Copyright
Charles G. (Charles George) Harper.

The Exeter Road online

. (page 1 of 17)
Online LibraryCharles G. (Charles George) HarperThe Exeter Road → online text (page 1 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


THE EXETER ROAD ***




Produced by Chuck Greif, deaurider and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive)










THE EXETER 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 BATH ROAD=: History, Fashion, and Frivolity on an Old Highway.

=THE GREAT NORTH ROAD=:

Vol. I. LONDON TO YORK. [_In the Press._
II. YORK TO EDINBURGH.



[Illustration: THE LIONESS ATTACKING THE EXETER MAIL, ‘WINTERSLOW HUT’
(AFTER JAMES POLLARD).]




THE

EXETER ROAD

_THE STORY OF
THE WEST OF ENGLAND HIGHWAY_

BY CHARLES G. HARPER

AUTHOR OF ‘THE BRIGHTON ROAD,’ ‘THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD,’
‘THE DOVER ROAD,’ AND ‘THE BATH ROAD’

[Illustration: colophon]

_Illustrated by the Author, and from Old-Time
Prints and Pictures_

LONDON: CHAPMAN & HALL, LIMITED

1899

_All rights reserved_




[Illustration: PREFACE]


_This, the fifth volume in a series of works purporting to tell the
Story of the Great Roads, requires but few forewords; but occasion may
be taken to say that perhaps greater care has been exercised than in
preceding volumes to collect and put on record those anecdotes and
floating traditions of the country, which, the gossip of yesterday, will
be the history of to-morrow. These are precisely the things that are
neglected by the County Historians at one end of the scale of writers,
and the compilers of guide-books at the other; and it is just because
this gossip and these local anecdotes are generally passed by and often
lost that those which are gathered now will become more valuable as time
goes on._

_For the inclusion of these hitherto unconsidered trifles much
archæology and much purely guide-book description have been suppressed;
nor for this would it seem necessary to appear apologetic, even although
local patriotism is a militant force, and resents anything less than a
detailed and favourable description of every village, interesting or
not._

_How militant parochial patriots may be the writer already knows. You
may criticise the British Empire and prophesy its downfall if you feel
that way inclined, and welcome; but it is the Unpardonable Sin to say
that Little Pedlington is anything less than the cleanest, the neatest,
and the busiest for its size of all the Sweet Auburns in the land! Has
not the writer been promised a bad quarter of an hour by the local
press, should he revisit Crayford, after writing of that uncleanly place
in the_ DOVER ROAD? _and have the good folks of Chard still kept the tar
and feathers in readiness for him who, daring greatly, presumed to say
the place was so quiet that when the stranger appeared in its streets
every head was out of doors and windows?_

_Point of view is everything. The stranger finds a place charming
because everything in it is old, and quiet reigns supreme. Quietude and
antiquity, how eminently desirable and delightful when found, he thinks.
Not so the dweller in such a spot. He would welcome as a benefactor any
one who would rebuild his house in modern style, and would behold with
satisfaction the traffic of Cheapside thronging the grass-grown
market-place._

_No brief is held for such an one in these pages, nor is it likely that
the professional antiquary will find in them anything not already known
to him. The book, like all its predecessors, and like those that are to
follow it, is intended for those who journey down the roads either in
person or in imagination, and to their judgment it is left. In
conclusion, let me acknowledge the valuable information with regard to
Wiltshire afforded me by Cecil Simpson, Esq., than whom no one knows the
county better._

CHARLES G. HARPER.

PETERSHAM, SURREY,

_October 1899_.




[Illustration: _List of Illustrations_]


SEPARATE PLATES

PAGE

1. THE LIONESS ATTACKING THE EXETER MAIL, ‘WINTERSLOW
HUT.’ (_After James Pollard_) Frontispiece.

2. THE ‘COMET’ 13

3. THE ‘REGULATOR’ ON HARTFORD BRIDGE FLATS 19

4. THE ‘QUICKSILVER’ MAIL: - ‘STOP, COACHMAN, I
HAVE LOST MY HAT AND WIG’ 23

5. THE WEST COUNTRY MAILS STARTING FROM THE
GLOUCESTER COFFEE HOUSE, PICCADILLY. (_After
James Pollard_) 35

6. THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON’S STATUE 39

7. THE WELLINGTON ARCH AND HYDE PARK CORNER,
1851 41

8. ST. GEORGE’S HOSPITAL, AND THE ROAD TO PIMLICO,
1780 43

9. KNIGHTSBRIDGE TOLL-GATE, 1854 45

10. KNIGHTSBRIDGE BARRACKS TOLL-GATE 49

11. BRENTFORD 57

12. HOUNSLOW: THE PARTING OF THE WAYS 67

13. THE ‘WHITE HART,’ HOOK 111

14. THE RUINS OF BASING HOUSE 117

15. WHITCHURCH 129

16. ‘WINTERSLOW HUT’ 159

17. SALISBURY CATHEDRAL. (_After Constable, R.A._) 171

18. VIEW OF SALISBURY SPIRE FROM THE RAMPARTS
OF OLD SARUM 189

19. OLD SARUM. (_After Constable, R.A._) 193

20. THE GREAT SNOWSTORM OF 1836; THE EXETER
‘TELEGRAPH,’ ASSISTED BY POST-HORSES, DRIVING
THROUGH THE SNOW-DRIFTS AT AMESBURY. (_After
James Pollard_) 197

21. STONEHENGE (_After Turner, R.A._) 201

22. SUNRISE AT STONEHENGE 207

23. ANCIENT AND MODERN: MOTOR CARS AT STONEHENGE,
EASTER 1899 213

24. COOMBE BISSETT 235

25. THE EXETER ROAD, NEAR ‘WOODYATES INN’ 239

26. TARRANT HINTON 243

27. BLANDFORD 259

28. TOWN BRIDGE, BLANDFORD 263

29. THE ‘WHITE HART,’ DORCHESTER 269

30. DORCHESTER 277

31. WINTERBOURNE ABBAS 281

32. ‘TRAVELLER’S REST’ 287

33. ‘THE LONG REACHES OF THE EXETER ROAD’ 301

34. EXETER, FROM THE DUNSFORD ROAD 311




ILLUSTRATIONS IN TEXT

PAGE

Vignette (_Title-page_)

Preface (Stonehenge) vii

List of Illustrations (Hartford Bridge Flats) xi

The Exeter Road 1

‘An Old Gentleman, a Cobbett-like Person’ 38

The Pikeman 47

The ‘New Police’ 51

Tommy Atkins, 1838 53

Old Kensington Church 54

The Beadle 56

The ‘Bell,’ Hounslow 65

The ‘Green Man,’ Hatton 72

The Highwayman’s Retreat, the ‘Green Man’ 73

East Bedfont 79

The Staines Stone 84

The ‘Bells of Ouseley’ 88

Bagshot 97

Roadside Scene. (_After Rowlandson_) 103

Roadside Scene. (_After Rowlandson_) 104

Roadside Scene. (_After Rowlandson_) 105

Roadside Scene. (_After Rowlandson_) 107

Funeral Garland, Abbot’s Ann 154

St. Anne’s Gate, Salisbury 182

Highway Robbery Monument at Imber 231

Where the Robber fell Dead 233

Judge Jeffreys’ Chair 273

Kingston Russell 284

Chilcombe Church 285

Chideock 293

Sign of the ‘Ship,’ Morecomblake 294

Interior of the ‘Queen’s Arms,’ Charmouth 295

‘Copper Castle’ 298

The Exeter City Sword-bearer 307

‘Matty the Miller’ 313

The End 314




THE ROAD TO EXETER


London (Hyde Park Corner) to -
MILES
Kensington -
St. Mary Abbots 1¼
Addison Road 2½

Hammersmith 3¼

Turnham Green 5

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

Isleworth (Railway Station) 8½

Hounslow (Trinity Church) 9¾
(Cross the Old River, a branch of the River Colne).

Baber Bridge (cross the New River, a branch of the
River Colne) 11¾

East Bedfont 13¼

Staines Bridge (cross River Thames) 16½

Egham 18

Virginia Water -
‘Wheatsheaf’ 20¾

Sunningdale -
Railway Station 22¾

Bagshot -
‘King’s Arms’ 26¼
‘Jolly Farmer’ 27¼

Camberley 29

York Town 29¾

Blackwater (cross River Blackwater) 30¾

Hartford Bridge 35½

Hartley Row 36½

Hook 40

Water End (for Nately Scures) 41¾

Mapledurwell Hatch (cross River Loddon) 43

Basingstoke -
Market Place 45¾

Worting 47¾

Clerken Green, and Oakley -
Railway Station 49¾

Dean 51¼

Overton 53½

Laverstoke, and Freefolk 55½

Whitchurch -
Market House 56¾

Hurstbourne Priors 58½

Andover -
Market Place (cross River Anton) 63½

Little Ann 65½

Little (or Middle) Wallop (cross River Wallop) 70½

Lobcombe Corner 73¾

‘Winterslow Hut’ (cross River Bourne) 75

Salisbury -
Council House 81½

West Harnham (cross River Avon) 82¼

Coombe Bissett (cross a branch of the River Avon) 84¼

‘Woodyates Inn’ 91¼

‘Cashmoor Inn’ 96¼

Tarrant Hinton (cross River Tarrant) 99

Pimperne 101½

Blandford -
Market Place (cross River Stour) 103¾

Winterbourne Whitchurch (cross River Winterbourne) 108¾

Milborne St. Andrews (cross River Milborne) 111½

Piddletown (cross River Piddle) 115

Troy Town (cross River Frome) 116¼

Dorchester -
Town Hall 120

Winterbourne Abbas (cross River Winterbourne) 124½

‘Traveller’s Rest’ 131¼

Bridport -
Market House (cross River Brit) 134½

Chideock 137¼

Morecomblake 138¾

Charmouth (cross River Char) 141½

‘Hunter’s Lodge Inn’ 145

Axminster -
Market Place (cross River Axe) 147
(Cross River Yart)

Kilmington 148¾

Wilmington (cross River Coly) 153

Honiton 156½

Fenny Bridges (cross River Otter) 159½

Fairmile 161½

Rockbeare 166

Honiton Clyst (cross River Clyst) 168¼

Heavitree 171

Exeter 172¾




[Illustration: THE EXETER ROAD]




I


From Hyde Park Corner, whence it is measured, to the west end of
Hounslow town, the Exeter Road is identical with the road to Bath. At
that point the ways divide. The right-hand road leads to Bath, by way of
Maidenhead; the Exeter Road goes off to the left, through Staines, to
Basingstoke, Whitchurch, and Andover; where, at half a mile beyond that
town, there is a choice of routes.

The shortest way to Exeter, the ‘Queen City of the West,’ is by taking
the right-hand road at this last point and proceeding thence through
Weyhill, Mullen’s Pond, Park House, and Amesbury to Deptford Inn,
Hindon, Mere, Wincanton, Ilchester, Ilminster, and Honiton. This ‘short
cut,’ which is the hilliest and bleakest of all the bleak and hilly
routes to Exeter, is 165 miles, 6 furlongs in length. Another way, not
much more than 2¼ miles longer, is by turning to the left at this fork
just outside Andover, and going thence to Salisbury, Shaftesbury,
Sherborne, Yeovil, Crewkerne, and Chard, to meet the other route at
Honiton; at which point, in fact, all routes met. A third way, over 4½
miles longer than the last, instead of leaving Salisbury for
Shaftesbury, turns in a more southerly direction, and passing through
Blandford, Dorchester, Bridport, and Axminster, reaches Exeter by way of
the inevitable Honiton in 172 miles, 6 furlongs.

It is thus, by whichever way you elect to travel, a far cry to Exeter,
even in these days; whether you go by rail from Waterloo or
Paddington - 171½ and 194 miles respectively, in three hours and
three-quarters - or whether you cycle, or drive in a motor car, along the
road, when the journey may be accomplished by the stalwart cyclist in a
day and a half, and by a swift car in, say, ten hours.

But hush! we are observed, as they say in the melodramas. Let us say
fourteen hours, and we shall be safe, and well within the legal limit
for motors of twelve miles an hour.

Compare these figures with the very finest performances of that crack
coach of the coaching age, the Exeter ‘Telegraph,’ going by Amesbury and
Ilchester, which, with the perfection of equipment, and the finest
teams, eventually cut down the time from seventeen to fourteen hours,
and was justly considered the wonder of that era; and it will
immediately be perceived that the century has well earned its reputation
for progress.

[Sidenote: _OLD ROUTES_]

It may be well to give a few particulars of the ‘Telegraph’ here before
proceeding. It was started in 1826 by Mrs. Nelson, of the ‘Bull,’
Aldgate, and originally took seventeen hours between Piccadilly and the
‘Half Moon,’ Exeter. It left Piccadilly at 5.30 A.M., and arrived at
Exeter at 10.30 P.M. Twenty minutes allowed for breakfast at Bagshot,
and thirty minutes for dinner at Deptford Inn. The ‘Telegraph,’ be it
said, was put on the road as a rival to the ‘Quicksilver’ Devonport
mail, which, leaving Piccadilly at 8 P.M., arrived at Exeter at 12.34
next day; time, sixteen hours, thirty-four minutes. Going on to
Devonport, it arrived at that place at 5.14 P.M., or twenty-one hours,
fourteen minutes from London. There were no fewer than twenty-three
changes in the 216 miles.




II


But those travellers who, in the early days of coaching, a century and a
half ago, desired the safest, speediest, and most comfortable journey to
Exeter, went by a very much longer route than any of those already
named. They went, in fact, by the Bath Road and thence through Somerset.
The Exeter Road beyond Basingstoke was at that period a miserable
waggon-track, without a single turnpike; while the road to Bath had,
under the management of numerous turnpike-trusts, already become a
comparatively fine highway. The Somersetshire squires were also
bestirring themselves to improve their roads, despite the strenuous
opposition encountered from the peasantry and others on the score of
their rights being invaded, and the anticipated ruin of local trade.

A writer of that period, advocating the setting up of turnpikes on the
direct road to Exeter, anticipated little trouble in converting that
‘waggon-track’ into a first-class highway. Four turnpikes, he
considered, would suffice very well from Salisbury to Exeter; nor would
the improvement of the way over the Downs demand much labour, for the
bottom was solid, and one general expense for pickaxe and spade work,
for levelling, and for widening at the approaches to the villages would
last a long while; experience proving so much, since those portions of
the road remained pretty much the same as they had been in the days of
Julius Cæsar.

‘It may be objected,’ continues this reformer, ‘that the peasantry will
demolish these turnpikes so soon as they are erected, but we will not
suppose this is in a well-governed happy state like ours. _Lex non
supponet odiosa._ If such terrors were to take place, the great
legislative power would lie at the mercy of the rabble. If the mob will
not hear reason they must be taught it.

[Sidenote: _A PLEA FOR GOOD ROADS_]

‘It may be urged that there are not passengers enough on the Western
Road to defray the expenses of erecting these turnpikes. To this I
answer by denying the fact; ’tis a road very much frequented, and the
natural demands from the West to London and all England on the one part,
and from all the eastern counties to Exeter, Plymouth, and Falmouth,
etc., on the other are very great, especially in war-time. Besides, were
the roads more practicable, the number of travellers would increase,
especially of those who make best for towns and inns - namely, such
people of fashion and fortune as make various tours in England for
pleasure, health, and curiosity. In picturesque counties, like Cornwall
and Devon, where the natural curiosities are innumerable, many gentlemen
of taste would be fond of making purchases, and spending their fortunes,
if with common ease they could readily go to and return from their
enchanted castles. Whereas, a family, as things now stand, or a party of
gentlemen and ladies, would sooner travel to the South of France and
back again than down to Falmouth or the Land’s End. And ’tis easier and
pleasanter - so that all beyond Sarum or Dorchester is to us _terra
incognita_, and the mapmakers might, if they pleased, fill the vacuities
of Devon and Cornwall with forests, sands, elephants, savages, or what
they please. Travellers of every denomination - the wealthy, the man of
taste, the idle, the valetudinary - would all, if the roads were good,
visit once at least the western parts of this island. Whereas, every man
and woman that has an hundred superfluous guineas must now turn bird of
passage, flit away across the ocean, and expose themselves to the
ridicule of the French. Now, what but the goodness of the roads can
tempt people to make such expensive and foolish excursions, since, out
of fifty knight-and lady-errants, not two, perhaps, can enounce half a
dozen French words. Their inns are infinitely worse than ours, the
aspect of the country less pleasing; men, manners, customs, laws are no
objects with these itinerants, since they can neither speak nor read the
language. I have known twelve at a time ready to starve at Paris and lie
in the streets, though their purses were well crammed with _louis
d’or_. When they wanted to go to bed, they yawned to the chambermaid, or
shut their eyes; when hunger attacked, they pointed to their mouths.
Even pretty Miss K., and Miss G., realised not the distortion of their
labial muscles, but cawed like unfledged birds for food. They paid
whatever the French demanded, and were laughed at (not before their
faces, indeed) most immeasurably. And yet simpletons of this class spent
near £100,000 last year in France.

‘But to return. A rich citizen in London, a gentleman of large fortune
eastwards, has, perhaps, some very valuable relations or friends in the
West. Half a dozen times in his lifetime he hears of their welfare by
the post, and once, perhaps, receives a token when the Western curate
posts up to town to be initiated into a benefice - and that is all. He
thinks no more of visiting them than of traversing the deserts of Nubia,
considering them as a sort of separate beings, which might as well be in
the moon, or in _Limbo Patrum_.

[Sidenote: _CONSERVATIVES_]

‘I hear the nobility and gentry of Somersetshire have exerted a laudable
spirit, and are now actually erecting turnpikes, which will give that
fruitful county a better intercourse with its neighbours, and bring an
accession of wealth into it; for every wise traveller who goes from
London to Exeter, etc. will surely take Bath in his way (as the
digression is a mere nothing). At least, all the expensive people with
coaches certainly will - and then the supine inhabitants of Wilts and
Dorset may repine in vain; for when a road once comes into repute, and
persons find a pleasant tour and good usage, they will never return to
that which is decried as out of vogue; unless, indeed, they should
reason as a Marlborough stage-coachman did when turnpikes were first
erected between London and Bath. A new road was planned out, but still
my honest man would go round by a miserable waggon-track called
“Ramsbury narrow way.” One by one, from little to less, he dawdled away
all his passengers, and when asked why he was such an obstinate idiot,
his answer was (in a grumbling tone) that he was now an aged man; that
he relished not new fantasies; that his grandfather and father had
driven the aforesaid way before him, and that he would continue in the
old track to _his_ death, though his four horses only drew a


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryCharles G. (Charles George) HarperThe Exeter Road → online text (page 1 of 17)