thompson, captain of the Blue Regiment, whilst they
themselves, having seized and victualled a vessel, put out to sea. Being
pursued by two frigates, they had to land at Lynmouth, as already
narrated (see p. 154).

The great charm of the neighbourhood is its bold scenery and romantic
walks, one of which will conduct the wayfarer to Hele, with its old
earthwork, and thence to Chambercombe, concerning which Mr Tugwell has
preserved a most delightful legend, worthy to be reproduced at length:--

Chambercombe is now a retired farmhouse in a beautifully wooded valley,
through which saunters the little streamlet which shortly afterwards
empties itself into the sea at Hele Strand. The inhabitants still show
the Haunted Room to the curious in such matters--a long, low chamber in
the roof of the house, from which the flooring has been removed, and
which is now used only for the purpose of storing away useless lumber.
There are many versions of the legend which belongs to this house; the
one which I shall give seems to have the merit of a quaint originality,
and is sufficiently mysterious in its unexplained connection with former
days.

Many years ago, the burly, ruddy-cheeked, well-to-do yeoman who owned
this farm was sitting under the shade of a tree in his garden, enjoying
in the cool of the summer’s evening his much-loved pipe of meditation
and contentment. After a time he exhausted his usual subjects of
reverie, the state of his crops, the rise or fall of wages, the
prospects of the next Barnstaple Fair. What should he do? He could not
“whistle for want of thought,” because of his pipe--he couldn’t even
indulge in the excitement of a matrimonial “difference of opinion,”
because his wife was gone into ‘Combe to sell her last batch of
chickens. Whatever should he do?

The evening was very still and warm, not even a breath of wind stirring
in the copse on the hillside, where the last kiss of the sunset lingered
lovingly. He was just dropping off into a doze, and had nodded once or
twice with much energy, to the imminent danger of his “yard o’ clay,”
when it suddenly occurred to him that he had forgotten to see about some
necessary repairs in the roof of his house, and that his spouse had a
better memory for such things than himself, and would not fail to
remind him of the same on her return.

So he roused himself, and facing his chair in the direction of the
house, began to arrange in his mind the when and where of his intended
operations. The hole in the roof was over his wife’s store-room, which
accounted for her anxiety in the matter, and as he did not expect to be
allowed to interfere with that sanctum, he settled that he would get at
the roof from the next window, which opened into a passage, and had a
low parapet in front of it. Then he rubbed his eyes. Certainly the
passage was next to the store-room, and the passage window was the only
window with a parapet to it, and therefore the next window to the
parapet must be the store-room window, and consequently must have the
hole in the roof over it--ably argued and very conclusive. But, to his
great perplexity, the fact stared him in the face that the aforesaid
hole was over the window which was _next but one_ to the parapet. Then
he counted the rooms of the house--“Our Sal’s bedroom--passage--wife’s
store-room--own bedroom--one--two--three--four.” Next he counted the
windows--“one--two--three--four--_five_.”

There was one too many. He repeated the process with the same result.

Between the passage and the store-room, which were next to each other,
there was decidedly a window--the window too many.

If a window, then a room--unanswerable logic!

Now thoroughly aroused, he dashed his pipe to the ground with a vast
exclamation, and rushed into the house at the top of his speed. It was
the work of a moment to call together half a dozen able-bodied
serving-men, to arm them and himself with divers spades and mattocks,
and to scale the creaking stairs which led to the parapet window. There
was no trace of a door, nothing but a flat, white-washed wall. He
sounded it with a hasty blow, and a dull, hollow sound rang through the
house.

“Odswinderakins!” roared the farmer. “Down wi’ un, boys! Virst o’ ye
thro’ un shall ha’ Dame’s apern vull of zilver gerts.[23] Gi’ it un,
lads!”

Clash went the mattocks into the cob-wall; cling, clang rang the spades
on the oak floor. A cloud of dust rolled through the staircase as the
farmer’s pick-axe went up to the head in the first breach, and the
farmer’s wife rushed up the stairs. Half-choked, and wholly stunned by
the din, she could get little information beyond a general statement
that the Goodger[24] was in the house, which seemed self-evident.
Another five minutes’ work, and the farmer dashed through the gap, which
barely admitted his burly person, followed by his wife, whose curiosity
mastered her rage and fright.

And what did they see?

A long, low room, hung with moth-eaten, mouldering tapestry, whose every
thread exhaled a moist rank odour of forgotten years; black festoons of
ancient cobwebs in the rattling casement and round the carved work of
the open cornice; carved oak chairs, and wardrobe, and round table;
black, too, and rickety, and dust-covered, and worm-eaten; the white
ashes of a wood fire on a cracked hearth-stone; and a bed. The
embroidered hangings were drawn closely round the oaken posts, and
rustled shiveringly in the gust of fresh air which wandered round the
room.

“Draw un, Jan, if thee beest a mon,” whispered the dame under her
breath, looking round anxiously in the direction of the gap at which she
had entered.

John screwed up all his courage, and with a desperate hand tore down the
hangings on the side which was nearest the window.

In that dim half-light, for the night was closing in rapidly and the
shadows falling heavily, they saw a white and grinning skull gazing
grimly at them from the hollowed pillow, and one white and polished
arm-bone lying idly on the crimson quilt, and clutching the silken
fringe with its crooked fingers.

The dame swooned with a great cry, and her husband, stunned and
sickened, dashed to the casement, and, swinging it back on its creaking
hinges, leant out, for the sake of a breath of pure air.

Horror of horrors! The garden was alive with ghastly forms; ill-shapen,
unearthly, demon-like heads rose and fell with threatening gestures, and
mopped and mowed at him from among the flowers of that quiet plesaunce.

Hastily raising his wife in his strong arms, he made his way as best he
could through the welcome breach, nor did he rest that night till he had
walled up and secured, for a future generation, the terrors of the
Haunted Room.

“I should love thee, Jewel, wert thou not a Zwinglian. In thy faith thou
art a heretic, but in thy life thou art an angel”--in such terms did Dr
John Harding address his former school-fellow at Barnstaple, but at that
time his great antagonist--Bishop Jewel, whom Westcote describes, with
punning enthusiasm, as “a perfect rich gem and true jewel indeed.” This
ornament of the English Church was born at Bowden, in the parish of
Berry Narbor, which has the reputation of being about the healthiest in
the country--a place where only old people die. The seventeenth-century
writer, evidently a lover of puns, quotes the following epitaph on one,
Nicholas Harper, who lies buried in the church:--

    “Harper, the musique of thy life,
     So sweet, so free from jarr or strife,
     To crowne thy skill hath raysed thee higher
     And placed thee in angels’ quier,
     For though that death hath throwen thee down,
     In heaven thou hast thy harpe and crowne.”

In Swymbridge Church, where Parson “Jack” Russell ministered so long, is
a “shoppy” inscription on a monument erected to the memory of “John
Rosier, Gent., one of the Attorneys of the Court of Common Pleas and an
Auncient of the Hon^{ble} Society of Lyons Inne, who died the 25th day
of December, 1685, Ætatis suae, 57.” It is as follows:--

    “Loe with a warrant sealed by God’s decree
     Death his grim sergieant hath arrested mee,
     No bayle was to be given, no law could save
     My body from the prison of the grave.
     Yet by the Gospell my poor soule had got
     A supersedeas, and death seaz’d it not;
     And for my downe cast body, here it lyes;
     A prisoner of hope, it shall arise.
     Faith doth assure mee God of his great love
     In Christ will send a writ for my remove,
     And set my body, as my soul is, free
     With Christ in Heaven--Come, glorious Libertie!”

Our next and last point is Combmartin, Westcote’s village--a long,
straggling place, which Miss Marie Corelli annexed for her _Mighty
Atom_, and another lady, whom I met at Challacombe some years ago,
designated with pious horror as “dark”--no doubt in allusion to the bits
of folklore, which--happily, as I think--yet linger in these rural
districts. It would be easy to cite many illustrations of West-country
“superstition,” such as the fruitful influences of the moon, which will
send a man to dig in his garden when it is covered with snow; but,
having devoted a considerable section of my _Book of Exmoor_ to this
fascinating topic, I will here confine myself to the principal interest
of Combmartin--namely, its silver mines. In the reign of Elizabeth,
however, it was a great place for hemp, and a project was formed for
establishing a port at Hartland entirely on account of this trade. As it
was, the shoemakers’ thread manufactured in the neighbourhood was
sufficient to supply the whole of the western counties.

As to the mines, Westcote states:--

“This town hath been rich and famous for her silver mines, of the first
finding of which there are no certain records remaining. In the time of
Edward I. they were wrought, but in the tumultuous reign of his son
they might chance to be forgotten until his nephew (?) Edward III., who
in his French conquest made good use of them, and so did Henry V., of
which there are divers monuments, their names to this time remaining; as
the King’s mine, storehouse, blowing-house, and refining-house.”

The industry was resumed in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, but seems to have
been checked by the influx of water. However, a great quantity of silver
is said to have been raised and refined, mainly through the enterprise
of Adrian Gilbert and Sir Beavois Bulmer, who bargained for half the
profit. Each partner realised £10,000. The owner of the land, Richard
Roberts, who happens to have been Westcote’s father-in-law, presented
William Bourchier, Earl of Bath, with a “rich and rare” cup, bearing the
quaint inscription:--

    “In Martin’s Comb long lay I hiyd,
       Obscur’d, deprest w^{th} grossest soyle,
     Debased much w^{th} mixed lead,
       Till Bulmer came, whoes skill and toyle
     Refined me so pure and cleen,
     As rycher no wher els is seene.

    “And adding yet a farder grace,
       By fashion he did inable
     Me worthy for to take a place
       To serve at any Prince’s table,
     Comb Martyn gave the Oare alone,
     Bulmer fyning and fashion.”

Another cup was given to Sir Richard Martin, Lord Mayor of London, who
was also master and manager of the Mint, the design being that it

[Illustration: COMBMARTIN CHURCH.]

should remain in the permanent possession of the Corporation. It weighed
137 oz., and like its fellow, was engraved with naïve, and, I fear,
doggerel verses.

    “When water workes in broaken wharfe
       At first erected were,
     And Beavis Bulmer with his art
       The waters, ’gan to reare,
     Disperced I in earth dyd lye
     Since all beginnings old,

    “In place cal’d Comb wher Martin long
       Had hydd me in his molde.
     I did no service on the earth,
       Nor no man set me free,
     Till Bulmer by skill and charge
       Did frame me this to be.”

The Latin appendices to the “poems” show the date of the presentations
to have been the year 1593; and Blackmore seems to refer to them when he
speaks of the “inaccurate tales concerning” the silver cup at
Combmartin, sent to Queen Elizabeth (_Lorna Doone_, chapter lviii.).
Ultimately the flooding, with which there was no means of effectually
coping, put a stop to the operations; but it is possible that they were
not entirely suspended, as a few years ago I saw a report in a local
journal that a Combmartin half-crown of 1645 was sold in an auction room
in London for the sum of £5. 12s. 6d.

In 1659 the working of the mines was brought before Parliament by a
distinguished mineralogist named Bushell, but nothing was done, and,
when, forty years later, an attempt was made to exploit them, it
resulted in failure. Between 1796 and 1802 the experiment was renewed,
and 9293 tons of ore were shipped to Wales. The mines were then closed,
and so remained till 1813, when 208 tons were sent to Bristol. The cost,
however, exceeded the profit, and in 1817 the mining was again
abandoned.

Yet another effort was made in 1833, this time by a joint-stock company
with a capital of £30,000, nearly half of which was expended in plant,
the sinking of shafts, etc. However, a rich vein having been discovered,
work was carried on feverishly night and day, and a large profit
realised, three dividends being made to the shareholders. As the result,
shares were run up to a high premium by speculators, who, in mining
phraseology, “worked the eye out.” In 1845 a smelting company was
formed, but neither this nor the mining company, whose expenses averaged
£500 a month, was destined to last. In 1848 the engines were taken down,
and apart from a spasmodic and, ’tis said, unprincipled attempt at
company promoting in 1850, nothing has since been done.

The levels were driven under the village; and beneath the King’s Arms
(or Pack of Cards, as the old manor-house of the Leys is usually
designated) runs a subterranean passage, constructed for drainage
purposes. The ore is exceedingly rich in silver and lead, and the
opinion has been expressed that the mines, worked fairly, would have
yielded a tolerable return.

There is an old saying, “Out of the world, and into Combmartin.” On this
odd text Miss Annie Irwin has based the following pretty verses:--

    “‘Out of the world’ they call thee. True,
     Thy rounded bay of loveliest blue,
     Thy soft hills veiled in silvery grey,
     Where glancing lights and shadows stray;

    “Thy orchards gemmed with milk-white bloom,
     Thy whispering woodlands, grateful gloom,
     Thy tower, whose fair proportions rise,
     ’Mid the green trees, to summer skies--

    “Viewed thus afar, by one just fled
     From the vast city’s restless tread,
     He well might deem, when gazing here,
     His footsteps pressed some lovelier sphere.”

Both Combmartin and Martinhoe--Martin’s vale and Martin’s hill--received
their name from one of William the Conqueror’s ablest lieutenants,
Martin of Tours.

The horrible murder which gave rise to the traditional couplet,

    “If anyone asketh who killed thee,
     Say ’twas the Doones of Bagworthy,”

is located by Blackmore in the parish of Martinhoe, and he subjoins the
following note: “The story is strictly true; and true it is that the
country-people rose, to a man, at this dastard cruelty, and did what the
Government failed to do.” The term “strictly” seems to imply that
Blackmore had been informed by some authority that Martinhoe was the
place of the tragedy, and that murder was aggravated by abduction. On
both these points the account in _Lorna Doone_ is at variance with Mr
Cooper’s version (quoted on p. 144), which mentions Exford as the scene
of the butchery, and altogether omits the other incident. Of course,
there may have been different versions floating about.

Past Lee Bay and Wooda Bay, both sweetly sylvan, the pilgrim fares to
the Valley of Rocks and Lynton.



ENVOY


The most expeditious mode of returning from the precipices and cascades
of Lynton is by means of the light railway to Barnstaple. The
conscientious pilgrim, however, will not quit the neighbourhood without
visiting Parracombe, which ought to be, in a peculiar sense, his Mecca.
In the prologue, reasons have been advanced, which need not be repeated,
why this is the case, and although our course has been a devious one, it
will now be recognised that there was method in the madness. The spot
which must have been to Blackmore the most sacred of all--except,
perhaps, Teddington Churchyard, where his wife slept her last sleep--was
surely Parracombe--the home of his race; and here I propose to take
leave of the reader. The local traffic being small, trains do not stop
at Parracombe all the year round, but at any time this courtesy will be
extended to passengers desiring it.

The manor of Parracombe was formerly in the hands of the St Albans (or
Albyns) family, joined by Blackmore (_Maid of Sker_, chapter lxvi.) with
the Tracys and Bassets, as among the most distinguished in North Devon.
About a century and a half ago their lands were sold, principally to
yeomen who farmed the soil; and, as we have seen, the Blackmores
belonged to this category. A representative of the clan still owns Court
Place and Church Town farms; and Mr H. R. Blackmore, proprietor of the
“Fox and Goose,” can claim to be second cousin of the novelist.

Situated on the south-west of the river Heddon is Halwell Farm, the
property of Sir Thomas Acland, where is a circular British encampment,
standing, as such encampments usually do, on a height. The trenches are
about fifteen feet deep. There are two or three similar remains within a
short radius, but they are less conspicuous and important. It is said
that cannon balls have been dug up at Halwell Castle.

Mr Page does not speak too flatteringly of the scenery, but Parracombe
Common, with its scent-laden breezes, is by no means destitute of charm,
for the purple eminence of Chapman Barrows, the highest point in North
Devon, and the lovely valley of Trentishoe below, compose a landscape
fair enough for the most exacting eye. Beyond is Heddon’s Mouth, where
Old Davy landed on a memorable occasion (_Maid of Sker_, chapter liii.),
and on the road is that well-known and most quaint and attractive
hostel, the Hunter’s Inn.

This, however, is to wander away from Parracombe, which is itself a
quaint old village, while Parracombe Mill, Heal, and Rowley are
picturesque hamlets. The old twelfth-century church has been abandoned,
since 1878, for ordinary uses, but it still stands--about half a mile
from the village--and the tower has been recently in part restored. And
now, with a final reminder of East Bodley and Barton and Kinwelton (in
Martinhoe parish), our pilgrimage has reached its goal. In a few moments
we shall be tumbling downhill along the surprising curves of the Lynton
railway, to re-enter the world of commonplace.



NOTES


I. Mr Arthur Smyth believes that the founder of the Quartly herd was Mr
Henry Quartly, who married Betty Blackmore. His mother often visited her
uncle Quartly, and he tells us that he had heard her speak of the care
and attention they received, and how fat they were. They were brought to
perfection by his son, Mr James Quartly, of West Molland House, who was
one of the judges at Smithfield. Mr John Quartly of Champson never
exhibited. Mr James Quartly had no children, and on his retirement the
herd was dispersed.

       *       *       *       *       *

II. Son of the before-named John Quartly, and grandson of Henry Quartly,
he had never exhibited, but kept up the reputation of the family as
breeders.

A sister of John and James Quartly married her cousin, the Rev. Richard
Blackmore, of Charles, and another sister married Captain William
Dovell, to whom at one time the novelist’s brother, Mr Turberville,
bequeathed his property. Captain Dovell’s mother was a Blackmore. To
what branch of the family she belonged is uncertain, but it was through
her that Court Barton came to the Dovells.

Mr Smyth tells an extraordinary story of this gentleman.

“Captain Dovell,” he says, “was born at Killiton. He hated farming, and
at last his family gave him his desire and he went to sea. He related a
story of his wreck off the coast of Ireland, and how the natives fought
for the wreckage. At last, as captain of an East Indiaman (his own), he
took his wife and son, a boy of eight years, with him to sea. The vessel
was wrecked. He never saw the boy, but he caught his wife and swam for
hours; she died in his arms from exposure. He got ashore at last, and
had to read the burial service over his wife. He was never the same
after that. When I knew him in the early sixties, he was a powerfully
built man of the kindliest disposition. I was an invalid then, and he
would sit with me for hours relating stories of his boyish scrapes or
playing for hours. He married again, and settled at Barnstaple, where he
died about twenty years ago. His wife survived him only about one week;
both are buried in the family vault at Parracombe churchyard.”



INDEX


Acland, family of, 166, 181, 252
  Lady Harriet, 100-2
  Major John Dyke, 99-102
  Sir Thomas (9th baronet), 99
  the “Old” Sir Thomas, 181-2

Albans (or Albyns), family of, 277

Alva, the Duke of, 168

Anderson, Prebendary, 111

“Arlington Jack,” 244

Ashford, 241

Ayshford, Dr, 29


Babb, John, 152, 156

Badcock, Mr, 213

Bagworthy, 141, 157-8
  Water, 163

Baker, usurper, 30

Bament, Mr, 242, 243

Bampfylde, Amias, 221
  family of, 221-2
  John, 221
  Sir Coplestone, 221
  Sir Robert, 221

Bampton, 77-8
  Castle, 80
  Down, 102
  Fair, 83-4
  Mote, 80-1

Banks, Sir Joseph, 131

Barbrook, Mill, 164

Barham, 164

Barle, river, 108, 110, 125

Barlynch Priory, 111-2

Barnes, Rev. William, 42

Barnstaple, 107, 155, 201, 211, 241-55
  Bridge, 218, 248
  Castle, 245-7
  Fair, 253-5

Baron’s Down, 104

Barton, 279

Basset, Colonel, 210
  Mrs, 212
  Sir Roger, 210
  Sir Robert, 211-2

Batherum, river, 78

Beaumont, Mistress, 211

Berry Narbor, 270

Birch, Farmer, 154

Birchdown, 90

Black Marsh, 26

Blackborough House, 47-8
  quarries, 46-7

Blackdown hills, 12

Blackmore, Mr H. R., 278
  Mrs R., 225
  R. D., 1, 26, 49, 56, 58-60, 150, 207, 233
  Rev. John, sen., 57

Blackmore, Rev. John, jun., 25, 30, 58
  Rev. Richard, 58

Blake, Colonel, 192

_Blessing_, the, 247

Blind Vicar, the, 111

Blundell, Mr Peter, 49

Blundell’s School, 29, 49-60

Bodley, East, 279

Bolham, 77 _note_, 78

Bourchier, family of, 81, 85-6, 157

Bowden, 270

Bradfield, 6-8

Brannock, St, 257, 258

Braunton, 256-9

Brembridge, Mr “Dick,” 243

Brendon, 150, 154, 157, 164
  Forge, 114
  Two Gates, 124, 141

Brickhouse, 78

Bridgeball, 154, 164

Britons, 83

Briwere (or Bruere), Lord, 39

Broadhembury, 38, 44

Broomstreet Farm, 160

Brown, Mr, chemist, 202

Browne, Miss Ida, 146, 148, 158, 180

Bryan, Mr, 233

Bude Light, the, 30

Bulmer, Sir Beavois, 272

Burgess, murderer, 123

Burrington, 212

Bury Hill, 104

Bushell, mineralogist, 273

Byam, Henry, 180-1


Canonsleigh Abbey, 34-7

Carew, Bampfylde Moore, 77, 205
  Sir Thomas, 71

Castle Hill, 212-3
  Rock, 152, 173

Chains, the, 139

Chambercombe, 265-9

Chanter, Misses, 158
  Miss Gratiana, 151, 164
  Mr J. R., 153
  Rev. J. F., 147, 149, 151, 158

Chapel, Earl of Devonshire’s, 63, 66

Chapman Barrows, 278

Chapple, parish clerk, 209

Charles, village, 225
  II., 193, 205

Cheribridge, 164

Cheriton, 142
  Fitzpaine, 67, 69

Cheritons, the, 229-30

Chichester, Madame, 250
  Moll, 250
  Sir John, 245
  Sir John Palmer, 244

Chilcott’s School, 71

Chittlehampton Tower, 204

Chorley, Mr W. L., 159

“Chowne, Parson,” 229-44

Cistercians, 39

Clark, Mr G. T., 193

Clayhidon, 23, 24, 25

Clerk Channing, 19

Cloutsham Ball, 140

Cloven Rocks, 124-5

Cogan, John, 40-1

Coleridge, 62

Collier, Messrs John and James, 33

Combe, 91, 92, 93, 95, 96, 99

Combehead, 89, 90

Combmartin, 271-5

Comer’s Gate, 108, 109

Cooper, Mr, 143, 170, 276

Corelli, Miss Marie, 271

Cosway, Mr George, 74
  Richard, miniaturist, 74

Court Down, 108
  Hall, 222
  House, 222
  Leet and Baron, 216, 224

Courtenay, family of, 66-7
  Henry, 69
  Lady Katherine, 64
  Sir Thomas, 64

Cow (or Cae) Castle, 125-8

Cowell, Dr, 152

Cove Cliff, 78

Cox, Rev. Edward, 182

Cranstoun-Adams, Col., 58

Culmstock, 1, 12-32
  Beacon, 12, 26
  bells, 33
  men at Waterloo, 27-9
  Vicarage, 33-4

Cutcliffe, Mr Charles, 250, 261


_Daily Chronicle_, the, 149

Davy, Rev. Bartholomew, 85, 87

Deadman’s Pill, 224

Deer Park, 158

Devil’s Cheese-ring, 173

Dickinson, Dr, 47

Dobbs, Mr, 220, 224

Doble, Mr William, 26

Doddington, Sir Francis, 264-5

Dongola horses, 131, 132

Doone Castle, 142, 143-4, 158
  Valley, 142, 157

_Doones of Exmoor_, 146

Doones’ Path, 158

Drake, Sir Francis, 247

Drewe, Edward, 44

Dulverton, 89-106, 107, 201

Dunkery Beacon, 197-9

Dunkeswell, 37, 38

Dunkeswell Abbey, 38-41
  Common, 44-5

Dunster, 187-96
  Castle, 188, 190, 191, 193-4
  Church, 196
  Conegar Tower, 194
  Lower Marsh, 196
  Luttrell Arms, 194-5
  “Nunnery,” 195
  Yarn Market, 194

Dyke, family of, 99
  Captain William, 97
  Dr Thomas, 97


Ebrington, Lord, 123

Egremont, Lord, 47

Elworthy, Mr F. T., 34

Exe, river, 78, 79, 103, 141

Exebridge, 91, 219

Exeter Cathedral, 54

“Exeter” Inn, 78

Exford, 91, 112-21

Exmoor bogs, 139
  hills, 139-40


Faggus, Tom, 77 _note_, 121, 217-21

Farley, 142, 154
  Water, 164

Fellowes, Hon. Newton, 233

Foreland, Countisbury, 184

Fortescue, family of, 213-5
  Hon. John, 244
  Lord, of Credan, 214-5
  Mr, 183

Fox Brothers, Messrs, 25
  Dr, 47
  Mrs, 30

Foxden, 30

Fowell, Elizabeth, 37

Fremington Pill, 241

Froude, Rev. John, 229-40

Gaddon, 10

Gaunt, John o’, 211

_Galleon Dudley_, the, 247

Gallon House (Red Deer), 122, 123

Garnsey, Mary, 10-11

“George” Hotel, the, 202-4

Giffard, Col. John, 71
  Roger (_a_), 70
  Roger (_b_), 71
  Court, 70

Gilbert, Adrian, 272
  Dr, 202

Gipsies, 84

Glass, John and Betty, 114-9

Glenthorne, 144, 184

Glossop, Captain, 210

_God Save Her_, the, 247

Gould, F. Carruthers, 244
  Mr R. D., 244
  Rev. Robert, 182-3

Grabhurst Hill, 197

Granny’s Pit, 108

Graves, Admiral, 43

Greenaleigh, 184

Greenway, John and Joan, 62

Greenway’s Almshouses, 61, 64
  Chapels, 63-4

Groves, Hugh, 205

_Guide to Lynton_, 143, 170


Hackpen, 30

Hagdon Hill, 30, 40

Halliday, Rev. W. S., 144

Halwell Castle, 278

Hancock, Prebendary, 172

Harding, Colonel, 65
  Dr John, 270

Harris, Mr John, 261, 262

Hartland, 264, 271

Hawkbridge, 110

Heal, 278

Heanton Court, 211, 256

Heathcoat, Mr, 73

Heddon, river, 278

Heddon’s mouth, 278

Hele, 265

Hellings, Mr, 25

Hembury Fort, 42

Hemyock, 2, 4, 14, 26

Henry, Mr S., 2

“Hermitage,” the, 213

High Bray, 225, 241
  Cross, 89

Hingeston-Randolph, Prebendary, 35

_History of Porlock Church_, 180

_History of Selworthy_, 172

_History of Tiverton_, 72, 75-6

Hoar Oak, 164, 165

Hoccombe, 157, 158

Hollam Lane, 108

Holnicote, 181

Honeymead, 124

Hook, Prebendary, 180

House of St George, 172

Houston, Dr, 74

Huckaback, Reuben, 104, 123

Hurley, Mr Richard, 10

Huxtable, Anthony, 120


Ilfracombe, 263, 264

Illford Bridges, 154, 164

“Ironing Box,” the, 56

Irwin, Miss Anne, 275


Jakes, Sergeant, 25, 26

James I., 212

Jewel, Bishop, 270

_John of Braunton_, the, 247

Johnson, Ursula, 152


Karslake, Mr, 237

Kelso, Mr, 25

Kenilworth, 225

Kennels, 119-20

Kennsford Water, 129

Kentisbeare, 48

Kibsworthy, 171

King, Rev. Mr, 209

Kingdon, Mr J. A., 207

Kinwelton, 279

Knight, Mr F. W. (Sir Frederick), 115, 123, 133, 135, 141

Knight, Mr John, 124, 130, 131, 132

Knightshayes, 78

Knowstone, 229


Lady Harriet’s Drive, 100, 102

Lancombe, 163

Landacre Bridge, 128

Landkey, 252-3

Lee Abbey, 170

_Legends of Devon_, 172

Leigh Court, 9

_Leisure Hour_, the, 150

Leland, 209, 246

_Leonard of Dunster_, the, 188

Lidcote Hall, 225

Lock, Mr, of Lynmouth, 136

_London Magazine_, the, 172, 213

_Lorna Doone_, 1, 34, 49, 52, 58, 71, 77 _note_, 87,
      89 _note_, 110, 114, 123, 125, 129, 137, 142, 145,
      150, 152, 154, 158, 160, 162, 163, 164, 166, 167,
      171, 173, 174, 177, 181, 185 _note_, 189, 201,
      202, 207, 256, 273

Lowman, river, 52

Lucas de Heree, 192

Luttrell, Mr G. F., 190, 193
  Lady Catherine, 188, 190
  Lady Elizabeth, 190
  James, 190-1

Luttrell, Sir Hugh, 188, 190
  Sir John, 192
  Thomas, 192

Lyn, East, 142, 162, 163, 164
  West, 142, 162, 163, 164

Lynbridge, 164

Lynmouth, 162, 166
  Henry de, 166

Lynton, 174-5, 201


Madam Gaddy, 91
  Thorold, 91

_Maid of Sker_, the, 176, 201, 212, 216 _note_, 228,
      229, 241, 243, 256, 259, 260, 261, 264, 277, 278

Maidendown, 20

Malmsmead, 163

Manley, Richard, 206

Manors, 90

Martin, Sir Richard, 272

Martinhoe, 275, 279

Mary de Redvers, 66

Matilda de Clare, 37
  Tablere, 36

Maxwell-Lyte, Sir H. C., 193

_Mayflower_, the, 247

Meldrum, Mother, 110, 153, 173

_Mighty Atom_, the, 271

Mills, John, 207

Millslade, 163

Milton, “Joe,” 129

Minehead, 107, 184-7

“Minehead Turnpike,” the, 199-200

Mohun, Reginald de, 189
  the, 188-90

Molland, 227-9

Morley, Lady, 223

Moridunum, 42

Morte Point, 262-3
  Stone, 262-3

Morthoe, 263
  Church, 260

Mount Sydenham, 107

Mountsey Castle, 109
  Hill Gate, 108

Mundy, Rev. Matthew, 152, 153

Murray, Dr, 109


Narnton Court, 211, 256

Norman, Aggie, 152

Northmolton, 216-25

Nymet Roland, 229-30

“Nympton-in-the-Moors,” 228-9


Oare, 87, 154, 157, 158
  Church, 160-1

Old Cop, 53

Oliver, Dr, 34

Owen, Rev. D. M., 56


Page, Mr J. W., 160, 278

Palmerston, Lord, 75

Paramore, Master, 207

Parracombe, 277
  Common, 278
  Mill, 278

Parker, family of, 222-3

Parminter, Mr J., 242, 243

Passmore, Mrs, 223

Peirson, Rev. E., 113

Penhill, 241

Penniloe, Parson, 13, 30

Penruddock, John, 205

Perliton, 1

Perlycombe, 2

Perlycross, 1

_Perlycross_, 14, 19, 20, 22, 23, 47

Phœnicians, the, 136, 140

Pickard-Cambridge, Rev. E., 58

Pinkery Pond, 91

Pitsworthy, 114

Pixies, 127-8

Pixton, 90, 92, 99-100, 102

Plympton Priory, 36

Pococke, Dr, 173

Poltimore, Lord, 222

Ponies, Exmoor, 108

Porlock, 178, 179, 219
  Marsh, 183
  Weir, 179, 180

Potter, Mr, 22

Prayway Meads, 141

Prescott, 113

Prince’s Worthies, 210, 221

_Prudence_, the, 247

Pumpington, 26, 30


Quartlys, the, 227-8

Queen Anne’s Walk, 247-8

Quivil, Bishop, 36


Radford, Nicholas, 67-70
  Rev. John, 229, 232-3

Rambone, Parson, 242

Rapparee Cove, 264

Raven, Canon, 42

Red Stone, 122

Reid, Mr Stuart J., 50

Rhys, Professor, 109

Ridd, family of, 160, 180
  John, 54, 56, 75, 77, 78, 87, 160

Ripperda, Duke of, 261-2

Risdon, 251

Robsart, Amy, 225

Rock, 78
  Mr W. F., 245

“Rock of Ages,” 44

Russell, Rev. John, 233, 270


Sampford Peverell, 34

Saunton Sands, 257, 259-60

Sayer, Thomas, 99

Scott, Sir Gilbert, 251
  Sir Walter, 225, 237

Seaton, 23

Semson, 33

Seven Brethren Bank, 249

Sherwill, 211

Ship Inn, 179

_Short History of the Original Doones_, 146

Showlsborough Castle, 158

Shuttern, river, 83

Simcoe, General, 44-5

Simonsbath, 107, 124, 137

Slader, Mr Richard, 226-7

Snell, Canon, 54-5
  Mr W. H., 55
  “Robin,” 54

Snows, the, 159, 160

Southey, Robert, 162, 173, 179

Southey’s Corner, 179

Spire Cross, 108, 109

Squier, Hugh, 206

Stapledon, Bishop, 37

Stickles, Jeremy, 128, 163, 185, 202

Stow, 247

_Survey of Devon_, Risdon’s, 165

Sydenham, family of, 91-99
  Humphry, 93
  Major Sir George, 93-9

Sylvesters, the, 41


Talbot, Sir Gilbert, 71

_Tales from the Telling House_, 1, 30

Taunton Pool, 52

Taw, river, 211, 212, 248-9

Tawstock Church, 250-2
  Court, 250

Templar, Mr George, 239

Temple, Archbishop, 25, 29, 49

Tennyson, 102-4

Thompson, Rev. W. C., 48

Thornton, Rev. W. H., 123, 183

_Tiger_, the, 247

Tinker Toogood, 17

Tiverton, 61-76, 77
  Castle, 70-1

Toplady, Augustus, 44

Torr Steps, 103, 109-10

Tracy, family of, 260, 261
  William de, 260

Treadwin, Mrs, 223

_Treatise of the Soul of Man_, 97

Trentishoe, 278

Tugwell, Rev. G., 135


Uffculme, 2, 3
  Church, 9

Umberleigh, 211

Upottery, 23


Valley of Rocks, 170, 172-4

Vancouver, Mr, 19, 20


Wade, Major, 152, 154-7, 265
  Mr Z. E. A., 258, 259

Wagstaffe, Sir Joseph, 205

Waldron, John, 6
  Sir Thomas, 6

Walrond, family of, 6
  Sir John, 7

Wambarrows, 109

_Wanderings in North Devon_, 151

Warre, Dr, 104

Warren, the, 144

Washfield, 78

Watchet, 200 _note_

Watersmeet, 164

Weir Water, 158

Welcomb, 265

Wellington, Duke of, 26, 33

Westcote, 164, 248, 259, 271

_Western Antiquary_, the, 153

Westleigh Quarries, 35

Westmill, 113

Wheal Eliza, 123

“White Horse,” the, 75

White Water, 125

Whitechapel, 209-10, 211

Wichehalse, family of, 152, 156, 167-71
  Hugh, 170, 171

Windwhistle Lane, 78

Winsford, 111, 112
  Hill, 108, 109, 131

Withypool, 129

Wizard’s Slough, 125

Wolford Lodge, 45

Wood, Mr William, 9
  Mr W. T., 9

Woody Bay, 170

Woolacombe Sands, 261-2

Woolhanger, 164

Wrey, Sir Bourchier, 155, 156

Wyott, Philip, 246, 247


Yenworthy, 144

Yonge, Walter, 81


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FOOTNOTES:

 [1] Cosgate is mentioned in chapter xlviii., where the county boundary
 is defined.--F. J. S.

 [2] This term recurs to me almost as often as I think of moors
 and commons, and for the following reason. An old friend of mine,
 who lived to be nearly ninety, a lawyer by profession and a wit
 by practice, once told me how he attended an inquiry held in
 West Somerset by a certain Government Commission, concerning a
 well-known tract adjacent to his property. To his surprise, a fussy
 solicitor, who did not know that he was addressing another “limb
 of the law,” rushed up to him, and after expatiating volubly on
 the difference between a claim in gross, a claim appendant, and a
 claim appurtenant, begged to be informed what was the nature of his
 claim. “_Im_pertinent, if any,” replied my friend, delighted at the
 opportunity, “as I am not here on business.”

 [3] Vancouver, referring to this custom, observes: “Their day’s work
 at plough or harrow is usually performed in a journey of about eight
 hours, during which time the ploughboy has a peculiar mode of cheering
 them on with a song he continually chaunts in low notes, suddenly
 broken and rising a whole octave. The ceasing of the song is said to
 occasion the stopping of the team, which is either followed by a man
 holding the plough, or as occasion may require, in attending the drag
 or harrows.”

 [4] Here and elsewhere in the chapter these references are to
 Blackmore’s local romance _Perlycross_, unless otherwise stated.

 [5] Two species of furze are produced in Devonshire--the rank
 luxuriant sort flourishing in the spring, and the smaller dwarf or
 dale furze, which blooms in the autumn. The larger, which goes by the
 name of French furze, forms considerable brakes, and is usually cut
 at four years’ growth. Its crane stems used to be burnt for charcoal,
 whereas the dwarf furze was cut and grubbed by farmers and labourers
 for fuel.

 [6] _Lorna Doone_, chapter iii.

 [7] This is, of course, assuming that they did not take the turning to
 Bolham. By an apparent anachronism, Blackmore talks of “the village
 of Bolham on the Bampton Road” (_Lorna Doone_, chapter lx.) as the
 place where the ladies’ coach was stopped by Faggus. There was no
 _coach_-road passing through Bolham at that date.

 [8] Perhaps a more likely explanation is that it was a Norman motte,
 specimens of which are to be found not only in England, but in
 France, and which is depicted in several scenes of the Bayeux. These
 earthworks are usually planted not on hill-tops, but on low sites in
 or near villages, and not far from a church.

 [9] This story, repeated in directories and guide-books for
 generations, receives short shrift from Mr R. N. Worth. “It has been
 claimed as the Beamdune where Kynegils defeated the Britons in 614,
 but that was Bampton in Oxfordshire” (_History of Devonshire_, p. 98).
 _Sic transit gloria mundi._

 [10] “And truly, the Dulverton people said that he was the richest man
 in their town, and could buy up half of the county armigers” (_Lorna
 Doone_, chapter xiii.). Some of the local “armigers” figure in the
 following pages.

 [11] It may be worth mentioning that an incident similar to that which
 marred the happiness of Susan Sydenham occurred in the life of the
 celebrated John Donne. In 1610, on the third day after his arrival at
 Paris, he was left alone in a room where he had been dining with Sir
 Robert Drury and others. Half an hour later the knight returned, and
 was surprised to find him in a curious sort of ecstasy. At first he
 was unable to speak, but after a time he declared--

 “I have seen a dreadful vision since I saw you. I have seen my dear
 wife pass twice by me through this room, with her hair hanging about
 her shoulders, and a dead child in her arms.”

 Sir Robert suggested that it was nothing but a dream, which he advised
 him to forget, but Donne replied, “I cannot be surer that I am now
 living than that I have not slept since I saw you, and I am so sure
 that at her second appearance she stopped, looked me in the face and
 vanished.”

 As he seemed so certain, a messenger was sent to Drury House, who
 brought back the news that he had found Mrs Donne ill in bed, after
 the birth of a dead infant--an event which had happened on the very
 day and hour that her husband had seen the vision.

 [12] In chapter iii. of _Lorna Doone_, Blackmore speaks of Dulverton
 as a town near which “the Exe and his big brother Barle have union.”

 [13] A Dulverton farmer once remarked to me on the great size of
 Exmoor farmhouses, saying that it would be possible to put into one of
 them two or three average homesteads.

 [14] According to one writer, that mighty hunter, Katerfelto, earned
 huge glory both for himself and for his owner, a lusty farmer, by
 taking the bit between his teeth on the Barkham Hills, and carrying
 him bodily over a twenty-foot gap in an old Roman iron-mine.

 [15] The original of “Red Rube” in Melville’s _Katerfelto_.

 [16] Subject to variation, _e.g._, “children.”

 [17] _Lorna Doone_, chapters ix., xlviii.

 [18] Blackmore refers to the subject in _Lorna Doone_, chapter xxxix.
 Speaking of Jeremy Stickles, he says that “his duty was first and
 most ostensibly to see to the levying of poundage in the little haven
 of Lynmouth and further up the coast, which was now becoming a place
 of resort for the folk whom we call smugglers, that is to say, who
 land their goods without regard to the King’s revenue, as by law
 established. And indeed there had been no officer appointed to take
 toll, until one had been sent to Minehead, not so very long before”
 (see also _Lorna Doone_, chapter xii.).

 [19] These worthies are coupled by Blackmore in the _Maid of Sker_
 (chapter lxviii.). “Since Tom Faggus died, there has not been such a
 man to be found, nowhere round these parts.”

 [20] See Note I., p. 280.

 [21] See Note II., p. 280.

 [22] True, in chapter liii. Blackmore speaks of the place as five or
 six leagues distant from Heddon’s Mouth; still, Chowne’s frequent
 appearances at Barnstaple and beyond, and such indications as the fate
 of the Sherwill girl (chapter xlvii.), produce the opposite impression.

 [23] Groats.

 [24] The Devil.


Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

the neighbournood in connection=> the neighbourhood in connection {pg
241}





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can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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