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

The marches of Wessex, a chronicle of England online

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"To thin manor (Abl>otHbviry) U-longs ono virgatc <jf hmcl whicli Hugh,
Kon of Orip, uiijutly took ; uiid hia wife still holds it by force. This, in
King E<iwur(l'H timo, wan for X)w Huwtcnanco of the nionkH. . . . Hugh
hi'lil \.W\A lari<l of the AbJj<jt of Abbotsbury, Jw hiH vaHHalw say, but the
.\bUit c]r>ni*H it. . . . With thin manor (Wiiitcrbouriic). the hhiiu' llugii
hol(l« one virgate of land uiijiwtly, which U-longs to William do Moiono
(.Mohun). . . . Hugh gave this hide (at Orchard) to tho C'hurcli of Cran-
iKirno for \\'\n bouI, it in worth twenty tihillingH. Put tho m ifo (wiilow) of
Hu^h holdit tlio half hide."



96 THE MARCHES OF WESSEX

tradesmen bought them up. The old names, as Hardy
says, lasted on. There was a Norman Bonvile de Bredy
(Bridport) : a prosperous garage at Bridport to-day is
Bonfields. A Norman, de Moulham, was granted quarrying
rights in Piu-beck. It was a quarryman of Swanage who
in the nineteenth century founded the great contracting
firm of Mowlem.

To the peasant, perhaps, except for the severity of the
forest laws, life under the new lords was not much more
unpleasant than before. To the former free Saxon land-
holders, if the chronicles are a true guide, the impression the
conquerors gave was one of ruthless strength, of controlled
and controlling force — as well as of extrusion. As the Nor-
man architecture was stronger and more spacious than the
Saxon, though akin to it in essentials, so the Norman rule
was stronger and more capacious than that which it succeeded
and developed.

There is to me a human quality in the majesty of Norman
architecture, and conversely something impressive in the
often crude humour of its details. The beautiful little
Norman church at Studland still seems to breathe its
builders' steady pm^pose. The leaden font at Wareham,
the arches at Wareham and Whitchurch Canonicorum and
Iwerne, the victorious horseman in Fordington porch, the
grotesques on the pillars at Bere Regis, are evidences of a
simple sincerity which was itself strength. And in the
transition arches of Wimborne and Bere Regis (so alike
that they might well be by the same architect) there is
what almost appears to be a weakening into beauty.

There is much of that architecture in the county. To me,
apart from the places already named, there seems always to
be something left of the Norman spirit, and, most of all,
of the spirit of the Conqueror's great peace, in the country
between Maiden Newton and Powerstock.

" Waleran himself holds Maiden Newton. Alward held it
in King Edward's time, and it was taxed for six hides.
There is land to seven ploughs. Of this there is half a hide



THE CHKISTIAX COXQIKROUS 97

in tho demesne, and therein two ploughs and five bondmen :
and seven villeins and fourteen bordars with five ploughs.
Two mills pay twenty shillings : and there are eighteen
acres of meadow. Pasture fourteen quarentons long, and
seven quarentons broad. Wood five quarentons long, and
three quarentons broad. It is worth ten pounds."

So there were no free Englishmen in ]\[aiden Newlon in
1085. Where was Alward ? Dead at Hastings ? Fled
overseas as many Saxons are said to have fled ? Or had he
become one of the villeins, working perhaps half the year
for Waleran the Norman, and the rest of the year toiling
for himself on the land to which he was bound ? Even so,
he would be better off than the bordars, his own former
underlings, who might swink three quarters of their lives
for their conquerors.

It is a long stretch from that abjectness, in which arose
the fine Norman arch of Maiden Newton churcii, to the
gild of l)ell-ringers whose rules and rhymes are to-day in
the church towci'. The coming of the Normans to some
extent stabilized and strengthened the one agency in England
which, whatever its faults in the direction of repression,
gave men hope and beauty. This village church is full of the
purposefulness of Holy Church herself. The Norman arch
was part of a strong house of God. The double " squints "
of two centuries later, cut through the Norman work, let
more peasants approach Him than ever before. The fine
Perpendicular porch, with its wonderful gargoyles, gave a
new entrance into the invisible Church through tho visible.
The Faith is seen growing as tho building and tiie ix'oplo
grciw.

There is (Jiily oni' mill a( .Maiden Xcwton now. T.ut it
has one of the comcliest mill houses imaginable, I3 ing on
arches across the smooth Frome, whose waters, full of trout,
ti'mpt the back doors of half the village. If you follow that
gracious stream you will come (but few know it) to another
Norman arch, in the tiny little church of Frome V'aucluuch,
whicli might well join the company of claimants to the ex-

H



98 THE MARCHES OF WESSEX

treme of smallness. With its early English work, its Norman
font and door, its fine modern copy of a Dutch painting, its
sense of confined intimacy, it seems almost to boast that
there always have been and always will be two or three
country folk gathered together in that same spot at hours
of worship.

There are two Fromes in Domesday, but it is not
clear which is Frome Vauchurch, Frome St. Quintin, Frome
Belet, or even Chilfrome. But " Alward held it in King
Edward's time, and it was taxed for four hides." Alward
again. . . . He held many lands in Dorset, and every one
a Norman holds in Domesday. The Earl of Moreton* held
this Frome, one Bretel holding a hide of it from him.
Formerly the land was worth forty shillings : " now sixty
shillings." Who created and who earned that increment in
the rich pastures where now the lovely dairy farms of Notton
.and Cruxton lie ? Alward, or the Earl, or Bretel ?

All round here the Normans were populous. At Wynford
Eagle was that de Aquila whom Mr. Kipling has rightly
placed at Pevensey also. At Toller (whether of the Brothers
or of the Pigs is not clear : Pig Toller has a Jacobean manor-
house, Brother Toller an alleged Roman but probably Saxon
font). The Earl of Moreton held Toller also, and Drogo
held it of him. " Almar held it in King Edward's time."
But Waleran also held a Toller, and Olger held it from him.

" Alward " he too held land in this Toller in King

Edward's time. " It was worth three pounds : now four
pounds." The same story.

And it is the same story at the other Frome. William de
Mohun held it, and Robert held it of him. " Alward held
it in King Edward's time. ..." Three thanes also had held
land there in King Edward's time, but two of William's
vassals held their lands in the Domesday record.

As you leave Maiden Newton behind and across the
Btream (where eels congregate and trouble the water), and

* William's half-brother : " a man of crass and slow wits," according
to Will ; m of Malmesbury.



THE CHRISTIAN CONQUERORS 99

climb the hill past tiio inanor-house, you como hito a deserted
" forest ■' that can have changed little in the last thousand
years. Pasture land lies on its fringes, where it slopes down
to the many brooks. But the uplands arc much as they were
when King John hunted here : a waste of gorse, heather,
broom, and bramble, aflame in due season with foxglove
and loosestrife, yellow iris and scabious, filled with gigantic
blackberries, the home of innumerable birds and rabbits.
You w ill not meet a soul as you go along the bypath from
one Toller to the other. There may be a few people in the
stragghng street of Toller Porcorum (Great Toller : gi-eat
as compared with Little Toller, Toller Fratrum, where are
but five or six houses). But as you go deviously back into
the " forest " and climb towards Eggardon, the loneliness
descends again, and a serene desolate beauty meets the eye
on all sides.

Even Eggardon fell into other hands under the Conqueror.
William de Braose held the cultivated lands under the great
hill, and Hunfrid held it from him, and there were six villeins
there, instead of the five thanes of Edward's time. As you
stand once more on the hill and look west, 3'ou face other near
hamlets where the old order changed. William de Moliun
held 8outh Mapperton, with six bondsmen, six villeins,
seven bordars. '" Elmer held it in King Edward's time."
Further on is Broadwindsor, under the same William :
" Alward held it in King Edward's time." Mapperton itself
was held by Ernulf de Hesding, instead of seven thanes :
and he held likewise North Poorton, in place of other seven
thanes (the Abbey of Tavistock held land there also, and at
Askerswell). At Loders again was the Earl of Moreton,
with lands that in Edward's time had belonged to Jirihti ic :
and the wife of Hugh, son of Grip, iield a hide tiiere in place
of two thanes.

But there is a pageant of other thiii;i;s in Powerstock,
a village visible only from Eggardon, and liard to dLscover
• Vf-n io th(jse who know the country. From the camp
there are two secret lanes to it, liigh hedged winding tracks



100 THE MARCHES OF WESSEX

such as lovers use. One of them goes past the station,
where a beautiful golden cottage crouches under the embank-
ment. Take the path in front of the cottage, cross the rails,
and you will see a path leading into an orchard, a path of
eternal peace.

In the season of apple-blossom that path is the loveliest
in the world. It winds among the trees, streams tinkling
alongside, the rich grass consecrated to the calm horned
sheep, a few golden cottages asleep by little footbridges.
It is like that orchard of ecstasy in Virgil's eclogue : —

" Jam fragiles poterani a terra contingere ramos . . .
Ut vidi, ut perii, ut me malus abstulit error !

High above, on the right, is a steep hill. On top of it are
mounds and trenches upon which you can look down from
Eggardon. " Roger Arundel holds Poorstock, and Hugh
holds of Roger. Ailmar held it in King Edward's time. . . .
There are two ploughs and a half in the demesne, and five
bondsmen : and two villeins and nine bordars with two
ploughs and a half. Two mills pay three shillings. ... It
was worth four pounds : now six pounds." Those mounds
are all that are left of Roger Arundel's pride of power.
He or one of his immediate successors built a towering
motte-and-bailey castle there, to which in due time King
John repaired when he came to hunt in the forest. Now
the village children play on the grass-covered founda-
tions.

You have touched the Roman road on Celtic Eggardon :
you have crossed to-day's railway, you have seen an outjDost
of monasticism at Toller Fratrum turned into a squire's
manor-house, you see the broken Norman strength above
your path. The track widens into a little open meadow,
and the secret village lies before you, on a terrace, as it
were a battlemented City of God, with its bright walls of
golden stone, its roofs of thatch of paler gold, its gay gardens
slipping down to the silver stream, and in the midst the yellow
tower of the chmch.



THE CHRISTIAX COXQl'ERORS loi

Tho c'hmcli itself, on a platform covered with trim grass,
is one of the most attractive in Dorset. It has a handsome
Early English tower, and a porch. Inside the porch,
over tho door into the chmch proper, are niches wherein
still stantl golden images — images not of gleaming metal,
but of the gentler rich-hued stone of West Dorset. By some
chance, like the more numerous sculptures at Beaminster,
these figiu-es have escaped the " slighter " : no Pm-itan
Dowsing come to Poorstock to cast down idolatr}'. One or
two other shapes are missing, but there remain two ro^'al
saints, and above them the Queen of Heaven bearing the
infant Christ. Time and the generous stone have mingled
to give the Virgin an exquisite grace and simplicity. She
has stood there, I suppose (for the niches appear to be
Perpendicular work), for four or five centm-ies, her form
growing over more tender, her mien more kindl3% as the
observances of faith, and perhaps faith itself, grew colder
and more cold. " Books for the simple people," an inquisitor
of Spain called images to a stout Protestant English prisoner
with whom ho was arguing. This book may still bo
read.

Within the church arc other memories. Once, clearly,
there was a rood loft. There is a double " tquint," and in a
pillar or buttress between the tower arch and the south
aisle a curious door-opening which now serves no purpose,
leading nowhither, unnecessary. If these vcfitiges of
architectural creation could be deciphered, and the minds of
builders and tho defacers known, wo should, it may be,
learn much (jf the English religious temper. Who thought
it would be a good thing to have that little door, and to
what did it givc^ special access ? In what state was tho rest
of the church at the time ? W h«» consenttHl, whose feelings
were hurt l)y tho innovation that is now so old ? Every
church in England, almost, asks these liddles ; seldom
are there d(x;uments enough left even for a conjectural
answer.

Inside tho tower is an old memorial slab, commonjjlaco



102 THE MARCHES OF WESSEX

enough in its pathetic claim upon generations unborn, yet
equally suggestive by reason of the things it cannot
tell us :

" Here lyeth the body of Thomas Larcombe of South
Porton, desesed the 31 Day of August anno 1610
(1670 ?)

' All those that tvirne aside my tombe to see,
Think of your end and warning take bj^ me.' "

It is easy to read between the lines of pompous falsehood
in an eighteenth -century epitaph, or to realize a life from the
account of a soldier's death : but Thomas Larcombe has
not even a character in the census of the dead.

But the chief glory of this perfect little church, apart
from the images, is the Norman chancel arch. It is very
heavy, almost as if it had once supported a huge strain :
and it is all askew — not, it seems, from pressure, but because
Roger Arundel's humble architect could not achieve the
pure arch, and built, as his best, this lopsided curve that even
mathematics could not name. It has four layers of decora-
tions — loops, spirals, chevrons, and leaves : all perfectly
preserved.

Bowed and twisted, yet beautiful in a strangely intimate
way, this homely arch in a tiny parish church seems to
speak like a sudden voice in a still place. Here is something
of the Norman secret. We English, when William came,
were no mean race. After the Roman peace, we had had
six centuries of strife and hardship to make men of us :
and yet these fierce kinsmen of the Dan© could conquer us,
and write our possessions in a book, and make our laws.
We swallowed them up : English prevailed. But sometimes,
as in an old legal phrase, or a piece of land tenm-e, or a few
well-mortared walls, the masterful Norman lives again with
startling clearness. Here in the stones of Poorstock church
there is much later history written : but the Norman stands
out, unique, plain, individual : a step in the succession, but
not native to it. The ideals and the splendour of a race are



Tin: ClIHTSTIAN CONQUERORS 103

revealed ; and while here the castle, in its pride of strength,
has ptM-ished, beauty and faith endiue.

Opposite the chiu'ch is the inn, a place of good local
cider.* It is the only modern building in the village — the
only unsimplicity. But the hearts of those who use it
are simple. An old blind bob-tailed sheep-dog blundered in
one day as I sat there : he stumbled against chairs. " Poor
old dog," said the landlady ; " I want Dad to shoot 'un,
but he won't. He says he can't lift his hand to a maimed
thing like that." " You gi' I the gun, Mother," said an old
labom-er ; " I'll shoot 'un for 'ce." " It do seem hard," she
continued. " life is sweet, we know that, but I wouldn't Avant
to go on living if I went blind." " No : I'll shoot 'un for
'ee. Life is sweet, so we do know, but I'd shoot mysen if
1 went blind " — he looked out at the bright sunlight —
" after seeing thaty

Life is sweet, even to the hardest-worked class on earth ?
Is that the faith that the Confjuerors bequeathed to us 1
Or did the people of England hold it even then ?

• If you wisli to injure the feelings of the kindly landhuly, ask her if
it Ls XetlK-rbiiry cider — Notherbury Ijeing a noted cider villago a few miles
away — and lnur her indignant reply.



VII

" O God of bftttlos ! stool my soldiers' hearts ;
Tossess them not with fear ; ttike from tliem now
The sense of reckoning, if the opposed numbers
Pluck their hearts from them. Not to-day, O Lord.
O, not to-day, think not upon the fault
My father made in compassing the crown !
I Ricliard's body have interred new ;
And on it have bestowed more contrite tears
Than from it issued forced drops of blood :
Five hundred poor liave I in yearlj' pay,
Who twice a day their withered hands liold up
Toward heaven, to pardon blood ; and I have built
Two chantries, wliero the sad and solemn priests
Sing still for Richard's soul."

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE,

The Life of King Henry the Fifth.

"A.D. 1137. . . . They liad done him [Stephen] homage, and sworn oaths,
but they no truth maintained. They were all forsworn, and forgetful
of their troth ; for every rich man built his castles, which they held
against him : and they filled the land full of castles. They cruelly
oppressed the wretched men of the land with castle-works ; and when
the castles were made, they filled them with devils and evil men.
Then took they those whom they supposed to liave any goods, both
by night and by day, labouring men and women, and threw them into
prison for their gold and silver, and infiicted on them unutterable
tortures ; for never were any martyrs so tortiu-ed as they were. . . .
When the wretched men luid no more to give, then they plundered
and biu-ned all the towns. . . . After a time, they spared neither
church nor churchyard, but took all the goods that were therein,
and then burned the church and all together."

THE ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLE.

" Indeed, it had been no error to say that this building was one that
appealed to the imagination ; it did more — it carried both imagina-
tion and judgment by storm. It was an epic in stone and iiinrhle,
and BO powerful was the effect it produced on me, that as I U'lirld it
I wa.s charmed and molted. I felt more conscioiLS of tli(> existence
of a rrmioto jMist. One knows of this always, but tlie knowledge
in never so living as in the actual present*! of some witness to tlio lifo
of bygone ag«>H. I felt how Hlu)rt a H[Mvce of human lifo was the i)erio*l
of our own oxiHtence. I wivh more impressed with my own littleness,
and much more in<linablo to Ix-licve that the jx'oplo whose sen-so of
the fitnosH of things was eqiml to the raising of so sorene a handi-
work, wore hardly likely to Ix) wrong in tlxo conclusions they might

come to upon any subject."

SAMUEL liUTLEK,

Krcwhon.



VII



THE GREAT ABBEYS AND THE AGE OF FAITH



nevtokV PZ^v,.





''To



THE period between the Normans and the Tudors,
from a purely historical point of view, is full of
important details ; and historians look at those
details with different aims. The older school saw most
prominently the romantic flight of Matilda, the Crusades,
the wars in France, the long War of the Roses. The stern
political historians are interestesd in the relations of the
sovereign to his noble-s, the evolution of Parliament and the
judicial system. The economist dwells on the Black Death,
the Statutes of Labourers, the Peasants' Revolt ; wiiilo the
modern religious historian laments to-day's loss of the rever-
ence that built the groat al)beys and Ijcautified the many
churches that now are seldom filled.

This book would bo too long if I were to attempt a con-
tiimouK chronicle of each of these four branches of i)rogre88
(if progress there was), or to divide the Middle Age centuries

107



108 THE MARCHES OF WESSEX

into more than one period. My reason for keeping them in
one is that the Conquest ended one quite clear and separate
chapter of English history, and the Dissolution of the
Monasteries began another equally distinct and new : in
between was constant and perplexing change. So I shall
only string together a few typical events in the life of Dorset
within those years before turning to some of their vestiges.
And first of war. Wareham, the often-sacked, fared ill
in the collapse of order which followed soon after the
masterful hand of William was withdrawn by death. Bald-
win de Redveis landed there in 1139 " with a full and strong
host of soldiers," and went to Corfe. In 1142 Robert of
Gloucester besieged and took Wareham castle, and " did
other annoying things " ; but Stephen came and " ravaged
cruelly with fire and sword, plundering and carrying off all
he could lay hands upon." Four years later Prince Henry
made it his port for escaping to France. And then there is
comparative silence until John's fondness for Dorset made
him discover the value of Corfe Castle. Here he imprisoned
and let starve twenty-two noble knights of France ; and
here too lay the wretched Peter of Pontefract : —

" Here's a prophet that I brought with me
From forth the streets of Pomfret, whom I f oiind
With many hundreds treading on his heels ;
To whom he sung, in rude harsh-sounding rhymes,
That, ere the next Ascension-day at noon,
Yoiir highness should deliver up your crown."

King John imprisoned him at Corfe ; and when the
prophecy came true, the wretched man was drawn on a
hurdle thence to Wareham, and back again, and hanged.

The story of the twelfth century is almost a repetition of
the grim record of the Saxon invasion. " At this time
(1143) England was troubled in many diverse ways ; here
sorely straitened by the King and his partisans, there
suffering grievously from the Count of Gloucester ; ever and
always commotion and desolation. Some, their love of the
fatherland turned to bitterness, sought distant lands ;



THE AGE OF FATTII 109

others round the Chiuches, in the hope of sanctuary, built
lowly huts, to lead a life of fear and misery. Food ran short
(for famine spread terrihly over all England), and some
lived on the forbidden and unwonted food of horses and
dogs, while others were driven to subsist on roots and glasses.
Hosts died of v.ant. OKI and famous towns, all the in-
habitants of every age and sex dead, lay desolate and empty."
" If ever upon the way one spied another, he feared and fled
into a wood or other by-way."

On the other hand, these centuiies also saw events that
are a faint prelude to Dorset's long connection witli English
eea power. By 1300 or so Wareham was declining from its
position of one of the chief towns of the county ; but Poole
and Weymouth wei o rising. They were opposing — forcibly —
the Cinque Ports' quasi-monopoly of English shipping.

The next century produced the singular naval happening
of Poole's private war, conducted by an almost fabulous
hero. Arripay — thus docs a Spanish clironicler, as it were
a Cockney, render tlie great name of Harry Pago — was a
seaman of no common mould. In the naval waifare of
Henry IV — a mere matter of piracy and resolution, as a rule,
but calling for a proud heart if it was adojDted as a profession
— he harried Flanders and Biittany and Spain with address,
pertinacity, and even fury. He was at first the lieutenant
of the hardly less bellicose Lord Berkeley ; but he ap})ears
speedily to have become lustrous as an individual. Poole,
said a gentleman of Spain, " belongs to a knight named
Arripay, who scours the seas, as a corsair, \\h\\ many ships,
plundering all tlie Spanish and French vessels that he could
meet with. This Airipay came often ujxin the coast of
Castille, and carried away many ships and ])arks ; and he
scoured the channel of {"'landers so powerfully, thai no
vessel could pass that way without being taken. This
Anipay burnt (lijon and l^'inisterra, and eariied olT ( he
crucifix from Santa Maria de Finisterra, which was famous
as being tin! holiest in all these i)artH (as in truth it was,
fori have seen it), and nuieh more dannige he flid in Caslille,



110 THE MARCHES OF WESSEX

taking many prisoners, and exacting ransoms ; and though
other armed ships were there from England likewise, he
it was who came oftenest " (Sydenham, History of Poole).

The Dons liked him so little that, upon opportunity, they
paid a special visit to Poole, and slew Arripay's brother ;
but they were forced to retreat. In token also of their
opinion of Page, they on this occasion suspended for the
time being whatever of international law was then operative
— that a Christian soldier was not to murder prisoners, nor
injure refugees, nor rob churches, nor burn houses or crops,
nor do violence to women : " these rules Pedro Nino ordered