eBooksRead.com books search new books
Robert Naylor.

From John O'Groats to Land's End online

. (page 34 of 66)
Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 34 of 66)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook
"The Great Cavern and Castle of Peveril of the Peak." Passing along the
Ecclesall Road, we saw, in nicely wooded enclosures, many of the houses
of manufacturers and merchants, who, like ourselves in after life, left
their men to sleep in the smoke while they themselves went to breathe
the purer air above, for Ecclesall was at a fair elevation above the
town. But one gentleman whom we saw assured us that, in spite of the
heavy clouds of smoke we had seen, the town was very healthy, and there
was more sunshine at Sheffield than in any other town in England.

Shortly afterwards we came to a finger-post where a road turned off
towards Norton and Beauchief Abbey. Norton was the village where the
sculptor Chantrey, of whom, and his works, we had heard so much, was
born, and the monument to his memory in the old church there was an
attraction to visitors. Chantrey was a man of whom it might safely be
said "his works do follow," for my brother, who always explored the wild
corners of the country when he had the opportunity, was once travelling
in Wales, and told a gentleman he met that he intended to stay the night
at the inn at the Devil's Bridge. This was not the Devil's Bridge we had
crossed so recently at Kirkby Lonsdale, but a much more picturesque one,
which to visit at that time involved a walk of about thirteen miles in
the mountainous region behind Aberystwyth.

"Have you ever seen that fine monument by Chantrey there?" asked the
gentleman.

"No," said my brother in astonishment, knowing the wild nature of the
country thereabouts.

"Well," he said, "mind you go and see it! Here is my card, and when you
have seen it, write me whether you have seen a finer monument in all
your life."

My brother found the monument in a small church about three miles from
the hotel in the hills above. He was very much astonished and deeply
impressed by the sculpture, acknowledging in his promised letter that it
was by far the finest he had seen. The origin of it was as follows:

The owner of the estate had an only child, a daughter, lovely, clever,
and accomplished, but slightly deformed in her back. When she was
twenty-one years old she was taken by her parents to London to have her
back straightened, but never recovered from the operation. The statuary
represented the daughter lying on a couch, her father standing at the
head looking down into the eyes of his dying daughter, while her mother
is kneeling at the foot in an attitude of prayer. The daughter's
instruments of music and painting, with her books, appear under the
couch, while every small detail, from the embroidery on the couch to the
creases in the pillow, are beautifully sculptured.

This great work of art cost £6,000, and was exhibited in London for some
time before it was placed in the small church of Hafod. It was said to
have made Chantrey's fortune.

[Illustration: THE CHANTREY MONUMENT IN HAFOD CHURCH.]

Beauchief Abbey, we were informed, was built by the murderers of Thomas
a Becket in expiation of their sin, but only a few fragments of the
buildings now remained. We halted for rest and refreshments at the "Fox
House Inn," which stood at a junction of roads and was formerly the
hunting-box of the Duke of Rutland.

We had by this time left the county of York and penetrated about four
miles into Derbyshire, a county we may safely describe as being peculiar
to itself, for limestone abounded in the greater part of its area. Even
the roads were made with it, and the glare of their white surfaces under
a brilliant sun, together with the accumulation of a white dust which
rose with the wind, or the dangerous slippery mud which formed on them
after rain or snow or frost, were all alike disagreeable to wayfarers.
But in later times, if the worthy writer who ventured into that county
on one occasion, had placed his fashionable length on the limy road when
in a more favourable condition than that of wet limy mud, he might have
written Derbyshire up instead of writing it down, and describing it as
the county beginning with a "Big D."

[Illustration: THE PLAGUE COTTAGES, EYAM.]

The colour of the green fields which lined the roads contrasted finely
in the distance with the white surface of the roads, both fields and
roads alike were neatly fenced in with stone walls. We wondered many
times where all these stones could have come from, and at the immense
amount of labour involved in getting them there and placing them in
position. Their purpose in breaking the force of the wind was clear, for
the greater part of the county consisted of moors, some portions of
which were being cultivated, and although they were almost entirely
devoid of trees, there were plenty of trees to be seen in the valleys,
the Dales of Derbyshire being noted for their beauty. The River Derwent
ran along the valley opposite the inn, and on the other side was the
village of Eyam, which became famous in the time of the Great Plague of
London in 1665. It seemed almost impossible that a remote village like
that could be affected by a plague in London, but it so happened that a
parcel arrived by coach from London addressed to a tailor in Eyam, who
opened it with the result that he contracted the disease and died; in
the same month five others died also, making a total of six for
September, which was followed by 23 deaths in October, 7 in November,
and 9 in December. Then came a hard frost, and it was thought that the
germs would all be killed, but it broke out again in the following June
with 19 deaths, July 56, August 77, September 24, and October 14, and
then the plague died out - possibly because there were very few people
left. During all this time Eyam had been isolated from the rest of the
world, for if a villager tried to get away he was at once driven back,
and for any one to go there was almost certain death. The Earl of
Devonshire, who nobly remained at Chatsworth all the time, sent
provisions periodically to a certain point where no one was allowed to
pass either inwards or outwards. At this time even the coins of the
realm were considered to be infectious, and large stones hollowed out
like basins, which probably contained some disinfectant, were placed
between Eyam and the villages which traded with them. Meantime the
rector of Eyam, whose name was Mompesson, stood his ground like a true
hero, ministering to his parishioners; and, although his wife contracted
the disease and died, and though he referred to himself as "a dying
man," yet was he mercifully preserved; so too was the Rev. Thomas
Stanley, who had been ejected from the rectory after eighteen years'
service because he would not subscribe to the Corporation Act of 1661.
He stood by Mompesson and did his duty quite as nobly; and some years
afterwards, when some small-minded people appealed to the Duke of
Devonshire as Lord Lieutenant of the county to have Stanley removed, he
indignantly refused and rebuked the petitioners very strongly.

William and Mary Howitt wrote a long poem entitled "The Desolation of
Hyam," and described the village as -

Among the verdant mountains of the Peak
There lies a quiet hamlet, where the slope
Of pleasant uplands wards the north winds bleak:
Below, wild dells romantic pathways ope:
Around, above it, spreads a shadowy cope
Of forest trees: flower, foliage and clear rill
Wave from the cliffs, or down ravines elope:
It seems a place charmed from the power of ill
By sainted words of old: - so lovely, lone and still.

William Wood wrote the _Plague Chronicle_, and on his gravestone was
inscribed:

Men like visions are;
Time all doth claim;
He lives who dies and leaves
A lasting name.

We had often read the wonderful epitaphs on the tombs of the nobility,
but we had been warned that in former times these were often written by
professional men who were well paid for their services, and the greater
the number of heavenly virtues attributed to the deceased, the greater
of course the fee; but those written by the poetical curate of Eyam were
beyond suspicion if we may judge from the couplet he wrote to be placed
on the gravestone of a parishioner:

Since life is short and death is always nigh,
On many years to come do not rely.

We were now passing through Little John's country, and we heard more
about him in this neighbourhood than of his master, Robin Hood, for
Little John's Well was not far away, and Hathersage, our next stage, was
where he was buried. We were very much interested in Robin Hood and
Little John, as my name was Robert, and my brother's name was John. He
always said that Little John was his greatest ancestor, for in the old
story-books his name appeared as John Nailer. But whether we could claim
much credit or no from the relationship was doubtful, as the stanza in
the old ballad ran:

Robin Hood did little good
And Little John did less.

In later times the name had been altered to Naylor, in order, we
supposed, to hide its humble though honourable origin; for there was no
doubt that it was a Nailer who fastened the boards on Noah's Ark, and
legend stated that when he came to nail the door on, he nailed it from
the inside!

The stanza, he explained, might have been written by the Bishop of
Hereford or one of Robin Hood's other clients, whom he and Little John
had relieved of his belongings; but the name Naylor was a common one in
South Yorkshire, and, although our branch of the family were natives of
South Lancashire, their characteristics showed they were of the same
stock, since, like Little John, they were credited with having good
appetites and with being able to eat and retain any kind of food and in
almost any quantity. On one occasion we happened to meet with a
gentleman named Taylor, and, after remarking there was only one letter
different between his name and ours, my brother said, "But we are much
the older family," and then named the Noah's Ark incident; when the
gentleman quietly remarked, "I can beat you." "Surely not," said my
brother. "Yes, I can," replied Mr. Taylor, "for my ancestor made the
tails for Adam's coat! He was a Tailer." My brother collapsed!

But the greatest blow he received in that direction was when he found a
much more modern story of "Robin Hood and Little John," which gave
Little John's real name as John Little, saying that his name was changed
to Little John because he was such a big man. My brother was greatly
annoyed at this until he discovered that this version was a
comparatively modern innovation, dating from the time of Sir Walter
Scott's _Talisman_, published in 1825, and inserted there because the
proper name would not have suited Sir Walter's rhyme:

"This infant was called 'John Little,' quoth he;
"Which name shall be changed anon.
The words we'll transpose, so wherever he goes
His name shall be called Little John."

On our way from the "Fox House Inn" to Hathersage we passed some
strange-looking rocks which were said to resemble the mouth of a huge
toad; but as we had not studied the anatomy of that strange creature,
and had no desire to do so, a casual glance as we walked along a down
gradient into Hathersage was sufficient. As we entered the village we
saw a party of men descending a road on our right, from whom we inquired
the way to Little John's grave, which they told us they had just been to
visit themselves. They directed us to go up the road that they had just
come down, and one of them advised us to call at the small inn which we
should find at the top of the hill, while another man shouted after us,
"Aye! and ther's a mon theere 'ats getten 'is gun!" We found the inn,
but did not ask to see the gun, being more interested at the time in
bows and arrows, so we called at the inn and ordered tea. It was only a
cottage inn, but the back of it served as a portion of the churchyard
wall, and the mistress told us that when Little John lay on his deathbed
in the room above our heads, he asked for his bow and arrow, and,
shooting through the window which we would see from the churchyard at
the back of the inn, desired his men to bury him on the spot where they
found his arrow.

[Illustration: THE TOAD'S MOUTH.]

We went to see the grave while our tea was being prepared, and found it
only a few yards from the inn, so presumably Little John was very weak
when he shot the arrow. The grave stood between two yew trees, with a
stone at the head and another at the foot, the distance between them
being ten feet.

The church was a very old one, dating from the early part of the
fourteenth century. It was said that a search for Little John's skeleton
had been made in 1784, when only a thigh-bone had been found; but as
this measured twenty-nine and a half inches, a very big man must have
been buried there.

On our right across the moor rose sharply what seemed to be a high,
continuous cliff, which we were told was the "edge" of one of the thick,
hard beds of millstone grit, and as we proceeded the edge seemed to be
gradually closing in upon us.

After tea we walked slowly on to Castleton, where we selected a clean
and respectable-looking private house to stay and rest over the
week-end, until Monday morning.

(_Distance walked twenty-two miles_.)


_Sunday, October 29th._

We were very comfortable in our apartments at Castleton, our host and
hostess and their worthy son paying us every possible attention. They
were members of the Wesleyan Church, and we arranged with the young man
that if he would go with us to the Parish Church in the morning, we
would go to the Wesleyan Chapel in the evening with him. So in the
morning we all went to church, where we had a good old-fashioned
service, and saw a monument to the memory of a former vicar, a Mr.
Bagshawe, who was Vicar of Castleton from 1723 to 1769; the epitaph on
it described him as -

A man whose chief delight was in the service of his Master - a sound
scholar - a tender and affectionate husband - a kind and indulgent
parent - and a lover of peace and quietness, who is gone to that place
where he now enjoys the due reward of his labours.

This Vicar had kept a diary, or journal, from which it appeared that he
began life in a good position, but lost his money in the "South Sea
Bubble," an idea floated in the year 1710 as a financial speculation to
clear off the National Debt, the Company contracting to redeem the whole
debt in twenty-six years on condition that they were granted a monopoly
of the South Sea Trade. This sounded all right, and a rush was made for
the shares, which soon ran up in value from £100 to £1,000, fabulous
profits being made. Sir Robert Walpole, who was then Chancellor of the
Exchequer, and afterwards Prime Minister for the long period of
twenty-two years, was strongly opposed to the South Sea Scheme, and
when, ten years later, he exposed it, the bubble burst and the whole
thing collapsed, thousands of people, including the worthy Vicar of
Castleton, being ruined.

[Illustration: CASTLETON CHURCH.]

It also appeared from the diary that, like the vicar Goldsmith
describes, he was "passing rich on forty pounds a year," for he never
received more than £40 per year for his services. The prices he paid for
goods for himself and his household in the year 1748 formed very
interesting reading, as it enabled us to compare the past with the
present.

Bohea Tea was 8s. per pound; chickens, threepence each; tobacco, one
penny per ounce; a shoulder of mutton cost him fifteen-pence, while the
forequarter of a lamb was eighteen-pence, which was also the price of a
"Cod's Head from Sheffield."

He also recorded matters concerning his family. He had a son named Harry
whom he apprenticed to a tradesman in Leeds. On one occasion it appeared
that the Vicar's wife made up a parcel "of four tongues and four pots of
potted beef" as a present for Hal's master. One of the most pleasing
entries in the diary was that which showed that Harry had not forgotten
his mother, for one day a parcel arrived at the Vicarage from Leeds
which was found to contain "a blue China cotton gown," a present from
Hal to his mother.

Who fed me from her gentle breast.
And hush'd me in her arms to rest,
And on my cheeks sweet kisses prest?
My Mother.

Who sat and watched my infant head
When sleeping on my cradle bed.
And tears of sweet affection shed?
My Mother.

Who ran to help me when I fell,
And would some pretty story tell,
Or kiss the place to make it well?
My Mother.

Who taught my infant lips to pray.
And love God's holy Book and day.
And walk in Wisdom's pleasant way?
My Mother.

And can I ever cease to be
Affectionate and kind to thee,
Who wast so very kind to me?
My Mother.

Ah! no, the thought I cannot bear,
And if God please my life to spare,
I hope I shall reward thy care.
My Mother.

When thou art feeble, old, and grey.
My healthy arm shall be thy stay,
And I will soothe thy pains away,
My Mother.

After dinner we decided to visit the Castle of _Peveril of the Peak_,
and as the afternoon was very fine we were able to do so, under the
guidance of our friend. We were obliged to proceed slowly owing to my
partially disabled foot, and it took us a long time to reach the
castle, the road being very narrow and steep towards the top - in fact,
it was so difficult of approach that a handful of men could have
defeated hundreds of the enemy. We managed to reach the ruins, and there
we reposed on the grass to view the wild scenery around us and the
curious split in the limestone rocks through which led the path known as
the "Winnats," a shortened form of Wind Gates, owing to the force of the
wind at this spot. The castle was not a large one, and there were higher
elevations quite near; but deep chasms intervened, and somewhere beneath
us was the largest cave in England. While we were resting our friend
related the history of the castle, which had been built by William
Peverell in 1068, and rebuilt by Henry II in 1176-7 after he had
received here the submission of Malcolm, King of Scotland. Peverell was
a natural son of William the Conqueror, who had distinguished himself at
the Battle of Hastings, for which William had bestowed upon him many
manors in Derbyshire. What was known as the Peak of Derbyshire we found
was not one single rock, as we supposed, but a huge tableland with
rising heights here and there. Our friend, whose name was William, told
us a legend connected with the Peverell family. Pain Peverell, the Lord
of Whittington, in Shropshire, had two daughters, the elder of whom was
very beautiful, and had so many admirers that she could not decide which
of them to accept. So she consulted her father on the matter, who
advised her to accept only the "Bravest of the Brave," or the one who
could prove himself to excel all others in martial skill. Her father
therefore proclaimed a tournament, which was to take place, in the words
of an ancient writer, at "Peverell's Place in the Peke," inviting all
young men of noble birth to compete for the hand of the beautiful
"Mellet," whose dowry was to be Whittington Castle. The contest, as
might be supposed, was a severe one, and was won by a knight bearing a
maiden shield of silver with a peacock for his crest, who vanquished,
amongst others, a Knight of Burgundy and a Prince of Scotland. He proved
to be Fitzwarren, and the Castle of Whittington passed to him together
with his young bride.

[Illustration: CASTLETON ROCKS.]

Our friend was surprised when we told him we knew that castle and the
neighbourhood very well, and also a cottage there where Dick Whittington
was born, who afterwards became Sir Richard de Whittington, Lord Mayor
of London. We again discussed the question of the desirability of
returning home, as we were now much nearer than when at Furness Abbey,
where we had nearly succumbed to home-sickness before; but my brother
said he should continue the journey alone if I gave in, and as he kindly
consented again to carry all the luggage, I agreed to complete the
journey with him.

[Illustration: THE WINNATS, CASTLETON.]

I walked down the hill supported by my brother on one side and our
friend on the other, and returned to the latter's home for tea, after
which our host showed us some remarkable spar stones - dog-tooth spar we
were told was their name - found in the lead mines, whose white crystals
glistened in the light, and I could see by the covetous look in my
brother's eyes that he was thinking of the rockeries at home. His look
was also seen by our worthy host, for he subsequently presented him with
the stones, which my brother afterwards declared were given to him as a
punishment for coveting his neighbour's goods. It was now time to fulfil
our engagement to accompany our friend to the Wesleyan Chapel and to go
through what proved one of the most extraordinary services we ever
attended. Our host and hostess went with us, but they sat in a pew,
while we three sat on a form. We remained for the "Prayer Meeting,"
which the minister announced would be held after the usual service. We
had read that the "Amens" of the early Christians could be heard at long
distances, but we never attended a meeting where the ejaculations were
so loud and fervent as they were here. Each man seemed to vie with his
neighbour as to which could shout the louder, and every one appeared to
be in great earnest. The exclamations were not always "Amens," for we
heard one man shout "Aye!" at exactly the same moment as another man
shouted "Now!" and if the Leader had not been possessed of a stentorian
voice he would not at times have been able to make himself heard. The
primitive custom of conducting prayer meetings was evidently kept up at
Castleton, as might perhaps have been expected in a place which before
the appearance of the railway was so remote and inaccessible, but it
was difficult to realise that "yes" and "no," or "aye" and "now," could
have the same meaning when ejaculated at the same moment. Still, it
might have been so in this case. Who knows!

In travelling through the country we had noticed that in the
neighbourhood of great mountains the religious element was more
pronounced than elsewhere, and the people's voices seemed stronger. At
the close of this second service, for which nearly the whole of the
congregation stayed, the conductor gave out one of Isaac Watts's
well-known hymns, and the congregation sang it with heart and voice that
almost made the rafters in the roof of the chapel vibrate as if even
they were joining in the praises of the Lord! These were the first two
verses:

Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run;
His Kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song,
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessing on His Name.

We must say we joined as heartily as any of the others, for it was sung
to one of the good old Methodist tunes common to all the Churches in the
days of Wesley. As we walked back through the village we felt all the
better for having attended the full service, and later, when we watched
the nearly full moon rise in the clear night air above the hills, our
thoughts turned instinctively towards the Great Almighty, the Father and
Maker and Giver of All!


SEVENTH WEEK'S JOURNEY

_Monday, October 30th._

[Illustration: PEVERIL CASTLE.]

The Scots as a nation are proverbial for their travelling propensities;
they are to be found not only in every part of the British Isles, but in
almost every known and unknown part of the wide world. It was a jocular
saying then in vogue that if ever the North Pole were discovered, a
Scotsman would be found there sitting on the top! Sir Walter Scott was
by no means behind his fellow countrymen in his love of travel, and like
his famous Moss-troopers, whose raids carried them far beyond the
Borders, even into foreign countries, he had not confined himself "to
his own - his Native Land." We were not surprised, therefore, wrhen we
heard of him in the lonely neighbourhood of the Peak of Derbyshire, or
that, although he had never been known to have visited the castle or its
immediate surroundings, he had written a novel entitled _Peveril of the
Peak_. This fact was looked upon as a good joke by his personal friends,
who gave him the title of the book as a nickname, and Sir Walter, when
writing to some of his most intimate friends, had been known to
subscribe himself in humorous vein as "Peveril of the Peak."



Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 34 of 66)
Using the text of ebook From John O'Groats to Land's End by Robert Naylor active link like:
read the ebook From John O'Groats to Land's End is obligatory.

Leave us your feedback | Links exchange | RSS feed 

Online library ebooksread.com © 2007-2014