Robert Naylor.

From John O'Groats to Land's End online

. (page 42 of 66)
Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 42 of 66)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

became one of the most famous missionaries of the nineteenth century.
His name was Robert Moffat, and he laboured hard in South Africa, where
his son-in-law, David Livingstone, following his example, also became a
renowned explorer and missionary in the "Dark Continent."

Accept me for Thy service, Lord,
And train me for Thy will,
For even I in fields so broad
Some duties may fulfil;
And I will ask for no reward
Except to serve Thee still.

[Illustration: ROBERT MOFFAT.]

We soon arrived at Leamington, which was quite an aristocratic town, and
different from any other we had seen on our journey, for it consisted
chiefly of modern houses of a light stone colour, which contrasted
finely with the trees with which the houses were interspersed and
surrounded, and which must have appeared very beautiful in the spring

The chief object of interest there was the Spa, which although known to
travellers in the seventeenth century, had only come into prominence
during recent times, or since the local poets had sung its praises. In
the introduction to a curious book, published in 1809 by James Bissett,
who described himself as "Medallist to his Majesty King George the
Third, proprietor of the Picture Gallery, public, news-room, and the
museum at Leamington," there appeared the following lines:

Nay! Foreigners of rank who this look o'er
To try the Wells may quit their native shore;
For when they learn the virtues of the Spaw
Twice tens of thousands to the spot will draw,
As when its wondrous powers are pointed out
And men found cap'ring who have had the gout;
When pallid cheeks regain their roseate blush
And vigorous health expels the hectic flush
When those once hypp'd cast the crutch away;
Sure when the pride of British Spas they see
They'll own the humble instrument in me!

The Spa, it appeared, had been patronised by royalty on several
occasions, and Queen Victoria in 1838 acceded to the request that the
inhabitants might henceforth style the town the "Royal Leamington Spa."
Benjamin Satchwell claimed to have discovered the principal well there
in 1784, and on his tombstone in the churchyard appeared the following:

Hail the unassuming tomb
Of him who told where health and beauty bloom,
Of him whose lengthened life improving ran -
A blameless, useful, venerable man.

We only stayed a short time here, and then walked quickly through a fine
country to the ancient town of Warwick, with Guy's Cliffe and Blacklow
Hill to our right, the monument on the hill being to Piers Gaveston,
Earl of Cornwall, the hated favourite of Edward II. Gaveston was
beheaded on the hill on July 1st, 1312, and the modern inscription

In the hollow of this rock was beheaded, on the first day of July
1312, by barons, lawless as himself, Piers Gaveston, Earl of
Cornwall, the minion of a hateful King, in life and death a memorable
instance of misrule.

[Illustration: GUY'S TOWER, WARWICK]

Gaveston surrendered to the insurgent barons at Scarborough, on
condition that his life should be spared; but he had offended the Earl
of Warwick by calling him the "Black Hound of Arden," and the earl
caused him to be conveyed to Warwick Castle. When brought before
Warwick there, the Earl muttered, "Now you shall feel the Hound's
teeth," and after a mock trial by torchlight he was led out of the
castle and beheaded on the hill. Every one of the barons concerned in
this rather diabolical action died by violence during the next few

[Illustration: WARWICK CASTLE FROM THE RIVER. "As we crossed the bridge
we had a splendid view of Warwick Castle ... the finest example of a
fortified castle in England ... the 'fairest monument of ancient and
chivalrous splendour yet uninjured by time.'"]

[Illustration: WARWICK CASTLE]

[Illustration: THE PORTCULLIS.]

[Illustration: ENTRANCE TOWERS.]

[Illustration: WARWICK CASTLE]

As we crossed the bridge leading over the River Avon we had a splendid
view of Warwick Castle, which had the reputation of being the finest
example of a fortified castle in England, Sir Walter Scott describing it
as "the fairest monument of ancient and chivalrous splendour which yet
remain uninjured by time." It could boast of a continuous history from
the time of Ethelfreda, the daughter of the Saxon King, Alfred the
Great, and its towers rose to a considerable height, Cæsar's tower
reaching an elevation of 174 feet. Here could be seen the famous and
exquisite Vase of Warwick, in white marble, of unknown age and of
fabulous value, said to have been found at the bottom of a lake near
Hadrian's Villa, at Tivoli, in Italy. There were an immense number of
curios in the castle, some of which were connected with that famous
character Guy, Earl of Warwick, including his shield, sword, and helmet,
and his kettle of bell-metal, twenty-six feet wide and capable of
holding 120 gallons of water. We had no time to visit the interior of
the castle, but it was interesting to read, in one of his letters, what
Dr. Adam Clark saw there in 1797: "I was almost absolutely a prey to
astonishment and rapture while I contemplated the painting of the wife
of Schneider by Rubens, such a speaking canvas I never beheld." He saw
the large Etruscan vases collected by Sir William Hamilton, some bronze
cups dug out of the ruins of Herculaneum, and the bed in which Queen
Anne slept and which, according to report, she wrought with her own
hands. In the Armoury he was permitted to fit on some of the armour, and
attempted also to wield the sword of Guy, Earl of Warwick, which weighed
seventy pounds. He also examined the rest of Guy's gigantic equipments,
not omitting his porridge-pot, which held no gallons and was filled
every time an Earl of Warwick came of age. This Guy was not the famous
King Maker, but the original Guy, who lived at a time when England was
covered with thick forests in which savage beasts, now unknown, roamed
at large, causing great havoc amongst the early settlers, both to their
persons and their cattle. Of gigantic stature, he was renowned for his
courage and prowess, and, being in love with the fair Felice at Warwick
Castle, for her sake he performed prodigious feats of valour, both at
home and abroad. Amongst other monsters which preyed upon and terrified
human beings he killed the wild and fierce Dun Cow which infested Dun's
Moor, a place we had passed by the previous day; and we were reminded of
his prowess when we saw the sign of the "Dun Cow" displayed on inns in
the country, including that on the hotel at Dunchurch. He went on a
pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where he killed many Saracens, and when on
his return he landed at Portsmouth, King Athelstane, ignorant of his
name, asked him if he would become his champion in a contest on which
the fate of England depended. The king told him that the Danes had with
them a champion named Colbran, a gigantic Saracen, and that they had
offered to stake their fortunes on a duel between him and an English
champion, not yet found, on condition that if Colbran won, England must
be given up to Anlaf, King of Denmark, and Govelaph, King of Norway. Guy
undertook the fight willingly, and defeated and killed the gigantic
Saracen, after which he privately informed the king that he was the Earl
of Warwick. He secured the hand and affections of the fair Felice, but
when the thoughts of all the people he had killed began to haunt him, he
left her, giving himself up to a life of devotion and charity, while he
disappeared and led the life of a hermit. She thought he had gone into
foreign lands, and mourned his loss for many years; but he was quite
near the castle all the time, living beside the River Avon in a cave in
a rock, which is still called Guys Cliffe, and where he died. Huge bones
were found and kept in the castle, including one rib bone, which
measured nine inches in girth at its smallest part and was six and a
half feet long; but this was probably a bone belonging to one of the
great wild beasts slain by the redoubtable Guy. We were sorry we could
not explore the castle, but we wanted particularly to visit the
magnificent Beauchamp Chapel in St. Mary's Church at Warwick. We found
this one of those places almost impossible to describe, and could
endorse the opinion of others, that it was "an architectural gem of the
first water and one of the finest pieces of architectural work in the
kingdom." It occupied twenty-one years in building, and contains the
tomb of Richard Beauchamp, under whose will the chapel was begun in
1443; Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the haughty favourite of Queen
Elizabeth, was also entombed here. We had too much to do to-day to stay
very long in any place we visited, but we were interested in the remains
of a ducking-stool in the crypt of the church, although it was far from
being complete, the only perfect one of which we knew being that in the
Priory Church of Leominster, which reposed in a disused aisle of the
church, the property of the Corporation of that town. It was described
as "an engine of universal punishment for common scolds, and for
butchers, bakers, brewers, apothecaries, and all who give short measure,
or vended adulterated articles of food," and was last used in 1809, when
a scolding wife named Jenny Pipes was ducked in a deep place in one of
the small rivers which flowed through that town. The following lines,
printed on a large card, appeared hanging from one of the pillars in the
aisle near the stool:



There stands, my friend, in yonder pool,
An engine called a Ducking Stool;
By legal power commanded down,
The joy, and terror of the town.
If jarring females kindle strife,
Give language foul, or lug the coif:
If noisy dames should once begin
To drive the house with horrid din,
Away! you cry, you'll grace the stool
We'll teach you how your tongue to rule.
Down in the deep the stool descends,
But here, at first, we miss our ends,
She mounts again, and rages more
Than ever vixen did before.
If so, my friend, pray let her take
A second turn into the lake;
And rather than your patience lose
Thrice and again, repeat the dose,
No brawling wives, no furious wenches
No fire so hot, but water quenches.


The stool was exactly like a chair without legs, fastened on one end of
a long pole, in the centre of which was a framework with solid wooden
wheels. The culprit was fastened in the chair with her face towards the
men, who were at the other end of the pole, and who had to push and
guide the machine through the narrow streets of the town until they
reached the "deep hole," where the unfortunate woman had to be ducked
overhead in the river. Her feet were securely tied to the top of the
pole to prevent them from being hurt when passing through the town, and
to hinder her from using them to keep her head above the water. The poet
describes the "engine called a ducking-stool" as the "joy and terror of
the town," but the "joy" could only have been that of the men, women,
and children who could be spared to see the show, and knew the woman's
scolding propensities. If she continued scolding after the first "duck,"
down she went again, and again, until, as we imagined, half filled with
water, she was unable to scold further, and so the water triumphed in
the end:

No brawling wives, no furious wenches
No fire so hot, but water quenches.

The tower of St. Mary's Church was built on four lofty arches, one of
which formed the entrance to the church while the other three formed
entrances to the street, the footpath passing through two of them.


We passed alongside the ancient and picturesque half-timbered building
known as Lord Leicester's Hospital, which was one of the few buildings
in the town that escaped the fire in 1694. It had been built by Robert
Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the favourite of Queen Elizabeth and of
Kenilworth fame, to accommodate twelve poor men or brethren besides the
master, who, according to Dugdale the famous antiquary, "were to be
clothed in blew cloth, with a ragged staff embroydered on the left
sleeve," and not to go into the town without them. The hospital dated
from 1571, but what was formerly the banqueting-hall belonged to an
earlier period, and owed its preservation largely to the fact that the
timber of which the roof had been constructed was Spanish chestnut, a
timber which grew luxuriantly in the forests of England, and resembled
English oak. It was largely used by the monks in the building of their
refectories, as no worm or moth would go near it and no spider's web was
ever woven there, the wood being poisonous to insects. It is lighter in
colour than oak, and, seeing the beams so clean-looking, with the
appearance of having been erected in modern times, it is difficult for
the visitor to realise that they have been in their present position
perhaps for five or six centuries. Over one of the arched doorways in
the old hospital appeared the insignia of the bear and the ragged staff,
which was also the sign of public houses, notably that at Cumnor, the
village of Amy Robsart. This we discovered to be the arms of the Earls
of Warwick, originating during the time of the first two earls: the
first being Arth or Arthgal of the Round Table - Arth meaning bear - and
the second Morvid, who in single combat overcame a mighty giant who
came against him with a club - a tree pulled up by the roots and stripped
of its branches; and in remembrance of his victory over the giant the
"ragged staff" ever afterwards appeared on the coat of arms of the Earls
of Warwick.


At the end of the hospital stood St. James's Chapel, built over the West
Gate of the town, which we left by the footpath leading both under the
church and its tower, on our way to Stratford-on-Avon.

[Illustration: SHAKESPEARE'S HOUSE (Before Restoration).]

We walked the eight miles which separated the two towns at a quick
speed, and, leaving our luggage at the "Golden Lion Inn" at the entrance
to Stratford, we went to explore that town, and soon arrived at the
birthplace of Shakespeare, one of the few houses in England where no
fire is ever lit or candle lighted. It was a very old-fashioned house
built with strong oak beams, the ceiling of the room in which
Shakespeare was born in 1564 being so low that visitors could easily
reach it, and they had written their names both on it and the walls
until there was scarcely an available space left. Written with lead
pencil, some of the autographs were those of men distinguished in every
rank of life both past and present, and would doubtless have become very
valuable if they had been written in a book, but we supposed Visitors'
Books had not been thought of in those days. We wondered if the walls
would ever be whitewashed again, and this thought might have occurred to
Sir Walter Scott when he scratched his name with a diamond on one of the
window panes. It was at another house in the town that Shakespeare wrote
his plays and planted a mulberry-tree in the garden. This mulberry-tree
used to be one of the objects of interest at Stratford, nearly every
pilgrim who arrived there going to see it. There came a time when the
house and garden changed hands, and were sold to a clergyman named
Gastrell, who we were sorry to learn was a countryman of ours, as he
belonged to Cheshire. He had married a "lady of means," who resided at
Lichfield, and they bought this house and garden, we supposed, so that
they might "live happily ever afterwards"; but the parson, who must have
had a very bad temper, was so annoyed at people continually calling to
see the mulberry-tree that he cut it down. It was probably owing to this
circumstance that he had a furious quarrel with the Corporation of
Stratford because they raised the rates on his property. When he
complained that they were excessive and the surveyor insisted on their
being paid, Gastrell ended the matter by pulling the house down to the
ground, and leaving the neighbourhood, so we supposed it was then a case
of -

Where he's gone and how he fares
Nobody knows and nobody cares.

Eventually the site became a public garden, where a slip of the
mulberry-tree may still be seen.


Shakespeare died in 1616, and was buried in the church at Stratford,
where on the ancient stone that covered his remains were inscribed in
old English characters the well-known words:

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here,
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones.

Shakespeare's threatened curse was doubtless one reason why his bones
had remained undisturbed, for it was no uncommon occurrence in his time
for the bones of the dead to be removed from a tomb and to be replaced
or mingled with those of a stranger, for even the tomb of his daughter,
who died in 1649, shared that fate, her epitaph being effaced and
replaced by another of a person in no way related to the Shakespeare
family, but who was buried in the same grave.

In one corner of the church was a tomb bearing the effigy of John
O'Combe, who we thought might have hailed from the neighbourhood of the
old abbey of that name which we passed the night before. In spite of his
benefactions recorded in the church, he was looked upon as a usurer,
because he charged 10 per cent, for his money. He was at one time a
friend of Shakespeare, and often asked the poet, who was no doubt
acquainted with his rate of interest, to write him an epitaph. When at
length he acceded to his request he greatly offended Combe by writing:

"Ten in the hundred" lies here en-graved,
'Tis a hundred to ten if his soul be saved.
If any one asks who lies in his tomb -
"Oho" quoth the devil "'tis my John O'Combe."

Shakespeare bought the house in which he wrote his plays from the
Clopton family, calling it "New Place," and a sorrowful story was
connected with the Clopton vault in Stratford Church. Sir Hugh Clopton,
who was buried there, was Lord Mayor of London in 1492, and had a very
beautiful young daughter named Charlotte, who, according to her
portrait, which was still in existence, had light blue eyes and pale
golden hair. In the time when a plague was raging in Stratford she was
said to have been found sitting in a chair in the garden apparently
dead, and was at once carried to the vault to be buried. A few days
afterwards another member of the family died of the plague, and was also
taken to the vault; but when the torch-bearers descended the steps
leading into the vault, the light from their torches revealed the form
of Charlotte Clopton leaning against the side of the tomb. They were
stricken with horror, but had arrived too late to save her, as she was
now quite dead. The poor girl must have been in a trance when they
carried her to the vault, and in her agony of hunger had bitten a piece
of flesh from her own shoulder!

We found the "Golden Lion" quite a comfortable hotel, and had a
first-class tea there in the company of an actor from London, who, like
ourselves, was exploring the country hereabouts, though perhaps from a
different point of view, and who had a lot to tell us about Shakespeare
and his plays. He had been to a village named Bidford a few miles away
where there was an old-fashioned inn, in the courtyard of which
Shakespeare and his friends had acted his _Midsummer's Night Dream_ long
before it appeared in London. It was at that inn that Shakespeare on
one occasion had too much to drink, and when on his way home to
Stratford he lay down under a thorn tree to sleep off the effects; the
tree was fenced round later on in memory of that rather inglorious
event. Although we were temperance men, we had to admit that the old
inns where the stage-coaches stopped to exchange passengers and horses
had a great attraction for us, and it was not without a feeling of
regret that we found them being gradually closed throughout the country
we passed through. They had mostly been built after the same model, the
gateway or door at the entrance being arched over and placed in the
centre of the front of the hotel. Through this archway the coaches, with
passengers and luggage, could pass in and out, a door on each side of
the entrance leading into different sections of the inn. The yards of
the inns were in the form of an oblong, generally roofed over, and along
each side were the out-offices, storerooms, and stables, with a flat
roof overhead, extending backwards as far as the bedroom doors, and
forming a convenient platform for passengers' luggage as it was handed
on and off the roof of the coach. The outside edge of the platform was
sometimes ornamented with a low palisade, which gave the interior of the
covered yard quite a pleasant and ornamental appearance.


Such was the character of the inns that existed in the time of
Shakespeare, and although sanitary regulations in later times required
the horses to be provided for in stable-yards farther in the rear, very
little structural alteration in the form of the inns had taken place.

The actor told us that in Shakespeare's time nearly all the acting
outside London and much within was done in the courtyards of these inns.
The actors travelled in two covered wagons or coaches, and when they
arrived at the inn they were drawn into the inn yard, while two members
of the party went out into the town or village vigorously beating a drum
to announce the arrival of the actors, almost the entire resident
population, men, women, and children, following them to the inn yard to
listen to the play, which custom, he said, was referred to by
Shakespeare in one of his plays in the passage:

The Actors have come and the rout are following!

The covers were then taken off the top of the wagons and placed round
the sides of the wheels, to act as screens while the actors changed
their dresses, which had to be done underneath the coaches. Meanwhile
boards, kept at the inns specially for that purpose, were fastened over
the tops of the wagons, and on these the actors performed their plays.
The squire, or lord of the manor, had the right to see the plays free of
charge, and when he came, a bar of wood was placed across the entrance
to one of the horse-boxes to keep off the spectators who thronged the
inn yard. From these people the actors collected what money they could,
while those who were better able to pay were accommodated on the
platform above the stables, which commanded a better view of the play.

When theatres were built, he informed us, they were modelled in the same
shape as the yards of these inns, their arrangement being also the same:
the stage represented the boards on the wagons and the actors dressed
underneath it, the pit corresponded to the inn yard, the gallery to the
platform over the stables, the boxes to the place railed off for the
squire. The actor was not sure about the stalls, and thought these were
instituted at a later period; but we reminded him that stalls were a
necessary adjunct to stables.


He also told us that the actors had a language peculiar to their
profession, which also dated from the time when they acted in the
country inn yards, for even when they travelled by train they were
always "on the road," and when acting in the theatre they were still "on
the boards."

We asked him if he knew about Shakespeare's stealing the deer from
Charlecote Park, Sir Thomas Lucy's property, and he said he did; but the
report was not quite correct, for at that time the park was surrounded
by Common Land, and it was there that Shakespeare shot the deer, which
only went into the park to die. Shakespeare followed it, and as he was
removing the carcase he was caught and summoned; the case hinged on
whether he had his weapon with him or not. As that could not be proved
against him, the case was dismissed. It appears that the Law of England
is the same on that point to-day as in the time of Shakespeare, for if a
man shoots a hare on his own land, and it dies on adjoining land
belonging to some one else, he has a perfect right to remove it,
providing he does not take his gun with him, which would constitute a
punishable offence. We were sorry to leave the hotel, as we should have
been very comfortable there, and the actor, who wanted to hear of our

Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 42 of 66)