Robert Naylor.

From John O'Groats to Land's End online

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his famous Moss-troopers, whose raids carried them far beyond the
Borders, even into foreign countries, he had not confined himself "to
his own - his Native Land." We were not surprised, therefore, wrhen we
heard of him in the lonely neighbourhood of the Peak of Derbyshire, or
that, although he had never been known to have visited the castle or its
immediate surroundings, he had written a novel entitled _Peveril of the
Peak_. This fact was looked upon as a good joke by his personal friends,
who gave him the title of the book as a nickname, and Sir Walter, when
writing to some of his most intimate friends, had been known to
subscribe himself in humorous vein as "Peveril of the Peak."


There were several objects of interest well worth seeing at Castleton
besides the great cavern; there was the famous Blue John Mine, that took
its name from the peculiar blue stone found therein, a kind of fibrous
fluor-spar usually blue to purple, though with occasional black and
yellow veins, of which ornaments were made and sold to visitors, and
from which the large blue stone was obtained that formed the magnificent
vase in Chatsworth House, the residence of the Duke of Devonshire, and
in other noble mansions which possess examples of the craft. In the mine
there were two caverns, one of them 100 feet and the other 150 feet
high, "which glittered with sparkling stalactites." Then there was the
Speedwell Mine, one of the curiosities of the Peak, discovered by miners
searching for ore, which they failed to find, although they laboured for
years at an enormous cost. In boring through the rock, however, they
came to a large natural cavern, now reached by descending about a
hundred steps to a canal below, on which was a boat for conveying
passengers to the other end of the canal, with only a small light or
torch at the bow to relieve the stygian darkness. Visitors were landed
on a platform to listen to a tremendous sound of rushing water being
precipitated somewhere in the fearful and impenetrable darkness, whose
obscurity and overpowering gloom could almost be felt. On the slope of
the Eldon Hill there was also a fearful chasm called the Eldon Hole,
where a falling stone was never heard to strike the bottom. This had
been visited in the time of Queen Elizabeth by the Earl of Leicester,
who caused an unfortunate native to be lowered into it to the full
length of a long rope; when the poor fellow was drawn up again he was
"stark mad," and died eight days afterwards.

We had to leave all these attractions to a later visit, since we had
come to Castleton to see the largest cavern of all, locally named the
"Devil's Hole," but by polite visitors the "Peak Cavern." The approach
to the cavern was very imposing and impressive, perpendicular rocks
rising on both sides to a great height, while Peveril Castle stood on
the top of the precipice before us like a sentinel guarding entrance to
the cavern, which was in the form of an immense Gothic arch 120 feet
high, 42 feet wide, and said to be large enough to contain the Parish
Church and all its belongings. This entrance, however, was being used as
a rope-walk, where, early as it was, the workers were already making
hempen ropes alongside the stream which flowed from the cavern, and the
strong smell of hemp which prevailed as we stood for a few minutes
watching the rope-makers was not at all unpleasant.


If it had been the entrance to Hades, to which it had been likened by a
learned visitor, we might have been confronted by Cerberus instead of
our guide, whom our friends had warned overnight that his attendance
would be required early this morning by distinguished visitors, who
would expect the cave to be lit up with coloured lights in honour of
their visit. The guide as he handed a light to each of us explained
apologetically that his stock of red lights had been exhausted during
the season, but he had brought a sufficient number of blue lights to
suit the occasion. We followed him into the largest division of the
cavern, which was 270 feet long and 150 feet high, the total length
being about half a mile. It contained many other rooms or caves, into
which he conducted us, the first being known as the Bell House, and here
the path we had been following suddenly came to an end at an arch about
five yards wide, where there was a stream called the River Styx, over
which he ferried us in a boat, landing us in a cave called the Hall of
Pluto, the Being who ruled over the Greek Hades, or Home of Departed
Spirits, guarded by a savage three-headed dog named Cerberus. The only
way of reaching the "Home," our guide told us, was by means of the ferry
on the River Styx, of which Charon had charge, and to ensure the spirit
having a safe passage to the Elysian Fields it was necessary that his
toll should be paid with a coin placed beforehand in the mouth or hand
of the departed. We did not, however, take the hint about the payment of
the toll until after our return journey, when we found ourselves again
at the mouth of the Great Cavern, a privilege perhaps not extended to
Pluto's ghostly visitors, nor did we see any of those mysterious or
mythological beings; perhaps the nearest approach to them was the figure
of our guide himself, as he held aloft the blue torch he had in his hand
when in the Hall of Pluto, for he presented the appearance of a man
afflicted with delirium tremens or one of those "blue devils" often seen
by victims of that dreadful disease. We also saw Roger Rain's House,
where it always rained, summer and winter, all the year round, and the
Robbers' Cave, with its five natural arches. But the strangest cave we
visited was that called the "Devil's Wine Cellar," an awful abyss where
the water rushed down a great hole and there disappeared. Her Most
Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria, visited the cavern in 1832, and one of
the caves was named Victoria in memory of that event; we had the honour
of standing on the exact spot where she stood on that occasion.

Our visit to the cavern was quite a success, enhanced as it was by the
blue lights, so, having paid the guide for his services, we returned to
our lodgings to "pack up" preparatory to resuming our walk. The white
stones so kindly presented to my brother - of which he was very proud,
for they certainly were very fine specimens - seemed likely to prove a
white elephant to him. The difficulty now was how to carry them in
addition to all the other luggage. Hurrying into the town, he returned
in a few minutes with an enormous and strongly made red handkerchief
like those worn by the miners, and in this he tied the stones, which
were quite heavy and a burden in themselves. With these and all the
other luggage as well he presented a very strange appearance as he
toiled up the steep track through Cave Dale leading from the rear of the
town to the moors above. It was no small feat of endurance and strength,
for he carried his burdens until we arrived at Tamworth railway station
in Staffordshire, to which our next box of clothes had been ordered, a
distance of sixty-eight and a half miles by the way we walked. It was
with a feeling of real thankfulness for not having been killed with
kindness in the bestowal of these gifts that he deposited the stones in
that box. When they reached home they were looked upon as too valuable
to be placed on the rockeries and retained the sole possession of a
mantelshelf for many years. My ankle was still very weak, and it was as
much as I could do to carry the solitary walking-stick to assist me
forwards; but we were obliged to move on, as we were now quite fifty
miles behind our projected routine, and we knew there was some hard work
before us. When we reached the moors, which were about a thousand feet
above sea-level, the going was comparatively easy on the soft rich grass
which makes the cow's milk so rich, and we had some good views of the
hills. That named Mam Tor was one of the "Seven wonders of the Peak,"
and its neighbour, known as the Shivering Mountain, was quite a
curiosity, as the shale, of which it was composed, was constantly
breaking away and sliding down the mountain slope with a sound like that
of falling water. Bagshawe Cavern was near at hand, but we did not visit
it. It was so named because it had been found on land belonging to Sir
William Bagshawe, whose lady christened its chambers and grottos with
some very queer names. Across the moors we could see the town of
Tideswell, our next objective, standing like an oasis in the desert, for
there were no trees on the moors. We had planned that after leaving
there we would continue our way across the moors to Newhaven, and then
walk through Dove Dale to Ashbourne in the reverse direction to that
taken the year before on our walk from London to Lancashire. Before
reaching Tideswell we came to a point known as Lane Head, where six
lane-ends met, and which we supposed must have been an important
meeting-place when the moors, which surrounded it for miles, formed a
portion of the ancient Peak Forest. We passed other objects of interest,
including some ancient remains of lead mining in the form of curious
long tunnels like sewers on the ground level which radiated to a point
where on the furnaces heaps of timber were piled up and the lead ore was
smelted by the heat which was intensified by these draught-producing

[Illustration: TIDESWELL CHURCH.]

When Peak Forest was in its primeval glory, and the Kings of England
with their lords, earls, and nobles came to hunt there, many of the
leading families had dwellings in the forest, and we passed a relic of
these, a curious old mansion called Hazelbadge Hall, the ancient home of
the Vernons, who still claim by right as Forester to name the coroner
for West Derbyshire when the position falls vacant.

Tideswell was supposed to have taken its name from an ebbing and flowing
well whose water rose and fell like the tides in the sea, but which had
been choked up towards the end of the eighteenth century, and reopened
in the grounds of a mansion, so that the cup-shaped hollow could be seen
filling and emptying.

A market had existed at Tideswell since the year 1250, and one was
being held as we entered the town, and the "George Inn," where we called
for refreshments, was fairly well filled with visitors of one kind or

We left our luggage to the care of the ostler, and went to visit the
fine old church adjacent, where many ancient families lie buried; the
principal object of interest was the magnificent chancel, which has been
described as "one Gallery of Light and Beauty," the whole structure
being known as the Cathedral of the Peak. There was a fine monumental
brass, with features engraved on it which throw light on the Church
ritual of the day, to the memory of Bishop Pursglove, who was a native
of Tideswell and founder of the local Grammar School, who surrendered
his Priory of Gisburn to Henry VIII in 1540, but refused, in 1559, to
take the Oath of Supremacy. Sampson Meverill, Knight Constable of
England, also lies buried in the chancel, and by his epitaph on a marble
tomb, brought curiously enough from Sussex, he asks the reader "devoutly
of your charity" to say "a Pater Noster with an Ave for all Xtian
soules, and especially for the soule of him whose bones resten under
this stone." Meverill, with John Montagu, Earl of Shrewsbury, fought as
"a Captain of diverse worshipful places in France," serving under John,
Duke of Bedford, in the "Hundred Years' War," and after fighting in
eleven battles within the space of two years he won knighthood at the
duke's hands at St. Luce. In the churchyard was buried William Newton,
the Minstrel of the Peak, and Samuel Slack, who in the last quarter of
the eighteenth century was the most popular bass singer in England. When
quite young Slack competed with others for a position in a college choir
at Cambridge, and sang Purcell's famous air, "They that go down to the
sea in ships." When he had finished, the Precentor rose immediately and
said to the other candidates, "Gentlemen, I now leave it to you whether
any one will sing after what you have just heard!" No one rose, and so
Slack gained the position.

Soon afterwards Georgiana, Duchess of Sutherland, interested herself in
him, and had him placed under Spofforth, the chief singing master of the
day, under whose tuition he greatly improved, taking London by storm. He
was for many years the principal bass at all the great musical
festivals. So powerful was his voice, it is said, that on one occasion
when he was pursued by a bull he uttered a bellow which so terrified the
animal that it ran away, so young ladies who were afraid of these
animals always felt safe when accompanied by Mr. Slack. When singing
before King George III at Windsor Castle, he was told that His Majesty
had been pleased with his singing. Slack remarked in his Derbyshire
dialect, which he always remembered, "Oh, he was pleased, were he? I
thow't I could do't." Slack it was said made no effort to improve
himself either in speech or in manners, and therefore it was thought
that he preferred low society.

When he retired and returned to his native village he was delighted to
join the local "Catch and Glee Club," of which he soon became the ruling
spirit. It held its meetings at the "George Inn" where we had called for
refreshments, and we were shown an old print of the club representing
six singers in Hogarthian attitudes with glasses, jugs, and pipes, with
Slack and his friend Chadwick of Hayfield apparently singing heartily
from the same book Slack's favourite song, "Life's a Bumper fill'd by
Fate." Tideswell had always been a musical town; as far back as the year
1826 there was a "Tideswell Music Band," which consisted of six
clarionets, two flutes, three bassoons, one serpent, two trumpets, two
trombones, two French horns, one bugle, and one double drum - twenty
performers in all.

They had three practices weekly, and there were the usual fines for
those who came late, or missed a practice, for inattention to the
leader, or for a dirty instrument, the heaviest fine of all being for
intoxication. But long after this there was a Tideswell Brass Band which
became famous throughout the country, for the leader not only wrote the
score copies for his own band, but lithographed and sold them to other
bands all over the country.

[Illustration: "LIFE'S A BUMPER."]

We were particularly interested in all this, for my brother had for the
past eight years indulged in the luxury of a brass band himself. The
band consisted of about twenty members when in full strength, and as
instruments were dear in those days it was a most expensive luxury, and
what it had cost him in instruments, music, and uniforms no one ever
knew. He had often purchased "scores" from Metcalf, the leader of the
Tideswell Band, a fact that was rather a source of anxiety to me, as I
knew if he called to see Metcalf our expedition for that day would be at
an end, as they might have conversed with each other for hours. I could
not prevent him from relating at the "George" one of his early
reminiscences, which fairly "brought down the house," as there were some
musicians in the company.

His band had been formed in 1863, and consisted of about a dozen
performers. Christmas time was coming on, when the bandsmen resolved to
show off a little and at the same time collect some money from their
friends to spend in the New Year. They therefore decided that the band
should go out "busking" each evening during Christmas week. They had
only learned to play five tunes - two of them belonging to well-known
hymns, a third "God Save the Queen," while the remaining two were
quicksteps, one of which was not quite perfectly learned.

They were well received in the village, and almost every house had been
visited with the exception of the Hall, which was some distance away,
and had been left till the last probably owing to the fact that the
squire was not particularly noted for his liberality. If, however, he
had been at home that week, and had any sense of music, he would have
learned all their tunes off by heart, as the band must have been heard
clearly enough when playing at the farms surrounding the mansion.

To avoid a possibility of giving offence, however, it was decided to pay
him a visit; so the band assembled one evening in front of the mansion,
and the conductor led off with a Psalm tune, during which the Hall door
was opened by a servant. At this unexpected compliment expectations rose
high amongst the members of the band, and a second Psalm tune was
played, the full number of verses in the hymn being repeated. Then
followed a pause to give the squire a chance of distinguishing himself,
but as he failed to rise to the occasion it was decided to play a
quickstep. This was followed by a rather awkward pause, as there were
some high notes in the remaining quickstep which the soprano player said
he was sure he could not reach as he was getting "ramp'd" already. At
this moment, however, the situation was relieved by the appearance of a
female servant at the door.

The member of the band who had been deputed to collect all donations at
once went to the door, and all eyes were turned upon him when he came
back towards the lawn, every member on tip-toe of expectation. But he
had only returned to say that the squire's lady wished the band to play
a polka. This spread consternation throughout the band, and one of the
younger members went to the conductor saying, "A polka! A polka! I say,
Jim, what's that?" "Oh," replied the conductor, "number three played
quick!" Now number three was a quickstep named after Havelock the famous
English General in India, so "Havelock's March played quick" had to do
duty for a polka; but the only man who could play it quickly was the
conductor himself, who after the words, "Ready, chaps!" and the usual
signal "One-two-three," dashed off at an unusual speed, the performers
following as rapidly as they could, the Bombardon and the Double B, the
biggest instruments, finishing last with a most awful groan, after which
the conductor, who couldn't stop laughing when once he started, was
found rolling on the lawn in a kind of convulsion. It took them some
time to recover their equilibrium, during which the Hall door remained
open, and a portion of the band had already begun to move away in
despair, when they were called back by the old butler appearing at the
Hall door with a silver tray in his hand. The collector's services were
again requisitioned, and he returned with the magnificent sum of one
shilling! As most of the farmers had given five shillings and the
remainder half a crown, the squire's reputation for generosity had been
fully maintained. One verse of "God save the Queen," instead of the
usual three, was played by the way of acknowledgment, and so ended the
band's busking season in the year 1863.

We quite enjoyed our visit to Tideswell, and were rather loath to leave
the friendly company at the "George Inn," who were greatly interested in
our walk, several musical members watching our departure as the ostler
loaded my brother with the luggage.

Tideswell possessed a poet named Beebe Eyre, who in 1854 was awarded £50
out of the Queen's Royal Bounty, which probably inspired him to write:

Tideswell! thou art my natal spot,
And hence I love thee well;
May prosperous days now be the lot
Of all that in thee dwell!

The sentiments expressed by the poet coincided with our own. As we
departed from the town we observed a curiosity in the shape of a very
old and extremely dilapidated building, which we were informed could
neither be repaired, pulled down, nor sold because it belonged to some

On the moors outside the town there were some more curious remains of
the Romans and others skilled in mining, which we thought would greatly
interest antiquarians, as they displayed more methods of mining than at
other places we had visited. A stream had evidently disappointed them by
filtering through its bed of limestone, but this they had prevented by
forming a course of pebbles and cement, which ran right through
Tideswell, and served the double purpose of a water supply and a sewer.

We crossed the old "Rakes," or lines, where the Romans simply dug out
the ore and threw up the rubbish, which still remained in long lines.
Clever though they were, they only knew lead when it occurred in the
form known as galena, which looked like lead itself, and so they threw
out a more valuable ore, cerusite, or lead carbonate, and the heaps of
this valuable material were mined over a second time in comparatively
recent times. The miner of the Middle Ages made many soughs to drain
away the water from the mines, and we saw more of the tunnels that had
been made to draw air to the furnaces when wood was used for smelting
the lead.

The forest, like many others, had disappeared, and Anna Seward had
exactly described the country we were passing through when she wrote:

The long lone tracks of Tideswell's native moor,
Stretched on vast hills that far and near prevail.
Bleak, stony, bare, monotonous, and pale.

The poet Newton had provided the town with a water supply by having
pipes laid at his own expense from the Well Head at the source of the
stream which flowed out of an old lead-mine. Lead in drinking-water has
an evil name for causing poisoning, but the Tideswell folk flourish on
it, since no one seems to think of dying before seventy, and a goodly
number live to over ninety.

They have some small industries, cotton manufacture having spread from
Lancashire into these remote districts. It is an old-fashioned place,
with houses mostly stuccoed with broken crystals and limestone from the
"Rakes" and containing curiously carved cupboard doors and posts torn
from churches ornamented in Jacobean style by the sacrilegious
Cromwellians, many of them having been erected just after the Great



We now journeyed along the mountain track until it descended sharply
into Miller's Dale; but before reaching this place we were interested in
the village of Formhill, where Brindley, the famous canal engineer, was
born in 1716. Brindley was employed by the great Duke of Bridgewater,
the pioneer of canal-making in England, to construct a canal from his
collieries at Worsley, in Lancashire, to Manchester, in order to cheapen
the cost of coal at that important manufacturing centre. It was an
extraordinary achievement, considering that Brindley was quite
uneducated and knew no mathematics, and up to the last remained
illiterate. Most of his problems were solved without writings or
drawings, and when anything difficult had to be considered, he would go
to bed and think it out there. At the Worsley end it involved tunnelling
to the seams of coal where the colliers were at work so that they could
load the coal directly into the boats. He constructed from ten to
thirteen miles of underground canals on two different levels, with an
ingeniously constructed connection between the two. After this he made
the great Bridgewater Canal, forty miles in length, from Manchester to
Runcorn, which obtained a fall of one foot per mile by following a
circuitous route without a lock or a tunnel in the whole of its course
until it reached its terminus at the River Mersey. In places where a
brook or a small valley had to be crossed the canal was carried on
artificially raised banks, and to provide against a burst in any of
these, which would have caused the water to run out of the canal, it was
narrowed at each end of the embankment so that only one boat could pass
through at a time, this narrow passage being known as a "stop place."
At the entrance to this a door was so placed at the bottom of the canal
that if any undue current should appear, such as would occur if the
embankment gave way, one end of it would rise into a socket prepared for
it in the stop-place, and so prevent any water leaving the canal except
that in the broken section, a remedy simple but ingenious. On arriving
at Runcorn the boats were lowered by a series of locks into the River
Mersey, a double service of locks being provided so that boats could
pass up and down at the same time and so avoid delay.

[Illustration: JAMES BRINDLEY.]

When the water was first turned into the canal, Brindley mysteriously
disappeared, and was nowhere to be found; but as the canal when full did

Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 35 of 66)