Robert Naylor.

From John O'Groats to Land's End online

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For at the bottom of the brow
Where once the "Dove and Olive-Bough"
Offered a greeting of good ale
To all who entered Grasmere Vale;
And called on him who must depart
To leave it with a jovial heart;
There, where the "Dove and Olive-Bough"
Once hung, a poet harbours now,
A simple water-drinking Bard.

When Wordsworth moved to Rydal Mount, this cottage, which had formerly
been a public-house, was taken by that master of English prose, Thomas
de Quincey, author of the _Confessions of an English Opium Eater_.

[Illustration: RYDAL MOUNT.]


Wordsworth had the habit of reciting his poetry aloud as he went along
the road, and on that account the inhabitants thought he was not quite
sane. When Hartley Coleridge, his great friend, asked an old man who was
breaking stones on the road if he had any news, he answered, "Why, nowte
varry partic'lar; only awd Wordsworth's brokken lowse ageean!" (had
another fit of madness). On another occasion, a lady visitor asked a
woman in the village whether Wordsworth made himself agreeable among
them. "Well," she said, "he sometimes goes booin' his pottery about
t'rooads an' t'fields an' tak's na nooatish o' neabody, but at udder
times he'll say 'Good morning, Dolly,' as sensible as owder you or me."

The annual sports held at Grasmere were of more than local interest, and
the Rush-bearing was still kept up, but not quite in the manner
prevalent in earlier centuries. When heating apparatus was unknown in
churches, the rushes were gathered, loaded in a cart, and taken to the
church, where they were placed on the floor and in the pews to keep the
feet of the worshippers warm while they were in the church, being
removed and replenished each year when the rush-bearing festival came
round again. One of our earliest recollections was sitting amongst the
rushes on the floor of a pew in the ancient country church at Lymm in

[Illustration: WORDSWORTH'S GRAVE.]

An item in the Church Book at Grasmere, dating from the seventeenth
century, recorded the cost of "Ye ale bestowed on ye Rush Bearers,"
while in 1830 gingerbread appeared to have been substituted or added as
a luxury to "ye ale."

We passed alongside the pretty lakes of Grasmere and Rydal Water amid
beautiful scenery. Mrs. Hemans, in her sonnet, "A remembrance of
Grasmere," wrote:

O vale and lake, within your mountain urn,
Smiling so tranquilly, and set so deep!
Oft doth your dreamy loveliness return.
Colouring the tender shadows of my sleep.
Your shores in melting lustre, seem to float
On golden clouds from spirit-lands, remote
Isles of the blest: - and in our memory keep
Their place with holiest harmonies. Fair scene
Most loved by Evening and her dewy star!
Oh! ne'er may man, with touch unhallow'd, jar
The perfect music of the charm serene:
Still, still unchanged, may _one_ sweet region wear
Smiles that subdue the soul to love, and tears, and prayer!

On our way to Ambleside we passed Rydal Mount, Wordsworth's residence
until his death in 1850 in the eightieth year of his age. Mrs. Hemans
has described it as "a lovely cottage-like building, almost hidden by a
profusion of roses and ivy." Ambleside was a great centre for tourists
and others, being situated at the head of the fine Lake of Windermere,
to which its admirers were ambitious enough to apply Sir Walter Scott's
lines on Loch Katrine:

In all her length far winding lay
With promontory, creek, and bay,
And islands that impurpled bright
Floated amid the livelier light.
And mountains that like Giants stand
To sentinel enchanted land.

There was a Roman camp which we proposed visiting, and possibly
Helvellyn, but we were compelled for a time to seek refuge in one of the
hotels from the rain. There we met a gentleman, a resident in the
locality, who was what we might describe as a religious enthusiast, for
he had a very exalted opinion of the Vicar of Ambleside, whom he
described as a "Christian man" - a term obviously making distinctions
among vicars with which we heartily agreed. There must have been an
atmosphere of poetry in the Lake District affecting both visitors and
natives, for in a small valley, half a mile from a lonely chapel, stood
the only inn, bearing the strange sign of "The Mortal Man" on which some
native poet, but not Wordsworth, had written:

O Mortal Man, who liv'st on bread,
What is't that makes thy nose so red? -
Thou silly ass, that looks so pale.
It is with drinking Burkett's ale.


Immediately behind Ambleside there was a fearfully steep road leading up
to the head of Kirkstone Pass, where at an altitude of quite 1,400 feet
stood the "Travellers' Rest Inn." In our time walking was the only means
of crossing the pass, but now visitors are conveyed up this hill in
coaches, but as the gradient is so steep in some parts, they are
invariably asked to walk, so as to relieve the horses a little, a fact
which found expression in the Visitors' Book at the "Travellers' Rest"
in the following lines:

He surely is an arrant ass
Who pays to ride up Kirkstone Pass,
For he will find, in spite of talking,
He'll have to walk and pay for walking.

Three parts of Windermere is in Lancashire, and it is the largest and
perhaps the deepest water in the Lake District, being ten and a half
miles long by water, and thirteen miles by road along its shores; the
water is at no point more than two miles broad. It is said to maintain
the same level at the upper end whether it rains or not, and is so clear
that in some places the fish can plainly be seen swimming far beneath
its surface. The islands are clustered together at its narrowest part,
by far the largest being Belle Isle, a finely wooded island with a
mansion in the centre, and a noted stronghold of the Royalists during
the Civil War, at which time it was in the possession of the ancient
Westmorland family of Phillipson. We did not walk alongside Windermere,
but passed by the head of the lake to the old-world village of
Hawkshead, and called at the quaint old-fashioned inn known by the
familiar sign of the "Red Lion." While tea was being prepared we
surveyed the village, and on a stone in the churchyard we found the
following epitaph:

This stone can boast as good a wife
As ever lived a married life,
And from her marriage to her grave
She was never known to mis-behave.
The tongue which others seldom guide,
Was never heard to blame or chide;
From every folly always free
She was what others ought to be.


We had a long talk with the mistress of the inn, who told us that
Wordsworth was educated at the Grammar School in the village, and we
were surprised to hear from her that the Rev. Richard Greenall, whom we
had often heard officiate when he was curate of our native village of
Grappenhall, was now the vicar of Hawkshead. We had quite as exalted an
opinion of him as the gentleman we met at Ambleside had of his vicar.
He was a clergyman who not only read the prayers, but prayed them at the
same time:

I often say my prayers,
But do I ever pray?

and it was a pleasure to listen to the modulations of his voice as he
recited the Lord's Prayer, and especially when repeating that fine
supplication to the Almighty, beginning with the words "Almighty and
most merciful Father." At that time it was not the custom to recite,
read, or sing the prayers in one continual whine on one note (say G
sharp) when offering up supplications to the Almighty - a note which if
adopted by a boy at school would have ensured for him a severe caning,
or by a beggar at your door a hasty and forcible departure. Nor were the
Lessons read in a monotone, which destroys all sense of their full
meaning being imparted to the listeners - but this was in the "good old

[Illustration: CONISTON.]

We had to listen to another version of the story of the two Calgarth
skulls, from which it appeared that the Phillipsons wanted a piece of
land that belonged to Dorothy, the wife of Kraster Cook, who refused to
sell it, although asked repeatedly to do so. Myles Phillipson swore he
would have that land "be they alive or dead." After a quiet interval he
invited Kraster and his wife Dorothy to a feast, and afterwards accused
them of stealing a silver cup. This they strongly denied, but the cup
was found in their house, where it had been purposely hidden by the
squire's orders. Stealing was at that time a capital offence, and as
Phillipson was the magistrate he sentenced them both to death. In the
court-room Dorothy arose, and, glaring at the magistrate, said loudly,
"Guard thyself, Myles Phillipson. Thou thinkest thou hast managed
grandly; but that tiny lump of land is the dearest a Phillipson has ever
bought or stolen; for you will never prosper, neither your breed:
whatever scheme you undertake will wither in your hand; the side you
take will always lose; the time shall come when no Phillipson will own
one inch of land; and while Calgarth walls shall stand, we'll haunt it
night and day - never will ye be rid of us." They were both executed and
their property appropriated, but ever afterwards the Phillipsons had two
skulls for their guests. They were found at Christmas at the head of a
stairway; they were buried in a distant region, but they turned up in
the old house again; they were brazed to dust and cast to the wind; they
were several years sunk in the lake; but the Phillipsons never could get
rid of them. Meanwhile old Dorothy's prophecy came true, and the family
of Phillipson came to poverty and eventually disappeared.

We left Hawkshead by a road leading to Ulverston, for we had decided to
visit Furness Abbey. Had the weather been fine and clear, we should have
had some splendid views, since we had Windermere on one side and
Coniston Water on the other; but the showers continued, and we could not
even see the "Coniston Old Man," although he raised his head to the
height of 2,577 feet above sea-level. We were, in fact, passing through
the district of Seathwaite, where the rainfall is very much heavier than
in any other district in England. We consoled ourselves, however, with
the thought that we could not expect to see fine lakes in a land where
there was no rainfall, and after walking a considerable distance in the
darkness, two weary and rain-soddened pedestrians took refuge for the
remainder of the night in the well-appointed Temperance Hotel at

(_Distance walked twenty-four and a half miles_.)

_Wednesday, October 18th._

Ulverston has been described as the "Key to the Lake District," and
Swartmoor, which adjoined the town, took its name from a German - Colonel
Martin Swart - -to whom the Duchess of Burgundy in 1486 gave the command
of about 2,000 Flemish troops sent to support the pretended title of
Lambert Simnel to the Crown of England. He landed in Ireland, where a
great number of the Irish joined him, and then, crossing over to
England, landed in Furness and marshalled his troops on the moor which
still bears his name, and where he was joined by many other
conspirators. They encountered the forces of King Henry VII near
Newark-on-Trent in June 1487, and after a stubborn fight were defeated,
4,000 men, with all their commanders, being killed.

Ulverston is also associated with George Fox, the founder of the Society
of Friends. He was born in 1624, at Drayton-on-the-Clay, in
Leicestershire, and in 1650 was imprisoned at Derby for speaking
"publickly" in a church after Divine Service, and bidding the
congregation to "_tremble at the Word of God_." This expression was
turned into one of ridicule, and caused the Society of Friends all over
the kingdom to be known as "Quakers." Fox preached throughout the
country, and even visited America. When he came to Ulverston, he
preached at Swartmoor Hall, where he converted Judge Fell and his wife,
after which meetings at the Hall were held regularly. The judge died in
1658, and in 1669, eleven years after her husband's death, Mrs. Fell,
who suffered much on account of her religion, married George Fox, who in
1688 built the Meeting-house at Ulverston. He died two years
afterwards, aged sixty-seven years, at White Hart Court, London, and
was buried in Banhill Fields.

Leaving our bags at the hotel, we walked to Furness Abbey, which,
according to an old record, was founded by King Stephen in 1127 in the
"Vale of the Deadly Nightshade." It was one of the first to surrender to
King Henry VIII at the dissolution of the monasteries, and the Deed of
Surrender, dated April 9th, 1537, was still in existence, by which the
abbey and all its belongings were assigned to the King by the Abbot,
Roger Pile, who in exchange for his high position agreed to accept the
living of Dalton, one of his own benefices, valued at that time at £40
per year. The Common Seal of the abbey was attached to the document, and
represented the Virgin Mary standing in the centre of the circle with
the Infant in her left arm and a globe in her right hand. She stood
between two shields of arms, which were suspended by bundles of
nightshade, and on each of which were represented the three Lions of
England, each shield being supported from the bottom by a monk in his
full dress and cowl. In the foreground in front of each monk was a plant
of the deadly nightshade, and over his head a sprig of the same, while
in the lower part was the figure of a wivern - _i.e._ a viper or dragon
with a serpent-like tail - this being the device of Thomas Plantagenet,
the second Earl of Lancaster, who was highly esteemed by the monks. We
did not notice any nightshade plant either in or near the ruins of the
abbey, but it was referred to in Stell's description of Becan-Gill as

_Hæc vallis unuit olim sibi nomen ab herba Bekan, qua virtuit dulcis
nune, tune sed acerbe; unde Domus nomen Bekangs-Gille claruit._

[Illustration: FURNESS ABBEY]

Although my brother could repeat the first two rules in the Latin
Grammar with their examples, one of which he said meant "The way to
good manners is never too late," he would not attempt the English
translation of these Latin words.

We were the only visitors then at the abbey, no doubt owing to the bad
state of the weather, and we were surprised at the extent and
magnificence of the ruins and the ponderous walls and archways, with
their fine ornamentations, impressive reminders of their past greatness.
In order to get a better view we mounted the adjoining hill, from which
we could see a portion of the rising town of Barrow-in-Furness. We
returned by the footpath alongside the railway, and entered into
conversation with a man who was standing on the line. He informed us
that he was the ganger, or foreman, over the plate-layers on the
railway, and that at one time he had lived in Manchester. He also said
he had joined the Good Templars, who were making headway in
Barrow-in-Furness, where he now resided.

Just before reaching the main road we were somewhat startled to see a
railway train quite near the abbey ruins, and the thought of home, sweet
home, accentuated by the rainy weather, came so strongly upon us that we
asked ourselves the question, "Shall we give in and go home!" We were
only the length of one county away, and about to make a long detour to
avoid going near, yet here was the train waiting that would convey us
thither. What a temptation! But for the circumstance that we had left
our bags at Ulverston our story might have ended here.

Some of the streams over which we passed on our way were quite red in
colour, and the puddles on the muddy roads were just like dark red
paint, indicating the presence of iron ore. We saw several miners, who
told us that they got the ore (known as haematite, or iron oxide) at a
depth of from 90 to 100 yards, working by candle-light, and that they
received about 2s. 6d. per ton as the product of their labour. The ore,
it seemed, filled up large cavities in the mountain limestone. It was
about one o'clock by the time we reached Ulverston again, and we were
quite ready for the good lunch which had been prepared for us.


Leaving Ulverston, we passed the old parish church and entered a
picturesque footpath quite appropriately named the Lover's Walk and
covered with fine trees, through which we had glimpses of Morecambe Bay;
but the lovers had been either driven away by the rain or we were too
early in the day for them to take their walks abroad. We mounted the
Hoad Hill to inspect a lofty monument which had been erected on the top
in the year 1850, in memory of Sir John Barrow. Sir John, the founder of
the great works at Barrow-in-Furness (afterwards Vickers, Sons & Maxim),
the noise of which we had heard in the distance, was a native of the
district, having been born in a small cottage near Ulverston in 1764. He
travelled in China and South Africa, and in 1804 became Secretary to the
Admiralty, a position he held for forty years, during which he took part
in fitting out Lord Nelson's fleet for the Battle of Trafalgar. He also
assisted in promoting the expedition to the Arctic Regions which was
commanded by Sir John Franklin. We were informed that his favourite
saying was: "A man's riches consist not so much in his possessions as in
the fewness of his wants" - a saying we were glad to adopt for ourselves.

We passed through the entrance to the monument, but could see no one
about. On a desk in the entrance-room lay a Visitors' Book, in which we
wrote our names, and then ascended to the top of the monument by a
rather dangerous staircase of over a hundred steps. As the well of the
tower was open from top to bottom the ascent and descent were very risky
for nervous people, and we felt thankful when we reached the foot of the
staircase safely, though disappointed because the weather had prevented
our enjoying the splendid view from the top that we had anticipated. As
we were leaving the monument we met an old man who had charge of it,
carrying some large mushrooms, which he told us he had seen from the top
of the monument, and very fine ones they were too.


But we are forgetting to mention that we had passed through
Dalton - formerly the capital of Furness - where George Romney, the
celebrated painter, was born in 1734. West, the inventor of the key
bugle, the forerunner of the modern cornet, was also a native of
Dalton-in-Furness. As the days were rapidly becoming shorter and the
gloomy weather made them appear shorter still, it was growing quite dark
when we called for tea at a village inn, the sign on which informed us
that it was "Clarke's Arms," and where we were very quickly served in
the parlour. During our tea a tall, haggard-looking man, whose hands
were trembling and whose eyes were bloodshot, entered the room, and
asked us to have a glass each with him at his expense, saying, "I'm
drunken Jim Topping as 'as had aw that heap o' money left him." He
pressed us very hard again and again to have the drink, but we showed
him the tea we were drinking, and we felt relieved when the landlord
came in and persuaded him to go into the other room, where we soon heard
an uproarious company helping "Jim" to spend his "heap o' money" and to
hasten him into eternity. The landlord afterwards informed us that
"Drunken Jim" was a stonemason by trade, and that a relation of his had
just died, leaving him £80,000, as well as some property.


It was dark when we left the inn, and about a mile farther, on the
Kendal road, we saw, apparently crossing the road, a large number of
glowworms, which, owing to the darkness of the night, showed to the best
advantage. So numerous were they that we had great difficulty in getting
over them, for we did not wish to crush any under our feet. We had never
seen more than two or three together before, so it was quite a novel
sight for us to find so many in one place. Presently we arrived at the
entrance to a small village, where our attention was arrested by a great
noise in a building a little distance from the road. The sound of
juvenile voices predominated, and as my brother was a great lover of
children, and especially of girls, as illustrated by a remark he was
partial to - "Girls and flowers are the nicest things that heaven sends
us" - we must needs stop and see what was going on. Climbing up some
steps and passing under some trees, we found, as we had surmised, the
village school. After looking through the windows we entered the
schoolroom, whereupon the noise immediately ceased. We ascertained that
it was the village choir awaiting the arrival of the schoolmistress to
teach them the hymns to be sung in the church on the following Sunday.
My brother insisted that he had come to teach the choir that night, and
went at once to the harmonium, which was unfortunately locked. He said
he would no doubt be able to go on without it, and, having arranged the
choir in order, was just about to commence operations when who should
come in but the schoolmistress herself, causing us to beat a rather
hasty retreat. We groped our way under the trees again and down the
steps, and were quite surprised when suddenly we found ourselves close
to a comfortable inn where we could be accommodated for the night. After
supper we retired to rest, wondering whether we were to pass the night
in Lancashire or Westmorland, for we had no idea where we were, and,
strange to say, we forgot to ask the name of the place when we left in
the morning.

(_Distance walked nineteen miles_.)

_Thursday, October 19th._

We left the inn at eight o'clock in the morning, but the weather still
continued very rainy, and we had often to seek shelter on our way owing
to the heavy showers. Presently we came to a huge heap of charcoal, and
were about to shelter near it when we were told that it was part of the
gunpowder works in the rear, so we hurried away as fast as we could
walk, for we did not relish the possibility of being blown into millions
of atoms. When we reached what we thought was a fairly safe distance, we
took refuge in an outbuilding belonging to a small establishment for
smelting iron, and here we were joined by another wayfarer, sheltering
like ourselves from the rain, which was coming down in torrents. He told
us about the stonemason who had recently had the fortune left to him,
but he said the amount mentioned in the newspaper was £40,000 and not
£80,000, as we had been informed. He wished the money had been left to
him, as he thought he could have put it to better use, for he had been
an abstainer from intoxicating drinks for twelve years, whereas the man
with the fortune, who at the moment was drinking in a beerhouse close
by, had no appetite for eating and would soon drink himself to death.
What the fate of poor "Jim Topping" was we never knew, but we could not
help feeling sorry for him, as he seemed to us one of those good-natured
fellows who are nobody's enemy but their own. The man told us that Jim
was a heavy drinker before he had the fortune left him. He surmised that
the place we had stopped at last night was Haverthwaite in Lancashire.
We saw a book of poems written in the Cumberland dialect, and copied the
first and last verses of one that was about a Robin Redbreast:


Come into mey cabin, reed Robin!
Threyce welcome, blithe warbler, to me!
Noo Siddaw hes thrown a wheyte cap on,
Agean I'll gie shelter to thee!
Come, freely hop into mey pantry;
Partake o' mey puir holsome fare;
Tho' seldom I bwoast of a dainty.
Yet meyne, man or burd sal aye share.

* * * * *

O whoar is thy sweetheart, reed Robin?
Gae bring her frae hoosetop or tree:
I'll bid her be true to sweet Robin,
For fause was a fav'rite to me.
You'll share iv'ry crumb i' mey cabin,
We'll sing the weyld winter away -
I winna deceive ye, puir burdies!
Let mortals use me as they may.

On leaving our shelter, we passed a large mill, apparently deserted, and
soon afterwards reached Newby Bridge, where we crossed the River Leven,
which was rapidly conveying the surplus water from Windermere towards
the sea. Near this was a large hotel, built to accommodate stage-coach
traffic, but rendered unnecessary since the railway had been cut, and
consequently now untenanted. We had already crossed the bridge at the
head of Lake Windermere, and now had reached the bridge at the other

Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 26 of 66)