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dark, brought us to Aspatria, but in the interval we had passed Brayton
Hall, the residence of Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Bart., M.P., the leader of
the Legislative Temperance Movement for the abolition of the Liquor
Traffic, and who, at a later date, was said to be the wittiest member of
the House of Commons. As Chairman of the United Kingdom Alliance, that
held its annual gatherings in the great Free Trade Hall in Manchester, a
building capable of seating 5,000 persons, so great was his popularity
that the immense building, including the large platform, was packed with
people long before the proceedings were timed to begin, there being left
only sufficient space for the chairman and the speakers. The interval
before the arrival of these gentlemen was whiled away by the audience in
singing well-known hymns and songs, and on one occasion, when Sankey and
Moody's hymns had become popular, just as the people were singing
vociferously the second line of the verse -

See the mighty host advancing,
Satan leading on!

[Illustration: CARLISLE CASTLE]

Sir Wilfrid appeared on the platform followed by the speakers. His ready
wit seized the humour of the situation, and it is said that he was so
deeply affected by this amusing incident that it took him a whole week
to recover! As a speaker he never failed to secure the attention and
respect of his audience, and even of those in it who did not altogether
agree with his principles. As an advocate of the total suppression of
the Liquor Traffic, on every occasion his peroration was listened to
with almost breathless attention, and concluded in an earnest and
impressive manner which left a never-to-be-forgotten impression upon
those who heard it, the almost magic spell by which he had held the vast
audience being suddenly broken, as if by an electric shock, into
thunders of applause when he recited his favourite verse. We can hear
his voice still repeating the lines:

Slowly moves the march of ages,
Slowly grows the forest king,
Slowly to perfection cometh
Every great and glorious thing!

It was 8 p.m. as we entered Aspatria, where we found lodgings for the
night at Isaac Tomlinson's. We expected Aspatria, from its name, to have
had some connection with the Romans, but it appeared to have been so
called after Aspatrick, or Gospatrick, the first Lord of Allerdale, and
the church was dedicated to St. Kentigern. The Beacon Hill near the town
was explored in 1799, and a vault discovered containing the skeleton of
a gigantic warrior seven feet long, who had been buried with his sword,
dagger, gold bracelet, horse's bit, and other accoutrements dating from
the sixth century.

We had passed a small village near our road named Bromfield, which was
said to possess strong claims to have been the site of the Battle of
Brunanburch, fought in the year 937, when Anlaf, King of Dublin, formed
a huge confederacy with the King of the Scots, the King of Strathclyde,
and Owen, King of Cumbria, against Athelstan, King of England, by whom,
however, they were signally defeated; but we afterwards came to a place
a long way further south which also claimed to have been the site of
that famous battle.

According to the following record, however, our native county of Chester
appeared to have the strongest claim to that distinction:

It is not actually certain where the Battle of Brunanburch was
fought, but it is by all historians said to have taken place in the
Wirral Peninsula about the site where Bromborough is now situated.
The Battle took place in 937 A.D., and it was here that Athelstan
defeated the united forces of Scotland, Cumberland, and the British
and Danish Chiefs, which is recorded in the Saxon Chronicle in a
great war song. The name given in the Chronicle is Brunesburgh, but
at the time of the Conquest it was called Brunburgh.

The fleet set sail from Dublin under the command of the Danish King
Anlaf or Olaf to invade England. He had as his father-in-law,
Constantine, King of the Scots, and many Welsh Chieftains supported
him. They made good their landing but were completely routed by King
Athelstan, Grandson of Alfred, as stated above.

It is more than probable that Anlaf sailing from Dublin would come over
to England by the usual route to the havens opposite, near the great
roadstead of the Dee estuary.

One must not forget that the sea has made great ravages upon this coast,
destroying much ground between Wallasey and West Kirby, though
compensating for it in some measure by depositing the material in the
estuary itself in the shape of banks of mud and sand. Nor must one
overlook the existence of the old forest of Wirral, which stretched, as
the old saying ran -

From Blacon Point to Hilbre
Squirrels in search of food
Might then jump straight from tree to tree.
So thick the forest stood!

Chester was held by the king, for the warlike daughter of Alfred,
Ethelfleda, had rebuilt it as a fort after it had been lying in waste
for generations, and had established another at Runcofan, or Runcorn. It
was natural, therefore, for Anlaf to avoid the waters protected by
Athelstan's fleet and seek a landing perhaps at the old Roman
landing-place of Dove Point, near Hoylake, or in the inlet now carved
into the Timber Float at Birkenhead. Norse pirates had made a settlement
here beforehand, as the place names, Kirby, Calby, Greasby, and
Thorstaston, seem to indicate.

Bromborough would be just the spot for a strategist like Athelstan to
meet the invader, trying to force a way between the forest and the
marshes about Port Sunlight. This old port at Dove Point has been washed
away, though many wonderful relics of Roman and earlier times have been
found there, and are safely housed in the Chester Museum. Once again it
was used for the embarking of the army under William III, when he sailed
for Ireland to meet the late king, James II, in battle.

When Chester began to lose its trade through the silting up of its
harbour, about the reigns of the Lancastrian kings, it became necessary
to sail from lower down the estuary, Parkgate being in the best position
and possessing a quay, while Dawpool was also frequently used. But a
good port was necessary, because Ireland was frequently in rebellion,
and troops were usually passed over the channel from this region.

Parkgate was most prosperous in the eighteenth century, but the
construction of the great Irish road through Llangollen to Holyhead, and
of a good coach road from Warrington to Liverpool, and the later
development of railways caused its decline, until in our time it was
only known for its shrimps and as the headquarters of a small coast
fleet of fishing-boats.

It was to Dawport, or Darport, that Dean Swift usually sailed from
Dublin at the beginning of the eighteenth century for his frequent
visits to his brother wits, Addison and Steele. It was strange how many
common sayings of to-day were his in origin such as, "There is none so
blind as they that won't see," and, "A penny for your thoughts." Like
many witty people, he must needs have his little joke. He was made Dean
of St. Patrick's, Dublin, in 1713, and was accustomed to preach there
each Sunday afternoon, and was said to have preached on the same subject
on sixteen consecutive occasions. On making his seventeenth appearance
he asked the congregation if they knew what he was going to preach
about. Most of them answered "Yes," while others replied "No." "Some of
you say Yes," said the Dean, "and some of you say No. Those who know,
tell those who don't know," and he immediately pronounced the
benediction and left the pulpit!

At Chester he was accustomed to stay at the "Yacht Inn" in Watergate
Street, the old street of Roman origin, which led westwards to the river
beneath the River Gate. A dean is a dean, and his dignity must be
preserved in a Cathedral city. Of a Dean of Chester of the early
nineteenth century it is recounted that he would never go to service at
the Cathedral except in stately dignity, within his stage coach with
postillions and outriders, and would never even take his wife with him
inside. Dean Swift probably announced his arrival to his brother of
Chester as one king announces his approach to another king. But the
story goes that a great cathedral function was on and no one came to
welcome the great man. Perhaps there was a little excuse, for most
likely they had suffered from his tongue. But, however much they might
have suffered, they would have hurried to see him had they foreseen his
revenge. And perhaps a poor dinner had contributed to the acidity of his
mind when he scratched on one of the windows the following verse:

Rotten without and mouldering within.
This place and its clergy are all near akin!

It is a far cry from the battle of Brunanburch to Dean Swift, but the
thought of Anlaf took us back to Ireland, and Ireland and Chester were
closely connected in trade for many centuries.

So it was with thoughts of our homeland that we retired for the night
after adding another long day's walk to our tour.

(_Distance walked thirty-two and a half miles_.)


_Saturday, October 14th._

The long, straggling street of Aspatria was lit up with gas as we passed
along it in the early morning on the road towards Maryport, and we
marched through a level and rather uninteresting country, staying for
slight boot repairs at a village on our way. We found Maryport to be
quite a modern looking seaport town, with some collieries in the
neighbourhood. We were told that the place had taken its name from Mary
Queen of Scots; but we found this was not correct, as the name was given
to it about the year 1756, after Mary the wife of Humphrey Senhouse, the
Lord of the Manor at that period, the first house there apart from the
old posting-house, having been built in the year 1748. For centuries
there had been a small fishing-village at the mouth of the river, which
in the time of Edward I was named Ellenfoot, while the river itself was
named the Alne, now corrupted into Ellen. Maryport was of some
importance in the time of the Romans, and their camp, about five
acres in extent, still overlooked the sea. It was probably founded by
Agricola about A.D. 79, and in A.D. 120 was the station of the Roman
Fleet under Marcus Menaeius Agrippa, Admiral of the Roman Fleet in
British Waters, and a personal friend of Hadrian. The Roman name of the
station was probably Glanoventa, though other names have been suggested.
The North-east Gateway was more distinct than other portions of the
camp, the ruts made by the chariot wheels of the Romans being still
visible inside the threshold. The Roman village in those days covered
the four fields on the north-east side of the camp, and since the
seventeenth century about forty Roman altars had been found, seventeen
of them having been discovered in 1870, the year before our visit. They
had been carefully buried about 300 yards east of the camp, and were
discovered through a plough striking against one of them. Among them
were altars to Jupiter, Mars, Virtue, Vulcan, Neptune, Belatucadrus,
Eternal Rome, Gods and Goddesses, Victory, and to the Genius of the
Place Fortune, Rome. In addition there were twelve small or household
altars, querns, Roman millstones, cup and ring stones, a large,
so-called, serpent stone, and several sepulchral slabs, sculptures, etc.
There were also large quantities of Samian and other pottery, and
articles in glass, bronze, lead, and iron, with about 140 coins, many of
these remains being unique. This wonderful discovery proved that the
Romans were resident here right up to the end of their occupation of
Britain, as the coins bore the names of thirty-two Roman Emperors. The
altars themselves were buried where they were found probably before A.D.
200. It is well known that their soldiers were drafted from many other
nations, and there is distinct evidence that amongst others the first
cohort of Spaniards appeared to have been prominent, while the Legionary
Stones were of the Second and Twentieth Legions, the latter being
stationed for a long time at Chester and moved to the north of England
in the latter half of the fourth century.

[Illustration: ALTAR STONES. "Roman remains found at Maryport, and
dating probably about or before A.D. 200."]

[Illustration: ALTAR STONES. "Among them were altars to Jupiter, Mars,
Vulcan, household altars, and legionary stones."]

[Illustration: THE SERPENT STONE.]

The Roman ships carried stores here from Deva, their station on the
Dee, now known as Chester, for the use of the builders of Hadrian's
Wall, so that Maryport ought to be a happy hunting-ground for
antiquaries. After the departure of the Romans, Maryport must have been
left to decay for over a thousand years, and it seemed even now to be a
place that very few tourists visited. Netherhall, where most of the
antiquities were carefully stored, was originally a Peel Tower, and up
to the year 1528 was the home of the Eaglesfields and the reputed
birthplace of Robert Eaglesfield, the founder of Queen's College,
Oxford; it was now in possession of the Senhouse family. There was also
the Mote Hill, overlooking the river and surrounded by a deep ditch,
under the protection of which the Roman galleys anchored.

A romantic legend of the period of the Roman occupation still clings to
the neighbourhood, called the Legend of the Golden Coffin:

The daughter of one of the Roman officers was loved by a young
warrior from the other side of the Solway. Their trysting-place was
discovered by the girl's father, who had a number of soldiers with
him, and in spite of the entreaties of the girl, her lover was
killed. With his death the maiden had no desire to live; night after
night she made her way to the fatal spot, where she was eventually
found, having died of a broken heart. The father prepared a wonderful
funeral for her. Her body was arranged in silken garments, and then
placed in a golden coffin and buried in a deep grave just outside the
camp, where her spirit was still supposed to haunt the place at
midnight.

On the sea coast a sunken forest existed, while the shore was covered
with granite boulders of many sizes and shapes, and large numbers of
similar stones were ploughed up in the fields, all apparently ice-borne,
and having been carried mostly from Criffel on the Scottish coast, and
the following legend was told here to explain their presence on the
English side of the Solway.

There once lived a giant on Criffel which was on the opposite coast of
the Solway Firth, while another giant lived on Skiddaw, one of the
highest mountains in Cumberland. For a time they lived in peace and
quietness, but an occasion came when they quarrelled. Then they took up
stones and hurled them at each other; but many of them fell short, and
hence they are now widely scattered.

[Illustration: WORDSWORTH'S BIRTHPLACE, COCKERMOUTH.]

We now returned towards the hills and followed what was once a Roman
road through a level country to Cockermouth, passing on our way through
the colliery village of Dearham, a name meaning the "home of wild
animals"; but we saw nothing wilder than a few colliers. The church
here was built in 1130, while the tower was built in the fourteenth
century for defence against the Scotch marauders. There were many old
stones and crosses in the churchyard. Cockermouth, as its name implies,
is situated at the mouth of the River Cocker, which here joins its
larger neighbour the River Derwent, and has been called the Western Gate
of the Lake District. Here also were Roman, Saxon, and Norman remains.
The castle, standing in a strong position between the two rivers, was
rebuilt in the reign of Edward I, and in Edward II's time his haughty
favourite, Piers Gaveston, resided in it for a short period. It was held
for the king during the Civil War, but was left in ruins after an attack
by the Parliamentarians in 1648. The Gateway Tower displayed many coats
of arms, and there was the usual dungeon, or subterranean chamber, while
the habitable portion of the castle formed the residence of Lord
Leconfield. The poet, William Wordsworth, was born at Cockermouth on
April 7th, 1770, about a hundred years before we visited it, and one of
his itinerary poems of 1833 was an address from the Spirit of
Cockermouth Castle:

Thou look'st upon me, and dost fondly think,
Poet! that, stricken as both are by years,
We, differing once so much, are now compeers,
Prepared, when each has stood his time, to sink
Into the dust. Erewhile a sterner link
United us; when thou in boyish play,
Entered my dungeon, did'st become a prey
To soul-appalling darkness. Not a blink
Of light was there; and thus did I, thy Tutor,
Make thy young thoughts acquainted with the grave;
While thou wert chasing the winged butterfly
Through my green courts; or climbing, a bold suitor,
Up to the flowers whose golden progeny
Still round my shattered brow in beauty wave.

[Illustration: COCKERMOUTH CASTLE]

Mary Queen of Scots stayed at Cockermouth on the night of May 17th,
1568 - after the defeat of her army at Langside - at the house of Henry
Fletcher, a merchant, who gave her thirteen ells of rich crimson velvet
to make a robe she badly needed.

[Illustration: PORTINSCALE.]

The weather turned out wet in the afternoon, so we stayed for tea at one
of the inns in the town, and noted with curiosity that the number of the
inhabitants in Cockermouth was 7,700 at one census, and exactly the same
number at the next, which followed ten years afterwards. The new moon
was now due, and had brought with it a change in the weather, our long
spell of fine weather having given place to rain. We did not altogether
agree with our agricultural friends in Cheshire that it was the moon
that changed the weather, but it would be difficult to persuade the
farmers there to the contrary, since the changes in the weather almost
invariably came with the phases in the moon; so, without venturing to
say that the moon changed the weather or that the weather changed the
moon, we will hazard the opinion that the same influences might
simultaneously affect both, and the knowledge that we were approaching
the most rainy district in all England warned us to prepare for the
worst. The scenery improved as we journeyed towards Keswick, the "City
of the Lakes," but not the weather, which continued dull and rainy,
until by the time we reached the British stronghold known as Peel Wyke
it was nearly dark. Here we reached Bassenthwaite Lake, four miles long
and one mile broad, and had it not been for the rain and the darkness we
might have had a good view across the lake of Skiddaw Mountain, 3,054
feet above sea-level and towards the right, and of Helvellyn, a still
higher mountain, rising above Derwent Water, immediately in front of us.
We had seen both of these peaks in the distance, but as the rain came on
their summits became enveloped in the clouds. We walked about three
miles along the edge of Bassenthwaite Lake, passing the villages of
Thornthwaite and Braithwaite, where lead and zinc were mined. On
arriving at Portinscale we crossed the bridge over the River Derwent
which connects that lake (Derwent Water) with Bassenthwaite Lake through
which it flows, and thence, past Cockermouth, to the sea at Workington.
Soon after leaving Portinscale we arrived at Keswick, where we were
comfortably housed until Monday morning at the Skiddaw Hotel, formerly a
licensed house, but since converted into a first-class temperance house
by Miss Lawson, the sister of Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Bart., M.P.

(_Distance walked twenty-eight miles_.)


_Sunday, October 15th._

Rain had fallen heavily during the night, but the weather cleared up a
little as we wended our way to morning service at Crosthwaite Church,
dedicated to St. Kentigern, a Bishop of Glasgow, in the sixth century,
and doing duty, we supposed, as the parish church of Keswick. The font
there dated from the year 1390, and bore the arms of Edward III, with
inscriptions on each of its eight sides which we could not decipher. In
the chancel stood an alabaster tomb and effigy of Sir John Radcliffe and
his wife, ancestors of the Earl of Derwentwater. The church also
contained a monument to Southey the poet, erected at a cost of £1,100,
and bearing the following epitaph written by the poet Wordsworth:

The vales and hills whose beauty hither drew
The poet's steps, and fixed him here, on you
His eyes have closed! And ye, lov'd books, no more
Shall Southey feed upon your precious lore,
To works that ne'er shall forfeit their renown.
Adding immortal labours of his own -
Whether he traced historic truth, with zeal
For the State's guidance, and the Church's weal
Or fancy, disciplined by studious art,
Inform'd his pen, or wisdom of the heart.
Or judgements sanctioned in the Patriot's mind
By reverence for the rights of all mankind.
Wide were his aims, yet in no human breast
Could private feelings meet for holier rest.
His joys, his griefs, have vanished like a cloud
From Skiddaw's top; but he to heaven was vowed.
Through his industrious life, and Christian faith
Calmed in his soul the fear of change and death.

We attended the same church in the afternoon, and both the sermons were
preached by the curate, his texts being Deut. vi. 5 in the morning and
Hebrews iv. 3 in the afternoon. We were surprised to see such large
congregations on a wet day, but concluded that the people were so
accustomed to rain in that part of the country that they looked upon it
as a matter of course. The people of Keswick evidently had other views
as regards church-going than is expressed in the following lines by an
author whose name we do not remember:

No pelting rain can make us stay
When we have tickets for the play;
But let one drop the side-walk smirch.
And it's too wet to go to church.

At the morning service we sat in a pew in the rear of the church, and at
one point in the service when it was usual in that part of the country
for the congregation to sit down, one gentleman only remained standing.
We could scarcely believe our own eyes when we recognised in this
solitary figure the commanding form of Colonel Greenall of the
Warrington Volunteers, a gentleman whom we know full well, for his
brother was the rector of Grappenhall, our native village, where the
Colonel himself formerly resided.

He was a great stickler for a due recognition of that pleasing but
old-fashioned custom now fallen out of use, of the boys giving the
rector, the squire, or any other prominent member of their families a
respectful recognition when meeting them in the village or on their
walks abroad. On one occasion the boys had forgotten their usual
obeisance when meeting some relatives of the Colonel. He was highly
indignant at this sin of omission, and took the earliest opportunity to
bring the matter forcibly before his Sunday-school class, of which my
brother was a member. The Colonel spoke long and feelingly to the boys
on the subject of ordering themselves lowly and reverently before all
their "betters," including governors, teachers, spiritual pastors and
masters, and to all those who were put in authority over them, and wound
up his peroration with these words, which my brother never forgot, "And
now, boys, whenever you meet ME, or any of MY FAMILY, mind you always
touch your HATS!"

[Illustration: CROSTHWAITE CHURCH, KESWICK.]

We did not stop to speak to the Colonel, as he was at the other end of
the church and passed out through another door, but we were recognised
by one of his men, who told us the Colonel had only just removed to that
neighbourhood. He had liked his summer's experiences there, but did not
know how he would go on in the winter. The Colonel and his man were the
only persons we saw on the whole of our journey that we knew.

To return to our boyish experiences and to the Colonel, the subject of
his Sunday-school lesson was taken from the Summary of the Ten
Commandments in the Church of England Prayer Book, where they were
divided into two parts, the first four relating to our duty to God, and
the remaining six to our duty towards our neighbour. It was surprising
how these questions and answers learned in the days of our youth dwelt
in our memories, and being Sunday, we each wrote them down from memory
with the same result, and we again record them for the benefit of any of
our friends who wish to "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest."

"_Question_. - What is thy duty towards God?



Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 24 of 66)