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in the building of the Banqueting Hall at Whitehall, and Sir Christopher
Wren in the reconstruction of St. Paul's Cathedral after the Great Fire,
while it had also been used in the building of many churches and
bridges.

We had expected to find a path along the cliffs from Bridport Quay to
Lyme Regis, but two big rocks, "Thorncombe Beacon" and "Golden Cap," had
evidently prevented one from being made, for though the Golden Cap was
only about 600 feet above sea-level it formed the highest elevation on
the south coast. We therefore made the best of our way across the
country to the village of Chideoak, and from there descended into
Charmouth, crossing the river Char at the entrance to that village or
town by a bridge. On the battlement of this bridge we found a similar
inscription to that we had seen at Sturminster, warning us that whoever
damaged the bridge would be liable to be "transported for life," by
order of King George the Fourth."

Charmouth had been one of the Roman stations and the scene of the
fiercest battles between the Saxons and the Danes in 833 and 841, in the
reigns of Egbert and Ethelwolf, in which the Danes appeared to have been
victorious, as they were constantly being reinforced by
fellow-countrymen arriving by sea. But these were practically forgotten,
the memories of them having been replaced in more modern times by events
connected with the Civil War and with the wanderings of "Prince
Charles," the fugitive King Charles II. What a weary and anxious time he
must have had during the nineteen days he spent in the county of Dorset,
in fear of his enemies and watching for a ship by which he could escape
from England, while soldiers were scouring the county to find him!

[Illustration: HOUSE WHERE KING CHARLES LODGED IN CHARMOUTH.]

He wrote a _Narrative_, in which some of his adventures were recorded,
and from which it appeared that after the Battle of Worcester and his
escape to Boscobel, where the oak tree in which he hid himself was still
to be seen, he disguised himself as a manservant and rode before a lady
named Mrs. Lane, in whose employ he was supposed to be, while Lord
Wilton rode on in front. They arrived at a place named Trent, a village
on the borders of Somerset and Dorset, and stayed at the house of Frank
Wyndham, whom Charles described in his _Narrative_ as a "very honest
man," and who concealed him in "an old well-contrived secret place."
When they arrived some of the soldiers from Worcester were in the
village, and Charles wrote that he heard "one trooper telling the people
that he had killed me, and that that was my buff coat he had on," and
the church bells were ringing and bonfires lighted to celebrate the
victory. The great difficulty was to get a ship, for they had tried to
get one at Bristol, but failed. In a few days' time, however, Wyndham
ventured to go into Lyme Regis, and there found a boat about to sail for
St. Malo, and got a friend to arrange terms with the owner to take a
passenger "who had a finger in the pye at Worcester." It was arranged
that the ship should wait outside Charmouth in the Charmouth Roads, and
that the passenger should be brought out in a small boat about midnight
on the day arranged. Charles then reassumed his disguise as a male
servant named William Jackson, and rode before Mrs. Connisby, a cousin
of Wyndham's, while Lord Wilton again rode on in front. On arrival at
Charmouth, rooms were taken at the inn, and a reliable man was engaged
who at midnight was to be at the appointed place with his boat to take
the Prince to the ship.

Meantime the party were anxiously waiting at the inn; but it afterwards
appeared that the man who had been engaged, going home to change his
linen, confided to his wife the nature of his commission. This alarmed
her exceedingly, as that very day a proclamation had been issued
announcing dreadful penalties against all who should conceal the Prince
or any of his followers; and the woman was so terrified that when her
husband went into the chamber to change his linen she locked the door,
and would not let him come out. Charles and his friends were greatly
disappointed, but they were obliged to make the best of it, and stayed
at the inn all night. Early in the morning Charles was advised to leave,
as rumours were circulating in the village; and he and one or two others
rode away to Bridport, while Lord Wilton stayed at the inn, as his horse
required new shoes. He engaged the ostler at the inn to take his horse
to the smithy, where Hamnet the smith declared that "its shoes had been
set in three different counties, of which Worcestershire was one." The
ostler stayed at the inn gossiping about the company, hearing how they
had sat up with their horses saddled all the night, and so on, until,
suspecting the truth, he left the blacksmith to shoe the horse, and went
to see the parson, whom Charles describes as "one Westly," to tell him
what he thought. But the parson was at his morning prayers, and was so
"long-winded" that the ostler became tired of waiting, and fearing lest
he should miss his "tip" from Lord Wilton, hurried back to the smithy
without seeing the parson. After his lordship had departed, Hamnet the
smith went to see Mr. Westly - who by the way was an ancestor of John and
Charles Wesley - and told him the gossip detailed to him by the ostler.
So Mr. Westly came bustling down to the inn, and accosting the landlady
said: "Why, how now, Margaret! you are a Maid of Honour now."

"What mean you by that, Mr. Parson?" said the landlady.

"Why, Charles Stewart lay last night at your house, and kissed you at
his departure; so that now you can't be but a Maid of Honour!"

Margaret was rather vexed at this, and replied rather hastily, "If I
thought it was the King, I should think the better of my lips all the
days of my life; and so you, Mr. Parson, get out of my house!"

Westly and the smith then went to a magistrate, but he did not believe
their story and refused to take any action. Meantime the ostler had
taken the information to Captain Macey at Lyme Regis, and he started off
in pursuit of Charles; but before he reached Bridport Charles had
escaped. The inn at Charmouth many years afterwards had been converted
into a private house, but was still shown to visitors and described as
the house "where King Charles the Second slept on the night of September
22nd, 1652, after his flight from the Battle of Worcester," and the
large chimney containing a hiding-place was also to be seen there.

[Illustration: OMBERSLEY VILLAGE: "THE KING'S ARMS," WHERE CHARLES II
RESTED DURING HIS FLIGHT AFTER THE BATTLE OF WORCESTER, 1652.]


Prince Charles and some friends stood on the tower of Worcester
Cathedral watching the course of the battle, and when they saw they had
lost the day they rushed down in great haste, and mounting their horses
rode away as fast as they could, almost blocking themselves in the
gateway in their hurry. When they reached the village of Ombersley,
about ten miles distant, they hastily refreshed themselves at the old
timber-built inn, which in honour of the event was afterwards named the
"King's Arms." The ceiling, over the spot where Charles stood, is still
ornamented with his coat of arms, including the fleur-de-lys of France,
and in the great chimney where the smoke disappears above the ingle-nook
is a hiding-place capable of holding four men on each side of the
chimney, and so carefully constructed that no one would ever dream that
a man could hide there without being smothered by the smoke. The smoke,
however, is drawn by the draught past the hiding-place, from which there
would doubtless be a secret passage to the chamber above, which extended
from one side of the inn to the other. In a glass case there was at the
time of our visit a cat and a rat - the rat standing on its hind legs and
facing the cat - but both animals dried up and withered like leather,
until they were almost flat, the ribs of the cat showing plainly on its
skin. The landlord gave us their history, from which it appeared that it
had become necessary to place a stove in a back kitchen and to make an
entrance into an old flue to enable the smoke from the stove-pipe to be
carried up the large chimney. The agent of the estate to which the inn
belonged employed one of his workmen, nicknamed "Holy Joe," to do the
work, who when he broke into the flue-could see with the light of his
candle something higher up the chimney. He could not tell what it was,
nor could the landlord, whom "Joe" had called to his assistance, but it
was afterwards discovered to be the cat and the rat that now reposed in
the glass case. It was evident that the rat had been pursued by the cat
and had escaped by running up the narrow flue, whither it had been
followed by the cat, whose head had become jammed in the flue. The rat
had then turned round upon its pursuer, and was in the act of springing
upon it when both of them had been instantly asphyxiated by the fumes in
the chimney.

With the exception of some slight damage to the rat, probably caused in
the encounter, they were both almost perfect, and an expert who had
examined them declared they must have been imprisoned there quite a
hundred years before they could have been reduced to the condition in
which they were found by "Holy Joe"!

The proprietors of the hostelries patronised by royalty always made as
much capital out of the event as possible, and even the inn at Charmouth
displayed the following advertisement after the King's visit:

Here in this House was lodged King Charles.
Come in, Sirs, you may venture;
For here is entertainment good
For Churchman or Dissenter.

[Illustration: MISS MARY ANNING.]

We thought we had finished with fossils after leaving Stromness in the
Orkney Islands and trying to read the names of those deposited in the
museum there, but we had now reached another "paradise for geologists,"
this time described as a "perfect" one; we concluded, therefore, that
what the Pomona district in the Orkneys could not supply, or what Hugh
Miller could not find there, was sure to be found here, as we read that
"where the river Char filtered into the sea the remains of Elephants and
Rhinoceros had been found." But we could not fancy ourselves searching
"the surrounding hills for ammonites and belemnites," although we were
assured that they were numerous, nor looking along the cliffs for such
things as "the remains of ichthyosaurus, plesiosaurus, and other
gigantic saurians, which had been discovered there, as well as
pterodactyles," for my brother declared he did not want to carry any
more stones, his adventure in Derbyshire with them being still fresh on
his mind. We therefore decided to leave these to more learned people,
who knew when they had found them; but, like Hugh Miller with his
famous Asterolepis, a young lady named Mary Anning, who was described as
"the famous girl geologist," had, in 1811, made a great discovery here
of a splendid ichthyosaurus, which was afterwards acquired for the
nation and deposited in the British Museum.

[Illustration: HEAD OF THE ICHTHYOSAURUS.]

Charmouth practically consisted of one long street rising up the hill
from the river, and on reaching the top after getting clear of the town
we had to pass along a curved road cut deeply through the rock to
facilitate coach traffic. In stormy weather the wind blew through this
cutting with such terrific fury that the pass was known as the "Devil's
Bellows," and at times even the coaches were unable to pass through. The
road now descended steeply on the other side, the town of Lyme Regis
spread out before us, with its white houses and the blue sea beyond,
offering a prospect that dwelt in our memories for many years. No town
in all England is quite like it, and it gave us the impression that it
had been imported from some foreign country. In the older part of the
town the houses seemed huddled together as if to protect each other, and
many of them adjoined the beach and were inhabited by fishermen, while a
newer and larger class of houses was gradually being built on the hill
which rose rather abruptly at the rear of what might be called the old
town.

[Illustration: REMAINS OF ICHTHYOSAURUS DISCOVERED AT CHARMOUTH.]

A curious breakwater called the Cobb stretches out a few hundred yards
into the sea. This was originally built in the time of Edward I as a
shelter for the boats in stormy weather, but was destroyed by a heavy
sea in the reign of Edward III, who allowed a tax to be levied on all
goods imported and exported, the proceeds to be applied towards the
rebuilding of the Cobb.

[Illustration: DUKE OF MONMOUTH.]

After the death of Charles II his place was filled by his brother, who
ascended the throne as James II; but Charles had a natural son, James,
the Duke of Monmouth, who had been sent abroad, but who now claimed the
English crown. On June 11th, 1685, the inhabitants of Lyme were alarmed
by the appearance of three foreign ships which did not display any
flags. They were astonished to find that it was an expedition from
Holland, and that James, Duke of Monmouth, had arrived to lead a
rebellion against his uncle, James II. The Duke landed on the Cobb,
which at that time did not join the shore, so that he could not step on
shore without wetting his legs; but Lieut. Bagster of the Royal Navy,
who happened to be in a boat close by, jumped into the water and
presented his knee, upon which the Duke stepped and so reached the shore
without inconvenience. Monmouth then turned to Lieut. Bagster, and
familiarly striking him on the shoulder, said, "Brave young man, you
will join me!" But Bagster replied, "No, sir! I have sworn to be true to
the King, and no consideration shall move me from my fidelity." Monmouth
then knelt down on the beach and thanked God for having preserved the
friends of liberty and pure religion from the perils of the sea, and
implored the Divine blessing on what was to be done by land. He was
received with great rejoicings in Lyme, where there was a strong
Protestant element, and many joined his standard there, including Daniel
Defoe, the author of _Robinson Crusoe_, then only twenty-four years of
age. As the people generally had no grievance against James II,
Monmouth's rebellion failed from want of support, and although he raised
an army of 5,000 men by the time he reached Sedgmoor, in Somerset, he
was there defeated and taken prisoner by the King's army, and beheaded
in the same year. Defoe appears to have escaped capture, but twelve
local followers of Monmouth were hanged afterwards on the Cobb at Lyme
Regis. After Monmouth's execution a satirical ballad was printed and
hawked about the streets of London, entitled "The Little King of Lyme,"
one verse being:

Lyme, although a little place,
I think it wondrous pretty;
If 'tis my fate to wear a crown
I'll make of it a city.

We had a look through the old church, and saw a stained-glass window
which had been placed there in 1847 to the memory of Mary Anning, for
the services rendered by her to science through her remarkable discovery
of fossils in the cliffs of Lyme. There were also some chained books in
the church, one of which was a copy of the Breeches Bible, published in
1579, and so called because the seventh verse in the third chapter of
Genesis was rendered, "The eyes of them bothe were opened ... and they
sowed figge-tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches."

We passed from Dorsetshire into Devonshire as we walked up the hill
loading from Lyme Regis, and we had a fine view when we reached the
summit of the road at Hunter's Cross, where four roads meet. Here we saw
a flat stone supposed to have been the quoin of a fallen cromlech, and
to have been used for sacrificial purposes. From that point a sharp walk
soon brought us to the River Axe and the town of Axminster.

In the time of the Civil War the district between Lyme Regis and
Axminster appears to have been a regular battle-field for the contending
parties, as Lyme Regis had been fortified in 1643 and taken possession
of by Sir Walter Erie and Sir Thomas Trenchard in the name of the
Parliament, while Axminster was in the possession of the Royalists, who
looked upon the capture of Lyme as a matter of the highest importance.
In 1644 Prince Maurice advanced from Axminster with an army of nearly
five thousand Royalists and cannon and attacked Lyme from the higher end
of that town; but although they had possession of many fortified
mansions which acted as bases or depots they were defeated again and
again. The inhabitants of the town were enthusiastic about what they
considered to be the Protestant cause, and even the women, as in other
places, fought in male attire side by side with the men, to make the
enemy think they had a greater number opposed to them. The lion's share
of the defence fell to the lot of Captain Davey, who, from his fort
worked his guns with such amazing persistence that the enemy were
dismayed, while during the siege the town was fed from the sea by ships
which also brought ammunition and stores. After righting for nearly two
months and losing two thousand of his men Prince Maurice retired. The
cannon-balls that he used, of which some have been found since that time
on or near the shore, and in the outskirts of the town, weighed 17-1/2
lb.

One of the defenders was Robert Blake, the famous Admiral, who
afterwards defeated the Dutch in a great battle off Portland. He died in
his ship at Portsmouth, and his body was taken to Greenwich and
afterwards embalmed and buried in Westminster Abbey. But Charles II
remembered the part Blake had taken in the defeat of the Royalist forces
at Lyme Regis, and ordered his ashes to be raked from the grave and
scattered to the winds.

As may be imagined, in the fights between the two parties the
country-people suffered from depredations and were extensively plundered
by both sides. This was referred to in a political song entitled "The
West Husbandman's Lamentations," which, in the dialect then prevailing,
voices the complaint of a farmer who lost six oxen and six horses:

Ich had zix Oxen t'other day,
And them the Roundheads vetcht away -
A mischief be their speed!
And chad zix Horses left me whole.
And them the Cabballeeroes stole,
Chee vore men be agreed.

We were rather disappointed when we arrived at Axminster, for, having
often heard of Axminster carpets, we expected to find factories there
where they made them, but we found that industry had been given up for
many years. We saw the factory where they were formerly made, and heard
a lot about Mr. Whitty, the proprietor. He had made two beautiful
carpets, and exhibited them in London before sending them to a customer
abroad who had ordered them. They were despatched on board a ship from
the Thames, which did not arrive at its destination and was never heard
of afterwards. One of these carpets was described to us as being just
like an oil painting representing a battle scene. The carpets were made
in frames, a woman on each side, and were worked with a needle in a
machine. We saw the house where Mr. Whitty formerly resided, the factory
being at one end of it, while at the back were his dye-works, where, by
a secret method, he dyed in beautiful tints that would not fade. The
pile on the carpets was very long, being more like that on Turkey
carpets, so that when the ends were worn they could be cut off with a
machine and then the carpet appeared new again. Mr. Whitty never
recovered from the great loss of the two carpets, and he died without
revealing his secret process even to his son. The greater part of the
works was burnt down on Trinity Sunday, 1834, and though some portion
was rebuilt, it was never again used for making Axminster carpets, which
were afterwards made at Wilton, to which place the looms were removed in
1835; the industry, started in 1755, had existed at Axminster for eighty
years.

King Athelstan founded a college here in commemoration of the Battle of
Brunnenburh, fought in 937, in which fell five kings and seven earls.
The exact site of this battle did not appear to have been located,
though this neighbourhood scarcely had more substantial claims to it
than the place we passed through in Cumberland.

Axminster took its name from the river Axe, which passes near the town,
and falls into the sea at Axemouth, near Seaton; the name Axe, as well
as Exe and Usk, is Celtic and signifies water - all three being the names
of rivers. There was not much left of Axminster at the end of the Civil
War, except the church, for most of the buildings had been burnt down. A
letter written on November 21st, 1644, by a trooper from Lyme Regis to
his parents in London contained the following passage:

Hot newes in these parts: viz., the 15th of this present November wee
fell upon Axminster with our horse and foote, and through God's
mercie beat them off their works, insomuch that wee possessed of the
towne, and they betook them to the Church, which, they had fortified,
on which wee were loath to cast our men, being wee had a garrison to
look on. My brother and myselfe were both there. We fired part of the
towne, what successe we had you may reade by the particulars here
inclosed. Wee lost only one man in the taking of the towne, and had
five wounded. The Monday following wee marched to Axminster againe.
Major Sydenham having joyned with us that Lordis Day at night before,
thinking to have seized on the Church, and those forces that were in
it, but finding them so strong, as that it might indanger the loss of
many of our men, wee thought it not fit to fall upon the Church, but
rather to set the houses on fire that were not burnt at the first
firing, which accordingly we did, and burnt doune the whole toune,
unlease it were some few houses, but yet they would not come forth
out of the Church.

When Prince Charles, afterwards Charles II, was defeated at Worcester,
it was only natural that he should go amongst his friends for
protection, and a curious story was told here about his narrow escape
from his pursuers in this neighbourhood. He had stayed a short time with
the Wyndham family, near Chard, when news came that his pursuers were on
his track, and that no time must be lost, so he was sent to Coaxden, two
miles from Axminster, to take refuge with the Cogan family, relatives of
the Colonel Wyndham who took a leading part in securing his safe
retreat. He had only just gone when the soldiers arrived and insisted
upon looking through the house and searching it thoroughly; even a young
lady they met in the house was suspected of being the King in disguise,
and it was with some difficulty that they were persuaded otherwise. They
examined every room and linen chest, and then departed in full chase
towards the south. Meanwhile, Charles had arrived at Coaxden, and
entering the parlour, where Mrs. Cogan was sitting alone, threw himself
upon her protection. It was then the fashion for ladies to wear very
long dresses, and as no time was to be lost, the soldiers being on his
heels, she hastily concealed him beneath the folds of her dress. Mrs.
Cogan was in her affections a Royalist, but her husband, who was then
out upon his estate, belonged to the opposite party. Observing the
approach of the soldiers, he made towards the house, and together they
entered the room where the lady was sitting, who affected surprise at
their intrusion. The men immediately announced their business, stating
that Prince Charles had been traced very near the house, and as he must
be concealed upon the premises, they were authorised to make a strict
search for him. Assenting with apparent readiness to their object, Mrs.
Cogan kept her seat, whilst her husband accompanied the men into every
room. At length, having searched the premises in vain, they took their
departure, Mr. Cogan going out with them. Being now released from her
singular and perilous situation, the lady provided for the security of
the fugitive until it was prudent for him to depart, when, furnished
with provisions and a change of apparel, he proceeded on his journey to
Trent, and after further adventures, from thence to Brighthelmstone,
then a poor fishing town, where he embarked for France. After he had
reached the Continent Charles rewarded the lady's fidelity by sending
her a handsome gold chain and locket having his arms on the reverse,
which was long preserved in the family.

There was a curious stone in the churchyard at Axminster placed over the
remains of a crippled gentleman whose crutches were buried with him, a



Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 51 of 66)