Edmund Bartell.

Observations upon the Town of Cromer online

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Transcribed from the 1800 John Parslee edition by David Price, email
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[Picture: The sea shore at Cromer]

Picturesque Scenery

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[Picture: Decorative graphic]


_And Sold by T. Hurst_, _No._ 32, _Pater-noster Row_, _London_;
_J. Freeman_, _London-Lane_, _Norwich_. _and B. Rust_, _Cromer_.



BATHING places being generally resorted to during the summer season, for
the different pursuits either of health or pleasure, I have often
wondered that some little account of such as are not so much esteemed as
Weymouth, Brighthelmstone and Ramsgate, should not be published; and more
particularly where the situation of the place itself, and the scenery of
the country around, are not entirely destitute of beauty.

These considerations, added to a residence on the spot, first induced me,
for my private amusement, to consider Cromer and the scenery in its
neighbourhood in a picturesque point of view. My profession, that of a
Surgeon, leading me daily to one or other of the scenes here described,
is certainly an advantage, as the features of landscape appear extremely
different accordingly as they are affected by difference of weather, of
lights and shadows, and of morning and evening suns.

In watering places where there are neither public rooms nor assemblies,
walking and riding become the chief sources of amusement; and for
invalids it is more particularly necessary to divert the attention, by
pointing put those things which are esteemed most worthy of observation.
Few people are altogether insensible to the beauties of a fine
country,—few things to a contemplative mind are capable of giving that
satisfaction which the beauties of nature will afford.

By the same rule, also, gentlemen’s seats, which are often the
repositories of the works of art, produce ample speculation for the
artist and virtuoso.

In visiting small, and I may be allowed to say, obscure watering-places,
retirement seems to be the principal object. Where bathing only is the
inducement, the place and its neighbourhood is of very little
consequence, provided it is convenient and near the sea; but where the
mind and body are capable of being sufficiently active to be amused
abroad, or to those whose aim is pleasure, a country affording that
amusement by its variety, is certainly to be preferred; and to such as
are fond of the study of landscape, variety and some degree of beauty are
absolutely necessary.

As every little excursion will begin and end at Cromer, each will be
formed into a separate section. I have before said that this undertaking
was at first intended solely for my own amusement, and with that idea I
had sketched several views, but after I had come to a determination to
hazard its entrance into the world, I found it necessary to confine
myself to one only, on account of the additional price they would have
put upon the publication.

After the excellent things which have been produced in this way, by the
Rev. Mr. Gilpin, there is certainly great temerity in attempting, even
for private amusement, any thing which bears the most distant resemblance
to such elegant productions. From which consideration, I cannot here
omit to solicit the indulgence of the public for the ensuing pages, which
are intended only as humble imitators, not as daring rivals of that
excellent master.


_Section the First_.

THE situation of the town of Cromer. The parish church a beautiful
specimen of architecture, in the time of Henry the fourth. The beauty of
its proportions injured by the necessary manner in which it has been
repaired. Accident of a bay falling from the steeple. Anecdote of
Robert Bacon. Free School. Inns. The Fishery the chief support of the
lower class of inhabitants,—also, a great source of picturesque
amusement. Boat upset. Mercantile trade. Dearness of Coals,—the reason
of it. Cromer an eligible situation for retirement. A description of
the bathing machines, cliffs, and beach. Sea-shore a constant amusement
to the artist. Picturesque effects of the storm and the calm compared.
Sea-fowls. Light-house. Overstrand. Cromer Hall.

_Section the Second_.

WALK to Runton. Cromer seen to advantage in the return from Runton. The

_Section the Third_.

EXCURSION to Holt—upper road to be preferred. Description of the country
between Cromer and Holt. Churches or villages, seen through a valley, a
very common species of landscape. Fine distance a circumstance of great
beauty. Heath ground terminated by distance. Particular effect given to
a distance. The influence which a distant prospect, under particular
circumstances, has upon the mind. Holt. Return from Holt by the lower
road. Beeston Priory. Remark of Shenstone’s upon ruinated structures.
Felbrigg beacon.

_Section the Fourth_.

FELBRIGG. Grounds described. Oak,—its uses in the picturesque,—improved
by age and decay. Shenstone’s ideas of trees in general, particularly
the oak. Felbrigg house, pictures and library. Beckham old church,—the
loneliness of its situation greatly to be admired. Such scenes
calculated to excite reflection.

_Section the Fifth_.

CHURCH at Thorp-Market described. Stained or painted glass in
windows,—its effect. Gunton Hall, the seat of the Right Honourable Lord
Suffield. Offices very fine. Parish Church in the park. North-Walsham.
Hanworth, the seat of Robert Lee Doughty, Esq.

_Section the Sixth_.

RIDE from Cromer to Mundesley. Trimmingham beacon. Mundesley. The
beach at Mundesley. View from it particularly affected by the state of
the weather. Effects of partial lights, called by Mons. du
Piles—“accidents in painting.”

_Section the Seventh_.

THE Cottage at Northrepps,—its romantic situation. Casual observations
on planting. Echo at Toll’s hill.

_Section the Eighth_.

BLICKLING, the seat of the Honourable Asheton Harbord. Description of
the house, pictures, etc. The park. Mausoleum. Parish church.
Aylsham. Road from Aylsham to Cromer. Woody lanes frequently very

_Section the Ninth_.

WOOLTERTON, the seat of the Right Honourable Lord Walpole. Its
situation. Ruin in the park.

_Section the Tenth_.

SHERRINGHAM, Upper. Description of the grounds belonging to Cooke
Flower, Esq. Shepherd’s cottage, rural situation of. Thatch considered
as the most picturesque covering to a cottage. Connection of objects
necessary to produce a pleasing effect. Weybourn. Sherringham, Lower.
Good situation of the inn. The beach. Thompson’s description of a
sun-set at sea.


_Section the First_.

THE town of CROMER is situated on the north-east part of the county of
Norfolk, upon the edge of the british ocean, from which it is defended by
cliffs of considerable height.

It must formerly have been a place of much more consequence than it is at
present, as that which is now called Cromer, was in the survey made by
the Conqueror, accounted for under the town and lordship of Shipdon,
which has long given way to the encroachments of the sea, together with
the parish church dedicated to Saint Peter.

At low water there are many large masses of old wall to be seen, which
appear evidently to have belonged to some of the buildings of the old
town; and at very low tides a piece of building is discoverable, which
the fishermen call the Church Rock, it being generally supposed to have
been a part of the old church of Shipdon, and I think with some
probability of truth; though others have doubted it, supposing it
impossible but that the constant action of the sea for so many ages, must
long ere this have dissolved all traces of it.

The present church, dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul, was probably
erected in the time of Henry the fourth. It is a very handsome pile,
built with flint and freestone, consisting of a body and two aisles,
covered with slate; the tower, which is square, with an embattled top, is
an hundred and fifty-nine feet in height.

The entrance at the west end, is a beautiful specimen of gothic
architecture, now in ruins; as is the porch on the north side and the
chancel. The flinting in many parts of the building, for the beauty of
its execution, is, perhaps, scarcely any where to be excelled.

The inside of the church, which is kept in good repair, is capable of
containing a very great number of persons; it is also tolerably well
pewed; but except the double row of arches which support the roof and
divide the aisles, very little of what it has been remains; these,
however, are of beautiful proportions, and the windows which were
formerly of noble dimensions, and probably ornamented with that most
elegant of church-decorations, painted glass, are now in a great measure
closed up by the hands of the bricklayer.

Amongst the repairs done to the church is one, which though it may be,
and certainly is, in some measure beneficial, yet, as it affects the
beautiful proportions of the middle aisle, the eye of taste must regret—I
mean the flat ceiling, which diminishes the height of the building by
cutting off the roof. Height when duly proportioned proportioned
certainly adds much to grandeur. In churches and in most gothic
buildings the roof terminates in a point corresponding with the other
parts, and by the exclusion of which the proportion and beauty of the
building is in a great measure destroyed.

There is something too in the dark and sombre hue of the roofs of
churches, when the timbers are left in their original state, that is very

Monuments there are none of any consequence,—one or two of the Windham
and Ditchell families are all the church contains; but a well-toned organ
has been placed in the gallery within these few years, for which the
church is peculiarly adapted.

At about a third part of the height of the staircase, which leads up the
steeple, is a door which opens upon the lead of a small turret,
communicating with the stairs, from which a few years since, a boy, by
the name of Yaxley, fell into the church yard, between some timbers which
were laid there for the repairs of the church, without receiving any
other hurt than a few slight bruises, and is now on board a ship in his
Majesty’s service.

Robert Bacon, a mariner, of Cromer, (says the History of Norfolk) found
out Iceland, and is said to have taken the Prince of Scotland, James
Stewart, sailing to France for education, in the time of Henry the

By the will of Sir Bartholomew Rede, citizen and goldsmith, also an
alderman of London, made in October, 1505, in the twenty-first of Henry
the seventh, the annual sum of ten pounds was bequeathed for the
foundation of a free grammar-school, which is paid to the master by the
goldsmith’s company.

The houses in general are indifferent and the rents very high; yet
tolerable accommodation is to be found for strangers, from one to three
guineas per week, some of which command a fine view of the sea, and are
extremely desirable.

The want of a large and well-conducted Inn is amongst those few things
which are chiefly to be regretted by those who pay a visit to Cromer.
Parties are frequently formed for an excursion to a watering place by
those who have neither time, nor inclination, to stay sufficiently long
to make it worth their while to engage lodgings; of course they complain
of the want of accommodation. The consequence is, they become disgusted
with the place, and not unfrequently, I fear, leave it with a
determination of coming no more, but also by describing to others the
inconveniences they have experienced, deter them from making trial of a
place where their neighbours have fared so indifferently.

Unfortunately the trade to an Inn-keeper (in this and I suppose, indeed,
it is the same in most small bathing places) is almost entirely confined
to the summer season; therefore, unless the influx of company at that
time was sufficient to carry him through the expences of the winter also,
I very much fear such an Inn as is necessary for the situation could not
answer. However, I should think the trial of it, though hazardous, might
probably prove successful: with such an addition, Cromer would, perhaps,
in the course of a few years, stand a chance of rivalling some of the
more celebrated bathing places for the number, as well as consequence of
its visitors; without it, it must to a certainty remain contented with
its present acquisitions.

Lobsters, crabs, whitings, cod-fish and herrings, are all caught here in
the finest perfection; the former are always eagerly sought after by all
who arrive; indeed, coming to Cromer and eating lobsters are things
nearly synonymous.

The lower class of people are chiefly supported by fishing; the herrings
which are caught here are cured in the town, a house within three or four
years having been erected for that purpose, which, I believe, answers
well both to the proprietor and the fishermen, who now find an immediate
market for any quantity they may bring in.

The fishery, independent of the pleasure we receive from the
consideration of the support it brings to a numerous, hardy, and in many
instances, an industrious set of people, is not without its effect in a
picturesque point of view. The different preparations for a voyage; the
groupes of figures employed in different ways,—some carrying a boat down
to the water’s edge,—some carrying nets, oars, masts and sails; while
others, in a greater state of forwardness are actually pulling through
the breakers, form a scene of the most busy, various and pleasing kind.

The return, also, of the fishermen from this little voyage, frequently
affords a scene truly interesting; particularly in the herring season,
which being in the autumnal equinox, is liable to wind, which sometimes
suddenly bringing a considerable swell upon the beach, renders the coming
in of the boats both difficult and dangerous; a circumstance which
although it cannot fail in a great measure to take from the pleasure we
should experience in being witness to such a scene unconnected with
danger, yet the different attitudes of the boat as it is impelled over
the billows, the exertions of the crew, the agitation of the water, and
the expression marked in the countenances of the surrounding spectators
awaiting their arrival—are all of them incidents so highly picturesque,
that we can but behold them with admiration.

At one moment the little bark followed by a mountain of a sea hanging
over its stern, every instant menacing destruction—the next thrown up
aloft, ready to be precipitated into the gaping gulph below; alternately
keeping the spectators and crew, trembling between fear and hope, till at
last some friendly wave with dreadful force hurls it upon the shore. {9}

Those faces (for upon such occasions the beach is always covered with
beholders) which were but the moment before the most strongly expressive
of the feelings of wife, mother, children or friend, under the most
torturing anxiety for the safety of those who are most nearly allied to
them, by the ties of affection or of interest, are in an instant changed
to smiles and tears of joy, to thanks for their safety, and almost in the
same breath to enquiries about the success of the voyage.

The mercantile trade here is small; the want of a convenient harbour
where ships might ride in safety, will ever be an obstacle; there are,
however, small exports of corn and imports of coal, tiles, oil cake,
London porter, &c.

Perhaps there are few places, even at the distance of twenty miles from
the sea, where coals are dearer than they are here; one principal reason
of which is, the expence and hazard attending the unloading; to effect
which the vessel is laid upon the beach at high water (which can only be
done in fine weather) and when the tide is sufficiently ebbed, the coals
are taken from the vessel by carts, each carrying half a chaldron, which
is as much as four horses can well get up the steep and sandy road cut
through the cliff.

Thus the business is carried on till the returning tide obliges them to
desist till the next ebb. About two tides generally serve to complete
the ship’s unloading, which is seldom of greater burthen than from sixty
to seventy tons.

From the loading and unloading the vessels arises another source of
picturesque amusement from the combination of horses and carts, men and
boys—these employed in their different departments compose various
groupes, and give a new character to the scene, by connecting maritime
with rural occupations.

There are no places of public amusement, no rooms, balls, nor card
assemblies. A small circulating library, consisting chiefly of a few
novels, is all that can be obtained; but still for such as make
retirement their aim, it is certainly an eligible situation.

The bathing machines are very commodious, and the bather a careful,
attentive man. The shore, also, which is a fine firm sand, not only only
renders the bathing agreeable, but when the tide retires, presents such a
surface for many miles as cannot be exceeded. The sea too is one of
those objects that appears to have the constant power of pleasing. Other
scenes (though beautiful in themselves) by being seen constantly, either
lose much of their power or become tiresome by their sameness;—it is not
so with the sea—those who live constantly by the side of it, if their
occupation lies within doors, seldom fail at the leisure hour of noon or
eve, to pay their respects to it, even in the most stormy weather. This
fondness can arise from no other source than the constant variety it
produces. Its charms are various and incessant—whether its azure surface
is dressed in smiles or irritated into frowns by the surly northern or
eastern blast.

The cliffs in many parts are lofty and well broken, and their feet being
for the most part composed of strong blue clay, are capable of making
considerable resistance to the impetuous attacks of the sea; so that when
the upper parts which are of a looser texture are brought down by
springs, frosts or other accidental circumstances, and are carried away
by the action of the tide, the feet still remain, opposing their bold
projections to the fury of the storm.

It is very rare too, that there is a scarcity of shipping to adorn the
scene; the trade from Newcastle, Sunderland and the Baltic, keeping up a
constant succession. The different parties of pleasure, also, that
assemble upon the beach in an evening, for walking, riding or reading,
constitute variety and make it a very pleasant resort. But towards the
close of a fine summer’s evening, when the sun declining in full
splendour, tinting the whole scene with a golding glow, the sea shore
becomes an object truly sublime. The noble expanse of blue waters on the
one hand, the distant sail catching the last rays of the setting sun,
controlled on the other by the rugged surfaces of the impending cliffs,
the stillness of the scene, interrupted only by the gentle murmurs of the
waves falling at your feet or perhaps by the solemn dashing of oars, or
at intervals, by the hoarse bawling of the seamen;—“music in such full
unison” with the surrounding objects and altogether calculated to inspire
so pleasing a train of thoughts to the contemplative, solitary stroller,
that he does not awake from his reverie till

“black and deep the night begins to fall.
A shade immense, sunk in the quenching gloom;
Magnificent and vast, are Heaven and earth.
Order confounded lies; all beauty void;
Distinction lost; and gay variety
One universal blot; such the fair power
Of Light, to kindle and create the whole.”

What can give a more adequate idea of the power of the divine Creator
than such a scene? What can give a fuller comprehension of the compass
of human invention than the intercourse which is maintained between
nations through the medium of navigation? And to an Englishman can there
be a more pleasing or exulting theme, than the wide extent of the
commerce of Great Britain and the glory of the British Navy?—the bulwark
of this happy land.

“This royal throne of Kings, this scepter’d Isle,
This earth of Majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demy Paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself,
Against infection and the hand of war;
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands.”

To the artist, also, the sea furnishes an almost never-ending source of
amusement; it is a constant moving picture capable of a thousand
modifications, and of being treated on canvass in various ways; it admits
too of the grandest effects of light and shadow, and in the hands of such
a master as Vanderveldt of producing wonderful effect. But it is in the
storm alone that the grand effects I am speaking of are to be found.

“When huge uproar lords it wide”

It wants at such times no adventitious aids to set it off. The calm on
the contrary without some assistance, as rocks, fortifications or
figures, will hardly be able to support itself. It is true you may place
a vessel in the fore-ground, but a ship at anchor lying with her whole
broadside to the eye, however noble it may be to contemplate or pleasing
by the goodness of the painting, will always be a formal object. If you
wish to make it picturesque you must compose your fore-ground of some
projecting rock, or pier-head, a boat or two lying on the shore, and a
few appropriate figures; remove the ship in the fore-ground to the second
distance, with others in the last distance to mark the horizon, and with
these materials, if well managed, a very pleasing picture may be formed.

But a storm at sea has in itself sufficient grandeur to support it; the
vessel labouring with the sea, having all its formal lines broken by the
disposition of its sails, and which being, as is often the case, strongly
illuminated by the sun bursting through the gloom, with the whitening
surges breaking upon the shoals or dashing against the sides of the
vessel, doubly augmenting the blackness of the sea and sky, form a
contrast so noble as to render all other aids superfluous.

Sea fowls as having a peculiar character of their own, and also as
tending to mark that of a sea-coast view more strongly, have always been
considered, and with the greatest propriety, as objects highly
picturesque and amusing whether in natural or in artificial landscape.
Mr. Gilpin has treated of them at large in his Forest Scenery, with that
accuracy and elegance peculiar to himself; nor has another great master
done them less justice.

“The cormorant on high
Wheels from the deep and screams along the land;
Loud shrieks the soaring hern; and with wild wing
The circling sea fowl cleave the flaky clouds.”


Most strangers pay a visit to the light-house, which stands on an
eminence about three quarters of a mile to the eastward of the town, and
commands an extensive sea-view, the inland prospect is confined by a
range of hills forming an amphitheatre around it. The tower built of
brick is only three moderate stories high, crowned with a lantern lighted
by fifteen patent lamps, each placed in a large copper reflector three
feet in diameter and finely plated on the inside; these placed round an
upright axis are kept in continual motion by jack-work, wound up every
five hours and a half, by which means a set of five reflectors are
presented to the eye in a full blaze of light every minute, the axis
being three minutes in performing its rotation.

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Online LibraryEdmund BartellObservations upon the Town of Cromer → online text (page 1 of 4)