F. J. Harvey (Frederick Joseph Harvey) Darton.

The marches of Wessex, a chronicle of England online

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Blandford. Every pane of glass in Sherborne Castle was
broken by rioters, as well as many in the town. A mob
from Poole was expected to attack Corfe Castle and En-
combe House, but the yeomanry were called out and held
Wareham. " The minds of the common people," writes
Mary Frampton, " are wickedly excited by persons of a
somewhat higher class," who raised penny subscriptions to
get reformers elected, and said that " ' Reform ' would give
them meat as well as bread in abundance by paying only a
quarter, if so much, of the present price for those articles.
How can the poor resist such tempting language ? " I
should prefer to ask, v>^hy should they ?



THE SEQUESTKUFJ) \ALE 279

All over the county, " bands of labourers assembled
together, firing farmhouses, destroying machinery, and
tiireatening the country houses of the gentry." Apart from
tlie demonstration mentioned, there was a riot at Winfrith ;
but ^Ii-. James Frampton produced one hundi-ed and forty
mounted men, and charged the mob. The troops remained
loyal ; as a eulogist wrote of the Blandford squadron :

"... Should the Demon of Intestine strife
Tlireat even our houses, our altar desecrate,
Where is the Yeoman who would value life

To LJuard from Kapino all that's good and great ? "

When the Reform Bill was first thrown out, there were
further riots at Sherborne, quelled by the yeomanry. At
Stoiu" Provost rioters broke a threshing machine and sur-
rounded the Rectory. The parson was an ex-officer of tho
Peninsular War. He had his own methods. He " singled
out the ringleader, and having presented him witii a
sovereign, sent the rioters away well contented to spend it
as they liked. The next day a detachment of Captain
Jacob's troop from SturmiiLster Newton, under the command
of a Non-Commissioned Officer named Harvey, came to tho
assistance of the Rector. The ringleader was apprehended,
and sentenced to seven years' penal servitude."

The culmination, in Dorset, was the episode of the little
band of poor peasants known to history as tho Dorchester
labourers.

The names of these unhappy men were George Loveless
(who wrote a slightly rhetoiical account of their sufferings),
James Loveless, Thomas and John Stanfickl (father and son ;
John was the Loveless's nephew ; a family " conspiracy " !)
James Hammett, and James lirinc. James Loveless
ap[)arenlly was the leader. He seems to have inv(Mited tho
ritual i){ oaths, blindfoldings, and costume under which they
" conspired." They certainly did " conspire," in a technical
sense. Equally certainly, almost every one set in authority
over thcni from tiio moment oi their arrest treated them as



280 THE MARCHES OF WESSEX

the vilest of criminals, without regard to the extent or
ferocity of their conspiracy.

Loveless gives this account of their grievances. " In
the year 1831-2, there was a general movement of the work-
ing-classes for an increase of wages, and the labouring men
in the parish where I lived (Tolpiddle) gathered together,
and met their employers, to ask them for an advance of
wages, and they came to a mutual agreement, the masters
in Tolpiddle promising to give the men as much for their
labour as the other masters in the district," He says there
were no threats or intimidation, and that he himself, in
view of the frequent incendiarism, was chosen as part of the
watch against fires. But he was a Dissenter, and " by some
in Tolpiddle, it is considered as the sin of witchcraft."
" Shortly after, we learnt that, in almost every place around
us, the masters were giving their men money, or money's
worth, to the amount of ten shillings per week — we expected
to be entitled to as much — but no— nine shillings must be
om' portion. After some months we were reduced to eight
shillings per week." The wage or its equivalent was sub-
sequently reduced to seven shillings and then six shillings was
suggested. Thereupon " it was resolved to form a friendly
society among the labourers, having sufficiently learnt that
it would be vain [to] seek redress either of employers,
magistrates, or parsons " — whom they had consulted
already.

They did not know it was illegal to associate for such a
purpose. On February 21, 1834, warning notices were
posted by the magistrates. On February 29th the " con-
spirators " were all arrested, and walked peaceably with
the constable to Dorchester, seven miles away. They were
taken to the prison, identified, searched, and their heads
shorn. Some days later they appeared before the magistrates
and were committed for trial. The chaplain and "a Mr.
Young, an attorney," tried to get Loveless to reveal their
supposed plans. The authorities had the fear (not uncommon
among authorities) of hidden plots of incredible magnitude.



THE SEQUESTERED \ ALE 281

On ^larch loth they were takou to the County Hall and
" ushered down some steps into a miserable dungeon,"
where they waited three days, and were then tried. " Oiu*
masters were inquired of to know if we were not idle, or
attended public-houst>s, or some other fault in ils ; and much
as they were opposed to us. they had common honesty
enough to declare that we were good labouring servants,
and that they never heard of any complaint against us."
Loveless says the judge was hostile. At any rate, he
sentenced them all to seven years' transportation, after ho
had adjomned for two days to consider a protest by their
counsel.

On April 5th, witii irons on his legs, Loveless was moved
to Portsmouth, where he worked for six weeks or so; and
then on May 25th, in irons still, he sailed for Australia,
with twelve score other convicts. "A berth about five feet
six inches scpiare was all that was allowed " — on a fourteen
weeks' voyage — " for six men to occupy day and night."

George Loveless was allotted to Tasmania. He " worked
on the roads with the chain-gang in the day," for a week or
so, and then on a Government farm. " Our hut was none
of the best : in fine weather wo could lie in bed and view
the stars, in foul weather feel the wind and rain ; and this
added greatly to increase those rheumatic pains w hicii wcire
first brought on by cold irons round the legs and hard
lying." The farm work continued till February, 1836,
when he was released on ticket-of -leave and told to find
work for himself. A month before he had been allowed to
write and ask his wife and children to come out to Tasmania,
at the Government expense : ho did so with reluctance,
for he tlnjught the life too hard and strange for them. Ho
got employment after a long search, and then learnt that
the home agitation against the harsh sentences was taking
effect. Tn October, lH3(i, he was given a free })ardon and
offered a free passage honu*, but delayed acc(»j)ting it till
ho heard whether his wife was ^ <'tting out oi not . He an ived
in l^iOiKlon on .luiK- l.'JtIi, ls:i7.



282 THE MARCHES OF WESSEX

The other five offenders were sent to Sydney and assigned
to different masters. John Stanfield was sent to a farm near
his father, 150 miles up-country. A few weeks after he got
there, he got leave to go and see his parent. " He [the older
man] was then a dreadful spectacle, covered with sores from
head to foot, and weak and helpless as a child." It is possible
that his condition was caused by the custom of flogging
shepherds and cattle-men who by accident let a beast or
two of their huge herds go astray. Loveless quotes a bad
master who got a magistrate's order to give fifty lashes to
one such man. The culprit was then set to carry logs on
his injured back, and, being unable to endure it, ran away,
was caught, and got fifty more lashes. He ran away three
times more, and received the same penalty each time ;
again, and was sentenced to a sixth fifty — but this time,
as his back " was in such a dreadful state," on another part
of the body.

In 1836 John Stanfield and his father — chained together
— were transferred, for some reason not explained to them,
to Sydney gaol, being treated with the utmost severity and
coarseness on the way. They were then set to work in a
gang, where eventually James Loveless and Brine joined
them. Stanfield petitioned successfully to be transferred
back to his old master, and all four were so transferred.
They were pardoned in 1837, and reached Plymouth on March
17, 1838. " The next day we proceeded through Exeter,
where we were welcomed by a public meeting, to our
native village, Tolpiddle, Dorsetshire, arriving in safety
to the great joy of our relatives and friends."

The experiences of James Loveless were much the same.
James Brine fared worse. He had the misfortune to be
robbed, of all except some old clothes, by bushrangers,
as he was on the way to his master, up-country. His master
asked him where his provided " slops " and bedding were.
He told him of the robbery. " He swore I was a liar, and
said he would give me a ' d — d good flogging ' in the morning.
' You are one of the Dorsetshire machinc-bicakers,' said



THE SEQUESTERED VALE l>83

he, ' but you are caught at last.' He gave me nothing to cat
until the following day." (Brine had had but one meal
diu*ing the three previous days.) And hi-; master gave him
no clothes nor bedding for six months. " ' If you ask me
for anything before the six months is expired, I ^\ill flog
you as oft<?n as I like.' " This man wa> a magistrate.

The sentence and the sufferings were hmg remembered :
long enough for the locality to set up, during the Great War
of 1914-1918, a monument to the sufferers. It was unveiled
by one of His Majesty's Ministers, a member of the ^Va^
Cabinet, who, like tho^e he commemorated, was a labourer
and a Trade l^nionist.

Their toil, and the toil of generations of tlieir fathers,
made the England we see now. They mixed their labour
with that land ; but little of the goodly heritage is yet
theirs. 800 what they and others have made of Marsln\ood
V'ale. Start at Beaminster.

The greater part of Beaminster was burnt down in 1781.
Hence tiie neat beauty of the little town now. It is just a
satisfactory large village, except for one thing in it — the
church, a dominant building fit for a town. The church by
some accident escaped the Puritan iconoclast, and the very
beautiful tower bears a cluster of images all up its surface,
gracioas saint-; under canopies, in golden stone. It is the
most lovely tower in Dorset.

From its bells issue every three hours hymn tunes, as
olsowhorc in the county. Witliiu. it is spacious and decent.
It contains the monument of an Oglander of Parnham in
the theatrical style : that very old family succeeded, in
possession of the noble manor-house and its lands, the still
older family of Strode. Parnham Ifouse, half a mile away,
is a glory of Dorset.

The churclj also contains a ])leasant putniing epitaph,
hidden behind the organ : It is of H')~}'.i :

" 'TiH not because the woman's virtue dies.
That 111*! briiHH t<'lln u« h(To Ann Hillary lif« ;
II'T niuno'H long lov'd hlic is in this i oininrndod.
The poor cry out, their Hillary term is ended."



284 THE MARCHES OF WESSEX

There is a footpath to Netherbury which brings you out
near its hardly less admirable church. Netherbury itself
might be an emblem of much of Dorset's share in English
history. Five miles away Bridport has clung to the great
world by its ropes. Beaminster, with the church and its
mart of incomjDarable cheeses, is as it were a secret metro-
polis. These two places are also joined by a road, along
which a motor-bus service and motor-mail service of terrify-
ing violence ply. But Netherbury is not upon that road.
Netherbury is not really upon any road, though since a
village, to exist, must be capable of being reached, some
roads run to it. If you come by any way but the Beaminster
footpath you find Netherbury by means of a map. You do
not find it by direct vision or distant prospect. You turn
down an unsuggestive lane with high banks west of the
Bridport-Beaminster road : and in a quarter of a mile you
are in the midst of a village compact, cheerful, reasonably
active, and completely hidden from the traffic of the world.

Netherbmy for centuries has had two industries : the
making of sails and nets, and the growing of cider apples.
Upon these homely slighted trades the village has main-
tained its peaceful existence. Once it was an abode of grer t
folk : Beaminster formed part of Netherbury parish.
High families lived there. It was " amoena sedes Gollo-
pensis," as a memorial in Dorchester Parish Church calls the
mansion of Strode, a pleasant residence. Nicholas Wadham,
founder of the Oxford college, dwelt at Pomice, near by,
now a farm. In the church are buried Mores of Melplash,
ancestors of Sir Thomas. But now Netherbury is but a
handful of yellow cottages, with one or two displeasing
patches of brick, and a number of very fine box hedges,
said to have been planted to stay infection of plague from
house to house, when the village was ravaged by the scourge
in 1666-8.

All the paths and roads converge upon the beautiful
church (a very competent guide to which could once be
purchased at the post office just below). It stands on the



THE SEQUESTERED VAT.E 285

higliest part of Nethoilniry's littli' hill, a golden pinnacle,
gracious and lovely alike when it glows in sunlight and when
its serene autumn colour shines through rain. Not Bea-
minster Cinirch nor Sherborne Abbey itself is more finely
weathered to unite in the yellow stone both life and venerable
age. The tower is of well-proportioned Perpendicular work.
Inside are graceful slender pillars, of early English dt^ign,
an inlaid pulpit, two squints, four niches void of statues,
a stoop, and a " crusader's " tomb of alabaster almost
translucent in its purity. On it lies the mutilated figure of a
knight. He wears armour of about tho time of Henry V
or Henry VI, and a collar of SS : once at his feet couched a
dog or a lion, now headless. Above the canopy of the tomb
is his helmet. Savages have carved their initials upon him :
not only in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Of
himself not so much as an initial is accurately known. He
is said to be one of the Mores, whose crest is on the tomb.
The guide to the church records a pretty local tradition that
the knight slew an adversary in a duel, and that immediately
a dove settled on his helmet, showing the justice and
innocence of his quarrel : but tho historian says that the
bird is a moor-cock, the More totem.

I should like to think that this calm, strong marble face,
so certain, in its quietness, of the Resurrection of tho Dead,
was that of a later knight buried a few yards away in tho
populous chm"chyard, with his wife beside him ; their
Latin record tells that " Thomas Gollop of Strode, knight,
and Martha his wife, bowed by the weariness of mortality,
laid down here together, in tho sure hope of resurrection,
all that was mortal of them." They had gone through tho
Commonwealth, had twelve sons (one of whom lived in eight
reigns), and died in Hitil, just before the great plague of
London and Notherbury.

If in days when oven remote villages have fallen upon a
jKjritxl of change — not necessarily change for the worse —
one wished to recapture those philoso|)hic amenitiw which
render (Iray's Elegy ^till the most English of po(Mns, [



286 THE MARCHES OP WESSEX

think the slope of Netherbiiry chm-chyard would be a perfect
site for the philosopher's reflections. Wars and pestilence
have come upon the men who once found here the centre of
their world. Years have eaten the golden stone that faith
and the love of beauty moulded in such seemly fashion :
men have broken man's handiwork. No one can tell into
what fantastic lands the alabaster knight fared, what
temper in action won him his honourable collar : no one can
tell what impulses of wayward friendship or mean pride
cut letters upon his unknown form : no one can say whose
thought in stone the church is : no one can tell us any more
of Gollop of Strode than that, if epitaphs do not lie, he loved
his wife. The box and yew live on : silent. But they are
not more continuous than the unrecorded life of men in a
village. The reckoning bideth.

A hundred yards from the church, one autumn day, I
came into one reality of that almost dumb life. An old man,
digging potatoes in an allotment (last remnant of merry
socialist England) greeted me. It had been a wet summer,
followed by a fine autumn, so late that the harvests had been
gathered perforce before the sun reappeared. " We ought
to ha' waited," said the old man. " We hadn't patience.
The Lord A'mighty promised seedtime 'n' harvest so long
as the world do stand, and it come ; but not 'zackly so as to
please we sometimes."

Westwards from Netherbury there is a way to the great
hills of this region which might have baffled even the lamented
Mr. Walker Miles (whose work on field-paths all over England
deserves an eternal monument, for the open confusion of
wire-pulling landlords, builders, motorists, wealthy hermits,
embattled Americans, and every other legless monster).
Perhaps, as it is so utterly delightful a walk and so hard to
follow exactly, I had better hypostatize the true traveller
in the manner of Mr. Hope Moncrieff (that universal Black's
Guide) and name him P (Passenger ? Pedestrian ? Pro-
letarian ?). It seems a suitable artifice for this period.

The one-inch ordnance map shows P. how to leave



THE SEQUESTERED VALE 287

Nethcrbiirv. The footpath goes past the narrow sHp of
allotments and do\Milull to a stream. Across the stream,
P. proceeds (P. ahvaj's proceeds — he does not walk) through
a wood, taking the right-hand path the other side of the
footbridge, not tlie left (which is not on the map but is very
insistent in fact). Beyond the wood, the path, like so many
on the Dorset map, vanishes on a hill-side. Here P.'s nose,
if of the usual shape, points straigiit ahead, not along
corrugations which look like paths but are not. Lot P.
follow his nose and ascend tlir liill at its steepest : he will
see at the top a gate, and tliereafter a fenced or hedged
track — the map's dotted " third class unmetalled road."
Follow it.

P. has now come to a pathway of a kind peculiar to the
edges of Marshwood Vale, and beyond description lovable.
It is a little like the broad, disused, grass-growii roads of
Kent : but its hedges are t-en or more feet thick. It is,
lat^er, a little like the smugglers' ways of Sussex : but it is
much smoother, and, in a sense, more civilized. At first it
is open, with grass under foot : a track seven or eight feet
across. On either side grow foxgloves and meadowsweet,
and in due season periwinkle (its flowers blue stars, visible
satellites, ono cannot doubt, of a fabuloas blue moon not to
be seen by mortal eyes). Blackberries of prodigious size and
uaspeakable lusciousness abound. Upon the majority of
blossoms, at the proper time of year, peacock butterflies
of the largest possible dimensions, broader and more
liLstrous than even the Cornish giants of that tribe, are to bo
observed : so fat and lethargic are they that an enthusiastic
naturalist can catch, mutilate, or kill them with the naked
hand. Otiicr flowers, shrubs, and insects occur in jHofusion.

This is the voice of prejudice. The natural objects aro
those to bo found in (»th«'r parts of England, l^ut I love
those better than those, as OUendorlT would say. And when
this grassy lane becomes a road-like track (not at all easy
to walk upon in a wet winter, but admirable for about
eight normal months in the year), it takes a character of



288 THE MARCHES OF WESSEX

its own, for it sinks down between banks, and when the
summer has advanced the brambles meet overhead. The
sky is obscured : long, bleached, thornless bramble streamers
hang down from the leafy roof ; the walk becomes a green
thought in a green shade. You may reflect upon the action
of light in bleaching the prickly shrubs, or upon the careless-
ness of evolution in leaving them thornless where chance
cows might chew them, or upon the condition of soil which
produces such growths : or you may merely be entirely
contented by the silence and earthy fragrance of this long
green tunnel. If you descend upon Whitchurch Canoni-
corum, the capital of the Vale, from almost any point in the
hills around, you will find many such delicious alleys.

At present one does not descend. Return to P., who has
been left sniffing at those splendid flowers, or looking at a
map, or catching butterflies, for some time past. P. will
be in doubt when presently, by two trees high up, the path
divides. Natm-e and the map may suggest to him a short
cut if he takes the right-hand path. Not so. Let him shut
his right eye and go straight on. About a hundred yards
later, the information laid by H.M.'s Ordnance Survey will
prove true. P. must turn to the right : an oak tree and a
gully are signs : then over a stile and down into Stoke Abbot.
Here P. sees a church, and for the moment considering it
merely as a landmark, passes it on two sides. It is on the
right ; when the path reaches a road, P. turns to the right
and enters the churchyard and (with luck) the church.
Here P. may look upon the memorial to Dr. Crowe. The
church is not particularly interesting, but it is of a respect-
able antiquity : much of it is Early English, and the font
is Norman.

Anyone with a sense of historical decency would go from
here to Broadwindsor, along a pretty byroad, and look at
Thomas Fuller's pulpit in the (usually locked) church,
and meditate on Charles II and the other worthies already
mentioned : especially as Hutchins deals with Crowe under
Broadwindsor as well as Stoke. But just at this stage



THE SEQUESTERED VALE 280

I do not feel the need of second-rate authors or fugitive
kings, and I prefor to go straight to Crowe's subject —
Lewsdon Hill. Hutchins says that it is the highest hill in
Dorset, being 960 feet above sea-level. I am afraid H.M.
Ordnance Siuvey do not agree : 804 feet is all they give it,
and to Pilsdon Pen they allot 907, and to Bulbarrow 905.
Still, it is a coiLsiderablo acclivity, to use the terms of th-
period. And it is singularly beautiful, for its top is crowned
with trees and bracken — not crowned only, but well clad.
Dx. CVowo chose a good ground for his makings.

The path from Stoke over Lewsdon is easily found :
it is another " third class unmetalled unfenced road " :
that is to say, it is an ordinary green Down track along
which a farm cart may pass once or twice a year.

Likewise the track to the main road is easy. The road
here Ls good ; a fair high-hedged causeway. (Once a horse
made a face at me here over a ten-foot high hedge : he did :
a beastly ugly face, sardonic, in the derivative sense of that
word. I do not know why he disliked and derided me :
these Houyhnhnms )

But you have got to be careful about the highest hill
in Dorset, Pilsdon Pen. If you go too far along the road, you
will find certain notice-boards, directing you to go to a
manor and ask leave to view a hill that was inhabited before
manors were ever dreamed of. And then you will climb it
from the west. But if . . . well, thero is a gate on the east-
ward side of the hill.

It is a groat and fine hill. I rank it in Dorset next after
Pentridge and equal with Creech Barrow; Eggardon and
Bulbarrow l)eing first of all. Even people who know much of
Southern England do not realize the spaciousness of those
neglected hills, and are often not aware of the superb vi ion
of domestic ?]ngland which they afford. Fr<>m l*il:-don
you look back on hills t have enumciratcsd more than onco
already : you see the whole wonderful curve of Marshwocxl
Vale — shaggy Lc^wsdon, Lambert's Castle, Coney's Ca.stl<',
Golden Cap, Tli(»riuomb<' Beacon (the names alone ought to

u



290 THE MARCHES OF WESSEX

defeat other counties) : you behold the Axe Valley spread
out, and all that pageant which I have described as seen a
little more distantly from Eggardon.

P. should go down from Pilsdon Pen towards Birdsmoor
Gate on the main road. He can turn off, if he please, just
below the great hill, and go south, past the old manor-house
at Pilsdon itself : but personally I like the longer route, for
it bears you round the high rim of the singular vale of Marsh-
wood — a saucer with its seaward edge adorably chipped.
P. should turn off at the byroad to Bettiscombe (unless he
likes to look at the extraordinary modern buildings in
speckled brick at Marshwood), and follow that byroad to
Whitchurch.

At Bettiscombe is the Screaming Skull. (The only better


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