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

The marches of Wessex, a chronicle of England online

. (page 24 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

a band at intervals, and wrote a vigorous guide to the place.
He kept in his park reindeer, llamas (which bred), Indian
cattle, yaks, and other exotic beasts and birds : all part of
the same universal idea, if a little remote from it.

His fine books on the excavations are unfortunately
accessible only in great libraries. They were privately
printed, at great cost. Indeed, the expense of these under-
takings was a serious burden on the family estates, which in
Dorset covered not only the Chase, but land at Bridport
Harbour and Cerne Abbas.

Over all these writings is the impression of a robust,
self-willed, upright personality : I should have said, if
Pitt-Rivers had not been a Conservative in politics, of
what Stevenson called a Squirradical. Hear his rebuke
to his fellow-landlords : * " The expense of conducting

* Excavations in Cranborne Chase. Vol. II, 1888.


explorations upon this system is consideiablc, but the wealth
available in the county for the purpose is still ample, if only
it could be turned into this channel. The number of county
gentlemen of means, who are at a loss for intelligent occu-
pation beyond hunting and shooting, must be considerable,
and now that a paternal Government has made a present
of their game to their tenants, and bids fair to deprive them
of the part that some have hitherto taken, most advantage-
ously to the public, in the management of local affairs, it
may not perhaps be one of the least ascful results of these
volumes "... if the squires tiu-n archa?ologists !

These few figures,* now outstanding, seem much more
enduring, much more real, than those of the popular pro-
tagonists in the chief controversies of the time. Yet groat
and little things were going on round their lonely heads.
It was the era of the Oxford movement, and the county

Walter Kerr Hamilton, Bishop of Salisbury from 1854 to
his death in 18G9, was an unafraid High Churchman in days
before the nobility and gentry in general had recovered
from Tract No. 90. (The opposite school of thought has
always been strong in Dorset, especially in the eastern
part of the county. I have heard of a celebrated Evangelical
donkey . . .) Hamilton, in his episcopal charge of 1807,
accepted the doctrines of the Real Presence and of priestly
absolution. The matter was mentioned in the House of
Lords. It was also mentioned at great length at a County
Meeting held at Dorchester that year. " This meeting,"
the report of it says, " was specially important as having
been convened and addressed by laymen only." The
philantliroj)ic Lord .Shaftesbury was in the chair (" in his

• I may mfiii to Hjx-iik of Mr. iliinly, uinoiif; llicin, iim if hi> wiTi- in llio
pOHl ; but when 1 mention hini I am nnilly tliinking of tho living jK>oplo
and tho vitiil itlciin in liiw IjooUm, t\w )ir«l of wliich iiinH-urcil in 1871 : ho
wrote, in hw novcLn, lus n riilr, of that or un «'urli<T iHTiod. His hcrt'HinH of
thio nin«'t<«<'nth (•••ntury liiivf U'conie our goHjx-l : u fiiilli, huweviT,
not y«'t muinniitiixl by full I'lhlublLslnncnl.

In thix e|Hxrh iib«o, in IH'Ad, wan lj<jrn ut Wiin-hani (and ihero |)rew<nto<l
to the I'rincfHH, uftvrwariU (jui^n, Virloria) tiit- only Ix'gottor of thu
l>uniel I'rcKM.


private capacity "), and was supported by the High Sheriflf-
elect, several M.P.'s, Lord Portman, Mr. Wingfield Digby,
the Mayor of Dorchester, and many representatives of well-
known county famihes. They protested vigorously. "When
I have assisted at one of these [ritualistic] exhibitions,"
said the chairman, " I declare that I thought I was at
Fordington Field, presiding at a review, rather than in an
act of religion in a church." (I do not know whether to
admire his lordship's conception of military science or of
religion the more ; and this was ten years after the Crimean
war.) It was admitted that Dorset itself was not seriously
tainted. " There are here," said Lord Portman, " very
few opportunities of showing off what I would call those
nonsensical proceedings in the Church. (Loud applause.)"
" The Church," cried the High Sheriff -elect, " if she protested
against anything, did protest against the Bodily Presence
of our Saviour in the Lord's Supper." (As who should say,
" Do go away, dear Lord.") Eight hundred years before, the
great abbot of Cerne, ^Ifric, had put it differently and in
better English: "Nothing is to be unde stood bodily,
but all is to be understood spiritually. . . . Soothly it is
Christ's body and blood, not bodily, but spiritually. Ye
are not to ask how it is done, but to hold to your belief that
it is so done."

" Thus, my lord, there are many panics in mankind
besides merely that of fear. And thus is religion also panic."
It was another Lord Shaftesbiu-y who said that, the third
Earl, the ingenious author of the Characteristics, with
whom, writing quietly in his homes in Dorset and Chelsea
and Hampstead, I am sorry that I have had no space
to deal.

To-day, when the number of persons likely to become
excited about either ritualism or methodism is appreciably
diminished, the Dorchester meeting's feelings seem a little
extravagant. It must not be imagined, however, that
(save in the one respect of Popery) the chairman — at the
time Lord Lieutenant of Dorset — was addicted to raging


fuiioiisly. The seventh Earl of Shaftesbury took up the
matter in the House of Lords, and mentioned the Dorchester
meeting (" I should not like to repeat the language used
on this subject ; it was, indeed, of the strongest de-
scription "). His mind was a convinced Protestant mind,
and in that regard, porha})s (to pervert a famous phrase),
was a little " clouded by enthusiasm," from a modern
point of view. But his deep love of justice and his passion
for reform, not to bo quenched bj' failure nor to fail through
too facile investigation, carried with them an authentic
breadth of outlook. There is no trace of bitterness in his
attacks upon evil : the only bitter saying of his I have
noticed is about himself and his circumstances when he
succeeded to the earldom — " I came into an estate rife
with abominations without a farthing to set them right."*
His protest's against the conditions of village life on his
family estate seem to have been vehement enougli to cause
some slight estrangement from his father. Li spite of limited
means, however, he succeeded, aided by his sister, in build-
ing model cottages at Wimborne 8t. Giles'. He had a real
respect for the agricultural labourer, and an admiration for
his genuine skill at his work, and a perception of it*^ loneliness.
He advocated strongly the better education of the worker's
children, and the exclusion of young girls from field labour,
except at harvest time ; and ho denounced in the House of
Lords, in moving terms which showed his knowledge of tlie
subject, the infamous " gangs " system.

He was not backward in reminding his own neighboms in
the county of some shortcomings. " The county of Dorset,"
he said at a dinner of the Stmminster Agricultural Society
in 1843, " is in every man's mouth ; we are within an aco
of becoming a by-word foi jjoverty and oppression . . ."
Ho spoke of education and housing, and their interrelaticm.
" People go to their boards of guardians, and hear the long
catalogue of bastardy cases, and cry out ' sluts and pro-
fligatOH,' awHuming that, when in early life those pei-sons

* From the liriit Sliaftevbury Lecture, by Sir Juhn Kirk.


have been treated as swine, they are afterwards to walk
with the dignity of Christians."

Let his great-grandfather (appositely born at Exeter
House, on a site afterwards occupied by Exeter Hall) sum
up his characteristic, in his hiquiry Concerniyig Virtue or
Merit : "To have the natural, kindly, or generous affections
strong and powerful towards the good of the public, is to
have the chief means and power of self -enjoyment ; and to
want them, is certain misery and ill."

Literature in the nineteenth century was also represented
in Dorset by Motley, the historian of the Dutch, Solomon
Csesar Malan (the Oriental scholar), and the beautiful
unhappy Mrs. Norton, whose pleasant facile pen has added
epitaphs to her kinsmen's graves at Frampton ; by George
Meredith, who lived near Lyme for some years, and Alfred
Russel Wallace, who retired to Parkstone and, later,
Broadstone, to conduct a highly diverting correspondence
with the County Council on smallholdings. He got the
local postman to certify his respectability in applying for
a holding, and stated that he had many years' experience
of agricultural science. How far he was in earnest I do not
know : but he pulled the Council's leg right well. He did
not get his smallholding.

That brings us back to the man whom Barnes and Hardy
have given to literature : the Dorset peasant and the land
upon which, like the bees, he toils for other people. Even
now he has not succeeded in making the land good for him-
self ; even now, after a thousand years of serfdom, he cannot
truly enjoy that with which he mixes his eternal labour.

The wholesale enclosures, as I have said, had completed,
by a series of rapid decisions, the slow inevitable progress
of the labom^er from the position of a landholder or land-
sharer to that of one whose only property was in his labour.
And to Dorset the persecutions of 1831-1834 meant that he
must make no effort to lease or sell that property in com-
bination or agreement with others who also possessed it.
He could bargain as an individual, but he must not form


a trust or association to protect his property, which, since
it was his means of Ufe, he must necessarily commit to the

But he must live, even like a hog. " At Milton Abbas
[about 1870] on tlie average there were thirty-six persons
in each hou^e, and so crowded were they that cottagers
with a desire for decency would combine and place all the
males in one cottage and all the females in another." The
labom-er's wages in the 'sixties might be ten shillings or eleven
shillings a week ; women on the land were paid sixpence or
cightpcnce a day. The greater part of a family, women and
children alike, had to work on the land, or starve ; or
rather, work on the land and starve. I should like to define
starvation as the point at which anyone, even if ho were
the poorest labourer, would feel hungry most of the time.
It might be good for an employer, body and soul, to have
that feeling. He might, after a trial of it, feel less inclined
to writ€ as Mr. Kebbol, a conscientious and sincere upholder
of his chief Disraeli's conservatism, MTote in the year of the
Enipre.'^ of India's Jubilee. Mr. Kebbel observed (in his
often admirable work on the village labourer) that the
worst paid subject in Her Majesty's dominions was prosper-
ing : " the heart of the agricultural labomer has ' waxed
fat with plenty.' " It is true that the rebellious fellow lived
chiefly on bacon fat and bread and cheese : but " even in
Wiltshire and Dorsetshire " — " even " is good — " the poor
have money in the savings banks, and if they choose to
deny themselves in point of diet, it is rather to their credit
than otherwise." O excellent poor ! Stay with us always.

The position of the .agricultural labourer is an anachron-
ism. That is putting it temperately. Personally, I find that
the story of his life in the nineteenth century, when the town
labourer was winning a measure of freedom, turns mo sick.
In Dorset he was worse paid than anywhere else in England.
He received payment in kind -cidiT. potatoes, flour —
above the averago. Ft kcj)t him the more dopc^ndent.
However prejudiced writers on the subject may be in various


ways, they all agree as to the low wage and the hard work
in Dorset ; and also as to the bad housing ; and to some
extent as to bad farming (due, no doubt, in many eases, to
impossible conditions at the worst period of agricultural
depression). The one bright spot in the county was the
extent to which allotments were provided. For the rest —
well, here is a not unique statement from the Poor Law
Commission report of 1843. At Stourpaine — a village of
ill-repute in those reports — a two-roomed cottage, in which
the upper room at its tallest was only seven feet high,
contained eleven persons whose combined earnings amounted
to 16s. 6d. a week. The bedroom was ten feet square.

Wages ranged between 8s. and 12s. a week for thirty
years or more. Nothing was paid, as a rule, during periods
of sickness, and the wage did not always include a cottage.
In 1874 came the great lock-out ; Dorset was involved
in it. The farmers and yeomen of England were not going
to pay more than two shillings a day anywhere. A
Beaminster man told Mr. F. E. Green that about that time
his father, with a wife and five children, lived on 7s. a week,
and had to walk four miles every day— seven days a week —
to work. The Commission on Agriculture of 1880 still shows
the Dorset labourer as the lowest-paid Englishman. The
average in England was 14s. Ifd. a week ; the Dorset man
got lis. Read Lady Cardigan's reminiscences (the half of
which was not told us) to see how the profiteers who
paid the average lived. By 1914 the wage had gone up to
16s. a week. But for the war there might have been serious
trouble then.

Mr. Green also found in Dorset the worst smallholding
estate he had seen. In the cottages the inhabitants did
not dare sleep upstairs, for the thatched roof might fall in.
The beds had to be placed to suit the strength of the floor.
In one cottage the window could not be opened " for fear
of the bricks falling down." In another a thistle was grow-
ing out of the parlour floor ; with a grim sense of humour
the tenant had tied it to the wall with bass, "as though it


were a precious hothouse plant." However, that was
exceptional. The county has been uneven in its delinquency.
I have spoken of the slugs of Cerno Abbas. In the more
neglected villages the cottages simply tumbled do\m.
Against that must be set the excellent work done of late
j'ears at Iwerne Minster by ]Mr. Ismay, and on the Wimborne
estates, and by ^Ir. Debenham at Affpiddle, to name only a
few examples.

In 1919 the Agricultural Wages Board established a
minimum wage of 36s. (kl. a week for the county. The
Board was abolished in 1921 by the Government which was
to build Blake's new Jerusalem in England ; apparently
only for the upper-class Lsraclite. In the same year the
ex-mayor of a Dorset town was charged with a gross
hifringement of an act dealing with wages, to which
he had himself agreed, and to whose scales the whole
of this particular trade locally had consented. A few years
before, the Education Committee of the County Council
approved a school History of Dorset : in many ways an
excellent work, full of heroes and historic scenes : but it
does not even mention the Dorchester Laboiu-ors.

" Clear your mind of cant," said Dr. Johnson ; and his
stress was upon " mind," not upon " cant." The absolute
prepossession in favour of the established order both of
things and of ideas is the most dangerous portent in the
world to-day. One blind force — the contented possessors,
gf>od, well-moaning, sincere, in the main — is coiofronted with
another blind force, those who possess nothing but their
bodies and, to some extent, their souls. If ever they possess
their souls in full, tliey will break the opposing force as
Parliaments in the past have broken those who would
repress them. It is often clear enough, in times of industrial
trouble, that oven the best employer and the best trade
unionist do not really understand and sympathize witii one
anotiicr. Tliero is a gap somewhere between tiie two types
of mind. How much more diflicult is it to bridge tiie gulf
between the farmer, long inured to his routine of authority,


but not usually the possessor of his own land, and the
inarticulate county labourer.

The impossibility of treating all the farmer's difficulties
as uniform can be seen by walking through the different
types of country. Start from Shaftesbmy. Here till well
into the nineteenth century was an old cloth industry, and
also a button industry. The improvement of machinery and
transport killed it. But till it expired, the farmers hated it.
It kept the women and children and even some of the men
away from labour in the fields. To-day we have to start
leagues and institutes to revive such industries — in the
farmer's interest. Without some such relief from monotony,
the laboiu-er and his family will not stay on the land.

Shaftesbury is on the chalk (upper greensand, strictly).
It is an island in a sea of Kimmeridge Clay, which merges
into other clays in Blackmore Vale, lying sheer beneath the
town's feet. The sheep bells tell you what the farmer of the
hill has to think about.

If you like a good road, you can leave Shaftesbury by the
great Sherborne Causeway, perhaps the oldest main road,
as such, in Dorset : even in Heiu-y VIII's reign its repair
was a matter of Government concern. In that case follow it
as far as East Stour* and then turn south. Many names
round here suggest a new factor in life, which Shaftesbury
does not possess — the river. This is a Vale of Dairies.

A straighter way to the heart of the Vale is by either of
the byroads running south-west from Shaston — through
Todber or Margaret Marsh — to MarnhuU. That is the
village where Hardy placed Tess and her noble father.
It looks down on the Stour, and has a fine church, but is
not otherwise interesting.

A road runs south through the close weald country to
yet another town named from the river — Sturminster

* Where Fielding lived with his first wife and wasted his estate. It is
said that the curate of Motoombe, not far off, Fielding's tutor in boyhood,
was the original of Parson Trulliber. Hutchins reports that the redoubt-
able divine " dearly loved a bit of good victuals and a drop of drink."
The original of Parson Adams was also a Dorset man.


Ne^^•ton. Just west of the stream here is the country of
Barnes' eliildhood — Bagber Common, the hirge farm-
house called \Voodlands (the scene of " Fanny's Birthday "
and the home of " Gruff moody Grim ''), and the Lydden

Sturminster is a pretty, open little town. Sir Frederick
Treves speaks affectionately of one of its two attractive-
looking inns. I have stayed at both. It is unusual to find
so small a place so well f lu-nished with reasonable accommoda-
tion. The church is handsome, but no more. The bridge
is likewise handsome. It leads across the curly river (few
streams wTitho so unceasingly as the Stour) to the former
" new town," which no longer exists. Not even the Middle
Age castle stands, except for a few steep grassy mounds
For medifcval warfare it was well placed, being only a few
miles north of the gap where the river cuts clean through the
hills. The railway follows the river's lead.

That gap is very impressive when you are in it at
JShillingstone or Child Okcford. Hambledon and Hod Hills
rise very steeply almost out of the river on the east, and to
the west is the enormous lump of Shillingstone Hill, rising
equally steeply into the noble ridge of which Bulbarrow,
about three miles away, is the summit. The Vale is abruptly
walled off, with only a door half a mile wide in the ramparts.
Neolithic man and Rome too must have appreciated the
gap. The hilLs are full of their remains.

The road running direct to Blandford is not very interest-
ing. A pleasanter but longer way is to cross the river again,
and go through Child Okoford up to the top of the hills
and along them. The view over the river is exceptionally
charming. There are various tracks over the chalk downs to

The outskirts of Blandford, ospociall}' along the .Salisbury
road, are not pleasing. ]iut the central streets are as good
Georgian as one could wish to see. It is not uniform in the

• I <lo not know liow far tho war-tiino occupation of tho hill« — tho Naval
UiviHiona were triiiiied here — Htill porsititB.


details of its architecture, but it is all in the Georgian spirit,
for the greater part of the buildings arose together — after
the great fire of 1731, which destroyed most of the town.
It left untouched, however, a beautiful Tudor mansion of
red brick in the higher part of the place.

Here the farmer would not now have much chance.
Blandford " Forum " (there is no reason to believe it has a
Roman origin) stands on a slim spit of alluvial land, and
houses cluster along it. It is, however, the site of an im-
portant fair — the Dorset Horn Sheep Fair, to which
monstrous rams are brought from all over the county, as
well as from the neighbouring hills. At one time it was
celebrated for its point lace, which Defoe said was the finest
in England : but that industry, too, has vanished. The town
has a curious reputation for high prices, as Hardy, all-
observant, notes. I came across an example of the com-
plaint (before the war) in an inn a few miles away. A woman
going home from marketing produced a wizened little
cucumber from her bag. " They charged me ninepence
for that to Blandford," she told the landlady, " and 'tisn't
so big as a vinegar bottle. But they do say things is always
dear in Blandford."

By this route you will have trodden upon seven different
soils — Kimmeridge and Corallian beds of the Jurassic
system, chalk. Upper and Lower Greensand and Gault of the
Cretaceous strata, and alluvium of the geological present.
To rear the sheep on the hills and the kine in the valleys, to
give the land its look of settled old content, their inhabitants
were paid, before the war, about 16s. a week. Is it wonderful
that Jude the stonemason echoed iEschylus when little
" Father Time " hanged himself — " things are as they are,
and will be brought to their destined issue " ?


" And now being to tako our leave of this County, I sliould. according to
our ilsuhI cu-^toin, wish it soniewliat for the completing of its happiness.
IJut it affording in itself all necessaries for man's subsistence, and being
thorougli the convenicncy of the sea, supplied with foreign com-
modities, I am at a loss what to beg any way additional thereunto.
Yet, seeing great possessions may be diminished by robbery, may tlie
hemp (the instriunent of common oxecutioii) growing herein Ix? a
constant nwtiitor unto such who are tliuvishly ijivcn, whither tlieir
destructive ways tend ; and mind them of that end which is due imto
them, that they, leaving so bad, may embrace a better (some induatrioua)
course of living ! "


The History oj the Worthies oj Engla)td.

" Magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo.
Jam redit et virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna ;
Jam nova progenies caelo demit titur alto. . . .
Non rastros patietur humus, non vinea falceni ;
Robustus quoque jam tauris juga solvit aratro ;
Nee varios discet montiri iana colo es,
Ipse sed in pratLs arios jam sauvo rubenti
Murice, jam croceo mvitabit vellera luto ;
Sponte sua sandyx pascentes vestict agnos."






H^h Sroy


8r Qwinrm

^ SruTmoisTcr -r
'^ Newfor, 1°

ll.ngslonc IfSHk J}


Bulbar rw^=


"V \.t ,■:. u. — — "■.iferborne
^.... Oj»»r.K„» ■' \ N/.ntcrboTT* ar.cKland

"Or&^p Hilren I Houghrcn -Aninti

Mcltcmbc ritnon


I\\ ILL begin this last chapter in tlie revei'se order to
that followed hitherto in this book ; by walking,
in print, half across Dorset — the noblest walk, in my
belief, in the south of England.

There is a good little inn at Evershot, to which many
naval men from Portland repair for hunting with the
Cattistock. Start from there, first visiting the church to
look at the brass of a priest in vestments, holding a chalice
and hoht. It Is of William Grey, once rector of the parish,
to whose soul his Creator was besought to be gracious in the
year 1524.

The old house opposite the inn is a pleasant building,
and so arc others in this village, for which I feel hardly the
mild tolerance that Sir Frederick Treves expresses, but rather
affection and admiration. Near the east end of the long
street is the Old Rectory, which indeed is an old and graceful

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 24 26 27 28