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

The marches of Wessex, a chronicle of England online

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chaix'l, in the south aisle, into the vestry, you will find tho
flutes of the village choir of a generation ago.

The Martin or Athclhampton chapel is a glory of the
county. Here are buried knights and ladies of that notable
family, the colour still rich on some of their tombs, the
supine figures still littlo harmed by the slighter. " Pray
for their souls," one inscription bids us, " with hearty
desire, that they both may be sure of eternal light."

This little homely chapel holds some of the laet enchant-
ments of tho knightly years. It is impossible here not to
b(Ii(!VO that tho Faith was real. Those who wrought tho
Purbcck stone into shapes so enduringly gracious, those who
touched them with gay blue and red, those who engraved so
carefully, with so sure a of proportion, tho strong
brass, had Home quality few potsess to-day. 1 think tho last
of tho Martins preserves it in an ej)itaph of lo\)~) now lost
(recorded by Hulchins) : " Nicholas yo first, and Martin
yo last, (iood night, Nicholas." A long night, whoso dawn
may novur break.


Piddletown church, it also seems to me, is one where
the past and the present veritably overlap from day to
day, even to om^ own time, and are not cut off, shut apart,
one from another. Its simplicity and its beauty have always
belonged to this one village, grown with it, formed part of
its people's lives. Here, more certainly than in any glorious
abbey or cathedral, the Word of God might remain flesh.

From Piddletown follow byroads or paths, which the map
shows adequately, to the three divine villages hidden a
little way from the main road— three river hamlets, Aff-
piddle. Turner's and Brian's Piddle. You can, if you
prefer, go along the main road to Tolpiddle and turn off
there. You will see a handsome church, the " martyrs'
tree," and a monument to those martyrs, of whom I speak
later (see Chap. XIII).

Affpiddle has a very handsome church very beautifully
situated. It was built, probably, at any rate so far as the
tower goes, by the same monk-artist who designed the tower
at Cerne. It has the same lovely little flying pinnacles,
the same lofty grace. The interior contains splendid wood-
work — a pulpit and a number of carved pew-ends — also
by a Cerne monk : one of the pew-ends and the pulpit are
dated 1547.

The village is pure Dorset : low thatched cottages of
yellow mud and plaster, with a little wood and stone :
jasmine and fuchsia and veronica creeping shaggily round
the windows and doors : unexpected little streams and
patches of grass. A few years ago it was more beautiful
than encouraging : for the cottages were in grievous dis-
repair, the mud walls often gaping or falling, the timber
rotting in the damp valley air. But Mr. Debenham has done
wonders of restoration of late, and has added, to the ex-
cellence of model farming, a striking new farm-cottage
architecture which deserves to live alongside the old.

Bryant's Piddle — the Piddle manor of Brian de Turber-
ville — is much the same as Affpiddle, but smaller. The


last of these tliicc villages is the most exquisit<.\ Toner's
(Tiuner's) Piddle was once the manor of the Toncres, or
dc Toneres, Norman lords of whom little is known : tliey
rendered service to the crown of Edward I, and that is
about all their history. If their lives were as retired and
obscmo as their record, they can have chosen no more
satisfying place of retreat than this tiny hamlet. To-day
it consists of a little gracious farmhouse, two or three
cottages, and a toy church, so small and compact and neat
that it should hardly be more than a cathedral for Lilliput.
Small though it is, it yet contains a Norman font — a last
relic of departed strength.

There is no Norman air about Toner's Piddle. It is just
a little farm set in rich deep water meadows below the huge
brown heath which breaks out immediately behind the
barton. It is in a place of streams, a maze of fords and foot-
bridges : bright with yellow iris and meadowsweet, willow-
herb and loosestrife, a haunt of moorhens and herons.*

Take the sandy path alongside the farm, up the hill.
You will como out on one of the noblest stretches of
" Egdon " Heath. From its height Corfc Castle can be
seen guarding its gap, Purbeck keeping back the sea, the
chimneys of the secret war-factory at Holton Heath, and
of the pott-ery works not far away : between 3^ou and the
horizon the grim brown waste undulates in big and little
liollows, a few firs here and there, a copse in a valley, the
light ever changing.

That is the best way to come to Bere Regis : most of all
if you can contrive to reach your end about dusk. You
come from the mysterious glo(jms of the Heath down into
a little leaf-hedged path, past a modern cemetery whoso
stones in the crepuscular half-light are white ghosts ; over
a little l)ri<lge where all day long you can watch the fat voles

• 1 lliiiik tlx- iiioht KtJirlliiiK <'Vciit ill Niilurc in tlio hiuMcu UHOxjxxlod
u()rLHitig cif i\ heron ii foot or two iiwiiy from one. 'I'lu' eiiorinoiLH Hprciid
of wiiij^, thi? lirMt lieuvy uplift, the long < liitlcriiiK ImuU, nllm-ciii cxiiggcratcHl,
OM if t lift tiling Wen- a pterodiict} I. Sii my dog llioiiglit on Imh lirst putting u
horon up at Turnor'H Piddlt*, for ho run uwuy for dour lifo.


at play, or washing their comfortable persons. And so to
the imminent church — standing up, from there by the bridge,
like a glorious cathedral, hanging over the stream and the
few cottages by its side with a dominance of both power
and beauty.

The tower is finely decorated : the body of the church
has excellent gargoyles. But it is the windows which,
if you come from without when they are lit up from within,
will stab your imagination. At the east end the light shines
through three beautiful Early English lancets (inside they
are framed in slender dark Purbeck columns). On the
south wall the Tm-berville arms glow in the many panels
of a perfect window in the Perpendicular style. At the east
end of that aisle is a glorious little flowing Decorated frame-
work ; an easy, sinuous rhythm in stone that the light
transforms into a flower.

There is the whole peace of humanity here. Here, among
the works of men, as amid the work of God on Eggardon
Hill, I can find the ultimate rest. There is nothing in the
church itself which does not suggest a permanent ideal of
life. The Turberville aisle has those Decorated and other
empty tombs where once poor Tess took refuge. The old
local ironwork in the squint has a peculiar homely beauty.
The Tudor squire and his wife in the chancel ought to be
buried there : it is theirs. The " puzzle " brass, in some
sort of dog English-Latin, is a proper idiosyncrasy of a
little secluded civilization. The pages from the records
(showing the authentic Turberville signature), the old and
lovely font, the late Norman arches, the grotesque faces upon
them, the ancient local tiles and woodwork, the myriad
pottery vases for to-day's floral services — there is a chain of
life more continuous here than even at Piddletown.

The roof is the wonder of the place. It was brought from
Flanders by Cardinal Moreton, it is said. It is a noble
arrangement of beams from whose every end juts out a
gaily painted figure — severely humorous like the Norman
faces in the arches below. The central boss — said tradition-


ally to represent John the Baptist — carries a vast round
bearded face, like a Cruikshank illustration to " Jack the
Giant Killer." They keep the coloius fresh. The roof
remains etornally young, eternally real : witnesiihig to the
simple sincerity of a faith that was confident enough to
laugh at itself ; witnessing to a temper of mind that was
not too self-conscious to mind ridicule if it wore in

When I was last m the church, during the war, the altar
bore no flowers ; instead, there were set up small flags of
all the Allies — Ja])an, Serbia, the United States, France,
and all of us. I was reminded by them of a war-time scene
a friend had described to me.

It took place at the cross-roads at Bere. ]\Iy friend was
staying at the admirable inn there in the summer of 1915,
to complete some work and recover his health. He heard
the usual noise of passers-by, farm-carts, motors : but it was
suddenly broken, in the late afternoon, by a more tumultuous
sound. After a time he looked out. A flushed woman of
thirt}' or so, once very pretty and still not wholly unbeautiful,
was leaning against a cottage wall opposite. Round her,
at some distance, were the louts of the village. They were
all arguing angrily. The woman — obviously of a certain
profession, a " leaguer- wench," and rather drunk — was
taunting them for not going to the front. In that respect,
they were good lads : they had tried, and had been for-
bidden ; farm-labour was too precious. Many of their
friends had gone and fallen ; they themselves were to bo
scraped off the hungry land later. They, on the other hand,
starting by jeering at her drunkenness, had come to inflame
their jeers with anger at her profession, which they soon
guessed. They would not leave her alone. .She was afraid
to turn her l>ack and go on. Tiuir numbers increased,
until pi'rhaps a cou]>le (jf hundred people — men iiad n<»w
joined the group — stood in a menacing circle round iiti'.
No one yet offered active violence, but the temj)er of tiie
crowd was clearly ugly. My friend went out and spoke to


the seeming chief man there. He got nothing but angry
words. He spoke to the woman ; she said, sobbing in a
horrible drunken way, " I daren't tmn my back on them —
they'll stone me." She was now pretty nearly sober and
ready to moderate her bitter tongue : but he felt her words
were true. He turned and talked savagely to the crowd at
large ; a mistake, for their anger was not abated by shame.
Then he tried persuasion. He spoke to the senior men
quietly and said he would take the woman himseK to the
constable's house — three-quarters of a mile away — if they
would keep the crowd in order. They agreed, and he told
the crowd what he meant to do, saying that it was the
right way to deal with such a person. Then the wretched
woman was induced to cling to his arm and turn her back
— and he tiu-ned his, not without genuine fear — and they
went off on the long street, the crowd following ten yards
or so behind, watching, it seemed, for a moment's lapse or
weakness. Several times the woman broke down and
refused to go any farther, and he had to prevent her reviling
the people incoherently ; often there were sinister cries
of opprobrium behind his back ; until at last they came to
the constable's cottage, and gave the poor wretch to his
kind wife for a night's lodging. She was following the camp
from Weymouth to Blandford : she could not have walked
another mile.

It was not her profession, nor the precise exchange of
taunts, that interested my friend. It was the fear he himself
felt, " in his bones," of the crowd. It seemed like a recrudes-
cence of mediseval horror — of witch-hunting, heresy-hunt-
ing, torture, all the animal ferocity of man let loose.
There was a force here that the modern mind might not
be able to tame : a morality (resentful and perverted,
doubtless) that would stick at nothing. He had been lately
in that calm and beautiful church, where all the ages, even
to-day's, seem to be in happy communion. Here in the twilit
village street, with the rough threatening pleasantries, the
hysterical woman's sobs, in his ears, he seemed to have


reached a dreadful continuity of evil in man ; or not so
much of evil as of cruel faith in an unreal good.

They burnt a woman in Dorciiester in 1700. They
ducked scolds tliere in 1030. They branded a woman in
London in IT")!. In mj' own life-time, not a quarter of a
century ago, 1 iiave heard " rougli nuisic " administered,
and the skimmity-riding of " The Mayor of Casterbridgo "
is only just obsolete. I have seen an otherwise humane
fisherman in tiic last year or so set his dog to worry live
crabs, and laugh hilariously when a claw or leg was tugged
off. Perhaps eternal beauty needs that face-to-face know-
ledge of beastliness. " O God of battles, steel my soldiers'
hearts. ..."


" In this channel under a marblo stone doe lye tlio bodies of Francis
Clialdecot Esq., and Edith his wife, younger daut'. and coheiro of
William Cluddccot of Quanvllstou. in Dorset, esq., who wore hlx^ralcon-
stant lioiLst<koo|X<rsi ; bountiful ii'leivoi's of the pooro ; carefuU breedei-s
of tlieir childn'U in pioly and vertue ; diligt nt and devout comers to
the church, though it wore very painfull uuto tlioin in tlieir l;itti»r
times, by means of agi> and other iuluniity : 53 yeart\s and upwartLs
tliey lovingly lived in cliast wedlocko, and had issue 15 children,
whereof 3 sons and 7 daughters came to mature age, and wore most
of them in the life times of their parents matdied into ancient familii s
of worship, most of them having fayro Issues.

"Thus having lived to seo their children to ye third goneration, they
meekly dyed in ye feare and favor of their God.

" He on Thurstlay ye 19th of May, 103li, aged 85. She en Thursday yo
23 August, 1038, aged 75."

Epitaph in Steeple Church, Isle of Purbeck.

"A.D. 1588. A letter to Sir Richard Rogers, Knij^'lit, and otiiors the
Commy8ion(ors) appointed for the Musters in the Isle of Purbecke,
that where(ivi) their Lordships are given to uiiderstand that divers
persons of Imbylytio that have landes in the said Islo had of
abriontod them selves from thenco, antl did dwell uppon their own
livingos in other partes of the Iloalmo, whereby bothe that Inland
(lx>ing a place of no small iiM|)ortHnc(>) wi\s imfurnished of men of
habylytie aiul calling, and did want the succor of that necessary
contrybucion for publiquo services : therefore they were required
and aiu-thoryzod by vertuo hereof to cause such a reasonable taxo
and chanlgc to 1x3 laied and luvycd upon the landes of soche pei-sons
80 absenting them selves and not resydent there, as should bo fytt
to bo imi>loyed uppon muskettes and other necessary provysion."

AcU of the Privy Council of Emjland. New Series, \\A. X\'l.

" O eloquent, just and mighty death, whom none could advue, thou hast
|)or8Uii<iod ; what none hath presiuneil, thou hast done ; and whom
all the world hath flatten'd, tliou hast ctist out of the world and
deH|)Lst!<l ; thou hast drawn together all tho extravagant gr»>,
all the pritlo, cruelly and amljition rjf man, and covered all over with
two narrow words : I lie jacct."


The lli«turij of tht World.





N I2R^Dsr^octJ'

Litfoix Cderwry^.

THE Cardinal Archbishoi) who set up the briglit-
hued roof in Bere church was in many ways like
great men of other times. He had eminent
virtues of statecraft and administration. He brought two
sovereigns — Margaret and Henry VII — to England from
overseas : he was the rightly trusted advist^r of each. He
encouraged the young Thomas More, and saw in him signs
of future greatness. He held many livings (several at once,
a8 a rule) and filled many high offices. But the life he had
lived in Dorset was soon to vanish and not return. If he
could have hjoked into the future, he might have said, with
Mr. Turveydrop, " We gentlemen are few : I see nothing to
succeed us but a race of weavers."

It would have been a curiously apt statement. ['\>v one
great change in country life that came in with the Tudois
was due in a large measure to the development of the cloth



industry. It was due also to other causes which will be
mentioned. But under Henry VIII the sheep emerged to
give rural England wealth, and to consolidate the growing
tendency to the holding of private property in land.

Henry VIII himself took note of that tendency. In the
preamble to an Act of his twenty-fifth year of rule, he
complained of the way in which his subjects were scheming
" how they might accumulate and gather together into few
hands, as well great multitude of farms as great plenty of
cattle, and in especial sheep." A few years earlier he had
observed that " vagabonds and beggars have of long time
increased and daily do increase," and he initiated the long
series of vagrancy laws.

It is not certain that the noble creature of the Dorset
hills to-day was itself one of the agents of this change.
But the Dorset Horn sheep — the Dorset Down being appar-
ently a later breed — is as least very ancient, very famous,
very strong ; so strong and fierce-looking, at times, that
delicate females have been observed to show fear in the
presence even of the ewes. The lady sheep has horns and
a Roman nose, and a great thickset body. See how haughtily
she looks down that nose at you, with what menacing pride
she draws herself up to confront you. She fears nor man
nor dog. Let the terrier approach, she stands superb :
she frowns, she stamps her foot : she stamps it again.
If the terrier quails, she chases him. But if, after the manner
of terriers, he blench not. . . .

I once saw about three hundred of these gracious dames in
a big green valley. They were fussing together like a swarm
of ants. I could not understand why, until I caught sight
of what looked like a bright brown leaf blown about round
the flock. The leaf danced methodically ; and when its
caperings had got the sheep neatly herded in a dense mass,
it stood at the end of the valley and regarded them triumph-
antly, its plumed tail waving over its back like a banner ;
for it was a small and infinitely pugnacious Lion Dog of


No, the Dorset ewe is not reallj' braver than other sheep,
though handsomer. But the ram is another matter. He is
a great barrel of a fellow, with a head like a buU's. And he
is not content with the simple Ionic curve of his spouses'
horns : he has coil upon coil gloriously AVToathed.

The offspiing of these mates (whose hardy vigour often
produces two families in a year) are perhaps the most
interesting lambs known to oiu* fortunate isles. Not only
are they delicious food ; they are Nature's most successful
attempt to live up to Art. The ideal lamb of Art, of course,
is the woolly toy of the nursery. The Dorset lamb is an
excellent imitation of it. Its nascent horns give it the
breadth of forehead necessary to make the features at once
perfectly innocent and perfectly foolish. Its eyes are small
and properly overshadowed by wool, its nose a mere pink
speck in a white plain. It ought to be mounted on a little
crimson stand with wheels, and to squeak when pinched.
I have never pinched one, but its bleat is thin, in contrast
to the deep poignant voice of its mother.*

But the land-grabbers of the sixteenth centiu'y were not
concerned with the aesthetics of sheep-keeping. They had
too many interests for that. The Dissolution of the
Monasteries brought wealth to many of the sovereign's
supporters ; and they had a very good idea of business.
I do not find the days of great Elizabeth particularly
spacious : as a rule they are intensely concent rat-ed, and
often narrow. What an Elizabethan Englishman did was
UHuaily for his own advantage, and he did it with all his
might. And he certainly, if ho had the means, was " a
liberal constant housekeeper," like Chaldecot of .Steeple.
I am not sure that tiie Elizabethan and Jacobean manor-
houses are not finer survivals of the best life of the time
than all but the greatest of its literature.

Dorwt is peculiarly rich in such houses. Oi tiiose not
to be dwelt upon much hereafter Athelhampton (begun
perhaj)s in 1.j()3), Crunborne, tiie house of the Cecils (of much

• Cf. Elizubcth Trig.


the same period), Melbury, whose builder is shown in a brass
of 1532 in the church close by, Poxwell (Jacobean), Mapper-
ton (late sixteenth century — a most lovely secluded house),
Parnham (one of the largest and most beautiful buildings
in the stone and red-brick Tudor style), Chantmarle (1619
— lately restored to its old perfection), and Bingham's
Melcombe (Henry VIII, for the most part, but older in places)
rouse feelings much like those Butler experienced, in a
different way, in the presence of the cathedrals : their
builders must have been right in any conclusions they
reached about life. And scores of little hidden farms, of
the same period and of the same inspiration, but now en-
joying no manorial rights, add to the conviction that nothing
in the way of the adaptation of beauty to the then domestic
life remained to be learnt by the Tudor landowners.

It is a reflection on our life of to-day that whereas a
house built by a newly enriched person at any time in the
present or just past generation is more than likely to be
vulgar, the homes built by the new rich of Henry and
Elizabeth and James cannot have seemed seriously in con-
trast with the abbeys out of whose stones they were so often
constructed. The monastic buildings were noble models.
The stone was good and well cut. It was put to many
uses, for habitations of all kinds, as has been said already.
I wonder what sort of queer pride a man who had made a
fortune felt when he saw the material of the former sacred
foundation rising, block by block, into the cosy mansion
in which he and his wife (or his second or third wife) would
eat their enormous rich spiced meals and beget their ten
or twenty children ?

Yet when the first vigour of our renaissance had gone, the
uglier side of it shows. A Dorset parson throws a little
personal light, on the change. Thomas Bastard, born at
Blandford in 1566, Vicar of Bere Regis and Rector of Aimer
for most of his adult life, wrote a book of epigrams —
Chrestoleros — of more than average merit. He suffered
himself, it seems, from poverty : an epistle of 1603 (accord-


ing to his adinirAble editor, Dr. Grosart) addressed to King
James I. spe<iks of his " extremo poverty and toiling
wTetchedness." In an epigram on a chance meeting with a
" wantcatcher," ho puns upon the double meaning of the
mole's old name : —

" ' Then you have left no more ? ' 'No more ? ' quoth ho,
' Sir, I can show you more : the more the worse.'
And to his work he went. But 'twould not be —
For all the wants were crept into my purse.

' Farewell, friend wanttatther, since 'twill not be —
Thou canst not catch the wants, but they catch mc.'

In another he speaks of his needing £100, and being
unable to make it by his books.* There may have been
good reason for his poverty. Dr. Grosart thinks he was " a
genial, not to say jovial parson, after the type of Robert
Herrick." He seems to have been unhappily married, and
his end was lamentable : " being towards his latter end
crazed, and thereupon brought into debt, (he) was at length
committed to the prison in AUhallows parish in Dorchester,"
and what that means the baiting of the alleged lunatic
Malvolio may suggest — " where dying very obscurely and
in a mean condition, he was biu-ied in the church-yard
belonging to that parish on 19th April, 1G18." An unkind
brother epigrammatist ^\Tote to him that : —

" Preaching would do more good
If preachers wallowed less in flesh and blood."

And as a young man he got into trouljlo at Oxford and had
to resign his ffllowsiiip of Now College, " being much guilty
of the viccH belonging to poets, and addicted to libelling."

But whatever his virtues or vices, he loved Dorset and
its " green joy," and above all the good trout-fishing at
Boro.f And he evidently was on intimate terms with tho

• On Feb. 0, 1U22, u Hinglo copy of tho first edition of Chrmtulcron, ono
of four or live known fopicH, w«im hoM iit Sutheby'a to tho rt'preiieiitutivo
of a grwut Ainoricikii bouk colh-ctor for £!.'>.">.

t " My lit til- JVp' <1w«-11h on li hill,

Under who8o foot tlio ailvor trout doth Bwini."


local gentry — Strangways and Moretons. He saw little
good in the new order : he foresaw a wonderful scarcity

" Of bankers and bakers, of all such as brew

Of tanners, of tailors, of smiths and the rest — "

because they would all have become gentlemen. And

again : —

" Never so many masters any knew.
And so few gentlemen in such a crew,
Never so many houses, so small spending.
Never such store of coin, so little lending.

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Online LibraryF. J. Harvey (Frederick Joseph Harvey) DartonThe marches of Wessex, a chronicle of England → online text (page 10 of 28)