J. M. (James Mason) Hoppin.

Old England : its scenery, art, and people online

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®be fiitoeqftue ptejjjrf CambriDge

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by

James M. Hoppim,

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Connecticut.


The mctive which has chiefly led to the publica-
tion of the following recollections of English travel,
nas been the hope of exerting some little influence
upon our countrymen who go abroad, to induce
them to spend more time in England than they
are commonly inclined to do, and to see that
country more thoroughly, instead of making it a
stepping-stone to the Continent.

There have been heretofore, it is true, good
reasons for this disinclination of Americans to
remain very long in England ; but these rea-
sons do not now exist, or at least to the extent
that they once did. And it hardly need be said,
that there is no country which contains so much
of absorbing interest to a thoughtful American
as Old England ; finding there as he does the
head-springs of the life and power of his own
nation, and in almost every object that his eye
rests upon, seeing that which (a short two cen-
turies ago) formed part of his own history. He


finds there the complement of the life of the New
World. It is especially good for his intensely
active American nature to come in contact with
the slower and graver spirit of England, and it
thereby gains calmness and sobered strength.

I do not profess in these pages to present much
that is new or comprehensive in relation to so well-
known a country as England ; but I have striven
to draw a faithful though rapid picture of the
English portion of the island, going from Tweed-
mouth to Land's End, touching upon nearly every
county, and making the entire circuit of the land.
The English Cathedrals have particularly attracted
me, and I have loved to linger in their majestic
shadows ; and for the sake of younger readers,
some account has been given of the history and
progress of Architecture in England.

I have everywhere spoken with the freedom
which an American is accustomed to exercise upon
all subjects, and yet in no spirit of bitterness oi
hostility, but, on the contrary, in a spirit of rever*
»nce and love for the great land of our fathers.


The publication of this edition affords me the
opportunity to correct a few errors which had
heretofore escaped niy attention, some of which
were brought to my notice by friendly criticism.

A brief Itinerary of travel in England has also
Deen added.

Having been led to think of the common rela-
tions of the two countries of England and America,
it has seemed to me, that in regard to the natural
sympathy which there should be between these na-
tions (notwithstanding it has received rude shocks)
there is nothing, after all, more important than the
familiar fact of a common literature. When we
analyze it, this appears to be the main source of
our most genuine sympathy for England, wher-
ever it exists. Because we read the same English
Bible, and sing the same sweet English hymns •
because we comprehend the words of William
Sliakspeare, John Milton, and John Bunyan ; be-


cause we laugh and weep over the same pagvs
of Hawthorne and Whittier, Thackeray and Dick-
ens, — this is a spiritual bond more profound thar,
commercial ties and international treaties, and
more present and vital than past historic associa-
tions. This is the true fountain of Arethusa which
runs under the sea, and rises on our shores in
bright and living waters. While the two English-
speaking nations are true to the best words of their
best writers, so long they are really one ; but when
they prove disloyal to these words, and grow supine
and atheistic — when they lose the free spirit, the
simple truth and love of their noblest minds, of
their great authors and poets — then they will be
alien and divided.

J. M. H.

N«w Haven, JVor. 1, 1867.


A French writer remarks : " Eien n'est plut
facile que cTSerire sur V Angleterre, rien rC est plus
difficile que la connaitre."

It is indeed a difficult study really to know
England; since, like the races which have blended
in the formation of the English language, the
character of this composite nation has its roots
in the most distant epochs of time and the most
complicated historical circumstances. That is
truly an ancient and profound civilization which
presents such strong contrasts of old and new, of
luxury and pauperism, of the highest Christian
culture and the most impenetrable and almost
pagan ignorance, of oppressive forms of feudal law
ind out-and-out democratic freedom of thought
and action.

I profess to have opened the door of this an-
tique dwelling but a little way and taken just a
Deep within, yet it is ' ; our old home," as Haw-
ihome bluntly styles it, and the grandchildren


have their rights. Many changes had taken place
since my former visit, which I was glad to note
when recently in England. Our good mother,
Britannia, has brushed up her housekeeping of
late years wonderfully. She has added to her
front door in London the splendid " Victoria
Embankment ; " has built the " Charing Cross
Station ; " has procured some rare objects of in-
terest from Ephesus and the East for the British
Museum ; has reared a gorgeous monument to the
memory of the Prince Consort in Hyde Park ;
has reformed her school-system, which so greatly
needed it ; has laid tenderly to rest such noble
children as Thackeray and Kingsley, and buried,
under the arches of Westminster Abbey, the dust
of her brilliant writer, " the historian of libertv."
In this last edition of my little book, which
will probably be the last, but which the public
demand has justified, a careful revision of the
work has been made, and a chapter added, giv-
ing some fresh impressions of a brief sojourn in
England in the month of June of the present

New IIavkn, October, 1877



I. Liverpool to London ....

II. London .

HI. London . . ... ...

IV. Environs of London ....

V. Homes of Arnold and Cowper

VI. Weston Underwood to Cheltenham

VII. Cheltknham, Bristol, and Gloucester

fill. Worcester to Dudley ....

IX. Lichfield to Matlock ....

X. Matlock to Manchester

XL The Lake Country

XII. The Lake Country (continued)


XIV. Home of the Pilgrims . • .

XV. Lincoln to Ely

XVI. The Universities

XVII. London to Folkestone ....

XVIII. Tunbridge Wells to Isle of Wight

XIX. Southampton to Salisbury .

XX. South Devon and Torquay .

XXI. Cornwall and Penzance

XXII. Land's End

XXIII. North Devon and Wells . . .

XXIV. Glastonbury and the Wye

XXV. England Revisited ....
XXVI. Old and New






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Solid, unromantic Liverpool, whose greatness if
entirely of modern growth, though its charter dates
back to the twelfth century, will not detain us ; for
it is too much like Boston, or one of our own large
commercial cities.

Red-walled Chester, also, which is invariably the
next step of an American traveler who longs to see
something of Old England, — something different
from what he sees at home, — has been so often de-
scribed, that I will begin my story at once in the
railway carriage flying out of Chester westward to
Bangor ; for I intend to take my reader to London
around by the way of North Wales, which is by far
the most interesting route, and which, if not taken
at first, is not apt to be passed over upon one's

Emerson calls an English railway carriage, " a
cushioned cannon-ball." There is a wonderfully
smooth rapidity upon an English railway ; and yet
with all this speed, one has a great sense of personal


security. Were the American system of checking
luggage adopted, there would be an improvement.
It depends upon word-of-mouth communication
whether one's trunks go with one and stop with
one ; and thus by mere good luck they are shifted
and passed along. Sometimes a label is pasted, but
at most places one is told that labels are not used ;
for the idea seems to be that the owner himself
should mark, or at least look out for, his own lug-
gage. This may be done for considerable distances,
but it is impracticable for tourists making frequent
stops in the course of a day. It is the best plan for
a traveler in England, to take with him a simple
portmanteau that he can carry in his hand. The
first-class carriage is truly luxurious, light and
splendid with plate-glass sides, and furnished with
capacious springy seats, and with every accommo-
dation for the bestowing of bundles, hats, and um-
brellas. The second-class carriage forms a lament-
able contrast to this ; it is as hard, bare, and un-
^ "omely a box as oak boards can make it ; its seats

are uncushioned, and frequently dirtied by the bas-
kets and boots of railway workmen, market-men,
'V and " tramps." There seems to be little or no dis-
tinction between the second and third class car-
riages excepting in this, that the second-class car-
riages are resorted to by the most respectable peo-
ple, on account of the expensiveness of the first.
But let me say a word of commendation of tha
English railway porters : they are true friends of
the traveler, being easily distinguishable in


erowd from their dress of black velveteen, and ar«
always at the right spot to afford assistance, to re-
lieve one of his parcels, to point out the booking
office, to put the luggage in the right carriage, in
fact to do all that can be done, — and to expect nc
fee for it. I was always tempted to break the strict
letter of the law, and to reward these men for such
efficient service.

On leaving Chester the railway runs along the
artificial canal made for the channel of the Dee.
The river widens toward its mouth into a shallow
bay, forming an enormous bed of shifting sand,
covered grandly with the water at full tide, but
shrinking into dribbling rills and petty ditches at
ebb. As one speeds along he catches distant views
of the Welsh Mountains on the left, and on the
right lies the broad river Dee, and soon the sea it-
self. The green valleys run up into the highlands,
and now and then a castellated mansion, or ruined
tower, or genuine old castle is seen, hanging on the
slope of the hills. The road from about this point
to Bangor is a triumph of engineering skill.
Sometimes the track it* crowded between the
mountains and the sea so narrowly, that in stormy
weather the cars are dashed by the waves. The
tunnels and the tubular and suspension bridges at
Conway are stupendous works. With the solid
piers of the bridges, and the massive old castle
»bove, Conway is a city of the Anakim. After
crossing the bridge here one comes into Caernar-
ronshire, which of all the Welsh counties con


tains the most rugged and characteristic Welsh
scenery. Soon the track runs around the project-
ing rocks of Penmaen-bach and Peninaen-maur,
precipitous crags jutting out like great foreheads
into the sea, and which were the former terror of
travelers. Dr. Johnson records the peril he felt in
climbing the dizzy road which once crept around
their sea-face. Now these formidable crags are
tunnelled, the first cut being six hundred ana thirty
yards long, through flint rock.

Bangor (derived from "ban gor " or the "great
circle," a generic British word for a " religious con-
gregation " or " fraternity ") is situated along a
narrow ravine, with a mountain at its back, and
Beaumaris Bay in front. It is the seat of a bish-
opric, and is one of the oldest centres of a still more
primitive faith ; for here doubtless existed a pure
Christianity before the time of Augustine, the re-
puted apostle of England. A profound spirituality
still characterizes the religion of these Welsh peo-
ple. In their wild mountains and close valleys
they cherish their original faith, traditions, and
language. Three things, according to a Welsh
triad, should a Cymro (Welshman) bear in mind
lest he dishonor them: his father, his country, and
his name Cymro. An older Welsh triad says,
three things are shameful to a Cymro : to look with
one eye, to listen with one ear, to defend with one
hand. Thus a whole-hearted persistency of charac-
ter seems to be the heritage of this stubborn race.

Travelers must be allowed to talk and even


grumble about hotels ; for these are often the only
"interiors" they see, and they sometimes form the
only means strangers have of judging of the style
of living, and of a hundred little things in the com-
mon life of a people. One is made exceedingly
comfortable at a first-class English hotel, but there
is a stiffness about it which is not apt to be found
in the best American or Continental hotels. Sel-
dom is there a public table ; and if the party com-
prise ladies, one is forced, even if staying for a
single day, to take a private parlor. But I am
quite converted to the English private parlor.
After a long day's journey in heat and dust, strug-
gling on with an eager and vexed human current,
to be ushered into one's own room, quiet as a room
at home, furnished often with books and every lux-
ury and comfort, this goes some way toward recom-
pensing the traveler for the exclusiveness of the
thing. He is, it is true, entirely isolated. If his
dearest friend were dying in the next room, he
would not find it out, for seldom is there a registry-
book kept in an English hotel. And one rarely
risks a question to the dignified and taciturn waiter,
with gravity and white cravat enough to be the
Dean of Westminster.

The best En dish hotels have one feature that it
were surely well for us to imitate. They are not
altogether confined to interior magnificence and
showy upholstery, but have generally a pleasant
breathing-space of ornamental grounds and garden
tbout them. In the dry heart of busy cities, there


will be a few flower-beds, a bit of green grass, anJ
walks enough at least to turn around in. At the
" Penryhn Arms " in Bangor, the garden is truly
beautiful. It is laid out in star and crescent shaped
beds, fringed with bright flowers, and the grass is
soft and springy with moss. It slopes oft' toward
the water, commanding a fine view of the harbor,
the entrance of the Menai Strait, the Bay of Beau-
maris, and the opposite mountainous shore of tho
island. When I first saw it, the harbor of Bangor
had a very odd appearance. The tide was out, and
a vast mud-bank swept smoothly and steeply dowr.
to the deeper abyss beyond. The vessels looked as
though they were climbing up this immense hill-
side of mud. Some stood erect ; some were heeled
over ; some were stern-foremost to the sea ; and
some were hitched painfully up sideways upon the
bank. The flags nevertheless were all gallantly


I shall not attempt to describe the remarkable

bridges over the Menai Strait ; but cannot pass by

the view of the Strait itself, and its surroundings,

as seen from the roof of the Britannia Tubular

Bridge. It is an epitome of almost all that is great

in Nature and the works of man.

On the Caernarvon side of the Strait are seen the

craggy mountains of "Wales, that looked blue and

soft in the misty distance, while the hazy morning

Bun filled the spaces between their summits with

that undefined and vapory light which the artist

*oves. Yet their rugged outline, culminating ir


the sharp-pointed cone of Snowdon, could be per-
fectly seen to the southeast. To the south, on the
island itself, was the ancient Druidic grove, in the
midst of whose shadows stood the white walls of
the Plas Newydd, the seat of the Marquis of An-
glesey. More than a hundred feet immediately be-
low, raved and whirled the broad Strait itself; not
a river, nor a sea, but something of both. In some
places it is two miles in breadth, its sides precipi-
tous and its banks thickly wooded. The sea, as if
chafed by its narrow walls, looks petulant and an-
gry, though here and there it is entirely smooth in
back-setting pools. Vessels sailing through the
Strait are at the mercy of the currents and tide ;
now they crowd sail for one bank, and now they
drift like a log to the other. In a storm the scene
must be magnificent, such an ocean race-way as it
is. How the great green billows would leap and
chase each other through the long gorge ! There
is a fisherman's small white house standing on a
low rock almost in the middle of the Strait, which,
with its irregular shape, its lines of fishing-stakes
set around it, and its bold insulated position, is a
picturesque object. The water boils and swirls
around it, and rushes by it with tremendous ra-
pidity. Indeed, this whole channel reminded me
of the formidable gorge of Niagara River just below
the Falls, filled with its vexed, foam-streaked, and
green-colored flood.

At the completion of the central tower of the
' Britannia Tubular Bridge,'' wnich is two hun



ired and thirty feet high, and holds the whol*
structure in its strong hand, Mr. Stephenson said :
" Let them not, any more than himself, and all
wko have been connected with this great work,
forget that whatever may have been, or whatever
may be the ability, science, intelligence, and zeal
brought to bear on the creature's works, it is to the
Creator we should offer praise and thanksgiving ;
for without his blessing on our works, how can we
expect them to prosper ? He fully believed that
Providence had been pleased to smile on the under-
taking, and he hoped that they all with him would
endeavor to obtain those smiles." It is pleasant to
see such a simple faith in a mind devoted to so ma-
terial a science as mechanics. Who can say that
the deep secrets of Nature which such a mind
grasped, were not also the fruit of this faith, just as
truly as if he had thought and labored in purely
spiritual things. Truly they build strong who thus

It is but a short distance of some nine miles by
rail from Bangor to Caernarvon on the Menai
Strait, w T here are the ruins of the majestic castle of
the ancient kings of England, who finally suc-
ceeded in dominating over Wales, partly by force
and partly by politic concession. Height gives the
singular majesty which is so marked in the remains
of Caernarvon Castle ; and some of its loftiest
towers are still perfect to the topmost stone.
There are thirteen of these towers, most of their
•jeing surmounted by tall slim turrets. From th»


water side the aspect of the " Eagle Tower," from
which the broad flag of England floats, is imposing
The principal entrance of the castle has a sober
grandeur that all the changes of time cannot de-
stroy. A featureless statue of King Edward I.
stands above the gateway arch. An area of three
acres is said to be inclosed by the walls. It is a
good place to study the plan and details of an early
mediasval castle built on the largest scale of reo-al
magnificence. The soldiers' quarters, prisons, sta-
bles, granaries, kitchen, servants' rooms, chapel,
royal chambers, banquet hall, jousting yard, can
still be perfectly made out. There seems to have
been a proud and complete separation kept up be-
tween the military and civil depai'tments. But
lord and servant are now one. Jackdaws have
poked their sticks in the windows of queens' cham-
bers ; and it would not be possible for the lightest
maiden's foot to traverse the battlements upon
which kings have walked and mused. Stairways
hang broken midway; the sides of great towers
have rushed down, taking the heart out of them ;
the stone eagles on the turrets of the Eagle Tower
are reduced to black, shapeless, wingless blocks ;
and well has it been called " that worm-eaten keep
of ragged stone." But the walls of this old Ed-
wardean stronghold are still massive, defying time,
though they would be nothing to gunpowder.

The first part of the ride from Caernarvon to
Qanberis, a distance of ten miles, is a slow ascent,
fcnd has no peculiar interest; and yet one has an


opportunity to see the miniature <vhite stone farm-
houses, with their black funereal-looking wooden
porticoes, and the small black Welsh cattle dotting
the hill-sides. The farms appear to be principally
grazing farms, and they become more and more
rocky and unpromising as one approaches the hills,
the stones growing as thick as in a New Hampshire
sheep-pasture. After some five miles, the moun-
tains of the Snowdon range are seen over the lower
hills in advance, rising by one bound in a bold Avail
from the plain ; and through a narrow rock-portal,
like that at Cluses on the way from Geneva to
Chamouni, one enters the mountains. " Snow-
don " is a later Saxon name ; the more ancient
British name of this range is said to signify " Eagle-
rid ge " or " Eagle-crag-ridge." The craggy and


wild characteristics of a mountain pass are now be-
fore and around ; and one soon begins to skirt the
shores of the small twin lakes of Llanberis. These
are insignificant in size, it is true, — rather ponds
than lakes, — but the upper and inner one of some
two miles in length, is a singular sheet of water,
lying smooth and glassy in the shadow of gloomy
and verdureless mountains. The sharp-edged and
splintered character of the slate mountains of Wales
adds to their sombreness, — being almost literallv

7 O J

black, — and when wet glistening and gleaming

7 CT CT o O

fiercely in the sun, and their immense shelving
precipices of sheer rock well atone for their want
of great height ; for a thousand feet of bare Alpine
precipice always looks grander than three thousand


feet of wooded and gentle descent. The view from
the top of Snowdon is said to be one of the noblest
in England, commanding as from a central throne
all of rocky Wales, the sea, the island of Anglesea,
and the highest points of England, Scotland, and
Ireland. And another interest attaches itself to
this broken range of Welsh mountains ; they are
held by the best modern geologists to form the old-
est portion of the island of England. They rose
first of all from the waters ; and around them, as a
solitary nucleus in the ocean of the earliest period
of creation, the rest of the land was gradually
formed. We tread here on the primitive land of
Britain. We are at the head source of her an-
tiquity, before a living thing had appeared.

On the further shore of the lake of Llyn Peris ia
a vast slate quarry scooped out of the mountain
side, and lying open to view, resembling a gigantic
Roman amphitheatre with its regular rows of seats.
A small locomotive puffs and smokes along at the
foot of the Alt Du Mountain, to carry slates to
Caernarvon, whence they are shipped to all parts
of the kingdom, and to America. Slate constitutes
the wood of this region. It shingles the roof, clap-
boards the wall, makes the door, floors the room,
and builds the fence. Tall boards of it, knitted to-
gether with wire, form a very strong, enduring,
and neat style of fence ; so that a farmer could con-

Online LibraryJ. M. (James Mason) HoppinOld England : its scenery, art, and people → online text (page 1 of 33)