British Highways and Byways From a Motor Car
BEING A RECORD OF A FIVE THOUSAND MILE TOUR IN ENGLAND, WALES AND SCOTLAND
Thos. D. Murphy
With Sixteen Illustrations in Colour and Thirty-two Duogravures From Photographs; Also Two Descriptive Maps.
BOSTON L.C. Page & Company MDCCCCVIII
Copyright, 1908 BY L.C. PAGE & COMPANY (INCORPORATED)
All rights reserved
In this chronicle of a summer's motoring in Britain I have not attempted a guide-book in any sense, yet the maps, together with the comments on highways, towns, and country, should be of some value even in that capacity. I hope, however, that the book, with its many illustrations and its record of visits to out-of-the way places, may be acceptable to those who may desire to tour Britain by rail or cycle as well as by motor car. Nor may it be entirely uninteresting to those who may not expect to visit the country in person but desire to learn more of it and its people. Although our journey did not follow the beaten paths of British touring, and while a motor car affords the most satisfactory means of reaching most of the places described, the great majority of these places are accessible by rail, supplemented in some cases by a walk or drive. A glance at the maps will indicate the large scope of country covered and the location of most places especially mentioned in the text.
It was not a tour of cities by any means, but of the most delightful country in the world, with its towns, villages, historic spots and solitary ruins. Whatever the merits or demerits of the text, there can be no question concerning the pictures. The color-plates were reproduced from original paintings by prominent artists, some of the pictures having been exhibited in the London Royal Academy. The thirty-two duogravures represent the very height of attainment in that process, being reproductions of the most perfect English photographs obtainable.
T.D.M. January 1908.
FOREWORD TO SECOND EDITION
The first edition of BRITISH HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS FROM A MOTOR CAR was printed from type—instead of from electrotype plates—thus giving an opportunity for additional care in the press work, with better results than with the ordinary book printed from plates. The publishers thought also that some time might elapse before a second edition would be called for. However, the unexpected happened and in less than a year a new edition is required.
This has afforded opportunity for numerous additions and corrections—since it was hardly possible that a book covering such a wide scope could be entirely free from mistakes, though, fortunately, these were mainly minor ones. I have to thank numerous readers for helpful suggestions.
That there is a distinct field for such a book is proven by the unexpectedly large demand for the first edition. I hope that the new and revised edition may meet with like favor.
T.D.M. March 1, 1909.
Page I A FEW GENERALITIES 1 II IN AND ABOUT LONDON 11 III A PILGRIMAGE TO CANTERBURY 26 IV A RUN THROUGH THE MIDLANDS 40 V THE BORDER TOWNS, SHREWSBURY AND LUDLOW 58 VI LONDON TO LAND'S END 80 VII FROM CORNWALL TO SOUTH WALES 100 VIII THROUGH BEAUTIFUL WALES 115 IX CHESTER TO THE "HIELANDS" 137 X THROUGH HISTORIC SCOTLAND 156 XI FROM EDINBURGH TO YORKSHIRE 173 XII IN OLD YORKSHIRE 190 XIII A ZIG-ZAG TRIP FROM YORK TO NORWICH 206 XIV PETERBOROUGH, FOTHERINGHAY, ETC 221 XV THE CROMWELL COUNTRY; COLCHESTER 235 XVI THE HAUNTS OF MILTON AND PENN 247 XVII A CHAPTER OF DIVERS PLACES AND EXPERIENCES 260 XVIII IN SURREY AND SUSSEX 275 XIX KNOLE HOUSE AND PENSHURST 290 XX SOME MIGHT-HAVE-BEENS 299 INDEX 311
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Page OLD HALF-TIMBEREID HOUSES IN LEDBURY Frontispiece OLD COTTAGE AT NORTON, NEAR EVESHAM 1 HARVESTING IN HERTFORDSHIRE 16 THE THREE SPIRES OF LICHFIELD 48 SUNSET ON THE MOOR 56 A COTTAGE IN HOLDENHURST, HAMPSHIRE 86 ROCKS OFF CORNWALL 96 NEAR LAND'S END 100 ON DARTMOOR 104 IN GLOUCESTERSHIRE 112 ENTRANCE TO LOCH TYNE 144 THE PATH BY THE LOCH 150 IN THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS 160 A SURREY LANDSCAPE 272 A BIT OF OLD ENGLAND 300 THE CALEDONIAN COAST 308
HADLEY CHURCH, MONKEN HADLEY 22 DICKENS' HOME, GAD'S HILL, NEAR ROCHESTER 30 CATHEDRAL, CANTERBURY 33 RUINS OF URICONIUM, NEAR SHREWSBURY 64 STOKESAY MANOR HOUSE, NEAR LUDLOW 66 THE FEATHERS HOTEL, LUDLOW 68 LUDLOW CASTLE, THE KEEP AND ENTRANCE 72 A GLADE IN NEW FOREST 88 ST. JOSEPH'S CHAPEL, GLASTONBURY ABBEY 108 DISTANT VIEW OF ROSS, SOUTH WELSH BORDER 114 RUINS OF RAGLAN CASTLE, SOUTH WALES 120 KILCHURN CASTLE, LOCH AWE 152 TOWERS OF ELGIN CATHEDRAL, NORTH SCOTLAND 162 DUNNOTTAR CASTLE, STONEHAVEN, NEAR ABERDEEN 164 TOWN HOUSE, DUNBAR, SCOTLAND 180 BAMBOROUGH CASTLE, NORTHUMBERLAND 184 OLD COTTAGE AT COCKINGTON 200 SOMERSBY RECTORY, BIRTHPLACE OF TENNYSON 210 SOMERSBY CHURCH 212 ST. BOTOLPH'S CHURCH FROM THE RIVER, BOSTON 216 A TYPICAL BYWAY 224 JOHN WYCLIF'S CHURCH, LUTTERWORTH 232 BYRON'S ELM IN CHURCHYARD, HARROW 246 MILTON'S ROOM IN COTTAGE AT CHALFONT ST. GILES 250 DISTANT VIEW OF MAGDALEN TOWER, OXFORD 256 RINGWOOD CHURCH 260 WINDMILL NEAR ARUNDEL, SUSSEX 274 ARUNDEL CASTLE 276 PEVENSEY CASTLE, WHERE THE NORMANS LANDED 280 WINCHELSEA CHURCH AND ELM TREE 282 ENTRANCE FRONT BODIAM CASTLE, SUSSEX 286 PENSHURST PLACE, HOME OF THE SIDNEYS 292
MAP OF ENGLAND AND WALES 310 MAP OF SCOTLAND 318
British Highways and Byways From a Motor Car
A FEW GENERALITIES
Stratford-on-Avon stands first on the itinerary of nearly every American who proposes to visit the historic shrines of Old England. Its associations with Britain's immortal bard and with our own gentle Geoffrey Crayon are not unfamiliar to the veriest layman, and no fewer than thirty thousand pilgrims, largely from America, visit the delightful old town each year. And who ever came away disappointed? Who, if impervious to the charm of the place, ever dared to own it?
My first visit to Stratford-on-Avon was in the regulation fashion. Imprisoned in a dusty and comfortless first-class apartment—first-class is an irony in England when applied to railroad travel, a mere excuse for charging double—we shot around the curves, the glorious Warwickshire landscapes fleeting past in a haze or obscured at times by the drifting smoke. Our reveries were rudely interrupted by the shriek of the English locomotive—like an exaggerated toy whistle—and, with a mere glimpse of town and river, we were brought sharply up to the unattractive station of Stratford-on-Avon. We were hustled by an officious porter into an omnibus, which rattled through the streets until we landed at the Sign of the Red Horse; and the manner of our departure was even the same.
Just two years later, after an exhilarating drive of two or three hours over the broad, well-kept highway winding through the parklike fields, fresh from May showers, between Worcester and Stratford, our motor finally climbed a long hill, and there, stretched out before us, lay the valley of the Avon. Far away we caught the gleam of the immortal river, and rising from a group of splendid trees we beheld Trinity Church—almost unique in England for its graceful combination of massive tower and slender spire—the literary shrine of the English-speaking world, the enchanted spot where Shakespeare sleeps. About it were clustered the clean, tiled roofs of the charming town, set like a gem in the Warwickshire landscape, famous as the most beautiful section of Old England. Our car slowed to a stop, and only the subdued hum of the motor broke the stillness as we saw Stratford-on-Avon from afar, conscious of a beauty and sentiment that made our former visit seem commonplace indeed.
But I am not going to write of Stratford-on-Avon. Thousands have done this before me—some of them of immortal fame. I shall not attempt to describe or give details concerning a town that is probably visited each year by more people than any other place of the size in the world. I am simply striving in a few words to give the different impressions made upon the same party who visited the town twice in a comparatively short period, the first time by railway train and the last by motor car. If I have anything to say of Stratford, it will come in due sequence in my story.
There are three ways in which a tourist may obtain a good idea of Britain during a summer's vacation of three or four months. He may cover most places of interest after the old manner, by railway train. This will have to be supplemented by many and expensive carriage drives if he wishes to see the most beautiful country and many of the most interesting places. As Professor Goldwin Smith says, "Railways in England do not follow the lines of beauty in very many cases," and the opportunity afforded of really seeing England from a railway car window is poor indeed. The tourist must keep a constant eye on the time-tables, and in many of the more retired places he will have to spend a day when an hour would suffice quite as well could he get away. If he travels first-class, it is quite expensive, and the only advantage secured is that he generally has a compartment to himself, the difference in accommodations between first and third-class on the longer distance trains being insignificant. But if he travels third-class, he very often finds himself crowded into a small compartment with people in whom, to say the least, he has nothing in common. One seldom gets the real sentiment and beauty of a place in approaching it by railway. I am speaking, of course, of the tourist who endeavors to crowd as much as he can into a comparatively short time. To the one who remains several days in a place, railroad traveling is less objectionable. My remarks concerning railroad travel in England are made merely from the point of comparison with a pleasure journey by motor, and having covered the greater part of the country in both ways, I am qualified to some extent to speak from experience.
For a young man or party of young men who are traveling through Britain on a summer's vacation, the bicycle affords an excellent and expeditious method of getting over the country, and offers nearly all the advantages of the motor car, provided the rider is vigorous and expert enough to do the wheeling without fatigue. The motor cycle is still better from this point of view, and many thousands of them are in use on English roads, while cyclists may be counted by the tens of thousands. But the bicycle is out of the question for an extended tour by a party which includes ladies. The amount of impedimenta which must be carried along, and the many long hills which are encountered on the English roads, will put the cycle out of the question in such cases.
In the motor car, we have the most modern and thorough means of traversing the highways and byways of Britain in the limits of a single summer, and it is my purpose in this book, with little pretensions to literary style, to show how satisfactorily this may be done by a mere layman. To the man who drives his own car and who at the outstart knows very little about the English roads and towns, I wish to undertake to show how in a trip of five thousand miles, occupying about fifty days, actual traveling time, I covered much of the most beautiful country in England and Scotland and visited a large proportion of the most interesting and historic places in the Kingdom. I think it can be clearly demonstrated that this method of touring will give opportunities for enjoyment and for gaining actual knowledge of the people and country that can hardly be attained in any other way.
The motor car affords expeditious and reasonably sure means of getting over the country—always ready when you are ready, subservient to your whim to visit some inaccessible old ruin, flying over the broad main highways or winding more cautiously in the unfrequented country byways—and is, withal, a method of locomotion to which the English people have become tolerant if not positively friendly. Further, I am sure it will be welcome news to many that the expense of such a trip, under ordinary conditions, is not at all exorbitant or out of the reach of the average well-to-do citizen.
Those who have traveled for long distances on American roads can have no conception whatever of the delights of motor traveling on the British highways. I think there are more bad roads in the average county, taking the States throughout, than there are in all of the United Kingdom, and the number of defective bridges in any county outside of the immediate precincts of a few cities, would undoubtedly be many times greater than in the whole of Great Britain. I am speaking, of course, of the more traveled highways and country byways. There are roads leading into the hilly sections that would not be practicable for motors at all, but, fortunately, these are the very roads over which no one would care to go. While the gradients are generally easier than in the States, there are in many places sharp hills where the car must be kept well under control. But the beauty of it is that in Britain one has the means of being thoroughly warned in advance of the road conditions which he must encounter.
The maps are perfect to the smallest detail and drawn to a large scale, showing the relative importance of all the roads; and upon them are plainly marked the hills that are styled "dangerous." These maps were prepared for cyclists, and many of the hills seem insignificant to a powerful motor. However, the warning is none the less valuable, for often other conditions requiring caution prevail, such as a dangerous turn on a hill or a sharp descent into a village street. Then there is a set of books, four in number, published by an Edinburgh house and illustrated by profile plans, covering about thirty thousand miles of road in England and Scotland. These show the exact gradients and supply information in regard to the surface of the roads and their general characteristics. Besides this, the "objects of interest" scattered along any particular piece of road are given in brief—information at once so desirable and complete as to be a revelation to an American. There are sign-boards at nearly every crossing; only in some of the more retired districts did we find the crossroads unmarked. With such advantages as these, it is easily seen that a tour of Britain by a comparative stranger is not difficult; that a chauffeur or a guide posted on the roads is not at all necessary. The average tourist, with the exercise of ordinary intelligence and a little patience, can get about any part of the country without difficulty. One of the greatest troubles we found was to strike the right road in leaving a town of considerable size, but this was overcome by the extreme willingness of any policeman or native to give complete information—often so much in detail as to be rather embarrassing. The hundreds of people from whom we sought assistance in regard to the roads were without exception most cheerful and willing compliants, and in many places people who appeared to be substantial citizens volunteered information when they saw us stop at the town crossing to consult our maps. In getting about the country, little difficulty or confusion will be experienced.
Generally speaking, the hotel accommodations in the provincial towns throughout England and Scotland are surprisingly good. Of course there is a spice of adventure in stopping occasionally at one of the small wayside inns or at one of the old hostelries more famous for its associations than for comfort, but to one who demands first-class service and accommodations, a little of this will go a long way. Generally it can be so planned that towns with strictly good hotel accommodations can be reached for the night. Occasionally an unusually comfortable and well-ordered hotel will tempt the motorist to tarry a day or two and possibly to make excursions in the vicinity. Such hotels we found at Chester and York, for instance. The country hotel-keeper in Britain is waking up to the importance of motor travel. Already most of the hotels were prepared to take care of this class of tourists, and in many others improvements were under way. It is safe to say that in the course of two or three years, at the farthest, there will be little to be desired in the direction of good accommodations in the better towns. Rates at these hotels are not low by any means—at least for the motorist. It is generally assumed that a man who is in possession of an automobile is able to pay his bills, and charges and fees are exacted in accordance with this idea. There is, of course, a wide variation in this particular, and taking it right through, the rates at the best hotels would not be called exorbitant. The Motor Club of Great Britain and Ireland have many especially designated hotels where the members of this association are given a discount. These are not in every case the best in the town, and we generally found Baedeker's Hand Book the most reliable guide as to the relative merits of the hotels. It is a poorly appointed hotel that does not now have a garage of some sort, and in many cases, necessary supplies are available. Some even go so far as to charge the storage batteries, or "accumulators," as they are always called in Britain, and to afford facilities for the motorist to make repairs.
It goes without saying that a motor tour should be planned in advance as carefully as possible. If one starts out in a haphazard way, it takes him a long time to find his bearings, and much valuable time is lost. Before crossing the water, it would be well to become posted as thoroughly as possible on what one desires to see and to gain a general idea of the road from the maps. Another valuable adjunct will be a membership in the A.C.A. or a letter from the American motor associations, with an introduction to the Secretary of the Motor Union of Great Britain and Ireland. In this manner can be secured much valuable information as to the main traveled routes; but after all, if the tourist is going to get the most out of his trip, he will have to come down to a careful study of the country and depend partly on the guide-books but more upon his own knowledge of the historical and literary landmarks throughout the Kingdom.
IN AND ABOUT LONDON
London occurs to the average tourist as the center from which his travels in the Kingdom will radiate, and this idea, from many points of view, is logically correct. Around the city cluster innumerable literary and historic associations, and the points of special interest lying within easy reach will outnumber those in any section of similar extent in the entire country. If one purposes to make the tour by rail, London is pre-eminently the center from which to start and to which one will return at various times in his travels. All the principal railways lead to the metropolis. The number of trains arriving and departing each day greatly exceeds that of any other city in the world, and the longest through journey in the island may be compassed between sunrise and sunset.
The motorist, however, finds a different problem confronting him in making London his center. I had in mind the plan of visiting the famous places of the city and immediate suburbs with the aid of my car, but it was speedily abandoned when I found myself confronted by the actual conditions. One attempt at carrying out this plan settled the matter for me. The trip which I undertook would probably be one of the first to occur to almost anybody—the drive to Hampton Court Palace, about twelve or fifteen miles from the central part of the city. It looked easy to start about two or three o'clock, spend a couple of hours at Hampton Court and get back to our hotel by six. After trying out my car—which had reached London some time ahead of me—a few times in localities where traffic was not the heaviest, I essayed the trip without any further knowledge of the streets than I had gained from the maps. I was accompanied by a nervous friend from Iowa who confessed that he had been in an automobile but once before. He had ridden with a relative through a retired section of his native state, traversed for the first time by an automobile, and he had quit trying to remember how many run-aways and smash-ups were caused by the fractious horses they met on the short journey. Visions of damage suits haunted him for months thereafter. In our meanderings through the London streets, the fears for the other fellow which had harassed him during his former experience, were speedily transferred to himself. To his excited imagination, we time and again escaped complete wreck and annihilation by a mere hair's breadth. The route which we had taken, I learned afterwards, was one of the worst for motoring in all London. The streets were narrow and crooked and were packed with traffic of all kinds. Tram cars often ran along the middle of the street, with barely room for a vehicle to pass on either side. The huge motor busses came tearing towards us in a manner most trying to novices, and it seemed, time after time, that the dexterity of the drivers of these big machines was all that saved our car from being wrecked. We obtained only the merest glimpse of Hampton Palace, and the time which we had consumed made it apparent that if we expected to reach our hotel that night, we must immediately retrace our way through the wild confusion we had just passed. It began to rain, and added to the numerous other dangers that seemed to confront us was that of "skidding" on the slippery streets. When we finally reached our garage, I found that in covering less than twenty-five miles, we had consumed about four hours and we had been moving all the time. The nervous strain was a severe one and I forthwith abandoned any plan that I had of attempting to do London by motor car. With more knowledge and experience I would have done better, but a local motorist, thoroughly acquainted with London, told me that he wouldn't care to undertake the Hampton Court trip by the route which we had traveled.
On Saturday afternoons and Sundays, the motorist may practically have freedom of the city. He will find the streets deserted everywhere. The heavy traffic has all ceased and the number of cabs and motor busses is only a fraction of what it would be on business days. He will meet comparatively few motors in the city on Sunday, even though the day be fine, such as would throng the streets of Chicago or New York with cars. The Englishman who goes for a drive is attracted from the city by the many fine roads which lead in every direction to pleasure resorts. One of the most popular runs with Londoners is the fifty miles to Brighton, directly southward, and the number of motors passing over this highway on fine Sundays is astonishing. I noted a report in the papers that on a certain Sunday afternoon no less than two hundred cars passed a police trap, and of these, thirty-five were summoned before the magistrates for breaking the speed limit. To the average American, this run to Brighton would not be at all attractive compared with many other roads leading out of London, on which one would scarcely meet a motor car during the day and would be in no danger from the machinations of the police. Of course the places frequented by tourists are often closed on Sunday—or at least partially so, as in the case of Windsor Castle, where one is admitted to the grounds and court, but the state apartments, etc., are not shown. Even the churches are closed to Sunday visitors except during the regular services.
Within a radius of thirty miles of London, and outside its immediate boundaries, there are numerous places well worth a visit, most of them open either daily or at stated times. A few of such places are Harrow on the Hill, with its famous school; Keston, with Holwood House, the home of William Pitt; Chigwell, the scene of Dickens' "Barnaby Rudge;" Waltham Abbey Church, founded in 1060; the home of Charles Darwin at Downe; Epping Forest; Hampton Court; Rye House at Broxborne; Hatfield House, the estate of the Marquis of Salisbury; Runnymede, where the Magna Charta was signed; St. Albans, with its ancient cathedral church; Stoke Poges Church of Gray's "Elegy" fame; Windsor Castle; Knole House, with its magnificent galleries and furniture; Penshurst Place, the home of the Sidneys; John Milton's cottage at Chalfont St. Giles; the ancient town of Guildford in Surrey; Gad's Hill, Dickens' home, near Rochester; the vicarage where Thackeray's grandfather lived and the old church where he preached at Monken Hadley; and Whitchurch, with Handel's original organ, is also near the last-named village. These are only a few of the places that no one should miss. The motor car affords an unequalled means of reaching these and other points in this vicinity; since many are at some distance from railway stations, to go by train would consume more time than the average tourist has at his disposal. While we visited all the places which I have just mentioned and many others close to London, we made only three or four short trips out of the city returning the same or the following day. We managed to reach the majority of such points by going and returning over different highways on our longer tours. In this way we avoided the difficulty we should have experienced in making many daily trips from London, since a large part of each day would have been consumed merely in getting in and out of the city.
Our first trip into the country was made on the Sunday after our arrival. Although we started out at random, our route proved a fortunate one, and gave us every reason to believe that our tour of the Kingdom would be all we had anticipated. During the summer we had occasion to travel three times over this same route, and we are still of the opinion that there are few more delightful bits of road in England. We left London by the main highway, running for several miles through Epping Forest, which is really a great suburban park. It was a good day for cyclists, for the main road to the town of Epping was crowded with thousands of them. So great was the number and so completely did they occupy the highway, that it was necessary to drive slowly and with the greatest care. Even then, we narrowly avoided a serious accident. One of the cyclists, evidently to show his dexterity, undertook to cut around us by running across the tramway tracks. These were wet and slippery, and the wheel shot from under the rider, pitching him headlong to the ground not two feet in front of our car, which was then going at a pretty good rate. If the cyclist did not exhibit skill in managing his wheel, he certainly gave a wonderful display of agility in getting out of our way. He did not seem to touch the ground at all, and by turning two or three handsprings, he avoided being run over by the narrowest margin. His wheel was considerably damaged and his impedimenta scattered over the road. It was with rather a crestfallen air that he gathered up his belongings, and we went on, shuddering to think how close we had come to a serious accident at the very beginning of our pilgrimage. A policeman witnessed the accident, but he clearly placed the blame on the careless wheelman.
Passing through the forest, we came to Epping, and from there into a stretch of open country that gave little suggestion of proximity to the world's metropolis. Several miles through a narrow but beautifully kept byway brought us to the village of Chipping-Ongar, a place of considerable antiquity, and judging from the extensive site of its ancient castle, at one time of some military importance.
At Ongar we began our return trip to London over the road which we agreed was the most beautiful leading out of the city, for the suburbs do not extend far in this direction and one is comparatively soon in the country. The perfectly surfaced road, with only gentle slopes and curves, runs through the parklike fields, here over a picturesque stone bridge spanning a clear stream, there between rows of magnificent trees, occasionally dropping into quiet villages, of which Chigwell was easily the most delightful.
Chigwell became known to fame through the writings of Charles Dickens, who was greatly enamored of the place and who made it the scene of much of his story of "Barnaby Rudge." But Dickens, with his eye for the beautiful and with his marvelous intuition for interesting situations, was drawn to the village by its unusual charm. Few other places can boast of such endorsement as he gave in a letter to his friend, Forster, when he wrote: "Chigwell, my dear fellow, is the greatest place in the world. Name your day for going. Such a delicious old inn facing the church; such a lovely ride; such glorious scenery; such an out-of-the-way rural place; such a sexton! I say again, name your day." After such a recommendation, one will surely desire to visit the place, and it is pleasant to know that the "delicious old inn" is still standing and that the village is as rural and pretty as when Dickens wrote over sixty years since.
The inn referred to, the King's Head, was the prototype of the Maypole in "Barnaby Rudge," and here we were delighted to stop for our belated luncheon. The inn fronts directly on the street and, like all English hostelries, its main rooms are given over to the bar, which at this time was crowded with Sunday loafers, the atmosphere reeking with tobacco smoke and the odor of liquors. The garden at the rear was bright with a profusion of spring flowers and sheltered with ornamental trees and vines. The garden side of the old house was covered with a mantle of ivy, and, altogether, the surroundings were such as to make ample amends for the rather unprepossessing conditions within. One will not fully appreciate Chigwell and its inn unless he has read Dickens' story. You may still see the panelled room upstairs where Mr. Chester met Geoffry Haredale. This room has a splendid mantel-piece, great carved open beams and beautiful leaded windows. The bar-room, no doubt, is still much the same as on the stormy night which Dickens chose for the opening of his story. Just across the road from the inn is the church which also figures in the tale, and a dark avenue of ancient yew trees leads from the gateway to the door. One can easily imagine the situation which Dickens describes when the old sexton crossed the street and rang the church bells on the night of the murder at Haredale Hall.
Aside from Dickens' connection with Chigwell, the village has a place of peculiar interest to Americans in the old grammar school where William Penn received his early education. The building still stands, with but little alteration, much as it was in the day when the great Quaker sat at the rude desks and conned the lessons of the old-time English schoolboy.
When we invited friends whom we met in London to accompany us on a Sunday afternoon trip, we could think of no road more likely to please them than the one I have just been trying to describe. We reversed our journey this time, going out of London on the way to Chigwell. Returning, we left the Epping road shortly after passing through that town, and followed a narrow, forest-bordered byway with a few steep hills until we came to Waltham Abbey, a small Essex market town with an important history. The stately abbey church, a portion of which is still standing and now used for services, was founded by the Saxon king, Harold, in 1060. Six years later he was defeated and slain at Hastings by William the Conqueror, and tradition has it that his mother buried his body a short distance to the east of Waltham Church. The abbey gate still stands as a massive archway at one end of the river bridge. Near the town is one of the many crosses erected by Edward I in memory of his wife, Eleanor of Castile, wherever her body rested on the way from Lincoln to Westminster. A little to the left of this cross, now a gateway to Theobald Park, stands Temple Bar, stone for stone intact as it was in the days when traitors' heads were raised above it in Fleet Street, although the original wooden gates are missing. Waltham Abbey is situated on the River Lea, near the point where King Alfred defeated the Danes in one of his battles. They had penetrated far up the river when King Alfred diverted the waters from beneath their vessels and left them stranded in a wilderness of marsh and forest.
Another pleasant afternoon trip was to Monken Hadley, twenty-five miles out on the Great North Road. Hadley Church is intimately associated with a number of distinguished literary men, among them Thackeray, whose grandfather preached there and is buried in the churchyard. The sexton was soon found and he was delighted to point out the interesting objects in the church and vicinity.
The church stands at the entrance of a royal park, which is leased to private parties and is one of the quaintest and most picturesque of the country churches we had seen. Over the doors, some old-fashioned figures which we had to have translated indicated that the building had been erected in 1494. It has a huge ivy-covered tower and its interior gives every evidence of the age-lasting solidity of the English churches.
Hadley Church has a duplicate in the United States, one having been built in some New York town precisely like the older structure. We noticed that one of the stained-glass windows had been replaced by a modern one, and were informed that the original had been presented to the newer church in America—a courtesy that an American congregation would hardly think of, and be still less likely to carry out. An odd silver communion service which had been in use from three to five hundred years was carefully taken out of a fire-proof safe and shown us.
Hadley Church is a delight from every point of view, and it is a pity that such lines of architecture are not oftener followed in America. Our churches as a rule are shoddy and inharmonious affairs compared with those in England. It is not always the matter of cost that makes them so, since more artistic structures along the pleasing and substantial lines of architecture followed in Britain would in many cases cost no more than we pay for such churches as we now have.
Our friend the sexton garrulously assured us that Thackeray had spent much of his time as a youth at the vicarage and insisted that a great part of "Vanity Fair" was written there. He even pointed out the room in which he alleged the famous book was produced, and assured us that the great author had found the originals of many of his characters, such as Becky Sharp and Col. Newcome, among the villagers of Hadley. All of which we took for what it was worth. Thackeray himself told his friend, Jas. T. Fields, that "Vanity Fair" was written in his London house; still, he may have been a visitor at the Hadley vicarage and might have found pleasure in writing in the snug little room whose windows open on the flower garden, rich with dashes of color that contrasted effectively with the dark green foliage of the hedges and trees. The house still does duty as a vicarage; the small casement windows peep out of the ivy that nearly envelops it, and an air of coziness and quiet seems to surround it. Near at hand is the home where Anthony Trollope, the novelist, lived for many years, and his sister is buried in the churchyard.
A short distance from Hadley is the village of Edgeware, with Whitchurch, famous for its association with the musician Handel. He was organist here for several years, and on the small pipe-organ, still in the church though not in use, composed his oratorio, "Esther," and a less important work, "The Harmonious Blacksmith." The idea of the latter came from an odd character, the village blacksmith, who lived in Edgeware in Handel's day and who acquired some fame as a musician. His tombstone in the churchyard consists of an anvil and hammer, wrought in stone. Afterwards Handel became more widely known, and was called from Whitchurch for larger fields of work. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.
The road from Edgeware to the city is a good one, and being Saturday afternoon, it was nearly deserted. Saturday in London is quite as much of a holiday as Sunday, little business being transacted, especially in the afternoon. This custom prevails to a large extent all over the Kingdom, and rarely is any attempt made to do business on Saturday. The Week-End holiday, as it is called, is greatly prized, and is recognized by the railroads in granting excursions at greatly reduced rates. There is always a heavy exodus of people from the city to the surrounding resorts during the summer and autumn months on Saturday afternoon and Sunday.
Owing to the extreme difficulty of getting about the city, we made but few short excursions from London such as I have described. If one desires to visit such places in sequence, without going farther into the country, it would be best to stop for the night at the hotels in the better suburban towns, without attempting to return to London each day.
The garage accomodations in London I found very good and the charges generally lower than in the United States. There is a decided tendency at grafting on the part of the employes, and if it is ascertained that a patron is a tourist—especially an American—he is quoted a higher rate at some establishments and various exactions are attempted. At the first garage where I applied, a quotation made was withdrawn when it was learned that I was an American. The man said he would have to discuss the matter with his partner before making a final rate. I let him carry on his discussion indefinitely, for I went on my way and found another place where I secured accommodations at a very reasonable rate without giving information of any kind.
With the miserable business methods in vogue at some of the garages, it seemed strange to me if any of the money paid to employes ever went to the business office at all. There was no system and little check on sales of supplies, and I heard a foreman of a large establishment declare that he had lost two guineas which a patron had paid him. "I can't afford to lose it," he said, "and it will have to come back indirectly if I can't get it directly." In no case should a motorist pay a bill at a London garage without a proper receipt.
A PILGRIMAGE TO CANTERBURY
No place within equal distance of London is of greater interest than Canterbury, and, indeed, there are very few cities in the entire Kingdom that can vie with the ancient cathedral town in historical importance and antiquity. It lies only sixty-five miles southeast of London, but allowing for the late start that one always makes from an English hotel, and the points that will engage attention between the two cities, the day will be occupied by the trip. Especially will this be true if, as in our case, fully two hours be spent in getting out of the city and reaching the highway south of the Thames, which follows the river to Canterbury.
Leaving Russell Square about ten o'clock, I followed the jam down Holborn past the Bank and across London Bridge, crawling along at a snail's pace until we were well beyond the river. A worse route and a more trying one it would have been hard to select. With more experience, I should have run down the broad and little-congested Kingsway to Waterloo Bridge and directly on to Old Kent road in at least one-fourth the time which I consumed in my ignorance. Nevertheless, if a novice drives a car in London, he can hardly avoid such experiences. Detailed directions given in advance cannot be remembered and there is little opportunity to consult street signs and maps or even to question the policeman in the never-ending crush of the streets. However, one gradually gains familiarity with the streets and landmarks, and by the time I was ready to leave London for America, I had just learned to get about the city with comparative ease.
Old Kent road, which leads out of London towards Canterbury, is an ancient highway, and follows nearly, if not quite, the route pursued by the Canterbury pilgrims of the poet Chaucer. In the main it is unusually broad and well kept, but progress will be slow at first, as the suburbs extend a long way in this direction, and for the first twenty-five miles one can hardly be said to be out of the city at any time. Ten miles out the road passes Greenwich, where the British observatory is located, and Woolwich, the seat of the great government arsenals and gun works, is also near this point, lying directly by the river.
Nearly midway between London and Rochester is the old town of Dartford, where we enjoyed the hospitality of the Bull Hotel for luncheon. A dingy, time-worn, rambling old hostelry it is, every odd corner filled with stuffed birds and beasts to an extent that suggested a museum, and as if to still further carry out the museum feature, mine host had built in a small court near the entrance a large cage or bird-house which was literally alive with specimens of feathered songsters of all degrees. The space on the first floor not occupied by these curios was largely devoted to liquor selling, for there appeared to be at least three bars in the most accessible parts of the hotel. However, somewhat to the rear there was a comfortable coffee room, where our luncheon was neatly served. We had learned by this time that all well regulated hotels in the medium sized towns, and even in some of the larger cities—as large as Bristol, for instance—have two dining rooms, one, generally for tourists, called the "coffee room," with separate small tables, and a much larger room for "commercials," or traveling salesmen, where all are seated together at a single table. The service is practically the same, but the ratio of charges is from two to three times higher in the coffee room. We found many old hotels in retired places where a coffee room had been hastily improvised, an innovation no doubt brought about largely by the motor car trade and the desire to give the motorist more aristocratic rates than those charged the well-posted commercials. Though we stopped in Dartford no longer than necessary for lunch and a slight repair to the car, it is a place of considerable interest. Its chief industry is a large paper-mill, a direct successor to the first one established in England near the end of the Sixteenth Century, and Foolscap paper, standard throughout the English-speaking world, takes its name from the crest (a fool's cap) of the founder of the industry, whose tomb may still be seen in Dartford Church.
A short run over a broad road bordered with beautiful rural scenery brought us into Rochester, whose cathedral spire and castle with its huge Norman tower loomed into view long before we came into the town itself. A few miles out of the town our attention had been attracted by a place of unusual beauty, a fine old house almost hidden by high hedges and trees on one side of the road and just opposite a tangled bit of wood and shrubbery, with several of the largest cedars we saw in England. So picturesque was the spot that we stopped for a photograph of the car and party, with the splendid trees for a background, but, as often happens in critical cases, the kodak film only yielded a "fog" when finally developed.
When we reached Rochester, a glance at the map showed us that we had unwittingly passed Gad's Hill, the home where Charles Dickens spent the last fifteen years of his life and where he died thirty-six years ago. We speedily retraced the last four or five miles of our journey and found ourselves again at the fine old place with the cedar trees where we had been but a short time before. We stopped to inquire at a roadside inn which, among the multitude of such places, we had hardly noticed before, and which bore the legend, "The Sir John Falstaff," a distinction earned by being the identical place where Shakespeare located some of the pranks of his ridiculous hero. The inn-keeper was well posted on the literary traditions of the locality. "Yes," said he, "this is Gad's Hill Place, where Dickens lived and where he died just thirty-six years ago today, on June 9th, 1870; but the house is shown only on Wednesdays of each week and the proprietor doesn't fancy being troubled on other days. But perhaps, since you are Americans and have come a long way, he may admit you on this special anniversary. Anyway, it will do no harm for you to try."
Personally, I could not blame the proprietor for his disinclination to admit visitors on other than the regular days, and it was impressed on me more than once during our trip that living in the home of some famous man carries quite a penalty, especially if the present owner happens to be a considerate gentleman who dislikes to deprive visitors of a glimpse of the place. Such owners are often wealthy and the small fees which they fix for admittance are only required as evidence of good faith and usually devoted to charity. With a full appreciation of the situation, it was not always easy to ask for the suspension of a plainly stated rule, yet we did this in many instances before our tour was over and almost invariably with success. In the present case we were fortunate, for the gentleman who owned Gad's Hill was away and the neat maid who responded to the bell at the gateway seemed glad to show us the place, regardless of rules. It is a comfortable, old-fashioned house, built about 1775, and was much admired by Dickens as a boy when he lived with his parents in Rochester. His father used to bring him to look at the house and told him that if he grew up a clever man, he might possibly own it some time.
We were first shown into the library, which is much the same as the great writer left it at his death, and the chair and desk which he used still stand in their accustomed places. The most curious feature of the library is the rows of dummy books that occupy some of the shelves, and even the doors are lined with these sham leather backs glued to boards, a whim of Dickens carefully respected by the present owner. We were also accorded a view of the large dining room where Dickens was seized with the attack which resulted in his sudden and unexpected death. After a glimpse of other parts of the house and garden surrounding it, the maid conducted us through an underground passage leading beneath the road, to the plot of shrubbery which lay opposite the mansion. In this secluded thicket, Dickens had built a little house, to which in the summer time he was often accustomed to retire when writing. It was an ideal English June day, and everything about the place showed to the best possible advantage. We all agreed that Gad's Hill alone would be well worth a trip from London. The country around is surpassingly beautiful and it is said that Dickens liked nothing better than to show his friends about the vicinity. He thought the seven miles between Rochester and Maidstone the most charming walk in all England. He delighted in taking trips with his friends to the castles and cathedrals and he immensely enjoyed picnics and luncheons in the cherry orchards and gardens.
A very interesting old city is Rochester, with its Eleventh Century cathedral and massive castle standing on the banks of the river. Little of the latter remains save the square tower of the Norman keep, one of the largest and most imposing we saw in England. The interior had been totally destroyed by fire hundreds of years ago, but the towering walls of enormous thickness still stand firm. Its antiquity is attested by the fact that it sustained a siege by William Rufus, the son of the Conqueror. The cathedral is not one of the most impressive of the great churches. It was largely rebuilt in the Twelfth Century, the money being obtained from miracles wrought by the relics of St. William of Perth, a pilgrim who was murdered on his way to Canterbury and who lies buried in the cathedral. Rochester is the scene of many incidents of Dickens' stories. It was the scene of his last unfinished work, "Edwin Drood," and he made many allusions to it elsewhere, the most notable perhaps in "Pickwick Papers," where he makes the effervescent Mr. Jingle describe it thus: "Ah, fine place, glorious pile, frowning walls, tottering arches, dark nooks, crumbling staircases—old cathedral, too,—earthy smell—pilgrims' feet worn away the old steps."
Across the river from Rochester lies Chatham, a city of forty thousand people and a famous naval and military station. The two cities are continuous and practically one. From here, without further stop, we followed the fine highway to Canterbury and entered the town by the west gate of Chaucer's Tales. This alone remains of the six gateways of the city wall in the poet's day, and the strong wall itself, with its twenty-one towers, has almost entirely disappeared. We followed a winding street bordered with quaint old buildings until we reached our hotel—in this case a modern and splendidly kept hostelry. The hotel was just completing an extensive garage, but it was not ready for occupancy and I was directed to a well equipped private establishment with every facility for the care and repair of motors. The excellence of the service at this hotel attracted our attention and the head waiter told us that the owners had their own farm and supplied their own table—accounting in this way for the excellence and freshness of the milk, meat and vegetables.
The long English summer evening still afforded time to look about the town after dinner. Passing down the main street after leaving the hotel, we found that the river and a canal wound their way in several places between the old buildings closely bordering on each side. The whole effect was delightful and so soft with sunset colors as to be suggestive of Venice. We noted that although Canterbury is exceedingly ancient, it is also a city of nearly thirty thousand population and the center of rich farming country, and, as at Chester, we found many evidences of prosperity and modern enterprise freely interspersed with the quaint and time-worn landmarks. One thing which we noticed not only here but elsewhere in England was the consummate architectural taste with which the modern business buildings were fitted in with the antique surroundings, harmonizing in style and color, and avoiding the discordant note that would come from a rectangular business block such as an American would have erected. Towns which have become known to fame and to the dollar-distributing tourists are now very slow to destroy or impair the old monuments and buildings that form their chief attractiveness, and the indifference that prevailed generally fifty or a hundred years ago has entirely vanished. We in America think we can afford to be iconoclastic, for our history is so recent and we have so little that commands reverence by age and association; yet five hundred years hence our successors will no doubt bitterly regret this spirit of their ancestors, just as many ancient towns in Britain lament the folly of their forbears who converted the historic abbeys and castles into hovels and stone fences.
Fortunately, the cathedral at Canterbury escaped such a fate, and as we viewed it in the fading light we received an impression of its grandeur and beauty that still keeps it pre-eminent after having visited every cathedral in the island. It is indeed worthy of its proud position in the English church and its unbroken line of traditions, lost in the mist of antiquity. It is rightly the delight of the architect and the artist, but an adequate description of its magnificence has no place in this hurried record. Time has dealt gently with it and careful repair and restoration have arrested its decay. It stands today, though subdued and stained by time, as proudly as it did when a monarch, bare-footed, walked through the roughly paved streets to do penance at the tomb of its martyred archbishop. It escaped lightly during the Reformation and civil war, though Becket's shrine was despoiled as savoring of idolatry and Cromwell's men desecrated its sanctity by stabling their horses in the great church.
The next day being Sunday, we were privileged to attend services at the cathedral, an opportunity we were always glad to have at any of the cathedrals despite the monotony of the Church of England service, for the music of the superb organs, the mellowed light from the stained windows, and the associations of the place were far more to us than litany or sermon. The archbishop was present at the service in state that fitted his exalted place as Primate of all England and his rank, which, as actual head of the church, is next to the king, nominally head of the church as well as of the state. He did not preach the sermon but officiated in the ordination of several priests, a service full of solemn and picturesque interest. The archbishop was attired in his crimson robe of state, the long train of which was carried by young boys in white robes, and he proceeded to his throne with all the pomp and ceremony that so delights the soul of the Englishman. He was preceded by several black-robed officials bearing the insignia of their offices, and when he took his throne, he became apparently closely absorbed in the sermon, which was preached by a Cambridge professor.
We were later astonished to learn that the archbishop's salary amounts to $75,000 per year, or half as much more than that of the President of the United States, and we were still more surprised to hear that the heavy demands made on him in maintaining his state and keeping up his splendid episcopal palaces are such that his income will not meet them. We were told that the same situation prevails everywhere with these high church dignitaries, and that only recently the Bishop of London had published figures to show that he was $25,000 poorer in the three years of his incumbency on an annual salary of $40,000 per year. It is not strange, therefore, that among these churchmen there exists a demand for a simpler life. The Bishop of Norwich frankly acknowledged recently that he had never been able to live on his income of $22,500 per year. He expressed his conviction that the wide-spread poverty of the bishops is caused by their being required to maintain "venerable but costly palaces." He says that he and many of his fellow-churchmen would prefer to lead plain and unostentatious lives, but they are not allowed to do so; that they would much prefer to devote a portion of their income to charity and other worthy purposes rather than to be compelled to spend it in useless pomp and ceremony.
Aside from its cathedral, Canterbury teems with unique relics of the past, some antedating the Roman invasion of England. The place of the town in history is an important one, and Dean Stanley in his "Memorials of Canterbury," claims that three great landings were made in Kent adjacent to the city, "that of Hengist and Horsa, which gave us our English forefathers and character; that of Julius Caesar, which revealed to us the civilized world, and that of St. Augustine, which gave us our Latin Christianity." The tower of the cathedral dominates the whole city and the great church often overshadows everything else in interest to the visitor. But one could spend days in the old-world streets, continually coming across fine half-timbered houses, with weather-beaten gables in subdued colors and rich antique oak carvings. There are few more pleasing bits of masonry in Britain than the great cathedral gateway at the foot of Mercery Lane, with its rich carving, weather-worn to a soft blur of gray and brown tones. Near Mercery Lane, too, are slight remains of the inn of Chaucer's Tales, "The Chequers of Hope," and in Monastery Street stands the fine gateway of the once rich and powerful St. Augustine's Abbey. Then there is the quaint little church of St. Martins, undoubtedly one of the oldest in England, and generally reputed to be the oldest. Here, in the year 600, St. Augustine preached before the cathedral was built. Neither should St. John's hospital, with its fine, half-timbered gateway be forgotten; nor the old grammar school, founded in the Seventh Century.
Our stay in the old town was all too short, but business reasons demanded our presence in London on Monday, so we left for that city about two o'clock. We varied matters somewhat by taking a different return route, and we fully agreed that the road leading from Canterbury to London by way of Maidstone is one of the most delightful which we traversed in England. It led through fields fresh with June verdure, losing itself at times in great forests, where the branches of the trees formed an archway overhead. Near Maidstone we caught a glimpse of Leeds Castle, one of the finest country seats in Kent, the main portions of the building dating from the Thirteenth Century. We had a splendid view from the highway through an opening in the trees of the many-towered old house surrounded by a shimmering lake, and gazing on such a scene under the spell of an English June day, one might easily forget the present and fancy himself back in the time when knighthood was in flower, though the swirl of a motor rushing past us would have dispelled any such reverie had we been disposed to entertain it. We reached London early, and our party was agreed that our pilgrimage to Canterbury could not very well have been omitted from our itinerary.
A RUN THROUGH THE MIDLANDS
I had provided myself with letters of introduction from the American Automobile Association and Motor League, addressed to the secretary of the Motor Union of Great Britain and Ireland, and shortly after my arrival in London, I called upon that official at the club headquarters. After learning my plans, he referred me to Mr. Maroney, the touring secretary, whom I found a courteous gentleman, posted on almost every foot of road in Britain and well prepared to advise one how to get the most out of a tour. Ascertaining the time I proposed to spend and the general objects I had in view, he brought out road-maps of England and Scotland and with a blue pencil rapidly traced a route covering about three thousand miles, which he suggested as affording the best opportunity of seeing, in the time and distance proposed, many of the most historic and picturesque parts of Britain.
In a general way, this route followed the coast from London to Land's End, through Wales north to Oban and Inverness, thence to Aberdeen and back to London along the eastern coast. He chose the best roads with unerring knowledge and generally avoided the larger cities. On the entire route which he outlined, we found only one really dangerous grade—in Wales—and, by keeping away from cities, much time and nervous energy were saved. While we very frequently diverged from this route, it was none the less of inestimable value to us, and other information, maps, road-books, etc., which were supplied us by Mr. Maroney, were equally indispensable. I learned that the touring department of the Union not only affords this service for Great Britain, but has equal facilities for planning tours in any part of Europe. In fact, it is able to take in hand the full details, such as providing for transportation of the car to some port across the Channel, arranging for necessary licenses and supplying maps and road information covering the different countries of Europe which the tourist may wish to visit. This makes it very easy for a member of the Union—or anyone to whom it may extend its courtesies—to go direct from Britain for a continental trip, leaving the tourist almost nothing to provide for except the difficulties he would naturally meet in the languages of the different countries.
When I showed a well posted English friend the route that had been planned, he pronounced very favorably upon it, but declared that by no means should we miss a run through the Midlands. He suggested that I join him in Manchester on business which we had in hand, allowing for an easy run of two days to that city by way of Coventry. On our return trip, we planned to visit many places not included in our main tour, among them the Welsh border towns, Shrewsbury and Ludlow, and to run again through Warwickshire, taking in Stratford and Warwick, on our return to London. This plan was adopted and we left London about noon, with Coventry, nearly one hundred miles away, as our objective point.
A motor car is a queer and capricious creature. Before we were entirely out of the crush of the city, the engine began to limp and shortly came to a stop. I spent an hour hunting the trouble, to the entertainment and edification of the crowd of loafers who always congregate around a refractory car. I hardly know to this minute what ailed the thing, but it suddenly started off blithely, and this was the only exhibition of sulkiness it gave, for it scarcely missed a stroke in our Midland trip of eight hundred miles—mostly in the rain. Nevertheless, the little circumstance, just at the outset of our tour, was depressing.
We stopped for lunch at the Red Lion in the old town of St. Albans, twenty miles to the north of London. It is a place of much historic interest, being a direct descendant of the ancient Roman city of Verulamium; and Saint Albans, or Albanus, who gave his name to the town and cathedral and who was beheaded near this spot, was the first British martyr to Christianity of whom there is any record. The cathedral occupies the highest site of any in England, and the square Norman tower, which owes its red coloring to the Roman brick used in its construction, is a conspicuous object from the surrounding country. The nave is of remarkable length, being exceeded only by Winchester. Every style of architecture is represented, from early Norman to late Perpendicular, and there are even a few traces of Saxon work. The destruction of this cathedral was ordered by the pious Henry VIII at the time of his Reformation, but he considerately rescinded the order when the citizens of St. Albans raised money by public subscription to purchase the church. Only an hour was given to St. Albans, much less than we had planned, but our late start made it imperative that we move onward.
Our route for the day was over the old coach road leading from London to Holyhead, one of the most perfect in the Kingdom, having been in existence from the time of the Romans. In fact, no stretch of road of equal distance in our entire tour was superior to the one we followed from St. Albans to Coventry. It was nearly level, free from sharp turns, with perfect surface, and cared for with neatness such as we would find only in a millionaire's private grounds in the United States. Everywhere men were at work repairing any slight depression, trimming the lawnlike grasses on each side to an exact line with the edges of the stone surface, and even sweeping the road in many places to rid it of dust and dirt. Here and there it ran for a considerable distance through beautiful avenues of fine elms and yews; the hawthorne hedges which bordered it almost everywhere were trimmed with careful exactness; and yet amid all this precision there bloomed in many places the sweet English wild flowers—forget-me-nots, violets, wild hyacinths and bluebells. The country itself was rather flat and the villages generally uninteresting. The road was literally bordered with wayside inns, or, more properly, ale houses, for they apparently did little but sell liquor, and their names were odd and fantastic in a high degree. We noted a few of them. The "Stump and Pie," the "Hare and Hounds," the "Plume of Feathers," the "Blue Ball Inn," the "Horse and Wagon," the "Horse and Jockey," the "Dog and Parson," the "Dusty Miller," the "Angel Hotel" the "Dun Cow Inn," the "Green Man," the "Adam and Eve," and the "Coach and Horses," are a few actual examples of the fearful and wonderful nomenclature of the roadside houses. Hardly less numerous than these inns were the motor-supply depots along this road. There is probably no other road in England over which there is greater motor travel, and supplies of all kinds are to be had every mile or two. The careless motorist would not have far to walk should he neglect to keep up his supply of petrol—or motor spirit, as they call it everywhere in Britain.
Long before we reached Coventry, we saw the famous "three spires" outlined against a rather threatening cloud, and just as we entered the crooked streets of the old town, the rain began to fall heavily. The King's Head Hotel was comfortable and up-to-date, and the large room given us, with its fire burning brightly in the open grate, was acceptable indeed after the drive in the face of a sharp wind, which had chilled us through. And, by the way, there is little danger of being supplied with too many clothes and wraps when motoring in Britain. There were very few days during our entire summer's tour when one could dispense with cloaks and overcoats.
Coventry, with its odd buildings and narrow, crowded streets, reminded Nathaniel Hawthorne of Boston—not the old English Boston, but its big namesake in America. Many parts of the city are indeed quaint and ancient, the finest of the older buildings dating from about the year 1400; but these form only a nucleus for the more modern city which has grown up around them. Coventry now has a population of about seventy-five thousand, and still maintains its old-time reputation as an important manufacturing center. Once it was famed for its silks, ribbons and watches, but this trade was lost to the French and Swiss—some say for lack of a protective tariff. Now cycles and motor cars are the principal products; and we saw several of the famous Daimler cars, made here, being tested on the streets.
Coventry has three fine old churches, whose tall needlelike spires form a landmark from almost any point of view in Warwickshire, and give to the town the appellation by which it is often known—"The City of the Three Spires." Nor could we well have forgotten Coventry's unique legend, for high up on one of the gables of our hotel was a wooden figure said to represent Peeping Tom, who earned eternal ignominy by his curiosity when Lady Godiva resorted to her remarkable expedient to reduce the tax levy of Coventry. Our faith in the story, so beautifully re-told by Tennyson, will not be shaken by the iconoclastic assertion that the effigy is merely an old sign taken from an armourer's shop; that the legend of Lady Godiva is common to half a dozen towns; and that she certainly never had anything to do with Coventry, in any event.
Leaving Coventry the next day about noon in a steady rain, we sought the most direct route to Manchester, thereby missing Nuneaton, the birthplace and for many years the home of George Eliot and the center of some of the most delightful country in Warwickshire. Had we been more familiar with the roads of this country, we could have passed through Nuneaton without loss of time. The distance was only a little greater and over main roads, whereas we traveled for a good portion of the day through narrow byways, and the difficulty of keeping the right road in the continual rain considerably delayed our progress. We were agreeably surprised to find that the car did not skid on the wet macadam road and that despite the rain we could run very comfortably and quite as fast as in fair weather. I had put up our cape top and curtains, but later we learned that it was pleasanter, protected by water-proof wraps, to dash through the rain in the open car. English spring showers are usually light, and it was rather exhilarating to be able to bid defiance to weather conditions that in most parts of the United States would have put a speedy end to our tour.
A few miles farther brought us to Tamworth with its castle, lying on the border between Warwickshire and Staffordshire, the "tower and town" of Scott's "Marmion." The castle of the feudal baron chosen by Scott as the hero of his poem still stands in ruins, and was recently acquired by the town. It occupies a commanding position on a knoll and is surrounded by a group of fine trees.
A dozen miles more over a splendid road brought in view the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral, one of the smallest though most beautiful of these great English churches. Built of red sandstone, rich with sculptures and of graceful and harmonious architecture, there are few cathedrals more pleasing. The town of Lichfield is a comparatively small place, but it has many literary and historical associations, being the birthplace of Dr. Samuel Johnson, whose house is still standing, and for many years the home of Maria Edgeworth. Here, too, once lived Major Andre, whose melancholy death in connection with the American Revolution will be recalled. The cathedral was fortified during the civil war and was sadly battered in sieges by Cromwell's Roundheads; but so completely has it been rebuilt and restored that it presents rather a new appearance as compared with many others. It occurred to us that the hour for luncheon was well past, and we stopped at the rambling old Swan Hotel, which was to all appearances deserted, for we wandered through narrow halls and around the office without finding anyone. I finally ascended two flights of stairs and found a chambermaid, who reluctantly undertook to locate someone in authority, which she at last did. We were shown into a clean, comfortable coffee room, where tea, served in front of a glowing fire place, was grateful indeed after our long ride through the cold rain.
It became apparent that owing to our many delays, we could not easily reach Manchester, and we stopped at Newcastle-under-Lyme for the night. This town has about 20,000 people and lies on the outer edge of the potteries district, where Josiah Wedgewood founded this great industry over one hundred years ago. The whole region comprising Burslem, Hanley, Newcastle, Stoke-on-Trent and many smaller places may be described as a huge, scattered city of about 300,000 inhabitants, nearly all directly or indirectly connected with the manufacture of various grades of china and earthenware. The Castle Hotel, where we stopped, was a very old inn, yet it proved unexpectedly homelike and comfortable. Our little party was given a small private dining room with massive antique furniture, and we were served with an excellent dinner by an obsequious waiter in full-dress suit and with immaculate linen. He cleared the table and left us for the evening with the apartment as a sitting room, and a mahogany desk by the fireside, well supplied with stationery, afforded amends for neglected letters. In the morning, our breakfast was served in the same room, and the bill for entertainment seemed astonishingly low. Mine host will no doubt be wiser in this particular as motorists more and more invade the country.
An hour's drive brought us to Manchester. The road by which we entered the city took us direct to the Midland Hotel, which is reputed to be the finest in the Kingdom. Manchester is a city of nearly a million inhabitants, but its streets seemed almost like those of a country town as compared with the crowded thoroughfares of London. It is a great center for motoring and I found many of the garages so full that they could not take another car. I eventually came to one of the largest, where by considerable shifting they managed to accommodate my car. But with all this rush of business, it seemed to me that the owners were in no danger of becoming plutocrats, for the charge for a day's garage, cleaning the car, polishing the brass and making a slight repair, was five shillings.
For half the way from Manchester to Leeds, the drive was about as trying as anything I found in England. The road is winding, exceedingly steep in places, and built up on both sides with houses—largely homes of miners and mill operatives. The pavement is of rough cobble-stones, and swarms of dogs and children crowded the way everywhere. Under such conditions, the numerous steep hills, narrow places and sharp turns in the road made progress slow indeed. It was evident that the British motorists generally avoid this country, for we met no cars and our own attracted attention that showed it was not a common spectacle. However, the trip was none the less an interesting one as showing a bit of the country and a phase of English life not usually seen by tourists.
There is little to detain one within the city of Leeds itself, but there are many places of interest in its immediate vicinity. There are few more picturesque spots in Yorkshire than Wharfdale, with its riotous little river and ruins of Bolton Abbey and Barden Tower. This lies about fifteen miles to the northwest, and while for special reasons we went to Ilkley Station by train, the trip is a fine motor drive over good roads. The park which contains the abbey and castle is the property of the Duke of Devonshire, who keeps it at all times open to the public. The River Wharfe, rippling over shingly rocks, leaping in waterfalls and compressed into the remarkable rapids called the Strid, only five or six feet wide but very deep and terribly swift, is the most striking feature of the park. The forest-clad cliffs on either side rise almost precipitously from the edges of the narrow dale, and from their summit, if the climb does not deter one, a splendid view presents itself. The dale gradually opens into a beautiful valley and here the old abbey is charmingly situated on the banks of the river. The ruins are not extensive, but the crumbling walls, bright with ivy and wall flowers, and with the soft green lawn beneath, made a delightful picture in the mottled sunshine and shadows of the English May day.
On our return to Leeds, our friend who accompanied us suggested that we spend the next day, Sunday, at Harrogate, fifteen miles to the north, one of the most famous of English watering places. It had been drizzling fitfully all day, but as we started on the trip, it began to rain in earnest. After picking our way carefully until free from the slippery streets in Leeds, we found the fine macadam road little affected by the deluge. We were decidedly ahead of the season at Harrogate, and there were but few people at the splendid hotel where we stopped.
The following Sunday was as raw and nasty as English weather can be when it wants to, regardless of the time of year, and I did not take the car out of the hotel garage. In the afternoon my friend and I walked to Knaresborough, one of the old Yorkshire towns about three miles distant. I had never even heard of the place before, and it was a thorough surprise to me to find it one of the most ancient and interesting towns in the Kingdom. Not a trace of modern improvement interfered with its old-world quaintness—it looked as if it had been clinging undisturbed to the sharply rising hillside for centuries. Just before entering the town, we followed up the valley of the River Nidd to the so-called "dripping well," whose waters, heavily charged with limestone, drip from the cliffs above and "petrify" various objects in course of time by covering them with a stonelike surface. Then we painfully ascended the hill—not less than a forty-five per cent grade in motor parlance—and wandered through the streets—if such an assortment of narrow foot-paths, twisting around the corners, may be given the courtesy of the name—until we came to the site of the castle. The guide-book gives the usual epitaph for ruined castles, "Dismantled by orders of Cromwell's Parliament," and so well was this done that only one of the original eleven great watch-towers remains, and a small portion of the Norman keep, beneath which are the elaborate vaulted apartments where Becket's murderers once hid. No doubt the great difficulty the Cromwellians had in taking the castle seemed a good reason to them for effectually destroying it. At one time it was in the possession of the notorious Piers Gaveston, and it was for a while the prison-house of King Henry II. There are many other points of interest in Knaresborough, not forgetting the cave from which Mother Shipton issued her famous prophecies, in which she missed it only by bringing the world to an end ahead of schedule time. But they deny in Knaresborough she ever made such a prediction, and prefer to rest her claims to infallibility on her prophecy illustrated on a post card by a highly colored motor car with the legend,
"Carriages without horses shall go, And accidents fill the world with woe."
Altogether, Knaresborough is a town little frequented by Americans, but none the less worthy of a visit. Harrogate is an excellent center for this and many other places, if one is insistent on the very best and most stylish hotel accommodations that the island affords. Ripon, with its cathedral and Fountains Abbey, perhaps the finest ruin in Great Britain, is only a dozen miles away; but we visited these on our return to London from the north.
On Monday the clouds cleared away and the whole country was gloriously bright and fresh after the heavy showers. We returned to Leeds over the road by which we came to Harrogate and which passes Haredale Hall, one of the finest country places in the Kingdom. A large portion of the way the road is bordered by fine forests, which form a great park around the mansion. We passed through Leeds to the southward, having no desire to return to Manchester over the road by which we came, or, in fact, to pass through the city at all. Our objective point for the evening was Chester, and this could be reached quite as easily by passing to the south of Manchester. Wakefield, with its magnificent church, recently dignified as a cathedral, was the first town of consequence on our way, and about twenty-five miles south of Leeds we came to Barnsley, lying on the edge of the great moorlands in central England. There is hardly a town in the whole Kingdom that does not have its peculiar tradition, and an English friend told us that the fame of Barnsley rests on the claim that no hotel in England can equal the mutton chops of the King's Head—a truly unique distinction in a land where the mutton chop is standard and the best in the world.
An English moor is a revelation to an American who has never crossed one and who may have a hazy notion of it from Tennyson's verse or "Lorna Doone." Imagine, lying in the midst of fertile fields and populous cities, a large tract of brown, desolate and broken land, almost devoid of vegetation except gorse and heather, more comparable to the Arizona sagebrush country than anything else, and you have a fair idea of the "dreary, dreary moorland" of the poet. For twenty miles from Barnsley our road ran through this great moor, and, except for two or three wretched-looking public houses—one of them painfully misnamed "The Angel"—there was not a single town or habitation along the road. The moorland road began at Penistone, a desolate-looking little mining town straggling along a single street that dropped down a very sharp grade on leaving the town. Despite the lonely desolation of the moor, the road was excellent, and followed the hills with gentle curves, generally avoiding steep grades. So far as I can recall, we did not meet a single vehicle of any kind in the twenty miles of moorland road—surely a paradise for the scorcher. Coming out of the moor, we found ourselves within half a dozen miles of Manchester—practically in its suburbs, for Stalybridge, Stockport, Altrincham and other large manufacturing towns are almost contiguous with the main city. The streets of these towns were crowded with traffic and streetcar lines are numerous. There is nothing of the slightest interest to the tourist, and after a belated luncheon at a really modern hotel in Stockport, we set out on the last forty miles of our journey. After getting clear of Manchester and the surrounding towns, we came to the Chester road, one of the numberless "Watling Streets," which one finds all over England—a broad, finely kept high way, leading through a delightful country. Northwich, famous for its salt mines, was the only town of any consequence until we reached Chester. We had travelled a distance of about one hundred and twenty miles—our longest day's journey, with one exception—not very swift motoring, but we found that an average of one hundred miles per day was quite enough to thoroughly satisfy us, and even with such an apparently low average as this, a day's rest now and then did not come amiss.
It would be better yet if one's time permitted a still lower daily mileage. Not the least delightful feature of the tour was the marvelous beauty of the English landscapes, and one would have a poor appreciation of these to dash along at forty or even twenty-five miles per hour. There were many places at which we did not stop at all, and which were accorded scant space in the guide-books, that would undoubtedly have given us ideas of English life and closer contact with the real spirit of the people than one could possibly get in the tourist-thronged towns and villages.
THE BORDER TOWNS, SHREWSBURY AND LUDLOW
I shall say but little of Chester, as of every other place on the line of our journey so well known as to be on the itinerary of nearly everybody who makes any pretensions at touring Britain. The volumes which have been written on the town and the many pages accorded it in the guide-books will be quite sufficient for all seekers after information. Frankly, I was somewhat disappointed with Chester. I had imagined its quaintness that of a genuine old country town and was not prepared for the modern city that surrounds its show-places. In the words of an observant English writer: "It seems a trifle self-conscious—its famous old rows carry a suspicion of being swept and garnished for the dollar-distributing visitor from over the Atlantic, and of being less genuine than they really are. However that may be, the moment you are out of these show-streets of Chester, there is a singular lack of charm in the environment. The taint of commerce and the smoke of the north hangs visibly on the horizon. Its immediate surroundings are modern and garish to a degree that by no means assists in the fiction that Chester is the unadulterated old-country town one would like to think it." Such a feeling I could not entirely rid myself of, and even in following the old wall, I could not help noting its carefully maintained disrepair. I would not wish to be understood as intimating that Chester is not well worth a visit, and a visit of several days if one can spare the time; only that its charm was, to me, inferior to that of its more unpretentious neighbors, Shrewsbury and Ludlow. Our stay was only a short one, since our route was to bring us to the town again; still, we spent half a day in a most delightful manner, making a tour of the "rows" and the odd corners with quaint buildings. The tourist, fortified with his red-backed Baedecker, is a common sight to Chester people, and his "dollar-distributing" propensity, as described by the English writer I have quoted, is not unknown even to the smallest fry of the town. Few things during our trip amused me more than the antics of a brown, bare-foot, dirt-begrimed little mite not more than two or three years old, who seized my wife's skirts and hung on for dear life, pouring out earnestly and volubly her unintelligible jargon. We were at first at a loss to understand what our new associate desired, and so grimly did she hang on that it seemed as if another accession to our party was assured—but a light dawned suddenly on us, and, as the brown little hand clasped a broad English copper, our self-appointed companion vanished like a flash into a neighboring shop.
Even when touring in your "wind-shod" car, as an up-to-date English poet puts it, and though your motor waits you not a stone's throw from your hotel, you may not entirely dispense with your antiquated equine friend as a means of locomotion. So we learned when we proposed to visit Eaton Hall, the country place of the Duke of Westminster, which lies closely adjoining Chester, situated deep in the recesses of its eight-thousand-acre park. A conspicuous sign, "Motors strictly forbidden," posted near the great gateway, forced us to have recourse to the hackman, whose moderate charge of eight shillings for a party of three was almost repaid by his services as a guide. He was voluble in his information concerning the Duke and especially dwelt on his distinction as the richest man in the world—an honor which as good and loyal Americans we could not willingly see wrested from our own John D. of oleaginous fame. Eaton Hall is one of the greatest English show-places, but it is modern and might well be matched by the castles of several of our American aristocracy. Tame indeed seemed its swept and garnished newness, its trim and perfect repair, after our visits to so many time-worn places, with their long succession of hoary traditions. The great library, with its thousands of volumes in the richest bindings and its collections of rare editions, might well be the despair of a bibliophile and the pictures and furnishings of rare interest to the connoisseur—but these things one may find in the museums.
Over a main road, almost level and as nearly straight as any English road merits such a description, we covered the forty miles from Chester to Shrewsbury without incident. The most trying grade given in the road-book is one in twenty-five, and all conditions are favorable for record time—in absence of police traps. Four miles out of Chester we passed Rowton Station, lying adjacent to Rowton Moor, where King Charles, standing on the tower of Chester Wall which bears his name, saw his army defeated by the Parliamentarians. We made a late start from Chester, but reached Shrewsbury in time to visit many parts of the town after dinner. We found it indeed a delightful old place, rich in historic traditions, and the center of a country full of interesting places. The town is built on a lofty peninsula, surrounded on three sides by the River Severn, and the main streets lead up exceedingly steep hills. In fact, many of the steepest and most dangerous hills which we found in our travels were in the towns themselves, where grades had been fixed by buildings long ago. The clean macadam in Shrewsbury made it possible to drive our car without chains, though it rained incessantly, but so steep and winding are some of the streets that the greatest caution was necessary.
Shrewsbury is described by an English writer as a "sweet-aired, genuine, dignified and proud old market town, the resort of squires, parsons and farmers, and mainly inhabited by those who minister to their wants. It never dreams of itself as a show-place." He also adds another strong point in its claim to distinction: "Some years ago a book was published by a zealous antiquarian, enumerating with much detail all the families of England of a certain consequence who still occupied either the same estate or estates contiguous to those upon which they were living in the Fifteenth Century. The shire of which Shrewsbury is the capital very easily headed the list in this honorable competition and thereby justified the title of 'proud Salopians,' which the more consequential of its people submit to with much complacency, even though it be not always applied in a wholly serious way."
It is a genuine old border town, so far unspoiled by commercialism. Modern improvements have not invaded its quaint streets to any great extent, and many of these still retain their old names—Dog-pole, Wylecop and Shoplatch—and are bordered by some of the finest half-timbered houses in Britain. Nor is Shrewsbury wanting in famous sons. In front of the old grammar school building is a bronze statue of Charles Darwin, the man who changed the scientific thought of a world, who was born here in 1809. This same grammar school was built in 1630 and is now converted into a museum of Roman relics, which have been found in the immediate vicinity. In its earlier days, many distinguished men received their education here, among them Sir Philip Sidney and Judge Jeffreys. The Elizabethan market-house and the council-house which was visited by both Charles I and James II on different occasions are two of the most fascinating buildings to be seen in the town. There are scant remains, principally of the keep of the castle, built by the Norman baron to whom William the Conqueror generously presented the town. St. Mary is the oldest and most important church, and in some particulars it surpasses the cathedral at Chester. It is architecturally more pleasing and its windows are among the finest examples of antique stained glass in the Kingdom.
We spent some time among the remarkable collection of relics in the museum, and as they mainly came from the Roman city of Uriconium, we planned a side-trip to this place, together with Buildwas Abbey and the old Saxon town of Much Wenlock, all of which are within twenty miles of Shrewsbury. When we left the Raven Hotel it was raining steadily, but this no longer deterred us, and after cautiously descending the steep hill leading out of the town we were soon on the road to Wroxeter, the village lying adjacent to the Roman ruins. We found these of surprising extent and could readily believe the statement made in the local guide-book that a great city was at one time located here. Only a comparatively small portion has been excavated, but the city enclosed by the wall covered nearly one square mile. One great piece of wall about seventy-five feet long and twenty feet in height still stands above ground to mark the place, but the most remarkable revelations were found in the excavations. The foundations of a large public building have been uncovered, and the public baths to which the Romans were so partial are in a remarkable state of preservation, the tile flooring in some cases remaining in its original position. There is every indication that the city was burned and plundered by the wild Welsh tribes sixteen hundred or more years ago.
A few miles farther, mainly through narrow byways, brought us to Buildwas Abbey, beautifully situated near the Severn. Evidently this fine ruin is not much frequented by tourists, for we found no custodian in charge, and the haunts of the old monks had been converted into a sheepfold by a neighboring farmer. Yet at one time it was one of the richest and most extensive monasteries in England. On our return to Shrewsbury, we passed through Much Wenlock, a very ancient town, which also has its ruined abbey. It is remarkable how thickly these monastic institutions were at one time scattered over the Kingdom, and when one considers what such elaborate establishments must have cost to build and to maintain, it is easy to understand why, in the ages of church supremacy, the common people were so miserably poor.
Aside from the places of historic interest that we visited on this trip, the country through which we passed would have made our half day a memorable one. Though the continual rain intercepted the view much of the time, yet from some of the hilltops we had vistas of the Severn Valley with its winding river that we hardly saw surpassed in a country famous for lovely landscapes. We regretted later that our stay at Shrewsbury was so short, for we learned that in the immediate vicinity there are many other places which might well have occupied our attention; but in this case, as in many others, we learned afterwards the things we should have known before our tour began.
Late in the afternoon we started for Ludlow. It was still raining—a gray day with fitful showers that never entirely ceased but only varied in intensity. Much of the beauty of the landscape was hidden in the gray mist, and the distant Welsh hills, rich with soft coloring on clear days, were entirely lost to us. Yet the gloomy day was not altogether without its compensation, for if we had visited Stokesay when the garish sunshine gilded "but to flaunt the ruins gray," we should have lost much of the impression which we retain of the gloom and desolation that so appropriately pervaded the unique old manor with its timbered gatehouse and its odd little church surrounded by thickly set gravestones.
It was only by an accidental glance at our road-book that we saw Stokesay Castle as an "object of interest" on this road about eight miles north of Ludlow. This old house is the finest example in the Kingdom of a fortified manor as distinguished from a castle, its defensive feature being a great crenolated tower, evidently built as a later addition when the manor passed from a well-to-do country gentleman to a member of the nobility. This is actually the case, for there is on record a license granted in 1284 to Lawrence de Ludlow permitting him to "crenolate his house." The house itself was built nearly two hundred years earlier and was later surrounded by a moat as a further means of defense. Considering its age, it is in a wonderfully good state of preservation, the original roof still being intact. We were admitted by the keeper, who lives in the dilapidated but delightfully picturesque half-timbered gatehouse. The most notable feature of the old house is the banqueting hall occupying the greater portion of the first floor, showing how, in the good old days, provision for hospitality took precedence over nearly everything else. Some of the apartments on the second floor retain much of their elaborate oak paneling and there are several fine mantel-pieces. A narrow, circular stairway leads to the tower, from which the beauty of the location is at once apparent. Situated as the mansion is in a lovely valley, bounded by steep and richly wooded hills at whose base the river Onny flows through luxuriant meadows, one is compelled to admire the judgment of the ancient founder who selected the site. It indeed brought us near to the spirit and customs of feudal times as we wandered about in the gloom of the deserted apartments. How comfortless the house must have been—from our standard—even in its best days, with its rough stone floors and rude furnishings! No fireplace appeared in the banqueting hall, which must have been warmed by an open fire, perhaps in the center, as in the hall of Penshurst Place. How little these ancient landmarks were appreciated until recently is shown by the fact that for many years Stokesay Manor was used as a blacksmith-shop and a stable for a neighboring farmer. The present noble proprietor, however, keeps the place in excellent repair and always open to visitors. In one of the rooms of the tower, is exhibited a collection of ancient documents relating to the founding of Stokesay and to its early history.