We retired to rest early. Our last week's walk was below the average,
and we hoped by a good beginning to make up the mileage during the
coming week, a hope not to be fulfilled, as after events proved.
SIXTH WEEK'S JOURNEY
A WEEK OF AGONY
_Monday, October 23rd._
We left Pateley Bridge at seven o'clock in the morning, and after
walking about two miles on the Ripley Road, turned off to the left along
a by-lane to find the wonderful Brimham rocks, of which we had been
told. We heard thrashing going on at a farm, which set us wondering
whether we were on the same road along which Chantrey the famous
sculptor walked when visiting these same rocks. His visit probably would
not have been known had not the friend who accompanied him kept a diary
in which he recorded the following incident.
They were walking towards the rocks when they, like ourselves, heard the
sound of thrashing in a barn, which started an argument between them on
their relative abilities in the handling of the flail. As they could not
settle the matter by words, they resolved to do so by blows; so they
made their way to the farm and requested the farmer to allow them to try
their hand at thrashing corn, and to judge which of them shaped the
better. The farmer readily consented, and accompanied them to the barn,
where, stopping the two men who were at work, he placed Chantrey and his
friend in their proper places. They stripped for the fight, each taking
a flail, while the farmer and his men watched the duel with smiling
faces. It soon became evident that Chantrey was the better of the two.
The unequal contest was stopped, much to the chagrin of the keeper of
the diary, by the judge giving his verdict in favour of the great
sculptor. This happened about seventy years before our visit, but even
now the old-fashioned method of thrashing corn had not yet been ousted
by steam machinery, and the sound of the flails as they were swung down
upon the barn floors was still one of the commonest and noisiest that,
during the late autumn and winter months, met our ears in country
When the time came for the corn to be thrashed, the sheaves were placed
on the barn floor with their heads all in the same direction, the
binders which held them together loosened, and the corn spread out. Two
men were generally employed in this occupation, one standing opposite
the other, and the corn was separated from the straw and chaff by
knocking the heads with sticks. These sticks, or flails, were divided
into two parts, the longer of which was about the size of a
broom-handle, but made of a much stronger kind of wood, while the other,
which was about half its length, was fastened to the top by a hinge made
of strong leather, so that the flail was formed into the shape of a
whip, except that the lash would not bend, and was as thick as the
handle. The staff was held with both hands, one to guide and the other
to strike, and as the thrashers were both practically aiming at the same
place, it was necessary, in order to prevent their flails colliding,
that one lash should be up in the air at the same moment that the other
was down on the floor, so that it required some practice in order to
become a proficient thrasher. The flails descended on the barn floors
with the regularity of the ticking of a clock, or the rhythmic and
measured footsteps of a man walking in a pair of clogs at a quickstep
speed over the hard surface of a cobbled road. We knew that this
medi√¶val method of thrashing corn would be doomed in the future, and
that the old-fashioned flail would become a thing of the past, only to
be found in some museum as a relic of antiquity, so we recorded this
description of Chantrey's contest with the happy memories of the days
when we ourselves went a-thrashing corn a long time ago!
[Illustration: GENERAL VIEW OF BRIMHAM ROCKS.]
What Chantrey thought of those marvellous rocks at Brimham was not
recorded, but, as they covered quite fifty acres of land, his friend,
like ourselves, would find it impossible to give any lengthy description
of them, and might, like the auctioneers, dismiss them with the
well-known phrase, "too numerous to mention."
To our great advantage we were the only visitors at the rocks, and for
that reason enjoyed the uninterrupted services of the official guide, an
elderly man whose heart was in his work, and a born poet withal.
[Illustration: THE DANCING-BEAR ROCK.]
The first thing we had to do was to purchase his book of poems, which,
as a matter of course, was full of poetical descriptions of the
wonderful rocks he had to show us - and thoroughly and conscientiously
he did his duty. As we came to each rock, whether we had to stand below
or above it, he poured out his poetry with a rapidity that quite
bewildered and astonished us. He could not, of course, tell us whether
the rocks had been worn into their strange forms by the action of the
sea washing against them at some remote period, or whether they had been
shaped in the course of ages by the action of the wind and rain; but we
have appealed to our geological friend, who states, in that emphatic way
which scientific people adopt, that these irregular crags are made of
millstone grit, and that the fantastic shapes are due to long exposure
to weather and the unequal hardness of the rock. Our guide accompanied
us first to the top of a great rock, which he called Mount Pisgah, from
which we could see on one side a wilderness of bare moors and mountains,
and on the other a fertile valley, interspersed with towns and villages
as far as the eye could reach. Here the guide told my brother that he
could imagine himself to be like Moses of old, who from Pisgah's lofty
height viewed the Promised Land of Canaan on one side, and the
wilderness on the other! But we were more interested in the astonishing
number of rocks around us than in the distant view, and when our guide
described them as the "finest freak of nature of the rock kind in
England," we thoroughly endorsed his remarks. We had left our luggage at
the caretaker's house, which had been built near the centre of this
great mass of stones in the year 1792, by Lord Grantley, to whom the
property belonged, from the front door of which, we were told, could be
seen, on a clear day, York Minster, a distance of twenty-eight miles as
the crow flies. As may be imagined, it was no small task for the guide
to take us over fifty acres of ground and to recite verses about every
object of interest he showed us, some of them from his book and some
from memory. But as we were without our burdens we could follow him
quickly, while he was able to take us at once to the exact position
where the different shapes could be seen to the best advantage. How long
it would have taken that gentleman we met near Loch Lomond in Scotland
who tried to show us "the cobbler and his wife," on the top of Ben
Arthur, from a point from which it could not be seen, we could not
guess, but it was astonishing how soon we got through the work, and were
again on our way to find "fresh fields and pastures new."
[Illustration: THE HIGH ROCK.]
We saw the "Bulls of Nineveh," the "Tortoise," the "Gorilla," and the
"Druids' Temple" - also the "Druids' Reading-desk," the "Druids' Oven,"
and the "Druid's Head." Then there was the "Idol," where a great stone,
said to weigh over two hundred tons, was firmly balanced on a base
measuring only two feet by ten inches. There was the usual Lovers' Leap,
and quite a number of rocking stones, some of which, although they were
many tons in weight, could easily be rocked with one hand. The largest
stone of all was estimated to weigh over one hundred tons, though it was
only discovered to be movable in the year 1786. The "Cannon Rock" was
thirty feet long, and, as it was perforated with holes, was supposed to
have been used as an oracle by the Ancients, a question asked down a
hole at one end being answered by the gods through the priest or
priestess hidden from view at the other. The different recesses, our
guide informed us, were used as lovers' seats and wishing stones. The
"Frog and the Porpoise," the "Oyster Rock," the "Porpoise's Head," the
"Sphinx," the "Elephant and Yoke of Oxen," and the "Hippopotamus's Head"
were all clearly defined. The "Dancing Bear" was a splendidly shaped
specimen, and then there was a "Boat Rock," with bow and stern complete.
But on the "Mount Delectable," as our guide called it, there was a very
romantic courting and kissing chair, which, although there was only room
for one person to sit in it at a time, he assured us was, in summer
time, the best patronised seat in the lot.
We remunerated him handsomely, for he had worked hard and, as "England
expects," he had done his duty. He directed us to go along a by-lane
through Sawley or Sawley Moor, as being the nearest way to reach
Fountains Abbey: but of course we lost our way as usual. The Brimham
Rocks were about 1,000 feet above sea-level, and from them we could see
Harrogate, which was, even then, a fashionable and rising inland
watering-place. Our guide, when he showed us its position in the
distance, did not venture to make any poetry about it, so we quote a
verse written by another poet about the visitors who went there:
Some go for the sake of the waters -
Well, they are the old-fashioned elves -
And some to dispose of their daughters,
And some to dispose of themselves.
But there must be many visitors who go there to search in its bracing
air for the health they have lost during many years of toil and anxiety,
and to whom the words of an unknown poet would more aptly apply:
We squander Health in search of Wealth,
We scheme, and toil, and save;
Then squander Wealth in search of Health,
And only find a Grave.
We live! and boast of what we own!
We die! and only get a STONE!
[Illustration: FOUNTAINS AND THE RIVER SKELL.]
[Illustration: FOUNTAINS ABBEY. "How grand the fine old ruin appeared,
calmly reposing in the peaceful valley below."]
[Illustration: THE CLOISTERS, FOUNTAINS ABBEY. "Many great warriors were
buried beneath the peaceful shade of Fountains Abbey."]
[Illustration: THE NAVE]
Fortunately we happened to meet with a gentleman who was going part of
the way towards Fountains Abbey, and him we accompanied for some
distance. He told us that the abbey was the most perfect ruin in
England, and when we parted he gave us clear instructions about the way
to reach it. We were walking on, keeping a sharp look out for the abbey
through the openings in the trees that partially covered our way, when
suddenly we became conscious of looking at a picture without realising
what it was, for our thoughts and attention had been fixed upon the
horizon on the opposite hill, where for some undefined reason we
expected the abbey to appear. Lo and behold, there was the abbey in the
valley below, which we might have seen sooner had we been looking down
instead of up. The effect of the view coming so suddenly was quite
electrical, and after our first exclamation of surprise we stood there
silently gazing upon the beautiful scene before us; and how grand the
fine old ruin appeared calmly reposing in the beautiful valley below! It
was impossible to forget the picture! Why we had expected to find the
abbey in the position of a city set upon a hill which could not be
hid we could not imagine, for we knew that the abbeys in the olden times
had to be hidden from view as far as possible as one means of protecting
them from warlike marauders who had no sympathy either with the learned
monks or their wonderful books. Further they required a stream of water
near them for fish and other purposes, and a kaleyard or level patch of
ground for the growth of vegetables, as well as a forest - using the word
in the Roman sense, to mean stretches of woodland divided by open
spaces - to supply them with logs and with deer for venison, for there
was no doubt that, as time went on, the monks, to use a modern phrase,
"did themselves well." All these conditions existed near the magnificent
position on which the great abbey had been built. The river which ran
alongside was named the Skell, a name probably derived from the Norse
word _Keld_, signifying a spring or fountain, and hence the name
Fountains, for the place was noted for its springs and wells, as -
From the streams and springs which Nature here contrives,
The name of Fountains this sweet place derives.
[Illustration: THE GREAT TOWER]
The history of the abbey stated that it was founded by thirteen monks
who, wishing to lead a holier and a stricter life than then prevailed in
that monastery, seceded from the Cistercian Abbey of St. Mary's at York.
With the Archbishop's sanction they retired to this desolate spot to
imitate the sanctity and discipline of the Cistercians in the Abbey of
Rieval. They had no house to shelter them, but in the depth of the
valley there grew a great elm tree, amongst the branches of which they
twisted straw, thus forming a roof beneath which they might dwell. When
the winter came on, they left the shelter of the elm and came under that
of seven yew-trees of extraordinary size. With the waters of the River
Skell they quenched their thirst, the Archbishop occasionally sent them
bread, and when spring came they built a wooden chapel. Others joined
them, but their accession increased their privations, and they often had
no food except leaves of trees and wild herbs. Even now these herbs and
wild flowers of the monks grew here and there amongst the old ruins.
Rosemary, lavender, hyssop, rue, silver and bronze lichens, pale rosy
feather pink, a rare flower, yellow mullein, bee and fly orchis, and
even the deadly nightshade, which was once so common at Furness Abbey.
One day their provisions consisted of only two and a half loaves of
bread, and a stranger passing by asked for a morsel. "Give him a loaf,"
said the Abbot; "the Lord will provide," - and so they did. Marvellous to
relate, says the chronicle, immediately afterwards a cart appeared
bringing a present of food from Sir Eustace Fitz-John, the lord of the
neighbouring castle of Knaresborough, until then an unfriendly personage
to the monks.
[Illustration: "Beneath whose peaceful shades great warriors rest."]
Before long the monks prospered: Hugh, the Dean of York, left them his
fortune, and in 1203 they began to build the abbey. Other helpers came
forward, and in course of time Fountains became one of the richest
monasteries in Yorkshire. The seven yew trees were long remembered as
the "Seven Sisters," but only one of them now remains. Many great
warriors were buried beneath the peaceful shade of Fountains Abbey, and
many members of the Percy family, including Lord Henry de Percy, who,
after deeds of daring and valour on many a hard-fought field as he
followed the banner of King Edward I all through the wilds of Scotland,
prayed that his body might find a resting-place within the walls of
Fountains Abbey. Lands were given to the abbey, until there were 60,000
acres attached to it and enclosed in a ring fence. One of the monks from
Fountains went to live as a hermit in a secluded spot adjoining the
River Nidd, a short distance from Knaresborough, where he became known
as St. Robert the Hermit. He lived in a cave hewn out of the rock on one
side of the river, where the banks were precipitous and covered with
trees. One day the lord of the forest was hunting, and saw smoke rising
above the trees. On making inquiries, he was told it came from the cave
of St. Robert. His lordship was angry, and, as he did not know who the
hermit was, ordered him to be sent away and his dwelling destroyed.
These orders were in process of being carried out, and the front part of
the cave, which was only a small one, had in fact been broken down, when
his lordship heard what a good man St. Robert the Hermit was. He ordered
him to be reinstated, and his cave reformed, and he gave him some land.
When the saint died, the monks of Fountains Abbey - anxious, like most of
their order, to possess the remains of any saint likely to be popular
among the religious-minded - came for his body, so that they might bury
it in their own monastery, and would have taken it away had not a number
of armed men arrived from Knaresborough Castle. So St. Robert was buried
in the church at Knaresborough.
[Illustration: THE BOUNDARY STONE KNARESBOROUGH FOREST.]
St. Robert the Hermit was born in 1160, and died in 1218, so that he
lived and died in the days of the Crusades to the Holy Land. Although
his name was still kept in remembrance, his Cave and Chapel had long
been deserted and overgrown with bushes and weeds, while the overhanging
trees hid it completely from view. But after a lapse of hundreds of
years St. Robert's Cave was destined to come into greater prominence
than ever, because of the sensational discovery of the remains of the
victim of Eugene Aram, which was accidentally brought to light after
long years, when the crime had been almost forgotten and the murderer
had vanished from the scene of his awful deed.
The tragedy enacted in St. Robert's Cave has been immortalised in poetry
and in story: by Lord Lytton in his story of "Eugene Aram" and by Tom
Hood in "The Dream of Eugene Aram." Aram was a man of considerable
attainments, for he knew Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and other languages, and
was also a good mathematician as well as an antiquarian. He settled in
Knaresborough in the year 1734, and among his acquaintances were one
Daniel Clark and another, John Houseman, and these three were often
together until suddenly Daniel Clark disappeared. No one knew what had
become of him, and no intelligence could be obtained from his two
companions. Aram shortly afterwards left the town, and it was noticed
that Houseman never left his home after dark, so they were suspected of
being connected in some way with the disappearance of Clark. It
afterwards transpired that Aram had induced Clark to give a great
supper, and to invite all the principal people in the town, borrowing
all the silver vessels he could from them, on the pretence that he was
short. The plot was to pretend that robbers had got in the house and
stolen the silver. Clark fell in with this plot, and gave the supper,
borrowing all the silver he could. After all was over, they were to meet
at Clark's house, put the silver in a sack, and proceed to St. Robert's
Cave, which at that time was in ruins, where the treasure was to be
hidden until matters had quieted down, after which they would sell it
and divide the money; Clark was to take a spade and a pick, while the
other two carried the bag in turns. Clark began to dig the trench within
the secluded and bush-covered cave which proved to be his own grave, and
when he had nearly finished the trench, Aram came behind and with one of
the tools gave him a tremendous blow on the head which killed him
instantly, and the two men buried him there.
[Illustration: ST. ROBERT'S AND EUGENE ARAM'S CAVE.]
Clark's disappearance caused a great sensation, every one thinking he
had run away with the borrowed silver. Years passed away, and the matter
was considered as a thing of the past and forgotten, until it was again
brought to recollection by some workmen, who had been digging on the
opposite side of the river to St. Robert's Cave, finding a skeleton of
some person buried there. As the intelligence was spread about
Knaresborough, the people at once came to the conclusion that the
skeleton was that of Daniel Clark, who had disappeared fourteen years
before. Although Aram had left the neighbourhood soon after Clark
disappeared, and no one knew where he had gone, Houseman was still in
the town, and when the news of the finding of the skeleton reached him,
he was drinking in one of the public-houses, and, being partly drunk,
his only remark was, "It's no more Dan Clark's skeleton than it's mine."
Immediately he was accused of being concerned in the disappearance of
Clark, and ultimately confessed that Aram had killed Clark, and that
together they had buried his dead body in St. Robert's Cave. Search was
made there, and Clark's bones were found. One day a traveller came to
the town who said he had seen Aram at Lynn in Norfolk, where he had a
school. Officers were at once sent there to apprehend Aram, and the same
Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn,
Through the cold and heavy mist;
And Eugene Aram walked between
With gyves upon his wrist.
Aram was brought up for trial, and made a fine speech in defending
himself; but it was of no avail, for Houseman turned "King's Evidence"
against him, telling all he knew on condition that he himself was
pardoned. The verdict was "Guilty," and Aram was hanged at York in the
[Illustration: ST. ROBERTS CHAPEL.]
Fountains Abbey in its prime must have been one of the noblest and
stateliest sanctuaries in the kingdom. The great tower was 167 feet
high, and the nave about 400 feet long, while the cloisters - still
almost complete, for we walked under their superb arches several times
from one end to the other - were marvellous to see. One of the wells at
Fountains Abbey was named Robin Hood's Well, for in the time of that
famous outlaw the approach to the Abbey was defended by a very powerful
and brave monk who kept quite a number of dogs, on which account he was
named the Cur-tail Friar. Robin Hood and Little John were trying their
skill and strength in archery on the deer in the forest when, in the
words of the old ballad:
Little John killed a Hart of Greece
Five hundred feet him fro,
and Robin was so proud of his friend that he said he would ride a
hundred miles to find such another, a remark -
That caused Will Shadlocke to laugh.
He laughed full heartily;
There lives a curtail fryer in Fountains Abbey
Will beate bothe him and thee.
The curtell fryer, in Fountains Abbey,
Well can a strong bow draw;
He will beate you and your yeomen.
Set them all in a row.
[Illustration: ROBIN HOOD'S WELL, FOUNTAINS ABBEY.]
So Robin, taking up his weapons and putting on his armour, went to seek
the friar, and found him near the River Skell which skirted the abbey.
Robin arranged with the friar that as a trial of strength they should
carry each other across the river. After this had been accomplished
successfully Robin asked to be carried over a second time. But the friar
only carried him part way and then threw him into the deepest part of
the river, or, in the words of the ballad:
And coming to the middle streame
There he threw Robin in;
"And chuse thee, chuse thee, fine fellow,
Whether thou wilt sink or swim."
Robin evidently did not care to sink, so he swam to a willow bush and,
gaining dry land, took one of his best arrows and shot at the friar. The
arrow glanced off the monk's steel armour, and he invited Robin to shoot
on, which he did, but with no greater success. Then they took their
swords and "fought with might and maine":
From ten o' th' clock that very day
Till four i' th' afternoon.
Then Robin came to his knee
Of the fryer to beg a boone.
"A boone, a boone, thou curtail fryer,
I beg it on my knee;
Give me leave to set my horn to my mouth
And to blow blastes three."
The friar consented contemptuously, for he had got the better of the
fight; so Robin blew his "blastes three," and presently fifty of his
yeomen made their appearance. It was now the friar's turn to ask a
"A boone, a boone," said the curtail fryer,
"The like I gave to thee:
Give me leave to set my fist to my mouth
And to whute whues three."
and as Robin readily agreed to this, he sounded his "whues three," and
Halfe a hundred good band-dogs
Came running o'er the lee.
"Here's for every man a dog
And I myself for thee."
"Nay, by my faith," said Robin Hood,
"Fryer, that may not be."
Two dogs at once to Robin Hood did goe.
The one behinde, the other before;
Robin Hood's mantle of Lincoln greene
Offe from his backe they tore.
And whether his men shot east or west.
Or they shot north or south,
The curtail dogs, so taught they were,
They kept the arrows in their mouth.
"Take up the dogs," said Little John;
"Fryer, at my bidding be."
"Whose man art thou," said the curtail fryer,
"Come here to prate to me!"
"I'm Little John, Robin Hood's man.
Fryer, I will not lie.
If thou tak'st not up thy dogs,
I'll take them up for thee."
Little John had a bowe in his hands.