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Robert Naylor.

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For before the King ye shall go."

Then Robin pulled his bugle horn from beneath his coat and blew a long
blast, and threescore and ten of his followers quickly appeared -

All making obeysance to Robin Hood,
'Twas a comely sight to see;
"What is the matter, master?" said Little John,
"That you blow so heartily?"

Robin replied that the Bishop of Hereford refused all pardon for slaying
the deer, and had said they must at once accompany him to the King.
Little John then suggested that they should cut off the Bishop's head
and throw him in a grave; but the Bishop craved pardon of the outlaw for
his interference, and declared that had he known who was on the road,
"he would have gone some other way."

"No pardon, no pardon," said bold Robin Hood,
"No pardon I thee owe;
Therefore make haste and come along with me,
For to merry Barnsdale you shall go."

So thither they led the Bishop, and made him sup with them right merrily
and royally.

"Call in a reckoning," said the Bishop,
"For methinks it grows wondrous high;"
"Lend me your purse, master," said Little John,
"And I'll tell you by and bye!"

Little John took the Bishop's cloak
And spread it upon the ground.
And out of the Bishop's portmanteau
He told three hundred pound.

"Here's money enough, master," said Little John,
"And a comely sight to see;
It makes me in charity with the Bishop,
Though he heartily loveth not me."

Robin took the Bishop by the hand,
And he caused the music to play;
And he made the Bishop to dance in his boots.
And glad he could get away!

[Illustration: DONCASTER RACECOURSE. "We had walked for five days over
the broad acres of Yorkshire and had seen many fine horses, for
horse-breeding was a leading feature of that big county, and horses a
frequent subject of conversation."]

We heard all sorts of stories from the roadmen, some of which might not
be true; but in any case about seven miles from Doncaster we reached
Robin Hood's Well, at the side of the road. It was quite a substantial
structure, built of soft limestone, and arched over, with a seat
inside - on which doubtless many a weary wayfarer had rested before us.
The interior was nearly covered with inscriptions, one dated 1720 and
some farther back than that. We had a drink of water from the well, but
afterwards, when sitting on the seat, saw at the bottom of the well a
great black toad, which we had not noticed when drinking the water. The
sight of it gave us a slight attack of the horrors, for we had a
particular dread of toads. We saw at the side of the road a large house
which was formerly an inn rejoicing in the sign of "Robin Hood and
Little John," one of the oldest inns between York and London. We called
at a cottage for tea, and here we heard for the first time of the
Yorkshireman's coat-of-arms, which the lady of the house told us every
Yorkshireman was entitled to place on his carriage free of tax! It
consisted of a flea, and a fly, a flitch of bacon, and a magpie, which
we thought was a curious combination. The meaning, however, was
forthcoming, and we give the following interpretation as given to us:

A flea will bite! and so will a Yorkshireman;
A fly will drink out of anybody's cup! and so will a Yorkshireman;
A magpie will chatter! and so will a Yorkshireman:
And a flitch of bacon looks best when it's hung! and so does a
Yorkshireman.

We fancied a Lancashire man must have written that ditty.

[Illustration: ROBIN HOOD'S WELL.]

The moon was shining brightly as we left the cottage, and a man we met,
when he saw me limping so badly, stopped us to inquire what was the
matter. He was returning from Doncaster, and cheered us up by pointing
to the moon, saying we should have the "parish lantern" to light us on
our way. This appeared to remind him of his parish church, where a
harvest thanksgiving had just been held, with a collection on behalf of
the hospital and infirmary. He and seven of his fellow servants had
given a shilling each, but, although there were "a lot of gentry" at the
service, the total amount of the collection was only one pound odd. The
minister had told them he could scarcely for shame carry it in, as it
was miserably small for an opulent parish like that!

We arrived at Doncaster at 8.30 p.m., and stayed at the temperance hotel
in West Laith Street. The landlord seemed rather reluctant about letting
us in, but he told us afterwards he thought we were "racing characters,"
which greatly amused us since we had never attended a race-meeting in
our lives!

(_Distance walked fourteen miles_.)


_Friday, October 27th._

Our host at Doncaster took a great interest in us, and, in spite of my
sprained ankle, we had a good laugh at breakfast-time at his mistaking
us for "racing characters." My brother related to him his experiences on
the only two occasions he ever rode on the back of a horse unassisted.
The first of these was when, as quite a young boy, he went to visit his
uncle who resided near Preston in Lancashire, and who thought it a
favourable opportunity to teach him to ride. He was therefore placed on
the back of a quiet horse, a groom riding behind him on another horse,
with orders not to go beyond a walking pace; but when they came near the
barracks, and were riding on the grass at the side of the road, a
detachment of soldiers came marching out through the entrance, headed by
their military band, which struck up a quickstep just before meeting the
horses. My brother's horse suddenly reared up on its hind legs, and
threw him off its back on to the grass below, or, as he explained it,
while the horse reared up he reared down! He was more frightened than
hurt, but the groom could not persuade him to ride on the horse's back
any farther, so he had to lead the horses home again, a distance of two
miles, while my brother walked on the footpath.

It was years before he attempted to ride on horseback again, but this
time he was mounted upon an old horse white with age, and very quiet,
which preferred walking to running; this second attempt also ended
disastrously. It was a very hot day, and he had ridden some miles into
the country when he came to a large pit, on the opposite side of the
road to a farmhouse, when, without any warning, and almost before my
brother realised what was happening, the horse walked straight into this
pit, and, in bending its head to drink at the water, snatched the bridle
out of his hands. He had narrowly escaped drowning on several occasions,
and was terrified at the thought of falling into the water, so,
clutching hold of the horse's mane with both hands, he yelled out with
all his might for help - which only served to make the horse move into a
deeper part of the pit, as if to have a bathe as well as a drink. His
cries attracted the attention of some Irish labourers who were at work
in a field, and they ran to his assistance. One of them plunged into the
water, which reached half way up his body, and, taking hold of my
brother, carried him to the road and then returned for the horse. He was
rewarded handsomely for his services, for my brother verily believed he
had saved him from being drowned. He was much more afraid of the water
than of the horse, which was, perhaps, the reason why he had never
learned to swim, but he never attempted to ride on horseback again. On
the wall in front of the farmhouse an old-fashioned sundial was
extended, on the face of which were the words:

Time that is past will never return,

and on the opposite corner were the Latin words _Tempus fugit_ (Time
flies). My brother seemed to have been greatly impressed by these
proverbs, and thought of them as he led the white horse on his
three-mile walk towards home; they seemed engraven upon his memory, for
he often quoted them on our journey.

[Illustration: THE GUILDHALL, DONCASTER.]

My ankle seemed to be a shade easier, and, after the usual remedies had
again been applied, we started on another miserable walk, or limp, for
we only walked twelve miles in twelve hours, following the advice of our
host to take it easy, and give the ankle time to recover. We rested many
times on the road, stopped to talk to many people, got to know all about
the country we were passing through, read papers and books, called for
refreshments oftener than we needed them, wrote letters to our friends,
and made copious entries in our diaries - -in fact did everything except
walk. The country was very populous, and we attracted almost universal
sympathy: myself for my misfortune, and my brother for having to carry
all the luggage.

Doncaster takes its name from the River Don, on which it is situated,
and it was the only town in England, after London and York, that
possessed a "Mansion House." We had walked for five days over the broad
acres of Yorkshire and had seen many fine horses, for horse-breeding, we
found, was a leading feature in that big county, and horses a frequent
subject of conversation. Doncaster was no exception to the rule, as the
Doncaster Races were famous all over England, and perhaps in other
countries beyond the seas. We were too late in the year for the great
St. Leger race, which was held in the month of September, and was always
patronised by Royalty. On that occasion almost every mansion in the
county was filled with visitors "invited down" for the races, and there
was no doubt that agricultural Yorkshire owed much of its prosperity to
the breeding of its fine horses. The racecourse was situated on a moor a
little way out of the town, the property of the Corporation, and it was
said that the profit made by the races was so great that the Doncaster
people paid no rates. This might of course be an exaggeration, but there
could be no doubt that the profit made by the Corporation out of the
moor on which the races were held would largely reduce the rates of the
town.

Doncaster races owed their origin to a famous Arab horse named
Rasel-Fedawi (or the "Headstrong"), which was purchased from the Anazeh
tribe of Arabs by a Mr. Darley, an Englishman who at that time resided
at Aleppo, a Turkish trading centre in Northern Syria. This gentleman
sent the horse to his brother at Aldby Park in Yorkshire, and what are
now known as "thoroughbreds" have descended from him. His immediate
descendants have been credited with some wonderful performances, and the
"Flying Childers," a chestnut horse with a white nose and four white
legs, bred from a mare born in 1715, named "Betty Leedes," and owned by
Leonard Childers of Doncaster, was never beaten. All sorts of tales were
told of his wonderful performances: he was said to have covered 25 feet
at each bound, and to have run the round course at Newmarket, 3 miles 6
furlongs, in six minutes and forty seconds. After him came another
famous horse named "Eclipse" which could, it was said, run a mile a
minute. When he died in 1789 his heart was found to weigh 14 pounds,
which accounted for his wonderful speed and courage. Admiral Rous
records that in the year 1700 the English racehorse was fifteen hands
high, but after the Darley Arabian, the average height rose to over
sixteen hands. It was said that there were races at Doncaster in the
seventeenth century, but the great St. Leger was founded by General St.
Leger in 1778, and the grand stand was built in the following year. The
Yorkshire gentlemen and farmers were naturally all sportsmen, and were
credited with keeping "both good stables and good tables." The
invitation to "have a bite and a sup" was proverbial, especially in the
wold or moorland districts, where hospitality was said to be unbounded.

A learned man wrote on one occasion that "an honest walk is better than
a skilled physician. It stimulates heart, brain, and muscles alike,
sweeping cobwebs from the mind and heaviness from the heart." But this
was probably not intended to apply to a man with a sore foot, and it was
difficult to understand why the ankle failure had come so suddenly. We
could only attribute it to some defect in the mending of the boot at
York, but then came the mystery why the other ankle had not been
similarly affected. The day was beautifully fine, but the surroundings
became more smoky as we were passing through a mining and manufacturing
district, and it was very provoking that we could not walk through it
quickly. However, we had to make the best of it, imagining we were
treading where the saints had trod, or at any rate the Romans, for this
was one of their roads to the city of York upon which their legions must
have marched; but while we crossed the rivers over bridges, the Romans
crossed them by paved fords laid in the bed of the streams, traces of
which were still to be seen.

We made a long stay at Comsborough, and saw the scanty remains of the
castle, to which Oliver Cromwell had paid special attention, as, in the
words of the historian, "he blew the top off," which had never been
replaced. And yet it had a very long history, for at the beginning of
the fourth century it was the Burgh of Conan, Earl of Kent, who with
Maximian made an expedition to Armorica (now Brittany), where he was
eventually made king, which caused him to forsake his old Burgh in
England. Maximian was a nephew of King Coel, or Cole, the hero of the
nursery rhyme, of which there are many versions:

Old King Cole was a jolly old soul,
And a jolly old soul was he;
He called for his ale, and he called for his beer,
And he called for his fiddle-diddle-dee.

[Illustration: CONISBOROUGH CASTLE.]

But he seemed to have been a jolly old sinner as well, for he formed the
brilliant idea of supplying his soldiers with British wives, and
arranged with his father-in-law, the Duke of Cornwall, to send him
several shiploads from the "old country," for British women were famous
for their beauty. His request was complied with, but a great storm came
on, and some of the ships foundered, while others were blown out of
their course, as far as Germany, where the women landed amongst savages,
and many of them committed suicide rather than pass into slavery. Who
has not heard of St. Ursula and her thousand British virgins, whose
bones were said to be enshrined at Cologne Cathedral, until a prying
medico reported that many of them were only dogs' bones - for which
heresy he was expelled the city as a dangerous malignant.

Troublesome times afterwards arose in England, and on the Yorkshire
side, Briton and Saxon, and Pict and Scot, were mixed up in endless
fights and struggles for existence. It was about this period that
Vortigern, the British King, invited Hengist and Horsa, the Saxon
Princes, to lend their assistance against the Picts and the Scots, which
they did for a time; and when Hengist asked for a residence in his
country, the King gave him Conan's Burgh, which was then vacant. Conan
was never again seen in England, but in 489 his great-grandson Aurelius
Ambrosius became King of the Britons. In the meantime the Saxons had so
increased in numbers that they determined to fight for the possession of
the country, and, headed by Hengist, who had turned traitor, fought a
great battle, in the course of which Eldol, Duke of Gloucester,
encountered Hengist in single combat, and, seizing him by the helmet,
dragged him into the British ranks shouting that God had given his side
the victory. The Saxons were dismayed, and fled in all directions, and
Hengist was imprisoned in his own fortress of Conisborough, where a
council of war was held to decide what should be his fate. Some were
against his being executed, but Eldol's brother Eldad, Bishop of
Gloucester, "a man of great wisdom and piety," compared him to King
Agag, whom the prophet "hewed to pieces," and so Hengist was led through
the postern gate of the castle to a neighbouring hill, and beheaded.
Here Aurelius commanded him to be buried and a heap of earth to be
raised over him, because "he was so good a knight." A lady generally
appeared in these old histories as the cause of the mischief, and it was
said that one reason why King Vortigern was so friendly with Hengist was
that Hengist had a very pretty daughter named Rowena, whom the King
greatly admired: a road in Conisborough still bears her name.

Aurelius then went to Wales, but found that Vortigern had shut himself
up in a castle into which Aurelius was unable to force an entrance, so
he burnt the castle and the King together; and in a wild place on the
rocky coast of Carnarvonshire, Vortigern's Valley can still be seen. Sir
Walter Scott, who was an adept in selecting old ruins for the materials
of his novels, has immortalised Conisborough in his novel of _Ivanhoe_
as the residence, about the year 1198, of the noble Athelstane or
Athelstone, who frightened his servants out of their wits by demanding
his supper when he was supposed to be dead.

Yorkshire feasts were famous, and corresponded to the "wakes" in
Lancashire and Cheshire. There was a record of a feast at Conisborough
on the "Morrow of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross," September 15th,
1320, in the "14th year of King Edward, son of King Edward," which was
carried out by Sir Ralph de Beeston, one of our Cheshire knights, and
Sir Simon de Baldiston (Stewards of the Earl of Lancaster), to which the
following verse applied:

They ate as though for many a day
They had not ate before.
And eke as though they all should fear
That they should eat no more.
And when the decks were fairly cleared
And not a remnant nigh,
They drank as if their mighty thirst
Would drain the ocean dry.

A curious old legend was attached to the town well in Wellgate, which
formerly supplied most of the inhabitants of Conisborough with water;
for once upon a time, when the town was suffering from a great drought,
and the people feared a water famine, they consulted an old man known by
the name of St. Francis, who was very wise and very holy. He told the
people to follow him singing psalms and hymns to the Willow Vale, on the
Low Road. There he cut a wand from a willow tree, and stuck it into the
ground, and forthwith a copious supply of water appeared which had
flowed steadily ever since. The wand had been so firmly and deeply
stuck into the ground by St. Francis that it took root and grew into a
large tree.

In 1863 there was a great flood in Sheffield, which did a lot of damage,
and amongst the debris that floated down the river was noticed a cradle
containing a little baby. It was rescued with some difficulty, and was
still alive when we passed through the town, being then eight years old.

[Illustration: ROCHE ABBEY.]

After leaving Conisborough we lost sight of the River Don, which runs
through Mexborough; but we came in touch with it again where it was
joined by the River Rother, at Rotherham. Here we crossed over it by the
bridge, in the centre of which stood the decayed Chapel of our Lady. On
our way we had passed to our right Sprotborough, where in 664 King
Wulfhere when out hunting came to a cave at the side of the river where
a hermit named St. Ceadde or St. Chad dwelt, the country at that time
being "among sheep and distant mountains which looked more like
lurking-places for robbers and dens of wild beasts than dwellings of
men." There were many objects of interest on each side of our road,
including, a few miles to the left, Roche Abbey, the seat of the Earl of
Scarborough, and to the right Wentworth House, one of the largest
private houses in England, and the seat of Earl Fitzwilliam, the owner
of the far-famed Wharncliffe Crags, which are skirted by the waters of
the River Don.

It was in Wharncliffe Forest that Friar Tuck, the jolly chaplain of
Robin Hood, had his abode; and below the crags, in the bed of the River
Don, there was a rock that appeared to be worn by the friction of some
cylindrical body coiled about it. This was supposed to be the famous
Dragon of Wantley, an old name for Wharncliffe. It was here that the
monster was attacked and slain by Guy, the famous Earl of Warwick. Near
the top of the crag, which was formerly a hunting-seat, stood a lodge
where an inscription on a stone in the floor of the back kitchen stated
that "Geoffrey de Wortley, Knight of the body to the Kings Richard III,
Henry VII, and Henry VIII, built this Lodge for his pleasure, so that he
might hear the red deer bray." In the lodge too was a most ponderous
boot said to have been worn by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Marston
Moor. We stayed at Rotherham for the night.

(_Distance walked twelve miles_.)


_Saturday, October 28th._

The inn where we stayed the night had not been very satisfactory, as,
although the cooking was good, the upper apartments were below the
average. We took to the road again as early as possible, especially as a
decided improvement showed itself in the condition of my swollen foot,
and we were able to make a little better progress. For some days we had
been walking through a comparatively level country, but from the
appearance of the hills to our right as well as before us, we
anticipated a stiff climb. It was not until we approached Sheffield that
the tug of war began, and, strange to say, I found it easier to walk
uphill than on a level surface. Meantime we continued through a level
and busy country, and were in no danger of losing our way, for there
were many people to inquire of in case of necessity. At one time it had
been a wild and lonely place, known as Attercliffe Common, and we were
told that Dick Turpin had been gibbeted there. We had often heard of
Turpin, and knew that he was hanged, but did not remember where, so we
were anxious to see the exact spot where that famous "knight of the
road" ended his existence. We made inquiries from quite a number of
people, but could get no satisfactory information, until we met with an
elderly gentleman, who informed us that it was not Dick Turpin who was
gibbeted there, but a "gentleman" in the same profession, whose name was
Spence Broughton, the only trace of him now being a lane that bore his
name. As far as he knew, Dick Turpin had never been nearer Sheffield
than Maltby, a village five miles away, and that was on his ride from
London to York. He was hanged at Tyburn.

The hills we could see were those of the Pennine range, with which we
must have formed acquaintance unconsciously when farther north, as
although the high hills in the Lake District, through which we had
passed, were not included in the range, some of the others must have
been, since the Pennines were bounded on one side by Cumberland,
Westmorland, and Lancashire, and on the other by Northumberland, Durham,
and Yorkshire, attaining an elevation of 3,000 feet in the north and
2,000 feet in the south. The Pennines here were described to us as the
"backbone of England," for they were looked upon as being in the centre,
equidistant from the east and west coasts, and hereabouts thirty miles
in breadth. The district verging upon Sheffield was well known to the
Romans as producing the best iron in the world, the ore or iron-stones
being obtained in their time by digging up the earth, which was left in
great heaps after the iron-stones had been thrown out; many of these
excavations were still to be seen. In manufacturing the iron they took
advantage of the great forests around them to provide the fuel for
smelting the ore, for it was a great convenience to have the two
elements so near at hand, as it saved carriage from one to the other.
Forests still existed thereabouts in the time of Robin Hood, and were
well known to him and his band of "merrie men," while his jovial
chaplain, Friar Tuck, had his hermitage amongst their deep recesses.
Many woods round Sheffield still remained in the time of Mary Queen of
Scots, who passed some portion of her imprisonment at the old Manor
House, which was then a castellated mansion. Visitors were now conducted
up a narrow flight of stairs to a flat roof covered with lead, from
which that unfortunate Queen had looked out over the hills and forests,
and breathed the pure air as it passed over them. But now all appeared
to be fire and smoke, and the great works which belched them forth
seemed a strange and marvellous sight to us after walking so long
through such lonely districts.

[Illustration: THE SMOKE OF SHEFFIELD. "The district verging upon
Sheffield was well known to the Romans as producing the best iron in the
world."]

Sheffield has a world-wide reputation for its cutlery and for its other
productions in brass, iron, and steel, for the manufacture of which pure
water of a particular variety was essential. The town was well provided



Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 33 of 66)