W. O. (William Outram) Tristram.

Coaching days and coaching ways online

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pages of farm accounts and household expenses, all

r, Hungerford.

very interesting and creditable, but only a contemptuous
allusion here and there to the alleged horrible and
mysterious crime.

Mr. Hall, to be plain, treats the whole accusation of
murder brought against Darrell as so much vindictive
cackle. On what grounds it is difficult to conjecture,
unless indeed it be that Darrell, when accused of murder


before the magistrates, " replied to the wild charge with
a mournful dignity " but so did the late Mr. William
Palmer of Rugeley notoriety under similarly embarrass-
ing circumstances ; and he could keep accounts as well
as Darrell could, ay, and make a book too. I trust,
I am sure, that the author of Society in the Elizabethan
Age will give us many more charming works of the
same kind, but he must really not try to destroy all
romantic faith that is in us with such doubtful argu-
ments as these. Meanwhile I wonder whether he has
seen all those papers that Popham's agent seized
almost before Darrell's breath was out of his body, and
despatched in chests to London, there to await the
arbitration promised between the respective claims of
the Attorney-General and the Secretary of State, who
also had a finger in this mysterious pie. Why this
almost indecent despatch on the part of Popham
(" faithful to the last, though wise only for himself")
I should much like to know. I wonder !

In the interim I must hurry after Miss Burney and
Mrs. Thrale, who are waiting for me all this while at
the Bear Inn at Devizes, three and twenty miles or so
down the road. I cannot find much to record in the
way of history, coaching or otherwise, between Hunger-
ford and Marlborough. The road between Newbury and
Bath was called the " lower ground," and being remark-
able chiefly for its hills, necessitated much skidding
and unskidding. Nor even in the palmy days was it un
renowned for accidents. On the contrary, the Beaufort
Hunt fast day coach from London to Bath, run by the
celebrated Sherman, he of the moustachios (a prodigy,
a blasphemy I had almost said, in those days ; of the
three old ladies also, wived in succession ; distinguished,
moreover, for the colour of his coaches, which was
yellow ; and for their strange shape, which was heavy,
peculiar, and old-fashioned as Noah's Ark) the Beaufort
Hunt, I say, was upset in this part of the world three
times in less than three weeks, an event, or rather a



The Young 'Un,


trilogy, which made passengers nervous, affected the
receipts, and led to the removal from the box-seat,
whence he had directed these acrobatic manoeuvres, of
a so-called Captain Jones, whoever he may have been.
From which I infer that there were coach-driving
captains even in those days, though I have never read
of one before. However, the captain retired into private
life, and a young man who was a very good coachman,
but whose name is unknown to me, though it was very
well known on the road, reigned in his stead. This
change of cast brought up the receipts of the Beaufort
Hunt with a run ; places were booked three or four
weeks in advance by passengers who wished to travel
eleven miles an hour without breaking their necks. The
coach became quite the fashion, crowds of people stand-
ing about the White Lion in the Market-place at Bath
to see it start.

This coach used to change horses at Froxfield, three
miles out of Hungerford, and the next stage was
Marlborough, seven miles on ; the last two miles of the
road skirting Savernake Forest, which is a horrible place
to hunt in, is sixteen miles in circumference, and the
only forest in the country in the possession of a subject,
which seems very strange and wild.

One begins to be ashamed of saying of English
country towns that they stood a siege in the great
Civil Wars, yet this must be said of Marlborough,
which was, as a matter of fact, a most important place,
considered from a strategical point of view, and a thorn
for a long time in the side of the royal cause ; for it was
not only the most notoriously disaffected town in all
Wiltshire, remarkable for the obstinacy and malice of
its inhabitants (why, I wonder, this strange malignancy
on the part of the good burghers of Marlborough ?),
but, standing as it does on the Western Road, it seriously
menaced Charles's communications with the loyal West.
It accordingly underwent the proverbial harmless, neces-
sary siege, and was stormed by Wilmot in December,

E 2


1642. In April and November of the following year,
Charles himself was at Marlborough, as Henry the First


$**' .'."'X' ; ''iyT>. '>'*' ' "^CT-

Old Marlborough.

was here five hundred and thirty-three years before,
keeping Easter ; but with the royal junketings of the
scholar king we have nothing to do, though he went to


Bath himself two years later, curiously enough, as we
are going now.

In the days of the great Roads Marlborough possessed
in the Castle (where we will in a minute or two rest a
while) one of the finest inns in the three kingdoms. As
to the town itself, Evelyn, who dined there on the pth
of June, 1652, found it fresh built from a fire (it has had
about four in its history), but he found nothing else in
it, except " My Lord Seymour's house," which was after-
wards this very same famous Castle Inn, and the Mount,
which he climbed dejectedly for want of something
better to do; "ascending by windings for neere halfe
a mile," and remarking that it seemed to have been
cast up by hand which indeed it was by some one or
other weird and legendary, the betting at the present
moment being in favour of Merlin, for lack of anybody
better known ; while Pepys, on the I5th of June, 1668,
after lying at the Hart, which he describes as a good
house, walked out and found Marlborough " a pretty
fair town only for a street or two." After which, having
sagely observed that what was most singular was, that
the houses on one side had their pent-houses supported
by pillars, which made a good walk, and also, what is
more to our purpose, that all the five coaches that came
that day from Bath were out of the town before six,
went to bed, and the following morning, according to
the immortal prescription, " after paying the reckoning,
etc., etc., set out."

But the Castle Inn at Marlborough is the question
after all, or rather was, for the celebrated caravansary is
now part of the College, and ingenuous youths acquire
the Greek accidence where their ancestors drank port
and recalled their casualities ; a striking example of
what strange uses an inn may return to as well as a
human being. The Castle however has had a threefold
destiny, for not only has it changed from a caravansary
into a college, but it was a nobleman's palace before it
was a caravansary. Here lived, amongst others, a noble



lady whose acquaintance we have made further up the
road, to wit, Frances, Countess of Hertford, afterwards
Duchess of Somerset, she who at Ritchings entertained
Thomson till she found that he preferred to entertain
himself ; though some say that it was in this very castle

7"A<; Castle Inn, now part oj ' Marlborou&h College.

that the august patroness to whom "Spring" was dedi-
cated, discovered the horrid truth that her poet was,
alas ! little better than a drunkard. And it was in her
noble lord's society that Eusebia discoverd her bard
carousing that was the pity of it no doubt in one of
Eusebia's grottos, which, in company with cascades,


artificially formed, it pleased her to scatter about the
castle grounds with a lavish and pastoral hand. With
what divine anger must she have confronted the guilty
pair both their wigs off by reason of the heat drink-
ing punch in her pet cave ! That divine anger proved
at all events too enduring for Thomson's powers of
pacification. It was in vain that he piped off

" Hertford, fitted or to shine in courts
With unaffected grace, or walk the plain
With Innocence and Meditation joined
In soft assemblage."

In vain ! In vain ! The lady declined to listen to
his song, " which her own season painted " (the season
was spring by the by, but surely under the circumstance
it ought to have been winter), and the unfortunate bard
had to pack his portmanteau and leave the castle for ever,
with a flea in his ear. So much for poets who prefer iced
punch to the streams of Helicon, and so much also for
the great Frances's connection with the castle. The
family seat of the Seymours became an inn soon after
this, being leased by the Northumberlands (who also
found Marlborough slow, and preferred A In wick) to Mr.
Cotterell, and an inn the old place remained, with the
reputation for being the best in England almost to the
time when it closed its doors in 1843 and was turned
into a public school.

And it was an inn in the best sense of the word, an
inn such as Macaulay describes, whose equal was not to
be found on the Continent, whose " innkeeper, too, was
not like other innkeepers." It was of this sort of place
that Johnson was thinking when he declared that a chair
in it was the throne of human felicity, though it was not
at the Castle, Marlborough, that he spoke his great
speech on taverns, but at the celebrated Chapel House,
Cold Norton, in Oxfordshire, on the North-Western
Road. But the Castle, Marlborough, might quite as
justly have earned the advertisement. Not that it


wanted it, for it had the advertisement of all the nobility,
wealth, fashion of a century, that thronged, as all history
in those days thronged, to that centre of the vale-
tudinarian and the voluptuary, Bath.

I should like to have the visitors' list of the Castle,
during the days of its prime. It would be a Homeric
catalogue of guests, compared with which the ship
business would be commonplace. Consider that every-
body of note in England for over a century entered
those doors, ate, drank, slept, gamed there, grumbled
over their bills, paid their reckoning, thronged to their
post-chaises or coaches, and posted off Bath-wards or to
London. Why, the mere writing of the names would
make a history, and a more suggestive one than many
chronicles of the kings. Chesterfield and Lady Mary
Wortley Montagu making for scandal and the waters ;
Walpole reclining in his chariot, meditating his ailments
and the ancient legend of Bath ; hypochondriasis and
antiquities usurping equal halves of that delicate, in-
dolent brain, his nostril, curled at the horsey atmosphere
of the old inn yard, his white hand raised in deprecating
horror at mine host proffering refreshment on a salver as
big as a coach-wheel ; Selwyn, most good-natured of
voluptuaries, who however liked to see a man hanged,
taking his ease before dinner in the inn's best room,
while his delightful chaplain, Dr. Warner, who had
Rabelais and Horace at his finger ends, is busy below
with the cellarman, assuring himself of the quality of
his patron's claret ; Sheridan running away with his
beautiful wife ; Garrick posting to Bath in search of
new talent and to depreciate Barry ; Byron (already
on his biscuit and soda-water regime) eyeing the bill
of fare misanthropically ; and Brummell incubating a
new cravat ; and Gentleman Jackson surrounded by his
backers on his way to a prize fight. But why proceed
with the list ? The names of the visitors at this cele-
brated inn are written in the letters and diaries of three



Of all the great people who put up at the Castle in
the days of its prime, perhaps the greatest of them, as
is meet and right, has left the most lasting impression
behind him. But he did so by rather out-of-the-way
means, and advertised himself as a great statesman, not
indeed at all more than is customary at the present day,
but with a naiYe absence of affectation that raises a

Eloped I

smile. There were no paragraphists in the land in those
times, be it remembered, to announce to an expectant
world that a prime minister had cut a tree down, or read
the first lesson in church ; so Lord Chatham having
been attacked by gout on his way from Bath to London,
in 1762, took a more picturesque way of acquainting
his countrymen with his whereabouts. He made it an
insistive condition to his staying at the Castle that every


servant in the place from the waiter to the stable boy
should wear his livery. Now I do not know what the
livery of the noble Lord was, but it was very well known
to the England of his day, and as gout kept him in his
room at the Castle for several weeks, and as the establish-
ment of that inn (temporarily clothed as his servants)
was the largest in England, the good town of Marl-

A Quaint Corner in Marl'jorough.

borough simply exhaled its distinguished visitor. People
ran against his attendants at every turn. The streets
swarmed with them. The inn was alive. The name
of Chatham was on every lip, and the great tide of travel
which ebbed and flowed night and day along the Bath
road, carried the strange news to the uttermost parts of
the kingdom.


So political celebrities advertised themselves before
the Daily TelegrapJi was, or editors of fashionable papers
wanted copy but I must get on to Devizes.

The fourteen miles odd between this town and Marl-
borough is sacred to the antiquary, who delights to dig
up mounds on plains, and discover two human skeletons
or more in a sitting posture, and two laid horizontally as
the case may be, which is what was done at West
Kennctt, four and a quarter miles down the road. At
this West Kennett, to complete the celebrity of the spot,
is made and stored the celebrated West Kennett Ale,
and that it is also drunk here in large quantities, is not
beyond the pale of reasonable human hope. The
travellers on the once thronged Bath Road, now as
deserted, alas ! as the old Roman highway which here
coincides with it, took a good deal of this ale, 1 suspect
(if it was brewed in those days, of which fact I am not
certain), to fortify themselves against down air ; and at
the same time no doubt some antiquary, perched on the
box-seat with pince-nez pinched firmly on red nose, ob-
served Silbury Hill immediately on the left of the road,
which some sages suppose to be posterior to the Roman
invasion, and some anterior to it, but which is the biggest
artificial hill in Europe, and is indeed " very fine and

Now Beckhampton Inn looms in sight. Here the
Beaufort Hunt, and all the principal coaches changed
horses, passengers refreshed the inner man, and the
different roads to Bath diverged. The Beaufort Hunt
and other fast coaches going by Cherhill, Calne and
Chippenham, making the whole distance from town 105
miles 6 furlongs ; other coaches less known taking the
next shortest cut by Sandy Lane and Bovvdon Hill to
Lacock. Here there is an Abbey with a romance at-
tached to it, which tells how a young lady, discoursing
one night to her lover from the battlements of the Abbey
church, though strictly forbidden to do so by her papa,
remarked " I will leap down to you " (which was surely



A Change of Hones.

very unwise), and leapt. The wind came to the rescue
and " got under her coates," (the ulster I presume of the


1 6th century) and thus assisted, the young lady, whose
name was Sherington, flopped into the arms of the young
man, whose name was Talbot, and killed him to all ap-
pearances fatally dead on the spot, at which she sat
down and wept Upon this the defunct Talbot, who
had been only temporarily deprived of breath, came to


- ^

The Old Market f/oute, Marlbonugh.

life again, and at the same moment the lady's father,
with a fine instinct for a melodramatic situation, jumped
out of a bush and observed, that " as his daughter had
made such a leap to him she should e'en marry him,"
meaning Talbot, which was rather obscure, but exactly
what the young lady wanted, and married she was to
Talbot, whose Christian name was John, brought him


the Abbey as a dowry, and lived happy ever after.
Leaving Lacock behind, the coaches which took this
second route from Beckhampton passed through
Corsham, Peckwick Box, and Batheaston, where they
entered Somersetshire, and so into Bath, making the
whole distance from London 106*7 miles.

The third route however is the one which I shall follow
more closely, not because it is a mile longer than the
last (on the map it looks five miles longer at the very
least, but this is a geographical optical delusion), but
because it was the route of the Bath mail particularly
as distinguished from the Bristol, and because it passes
through Devizes, where there is or was, a celebrated inn
at which two distinguished travellers, in the persons of
Miss Burncy and Mrs. Thrale, have all this long while
been waiting for me. But I have not got there yet.
After leaving Beckhampton, and not going to Avebury
on the right of the right of the road, which is a re-
markable temple after the manner of Stonehenge,
which some suppose to have 'been built in the time of
Abraham, whenever that may have been, and some
modestly proclaim a Serpent's Temple.

" Now o'er true Roman way our horses sound,"

as Gay sings ; and three miles and a half or so from
Beckhampton the road runs through Wandsditch (per-
haps Wans Dyke will be preferred by etymologists),
which magnificent earthwork was, according to Dr.
Guest, the last frontier of the Belgic province, and can
be traced through Wiltshire for nineteen miles. All
about here the Bath Road is as exposed as an ancient
Briton or Beige could wish it to be ; but for warmer and
more modern fancies it is not a good place for a kilt.
To tell the truth it blows on these downs confoundedly,
and here all coaches which were about in the great snow-
storm of 1836 wished they were out of it. Nor does
the present appearance of Shepherd's Shore, a lone house


standing by the roadside, look as if it could have proffered
much in the way of shelter ; yet this is the last stage of
all, of an inn, which, like Winterslow Hut on the Exeter

Hungtrford Chapel, Denial.

Road, has had its day, and which, when that day was
in the ascendant, gave shelter and refreshment to any
number who wanted it.

It is in standing by such a deserted relic of bygone


clays as this, in looking up and down the silent coach
road that great artery which once gave Shepherd's
Shore life, and which is now as empty as the heart which
it fed that we get some sense of the poetry of the old
coaching days, some perception of the gulf which sepa-
rates our manners and our methods from theirs ; the
difference, indeed, which lies between travelling to a
place with such due pauses for romance and adventure
as were provided in the old days of posting and flying
machines, and arriving at a place with no pauses at all
save for collecting tickets which are not always to be
found as are provided for by our limited mails and fly-
ing Dutchmen. For it was this very deliberation of our
ancestors which has given to such inns as this Shepherd's
Shore on the great roads, much of their historic charm
a deliberation which permitted these old houses to
catch, if I may say so, something of the personality of the
great people, whether kings, queens, highwaymen, con-
spirators, or coachmen, who halted at their hospitable
doors, dined at their liberal tables, or passed by them at
that decorous speed of from five to nine miles an hour,
which, even without a stoppage, permitted however faintly
some sort of individual impression. And what sort of
individual impression, may I ask, can a distinguished
traveller to Bath in these days whether statesman, on
his way to the waters, or modern highwayman, armed
with the three-card-trick (we live in degenerate days !),
or conspirator, fresh from Parliament make, let us say
on Reading, whose platform he can only just see as he
whizzes by it ; or on Swindon, in whose refreshment-room
he has five minutes in which to bolt hot soup ? Why, he
makes no impression at all, and his characterless transit
from one spot to the other (to call it a journey might
raise the indignant ghost of some great departed coach-
man) will remain ignored and unrecorded for ever.

Yes ! Railway days and Railway ways, or rather the
romance of them will not be written even when posterity
has taken to balloons, for the hurry of the concern is


not only fatal to romance, but is fatal to any collection
of it, if any romance at any period existed ; and some
sort of prophetic insight into this truth, a sort of sad per-
ception of what posterity, by its rejection of stage coaches,
would be eternally bereft, breathes through- the .following
threnody of a great coachman, whose poetic heart could
not remain silent under the introduction of the new gods,
but whose name, as Keats supposed his to be, is writ in
water, or perhaps in rum and water, which would in this
case be a fitter emblem of effacement.

" Them," he cries, with a fine directness of pathos,
" them as 'ave seen coaches afore rails came into fashion
'ave seen something worth remembering ! Them was
'appy days for old England, afore reform and rails turned
everything upside down, and men rode, as nature intended
they should, on pikes, with coaches and smart active
cattle, and not by machinery like bags of cotton and
hardware. But coaches is done for ever, and a heavy
blow it is ! They was the pride of the country ; there
wasn't anything like them, as I've 'eerd gemmen say
from forrin parts, to be found nowhere, nor never will

To descend from these high regions of prophecy and
metaphor to firm earth again, the Bath Road, after leaving
Shepherd's Shore, runs through a district whose in-
habitants must have been regarded by the drivers of Mr.
Thomas Cooper's coaches between London and Bath
with appreciative eyes ; for the Wiltshire men resident
between Shepherd's Shore and Devizes have been
notorious through all ages for being " very fine and
large," as were Mr. Thomas Cooper's coachmen. The
inhabitants, indeed, of Bishop's Canning, a village about
three miles from Devizes, might, in the seventeenth
century, according to Aubrey, have challenged all
England to the exquisitely diversive exercises of music
and football. In James the First's time the village
boasted a peculiarly musical vicar, one George Ferraby,
who I trust played football as well as he played the lute,


. r


n'f Chunk, Deviui.


armed with which instrument and attired in the costume
of a druid bard (lenl by the local costumier of the day),
he, at the head of his parishioners, disguised for their
part as shepherds, assaulted the ears of Queen Anne of
Denmark at the Wansdyke, in April, 1613, with a four-
part song of his own composing. Let me hope that it
was not as windy an April day on those downs as I have

' ' ./ - -


k' v -A

H^nuckall Matter,

known it, or our reverend druid must have cursed his
ancestors' airy taste in costume ; and our royal Solomon
himself, who on this occasion accompanied his queen,
would have found a pipe of that tobacco, which he had
lately counter-blasted, greatly beneficial to his health. I
make no doubt that Queen Anne herself caught a cold
in the head, but she was gracious enough notwithstand-

F 2


ing to express her great liking and content to the
Reverend George Ferraby, and her ladies joined their
congratulations to hers, though they had no doubt caught
colds too.

The practised enthusiasm of these Wiltshire musicians
found fresh vent in 1702, when, on the occasion of the
second Queen Anne's return from Bath, they indulged
themselves and their august audience with another
musical junketing, this time however according to the
pamphlet in the British Museum, accompanied with a
less scrupulous regard to archaeological correctness in
costume. The Reverend George Ferraby, being dead
many years, no longer stage-managed the ceremonial,
nor did he, unless as a spirit, indulge in choryambic
exercises at the head of his parishioners, lightly attired
as a druid. A more simply pastoral atmosphere con-

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