Robert Naylor.

From John O'Groats to Land's End online

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the chimneys and sweep the parts that could not be reached with their
brush from below, the method of screwing one stale to the end of another
and reaching the top in that way being then unknown. These boys were
often cruelly treated, and had even been known to be suffocated in the
chimney. The nature of their occupation rendered them very daring, and
for this reason the Dean employed one of them to remove the rest of the
damaged figures, a service which he satisfactorily performed at no small
risk both to himself and others.

There is a very fine view in the interior of the cathedral looking from
west to east, which extends to a distance of 370 feet, and of which Sir
Gilbert Scott, the great ecclesiastical architect, who was born in 1811,
has written, "I always hold this work to be almost absolute perfection
in design and detail"; another great authority said that when he saw it
his impressions were like those described by John Milton in his "Il

Let my due feet never fail
To walk the studious cloisters pale,
And love the high embossed roof,
With antique pillars massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim, religious light:
There let the pealing organ blow,
To the full-voiced quire below.
In service high, and anthems clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstacies.
And bring all heaven before mine eyes.

We had not much time to explore the interior, but were obliged to visit
the white marble effigy by the famous Chantrey of the "Sleeping
Children" of Prebendary Robinson. It was beautifully executed, but for
some reason we preferred that of little Penelope we had seen the day
before, possibly because these children appeared so much older and more
like young ladies compared with Penelope, who was really a child.
Another monument by Chantrey which impressed us more strongly than that
of the children was that of Bishop Ryder in a kneeling posture, which we
thought a very fine production. There was also a slab to the memory of
Admiral Parker, the last survivor of Nelson's captains, and some fine
stained-glass windows of the sixteenth century formerly belonging to the
Abbey of Herckrode, near Liège, which Sir Brooke Boothby, the father of
little Penelope, had bought in Belgium in 1803 and presented to the


The present bishop, Bishop Selwyn, seemed to be very much loved, as
everybody had a good word for him. One gentleman told us he was the
first bishop to reside at the palace, all former bishops having resided
at Eccleshall, a town twenty-six miles away. Before coming to Lichfield
he had been twenty-two years in New Zealand, being the first bishop of
that colony. He died seven years after our visit, and had a great
funeral, at which Mr. W.E. Gladstone, who described Selwyn as "a noble
man," was one of the pall-bearers. The poet Browning's words were often
applied to Bishop Selwyn:

We that have loved him so, followed and honour'd him,
Lived in his mild and magnificent eye,
Caught his clear accents, learnt his great language,
Made him our pattern to live and to die.

There were several old houses in Lichfield of more than local interest,
one of which, called the Priest's House, was the birthplace in 1617 of
Elias Ashmole, Windsor Herald to King Charles II, and founder of the
Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. When we got into the town, or city, we found
that, although St. Chad was the patron saint of the cathedral, there was
also a patron saint of Lichfield itself, for it was Johnson here,
Johnson there, and Johnson everywhere, so we must needs go and see the
house where the great Doctor was born in 1709. We found it adjoining the
market-place, and in front of a monument on which were depicted three
scenes connected with his childhood: the first showing him mounted on
his father's back listening to Dr. Sacheverell, who was shown in the act
of preaching; the second showed him being carried to school between the
shoulders of two boys, another boy following closely behind, as if to
catch him in the event of a fall; while the third panel represents him
standing in the market-place at Uttoxeter, doing penance to propitiate
Heaven for the act of disobedience to his father that had happened fifty
years ago. When very young he was afflicted with scrofula, or king's
evil; so his mother took him in 1712, when he was only two and a half
years old, to London, where he was touched by Queen Anne, being the last
person so touched in England. The belief had prevailed from the time of
Edward the Confessor that scrofula could be cured by the royal touch,
and although the office remained in our Prayer Book till 1719, the
Jacobites considered that the power did not descend to King William and
Queen Anne because "Divine" hereditary right was not fully possessed by
them; which doubtless would be taken to account for the fact that
Johnson was not healed, for he was troubled with the disease as long as
he lived. When he was three years old he was carried by his father to
the cathedral to hear Dr. Sacheverell preach. This gentleman, who was a
Church of England minister and a great political preacher, was born in
1672. He was so extremely bitter against the dissenters and their Whig
supporters that he was impeached before the House of Lords, and
suspended for three years, while his sermon on "Perils of False
Brethren," which had had an enormous sale, was burnt by the common
hangman! It was said that young Johnson's conduct while listening to the
doctor's preaching on that occasion was quite exemplary.


Johnson was educated at the Lichfield Grammar School under Dr. Hunter,
who was a very severe schoolmaster, and must have been one of those who
"drove it in behind," for Johnson afterwards wrote: "My Master whipt me
very well. Without that I should have done nothing." Dr. Hunter boasted
that he never taught a boy anything; he whipped and they learned. It was
said, too, that when he flogged them he always said: "Boys, I do this to
save you from the gallows!" Johnson went to Oxford, and afterwards, in
1736, opened a school near Lichfield, advertising in the _Gentleman's
Magazine_ for young gentleman "to be boarded and taught the Latin and
Greek languages, by Samuel Johnson." He only got eight pupils, amongst
whom was David Garrick, who afterwards became the leading tragic actor
of his time. Johnson had for some time been at work on a tragedy called
_The Tragedy of Irene_, though whether this decided Garrick to become a
tragedy actor is not known; the play, however, did not succeed with the
play-going public in London, and had to be withdrawn. Neither did the
school succeed, and it had to be given up, Johnson, accompanied by David
Garrick, setting off to London, where it was said that he lived in a
garret on fourpence-halfpenny per day. Many years afterwards, when
Johnson was dining with a fashionable company, a remark was made
referring to an incident that occurred in a certain year, and Johnson
exclaimed: "That was the year when I came to London with
twopence-halfpenny in my pocket."

Garrick overheard the remark, and exclaimed: "Eh, what do you say? with
twopence-halfpenny in your pocket?"

"Why, yes; when I came with twopence-halfpenny in my pocket, and thou,
Davy, with three-halfpence in thine."

Poverty haunted Johnson all through life until 1762, when he was granted
a pension of £300 a year by King George III, on the recommendation of
Lord Bute, the Prime Minister, who, in making the offer, said: "It is
not given you for anything you are to do, but for what you have done."
In the meantime Johnson had brought out his great Dictionary, at which
he had worked for years in extreme poverty, and in the progress of which
he had asked Lord Chesterfield to become his patron, in the hope that he
would render him some financial assistance. When he went to see him,
however, he was kept waiting for over an hour, while his lordship amused
himself by conversing with some second-rate mortal named "Colley
Cibber," and when this man came out, and Johnson saw who it was for whom
he had been kept waiting, he hurriedly and indignantly took his
departure. When his Dictionary was nearly ready for publication and
likely to become a great success, his lordship wrote to Johnson offering
to become his patron; but it was now too late, and Johnson's reply was
characteristic of the man, as the following passages from his letter

Seven years, my Lord, have now passed since I waited in your outward
rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been
pushing on with my work through Difficulties, of which it is useless
to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of
publication, without one act of assistance, one word of
encouragement, or one-smile of favour. Such treatment I did not
expect, for I never had a Patron before. The notice you have been
pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but
it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till
I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want
it. I hope it is no cynical asperity not to confess obligations where
no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public
should consider me as owing that to a patron which Providence has
enabled me to do for myself!


Johnson's name is often associated with London taverns, but it would be
wrong to assume on that account that he had bibulous tendencies, for
although he described Boswell, who wrote his splendid biography, as a
"clubable" man, and the tavern chair as the throne of human felicity, it
should be remembered that there were no gentlemen's clubs in London in
those days, hence groups of famous men met at the taverns. Johnson had
quite a host of friends, including Garrick, Burke, Goldsmith, Savage
(whose biography he wrote), Sheridan, and Sir Joshua Reynolds. When Sir
Joshua Reynolds and Johnson were dining at Mrs. Garrick's house in
London they were regaled with Uttoxeter ale, which had a "peculiar
appropriate value," but Johnson's beverage at the London taverns was
lemonade, or the juice of oranges, or tea, and it was his boast that
"with tea he amused the evenings, with tea solaced the midnight hour,
and with tea welcomed the morning." He was credited with drinking
enormous quantities of that beverage, the highest number of cups
recorded being twenty-five at one time, but the size of the cups were
very much smaller in those days.

Johnson, who died in 1784 at the age of seventy-five, was buried in
Westminster Abbey, and, mainly through the exertions of his friend Sir
Joshua Reynolds, a statue of him was erected in St. Paul's Cathedral.

Other eminent men besides Dr. Johnson received their education at
Lichfield Grammar School: Elias Ashmole, founder of the Ashmolean Museum
at Oxford, Joseph Addison the great essayist, whose father was Dean of
Lichfield, and David Garrick the actor, were all educated at the Grammar
School. There were five boys who had at one period attended the school
who afterwards became judges of the High Court: Lord Chief Justice
Willes, Lord Chief Justice Wilmot, Lord Chief Baron Parker, Mr. Justice
Noel, and Sir Richard Lloyd, Baron of the Exchequer.

Leaving Lichfield, we passed along the racecourse and walked as quickly
as we could to Tamworth, where at the railway station we found our box
awaiting us with a fresh change of clothing. In a few minutes we were
comfortably rigged out for our farther journey; the box, in which my
brother packed up the stones, was then reconsigned to our home address.
I was now strong enough to carry my own luggage, which seemed to fit
very awkwardly in its former position, but I soon got over that. There
was at Tamworth a fine old church dedicated to St. Editha which we did
not visit. We saw the bronze statue erected in 1852 to the memory of the
great Sir Robert Peel, Bart., who represented Tamworth in Parliament,
and was twice Prime Minister, and who brought in the famous Bill for the
Abolition of the Corn Laws. These Laws had been in operation from the
year 1436. But times had changed: the population had rapidly grown with
the development of industries, so that being limited to home production,
corn reached such a high price that people came to see that the laws
pressed hardly upon the poorer classes, hence they were ultimately
abolished altogether. The Bill was passed in 1846, Cobden, Bright, and
Villiers leading the agitation against them, and after the Corn Laws
were abolished a period of great prosperity prevailed in England.

[Illustration: SIR ROBERT PEEL. _From the portrait by Sir Thomas

Sir Robert Peel died from the effect of an accident sustained when
riding on horseback in Hyde Park, on June 25th, 1850; he fell from his
horse, dying three days afterwards, and was buried in his mausoleum, in
the Parish Church of Drayton Bassett, a village about two miles from

It was the day of the Municipal Elections as we passed through Tamworth,
but, as only one ward was being contested, there was an almost total
absence o f the excitement usual on such occasions.

[Illustration: TAMWORTH CASTLE.]

Tamworth Castle contains some walls that were built by the Saxons in a
herringbone pattern. There was a palace on the site of the castle in the
time of Ofta, which was the chief residence of the Kings of Mercia; but
William the Conqueror gave the castle and town of Tamworth and the Manor
of Scrivelsby in Lincolnshire to his dispensor, or royal steward, Robert
of Fontenaye-le-Marmion in Normandy, whose family were the hereditary
champions of the Dukes of Normandy:

These Lincoln lands the Conqueror gave,
That England's glove they might convey
To Knight renowned amongst the brave -
The Baron bold of Fontenaye.

[Illustration: THE "LADY" BRIDGE, TAMWORTH.]

Robert Marmion, therefore, was the first "King's Champion of England,"
an honour which remained in his family until the death of the eighth
Lord, Philip Marmion, in 1291. This man was one of the leading nobles at
the Court of Henry III, and the stubborn defender of Kenilworth Castle,
acting as King's Champion at the Coronation of Edward I on August 19th,
1274. The duty of the King's Champion on the day of Coronation was to
ride completely armed on a barbed horse into Westminster Hall, and there
to challenge to combat any who should gainsay the king's title. On the
death of Philip de Marmion the Castle of Tamworth passed by marriage to
the Trevilles, Sir Alexander Treville, as owner of the castle,
officiating; as Royal Champion at the Coronation of Edward III in 1327;
but at the Coronation of Richard II, in 1377, the right of the Treville
family to act as champion was disputed by Sir John Dymoke, to whom the
Manor of Scrivelsby had descended by marriage from another relative of
Phillip Marmion. It was decided that the office went with the Manor of
Scrivelsby, and the Dymokes had acted as King's Champion ever since,
their coat of arms bearing in Latin the motto, "I fight for the king."

As we passed over what is known as the Lady Bridge spanning the River
Tame, just where it joins the River Anker at the foot of the castle, we
saw a stone built in the bridge called the Marmion Stone, and remembered
Sir Walter Scott's "Tale of Flodden Field" and his famous lines:

"Charge, Chester, charge! On, Stanley, on!"
Were the last words of Marmion.

But we found other references in Sir Walter's "Marmion":

Two pursuivants, whom tabards deck,
With silver scutcheon round their neck
And there, with herald pomp and state,
They hail'd Lord Marmion:
They hail'd him Lord of Fontenaye,
Of Lutterward, and Scrivelsbaye,
Of Tamworth tower and town.

and in the Fifth Canto in "Marmion," King James of Scotland is made to

"Southward I march by break of day;
And if within Tantallon strong.
The good Lord Marmion tarries long,
Perchance our meeting next may fall
At Tamworth, in his castle-hall." -
The haughty Marmion felt the taunt,
And answer'd, grave, the royal vaunt:
"Much honour'd were my humble home,
If in its halls King James should come.

* * * * *

And many a banner will be torn,
And many a knight to earth be borne,
And many a sheaf of arrows spent.
Ere Scotland's King shall cross the Trent."

Sir Walter described Marmion as having been killed in the battle
together with one of his peasants, and that as both bodies had been
stripped and were covered with wounds, they could not distinguish one
from the other, with the result that the peasant was brought and buried
at Lichfield instead of his lord.

Short is my tale: - Fitz-Eustace' care
A pierced and mangled body bare
To moated Lichfield's lofty pile;
And there, beneath the southern aisle,
A tomb, with Gothic sculpture fair,
Did long Lord Marmion's image bear,
(Now vainly for its sight you look;
'Twas levell'd when fanatic Brook
The fair cathedral storm'd and took;
But, thanks to Heaven, and good Saint Chad,
A guerdon meet the spoiler had!)
There erst was martial Marmion found,
His feet upon a couchant hound,
His hands to heaven upraised:
And all around, on scutcheon rich,
And tablet carved, and fretted niche,
His arms and feats were blazed.
And yet, though all was carved so fair,
And priest for Marmion breathed the prayer,
The last Lord Marmion lay not there.

[Illustration: MEREVALE ABBEY.]

[Illustration: "KING DICK'S WELL."]

The Marmion stone on the bridge has five unequal sides, and at one time
formed the base for a figure of the Virgin and the Child, which stood on
the bridge. The ancient family of Basset of Drayton, a village close by,
were in some way connected with this stone, for on one side appeared the
arms of the family, on another the monogram M.R. surmounted by a crown,
and on the two others the letters I.H.C. About two miles farther on we
entered the village of Fazeley, purposely to see a house where a
relative of ours had once resided, being curious to know what kind of a
place it was. Here we were only a short distance away from Drayton
Manor, at one time the residence of the great Sir Robert Peel. Having
gratified our curiosity, we recrossed the River Tame, passing along the
great Watling Street, the Roman Road which King Alfred used as a
boundary in dividing England with the Danes, towards Atherstone in
search of "fields and pastures new," and in a few miles reached the
grounds of Merevale Abbey, now in ruins, where Robert, Earl Ferrers, was
buried, long before coffins were used for burial purposes, in "a good ox
hide." Here we reached the town of Atherstone, where the staple
industry was the manufacture of hats, the Atherstone Company of
Hat-makers being incorporated by charters from James I and Charles II.
Many of the chiefs on the West Coast of Africa have been decorated with
gorgeous hats that have been made at Atherstone. When the Romans were
making their famous street and reached the spot where Atherstone now
stands, they came, according to local tradition, to a large stone that
was in their way, and in moving it they disturbed a nest of adders,
which flew at them. The stone was named Adders' Stone, which gradually
became corrupted to Athers' Stone, and hence the name of the town. The
Corporation of the Governors embodied this incident in their coat of
arms and on the Grammar School, which was endowed in 1573: a stone
showed the adders as springing upwards, and displaying the words,
"Adderstonien Sigil Scholæ." We called at the "Old Red Lion Inn," and,
going to explore the town while our refreshments were being prepared,
found our way to a church, once part of a monastery, where the old
fourteenth-century bell was still tolled. It was in the chancel of this
church that Henry, Earl of Richmond, partook of Holy Communion on the
eve of his great victory over Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth
Field, by which he became King Henry VII. He had also spent a night at
the "Three Tuns Inn" preparing his plans for the fight, which occurred
two days later, August 22nd, 1485. There was on the site of the battle a
well named "King Dick's Well," which was covered with masonry in the
form of a pyramid, with an entrance on one of its four sides, and which
covered the spring where Richard, weary of fighting, had a refreshing
drink before the final charge that ended in his death. He, however, lost
the battle, and Henry of Richmond, who won it, was crowned King of
England at Stoke Golding Church, which was practically on the
battlefield, and is one of the finest specimens of decorated
architecture in England. But what an anxious and weary time these kings
must have had! not only they, but all others. When we considered how
many of them had been overthrown, assassinated, taken prisoners in war,
executed, slain in battle, forced to abdicate, tortured to death,
committed suicide, and gone mad, we came to the conclusion that
Shakespeare was right when he wrote, "Uneasy lies the head that wears a
crown." In his _King Richard II_ he makes the King say:

"And nothing can we call our own but death,
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of Kings:
How some have been deposed, some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed,
Some poison'd by their wives, some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd."

One good result of the Battle of Bosworth Field was that it ended the
"Wars of the Roses," which had been a curse to England for thirty years.


Bull-baiting was one of the favourite sports of our forefathers, the
bull being usually fastened to an iron ring in the centre of a piece of
ground, while dogs were urged on to attack it, many of them being killed
in the fight. This space of land was known as the Bull-ring, a name
often found in the centre of large towns at the present day. We knew a
village in Shropshire where the original ring was still to be seen
embedded in the cobbled pavement between the church and the village inn.
But at Atherstone the bull had been fastened to a large stone, still to
be seen, but away from the road, which had now been diverted from its
original track.

The ancient whipping-post, along with the stocks, which had
accommodation for three persons, had found their last resting-place
inside the old market-hall. They must have been almost constantly
occupied and used in the good old times, as Atherstone was not only on
the great Watling Street, but it had a unique position on the other
roads of the country, as an old milestone near our hotel, where we found
our refreshments waiting our arrival, informed us that we were a hundred
miles from London, a hundred miles from Liverpool, and a hundred miles
from Lincoln, so that Atherstone could fairly claim to be one of the
central towns in England, though the distance to Lincoln had been


We continued walking along the Watling Street for a short distance,
until we reached the end of the town, and then we forked on to the right
towards Nuncaton; but in a very short distance we came to the village of
Mancetter, where there was a fine old church, apparently the Parish
Church of Atherstone. When the Romans were here they protected their
"Street" by means of forts, and one in a small chain of these was at
Mancetter, the Manduesdum of the Romans, their camp appearing in the
form of a square mound, with the "Street" passing through the centre.
Inside the church were quite a number of very old books, in one of which
we were shown a wood-cut representing the burning of Robert Glover and
Cornelius Bongley at Coventry in 1555. Glover was a gentleman who lived
at the Manor House here, and was one of the Mancetter Martyrs, the other
being Mrs. Lewis, a tenant of his who lived at the Manor House Farm. She
was burnt in 1557, two years later. A large tablet was placed in the
church to their memories, both of them having suffered for their
adherence to the Protestant Faith. The east-end window was a curiosity,
for it contained a large quantity of thirteenth-century stained glass
which had been brought here from Merevale Abbey. It was probably damaged
both there and in transit, as it seemed to have a somewhat rough

Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 38 of 66)