Robert Naylor.

From John O'Groats to Land's End online

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in a tipsy tone of voice, "Can't you see, guv'nor? We're trying to get
that cheese out o' th' water!" The exciseman couldn't see any cheese,
but he could see the image of the full moon on the surface of the canal,
and, bursting into a roar of laughter at the silliness of the men, he
rode off on his way home. But it was now the rustics' turn to laugh as
they hauled the kegs out of the canal and carried them away in triumph
on their shoulders. The gentleman who told the story fairly "brought
down the house" when he added, "So you see, gentlemen, they were not so
silly after all."


One of the company asked my brother if he had heard that story before,
and when he said "No, but I have heard one something like it in
Yorkshire," he at once stood up and called for "Silence," announcing
that there was a gentleman present who could tell a story about the
Yorkshire Moonrakers. My brother was rather taken aback, but he could
always rise to the occasion when necessary, so he began in his usual
manner. "Once upon a time" there were two men living in a village in
Yorkshire, who went out one day to work in the fields amongst the hay,
taking their rakes with them. They were good workers, but as the day
turned out to be rather hot they paid too much attention to the large
bottle of beer in the harvest field, with the consequence that before
night came on the bottle was empty; so they went to the inn, and stayed
there drinking until it was nearly "closing time." By that time they
were quite merry, and decided to go home by the nearest way, leading
along the towing-path of one of the canals, which in the north are wider
and deeper than those farther south. As it was almost as light as day,
the moon being at its full, they got along all right until one of them
suddenly startled his mate by telling him that the moon had fallen into
the canal! They both stood still for a moment, thinking what an awful
thing had happened, but there seemed to be no doubt about it, whatever,
for there was the moon lying in the middle of the canal. It would never
do to leave it there, but what could they do to get it out? Their first
thought was the rakes they were carrying home on their shoulders, and
they decided to rake the moon to the side of the canal, where they would
reach it with their hands. They set to work - but although their rakes
were of the largest size, and their arms long and strong, the canal was
too wide to enable them to reach the moon. They were, however, agreed
that they must get it out some way or other, for it would be a pity if
it got drowned. At last they decided that they would both get into the
canal, and fetch the moon out themselves. They pulled off their coats,
therefore, and, laying them on the path, got into the water, only to
find it much deeper than they had expected; their feet sank into the mud
at the bottom, and the water came nearly up to their necks at once, and
as it was deeper towards the middle, they found it impossible to carry
out their task. But the worst feature was that neither of the men could
swim, and, being too deeply immersed in the water to reach high enough
on the canal bank to pull themselves out again, they were in great
danger of drowning. Fortunately, however, a boat was coming along the
canal, and when the man who was driving the horses attached to the boat
heard their cries, he ran forward, and, stopping where he found the
coats on the towing-path, was horrified to see the two men holding on to
the stones that lined the canal. They were fast losing consciousness,
but with the assistance of the other men on the boat he got them out on
the bank, and when they had recovered a little, assisted them home, for
they both had drunk too much beer. The incident created a great
sensation at the time, but as "all's well that ends well," it was
afterwards looked upon as a great joke - though the two men were ever
afterwards known as the Moonrakers, a nickname that was eventually
applied to all the inhabitants of that village.

The story was well received, but not quite so loudly applauded as that
which preceded it, until one gentleman in the company rose and asked my
brother if he could name the village in Yorkshire where the incident
occurred. "Certainly, sir," he replied; "the place was called Sloyit."

"Sloyit! Sloyit!" murmured the gentleman; and then he said, "How do you
spell it?" and, taking out his notebook and adjusting his gold-rimmed
spectacles, he prepared to record the name of the place as my brother
gave out each letter. And then followed one of the most extraordinary
scenes we had witnessed on our journey, for just at that moment some one
in the rear made a witty remark which apparently was aimed at the
searcher after knowledge, who was now on his feet, and which caused
general laughter amongst those who heard it. The gentleman was evidently
a man of some importance in the city, and his notebook was apparently
known to the company almost as well as himself, but perhaps not looked
upon as favourably, for its production under the present circumstances
seemed to have caused this unwonted amusement.

[Illustration: ST. ANN'S GATE, SALISBURY.]

My brother could not proceed until he could make himself heard, and it
was difficult to restore order at that late hour of the evening; but
when the laughter had subsided, he called to the gentleman in a loud
voice, "Are you ready, sir?" and when he said "I am, sir!" he proceeded
to call out each letter slowly and distinctly, so that all the company
could hear, the gentleman as he entered them in his book repeating the
letters in a minor key which sounded exactly like the echo.

"S," shouted my brother, "s," echoed the gentleman; "L," said my
brother, "L" softly responded the gentleman slowly; and then followed
A, a letter which the gentleman did not expect, as he said, "Did you say
'A,' sir?" "I did, sir," he replied, repeating the letter, which was
repeated doubtfully as the listener entered it in his book. The next
letters were "I" and "T," which were followed by the letter "H." These
were inserted without comment, beyond the usual repetition in a subdued
tone, but when my brother followed with "W," it became evident that the
gentleman thought that there was "something wrong somewhere," and that
he had a strong suspicion that he was being led astray. When my brother
assured him it was quite correct, he rather reluctantly entered it in
his book; but now there was a slight pause, as the space originally
allotted for the name had been fully occupied, and the remainder of the
word had to be continued on another page, much to the annoyance of the

The company had by this time become greatly interested in the
proceedings; but the fact was that the name of the place was not sounded
as it was spelled, and it was amusing to watch the expressions on their
faces as my brother proceeded to call out the remainder of the letters.
I could see they were enjoying the discomfiture of the old gentleman,
and that a suspicion was gaining ground that all the other letters of
the alphabet might yet be included! When the gentleman had selected the
corner in his note-book to record the remaining letters, and my brother
began with the letter "A," he remonstrated that he had given him that
letter previously, and a strong assurance from my brother was necessary
in order to ensure the entry of the letter in the notebook; but when it
was followed by "I" and "T" and including the "A" in exactly the same
order as he had recorded them before, his patience was quite exhausted,
and his previous suspicions confirmed that he was being hoaxed. The
remainder of the party amidst their hardly suppressed laughter insisted
upon their being entered, and when my brother called out the final
letter "E," and repeated the whole of the letters


and pronounced the word "Slawit" or "Sloyt," the hitherto suppressed
amusement burst in a perfect roar of laughter, the company evidently
thinking that the gentleman who had asked the question had got his
answer! Taking advantage of the general hilarity, we quietly and quickly
retreated to another and less noisy room upstairs, for the night.

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

_Wednesday, November 8th._

It must have been a great work to remove the City of Old Sarum and to
rebuild it in another position a mile or two away from its ancient site.
The removal began in 1219, and was continued during about 120 years;
Royal consent had to be obtained, as well as that of the Pope, Honorius
III. The reason then given for its removal was that Old Sarum was too
much exposed to the weather, and that there was also a scarcity of
water there - in fact "too much wind and too little water." There was
some difficulty in deciding the position on which the new cathedral
should be built, but this was solved by the Bishop shooting an arrow
from the top of the Castle of Old Sarum; wherever the arrow alighted the
new cathedral was to be built. The arrow fell very conveniently in the
meadows where four rivers ran - the Avon, Bourne, Nadder, and Wylye - and
amongst these the magnificent cathedral of Salisbury was built. The
rivers, which added to the picturesque beauty of the place, were fed by
open canals which ran through the main streets of the city, causing
Salisbury to be named at that time the "English Venice."

Nearly every King and Queen of England, from the time of Henry III, who
granted its first Charter in 1227, had visited Salisbury, and over
twenty of their portraits hung in the Council Chamber. Two Parliaments
were held in Salisbury, one in 1328 and another in 1384; and it was in
the market-place there, that Buckingham had his head cut off in 1483 by
order of his kinsman, Richard III, for promoting an insurrection in the
West of England. Henry VIII visited the city on two occasions, once with
Catherine of Aragon, and again with Anna Boleyn. James I too came to
Salisbury in 1611, and Charles II with his queen in 1665 - on both these
occasions to escape the plagues then raging in London. Sir Walter
Raleigh was in the city in 1618, writing his _Apology for the Voyage to
Guiana_, before his last sad visit to London, where he was beheaded.
James II passed through the town in 1688 to oppose the landing of
William of Orange, but, hearing he had already landed at Torbay, he
returned to London, and William arrived here ten days later, occupying
the same apartments at the palace.

But the chief object of interest in Salisbury was the fine cathedral,
with its magnificent Decorated Spire, the highest and finest in England,
and perhaps one of the finest in Europe, for it is 404 feet high, forty
feet higher, we were informed, than the cross on the top of St. Paul's
Cathedral in London. This information rather staggered my brother, for
he had an exalted opinion of the height of St. Paul's, which he had
visited when he went to the Great Exhibition in London in 1862.

On that occasion he had ascended the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral from
the inside by means of the rickety stairs and ladders provided for that
purpose, and had reached the golden ball which supported the cross on
the top, when he found it already occupied by two gentlemen smoking
cigars, who had arrived there before him, and who kindly assisted him
into the ball, which, although it only appeared about the size of a
football when seen from the city below, was big enough to hold four men.
They also very kindly offered him a cigar, which he was obliged to
decline with thanks, for he did not smoke; but when they told him they
came from Scotland, he was not surprised to find them there, as Scotsmen
even in those days were proverbial for working their way to the top not
only of the cathedrals, but almost everywhere else besides. The "brither
Scots" were working to a previously arranged programme, the present item
being to smoke a cigar in the golden ball on the top of St. Paul's
Cathedral. When my brother began the descent, he experienced one of the
most horrible sensations of his life, for hundreds of feet below him he
could see the floor of the cathedral with apparently nothing whatever
in the way to break a fall; so that a single false step might have
landed him in eternity, for if he had fallen he must have been dashed
into atoms on the floor so far below. The gentlemen saw he was nervous,
and advised him as he descended the ladder backwards not to look down
into the abyss below, but to keep his eyes fixed above, and following
this excellent advice, he got down safely. He always looked back on that
adventure in the light of a most horrible nightmare and with
justification, for in later years the Cathedral authorities made the
Whispering Gallery the highest point to which visitors were allowed to

We did not of course attempt to climb the Salisbury spire, although
there were quite a number of staircases inside the cathedral, and after
climbing these, adventurous visitors might ascend by ladders through the
timber framework to a door near the top; from that point, however, the
cross and the vane could only be reached by steeple-jacks. Like other
lofty spires, that of Salisbury had been a source of anxiety and expense
from time to time, but the timber used in the building of it had been
allowed to remain inside, which had so strengthened it that it was then
only a few inches out of the perpendicular. When a new vane was put on
in 1762 a small box was discovered in the ball to which the vane was
fixed. This box was made of wood, but inside it was another box made of
lead, and enclosed in that was found a piece of very old silk - a relic,
it was supposed, of the robe of the Virgin Mary, to whom the cathedral
was dedicated, and placed there to guard the spire from danger. The
casket was carefully resealed and placed in its former position under
the ball.

A very large number of tombs stood in the cathedral, including many of
former bishops, and we were surprised to find them in such good
condition, for they did not appear to have suffered materially in the
Civil War. The very oldest were those that had been removed from Old
Sarum, but the finest tomb was that of Bishop Giles de Bridport, the
Bishop when the new cathedral was completed and consecrated. He died in
1262, and eight carvings on the stone spandrel above him represented the
same number of scenes in his career, beginning with his birth and ending
with the ascent of his soul into heaven. The figure of a boy in full
episcopal robes, found under the seating of the choir in 1680, and named
the "Boy Bishop," was an object of special interest, but whether it was
a miniature of one of the bishops or intended to represent a "choral
bishop," formerly elected annually by the choir, was unknown.

There were also tombs and effigies to the first and second Earls of
Salisbury, the first, who died in 1226, being the son of Henry II and
Fair Rosamond, of whom we had heard at Woodstock. He was represented in
chain armour, on which some of the beautiful ornaments in gold and
colour still remained. His son, the second Earl, who went twice to the
Holy Land as a Crusader under St. Louis, was also represented in chain
armour and cross-legged.

Near this was the tomb of Sir John Cheney, a man of extraordinary size
and strength, his thigh-bone measuring 21 inches, whose great armour we
had seen in Sir Walter Scott's house at Abbotsford. He was bodyguard to
Henry of Richmond at the Battle of Bosworth Field, near which we passed
at Atherstone. Sir William Brandon was Richmond's standard-bearer, and
was cut down by King Richard himself, who tore his standard from him
and, flinging it aside, rode at Sir John Cheney and hurled him from his
horse just before he met his own fate.

[Illustration: SALISBURY CATHEDRAL. "The fine Cathedral, with its
magnificent Decorated spire, the highest and finest in England - perhaps
the finest in Europe, for it is forty feet higher than the Dome of St.
Paul's in London."]

There are a large number of pillars and windows in Salisbury Cathedral,
but as we had no time to stay and count them, we accepted the numbers
given by the local poet as being correct, when he wrote:

As many days as in one year there be,
So many windows in this Church we see;
As many marble pillars here appear
As there are hours throughout the fleeting year; (8760)
As many gates as moons one year does view.
Strange tale to tell; yet not more strange than true.

The Cathedral Close at Salisbury was the finest we had seen both for
extent and beauty, the half-mile area of grass and the fine trees giving
an inexpressible charm both to the cathedral and its immediate
surroundings. The great advantage of this wide open space to us was that
we could obtain a magnificent view of the whole cathedral. We had passed
many fine cathedrals and other buildings on our walk whose proportions
were hidden by the dingy property which closely surrounded them, but
Salisbury was quite an exception. True, there were houses in and around
the close, but these stood at a respectful distance from the cathedral,
and as they had formerly been the town houses of the aristocracy, they
contained fine old staircases and panelled rooms with decorated
ceilings, which with their beautiful and artistic wrought-iron gates
were all well worth seeing. The close was surrounded by battlemented
stone walls on three sides and by the River Avon on the fourth,
permission having been granted in 1327 by Edward III for the stones from
Old Sarum to be used for building the walls of the close at Salisbury;
hence numbers of carved Norman stones, fragments of the old cathedral
there, could be seen embedded in the masonry. Several gate-houses led
into the close, the gates in them being locked regularly every night in
accordance with ancient custom. In a niche over one of these, known as
the High Street Gate, there was a statue which originally represented
James I, but when he died it was made to do duty for Charles I by taking
off the head of James and substituting that of Charles, his successor to
the throne, with the odd result that the body of James carried the head
of Charles!

There were many old buildings in the city, but we had not time to
explore them thoroughly. Still there was one known as the Poultry Cross
nobody could fail to see whether walking or driving through Salisbury.
Although by no means a large erection, it formed one of the most
striking objects in the city, and a more beautiful piece of Gothic
architecture it would be difficult to imagine. It was formerly called
the Yarn Market, and was said to have been erected about the year 1378
by Sir Lawrence de St. Martin as a penance for some breach of
ecclesiastical law. It consisted of six arches forming an open hexagon,
supported by six columns on heavy foundations, with a central pillar
square at the bottom and six-sided at the top - the whole highly
ornamented and finished off with an elaborate turret surmounted by a
cross. It was mentioned in a deed dated November 2nd, 1335, and formed
a feature of great archaeological interest.


The old portion of St. Nicholas' was in existence in 1227, and in the
Chorister's Square was a school established and endowed as far back as
the year 1314, to support fourteen choristers and a master to teach
them. Their costumes must have been rather picturesque, for they were
ordered to be dressed in knee-breeches and claret-coloured coats, with
frills at the neck instead of collars.

Quite a number of ancient inns in Salisbury were connected with the old
city life, Buckingham being beheaded in the yard of the "Blue Boar Inn"
in the market-place, where a new scaffold was provided for the occasion.
In 1838 a headless skeleton, believed to be that of Buckingham, was dug
out from below the kitchen floor of the inn.

The "King's Arms" was another of the old posting-houses where, when King
Charles was hiding on Salisbury Plain in the time of the Civil War,
after the Battle of Worcester, a meeting was held under the guidance of
Lord Wilmot, at which plans were made to charter a vessel for the
conveyance of the King from Southampton to some place on the Continent.
Here we saw a curiosity in the shape of a large window on the first
floor, from which travellers formerly stepped on and off the top of the
stage-coaches, probably because the archway into the yard was too low
for the outside passengers to pass under safely. There was also the
"Queen's Arms," with its quaint porch in the shape of a shell over the
doorway, and the "Haunch of Venison," and others; but in the time of the
Commonwealth we might have indulged in the luxury of staying at the
Bishop's Palace, for it was sold at that time, and used as an inn. It
must have had rough visitors, for when the ecclesiastical authorities
regained possession it was in a very dilapidated condition.

One of the oldest coaching-houses in Salisbury in former years was the
"George Inn," mentioned in the city records as far back as the year
1406; but the licence had lapsed, and the building was now being used
for other purposes. Its quaint elevation, with its old-fashioned
bow-windows, was delightful to see, and in the year 1623 it was declared
that "all Players from henceforth shall make their plays at the George
Inn." This inn seemed to have been a grand place, for Pepys, who stayed
there in 1668, wrote in his _Diary_ in his quaint, abrupt, and
abbreviated way: "Came to the George Inne, where lay in a silk bed and
very good diet"; but when the bill was handed to him for payment, he was
"mad" at the charges.

We left Salisbury with regret, and with the thought that we had not seen
all that we ought to have seen, but with an inward resolve to pay the
ancient city another visit in the future. Walking briskly along the
valley of the river Nadder, and taking advantage of a field road, we
reached the village of Bemerton. Here George Herbert, "the most
devotional of the English poets," was rector from 1630 to 1632, having
been presented to the living by Charles I. Herbert was born at
Montgomery Castle, near the Shropshire border, and came of a noble
family, being a brother of the statesman and writer Lord Herbert of
Chirbury, one of the Shropshire Herberts. He restored the parsonage at
Bemerton, but did not live long to enjoy it. He seems to have had a
presentiment that some one else would have the benefit of it, as he
caused the following lines to be engraved above the chimneypiece in the
hall, giving good advice to the rector who was to follow him:

If thou chance for to find
A new house to thy mind,
And built without thy cost.
Be good to the poor
As God gives thee store
And then my labour's not lost.

It was here that he composed most of his hymns, and here he died at what
his friend Izaak Walton described in 1632 as "the good and more pleasant
than healthful parsonage." A tablet inscribed "G.H. 1633" was all that
marked the resting-place of "the sweetest singer that ever sang God's
praise." Bemerton, we thought, was a lovely little village, and there
was a fig-tree and a medlar-tree in the rectory garden, which Herbert
himself was said to have planted with his own hands. Here we record one
of his hymns:

Let all the world in every corner sing
My God and King!
The Heavens are not too high.
His praises may thither fly;
The earth is not too low,
His praises there may grow.
Let all the world in every corner sing
My God and King!

Let all the world in every corner sing
My God and King!
The Church with psalms must shout,
No door can keep them out;
But above all the heart
Must bear the longest part.
Let all the world in every corner sing
My God and King!

The old church of Chirbury belonged to the Herberts, and was noted for
its heavy circular pillars supporting the roof, which, with the walls,
were so much bent outwards that they gave one the impression that they
would fall over; but nearly all the walls in old churches bend that way
more or less, a fact which we always attributed to the weight of the
heavy roof pressing on them. At one village on our travels, however, we
noticed, hanging on one of the pillars in the church, a printed tablet,
which cleared up the mystery by informing us that the walls and pillars
were built in that way originally to remind us that "Jesus on the cross
His head inclined"; and we noticed that even the porches at the entrance
to ancient churches were built in the same way, each side leaning

Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 48 of 66)