A letter with a line or macron over it is preceded by an equal sign and enclosed within square brackets (example: ō).
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HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS IN SURREY
* * * * *
MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
LONDON. BOMBAY. CALCUTTA. MELBOURNE
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
NEW YORK. BOSTON. CHICAGO. ATLANTA. SAN FRANCISCO
THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.
* * * * *
HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS IN SURREY
With Illustrations by Hugh Thomson
MacMillan and Co., Limited St. Martin's Street, London 1909
Richard Clay and Sons, Limited, Bread Street Hill, E.C., and Bungay, Suffolk.
First Edition, 1908 Reprinted, 1909
A preface ought not to contain an apology. But mine must contain at least an explanation, if only of omissions. The Highways and Byways of Surrey belong not to one county or to one period of time, but to two different ages, and, to-day, to two counties. London has made the difference. What was Surrey country a hundred years ago has been gathered into the network of London streets, and belongs, in the mind and on the map, to London. Almost for ten miles south of the London Thames the old Surrey countryside has disappeared, and the disappearance has left the writer of a book of Surrey Highways a difficult choice. It would have been easy to fill a large part of the book with the Surrey of the past, the Surrey of Southwark, and the great church of St. Mary Overie, and of Lambeth Palace and the Archbishops, of Vauxhall, and the Paris Gardens, and the Bankside where Shakespeare brought out his plays. But it is not easy to write anything new of any part of Surrey, and of that part I could have written nothing new at all. So that it seemed best to leave the Surrey that has disappeared to writers who have dealt with its history far more adequately than I could, and to choose for the Highways and Byways of this book only those which still run through open country and through country villages and towns. That is the Surrey of to-day.
The general plan of the book is simple. I have entered the county from the west at Farnham, with the old Way along the chalk ridge, and I leave it by Titsey on the east. Of course, not all the Surrey villages belong to the ridge, though the chief towns lie along it. Other villages set themselves along the banks of the two Surrey rivers, the Wey and the Mole, and there are separate little groups like the villages of the Fold country, or on the plateaux of the Downs round Epsom, or between Chertsey and Windsor on the Thames. These group themselves in their own chapters. But the main progress of the book is the trend of the great Surrey highway. As to following the book through its chapters from west to east, Surrey is threaded by such a net of railways that the deliberate choosing of a route, with definite centres and points of departure, is unnecessary. But those who believe that the best way to see any country is to walk through it will find that, as a general rule, the book and its chapters are divided, sometimes naturally, sometimes perhaps a little perversely, into the compass of a day's walking. My own plan has been simple enough: it has been to set out in the morning and walk till it was dark, and then take the train back to where I came from. Others will be able to plan far more comprehensive journeys by motor-car, or by bicycling, or on horseback—though not many, perhaps, ride horses by Surrey roads to-day. But only by walking would it be possible to explore much of the country. You would never, except by walking, come at the meaning or read the story of the ancient Way, or the Pilgrims' Road that follows it; only on foot can you climb the hills as you please, or follow the path where it chooses to take you. It is only by walking that you will get to the best of the Thursley heather, or the Bagshot pines and gorse, or the whortleberries in the wind on Leith Hill, or the primroses of the Fold country, or the birds that call through the quiet of the Wey Canal—though there, too, you may take a boat; it is one of the prettiest of the byways. The walker through Surrey sees the best; the others see not much more than the road and what stands on the road.
The omission, or rather neglect, of Surrey in London is deliberate. There must be many other omissions, I fear, which are not. For pointing out some of them, and for suggesting alterations and additions, I have to thank my friend Mr. Anthony Collett, who has kindly looked through my proofs. I should like also to be the first to thank Mr. Hugh Thomson for the pleasure and the help of his charming sketches.
WEYBRIDGE, October, 1908 ERIC PARKER.
NOTE TO THE SECOND EDITION
I have made several additions to the second edition of this book, and, I hope, have corrected some mistakes. I am greatly indebted to reviewers who have pointed out errors and omissions, and to correspondents who have kindly written to me.
CHAPTER I PAGE
THE PILGRIMS' WAY 1
FRENSHAM AND TILFORD 30
WAVERLEY ABBEY AND MOOR PARK 43
THE HOG'S BACK 55
GUILDFORD'S ENVIRONS 85
SHALFORD AND WONERSH 95
THE VILLAGES OF THE TILLINGBOURNE 101
GUILDFORD TO LEATHERHEAD 115
HASLEMERE AND HINDHEAD 139
THURSLEY AND THE MOORS 153
THE FOLD COUNTRY 163
CRANLEIGH AND EWHURST 173
NORTH TO RUNEMEDE 200
CHOBHAM AND BISLEY 209
THE WEY VILLAGES 217
RICHMOND AND KEW 235
THE DITTONS AND WALTON 250
MID-SURREY DOWNS AND COMMONS 270
STOKE D'ABERNON 287
LEATHERHEAD TO DORKING 296
WOTTON AND LEITH HILL 316
DORKING TO REIGATE 328
UNDER LEITH HILL 335
BEDDINGTON AND CARSHALTON 365
CHALDON TO THE DOWNS 373
HORLEY AND CHARLWOOD 380
GODSTONE AND BLETCHINGLEY 389
LINGFIELD AND CROWHURST 401
OXTED AND LIMPSFIELD 414
DULWICH TO WIMBLEDON 424
THE SURREY SIDE 432
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
HIGH STREET, GUILDFORD Frontispiece
ALONG THE CHALK RIDGE.—LEITH HILL IN THE DISTANCE 3
THE HOG'S BACK 4
COMING IN TO PUTTENHAM 8
BY SLIPSHOE LANE TO THE RED CROSS INN, REIGATE 12
LOOKING TOWARDS FARNHAM FROM THURSLEY COMMON 15
FARNHAM CASTLE FROM THE HIGH STREET 17
COBBETT'S BIRTHPLACE AT FARNHAM 22
WEYDON MILL, FARNHAM 24
OASTHOUSES NEAR FARNHAM 26
IN FARNHAM CHURCHYARD 28
FRENSHAM POND 30
PIERREPONT HOUSE AND BRIDGE 31
BESIDE FRENSHAM POND 32
FRENSHAM POND HOTEL 33
FRENSHAM POND 34
THE DEVIL'S JUMPS, BEYOND FRENSHAM POND 35
THE DEVIL'S JUMPS, FROM FRENSHAM COMMON 36
BRIDGE AT TILFORD 37
BETWEEN TILFORD AND ELSTEAD 39
THE KING'S OAK, TILFORD 41
MOOR PARK 44
STELLA'S COTTAGE 46
IN MOOR PARK 47
WAVERLEY ABBEY 49
WAVERLEY ABBEY 50
IN THE GROUNDS, WAVERLEY ABBEY 51
CROOKSBURY HILL AND FRENSHAM LITTLE POND, FROM FRENSHAM COMMON 53
A DIP IN THE HOG'S BACK 55
TONGHAM CHURCH, WITH WOODEN TOWER FOR BELLS 56
WANBOROUGH CHURCH 61
BARN AT WANBOROUGH 62
THE CASTLE GATE, GUILDFORD 67
ABBOT'S HOSPITAL, GUILDFORD 73
ST. MARY'S CHURCH, GUILDFORD 77
ST. CATHERINE'S CHAPEL 89
ST. MARTHA'S CHAPEL 92
CHIMNEYS, ALBURY 106
FIREPLACE IN THE WHITE HORSE, SHERE 109
SHERE CHURCH 111
SLYFIELD PLACE 124
ON THE WAY TO GODALMING FROM HASLEMERE 127
THE TOWN HALL, GODALMING 128
TIMBERED HOUSE IN THE MARKET PLACE, GODALMING 129
CHURCH STREET, GODALMING 133
BETWEEN ELSTEAD AND PEPERHAROW 137
VIEW FROM HINDHEAD 139
A PORCH AT HASLEMERE CHURCH 142
BROOKBANK COTTAGE, SHOTTERMILL 146
THE DEVIL'S PUNCH BOWL, FROM GIBBET HILL 151
THE POST OFFICE, CHURT 152
THE RED LION, THURSLEY 153
INTERIOR OF THURSLEY CHURCH 154
THE WHITE HART, WITLEY 160
A CORNER IN THE WHITE HART, WITLEY, KNOWN AS GEORGE ELIOT'S CORNER 162
A SURREY BYWAY 166
THE CROWN INN, CHIDDINGFOLD 169
ROCK HILL, HAMBLEDON 170
BLACK DOWN, FROM HAMBLEDON 172
AT EWHURST 175
CHERTSEY BRIDGE 181
COWLEY'S COTTAGE, CHERTSEY 183
A BYWAY NEAR WEYBRIDGE 190
RUINS AT VIRGINIA WATER 201
ENTERING EGHAM 205
THE CROUCH OAK, ADDLESTONE 208
HORSELL CHURCH 217
VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, WOKING 220
THE VILLAGE STREET, RIPLEY 223
TREES ON THE GREEN, RIPLEY 224
PRIEST'S DOOR AND NORMAN CHANCEL, RIPLEY CHURCH 225
OCKHAM CHURCH 226
NEWARK PRIORY 228
MILL ON THE WEY, BETWEEN PYRFORD AND RIPLEY 230
PYRFORD CHURCH 232
WISLEY CHURCH 233
RICHMOND BRIDGE 236
THE THAMES FROM RICHMOND HILL 238
PALACE YARD, RICHMOND 239
RICHMOND HILL 241
KEW CHURCH 243
KINGSTON BRIDGE 246
THE SWAN, THAMES DITTON 250
WALTON CHURCH 256
A QUIET CORNER IN WITLEY 269
WOLSEY'S TOWER, ESHER 276
YE OLDE RUNNING HORSE INN, LEATHERHEAD 282
THE MOLE AT SLYFIELD PLACE 287
STOKE D'ABERNON CHURCH 291
YE OLD CHURCH STILE HOUSE, COBHAM, A.D. 1432, RESTORED 1635 293
BRIDGE OVER THE MOLE, COBHAM 295
MICKLEHAM CHURCH 297
CEDARS AT JUNIPER HALL 302
VIEW OF BOX HILL, MISTY DAY 307
THE WHITE HORSE, DORKING 312
WOTTON HOUSE 318
CROSSWAYS FARMHOUSE, ABINGER 321
FRIDAY STREET 323
AMONG THE PINES 325
LOOKING TOWARDS DORKING FROM WESTCOTT 328
THE RED LION, BETCHWORTH 331
THE ROMAN ROAD AT OCKLEY 335
NEWDIGATE CHURCH 342
A REIGATE BYWAY 346
PARK LANE, NEAR REIGATE 347
REIGATE HEATH 349
VIEW FROM NEAR REIGATE 353
WHITGIFT'S HOSPITAL, CROYDON 359
THE SIX BELLS INN, HORLEY 381
THE WINDMILLS AT OUTWOOD 384
OLD TIMBERED HOUSE NEAR BLETCHINGLEY 392
NUTFIELD CHURCH 399
THE VILLAGE CAGE, LINGFIELD 402
CROWHURST CHURCH AND THE OLD YEW 409
THE FARMHOUSE OPPOSITE CROWHURST CHURCH 410
CROWHURST PLACE 411
THE BRIDGE OVER THE MOAT, CROWHURST PLACE 412
TANDRIDGE CHURCH 415
A STREET IN OXTED 417
OXTED CHURCH 418
THE GOLF HOUSE AND WINDMILL, WIMBLEDON COMMON 429
HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS
THE PILGRIMS' WAY
The Pageant of the Road.—Canterbury Pilgrims.—Henry II. barefoot.—Choosing the Road.—Wind on the Hill.—Wine in the Valley.—Pilgrim's Progress.—Shalford Fair.—A doubtful Mile.—Trespassers will be Prosecuted.—With Chaucer from the Tabard.
East and west through the county of Surrey runs the chalk ridge of the North Downs, the great highway of Southern England from the Straits of Dover to Salisbury Plain. Of all English roads, it has carried the longest pageant. It saw the beginnings of English history; for four centuries it was one of the best known highways in Christendom: the vision from its windy heights is one of the widest and most gracious of all visions of woods and fields and hills. By the trackway they made upon the ridge came the worshippers to Stonehenge; Phoenician traders brought bronze to barter for British tin, and the tin was carried in ingots from Devon and Cornwall along the highway to the port of Thanet; Greeks and Gauls came for lead and tin and furs, and the merchants rode by the great Way to bring them. When Caesar swept through Surrey on his second landing, his legions marched over the Way before he turned north to the Thames. When the Conqueror drove fire and sword through Southern England, he went down to Winchester by the chalk ridge; and when the great lords under the Conqueror and Rufus, Richard de Tonebrige and William de Warenne, built their rival castles, they built them to command the highway; so did Henry of Blois build his castle at Farnham; and so was Guildford Castle built. Of warfare later than Norman days, the Way saw nearly all that went through Surrey. Simon de Montfort and his barons rode fast by the ridge the year before Lewes; they lay at Reading on the twenty-ninth of June, and on the first of July at Reigate. In the wars of the Parliament, Farnham west of the Way saw the siege of an hour; Lord Holland led his little band from Dorking to Reigate and fled back again. Last of the echoes of Stuart battles, Monmouth, after Sedgmoor, was driven through Farnham to lodge for one night of misery and fear at Abbot's Hospital in Guildford.
But the Way has another meaning and other memories. It is as the Pilgrims' Way that it is best known, and as the Pilgrims' Way that it has been written about and tracked and traced and surrounded with legend and story and the haunting melancholy of an old road once used and now half forgotten. The Pilgrims' Way is more than the old Way, for it runs by more than one road. The old Way took its followers along the ridge or just under it, high in the sun and wind where the traders and fighters could see their route clear above the thick woods of the Weald. The Pilgrims' Way lies as often on the low ground as on the hill. But it follows the line of the chalk ridge, and the parallel roads, though here and there it would be difficult to choose between them as to which was most used by travellers, have become vaguely named the Pilgrims' Way, and as the Pilgrims' Way they remain.
The Way became the Pilgrims' Way in 1174, four years after Thomas a Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. His tomb in the Cathedral became the second shrine in Christendom, and pilgrims came to it along the old trackway through Surrey, from Farnham east of the Hog's Back along the hills to Canterbury in Kent. Henry the Second, one of the earliest pilgrims of all, made his act of repentance a few days after landing at Southampton from France, on February 8, 1174. Or so legend relates, and adds that he swore to walk barefoot; history is less precise. After Henry the stream of devotees multiplied. Pilgrims landed, like Henry, at Southampton, or between Southampton and Chichester, and came through Winchester or Alton to Farnham; travellers from the West of England joined the foreigners at Winchester, or came to Farnham by the old Harrow Way, another ancient track from Salisbury Plain. Thousands made the journey; more and more followed year by year. At last it was determined to divide the stream. St. Thomas was murdered on December 29, and the great pilgrimage to Canterbury and the return centred round that date. In 1220 pilgrims were given a chance of paying their vows in summer as well as winter. St. Thomas's body, on July 7, was moved from the crypt under the nave to the grand altar in the nave, and from that day forward the Feast of the Translation took its share of the pilgrims' numbers. A constant stream journeyed east and west; travellers with vows unpaid met travellers returning from the shrine, and on and round the peopled highway sprang up booths and shelters to meet the pilgrim's needs. Pedlars and merchants hawked their wares and drove bargains by the road. Fairs were instituted in the villages along the route; strolling musicians earned idle wages; beggars sat by the roadside, at the churchyard corners, at the foot of the hills, and asked for alms.
And here, before we follow the pilgrims across the county from Farnham to the lane by which they leave it east of Titsey, I want to make a point clear. The pilgrims did not all travel to Canterbury by the same road, along the selfsame track so many feet wide, as the Ordnance map and some of those who have written on the Pilgrims' Way would argue. There is not one single, separate path along which every pilgrim who set out from Winchester to Canterbury travelled through Surrey. All that the pilgrims did was to journey forward either on, or near, the old Way from west to east and east to west, and it has happened that they used, more than any other track besides the Way itself, one particular road. This road can be followed parallel to the old Way for a long distance, running from church to church under the chalk ridge; and it is this road which is marked in the maps as the Pilgrims' Way. Perhaps that is convenient, but it should be understood that not all the pilgrims went by it. For pilgrims, after all, were as human then as walkers along country roads are to-day. They would not all want to do the same thing in the same way. Some of them would set out to do one thing and some another. Some would prefer to walk alone high up on the ridge; others would choose a bevy of companions and chatter along the road under the hill. Some would be thin, ascetic persons, who liked to stride along and see how far they could go without eating or drinking; some would be pleasant, good-tempered creatures, who would amble by dusty places and be thankful for cool beer; some would eat or drink mechanically, filled with a single thought of prayer and pilgrimage to a shrine. Some would be always perverse, and because most people travelled by one path, or halted at an easy spot, would choose deliberately another path, and halt where others passed on. Some would determine, come what might of wind or rain or sun, to sleep at a certain village at nightfall; others would let the weather decide for them. The weather would decide much, and it would choose differently for different travellers. One of the writers who has discussed the problems of the Pilgrims' Way suggests that the main route would vary with varying degrees of heat and cold. If the weather were cold and wet, the pilgrims would travel on the chalk ridge; and if it were hot, they would go by the leafy woodland path below. But if I Were a pilgrim and the weather were hot, I should go by the top of the ridge, so as to get the air and the view; probably I would go by the ridge in any case, whatever the weather was.
If written proof were needed that the journeying pilgrims Were not condemned to a sort of solemn observance of the rules of "Follow-my-leader," or bound by uncomfortable routine like so many Cook's tourists, it would not be difficult to find. From a paper on the Pilgrims' Way, written by Major-General E. Renouard James, you may learn that in 1463, nearly three hundred years after the first pilgrim followed Henry II to Canterbury, St. Martha's chapel by Guildford—St. Martha's being a corruption of "The Martyr's," that is, St. Thomas the Martyr's chapel—was in need of repair. And so, through the Prior of Newark, "forty days' indulgence was granted to such as should resort to this chapel on account of devotion, prayer, pilgrimage, or offering; and should there say Paternoster, the Angel's Salutation, and the Apostles' Creed; or should contribute, bequeath, or otherwise assign anything towards the maintenance, repair, or rebuilding of the same." But what does that mean? It must mean that not all the pilgrims went into St. Martha's to pray, or even went by St. Martha's on their way east. The Prior specially framed the terms of his indulgence to attract more pilgrims.
In Mr. Hilaire Belloc's admirably interesting book The Old Road, in which he describes the way in which he, sometimes with one companion and sometimes with two, sought out the exact track of a single Pilgrims' Way from Winchester to Canterbury, I find him writing of the compulsions of the pilgrimage—"The pilgrim set out from Winchester: 'You must pass by that well,' he heard, 'it is sacred.' ... 'You must, of ritual, climb that isolated hill which you see against the sky. The spirits haunted it and were banished by the faith, and they say that martyrs died there.' ... 'It is at the peril of the pilgrimage that you neglect this stone, whose virtue saved our fathers and the great battle.' ... 'The church you will next see upon your way is entered from the southern porch sunward by all truly devout men; such has been the custom here since custom began.' From step to step the pilgrims were compelled to take the oldest of paths." Well, some of the pilgrims, perhaps most of them, since human nature imitates more often than it contradicts, may have been so compelled. But not all. I should like to set next to Mr. Belloc's passage a passage from the book of another pilgrim. Bunyan, when he wrote Pilgrim's Progress, may not have referred directly to the Way from Winchester to Canterbury, though his 'Vanity Fair' has been guessed to correspond with Shalford Fair, and other details of the progress have been fitted in with other happenings, as we shall see at Shalford. But unquestionably he reproduces the state of mind with which a pilgrim would undertake a journey, wherever his pilgrimage would take him. He was born only ninety years after the last pilgrim had paid his vows; he would have talked to men whose fathers had made the pilgrimage, and as he writes of it the keynote is voluntary choosing of the road. Here is the passage:—
"I beheld, then, that they all went on till they came to the foot of the hill Difficulty, at the bottom of which was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways, besides that which came straight from the gate: one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill; but the narrow way lay right up the hill; and the name of that going up the side of the hill, is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring and drank thereof to refresh himself, and then began to go up the hill, saying—
'The hill, though high, I covet to ascend; The difficulty will not me offend; For I perceive the way to life lies here. Come, pluck up heart, let's neither faint nor fear, Better, though difficult, the right way to go, Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.
The other two also came to the foot of the hill. But, when they saw that the hill was steep and high, and that there were two other ways to go; and supposing also that these two ways might meet again with that up which Christian went, on the other side of the hill; therefore, they were resolved to go in those ways. Now the name of one of those ways was Danger, and the name of the other Destruction. So the one took the way which is called Danger, which led him into a great wood; and the other, took directly up the way to Destruction, which led him into a wide field, full of dark mountains, where he stumbled and fell, and rose no more."
Now that is exactly the way in which the pilgrims might have separated and gone their own ways at a dozen places along the road to Canterbury. Take, to begin with, the joining and the parting of the ways at Farnham. Pilgrims would meet there, as we have seen, coming through Winchester, from Normandy, or by the Harrow Way from Salisbury Plain, from Wales, from Ireland, and all the West of England. But they would not all necessarily leave by the road that runs straight from Farnham to the foot of the Hog's Back. Some would have letters to the Abbot of Waverley, would spend a night at the Abbey two miles to the south-east, and join the others perhaps at Puttenham, six miles further along the Way. Then, among those who chose to travel straight to the western slope of the Hog's Back, there would be different minds at the foot of the hill. Some would climb the hill at Whitewaysend—the white way of the chalk would begin for them there—and would stride along in the sunlight the seven straight miles to Guildford. Others would prefer to keep to a path under the hill, stopping at the churches and gossiping at the inns. You can trace the old road clearly through Seale to Puttenham, where it must have travelled south of the church door, instead of taking the awkward and unnecessary turn to the north which is taken by the modern road. Then at Puttenham the pilgrims would divide again. Some would journey straight on across Puttenham Heath, heading towards St. Catherine's Hill—you can see the rough track; others would turn aside to the south-east, to visit Compton church; perhaps they would come down into Compton as you may come down into it from the east to-day, by what is evidently an old track cut deep in the woods. They would go up north again from Compton; perhaps they would be tired of the valley, and would climb the Hog's Back to walk the last mile or so into Guildford in the wind; perhaps they would join the other stream of pilgrims travelling by the sandy lane by which you may walk to-day as slowly as they did towards St. Catherine's Hill. Most of them, I think, would collect on St. Catherine's Hill; St. Catherine's was more popular than the Guildford churches. So General James has discovered, examining ancient records of litigation. The parson of St. Nicholas, Guildford, fearing to lose his profit from the pilgrims who visited the town, purchased from the lord of the manor the freehold of the site of the chapel, and rebuilt it in 1317. Perhaps the attraction of St. Catherine's was that it was on the way to Shalford Fair. Guildford had two special fairs, on May 4 and November 22, to catch the summer and the winter pilgrims. But Shalford Fair was the great fair, and actually covered 140 acres of ground.
The pilgrims would cross the Wey under St. Catherine's Hill by a ferry or a rough plank bridge. The merchants travelling with their horses, and the ponies driven from Weyhill Fair out towards Salisbury Plain, would come through the water by a ford. But the ferry and the bridge were both of almost immemorial antiquity. In 1736 there was a dispute about the bridge. The lord of the manor of Braboeuf had built a bridge over the Wey for a fair on St. Matthew's Day. The owner of the church lands at Shalford ordered it to be destroyed; he claimed the right of conveying passengers over the river. They went to law, and it was alleged that there had been a bridge there time out of record. Judgment, however, decided "that there had been no bridge except per unum battellum (one plank) at the mill belonging to the heirs of Henry de la Poyle (a mile lower), laid for convenience of the pilgrims going to the chapel of St. Katherine at the time of the fair." General James has unearthed the decision of the Court, and incidentally added another bypath to the Pilgrims' Way.
Opposite the ferry under St. Catherine's the line of the Way to St. Martha's is clear enough, a green track in a green field; and once I saw it as the pilgrims may have seen it on a spring morning. It was in May, and there was a haze over the meadowland by the river which blurred shapes and colours. St. Catherine's was no longer a ruin; the buildings on the hill faded into the trees; the clothes of wanderers by the riverside took on mediaeval brightnesses, lost modern forms; and into the foreground ran three bare-headed, yellow-haired children, and in their brown arms great bunches of cuckoo-flowers. So might one returning from the Martyr's chapel have seen the path to the ferry in the days when the Clerk told the tale of Griselda.
The track crosses the road near the ferry, and by a wood named the Chantries comes up to St. Martha's, at the foot of the hill a close-cropped aisle of down grass, and nearer the top a loose, sandy path among pines. At the base of the hill the pilgrims who had come by the ferry would be joined by those who had left Guildford by Pewley Hill, to come out through the valley past Tytings, now a private residence, but once the dwelling of St. Martha's priest. And on the other side of the hill a difficulty waits. Mr. Belloc traces the road from the foot across a ploughed field, to connect with a narrow lane on the other side of the road dropping from Newlands Corner to Albury. Well, it is possible that some of the pilgrims strayed out in that direction, though it means that they would have to descend a bank like the wall of a house by the Newlands Corner road, which is a sunken track; also, Mr. Belloc owns that a little further on this road he chooses has a doubtful section of a mile and a half. May he not be on the wrong road? Why should not the pilgrims drop down the road which leads from the foot of St. Martha's Hill into Albury? The inns would have tempted them; they would be heading straight for the church; and the road leading to inns and church is clearly a road that led from St. Martha's Hill into the valley of the Tillingbourne long before the hill bore a Christian chapel. It is evidently an old British trackway. It runs along a ridge, and yet it is sunk deep between two very high banks. If it was there when the pilgrims came down from the Martyr's chapel, why should they make a fresh track for themselves, especially one which, as Mr. Belloc admits, "raises a difficulty unique in the whole course of the way"? The track he follows goes by the wet, northward side of a hill—"an exception to an otherwise universal rule."
I have no space to follow the way in detail through the country, but this particular section seemed to me to illustrate clearly the need for imagining what the pilgrims would be likely to do, rather than to try to fit in their doings with a particular path or lane through Albury. I do not see why the pilgrims should not have followed the same route as we travel by to-day. Doubtless by what is now Albury Park the road has become confused. May it not have led through Albury Park past the south porch of the ruined church, and so come in a natural way to Shere church by the old inn? All five would then lie in a line—the old track from the Martyr's chapel, Albury Church, the White Horse Inn, the short road to Shere Church, and the track that leads up from Gomshall to the flank of the downs again. But that is only guessing; the line on the maps tempts it.
East of Gomshall to Oxted almost on the county border the track of the old Way and of the Pilgrims' Ways, sometimes coinciding, sometimes running parallel to each other, runs along the crest and the southern slopes of the chalk ridge. Yews and wind-bent thorn mark the ways, sometimes, as east of Gomshall, by a clear cut ridge in the hill, lined with ancient trees; sometimes, as under Denbies by Dorking, you can only pick out the path by solitary yews studding grass fields and corn-land. At the gap of the Mole by Dorking the old Way, perhaps, forded the Mole; the pilgrims would cross by Burford Bridge, which joins the Roman Ermyn Street to Stane Street beyond Dorking. Both the Way and the pilgrims' track would join on the line of yews on Box Hill, and from Box Hill to Reigate there is a succession of yew road-marks and hedges, with here and there the whole face of the downs bitten out by a chalk pit; gradually the road climbs, until the track above Reigate lies almost on the highest point of the ridge. At Reigate the old Way carries on, crossing the hill-road which was from the town north to London. The slope of the modern road has been eased by cutting into the hill, and the ancient Way now is joined, on Reigate Hill, by a suspension bridge.
But the pilgrims would drop down into the town to sleep and to eat and drink. You may see their tracks on the chalk, streaming down from the ridge like a bunch of white ribands in the wind. They came into Reigate by Slipshoe Lane, and there, where the cross roads meet, they stood to pray at St. Thomas's shrine, now no more.
They would please themselves where they climbed the ridge again. Or they joined the old Way, perhaps, in what is now Gatton Park, where the yews point to Merstham church. After Merstham the tracks divide again. East of an interrupting chalk pit, a thick yew hedge lines the side of the hill, under which I once ate fine blackberries in December, as perhaps the Wife of Bath ate them. But half way along the ridge of yews another path climbs up a plough, and on the crest it joins a narrow lane which is as much the Pilgrims' Way as any road on the downs; it runs by Tollsworth Farm over the summit of White Hill, and is actually marked "The Pilgrims' Way" twice on the sign posts, so sure are the local painters of what they have to point out. East from White Hill you may follow a single track, sometimes grass, sometimes modern road. There is a puzzle at Godstone Quarry, where the chalk pits have cut the hill to pieces, and the tiny path which perhaps still keeps the line across the pits is a perilous slippery place in the rain. On the far side of to-day's road by the chalk pit you may pick up the green track again, though you will lose it rounding the spur of the hill that lies half way between Godstone and the railway. The old Way probably still kept to the ridge, and Sir Gilbert Scott thought he had traced the Pilgrims' Way through the Hanging Wood north of Tandridge Hill Lane. But I think I found it in a green track which runs westward from a gap in that same lane. It looked like a rough cart-track through a field, and would join the road already traced beyond. In its centre, a foot from the ground, was placed, and doubtless remains, a blue enamelled notice board, with the brief but usual caution to trespassers.
East of Tandridge Hill Lane, on the far side of a grass field, a curious path, half ditch, half avenue of yews and thorns, leads down through woodland to green trackway again. The green track crosses the railway cutting, and so journeys on into Titsey Park on the level lowland. Under the new Titsey church it runs, as it once ran past the old church in the Park, and from Titsey church eastward, by a country lane through broad and glorious cornfields, it passes out of Surrey into Kent.
By those ways they went, fur-clad Briton, ravaging Dane, Roman eagle, traders of tin and drivers of ponies, along the ridge in the sun and the wind and the rain; by their side and after them, along the ridge and under it, travelled the knight and the clerk and the friar and the summoner, as they travelled from the Tabard Inn to St. Thomas's shrine with Chaucer; and we may follow them, beginning with Surrey's western town, and journeying at the end from the Tabard again, with the pilgrims passing to the east.
The joining of the ways.—Georgian poke bonnets.—The Castle.—Kings at Farnham.—Poet Soldiers.—A glorious battle.—The Bishop's artillery.—Paradise and the Bull's Eye.—Izaak Walton.—Cobbett's education.—An old alehouse.—Hopgrowers in difficulties.—King Charles's cap.—Elmer's pheasants.
Westernmost of all Surrey towns, Farnham stands at the joining of the ways. Traders from Cornwall, pilgrims from Winchester, horse-dealers driving their ponies from Weyhill Fair, have met on the roads that run into Farnham from the west and south and north. Farnham Castle, for seven centuries a Bishop's palace, links Surrey to the See of Winchester. The Farnham oasthouses and hop-grounds bridge the crossing from the fertile Hampshire border to the Bagshot sands and the wild and sterile moors of Frensham and Hindhead. The town, set in its cultured plot of vines and flower-beds, with its historic castle, its tranquil church, and the Wey watering the pastures under its walls, stands like a garden between the military rigidity of Aldershot and the wind that blows over the Thursley heather.
No town in Surrey has two such old and orderly main streets as Farnham. Here and there modern taste for a noisy pattern has broken the quiet level; a bank has piled up a huge building of timber, handsome but out of keeping; the new Corn Exchange is out of keeping and hideous; and in 1866 municipal enterprise pulled down the old market house, which stood at the junction of the main streets and was a fascinating little building perched on pillars. But much that is ancient and simple in square red brick remains. The plain, low-roofed houses, with their flat facades and crumpled, lichened tiles, succeed one another down Castle Street and West Street with a delightful monotony. The elaborate carved and painted doorways, knockers, lunettes, doors and steps are quite a model exhibition. The two streets wear a Georgian air of poke-bonnets and long purse-strings. Or they are Georgian, at all events, once or twice during the day; on a sunny morning before breakfast, perhaps, or when, perhaps in the rain, the endless traffic of wheels quiets for an hour. For Farnham stands on the high road from London, and the motor cars chase the eighteenth century into the side-streets.
Farnham is mostly of one period, and searchers for very old architecture will be disappointed. One of the oldest buildings in the town is a tiny set of almshouses, whose lowly gables line the road under the castle hill. They were built by Andrew Windsor, of the parish of Bentley in Hampshire, in 1619, and were intended, as an inscription on the wall informs you, "For the Habitation and Relief of eight poor Honest Impotent Old Persons." Even with four epithets, the almoners seem to find life supportable.
The greatest and the oldest building is, of course, the castle. It stands nobly on a hill, towards which the street rises like a carriage drive, ending in a flight of steps. Once it must have dominated the town as a fortress, but since Cromwell broke down the keep, Farnham has looked up at a quieter and more episcopal pile—a fine gateway tower, built by Bishop Fox early in the sixteenth century. Much of the castle stands as he rebuilt it after various misfortunes in baronial and other wars, but the front as it looks down on Farnham is less severe. Two imposing cedar trees, out of a group of several, break the line of Fox's massive red brick. Local legend has aged them considerably, for two hundred years is suggested as a modest estimate of their antiquity. As a fact, they cannot be much more than one hundred years old. They were planted by Mrs. North, wife of Bishop North, who held the See from 1781 to 1820, and in an engraving of the castle published in 1792 there is not a sign of them. The cedar is a very fast-growing tree—one of the reasons why it is so brittle. The Farnham cedars are as brittle as any others. I was told that when the present Bishop went abroad early in the year 1908, he was hesitating over cutting off some of the larger branches which shaded the castle wall and would not let it dry. The April snow settled the question for him, and broke the branches he had thought of lopping.
Farnham Castle has entertained many Kings, from Edward I to Queen Victoria. One of its earliest bishops was a king's brother, the great Henry of Blois. Elizabeth was often at the castle, and once, bidding the Duke of Norfolk dine with her there, spoke to him of his intrigue to marry Mary Queen of Scots. According to one story she warned him "to be careful on what pillow he laid his head"; according to another, the Duke assured the Queen that the intrigue was none of his making, and that "he meant never to marry with such a person where he could not be sure of his pillow." He was thinking of Darnley, and that dark February morning with the King stretched dead on the garden grass.
James I hunted at Farnham regularly, and actually took a lease from Bishop Bilson of the castle, which he found a convenient centre for hunting in the Surrey bailiwick of Windsor Forest. But James was the last of the kings to hunt from Farnham. George III and Queen Charlotte visited the castle because Bishop Thomas had been the King's tutor, but Farnham's entertaining of royalty was nearly at an end. Once, in the last century, Queen Victoria rode there from Aldershot with the Prince Consort, inspected the Bible on which she had taken her oath at the Coronation, admired the castle, and rode back again.
A castle with a keep and a moat, or rather a deep dry ditch, ought to have memories of fighting, and Farnham Castle has seen some sharp skirmishing. It has the distinction of having been twice held by a poet, once for the Parliament and once for the King. George Wither was its first commander, and his command did not increase his reputation either as a man of letters or a man of war. Probably the castle was never worth defending. It was isolated, and its possession, as it turned out, would have helped neither side to control the movements of the other. But Wither thought otherwise. He had made his name as a pastoral poet, author of Fidelia and The Shepherd's Hunting and he now proposed to make another name as a brilliant soldier. He saw all sorts of possibilities in Farnham Castle and when the war broke out and he was made Governor, he began at once building a drawbridge and a sallyport, digging a well, and storing provisions. Unfortunately he had no artillery, without which no self-respecting soldier could be expected to hold a fort, even where, as at Farnham, there was no enemy within shot. Riding up to London, he poured a perfect shower of requests into the unwilling ears of Sir Richard Onslow, who was the chief pillar of the Parliamentary party in Surrey, and at last he got an order for some demi-culverins from the Tower. But his hopes were still to be dashed. The next day came news that Prince Rupert was already in North Surrey, and the demi-culverins were counter-ordered for fear of capture. Then might he have light guns, drakes or falconets, which he could take along by-roads? Sir Richard's answer was that the fortress, since it could not be held, must be abandoned. For this decision Wither afterwards attacked Sir Richard Onslow as a traitor, in two tremendous effusions entitled Se Defendendo and Justitiarius Justificatus, of which the latter landed him in prison and was burnt by the common hangman. Meanwhile, still protesting at being refused his guns, he rode down to his own house at Alton, collected what carts and cattle he could find, took them into Farnham, brought out all the stores and men he could command through Farnham Park, and got them all safely to Kingston. He might have been captured by Rupert; it was really quite an exploit.
So the castle came to the Royalists. They put in command of it Sir John Denham, who in that very same year had published, anonymously, his famous Cooper's Hill. Wither had left behind him three hundred sheep and a hundred oxen, so that the garrison was well victualled, and the poet-Governor ought to have been able to put up a fight against an enemy who had no artillery. Wither would have shown him how to do it. But Sir John had no idea of what a battle should be. One December morning, a few days after he had taken over the command, Sir William Waller, a Parliament General, rode up at the head of his dragoons and demanded surrender. Of course Sir John refused, and Sir William proceeded to fix a petard to the gate, to blow it in. A military genius like Wither would have ordered his men to fire their muskets at the enemy; but all the soldiers on both sides escaped that day. The explosive was securely fastened in position, the gate was shattered, the assailants rushed at the breach, and began at once to pull down the barricade of timber erected inside by the garrison. This done, the garrison surrendered, and the glorious day was over.
But Sir John Denham got the best of Wither in the end. Not long afterwards Wither was taken prisoner by the Royalists, and Denham, who had wisely been set at liberty to rejoin the Royalist forces, begged for his rival's life. Mr. Wither, he pleaded, should not be hanged, for while Wither lived he was not himself the worst poet in England.
The castle keep was never to be held by a successor to Wither and Denham. Sir William Waller blew up one of the walls when he took it from Sir John, and the year before Charles was executed Parliament ordered it to be dismantled altogether. The garrison fell to with enthusiasm, stripped the building of all the lead, wood, and glass they could lay their hands on, and sold the wreck to make up their back pay. At the Restoration, when Bishop Duppa came to the See, he found the castle almost uninhabitable. It cost him more than two thousand pounds to make it fit to live in, and his successor, Bishop Morley, spent even more. He actually laid out ten thousand pounds in improvements, only to meet with John Aubrey's criticism that he had repaired the building "without any regard to the rules of architecture." Doctor Peter Mew, who succeeded Morley, set about improving the castle from outside, and planted the top of the keep, into which the old walls had been tumbled, with fruit trees. Bishop Sumner, who held the See for forty-two years from 1827, turned the orchard into a garden.
Bishop Mew had a double record. He was a soldier as well as a prelate, and he took part in the last battle fought on English soil. When King Monmouth's Mendip miners were making their last stand at Sedgmoor, the end of the fight came with the arrival of King James's artillery. The heavy cannon might never have been drawn to the ground where the battle was raging, for the artillery were unprovided with horses, had not the Bishop offered his coach horses and traces. When they came to Sedgmoor, he himself directed the fire.
The result of the various fortunes and misfortunes of the castle in war, and of the different additions and alterations made by successive Bishops, is naturally rather puzzling. The castle is a medley of the building of eight centuries. Oldest of all is the ruined keep and the framework, or foundations, of the castle buildings; the masonry of the keep is the work of Henry of Blois, and belongs to the twelfth century. Next come three pillars of the old chapel, now used as a servants' hall. I saw it when it was set for a meal, and the severe cleanliness of the white stone above the white tablecloth and glass and cutlery has remained one of the distinctest of my memories of the castle. Next in age is the outer gateway—doubtless the scene of Sir William Waller's explosion—an imposing block of masonry. From each side of the gateway runs the outer wall of the castle, and between the keep and the outer wall what was once a ditch has grown into the Bishop's garden, a sloping stretch of shaven lawn and flower borders, with a fountain and birds bathing in it. The keep itself, almost from the broken parapet to the tumbled stones at the base, is a mixture of wall and rock garden, in which grow all the rock plants worth growing. Perhaps there were wallflowers when Bishop Mew planted his orchard in the keep; but the pasque flower and other rarer blossoms which crowd round the base belong to the gardening of a later day. The level lawn and flower beds of the inner garden of the keep are as serene and shining as those below, and the view to the south over Hindhead and the south downs is finer and freer than from anywhere in the grounds, though there are many fine views from the castle windows. Fanny Burney, who visited Farnham in 1791, only a month released from the trammels of Court life, would certainly have been able, as she tells us she wished, to see the hills above her beloved Norbury. But ladies of the Court were delicate creatures, and she could not climb to the top. "I was ready to fall already, from only ascending the slope to reach the castle," she adds with some humility.
Of all the bishops, Bishop Fox left the most enduring mark on the castle. He built the noble and lofty gateway tower named after him, and certainly altered the look of the castle as Farnham sees it to-day, more than any other Bishop, though what it may have looked like when the boundary walls were all landing can only be guessed. Within, one of the chief restorers was Bishop Morley. The hall, before he made his alterations, was a good deal larger than the present room; you can see the old doorway in the wall of the wide entrance passage. He added the splendid staircases, with their carved oak newels, the work of Grinling Gibbons; and he built the chapel, which also has some fine carving. A later and most princely Bishop, Anthony Thorold, who held the See from 1891 to 1895, laid down a mile and a hundred yards of stair carpet, and repaired an acre and a fifth of roof. He also fitted up rooms for ordination candidates, each room with a name. St. Francis and other saints preside over the slumbers of some; some sleep in Paradise; a Bishop who is an occasional visitor looks out upon the Castle garden from the Bull's Eye.
Bishop Morley, who spent so much money on the Castle, spent very little on himself. A tiny room, almost a cell, is shown as the chamber in which he spent hours in prayer, and in the extreme corner is a stone couch, on which he slept when he allowed himself sleep. He had but one full meal a day, he never warmed himself at a fire, he never married, he was never ill, and was found dead on his bed one morning, at the ripe age of eighty-seven. Starved to death, you are told; the hint is almost of suicide.
Izaak Walton knew Morley, and stayed with him at the castle. He wrote his Lives of Hooker and Herbert under the Bishop's roof, possibly added something to his Life of Donne; the room is shown. I like to think of him sitting through a sunny morning writing gently about the shortcomings of Mrs. Hooker, how she made her poor husband tend the sheep and rock the cradle; or setting down the superb last sentences of the Life, and then taking down his fishing rod and wandering down by the Wey after trout and chub. Perhaps, indeed, he could get a salmon. Among the dues collected by the Bailiffs of the Borough early in the seventeenth century I find the following——
"Of every fishmonger that selleth ffish at his window in the lent to paye at good ffriday a good lb. of samon or of the beast ffish they have then leaft."
The salmon, presumably, swam with the other "beast ffish" in the Wey.
Farnham's greatest man was not an ecclesiastic, but a politician. William Cobbett, soldier, farmer, Radical, editor of Peter Porcupine and the Weekly Political Register, and author of a diary unequalled of its kind in English writing, was born at Farnham on March 9, 1762. The house in which he was born, once a farmhouse and now the Jolly Farmer inn, stands on the outskirts of the town near the Wey, conspicuous with a white gable. As a boy, he must have been one of the busiest on any farm in the neighbourhood. His father used to boast that he had four boys, of whom the eldest was only fifteen years old—William Cobbett was the third—and yet that they would do as much work as any three men in Farnham. "When I first trudged a field," you read in the The Life of William Cobbett, by Himself, "with my satchel swung over my shoulder, I was hardly able to climb the gates and stiles, and at the close of day, to reach home was a task of infinite difficulty." He was taught the beginnings of farming at Farnham, and he first ran away from Farnham to be a gardener. He was employed as a boy in the castle grounds, and there he met a man who was a gardener at Kew. They talked, and the eleven-year-old boy was fired to see for himself what gardening could be. Next day he started off, with sixpence-halfpenny in his pocket, and walked all day till he came to Richmond. There he should have had supper; he had threepence left to get it with. But threepence was exactly the price of a little book, The Tale of a Tub, which he spied in a bookseller's window. He bought it, took it into a field near Kew Gardens, and sat down to read; read on till it was dark, tumbled to sleep under a haystack, and woke to ask the head gardener for work. He was given work, but the gardener persuaded him to return home. Ten years later he ran away from Farnham again, and for the last time. He was out on the road to meet some friends on the way to Guildford Fair; the London coach swung by, he swung up behind, and by nine that night was in London with half-a-crown in his pocket. He left London for a soldier, and his Farnham boyhood was over.
Riding by Farnham forty years after, Cobbett showed his son the spot where he received his education. It was easily come by, but he was of opinion that if he had not had it, "if I had been brought up a milksop, with a nurserymaid everlastingly at my heels, I should have been this day as great a fool, as inefficient a mortal, as any of those frivolous idiots that are turned out from Winchester and Westminster School, or from any of those dens of dunces called Colleges and Universities." The spot is a sandy bank above the Bourne, a little stream, dry in summer, which runs a mile south of Farnham, from Holt Forest to the Wey. This is the education, described in Rural Rides:—
"There is a little hop-garden in which I used to work when from eight to ten years old; from which I have scores of times run to follow the hounds, leaving the hoe to do the best that it could to destroy the weeds; but the most interesting thing was a sand-hill, which goes from a part of the heath down to the rivulet. As a due mixture of pleasure with toil, I, with two brothers, used occasionally to disport ourselves, as the lawyers call it, at this sand-hill. Our diversion was this: we used to go to the top of the hill, which was steeper than the roof of a house; one used to draw his arms out of the sleeves of his smock-frock, and lay himself down with his arms by his sides; and then the others, one at head, and the other at feet, sent him rolling down the hill like a barrel or a log of wood. By the time he got to the bottom, his hair, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth were all full of this loose sand; then the others took their turn, and at every roll there was a monstrous spell of laughter."
When will Rural Rides be added to the cheap editions? No other book of the open air and open politics mixes the two with such a breezy grip as Cobbett's. One rides with the sturdy old man over the road which he thought the prettiest in England—the four miles between Guildford and Godalming—or across "the most villainous spot God ever made," which was Hindhead, and listens to him praising the bean fields and the turnips here, and the oaks and acacias there, cursing the Wen-devils and place-men and pensioners, the reptiles, toad-eaters and tax-eaters, and yet the sheer honesty and affection of the man shine from every page. There never was such a mixture of execration and the scent of bean-blossom. But Rural Rides remains a book of the library rather than the bookshelf.
Farnham has two other authors, one a native and one a friend. Miss Ada Bayly, known to her readers as Edna Lyall, made Farnham her holiday home since she was four years old, and set the scenes of two of her novels in the town. Even better known by his work, if not by his name, is Augustus Toplady, the author of the hymn, "Rock of Ages." Toplady was born in a little house in West Street, now pulled down, in 1740. He wrote much that was bitter; all that is remembered is his hymn.
Every town on the Portsmouth road has its old coaching inn, and Farnham's is the Bush. It stands modestly aloof; you must walk under an arch to finds its oldest walls and its wistaria. It was not always the best inn in Farnham. In 1604, in the account of the Borough, the receipts of the Bailiffs are thus recorded:—
"Dewes which hath bene payed accostomly paied to the Baylleffs of the Borrough and Towne of Farneham, beyond the memory of any man that now liveth as Aniale rents always as followeth:—
For the 4 Inns 28s That to saye of the Georg 7s of the Whit Hart 7s of the Anteolop 7s of the Crown 7s Of every alhouse within the Borough 2s Of every alhouse out of the Borough 12d Of every alhouse at the chosing of the Bayleffs, called knowledge money 1d Of every alhouse as will unlisensed or licinsed at every ffayr day every on of them 1d."
The Bush is not mentioned by name; it was a mere alehouse. Soon it became a full-grown inn, and the Georg, the Whit Hart and the Anteolop paled their ineffectual hearths.
Farnham was once the greatest market in England for wheat. Now the chief industry is hops. Farnham hops are some of the best grown, and have always fetched long prices. In Cobbett's day, Kentish hops averaged five pounds a hundredweight, and Hampshire hops were about the same price; Farnham hops fetched seven pounds. English hops to-day average perhaps less than five pounds a hundred, and the hopgrower is in distress. Eighty years ago he was being ruined. Cobbett makes up his accounts, writing at Chilworth on Sept. 25, 1822:—
"The crop of hops has been very fine here, as well as every where else. The crop not only large, but good in quality. They expect to get six pounds a hundred for them at Weyhill Fair. That is one more than I think they will get. The best Sussex hops were selling in the Borough of Southwark at three pounds a hundred a few days before I left London. The Farnham hops may bring double that price; but that, I think, is as much as they will: and this is ruin to the hop-planter. The tax, with its attendant inconveniences, amounts to a pound a hundred; the picking, drying, and bagging to 50s. The carrying to market not less than 5s. Here is the sum of L3 10s. of the money. Supposing the crop to be half a ton to the acre, the bare tillage will be 10s. The poles for an acre cannot cost less than L2 a year; that is another 4s. to each hundred of hops. This brings the outgoings to 82s. Then comes the manure, then come the poor-rates, and road-rates, and county-rates; and if these leave one single farthing for rent I think it is strange."
Hop-buyers and sellers in those days met in the old Market House, and were doubtless familiar with the queer inscription, still remembered by middle-aged Farnham farmers. John Clark built the Market House in 1566, and wrote on it his riddle:—
"You who don't like me, give money to mend me, You who do like me, give money to end me."
The Local Board of 1866, looking round for some worthy object on which to spend their money, liked the old house so well that they ended its existence on the spot.
No parish church is more difficult to drive up to than St. Andrew's at Farnham. If you know the way you can come to a corner of the churchyard by a side street, but Farnham goes to church chiefly by alleys and footpaths. The churchyard is more striking than the church, much of which is new. The thick turf, shaven and level, runs to the foot of mossy brick walls; an avenue of pollarded elms leads from the south door; all round stand little, old red houses. Six o'clock on a sunny autumn evening is the time to wait in Farnham churchyard. Every three hours the mellow, feeble bells ring a chime which suits September twilight:—
"Life let us cherish While yet the taper glows, And the fresh floweret Pluck ere it close.
Away with every toil and care, And cease the rankling thorn to wear; With manful hearts life's conflict meet, Till Death sounds the retreat."
Vernon House, a Tudor building changed from its old name, Culver Hall, and altered so as to front on West Street, has an unhappy memory of the Parliament wars. Charles the First lodged there one December night, a closely guarded prisoner on his way from Hurst Castle to Windsor. A month later he was to leave Windsor for Whitehall. He had little to give his host, and gave him all he had. It was a white morning cap of quilted silk, which Mr. George Vernon, inheriting from his grandfather, left in 1732 to his grandson, "desiring it may always go to the next heir male of my family, as a testimony of our steadfast loyalty and adherence to the Crown, which is the only bounty my family ever received for all the losses and expenses they sustained for the royal cause, which amounted to several thousands of pounds."
I had nearly forgotten Farnham's painter. He was Stephen Elmer, and a picture of his, "The Last Supper," hangs in the church tower. But his forte was painting fish and game, dead and alive. In a curious old pamphlet, "The Earwig, or An Old Woman's Remarks on the present Exhibition of Pictures of the Royal Academy—a critical pamphlet published in Fleet Street, 1781, I find the following entries. Of the painters and subjects, Mr. Elmer and Mrs. Robinson belong to Surrey. The rest supply the setting:—
"10. Thais—Sir Joshua Reynolds, R.A.—The face was painted from the famous Emily Bertie ... It was a cruel snouch in the Painter, a fine Girl having paid him seventy-five guineas for an hour's work, and being unable to pay for the other half of her portrait, to exhibit her with such a sarcastic allusion to her private life—to call her Thais—to put a torch in her hand, and direct her to set flames to the temple of Chastity. Such rigorous punishment seldom is inflicted by a rich man on a pretty woman, merely from her want of money.
79. Damn'd bad.
106. Mrs. Mahon in the character of Elvira—J. Roberts.—Painting, painted.
107. Portrait of Mrs. Robinson—J. Roberts.—At some distance the effect nearly the same as the preceding number; but on closer inspection, the colour not quite so thickly laid on. We must do justice to the Exhibiting Artists by saying that there are no worse of their size in the room than these Dulcineas.
129. Brace of Pheasants—S. Elmer, A.—No artist can come nearer to the object he attempts. His fish, his birds, and fruit are as exquisitely fine as any of the Flemish masters."
The National Gallery lacks an Elmer: private collectors may be luckier. Mr. J.E. Harting, to whom all Surrey naturalists owe a debt, reminds me that many of Elmer's best pictures were engraved to illustrate Daniel's Rural Sports, and that it was Elmer who painted the picture of the hybrid between a blackcock and a pheasant which readers of Selborne will remember was sent by Lord Stawell to Gilbert White. "It had been found by the spaniels of one of his keepers in a coppice, and shot on the wing."
FRENSHAM AND TILFORD
A Surrey Labourer.—The Witch's Caldron.—Frensham Ponds.—The Last of the Blackcock.—Herons and Waterlilies.—The Tilford Oak.—Cobbett's Mistake.—Silver Billy.—The heroic age of Cricketers.
Farnham has expanded to the south-east, and not prettily. But it is the key to the great stretch of pine wood, heather and bogland which lies to the south about Frensham, Tilford and Crooksbury Hill; and it is the best centre from which to visit Waverley Abbey and Moor Park, and to take long walks over some of the wildest country in the county. A week would not be long enough to explore the dozen square miles south of the town.
Wrecclesham lies to the south-west, almost on the Hampshire border, and still makes green pottery of patterns which were favourites in the sixteenth century. Further south runs the tiny Bourne, the stream by which Cobbett and his brothers had so good an education, as we have just seen, in the sand. The Bourne, which runs dry in summer, has few associations as a stream; one, perhaps, will remain with it. Readers of The Bettesworth Book and Memoirs of a Surrey Labourer will perhaps not be very wrong if they fix on this sandy valley as the Surrey which Bettesworth knew best. Than the Memoirs, I think, no more discerning study of an old labourer's fight to keep on his own legs, out of the workhouse, earning his own money with his spade and hoe, belongs to any Surrey village.
Deep country begins south of the Bourne, with the first Surrey bridge over the Wey, or rather one of the two Weys that are to join at Tilford. Untouched as yet by any town, the little river runs here over gravel and sand, clear and weedy. Trout lie under the bridge below Pierrepont House, in George III's day a seat of Evelyn Duke of Kingston, who named it after his family. He was the Duke who married the beautiful Countess of Bristol when her lawful husband was still alive: perhaps she used to stare into the Wey at Pierrepont and wonder whether it was worth doing.
Frensham stands a little distant from the river, just a cottage or two and a church. But the church holds a famous relic—an enormous caldron of beaten copper. Nobody knows its age; everybody has a story about it. It was brought by the fairies, is one tradition; it was nothing of the kind, is another. Mother Ludlam, the witch of Moor Park, four miles away, used it for boilings and philtremakings, according to one story; yet another connects it with a great stone which used to lie in the neighbourhood. John Aubrey, the antiquary, who "perambulated" Surrey in 1673 and 1674, gives the legend in full:—
"In the vestry of the church, on the north side of the chancel, is an extraordinary great kettle or caldron, which the inhabitants say, by tradition, was brought hither by the fairies, time out of mind, from Borough hill, about a mile from hence. To this place, if any one went to borrow a yoke of oxen, money, etc., he might have it for a year or longer so he kept his word to return it. There is a cave where some have fancied to hear music. On this Borough hill (in the Tithing of Cherte, in the parish of Frensham) is a great stone lying along, of the length of about six feet: they went to this Stone, and knocked at it, and declared that they would borrow, and when they would repay, and a Voice would answer when they should come, and that they should find what they desired to borrow at that Stone. This caldron, with the trivet, was borrowed here after the manner aforesaid, but not returned according to promise; and though the caldron was afterwards carried to the stone, it could not be received, and ever since that time no borrowing there....
"The people saw a great fire one night (not long since), the next day they went to see if any heath was burnt there, but found nothing."
"These stories," says Aubrey, "are verily believed by most of the old women of this parish, and by many of their daughters." The daughters ought to have known better. So ought Aubrey, according to Salmon, another Surrey historian, writing in 1736. He cannot understand why there should be anything astonishing about the size of the caldron, "there having been many in England till lately to be seen, as well as very large spits which were given for entertainment of the parish at the wedding of poor maids." It was a notable thing to roast an ox whole. Clearly it would be satisfactory to boil a sheep.
From Frensham village a road runs straight across the common to the south-west corner of the Great Pond, but the prettiest road to the water is by the side of the Wey. The Wey runs here deep and clean, edged with forget-me-nots through all the summer, winding and straightening through serene and shining pastures. There is nothing quieter in all Surrey than this little path by the tiny river, with the bank on one side rich with roses and elderflower, and on the other the sunlight gleaming on the chestnut coats of the cattle moving slowly through the sedge. Here is an old oak bridge, solid and lichened; here, facing the stream, a high bank of white sand, bored and tunnelled by sand-martins; a little further, and the brushwood flames with the pink and crimson spires of a thousand foxgloves. The grassy path runs on, until on a sudden bend the ground rises, and over a wooden stile opens out the vista of the great Frensham Pond. Could there be a deeper contrast? Behind lies green pasture-land, rush and sedge, oak and alder; before you, the shoulder of a hill purple with ling, the long level of grey and silver water, dancing under the wind away to a far strip of yellow sand flecked with patches of white foam; high above that, burnt and blackened ridges of heather-ground and gorse. Frensham Pond has often been painted, but that is the view I should choose, as I saw it first. To one coming up from these green depths of pasture, the air blows across the water with the freshness of the sea.
Frensham Pond still lies open and wild to the sky, though it may not be long before its shyer visitors leave it for more secluded waters. The motor omnibuses from Farnham have not yet frightened them all away. Coot and moorhens paddle in and out of the reeds, and great grebes float leisurely about its surface. It has always been famous for its fishing. In Aubrey's time it was "well known for its carps to the London fishmongers," and to-day it holds pike, perch and tench. I heard of no carp. Who would eat a carp?
In the bar of the little inn that stands on the edge of Frensham Pond there is an interesting case holding two blackcocks and a grey-hen, whose unhappy lot it was to be shot—perhaps the last of their race seen in this part of Surrey. They were killed nineteen years ago, in 1889. Actually the last blackcock chronicled in Surrey were a pair seen near Hindhead, I believe in 1906.
From Frensham Great Pond one may push on to Hindhead, three or four miles to the south-east, or may return to Farnham through Tilford by way of the Little Pond, another broad and shining stretch of water. The way to Farnham is the better, for it means leaving the high road for the natural paths that run over and round the windy ridges of the commonland to the east. From the rising ground between the two Frensham ponds there is a fine panorama of pine and heather. Crooksbury Hill juts up dark and commanding to the north; the level line of the ridge on the left, a few hundred yards away, is broken and humped with barrows; far away to the east lies Charterhouse, grey in the haze by Godalming; behind, to the south-east, the Devil's Jumps, three little squat, conical hills whose very oddity is one of their attractions. They edge the horizon like inverted pudding bowls covered with bracken, and with bell-heather kindling to crimson in the July sunlight.
July is the month in which to visit Frensham Little Pond. It was an accident which first showed me the pond as it ought to be seen, and as few see it. I had been watching a number of herons through my glasses; one of them eyeing me discontentedly from the reeds on a southern arm of the water, and three more flapping majestically over the trees, apparently dropping suddenly down into the valley of the Wey. Trying to take a short cut to the stream I missed my way among the woodland rides, and suddenly found myself again on the edge of the pond. It was worth making the mistake. The northern corner of the pond by the little boathouse is one sheet of white waterlilies. The corner runs into a rough triangle, with two sides fifty yards in length and a base of perhaps thirty yards. There must be nearly a thousand square yards of lilies, and from five to ten lilies to the yard, green buds, opening blossoms, and great white cups and gold-centred chalices, wet and swaying in the wind. Through all the summer those lilies flower, and there cannot be as many people see them as there are lilies. Fortunately, it would be difficult to find them unless you were walking: you could not drive a motor-car or ride a bicycle down those sandy lanes, and nobody on foot would pick the lilies.
To walk from Frensham Little Pond over Tilford Common to Tilford is to traverse some of the wildest and freshest commonland in Surrey. For some distance from the northern corner of the pond the way runs through woodland, crossed and recrossed by so many sandy paths that it is a good deal easier to get lost than to find the high road running into Tilford from the south. It is worth while getting lost, for that matter, if only to realise the wildness of the place; though it would perhaps be better to choose daytime for the business, for there are some awkward-looking, though perhaps not dangerous, bogs on the lower ground near the Wey. This lower ground, by the way, is a wonderful place for rabbits. You come suddenly out from the wood on the border of a reedy field, and see dozens of scampering bodies cleaving paths through the shaking rushes. Now and then a rabbit, puzzled by the silence following the sound of the invader's coming, sits and cocks up a pair of ears above the grass; his head goes a little higher, his timorous eye catches yours, and the greenery closes behind him.
Tilford to-day cannot be very different from the Tilford of the days of Cobbett. It is a straggling little hamlet, lying about the triangle formed by its cricket-green. The Wey runs halfway round the green, and is crossed by two grey and ancient bridges. But the chief glory of Tilford is its mighty oak, one of the greatest of English trees. Its age is unknown, and perhaps would hardly be known if it were felled. It has been claimed as "the oak at Kynghoc," mentioned in the charter given to Waverley Abbey in 1128; but that oak is mentioned as standing on the Abbeyland boundary, and the Tilford oak has never stood on the boundary. These historic oaks make difficult problems. Wherever you find a great tree, local legend gathers round it. Queen Elizabeth dined under it or shot a stag under it; Charles II climbed in it; Wesley preached under it; it is the boundary of the parish; it was the boundary of the Abbeyland eight hundred years ago. But was it always, then, the greatest tree for miles round? Eight hundred years ago, may there not have stood another tree near where it stands to-day, as large or even larger? Surely the traditions of one great tree pass, when the tree falls, to its nearest great neighbour; but they pass so seldom, and so slowly, that the villagers hardly note the change. Three generations are born and die, and no villager living has seen the older greater oak; the younger, slighter tree succeeds to its glories. Tilford's oak to-day is called by all Tilford the King's Oak. On the old estate maps it is Novel's Oak; Novel, perhaps, was a yeoman farmer.
Cobbett made a curious mistake about the Tilford Oak. He and his son were riding through Tilford to Farnham on an autumn day in 1822:—
"We veered a little to the left after we came to Tilford, at which place on the Green we stopped to look at an oak tree, which, when I was a little boy, was but a very little tree, comparatively, and which is now, take it altogether, by far the finest tree that I ever saw in my life. The stem or shaft is short; that is to say, it is short before you come to the first limbs; but it is full thirty feet round, at about eight or ten feet from the ground. Out of the stem there come not less than fifteen or sixteen limbs, many of which are from five to ten feet round, and each of which would, in fact, be considered a decent stick of timber. I am not judge enough of timber to say anything about the quantity in the whole tree, but my son stepped the ground, and, as nearly as we could judge, the diameter of the extent of the branches was upwards of ninety feet, which would make a circumference of about three hundred feet. The tree is in full growth at this moment. There is a little hole in one of the limbs; but with that exception, there appears not the smallest sign of decay."
Visitors to Tilford can amuse themselves with trying over Cobbett's measurements. I could not reach to measure it ten feet from the ground; but at five feet I made its girth, in July, 1907, twenty-four feet nine inches. Probably it was not much less when Cobbett was a little boy. That independent, combative mind would not accept another's measurements, and if he remembered the tree as a little tree, then a little tree he was right in remembering. Since his day the signs of decay have set in; the oak is still superb, but a Jubilee sapling has been planted as a neighbour. Centuries hence the sapling, perhaps, will be the King's Oak again.
Tilford has another memory of green old age. William Beldham—"Silver Billy," because of his straw-coloured hair—lived most of his life in the village, where he kept an inn, and died in a cottage close under the oak. He was born at Wrecclesham on February 5, 1766, and died February 20, 1862, aged 96, having played thirty-five years' unbroken "great" cricket, as Lillywhite calls it—a finer name than first-class. Let John Nyren, most discerning of biographers, describe him:—
"William Beldham was a close-set, active man, standing about five feet eight inches and a-half. He had light-coloured hair, a fair complexion, and handsome as well as intelligent features. We used to call him 'Silver Billy.' No one within my recollection could stop a ball better, or make more brilliant hits all over the ground. Wherever the ball was bowled, there she was hit away, and in the most severe, venomous style. Besides this, he was so remarkably safe a player; he was safer than the Bank, for no mortal ever thought of doubting Beldham's stability. He received his instructions from a gingerbread baker at Farnham, of the name of Harry Hall....
"He would get in at the balls, and hit them away in a gallant style; yet, in this single feat, I think I have seen him excelled; but when he could cut them at the point of the bat he was in his glory; and upon my life, their speed was as the speed of thought."
When were the great days of Surrey cricket? When Surrey could lend All England William Beldham, and still win—which they did twice—a Tilford man might answer. At all events, they were days in which cricketers lived to heroic ages. Abarrow, who lies at Hambledon over the Hampshire border, lived to be 88; James Aylward, "rather a bulky man for a cricketer," was buried close to Lord's ground, aged 86; Barber, who kept the Bat and Ball on Broad Halfpenny Down, was 71; William Fennex, at the age of 75, walked ninety miles in three days, carrying an umbrella, clothes, and three cricket bats (but he died soon after); William Lambert, almost the greatest of Surrey hitters, and the first player who ever made two centuries in the same match, died at 72; Lumpy Stevens, who won L100 for Lord Tankerville by hitting a feather once in four balls, and lies in Walton churchyard, was 84; John Small, who saved his life by playing his violin to a ferocious bull, to the "admiration and perfect satisfaction of the mischievous beast," lived to be 89; Tom Sueter—"I have never seen a handsomer man than Tom Sueter," wrote Nyren—lived to be 77; "Shock" White, with his bat as broad as his stumps, "a short and rather stoutly-made man," was buried at Reigate, aged 91; Yalden of Chertsey,—he jumped over a fence and then on his back caught the ball—was 84; and John Wells, buried at Farnham, died at the age of 76. John Wells shared with "Silver Billy" a curious distinction. He was Beldham's brother-in-law, and an admiring publican at Wrecclesham put up a sign to draw thirsty wayfarers to Wrecclesham's best beer. It was "The Rendezvous of the Celebrated Cricketers, Beldham and Wells." If it were still standing, it would attract a pilgrimage.
WAVERLEY ABBEY AND MOOR PARK
Jonathan Swift, Secretary.—A new Tale of a Tub.—Sir William Temple, Essayist.—Swift's "Stella."—A heart under a sundial.—Dorothy Osborne.—Mother Ludlam's Cave—Waverley Abbey.—Two tons of wine.—Comfort from Cromwell.—A Surrey Landmark.
Hardly two miles from Farnham, and reached by a road overarched by fine oaks, Moor Park stands on the banks of the Wey. A turn in the lane throws open a view of rich hayfields and pasture, with the river winding in and out under a ridge of oakwoods; much the same view, perhaps, as Swift first had of the fields and the Wey when he came to Moor Park from Ireland to copy out Sir William Temple's essays and to meet the dark-eyed waiting-maid who was to inspire one of the great passions of literary history.
Moor Park was Sir William Temple's new name for an old manor. The name under which he bought the house and land was Compton Hall, and he renamed it after a property in Hertfordshire. "The perfectest figure of a garden I ever saw, either at home or abroad, was that of Moor Park in Hertfordshire, when I knew it about thirty years ago," he wrote in his Essay on the Gardens of Epicures: and he laid out his own garden in the Dutch style which he admired. The garden has changed with the changing tastes of later owners; the house has fared a little better, though it was once metamorphosed into a Hydropathic Sanatorium—a new and dismal Tale of a Tub.
Moor Park, when Sir William Temple had it, saw the writing of many books. Sir William Temple himself, deeply hurt with his sovereign, James II, for striking his name off the Privy Council, had vowed to give up diplomacy and turn to gardening and writing for the rest of his life. His gardening may have been as good as his writing, and his essay on Gardening is, of all his writings, perhaps the best. But it was in his seclusion at Moor Park that he wrote, also, one of the most ridiculous papers that ever brought the fame of an essayist to a retired politician. His Essay Upon the Ancient and Modern Learning remains one of the most astonishing examples of the admirable writing down of trash in the history of letters. Quite unnecessarily, he had taken up the task of comparing modern writers with ancient, to the disadvantage of the modern, and he cannot be said to have been well equipped for the business. He had never read a word of Greek, and he achieved the distinction of criticising modern writing without a single reference to the works of Dante, Petrarch, Tasso, Ariosto, Moliere, Racine, Corneille, Chaucer, Spenser, Milton, and Shakespeare. The extraordinary thing is that the book was welcomed, and when a quarrel was struck over his claim that the Letters of Phalaris (which he could not read) were the best Letters in the world, he found ready champions. They were hopelessly defeated by Bentley, but Sir William Temple fortunately died before the defeat.
Better books were written at Moor Park by Sir William's secretary. Jonathan Swift, angry and rebellious, hating the authority and restraint of his Irish University, came to England an uncouth, ill-balanced, extravagant creature of twenty-one, and settled, or half-settled, to his work as amanuensis. He threw up his post in a rage, went over to Ireland and was ordained priest, made up his quarrel with his patron and came back to Moor Park to write The Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books. But the books were almost incidents. The mainspring of his life was his melancholy devotion to the pretty girl who waited on Lady Giffard, Sir William Temple's sister. She was Esther Johnson, daughter of Sir William's steward, but as Swift's Stella she lives in the story of sad and mysterious passions with Heloise and Laura.
Sir William Temple died in 1699, and was buried by his wife's side in Westminster Abbey; all but his heart, and that was laid in a silver box under the sundial in his garden. He left his papers to Swift, who wrote that there had died "with him all that was good and amiable among men," and to prove it quarrelled acrimoniously with the family.
Of another, gentler inmate of Moor Park we hear very little. Her fame was assured her when, as Dorothy Osborne, she had waited seven years to marry William Temple, and had sent to him, without an idea that they would reach an English public, some of the most graceful girlish letters ever written. After her marriage she leaves the scene, or we see her seldom. She corresponded with Queen Mary, but Swift has little to tell us about her. She, at least, could never have enraged him.
Moor Park lies along the banks of the Wey, and through it runs a drive open to foot passengers, but not to bicycles or dogs. Nearly at the end of the drive going towards Waverley Abbey is a curious cave, lined and roofed at the entrance with stone, and barred and gated and spiked with iron, evidently a fit habitation, once upon a time, for a very witch-like old woman. The gates, or rather railings which do not open, must have been placed there many years ago, for no initials have been carved, or at least none are visible, on the stone within. The cave runs back, some way from the road, into pleasantly dubious darkness. In this case, according to the tradition of the place, lived the witch, Mother Ludlam, whose caldron lies in the tower of Frensham Church. Another excavation in the ground a few yards away has also its own tradition, or rather two traditions. One is that it was the regular abode of a hermit named Foote, who starved to death in it; another, that Foote was a lunatic who was found dying in the hole, but actually died in the workhouse. The details are precise. "Foote was a gentleman. He came one day to the Unicorn Inn at Farnham. Next day he hired a man to wheel a heavy portmanteau to Moor Park gate, when he told the man to put it down. Foote was taken very ill, was found by old Hill the keeper and taken to Swift's cottage where Hill lived. The union officials took Foote and his heavy portmanteau to the Union. 'It's only buttons inside,' said they. 'It's gold! gold!' exclaimed Foote with his dying breath." So runs the local version.
At the gates of the entrance of Moor Park stands a charming cottage, brick and timber embowered in roses. It has been known at different times as "Dean Swift's Cottage" and "Stella's Cottage." Perhaps neither lived there. Outside the park the Wey broadens out into a wide pool, shaded by magnificent sycamores, and then drops through sluices to a lower level, to twist back to the north-west under the walls of Waverley Abbey.
Waverley Abbey is the greatest of the ruins in a county where ruins are few. Once the Abbey precinct covered sixty acres of ground; to-day nothing remains but tumbled walls and broken gates. It was not the oldest nor the richest of Abbeys in the county, but in some ways it was the noblest foundation of all. It was the earliest house of Cistercian monks in England; it inherited the spirit and the traditions of one of the finest of the monastic orders, the stricter sect of the monks of St. Benedict; its brethren were simple, kindly men with few wants and little money, who yet were generous hosts and the most skilful farmers of their day; it was the elder sister of Tintern Abbey, the mother of the Abbeys of Garendon, Ford, Combe and Thame, and the grandmother of seven others; and its abbots had precedence in the chapters of abbots throughout the order of Cistercians.
The White Monks, as the Cistercians were called, used to choose wild and lonely places for their churches, and Waverley Abbey, which stands in fields even now sometimes flooded, in its early days was more than once in difficulties through rain and bad seasons. It was founded in 1128 by William Giffard, the second Bishop of Winchester after the Conquest, and the buildings were still unfinished when, in 1201, a great storm inundated the Abbey, almost carried away its walls, and ruined all its crops, wheat, hay, and flax. Two years later, from the failure of the harvest after the flood, corn was so scarce that the monks had to scatter themselves among other Convents till they could thresh another summer's corn. In 1215 the spring from which they got all the water suddenly failed, and the monks were without water for their wine till one of them found a fresh spring and took it by pipes to the admiring Abbey. Eighteen years later came another storm and vast floods; the water rushed through the Abbey grounds, carrying away walls and bridges, and was eight feet deep in the buildings. There were other floods; in 1265 the monks had to sleep where they could out of the water, and it took days to clean away the silted mud. Those were some of the penalties of being so conveniently near to a river.
Round the buildings accumulated the traditional virtues. The Annals of Waverley record that in 1248 a youth fell by accident from the very parapet of the church tower to the ground without receiving the smallest injury. He was stupefied, and was thought to be dead, but after a little while began to speak and to be sensible, and soon completely recovered. On an earlier occasion, Aubrey tells us that "a boy of seven or eight years of age, standing near the Abbey gate, fell into the river, on the Feast of the Invention of the Cross, and by the rapidity of the stream was drove through four of the bridges, and was afterwards found on the surface of the water, dead to all outward appearance; but being taken out and carefully attended, he was brought to life, and came to his post at the gate from whence he had not been missed nor inquired after."
When the church was dedicated in 1278—it had taken seventy-five years to build—there was great rejoicing and a superb banquet. Nicholas de Ely, Bishop of Winchester, to make the occasion splendid, supplied feasting at his own expense for nine days to all who attended; abbots, lords, knights and noble ladies came to the dedication, and on the first day seven thousand and sixty-six guests sat down to meat. That is Waverley's greatest record of hospitality. Another record belongs to a guest. King John spent four days at the Abbey in Holy Week, 1208, and on that occasion one R. de Cornhull was ordered to be paid five marks for "two tons of wine" carried from Pagham.
At the Dissolution Waverley's end came quickly. The Abbey was one of the first of the smaller monasteries to fall. The obsequious adventurer whom Thomas Cromwell sent to Waverley to report on the Abbey establishment was Doctor Layton, and evidently he was neither feasted nor bribed by the simple Abbot and his monks. Thus he writes to Cromwell after his visit:—
To the right honorable Mr. Thomas Crumwell, chief secretary to the King's highness.
It may please your mastership to understand that I have licenced the bringer, the Abbot of Waverley, to repair unto you for liberty to survey his husbandry whereupon consisteth the wealth of his monastery. The man is honest, but none of the children of Solomon: every monk within his house is his fellow, and every servant his master. Mr. Treasurer and other gentlemen hath put servants unto him whom the poor [fool?] dare neither command nor displease. Yesterday, early in the morning, sitting in my chamber in examination, I could neither get bread nor drink, neither fire of those knaves till I was fretished; and the Abbot durst not speak to them. I called them all before me, and forgot their names, but took from every man the keys of his office, and made new officers for my time here, perchance as stark knaves as the others. It shall be expedient for you to give him a lesson and tell the poor fool what he should do. Among his monks I found corruption of the worst sort, because they dwell in the forest from all company. Thus I pray God preserve you. From Waverley this morning early before day, ready to depart towards Chichester, by the speedy hand of your most assured servant and poor priest,
It is satisfactory to learn that the weasely Doctor was "fretished," which must be pretty nearly the same thing as perished with cold and hunger. The Abbot's plea for his monastery—surely one of the honestest letters ever written—sets in contrast the characters of the monastery and its visitor. He writes to Cromwell on June 9, 1536:—
To the right honourable Master Secretary to the King.
Pleaseth your mastership I received your letters of the vij^th day of this present month, and hath endeavoured myself to accomplish the contents of them, and have sent your mastership the true extent, value, and account of our said monastery. Beseeching your good mastership, for the love of Christ's passion, to help to the preservation of this poor monastery, that we your beadsmen may remain in the service of God, with the meanest living that any poor men may live with, in this world. So to continue in the service of Almighty Jesus, and to pray for the estate of our prince and your mastership. In no vain hope I write this to your mastership, for as much you put me in such boldness full gently, when I was in suit to you the last year at Winchester, saying, 'Repair to me for such business as ye shall have from time to time.' Therefore, instantly praying you, and my poor brethren with weeping yes!—desire you to help them; in this world no creatures in more trouble. And so we remain depending upon the comfort that shall come to us from you—serving God daily at Waverley. From thence the ix^th day of June, 1536.
WILLIAM, the poor Abbot there, your chaplain to command.
The comfort that came to the White Monks was the dissolution of the Abbey in the month following. After the dissolution the buildings fell gradually to pieces, generously helped by builders of other houses. When Sir William More was giving Loseley near Guildford the shape we see to-day he carted waggon-load after waggon-load of stone from the ruined church, and Sir William More was perhaps not the first and certainly not the last of the spoilers. The neighbourhood quarried from the ruins until only a few years ago. When Aubrey saw the Abbey in 1672 he found the walls of a church, cloisters, a chapel used as a stable, and part of the house with its window-glass intact, and paintings of St. Dunstan and the devil, pincers, crucibles and all. To-day most of the ruins have fallen flat. There is some beautiful vaulting left, and massive heaps of stone show the corners and boundaries of the church and other buildings. Ivy-stems, coils of green gigantic pythons, climb about the walls and broken doorways; pigeons nest on the window-ledges and clatter like frightened genii out over the field.
Above Moor Park, a landmark for miles round, Crooksbury Hill lifts like a dark pyramid. Crooksbury Hill has a dozen different wardrobes. You may wake to find her grey in the morning, you may leave her behind you grey-green with the sun full on her flank, you may turn at noon to find the sun lighting her deep emerald; she is sunniest and hottest in a shining blue; and in the evening with the setting sun behind her she cloaks herself in purple and black as if her pines belonged to Scotland. She cannot see so far as Chanctonbury Ring, which is the watching comrade of all walkers in the country of the South Downs, and she has not the height of Leith Hill or Hindhead; but she is the grave and constant companion of all travellers for many miles round her, and measures for them the angle of the sun or the slope of the stars, as do all good landmarks for those who love a landmark like a friend.
THE HOG'S BACK
Whitewaysend.—Tongham.—A carillon of sheep-bells.—Timber-carting.—Falling on board a transport.—Cottages under the Hog's Back.—Puttenham. The Maypole at Compton.—The two-storied sanctuary.—A great picture.—Bird-baths.—Swarming bees.—The Hog's Back; a noble highway.
If any of the pilgrims from Farnham were drawn aside down the banks of the Wey to the hospitality of Waverley Abbey, they probably rejoined the rest at the foot of the Hog's Back, perhaps near Whitewaysend. That is a name with some meaning, for here first the road from Farnham runs up on to the great chalk ridge which traverses the county from west to east. The break in the colour of the roads under the ridge is from bright yellow sand to staring white, but the full white does not begin until the road is almost at its highest level, at the cross-roads above Tongham.