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Robert Naylor.

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to eke out their small incomes; and when this proved successful, regular
dealers did the same, and devastated woods and lanes by rooting up the
ferns and almost exterminating some of the rarer kinds; but when the
County Councils were formed, this wholesale destruction was forbidden.

[Illustration: SHARPHAM ON THE DART.]

We had a fairly straight course along the river for two or three miles,
and on our way called to see an enormous wych-elm tree in Sharpham Park,
the branches of which were said to cover a quarter of an acre of ground.
It was certainly an enormous tree, much the largest we had seen of that
variety, for the stem was about sixteen feet in girth and the leading
branches about eighty feet long and nine feet in circumference. The Hall
stood on an eminence overlooking the river, with great woods surrounding
it, and the windings of the river from this point looked like a number
of meres or lakes, while the gardens and woods of Sharpham were second
to none in the County of Devon. Near the woods we passed a small
cottage, which seemed to be at the end of everywhere, and was known
locally as the "World's End." The first watery obstruction we came to
was where the River Harbourne entered the River Dart, and here we turned
aside along what was known as the Bow Creek, walking in a
go-as-you-please way through lovely wooded and rocky scenery until we
reached a water-mill. We had seen several herons on our way, a rather
scarce bird, and we were told there was a breeding-place for them at
Sharpham, together with a very large rookery. We passed Cornworthy,
where there was an old church and a prehistoric camp, and some ruins of
a priory of Augustinian nuns which existed there in the fourteenth
century; but we had no time to explore them, and hastened on to
Dittisham, where we regained the bank of the River Dart. This was
another of the places we had arrived at either too late or too early,
for it was famous for its plums, which grew in abundance at both Higher
and Lower Dittisham, the bloom on the trees there forming a lovely sight
in spring. A great many plums known as damsons were grown in Cheshire,
and in olden times were allowed to remain on the trees until the light
frosts came in late September or early October, as it was considered
that they had not attained their full flavour until then; but in later
times as soon as they were black they were hurried off to market, for
they would crush in packing if left until thoroughly ripe.

Dittisham was also noted for its cockles and shrimps. The river here
widened until it assumed the appearance of a lake about two miles wide,
and the steamboat which plied between Totnes and Dartmouth landed
passengers at Dittisham. As it lay about half way between the two
places, it formed a favourite resort for visitors coming either way, and
tea and cockles or tea and shrimps or, at the right time, tea and
damsons - might be obtained at almost any of the pleasant little cottages
which bordered the river. These luxuries could be combined with a walk
through lovely scenery or a climb up the Fire Beacon Hill, about 600
feet above sea-level; or rowing-boats could be had if required, and we
were informed that many visitors stayed about there in the season.

Across the river were several notable places: Sandbridge to the left and
Greenway to the right. At Sandbridge was born the famous navigator John
Davis, who was the first to explore the Arctic regions. On June 7th,
1575, he left Dartmouth with two small barques - the _Sunshine_, 50 tons,
carrying 23 men, and the _Moonshine_, 35 tons, and 19 men - and after
many difficulties reached a passage between Greenland and North
America, which was so narrowed between the ice that it was named Davis'
Straits. He made other voyages to the Arctic regions, and was said to
have discovered Hudson's Straits. Afterwards he sailed several times to
the East Indies; but whilst returning from one of these expeditions was
killed on December 27th, 1605, in a fight with some Malay pirates on the
coast of Malacca.

Greenway House, on the other hand, was at one time the residence of
those two remarkable half-brothers Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Walter
Raleigh, and it was there that Sir Walter planted the first potato ever
grown in England, which he had brought from abroad. As he was the first
to introduce tobacco, it was probably at Greenway that his servant
coming in with a jug of beer, and seeing his master as he thought
burning, threw it in his face - "to put his master out," as he afterwards
explained.

Sir Humphrey Gilbert appeared to have been a missionary as well as an
explorer, for it was recorded that he "set out to discover the remote
countries of America and to bring off those savages from their
diabolical superstitions to the embracing of the Gospel," which would
probably account for his having a Bible in his hand when he went down
with his ship - an event which in later years was immortalised by
Longfellow:

Eastward from Campobello
Sir Humphrey Gilbert sailed;
Three days or more seaward he bore.
Then, alas! the land wind failed.

* * * * *

He sat upon the deck,
The Book was in his hand;
"Do not fear, Heaven is as near,"
He said, "by water as by land!"

Beyond Dittisham the river turned towards Dartmouth through a very
narrow passage, with a dangerous rock near the centre, now called the
Anchor Stone, which was covered at high water. It appeared, however, to
have been used in former times to serve the purpose of the
ducking-stool, for the men of Dartmouth and Dittisham brought scolds
there and placed them on the rock at low water for immersion with the
rising tide, whence it became known-as the "Scold's Stone." One hour on
the stone was generally sufficient for a scolding woman, for she could
see the approach of the water that would presently rise well above her
waist, and very few chose to remain on the stone rather than repent,
although of course it was open to them to do so.

After negotiating the intricacies of one other small creek, we entered
the ancient town of Dartmouth highly delighted with our lovely tramp
along the River Dart.

We were now in a nautical area, and could imagine the excitement that
would be caused amongst the natives when the beacon fires warned them of
the approach of the Spanish Armada, for Dartmouth was then regarded as a
creek of Plymouth Harbour.

The great fleet invincible against us bore in vain
The richest spoils of Mexico, the stoutest hearts of Spain.

[Illustration: THE MOUTH OF THE DART FROM MOUNT BOONE.]

Dartmouth is one of the most picturesquely situated towns in England,
and the two castles, one on either side of the narrow and deep mouth of
the Dart, added to the beauty of the scene and reminded us of the times
when we were continually at war with our neighbours across the Channel.
The castles were only small, but so were the ships that crossed the seas
in those days, and they would no doubt be considered formidable
fortresses then. At low tide the Dart at that point was never less than
five yards deep, and in the dark it was an easy matter for a ship to
pass through unobserved. To provide against this contingency, according
to a document in the possession of the Corporation dating from the
twenty-first year of the reign of King Edward IV, a grant of £30 per
annum out of the Customs was made to the "Mayor, Bailiffs, and Burgesses
of Dartmouth, who had begonne to make a strong and myghte Toure of lyme
and stone adjoining the Castelle there," and who were also to "fynde a
cheyne sufficient in length and strength to streche and be laide
over-thwarte or a travers the mouth of the haven of Dartmouth" from
Dartmouth Castle to Kingswear Castle on the opposite bank to keep out
all intruders. This "myghte cheyne" was raised across the entrance every
night so that no ships could get through, and the groove through which
it passed was still to be seen.

Dartmouth Castle stood low down on a point of land on the seashore, and
had two towers, the circular one having been built in the time of Henry
VIII. Immediately adjoining it was a very small church of a much earlier
date than the castle, dedicated to St. Petrox, a British saint of the
sixth century. Behind the castle and the church was a hill called
Gallants' Bower, formerly used as a beacon station, the hollow on the
summit having been formed to protect the fire from the wind. This rock
partly overhung the water and served to protect both the church and the
castle. Kingswear Castle, on the opposite side of the water, was built
in the fourteenth century, and had only one tower, the space between the
two castles being known as the "Narrows." They were intended to protect
the entrance to the magnificent harbour inland; but there were other
defences, as an Italian spy in 1599, soon after the time of the Spanish
Armada, reported as follows:

Dartmouth is not walled - the mountains are its walls. Deep water is
everywhere, and at the entrance five yards deep at low water. Bastion
of earth at entrance with six or eight pieces of artillery; farther
in is a castle with 24 pieces and 50 men, and then another earth
bastion with six pieces.

The harbour was at one time large enough to hold the whole British navy,
and was considered very safe, as the entrance could be so easily
defended, but its only representative now appeared to be an enormous
three-decker wooden ship, named the _Britannia_, used as a training-ship
for naval officers. It seemed almost out of place there, and quite
dwarfed the smaller boats in the harbour, one deck rising above another,
and all painted black and white. We heard afterwards that the real
_Britannia_, which carried the Admiral's flag in the Black Sea early in
the Crimean War, had been broken up in 1870, the year before our visit,
having done duty at Dartmouth as a training-ship since 1863. The ship we
now saw was in reality the _Prince of Wales_, also a three-decker, and
the largest and last built of "England's wooden walls," carrying 128
guns. She had been brought round to Dartmouth in 1869 and rechristened
_Britannia_, forming the fifth ship of that name in the British navy.

[Illustration: H.M.S. _BRITANNIA_ AND _HINDUSTANI_ AT THE MOUTH OF THE
DART.]

It was in that harbour that the ships were assembled in 1190 during the
Crusades, to join Richard Coeur-de-Lion at Messina. In his absence
Dartmouth was stormed by the French, and for two centuries alternate
warlike visits were made to the sea-coasts of England and France.

In 1338 the Dartmouth sailors captured five French ships, and murdered
all their crews except nine men; and in 1347, when the large armament
sailed under Edward III to the siege of Calais, the people of Dartmouth,
who in turn had suffered much from the French, contributed the large
number of 31 ships and 757 mariners to the King's Fleet, the largest
number from any port, except Fowey and London.

In 1377 the town was partly burnt by the French, and in 1403 Dartmouth
combined with Plymouth, and their ships ravaged the coasts of France,
where, falling in with the French fleet, they destroyed and captured
forty-one of the enemy.

In the following year, 1404, the French attempted to avenge themselves,
and landed near Stoke Fleming, about three miles outside Dartmouth, with
a view to attacking the town in the rear; but owing to the loquacity of
one of the men connected with the enterprise the inhabitants were
forewarned and prepared accordingly. Du Chatel, a Breton Knight, was the
leader of the Expedition, and came over, as he said, "to exterminate the
vipers"; but when he landed, matters turned out "otherwise than he had
hoped," for the Dartmouth men had dug a deep ditch near the seacoast,
and 600 of them were strongly entrenched behind it, many with their
wives, "who fought like wild cats." They were armed with slings, with
which they made such good practice that scores of the Bretons fell in
the ditch, where the men finished them off, and the rest of the force
retreated, leaving 400 dead and 200 prisoners in the hands of the
English.

[Illustration: OLD HOUSES IN HIGHER STREET, DARTMOUTH]

In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers called at Dartmouth with their ships
_Speedwell_ and _Mayflower_, as the captain of the _Speedwell_ (who it
was afterwards thought did not want to cross the Atlantic) complained
that his ship needed repairs, but on examination she was pronounced
seaworthy. The same difficulty occurred when they reached Plymouth, with
the result that the _Mayflower_ sailed alone from that port, carrying
the Fathers to form a new empire of Englishmen in the New World.

We were delighted with the old towns on the south coast - so different
from those we had seen on the west; they seemed to have borrowed some of
their quaint semi-foreign architecture from those across the Channel.
The town of Dartmouth was a quaint old place and one of the oldest
boroughs in England. It contained, both in its main street and the
narrow passages leading out of it, many old houses with projecting
wooden beams ornamented with grotesque gargoyles and many other
exquisite carvings in a good state of preservation. Like Totnes, the
town possessed a "Butter Walk," built early in the seventeenth century,
where houses supported by granite pillars overhung the pavement. In one
house there was a plaster ceiling designed to represent the Scriptural
genealogy of our Saviour from Jesse to the Virgin Mary, and at each of
the four corners appeared one of the Apostles: St. Matthew with the bull
or ox, St. Luke with the eagle, St. Mark with the lion, and St. John
with the attendant angel - -probably a copy of the Jesse stained-glass
windows, in which Jesse is represented in a recumbent posture with a
vine or tree rising out of his loins as described by Isaiah, xi. I: "And
there shall come forth a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch
shall grow out of his roots."

The churches in Dartmouth were well worth a visit. St. Saviour's, built
in 1372, contained an elaborately carved oak screen, one of the finest
in the county and of singular beauty, erected in the fifteenth century.
It was in perfect condition, and spread above the chancel in the form of
a canopy supporting the rood-loft, with beautiful carving and painted
figures in panels. The pulpit was of stone, richly carved and gilt, and
showed the Tudor rose and portcullis, with the thistle, harp, and
fleur-de-lys; there were also some seat-ends nicely carved and some old
chandeliers dated 1701 - the same date as the fine one we saw in the
church at Totnes.

[Illustration: ST. SAVIOUR'S CHURCH, DARTMOUTH.]

The chancel contained the tomb, dated 1394, of John Hawley, who died in
1408, and his two wives - Joan who died in 1394, and Alice who died in
1403. Hawley was a rich merchant, and in the war against France equipped
at his own expense a fleet, which seemed to have been of good service to
him, for in 1389 he captured thirty-four vessels from Rochelle, laden
with 1,500 tons of wine. John Stow, a famous antiquary of the sixteenth
century, mentioned this man in his _Annals_ as "the merchant of
Dartmouth who in 1390 waged war with the navies and ships of the ports
of our own shores," and "took 34 shippes laden with wyne to the sum of
fifteen hundred tunnes," so we considered Hawley must have been a pirate
of the first degree.

There was a brass in the chancel with this inscription, the moral of
which we had seen expressed in so many different forms elsewhere:

Behold thyselfe by me,
I was as thou art now:
And them in time shalt be
Even dust as I am now;
So doth this figure point to thee
The form and state of each degree.

[Illustration: ANCIENT DOOR IN ST. SAVIOUR'S CHURCH]

The gallery at the west end was built in 1631, and there was a door in
the church of the same date, but the ironwork on this was said to be two
hundred years older, having probably been transferred to it from a
former door. It was one of the most curious we had ever seen. Two
animals which we took to be lions were impaled on a tree with roots,
branches, and leaves. One lion was across the tree just under the top
branches, and the other lion was across it at the bottom just above the
roots, both standing with their heads to the right and facing the
beholder; but the trunk of the tree seemed to have grown through each of
their bodies, giving the impression that they were impaled upon it. The
date of the woodwork (1631) was carved underneath the body of the lion
at the top, the first figure in the date appearing to the left and the
remaining three to the right, while the leaves on the tree resembled
those of the oak. Whether the lions were connected in any way with those
on the borough coat-of-arms we did not know, but this bore a lion on
either side of it, the hinder portion of their bodies hanging over each
side of an ancient boat and their faces being turned towards the
spectator, while a crowned king, evidently meant for Richard
Coeur-de-Lion, was sitting between them - the lions being intended to
represent the Lions of Judah. The King was crowned, but above him,
suspended over the boat, was a much larger crown, and underneath that
and in the air to the left, but slightly above the King's crown, was the
Turkish Crescent, while in a similar position to the right was
represented the Star of Jerusalem.

The original parish church of Dartmouth, on the outskirts of the town,
contained two rather remarkable epitaphs:

Here lyeth buried the Bodie of Robert Holland who
Departed this life 1611 beinge of
The age of 54 years 5 months and odd dayes.
Here lies a breathless body and doth showe
What man is, when God claims, what man doth owe.
His soule a guest his body a trouble
His tyme an instant, and his breath a bubble.
Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.

The other was worded:

William Koope, of Little
Dartmouth dyed in Bilbao
January the 30th, 1666, in the 6
yeare of his abode there beinge
embalmed and put into a Leaden
Coffin, was, after Tenn Weekes
Tossinge on the seas, here
Below interred May ye 23
AO. DOM. 1667 Ætates svæ 35.

Thomas Newcomen, born at Dartmouth in 1663, was the first man to employ
steam power in Cornish mines, and the real inventor of the steam engine.
The first steamboat on the River Dart was named after him.

In the time of the Civil War Dartmouth was taken by the Royalists, who
held it for a time, but later it was attacked from both land and sea by
Fairfax, and surrendered to the Parliament. Immediately afterwards a
rather strange event happened, as a French ship conveying despatches for
the Royalists from the Queen, Lord Goring, and others, who were in
France, entered the port, the captain being ignorant of the change that
had just taken place. On hearing that the Parliament was in possession,
he threw his despatches overboard. These were afterwards recovered and
sent up to Parliament, where they were found to be of a very important
nature - in fact, the discoveries made in them were said to have had some
effect in deciding the fate of King Charles himself.

We had now to face our return journey to Totnes, so we fortified
ourselves with a substantial tea, and then began our dark and lonely
walk of twelve miles by the alternative route, as it was useless to
attempt to find the other on a dark night. We had, however, become quite
accustomed to this kind of thing, and though we went astray on one
occasion and found ourselves in a deep and narrow road, we soon regained
the hard road we had left. The thought of the lovely country we had seen
that day, and the pretty places we had visited, cheered us on our way,
and my brother said he should visit that neighbourhood again before
long. I did not treat his remark seriously at the time, thinking it
equivalent to the remarks in hotel books where visitors express their
unfulfilled intention of coming again. But when on May 29th, 1873, a
lovely day of sunshine, my brother departed with one of the handsomest
girls in the village for what the newspapers described as "London and
the South," and when we received a letter informing us that they were
both very well and very happy, and amusing themselves by watching the
salmon shooting up the deep weir on the River Dart, and sailing in a
small boat with a sail that could easily be worked with one hand, and
had sailed along the river to Dartmouth and back, I was not surprised
when I found that the postmark on the envelope was TOTNES.

In his letter to me on that occasion, he said he had received from his
mother his "marching orders" for his next long journey; and although her
letter is now old and the ink faded, the "orders" are still firmly fixed
where that good old writer intended them to be, and, as my brother said,
they deserved to be written in letters of gold:

=_My earnest desire is that you may both be happy, and that whatever
you do may be to the glory of God and the good of your
fellow-creatures, and that at the last you may be found with your
lamps burning and your lights shining, waiting for the coming of the
Lord!_=

(_Distance walked thirty-one-miles_.)


_Tuesday, November 14th._


We had made good progress yesterday in consequence of not having to
carry any luggage, but we had now to carry our belongings again as
usual.

Totnes, we learned, was a walled town in the time of the Domesday
Survey, and was again walled in 1265 by permission of Henry III. Of the
four gates then existing, only two now remained, the North and the East;
they were represented by archways, the gates themselves having long
since disappeared. We passed under the Eastgate Archway, which supported
a room in which were two carved heads said to represent King Henry VIII
and his unfortunate wife Anne Boleyn; and with a parting glance at the
ancient Butter Cross and piazzas, which reminded us somewhat of the
ancient Rows in Chester, we passed out into the country wondering what
our day's walk would have in store for us.

We had thought of crossing over the centre of Dartmoor, but found it a
much larger and wilder place than we had imagined, embracing over
100,000 acres of land and covering an area of about twenty-five square
miles, while in the centre were many swamps or bogs, very dangerous,
especially in wet or stormy weather. There were also many hills, or
"tors," rising to a considerable elevation above sea-level, and ranging
from Haytor Rocks at 1,491 feet to High Willheys at 2,039 feet. Mists
and clouds from the Atlantic were apt to sweep suddenly over the Moor
and trap unwary travellers, so that many persons had perished in the
bogs from time to time; and the clouds striking against the rocky tors
caused the rainfall to be so heavy that the Moor had been named the
"Land of Streams." One of the bogs near the centre of the Moor was never
dry, and formed a kind of shallow lake out of which rose five rivers,
the Ockment or Okement, the Taw, the Tavy, the Teign, and the Dart, the
last named and most important having given its name to the Moor. Besides
these, the Avon, Erme, Meavy, Plym, and Yealm, with many tributary
brooks, all rise in Dartmoor.

Devonshire was peculiar in having no forests except that of Dartmoor,
which was devoid of trees except a small portion called Wistman's Wood
in the centre, but the trees in this looked so old and stunted as to
make people suppose they had existed there since the time of the
Conquest, while others thought they had originally formed one of the
sacred groves connected with Druidical worship, since legend stated that
living men had been nailed to them and their bodies left there to decay.
The trees were stunted and only about double the height of an
average-sized man, but with wide arms spread out at the top twisted and
twined in all directions. Their roots were amongst great boulders, where
adders' nests abounded, so that it behoved visitors to be doubly careful
in very hot weather. We could imagine the feelings of a solitary
traveller in days gone by, with perhaps no living being but himself for
miles, crossing this dismal moor and coming suddenly on the remains of
one of these crucified sacrificial victims.

Not far from Wistman's Wood was Crockern Tor, on the summit of which,
according to the terms of an ancient charter, the Parliament dealing
with the Stannary Courts was bound to assemble, the tables and seats of
the members being hewn out of the solid rock or cut from great blocks of
stone. The meetings at this particular spot of the Devon and Cornwall
Stannary men continued until the middle of the eighteenth century. After



Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 57 of 66)