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THE BATH ROAD

* * * * *


WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR.


THE BRIGHTON ROAD: Old Times and New on a Classic Highway.

THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD, and its Tributaries, To-day, and in Days of Old.

THE DOVER ROAD: Annals of an Ancient Turnpike.

THE EXETER ROAD: The Story of the West of England Highway. [_In the
Press._

* * * * *


[Illustration: GEORGE THE THIRD TRAVELLING FROM WINDSOR TO LONDON, 1806.
(_After R. B. Davis._)]


THE BATH ROAD

History, Fashion, & Frivolity on an Old Highway

by

CHARLES G. HARPER

Author of "The Brighton Road," "The Portsmouth Road,"
"The Dover Road," &c. &c.


[Illustration]


Illustrated by the Author, and from Old Prints and Pictures







London: Chapman & Hall, Limited
1899
(_All Rights Reserved_)




Printed by
William Clowes and Sons, Limited,
London and Beccles.




TO E. T. COOK, ESQ.


_Dear Mr. Cook,_

_It was by your favour, as Editor of the_ DAILY NEWS, _that the very gist
of this book first saw the light, in the form of two articles in the
columns of that paper. It seems, then, peculiarly appropriate that these
pages - representing, in the measurements common to journalists and
authors, a growth from four thousand to some sixty thousand words - should
be inscribed to yourself._

_Sincerely yours_,
CHARLES G. HARPER.




_Preface_


_This, the fourth volume in a series of books having for its object the
preservation of so much of the Story of the Roads as may be interesting to
the reading public, has been completed after considerable delay. The_
DOVER ROAD, _which preceded the present work, was published so long ago as
the close of 1895, and in that book the_ BATH ROAD _was (prematurely, it
should seem, indeed) described as "In the Press." Attention is drawn to
the fact, partly in order to point out how quickly and how surely the
old-time aspects of the roads are disappearing; for, since the_ BATH ROAD
_has been in progress, no fewer than four of the old inns pictured in
these pages have disappeared, while great stretches of the road, once
rural, have become suburban, and suburban streets have been so altered
that they are in no wise distinguishable from those of town. It is because
they will preserve the appearance and the memory of buildings that have
had their day and are now being swept off the face of the earth, that it
is hoped these volumes will find a welcome with those who care to cherish
something of the records of a day that is done._

CHARLES G. HARPER.

PETERSHAM, SURREY,
_February, 1899_.




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


SEPARATE PLATES

PAGE

1. GEORGE THE THIRD TRAVELLING FROM WINDSOR TO LONDON,
1806. (_After R. B. Davis_) Frontispiece.

2. COACHING MISERIES. (_After Rowlandson_) 7

3. PASSENGERS REFRESHED AFTER A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY.
(_After Rowlandson_) 13

4. THE "WHITE BEAR," PICCADILLY 23

5. ALLEN'S STALL AT HYDE PARK CORNER, ABOUT 1756 35

6. HYDE PARK CORNER, 1797 41

7. KENSINGTON HIGH STREET, SUMMER SUNSET 47

8. COLNBROOK, A DECAYED COACHING TOWN 101

9. AN ENGLISH ROAD 125

10. MAIDENHEAD THICKET 131

11. THE STAGE WAGGON. (_After Rowlandson_) 139

12. THEALE 143

13. WOOLHAMPTON 147

14. RAIL AND RIVER: THE KENNET AND THE GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY 151

15. AT THE 55TH MILESTONE 155

16. HUNGERFORD 169

17. MARLBOROUGH 189

18. FYFIELD 195

19. MARLBOROUGH DOWNS, NEAR WEST OVERTON 199

20. THE WHITE HORSE, CHERHILL 207

21. THE OLD MARKET HOUSE, CHIPPENHAM 211

22. BOX VILLAGE 225

23. BATHAMPTON MILL 229

24. PRIOR PARK 247

25. BATH ABBEY: THE WEST FRONT 261

26. THE ROMAN BATH, RESTORED 265


ILLUSTRATIONS IN TEXT


Old Village Lock-up, Cranford (_Title-page_)

Sign of the "White Bear," now at Fickles Hole 25

The "White Horse" Inn, Fetter Lane. Demolished 1898 30

Courtyard of the "Old Bell," Holborn. Demolished 1897 32

Hyde Park Corner, 1786 37

Hyde Park Corner, 1792 39

The "Halfway House," 1848 43

"Oldest Inhabitant" 50

Thackeray's House, Young Street 54

The "White Horse." Traditional Retreat of Addison 55

The "Red Cow," Hammersmith. Demolished 1897 57

Robin Hood and Little John 64

The "Old Windmill" 65

The "Old Pack Horse" 67

Kew Bridge, Low Water 69

Cottages, supposed to have been the Haunts of Dick Turpin 72

A Bath Road Pump 85

The "Berkeley Arms" 86

Cranford House 88

The "Old Magpies" 90

The "Gothic Barn," Harmondsworth 95

Old Flail, Harmondsworth 96

The County Boundary 98

Almshouses, Langley 104

The Stolen Fountain 105

Windsor Castle, from the Road near Slough 106

The "Bell and Bottle" Sign 133

Palmer's Statue 135

Thatcham 149

Inscription, Newbury Church 157

Old Cloth Hall, Newbury 160

The last of the Smock-frocks and Beavers 164

Curious old Toll-house 165

Hungerford Tutti-men 171

Littlecote 176

The Haunted Chamber 178

Roadside Inn, Manton 194

Avebury 201

Silbury Hill 202

Cross Keys 218

The Hungerford Almshouse, Corsham Regis 221

Entrance to Box Quarries 224

The Sun God 233

Roman inscribed tablet 235

The Batheaston Vase 242

"Sham Castle" 249

Old Pulteney Bridge 253

Illustrations to Old Advertisements 258, 259




THE ROAD TO BATH


London (Hyde Park Corner) to - MILES

Kensington -
St. Mary Abbots 1-3/4
Addison Road 2-1/2

Hammersmith 3-1/4

Turnham Green 5

Brentford -
Star Gates 6
Town Hall (cross River Brent and Grand Junction Canal) 7

Isleworth (Railway Station) 8-1/2

Hounslow (Trinity Church) 9-3/4

Cranford Bridge (cross River Crane) 12-1/4

Harlington Corner 13

Longford (cross River Colne) 15-1/4

Colnbrook (cross River Colne) 17

Langley Broom ("King William IV." Inn) 18-1/2

Slough ("Crown" Hotel) 20-1/2

Salt Hill 21-1/4

Maidenhead (cross River Thames) 26

Littlewick 29-1/4

Knowl Hill 31

Hare Hatch 32-1/4

Twyford (cross River Loddon) 34

Reading (cross River Kennet) 39

Calcot Green 41-1/2

Theale 44

Woolhampton 49-1/4

Thatcham (cross River Lambourne) 52-3/4

Speenhamland}
} 55-3/4
Newbury }

Church Speen 56-3/4

Hungerford (cross River Kennet) 64-1/2

Froxfield (cross River Kennet) 67

Marlborough 74-1/2

Fyfield 77

Overton 78

West Kennet (cross River Kennet) 79-1/4

Beckhampton Inn 81

Cherhill 84

Quemerford (cross tributary of River Marden) 86-1/4

Calne (cross River Calne) 87-1/4

Black Dog Hill 88-3/4

Derry Hill (Swan Inn) 90-3/4

Chippenham (cross River Avon) 93-1/4

Cross Keys 96-1/2

Pickwick ("Hare and Hounds" Inn) 97-1/4

Box 100-1/4

Batheaston 103-1/2

Walcot 104-1/2

Bath (G. P. O.) 105-3/4




The BATH ROAD




I


The great main roads of England have each their especial and unmistakeable
character, not only in the nature of the scenery through which they run,
but also in their story and in the memories which cling about them. The
history of the Brighton Road is an epitome of all that was dashing and
dare-devil in the times of the Regency and the reign of George the Fourth;
the Portsmouth Road is sea-salty and blood-boltered with horrid tales of
smuggling days, almost to the exclusion of every other imaginable
characteristic of road history; and the story of the Dover Road is a very
microcosm of the nation's history. Nothing strongly characteristic of
England, Englishmen, and English customs but what you shall find a hint of
it on the Dover Road. As for the Holyhead Road, it traverses the Midland
territory of the fox-hunting and port-drinking squires, and reeks of
toasts and conjurations of "no heel-taps;" the great North Road is an
agricultural route pre-eminently; the Exeter Road the running-ground of
some of the fleetest and best-appointed coaches of the Coaching Age; while
the Bath Road was at one time the most literary and fashionable of them
all.

The best period of the Bath Road was peculiarly the era of powder and
patches; of tie-wigs, long-skirted coats, and gorgeous waistcoats; of silk
stockings and buckled shoes; when the test of a well-bred gentleman was
the making a leg and the nice carriage of a clouded cane; when a grand
lady would "protest" that a thing which challenged her admiration was
"monstrous fine," and a gallant beau would "stap his vitals" by way of
emphasis. It was a period of rigid etiquette and hollow artificiality; but
a period also of a grand literary upheaval, and an era in which people
were not, as now, merely clothed, but dressed.

Bath at this time was the most fashionable place in all England. Did my
lady suffer from that mysterious eighteenth-century complaint "the
vapours," she journeyed to "the Bath." Did my lord experience in the gout
a foretaste of the torments of that place popularly supposed to be paved
with good intentions, he also went to Bath, in his private carriage,
cursing as he went; while the halt, the lame, the afflicted of many
diseases, came this way; some posting, others by stage-coach, and yet more
riding horseback. Every invalid, hypochondriac, and _malade imaginaire_
who could afford it went to Bath, for continental spas had not then become
possible for English people, and the nauseating waters of Aix, Baden, and
other places simply trickled unheeded away.

[Sidenote: _THE BEGGARS OF BATH_]

Every invalid, in fact, who could afford it, went to Bath, and the
mentally afflicted, who could not go, were sent thither; so that the
saying which is now become proverbial (and whose origin and subtle
innuendo seem in danger of being lost) arose, "Go to Bath," with the
rider, "and get your head shaved;" the lunatics who were sent to those
healing waters usually being thus tonsured. This derisive phrase was used
toward any one who propounded a more than ordinarily crack-brained
project. It is, perhaps, scarcely necessary to say that it has no sort of
connection with the modern music-hall vulgarism, "Get your hair cut!"

Another theory - but one more ingenious than acceptable - has it that the
phrase derives from Bath having always been a resort of beggars. What,
then, more natural, we are asked, than for one accosted by a mendicant to
recall this topographical notoriety, and bid the rogue "go to Bath"? For,
according to Fuller, that worthy author of the "Worthies," there were
"many in that place; some natives there, others repairing thither from all
parts of the land; the poor for alms, the pained for ease. Whither should
fowl flock in a hard frost but to the barn-door? Here, all the two
seasons, being the general confluence of gentry. Indeed, laws are daily
made to restrain beggars, and daily broken by the connivance of those who
make them; it being impossible, when the hungry belly barks and bowels
sound, to keep the tongue silent. And although oil of whip be the proper
plaister for the cramp of laziness, yet some pity is due to impotent
persons. In a word, seeing there is the Lazar's-bath in this city, I
doubt not but many a good Lazarus, the true object of charity, may beg
therein." The road, then, to this City of Springs must have witnessed a
motley throng.




II


The history of travelling, from the Creation to the present time, may be
divided into four periods - those of no coaches, slow coaches, fast
coaches, and railways. The "no-coach" period is a lengthy one, stretching,
in fact, from the beginning of things, through the ages, down to the days
of the Romans, and so on to the era when pack-horses conveyed travellers
and goods along the uncertain tracks, which in the Middle Ages were all
that remained of the highways built by that masterful race. The
"slow-coach" era was preceded by an age when those few people who
travelled at all went either on horseback, with their women-folk clinging
on behind them, or else were wealthy enough to be able to afford the keep
or hire of a "chariot," as the carriages of that time were named. That
sinful old reprobate, Samuel Pepys, lived in the last days of the
"no-coach" period, and saw the arrival of the slow coaches. He was one of
those who used a chariot, and his "Diary" is full of accounts of how, on
his innumerable journeys, he lost his way because of the badness of the
roads, which then ran through vast stretches of unenclosed, uncultivated,
and sparsely inhabited country, and were so fearfully bad that in many
places the drivers did not dare to attempt such veritable "sloughs of
despond," but drove around them over the hedgeless fields, thus making
new tracks for themselves. In this way the origin of the winding character
which many of our roads still retain is sufficiently accounted for.

[Sidenote: _THE "FLYING MACHINE"_]

The "slow-coach" era was, absurdly enough, that of the "flying machines,"
and in that era, with the year 1667, the coaching history of the Bath Road
may be said to begin, when some greatly daring person issued a bill
announcing that a "flying machine" would make the journey. It is not to be
supposed that this was some emulator of Icarus or predecessor of the
ambitious folks who for the last hundred years, more or less, have been
trying to navigate the air with balloons or mechanical flying machines.
Not at all. This was simply the figurative language employed to convey to
those whom it might concern the wonderful feat that was to be attempted
("God permitting," as the advertiser was careful to add), of travelling by
road from the "Bell Savage," on Ludgate Hill, to Bath in three days. But
here is the announcement: -

"FLYING MACHINE.

"All those desirous to pass from London to Bath, or any other Place on
their Road, let them repair to the 'Bell Savage' on Ludgate Hill in
London, and the 'White Lion' at Bath, at both which places they may be
received in a Stage Coach every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which
performs the Whole Journey in Three Days (if God permit), and sets
forth at five o'clock in the morning.

"Passengers to pay One Pound five Shillings each, who are allowed to
carry fourteen Pounds Weight - for all above to pay three-halfpence per
Pound."

The rush of fashionables to take the waters, and see and be seen, had
obviously not then commenced, since one crawling "flying machine" sufficed
to accommodate the traffic; and it was not until thirty-six years later
that it did begin, when Queen Anne (who, alas! is dead) resorted to "the
Bath" for the benefit of the gout. What says Pope?

"Great Anna, whom Three Realms obey,
Does sometimes counsel take, and sometimes tay."

If she had taken tea more consistently and drank less port, she would have
been just as great and not so gouty - and Bath would have remained in that
semi-obscurity in which it had long languished. No crowds of fashionables,
no truckling statesmen, no wits, would have hastened down the road and
peopled it so brilliantly had not Anne's big toe twinged with the torments
of the damned; and it seems likely enough that this book would never have
been written. Under the circumstances, therefore, the most appropriate
toast for the author and the Mayor and Corporation of Bath to honour is
that favourite old one, "High Church, High Farming, and Old Port for
Ever," especially the last, "coupling with it," as they used to say before
the custom of giving toasts died out, the honoured memory of Queen Anne.

Another three-days-a-week coach then began to ply between London and Bath.
In 1711 it had a rival, and five years later saw the establishment of the
first daily coach from London. Thomas Baldwin, citizen and cooper of
London, saw money in the venture, and, like the hero of one of Bret
Harte's verses, who "saw his duty a dead sure thing," he "went for it,
there and then." He would seem to have secured it, too, for he held the
road for many years against all rivals, and was, moreover, landlord of one
of the foremost hostelries on the road - the "Crown," at Salt Hill.

[Illustration: COACHING MISERIES. (_After Rowlandson._)]

His rivals were many, and, considering the popularity to which Bath soon
attained, they must all have done well. Indeed, the establishment of a new
coach to Bath would now appear to have been a favourite form of
speculation, and Londoners found many such advertisements as the
following: -

"_Daily Advertiser._ April 9, 1737.
"For Bath.

"A good Coach and able Horses will set out from the 'Black Swan' Inn,
in Holborn, on Wednesday or Thursday.

"Enquire of WILLIAM MAUD."

[Sidenote: _COACHING MISERIES_]

The invalid who trusted himself to the stage-coach of that period had,
however, many risks to run. Doctors might recommend the waters, but before
the patient reached them he had to endure a two days' journey, and even at
that to bear a very martyrdom of bumps and jolts. For that was just before
the time when coach-proprietors began to announce "comfortable" coaches
"with springs," just as, a little earlier, they had laid great stress on
their conveyances being glazed, and (to skip the centuries) as railway
companies nowadays advertise dining and drawing room cars. Here are some
coaching woes: -

"Just as you are going off, with only one other person on your side of
the coach, who, you flatter yourself, is the last - seeing the door
opened suddenly, and the landlady, coachman, guard, etc., cramming
and shoving and buttressing up an overgrown, puffing, greasy human
being of the butcher or grazier breed; the whole machine straining and
groaning under its cargo from the box to the basket. By dint of
incredible efforts and contrivances, the carcase is at length weighed
up to the door, where it has next to struggle with various obstacles
in the passage."

The pictorial commentary upon this text is appended, together with a view
representing passengers refreshed by being overturned into a wayside pond.

The first mail-coach that ever ran in England ran between London and
Bristol, and set out on Monday, August 2, 1784. Hitherto the letters had
been conveyed by mounted post-boys, often provided with but sorry hacks,
and always open to attack at the hands of any bad characters who might
think it worth their while to intercept the post-bags. This risk led the
more cautious persons, and those whose correspondence was of particular
importance, to despatch their letters by the stage-coach, although the
cost in that case was 2_s._ as against the ordinary postal charge of only
4_d._ for places between 80 and 120 miles distant.

[Sidenote: _THE FIRST MAIL COACH_]

A clever and enterprising man resident at Bath had noted these things.
This was John Palmer, the proprietor of the Bath Theatre. He not only
noted them, but devised a plan by which the post was rendered swifter and


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Online LibraryCharles G. (Charles George) HarperThe Bath road : history, fashion, & frivolity on an old highway → online text (page 1 of 14)