Robert Naylor.

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hay round it, and kept it in his cottage, and then returned it to the

About this time England was like a house divided against itself, for the
barons had revolted against King Edward II. A battle was again fought at
Boroughbridge on June 22nd, 1322, between the rebel army led by the
Earls of Lancaster and Hereford, and the King's forces who were pursuing
them. They were obliged to retreat over the bridge, which at that time
was built of wood; but when they reached it, they found another part of
the King's army of whose presence they were unaware, so they had to
fight for the possession of the bridge. During the fight a Welshman,
armed with a long spear, and who was hidden somewhere beneath the
bridge, contrived to thrust his spear through an opening in the timbers
right into the bowels of Humphrey de Bohun, the Earl of Hereford, who
fell forward mortally wounded. Thus died one of the most renowned
warriors in England. The Earl of Lancaster made a final effort to cross
the bridge, but his troops gave way and fled, the Earl taking refuge in
the old chapel of Boroughbridge, from which he was dragged, stripped of
his armour, and taken to York. Thence he was conveyed to his own castle
at Pontefract, and lowered into a deep dungeon, into which, we were
told, when we visited that castle later, he had himself lowered others,
and soon afterwards he was condemned to death by the revengeful Edward,
who had not forgotten the Earl's share in the death of his favourite,
Piers Gaveston. Mounted on a miserable-looking horse, amidst the gibes
and insults of the populace, he was led to the block, and thus died
another of England's famous warriors.


Needless to relate, we had decided to visit York Minster as our next
great object of interest after Fountains Abbey, and by accident rather
than design we had in our journey to and from York to pass over two
battle-fields of first importance as decisive factors in the history of
England - viz., Marston Moor and Towton Field. Marston Moor lay along our
direct road from Aldborough to York, a distance of about sixteen miles.
Here the first decisive battle was fought between the forces of King
Charles I and those of the Parliament. His victory at Marston Moor gave
Cromwell great prestige and his party an improved status in all future
operations in the Civil War. Nearly all the other battles whose sites we
had visited had been fought for reasons such as the crushing of a
rebellion of ambitious and discontented nobles, or perhaps to repel a
provoked invasion, and often for a mere change of rulers. Men had fought
and shed their blood for persons from whom they could receive no
benefit, and for objects in which they had no interest, and the country
had been convulsed and torn to pieces for the gratification of the
privileged few. But in the Battle of Marston Moor a great principle was
involved which depended en the issue. It was here that King and People
contended - the one for unlimited and absolute power, and the other for
justice and liberty. The iron grasp and liberty-crushing rule of the
Tudors was succeeded by the disgraceful and degrading reign of the
Stuarts. The Divine Right of Kings was preached everywhere, while in
Charles I's corrupt and servile Court the worst crimes on earth were
practised. Charles had inherited from his father his presumptuous
notions of prerogative and Divine Right, and was bent upon being an
absolute and uncontrolled sovereign. He had married Henrietta, the
daughter of the King of France, who, though possessed of great wit and
beauty, was of a haughty spirit, and influenced Charles to favour the
Roman Catholic Church as against the Puritans, then very numerous in
Britain, who "through the Bishop's courts were fined, whipt, pilloried,
and imprisoned, so that death was almost better than life."

[Illustration: JOHN HAMPDEN.]

A crisis had to come, and either one man must yield or a whole nation
must submit to slavery. The tax named "Ship Money," originally levied in
the eleventh century to provide ships for the Navy, was reintroduced by
Charles in 1634 in a very burdensome form, and the crisis came which
resulted in the Civil War, when Hampden, who resided in the
neighbourhood of the Chiltern Hills, one of the five members of
Parliament impeached by Charles, refused to pay the tax on the ground
that it was illegal, not having been sanctioned by Parliament. He lost
his case, but the nation was aroused and determined to vindicate its
power. Hampden was killed in a small preliminary engagement in the early
stages of the war. The King was supported by the bulk of the nobility,
proud of their ancient lineage and equipments of martial pomp, and by
their tenants and friends; while the strength of the Parliamentary Army
lay in the town population and the middle classes and independent
yeomanry: prerogative and despotic power on the one hand, and liberty
and privilege on the other. The Royal Standard was raised at Nottingham
and the din of arms rang through the kingdom. The fortress of Hull had
been twice besieged and bravely defended, and the drawn Battle of
Edgehill had been fought. In the early part of 1644 both parties began
the war in earnest. A Scottish army had been raised, but its advance had
been hindered by the Marquis of Newcastle, the King's commander in the
north. In order to direct the attention of Newcastle elsewhere, Lord
Fernando Fairfax and Sir Thomas his son, who had been commissioned by
Parliament to raise forces, attacked Bellasis, the King's Yorkshire
Commander, and Governor of York, who was at Selby with 2,000 men, and
defeated them with great loss, capturing Bellasis himself, many of his
men, and all his ordnance. Newcastle, dismayed by the news, hastened to
York and entered the city, leaving the Scots free to join Fairfax at
Netherby, their united forces numbering 16,000 foot and 4,000 horse.
These partially blockaded York, but Newcastle had a strong force and was
an experienced commander, and with a bridge across the River Ouse, and a
strong body of horse, he could operate on both sides of the stream; so
Crawford, Lindsey, and Fairfax sent messengers to the Earl of
Manchester, who was in Lincolnshire, inviting him to join them. He
brought with him 6,000 foot and 3,000 horse, of the last of which Oliver
Cromwell was lieutenant-general. Even then they could not invest the
city completely; but Newcastle was beginning to lose men and horses, and
a scarcity of provisions prevailed, so he wrote to the King that he must
surrender unless the city could be relieved. Charles then wrote to
Prince Rupert, and said that to lose York would be equivalent to losing
his crown, and ordered him to go to the relief of York forthwith.

[Illustration: PRINCE RUPERT.]

Rupert, the son of Frederick V, Elector of Bavaria, and a nephew of
Charles I, was one of the most dashing cavalry officers in Europe. He
lost no time in carrying out his commission, and in a few days Newcastle
received a letter saying that he was stabling his horses that same night
at Knaresborough, and that he would be at York the following day,
Rupert's own horse being stabled that same night in the church at
Boroughbridge. The news was received with great rejoicings by the
besieged garrison and the people in York, but spread dismay amongst the
besiegers, who thought York was about to capitulate. To stay in their
present position was to court disaster, so they raised the siege and
encamped on Hessey Moor, about six miles away, in a position which
commanded the road along which Rupert was expected to travel. But by
exercise of great military skill he crossed the river at an unexpected
point and entered York on the opposite side. The Prince, as may be
imagined, was received with great rejoicings; bells were rung, bonfires
lighted, and guns fired, and the citizens went wild with triumphant
excitement. Difficulties arose, however, between Newcastle, who was a
thoughtful and experienced commander, and Rupert, who, having relieved
the city, wanted to fight the enemy at once. As he scornfully refused
advice, Newcastle retired, and went with the army as a volunteer only,
Meantime there were dissensions among the Parliamentary generals, who
were divided in their opinions - the English wishing to fight, and the
Scots wishing to retreat. They were all on their way to Tadcaster, in
search of a stronger position, when suddenly the vanguard of Rupert
reached the rearguard of the other army at the village of Long Marston.
This division of the retreating army included their best soldiers, and
was commanded by Leslie and two other brave men, Sir Thomas Fairfax and
Oliver Cromwell. Their rearguard halted, and, seeing the plain covered
with pursuers, they sent word to the generals who had gone on in front,
asking them to return and take possession of the dry land of the Moor,
which was higher than that occupied by the Royalist army. Oliver
Cromwell had already risen in the opinion of the army by his conduct in
Lincolnshire, and he was dreaded by the Royalists, for he had already
shown his ability to command. Stalwart and clumsy in frame, he had an
iron constitution, and was a bold and good rider and a perfect master of
the broadsword then in use. He had also a deep knowledge of human
nature, and selected his troopers almost entirely from the sons of
respectable farmers and yeomen, filled with physical daring and
religious convictions, while his own religious enthusiasm, and his
superiority in all military virtues, gave him unbounded power as a

What heroes from the woodland sprung
When through the fresh awakened land
The thrilling cry of freedom rung.
And to the work of warfare strung
The Yeoman's iron hand.

The generals who had gone on in front now returned with their men to the
assistance of their rearguard, and the whole army was brought into
position on the high ground in the middle of the day, July 2nd, 1644.
The position was a good one, sloping down gradually towards the enemy.
The Royalist army numbered about 23,500 men, and that of the Parliament
slightly more. It must have been a wonderful sight to see these 50,000
of the best and bravest men the kingdom could produce, ready to wound
and kill each other. The war-cry of the Royalists was "God and the
King," and that of the others was "God with us" - both sides believing
they were fighting for the cause of religion. There were curses on one
side and prayers on the other, each captain of the Parliament prayed at
the head of his company and each soldier carried a Bible bearing the
title "The Souldier's Pocket Bible, issued for use in the Commonwealth
Army in 1643." It only consisted of fifteen pages of special passages
that referred particularly to the soldier's life and temptations.
Cromwell stood on the highest point of the field - the exact position,
locally know as "Cromwell's Gap," was pointed out to us - but at the time
of the great battle it was covered with a clump of trees, of which now
only a few remained. The battle, once begun, raged with the greatest
fury; but Cromwell and his "Ironsides" (a name given to them because of
their iron resolution) were irresistible, and swept through the enemy
like an avalanche; nothing could withstand them - and the weight of their
onset bore down all before it. Their spirit could not be subdued or
wearied, for verily they believed they were fighting the battles of the
Lord, and that death was only a passport to a crown of glory.
Newcastle's "White Coats," a regiment of thoroughly trained soldiers
from the borders of Cheshire and Wales, who would not retreat, were
almost annihilated, and Prince Rupert himself only escaped through the
superior speed of his horse, and retired into Lancashire with the
remains of his army, while Newcastle and about eighty others fled to
Scarborough, and sailed to Antwerp, leaving Sir Thomas Glemham, the
Governor of York, to defend that city. But as most of his artillery had
been lost at Marston Moor, and the victors continued the siege, he was
soon obliged to surrender. He made a very favourable agreement with the
generals of the Parliamentarian forces, by the terms of which,
consisting of thirteen clauses, they undertook to protect the property
and persons of all in the city, not plunder or deface any churches or
other buildings, and to give a safe conduct to officers and men - who
were to march out with what were practically the honours of war - as far
as Skipton.

The agreement having been signed by both parties on July 16th, 1644, Sir
Thomas Glemham, with his officers and men, marched out of the city of
York with their arms, and "with drums beating, colours flying, match
lighted, bullet in mouth, bag and baggage," made for Skipton, where they
arrived safely. The Battle of Marston Moor was a shock to the Royalist
cause from which it never recovered.

[Illustration: YORK MINSTER.]

From Marston Moor we continued along the valley of the River Ouse until
we arrived at the city of York, which Cromwell entered a fortnight after
the battle; but we did not meet with any resistance as we passed through
one of its ancient gateways, or "bars." We were very much impressed with
the immense size and grandeur of the great Minster, with its three
towers rising over two hundred feet in height. We were too late to see
the whole of the interior of this splendid old building, but gazed with
a feeling of wonder and awe on one of the largest stained-glass windows
in the world, about seventy feet high, and probably also the oldest, as
it dated back about five hundred years. The different scenes depicted in
the beautiful colours of the ancient glass panels represented every
important Biblical event from the Creation downwards. We were surprised
to find the window so perfect, as the stained-glass windows we had seen
elsewhere had been badly damaged. But the verger explained that when the
Minster was surrendered to the army of the Commonwealth in the Civil
War, it was on condition that the interior should not be damaged nor any
of the stained glass broken. We could not explore the city further that
afternoon, as the weather again became very bad, so we retreated to our
inn, and as our sorely-tried shoes required soling and heeling, we
arranged with the "boots" of the inn to induce a shoemaker friend of his
in the city to work at them during the night and return them thoroughly
repaired to the hotel by six o'clock the following morning. During the
interval we wrote our letters and read some history, but our room was
soon invaded by customers of the inn, who were brought in one by one to
see the strange characters who had walked all the way from John o'
Groat's and were on their way to the Land's End, so much so that we
began to wonder if it would end in our being exhibited in some show in
the ancient market-place, which we had already seen and greatly admired,
approached as it was then by so many narrow streets and avenues lined
with overhanging houses of great antiquity. We were, however, very
pleased with the interest shown both in ourselves and the object of our
walk, and one elderly gentleman seemed inclined to claim some sort of
relationship with us, on the strength of his having a daughter who was a
schoolmistress at Rainford village, in Lancashire. He was quite a jovial
old man, and typical of "a real old English gentleman, one of the olden
time." He told us he was a Wesleyan local preacher, but had developed a
weakness for "a pipe of tobacco and a good glass of ale." He said that
when Dick Turpin rode from London to York, his famous horse, "Black
Bess," fell down dead when within sight of the towers of the Minster,
but the exact spot he had not been able to ascertain, as the towers
could be seen from so long a distance. York, he said, was an older city
than London, the See of York being even older than that of Canterbury,
and a Lord Mayor existed at York long before there was one in London. He
described the grand old Minster as one of the "Wonders of the World." He
was very intelligent, and we enjoyed his company immensely.

[Illustration: YORK MINSTER.]

[Illustration: MICKLEGATE BAR, YORK.]

[Illustration: STONE GATE, YORK.]

York was the "Caer Ebranc" of the Brigantes, where Septimus Severus, the
Roman Emperor, died in A.D. 211, and another Emperor, Constantius, in
306. The latter's son, who was born at York, was there proclaimed
Emperor on the death of his father, to become better known afterwards as
Constantine the Great. In A.D. 521 King Arthur was said to have spent
Christmas at York in company with his courtiers and the famous Knights
of the Round Table; but Geoffrey of Monmouth, who recorded this, was
said to have a lively imagination in the way of dates and perhaps of
persons as well. It is, however, certain that William the Conqueror
built a castle there in 1068, and Robert de Clifford a large tower.

(_Distance walked sixteen miles_.)

_Wednesday, October 25th._

The boots awoke us early in the morning, only to say that he had sent a
messenger unsuccessfully into the town for our shoes; all the
consolation he got was that as soon as they were finished, his friend
the shoemaker would send them down to the hotel. It was quite an hour
after the time specified when they arrived, but still early enough to
admit of our walking before breakfast round the city walls, which we
found did not encircle the town as completely as those of our county
town of Chester. Where practicable we explored them, and saw many
ancient buildings, including Clifford's Tower and the beautiful ruins of
St. Mary's Abbey. We also paid a second visit to the ancient
market-place, with its quaint and picturesque surroundings, before
returning to our inn, where we did ample justice to the good breakfast
awaiting our arrival.

[Illustration: MONK BAR, YORK.]

We left the City of York by the same arched gateway through which we had
entered on the previous day, and, after walking for about a mile on the
Roman road leading to Tadcaster, the CALCARIA of the Romans and our next
stage, we arrived at the racecourse, which now appeared on our left.
Here we entered into conversation with one of the officials, who
happened to be standing there, and he pointed out the place where in
former years culprits were hanged. From what he told us we gathered that
the people of York had a quick and simple way of disposing of their
criminals, for when a man was sentenced to be hanged, he was taken to
the prison, and after a short interval was placed in a cart, to which a
horse was attached, and taken straightway to the gallows. Here a rope
was suspended, with a noose, or running knot, at the end, which was
placed round the culprit's neck, and after other preliminaries the
hangman saw to it that the man's hands were securely handcuffed and the
noose carefully adjusted. At a given signal from him the cart was drawn
from under the man's feet, leaving him swinging and struggling for
breath in the air, where he remained till life was extinct. The judge
when passing the death-sentence always forewarned the prisoner what
would happen to him, and that he would be taken from there to the
prison, and thence to the place of execution, "where you will be hanged
by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead." Why he repeated the last
word over and over again we could not explain. It was spoken very
solemnly, and after the first time he used it there was a pause, and
after the second, a longer pause, and then came the third in an almost
sepulchral tone of voice, while a death-like silence pervaded the court,
each word sounding like an echo of the one before it:
dead! - dead!! - dead!!! Perhaps, like the Trinity, it gave a sense of

[Illustration: ST. MARY'S ABBEY, YORK.]

The executions in those days were public, and many people attended them
as they would a fair or the races; and when held outside the towns, as
at York, a riotous mob had it in its power either to lynch or rescue the
prisoner. But hangings were afterwards arranged to take place on a
scaffold outside the prison wall, to which the prisoner could walk from
the inside of the prison. The only one we ever went to see was outside
the county gaol, but the character of the crowd of sightseers convinced
us we were in the wrong company, and we went away without seeing the
culprit hanged! There must have been a great crowd of people on the York
racecourse when Eugene Aram was hanged, for the groans and yells of
execration filled his ears from the time he left the prison until he
reached the gallows and the cart was drawn from under him, adding to the
agony of the moment and the remorse he had felt ever since the foul
crime for which he suffered. As we stood there we thought what an awful
thing it must be to be hanged on the gallows.[Footnote: In later years
we were quite horrified to receive a letter from a gentleman in
Yorkshire who lived in the neighbouring of Knaresborough in which he
wrote: "I always feel convinced in my own mind that Eugene Aram was
innocent. Note these beautiful lines he wrote the night before his

"Come, pleasing rest! eternal slumber fall,
Seal mine, that once must seal the eyes of all;
Calm and composed, my soul her journey takes,
No _guilt_ that _troubles_, and no _heart_ that _aches_!
Adieu, thou sun! all bright like her arise;
Adieu, fair friends! and all that's good and wise.

"I could give you," he added, "the most recent thoughts and opinions
about the tragedy, and they prove beyond doubt his innocence!"]

But, like other dismal thoughts, we got rid of it as soon as possible by
thinking how thankful we should be that, instead of being hanged, we
were walking through the level country towards Tadcaster, a Roman
station in the time of Agricola.

From some cause or other we were not in our usual good spirits that day,
which we accounted for by the depression arising from the dull autumnal
weather and the awful histories of the wars he had been reading the
previous night. But we afterwards attributed it to a presentiment of
evil, for we were very unfortunate during the remainder of the week.
Perhaps it is as well so; the human race would suffer much in
anticipation, did not the Almighty hide futurity from His creatures.


Just before reaching Tadcaster we crossed the River Wharfe, which we had
seen higher up the country, much nearer its source. Here we turned to
the left to visit Pontefract, for the sole reason, for aught we knew,
that we had heard that liquorice was manufactured there, an article that
we had often swallowed in our early youth, without concerning ourselves
where or how that mysterious product was made. It was quite a change to
find ourselves walking through a level country and on a level road, and
presently we crossed the River Cock, a small tributary of the Wharfe,
close by the finely wooded park of Grimstone, where Grim the Viking, or
Sea Pirate, settled in distant ages, and gave his name to the place; he
was also known as "the man with the helmet." We then came to the small
hamlet of Towton, where on the lonely heath was fought the Battle of
Towton Field, one of the most bloody battles recorded in English
history. This great and decisive battle was fought in the Wars of the
Roses, between the rival Houses of York and Lancaster, for the
possession of the English Crown - a rivalry which began in the reign of
Henry VI and terminated with the death of Richard III at the Battle of
Bosworth Field. It has been computed that during the thirty years these
wars lasted, 100,000 of the gentry and common people, 200 nobles, and 12
princes of the Royal Blood were killed, all this carnage taking place
under the emblems of love and purity, for the emblem or badge of the
House of Lancaster was the red rose, and that of York the white. The
rivalry between the two Houses only came to an end when Henry VII, the
Lancastrian, married the Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward IV,
the Yorkist. The Battle of Towton, like many others both before and
since, was fought on a Sunday, which happened to be Palm Sunday in the
year 1461, and the historian relates that on that day the "heavens were
overcast, and a strong March wind brought with it a blinding snowstorm,
right against the faces of the Lancastrians as they advanced to meet the
Yorkists, who quickly took advantage of the storm to send many furious
showers of arrows from their strong bows right into the faces of the
Lancastrians, causing fearful havoc amongst them at the very outset of

Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 31 of 66)