Robert Naylor.

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the battle. These arrows came as it were from an unknown foe, and when
the Lancastrians shot their arrows away, they could not see that they
were falling short of the enemy, who kept advancing and retreating, and
who actually shot at the Lancastrians with their own arrows, which had
fallen harmlessly on the ground in front of the Yorkists. When the
Lancastrians had nearly emptied their quivers, their leaders hurried
their men forward to fight the enemy, and, discarding their bows, they
continued the battle with sword, pike, battle-axe, and bill. Thus for
nearly the whole of that Sabbath day the battle raged, the huge
struggling mass of humanity fighting like demons, and many times during
that fatal day did the fortune of war waver in the balance: sometimes
the White Rose trembling and then the Red, while men fought each other
as if they were contending for the Gate of Paradise! For ten hours, with
uncertain result, the conflict raged, which Shakespeare compared to "the
tide of a mighty sea contending with a strong opposing wind," but the
arrival of 5,000 fresh men on the side of the Yorkists turned the scale
against the Lancastrians, who began to retreat, slowly at first, but
afterwards in a disorderly flight. The Lancastrians had never
anticipated a retreat, and had not provided for it, for they felt as
sure of victory as the great Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, who, when
he was asked by a military expert what provision he had made for retreat
in the event of losing the battle, simply answered, "None!" The
Lancastrians were obliged to cross the small River Cock in their
retreat, and it seemed almost impossible to us that a small stream like
that could have been the cause of the loss of thousands upon thousands
of the finest and bravest soldiers in England. But so it happened. There
was only one small bridge over the stream, which was swollen and ran
swiftly in flood. This bridge was soon broken down with the rush of men
and horses trying to cross it, and although an active man to-day could
easily jump over the stream, it was a death-trap for men weighted with
heavy armour and wearied with exertion, the land for a considerable
distance on each side the river being very boggy. As those in front sank
in the bog, those from behind walked over them, and as row after row
disappeared, their bodies formed the road for others to walk over. The
carnage was terrible, for King Edward had ordered that no quarter must
be given and no prisoners taken. It was estimated that 28,000 of the
Lancastrians were slaughtered in this battle and in the pursuit which
followed, and that 37,776 men in all were killed on that dreadful day.

In some parts of Yorkshire the wild roses were very beautiful, ranging
in colour from pure white to the deepest red, almost every shade being
represented; the variation in colour was attributed to the difference in
the soil or strata in which they grew. But over this battle-field and
the enormous pits in which the dead were buried there grew after the
battle a dwarf variety of wild rose which it was said would not grow
elsewhere, and which the country people thought emblematical of the
warriors who had fallen there, as the white petals were slightly tinged
with red, while the older leaves of the bushes were of a dull bloody
hue; but pilgrims carried many of the plants away before our time, and
the cultivation of the heath had destroyed most of the remainder. In the
great Battle of Towton Field many noblemen had perished, but they
appeared to have been buried with the rank and file in the big pits dug
out for the burial of the dead, as only a very few could be traced in
the local churchyards. The Earl of Westmorland, however, had been buried
in Saxton church and Lord Dacres in Saxton churchyard, where his remains
rested under a great stone slab, 7 feet long, 4-1/2 feet wide, and 7
inches thick, the Latin inscription on which, in old English characters,
was rapidly fading away:


The local poet, in giving an account of the battle, has written: -

The Lord Dacres
Was slain at Nor acres,

for his lordship had been killed in a field known as the North Acres. He
had removed his gorget, a piece of armour which protected the throat,
for the purpose, it was supposed, of getting a drink to quench his
thirst, when he was struck in the throat by a bolt, or headless arrow,
shot from a cross-bow by a boy who was hiding in a bur-tree or elder
bush. The boy-archer must have been a good shot to hit a warrior clothed
from head to foot in armour in the only vulnerable point exposed, but in
those days boys were trained to shoot with bows and arrows from the
early age of six years, their weapons, being increased in size and
strength as they grew older; their education was not considered complete
until they could use that terrible weapon known as the English long-bow,
and hit the smallest object with their arrows. Lord Dacres was buried in
an upright position, and his horse was buried with him; for many years
the horse's jaw-bone and teeth were preserved at the vicarage, One of
his lordship's ancestors, who died fighting on Flodden Field, had been
buried in a fine tomb in Lanercrost Abbey.

Lord Clifford was another brave but cruel warrior who was killed in a
similar way. He had removed his helmet from some unexplained
cause - possibly to relieve the pressure on his head - when a random arrow
pierced his throat; but his death was to many a cause of rejoicing, for
owing to his cruel deeds at the Battle of Wakenfield, he had earned the
sobriquet of "the Butcher." While that battle was raging, the Duke of
York's son, the Earl of Rutland, a youth only seventeen years of age,
described as "a fair gentleman and maiden-like person," was brought by
his tutor, a priest, from the battle-field to shelter in the town. Here
he was perceived by Clifford, who asked who he was. The boy, too much
afraid to speak, fell on his knees imploring for mercy, "both by holding
up his hands and making dolorous countenance, for his speech was gone
from fear." "Save him," said the tutor, "for he is a prince's son and,
peradventure, might do you good hereafter." With that word Clifford
marked him, and said, "By God's blood thy father slew mine, and so will
I thee, and all thy kin," and, saying this, he struck the Earl to the
heart with his dagger, and bade the tutor bear word to his mother and
brothers what he had said and done. Not content with this, when he came
to the body of the Duke, the child's father, he caused the head to be
cut off and a paper crown to be placed on it; then, fixing it on a pole,
he presented it to the Queen, saying, "Madame, your war is done - here is
your King's ransom." The head was placed over the gates of York by the
side of that of the Earl of Salisbury, whom Queen Margaret had ordered
to be beheaded.

For some little time we had been walking through what was known as the
"Kingdom of Elmet," but whether this was associated with the helmet of
Grim we were unable to ascertain, though we shrewdly suspected it was an
old Celtic word. We arrived at the village of Sherburn-in-Elmet, an
important place in ancient times, where once stood the palace of
Athelstan, the grandson of Alfred the Great, the first ruler of all
England, who was crowned King of England in the year 925. In celebration
of his great victory over the combined army of the Danes and Scots at
Brunnanburgh, King Athelstan presented his palace here, along with other
portions of the Kingdom of Elmet, to the See of York, and it remained
the Archbishop of York's Palace for over three hundred years. But when
the See of York was removed to Cawick, a more convenient centre, the
Sherburn Palace was pulled down, and at the time of our visit only the
site and a portion of the moat remained. We were much interested in the
church, as the historian related that "within the walls now existing the
voices of the last Saxon archbishop and the first Norman archbishop have
sounded, and in the old church of Sherburn has been witnessed the
consummation of the highest ambition of chivalric enterprise, and all
the pomp attending the great victory of Athelstan at Brunnanburgh."

Here in the time of Edward II, in 1321, "a secret conclave was held,
attended by the Archbishop, the Bishops of Durham and Carlisle, and
Abbots from far and near, the Earls of Lancaster and Hereford, and many
Barons, Baronets, and Knights. To this assembly Sir John de Bek, a
belted Knight, read out the Articles which Lancaster and his adherents
intended to insist upon." But what interested us most in the church was
the "Janus Cross" The Romans dedicated the month of January to Janus,
who was always pictured with two faces, as January could look back to
the past year and forwards towards the present. The Janus Cross here had
a curious history; it had been found in the ruins of an ancient chapel
in the churchyard dedicated to the "Honour of St. Mary and the Holy
Angels." One of the two churchwardens thought it would do to adorn the
walls of his residence, but another parishioner thought it would do to
adorn his own, and the dispute was settled by some local Solomon, who
suggested that they should cut it in two and each take one half. So it
was sawn vertically in two parts, one half being awarded to each. In
course of time the parts were again united and restored to the church.


Arriving at Ferry Bridge, we crossed the River Aire, which we had seen
at its source, but which here claimed to have become one of the most
useful rivers in Yorkshire, for its waters were valuable for navigation
and for the manufacturing towns near which they passed.

My foot, which had pained me ever since leaving York, so that I had been
limping for some time, now became so painful that I could scarcely walk
at all. Still, we were obliged to reach Pontefract in order to procure
lodgings for the night, so my brother relieved me of all my luggage
excepting the stick, in order that I might hobble along to that town. It
was with great difficulty that I climbed up the hill to the inn, which
was in the upper part of the town, and there I was painfully relieved by
the removal of my boot, and found that my ankle was seriously swollen
and inflamed. It might, of course, have arisen through over-exertion,
but we came to the conclusion that it was caused through the repair of
my boots at York. Before arriving there the heels were badly worn down
at one side, and as I had been practically walking on the sides of my
feet, the sudden reversion to the flat or natural position had brought
on the disaster that very nearly prevented us from continuing our walk.
We applied all the remedies that both our hostess and ourselves could
think of, but our slumbers that night were much disturbed, and not
nearly so continuous as usual.

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

_Thursday, October 26th._


The great object of interest at Pontefract was the castle, the ruins of
which were very extensive. Standing on the only hill we encountered in
our walk of the previous day, it was formerly one of the largest and
strongest castles in England, and had been associated with many stirring
historical events. It was here that King Richard II was murdered in the
year 1399, and the remains of the dismal chamber where this tragedy took
place still existed. During the Wars of the Roses, when in 1461 Queen
Margaret appeared in the north of Yorkshire with an army of 60,000 men,
the newly appointed King, Edward IV, sent the first portion of his army
to meet her in charge of his most influential supporter, the Earl of
Warwick, the "King Maker." The King followed him to Pontefract with the
remainder of his army, and the old castle must have witnessed a
wonderful sight when that army, to the number of 40,660 men, was
marshalled in the plains below.

But it was in the Civil War that this castle attained its greatest
recorded notoriety, for it was besieged three times by the forces of the
Parliament. Sir Thomas Fairfax was in charge of the first siege, and
took possession of the town in 1644, driving the garrison into the
castle. He had a narrow escape from death on that occasion, as a
cannon-ball passed between him and Colonel Forbes so close that the wind
caused by its passage knocked both of them down to the ground, Forbes
losing the sight of one of his eyes. The castle was strongly defended,
but just as one of the towers collapsed, a shot from the castle struck a
match, and the spark, falling into Fairfax's powder stores, caused a
tremendous explosion which killed twenty-seven of his men. In January
1645 Forbes sent a drum to the castle to beat a parley, but the
Governor, Colonel Lowther, and his brave garrison said they would go on
with the defence to the last extremity. The besiegers then began to lay
mines, but these were met by counter-mines driven by the garrison, who
now began to suffer from want of food. At this critical moment a
Royalist force of 2,000 horse arrived under Sir Marmaduke Langdale, who
had made a forced march from Oxford to relieve the garrison. He drove
off the besiegers, first to Ferry Bridge, and afterwards to Sherburn and
Tadcaster, inflicting severe loss, and so the garrison was revictualled.
The Parliamentary forces, however, soon made their appearance again, and
on March 21st, 1645, the second siege began. They again took possession
of the town, and after four months of incessant cannonading the garrison
capitulated and the castle was garrisoned by the other side.

The war continued in other parts of the country, and towards the end of
it a conspiracy was formed by the Royalists to recover possession of the
castle, which through the treachery of a Colonel Maurice was successful.
Many of the garrison at that time lived outside the walls of the castle,
and Maurice persuaded the Governor, Cotterel, to order them to move
their homes inside, to which he assented, issuing an order in the
country for beds to be provided on a certain day. Taking advantage of
this, Maurice and another conspirator dressed themselves as country
gentlemen, with swords by their sides, and with nine others, disguised
as constables, made their appearance at the castle entrance early in the
morning, so as to appear like a convoy guarding the safe passage of the
goods. The Governor, who kept the keys, was still in bed, and the
soldier on guard at the inside of the gates, who was in league with
Maurice, went to inform him the beds had arrived. He handed over the
keys, and, not suspecting treachery, remained in bed with his sword at
his side as usual. The remainder of the conspirators then drew their
swords, and the garrison, on condition that their lives should be
spared, surrendered, and were put into one of the prison dungeons. The
conspirators then went to the room of the Governor, who, hearing a
noise, jumped out of bed and defended himself, but was soon wounded,
disarmed, and placed in the dungeon along with the rest, while the
Royalists took possession of the castle. This happened in June 1648.

The dungeons in the castle, which were still to be seen, were of the
most awful description, for, sunk deep down into the solid rock, it was
scarcely necessary to write over them -

Abandon Hope, all ye who enter here.

There was one dungeon under the Round Tower, which was reached by
passing down some winding steps, into which no ray of light ever
entered, as dark and dismal a place as could be imagined. Here Earl
Rivers and his fellow peers were incarcerated, praying for their
execution to end their misery. There was also a cellar for the storage
of food and drink, sunk some forty or fifty feet in the solid rock, and
capable of holding two or three hundred men, and this too was used as a
dungeon by the Royalists. Here the prisoners taken by the Royalist army
were confined, and many of their names appeared cut in the walls of
solid rock. The history of these places, if it could be written, would
form a chapter of horrors of the most dreadful character, as in olden
times prisoners were often forgotten by their captors, and left in the
dungeons to perish.

It was not without a tinge of satisfaction that we heard that the Earl
of Lancaster, to whom the castle belonged, was himself placed in one of
these dungeons after the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322, and after
being imprisoned there a short time, where he had so often imprisoned
others, was led out to execution.

The third siege of Pontefract Castle happened in the autumn of 1648, for
after the Parliamentarians had gained the upper hand, the castles that
still held out against them were besieged and taken, but the turn of
Pontefract Castle came last of all. Oliver Cromwell himself undertook to
superintend the operations, and General Lambert, one of the ablest of
Cromwell's generals, born at Kirkby Malham, a Yorkshire village through
which we had passed some days before, was appointed Commander-in-Chief
of the forces. He arrived before the castle on December 4th, 1648, but
such was the strength of the position that though he had a large number
of soldiers and a great service of artillery, it was not until March
25th, 1649, when scarcely one hundred men were left to defend the walls,
that the garrison capitulated. Meantime the tremendous effect of the
artillery brought to bear against them had shattered the walls, and
finally Parliament ordered the castle to be dismantled. With the
surrender of this castle the Civil War came to an end, but not before
King Charles I had been beheaded.


Last year, before we began our walk from London to Lancashire, we
visited Whitehall and saw the window in the Banqueting-hall through
which, on January 30th, 1649, about two months before Pontefract Castle
surrendered, he passed on his way to the scaffold outside.

In its prime Pontefract Castle was an immense and magnificent
fortification, and from its ruins we had a fine view on all sides of the
country it had dominated for about six hundred years.

We were now journeying towards the more populous parts of the country,
and the greater the mileage of our walk, the greater became the interest
taken both in us and our adventures. Several persons interviewed us in
our hotel at Pontefract, and much sympathy was extended towards myself,
as my foot was still very painful in spite of the remedies which had
been applied to it; but we decided not to give in, my brother kindly
consenting to carry all the luggage, for we were very anxious not to
jeopardise our twenty-five miles' daily average beyond recovery. My boot
was eased and thoroughly oiled; if liquorice could have done it any
good, we could have applied it in addition to the other remedies, as we
had bought some both for our own use and for our friends to eat when we
reached home. All we had learned about it was that it was made from the
root of a plant containing a sweet juice, and that the Greek name of it
was _glykyr-rhiza_, from _glykys_, sweet, and _rhiza_, root. After
making a note of this formidable word, I did not expect my brother to
eat any more liquorice; but his special aversion was not Greek, but
Latin, as he said both his mind and body had been associated with that
language through the medium of the cane of his schoolmaster, who
believed in the famous couplet:

'Tis Education forms the common mind.
And with the cane we drive it in behind!

He was always suspicious of the Latin words attached to plants, and
especially when quoted by gardeners, which I attributed to jealousy of
their superior knowledge of that language; but it appeared that it was
founded on incidents that occurred many years ago.

He was acquainted with two young gardeners who were learning their
business by working under the head gardener at a hall in Cheshire, the
owner of which was proud of his greenhouses and hothouses as well as of
the grounds outside. As a matter of course everything appeared up to
date, and his establishment became one of the show-places in the
neighbourhood. The gardener, an elderly man, was quite a character. He
was an Irishman and an Orangeman as well, and had naturally what was
known in those parts as "the gift of the gab." The squire's wife was
also proud of her plants, and amongst the visitors to the gardens were
many ladies, who often asked the gardener the name of a plant that was
strange to them. As no doubt he considered it _infra dig._ to say he did
not know, and being an Irishman, he was never at a loss when asked,
"What do you call this plant?" he would reply, "Oh, that, mum, is the
Hibertia Canadensus, mum!" and a further inquiry would be answered in a
similar manner - "That, mum, is the Catanansus Rulia, mum!" and again the
lady would thank him and walk on apparently quite pleased and happy,
probably forgetting the name of the plant before she had gone through
the gardens. The young men were often at work in the houses while the
visitors were going through, and of course they were too deeply engaged
in their work either to see the visitors or to hear all the conversation
that was going on, but they told my brother that they could always tell
when the gardener did not know the real name of a plant by his
invariably using these two names on such occasions, regardless of the
family or species of the plant in question.

Pomfret was the local abbreviation of Pontefract, the name of the town,
and "Pomfret Liquorice" claimed not only to be a sweetmeat, but a throat
remedy as well, and was considered beneficial to the consumer. The
sample we purchased was the only sweet we had on our journey, for in
those days men and women did not eat sweets so much as in later times,
they being considered the special delicacies of the children. The sight
of a man or woman eating a sweet would have caused roars of ridicule.
Nor were there any shops devoted solely to the sale of sweets in the
country; they were sold by grocers to the children, though in nothing
like the variety and quantity that appeared in later years. The most
common sweet in those days was known as "treacle toffy," which was sold
in long sticks wrapped from end to end in white paper, to protect the
children's fingers when eating it, in spite of which it was no unusual
sight to see both hands and faces covered with treacle marks, and thus
arose the name of "treacle chops," as applied to boys whose cheeks were
smeared with treacle. There was also toffy that was sold by weight, of
which Everton toffee was the chief favourite. My brother could remember
a little visitor, a cousin of ours, who could not speak very plainly,
and who always called a cup a "tup," being sent to the village shop for
a pound of coffee, and his delight when he returned laden with a pound
of toffy, which was of course well-nigh devoured before the mistake was
found out!

By this day we were ready for anything except walking as we crawled out
of the town to find our way to Doncaster, and our speed, as might be
imagined, was not excessive; for, including stoppages, which were
necessarily numerous, we only averaged one mile per hour! There was a
great bazaar being held in Pontefract that day, to be opened by Lord
Houghton, and we met several carriages on their way to it. After we had
walked some distance, we were told - for we stopped to talk to nearly
every one we met - that we were now passing through Barnsdale Forest. We
could not see many trees, even though this was formerly the abode of
Robin Hood and Little John, as well as Will Scarlett.

It was in this forest that Robin, hearing of the approach of the Bishop
of Hereford, ordered his men to kill a good fat deer, and to make a
repast of it by the side of the highway on which the Bishop was
travelling. Robin dressed himself and six of his men in the garb of
shepherds, and they took their stand by the fire at which the venison
was being roasted. When the Bishop came up, with his retinue, he asked
the men why they had killed the King's deer, and said he should let the
King know about it, and would take them with him to see the King.

"Oh pardon, oh pardon," said bold Robin Hood,
"Oh pardon, I thee pray.
For it becomes not your Lordship's coat
To take so many lives away."

"No pardon, no pardon," said the Bishop,
"No pardon I thee owe;
Therefore make haste and come along with me,

Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 32 of 66)