WANDERINGS IN WESSEX
AN EXPLORATION OF THE SOUTHERN REALM FROM ITCHEN TO OTTER
BY EDRIC HOLMES
Author of "Seaward Sussex," etc.
With 12 full-page drawings by
and over one hundred illustrations in the text by the author.
Map and Plans
Dear hills do lift their heads aloft From whence sweet springes doe flow Whose moistvr good both firtil make The valleis covchte belowe Dear goodly orchards planted are In frvite which doo abovnde Thine ey wolde make thy hart rejoice To see so pleasant grovnde
(Anon. 16th Century)
The obvious limitations imposed by the size of this volume upon its contents, and the brief character of the reference to localities that require separate treatment to do them justice, would call for an apology if it were not made clear that the object of the book is but to introduce the would-be traveller in one of the fairest quarters of England to some of its glories, both of natural beauty and of those due to the skill and labour of man.
The grateful thanks of the author are due to those of his predecessors on the high roads and in the by-ways of Wessex who, in time past, have chronicled their researches into the history and lore of the country-side. In one way only can he claim an equality with them—in a deep and undying affection for this beautiful and gracious province of the Motherland.
I WINCHESTER AND CENTRAL HAMPSHIRE
II SOUTHAMPTON WATER AND THE NEW FOREST
III POOLE, WIMBORNE AND THE ISLE OF PURBECK
IV DORCHESTER AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
V WEYMOUTH AND PORTLAND
VI WEST DORSET
VII EAST DEVON
VIII THE SOMERSET, DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND
IX SALISBURY AND THE RIVERS
X STONEHENGE AND THE PLAIN
XI THE BERKSHIRE BORDER AND NORTH HAMPSHIRE
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
FULL PAGE DRAWINGS
Winchester Cathedral Frontispiece St. Cross Bargate, Southampton Corfe Castle Cerne Abbey Gatehouse Weymouth Harbour The Charmouth Road Ottery Church Sherborne Salisbury Cathedral Stonehenge Marlborough
PEN AND INK SKETCHES IN THE TEXT
The Dorset Coast—Mupe Bay Font, Winchester Cathedral Plan, Winchester Cathedral Steps from North Transept, Winchester Gateway, Winchester Close Winchester College Statue of Alfred City Cross, Winchester West Gate, Winchester The Church, St. Cross Romsey Abbey The Arcades, Southampton Netley Ruins On the Hamble Gate House, Titchfield The Knightwood Oak in Winter Lymington Church Norman Turret, Christchurch Sand and Pines. Bournemouth Poole Wimborne Minster Julian's Bridge, Wimborne Cranborne Manor St. Martin's, Wareham The Frome at Wareham Plan of Corfe Castle Corfe Village St. Aldhelm's Old Swanage Tilly Whim The Ballard Cliffs Arish Mel Lulworth Cove from above Stair Hole Durdle Door Puddletown Dorchester Napper's Mite Maiden Castle Wyke Regis Old Weymouth Portland On the way to Church Ope Bow and Arrow Castle Portesham St. Catherine's Chapel Beaminster Eggardon Hill Bridport Puncknoll Chideock Charmouth Lyme from the Charmouth Footpath Lyme Bay Axmouth from the Railway Seaton Hole Beer The Way to the Sea, Beer Branscombe Church Sidmouth Axminster Ford Abbey Tower, Ilminster Yeovil Church Montacute Batcombe Sherborne Castle Bruton Bow Marnhull Blandford Milton Abbey Gold Hill, Shaftesbury Wardour Castle Wilton House, Holbein Front Bemerton Church Old Sarum Salisbury Market Place High Street Gate Plan of Salisbury Cathedral Gate, South Choir Aisle The Poultry Cross, Salisbury Longford Castle Downton Cross Ludgershall Church Gatehouse, Amesbury Abbey Amesbury Church Plan of Stonehenge (restored) Stonehenge Detail Enford Boyton Manor Longleat Frome Church Westbury White Horse Porch House, Potterne St. John's, Devizes Bishop's Cannings Silbury Hill Devil's Den Garden Front, Marlborough College Cloth Hall, Newbury Wolverton The Inkpen Country Whitchurch Holy Ghost Chapel, Basingstoke Basing Corhampton Map of Wessex
The following brief notes will assist the traveller who is not an expert in arriving at the approximate date of ecclesiastical buildings.
SAXON 600-1066. Simple and heavy structure. Very small wall openings. Narrow bands of stone in exterior walls.
NORMAN 1066-1150. Round arches. Heavy round or square pillars. Cushion capitals. Elaborate recessed doorways. Zig-zag ornament.
TRANSITION 1150-1200. Round arched windows combined with pointed structural arch. Round pillars sometimes with slender columns attached. Foliage ornament on capitals.
EARLY ENGLISH 1200-1280 (including Geometrical) Pointed arches. Pillars with detached shafts. Moulded or carved capitals. Narrow and high pointed windows. Later period—Geometrical trefoil and circular tracery in windows.
DECORATED 1280-1380. High and graceful arches. Deep moulding to pillars. Convex moulding to capitals with natural foliage. "Ball flowers" ornament. Elaborate and flamboyant window tracery.
PERPENDICULAR 1380-1550. Arches lower and flattened. Clustered pillars. Windows and doors square-headed with perpendicular lines. Grotesque ornament. (The last fifty years of the sixteenth century were characterized by a debased Gothic style with Italian details in the churches and a beauty and magnificence in domestic architecture which has never since been surpassed.)
JACOBEAN and GEORGIAN 1600-1800 are adaptations of the classical style. The "Gothic Revival" dates from 1835.
The kingdom of Wessex; the realm of the great Alfred; that state of the Heptarchy which more than any other gave the impress of its character to the England to be, is to-day the most interesting, and perhaps the most beautiful, of the pre-conquest divisions of the country.
As a geographical term Wessex is capable of several interpretations and some misunderstandings. Early Wessex was a comparatively small portion of Alfred's political state, but by the end of the ninth century, through the genius of the West Saxon chiefs, crowned by Alfred's statesmanship, the kingdom included the greater portion of southern England and such alien districts as Essex, Kent, and the distinct territory of the South Saxons.
The boundaries of Wessex in Alfred's younger days and before this expansion took place followed approximately those of the modern counties of Hants, Berks, Wilts and Dorset, with overlappings into Somerset and East Devon.
The true nucleus of this principality, which might, without great call upon the imagination, be called the nucleus of the future Britain, is that wide and fertile valley that extends from the shores of the Solent to Winchester and was colonized by two kindred races. Those invaders known to us as the Jutes took possession of Vectis—the Isle of Wight—and of the coast of the adjacent mainland. The second band, of West Saxons, penetrated into the heart of modern Hampshire and presently claimed the allegiance of their forerunners.
That seems to have been given, to a large extent in an amicable and friendly spirit, to the mutual advantage of the allied races.
It would appear that these settlers—Jutes and Saxons—were either more civilized than their contemporaries, or had a better idea of human rights than had their cousins who invaded the country between Regnum and Anderida to such purpose "that not one Briton remained." Or it may be that the majority of the inhabitants of south central Britain, left derelict by their Roman guardians, showed little opposition. It is difficult for a brave and warlike race to massacre in cold blood a people who make no resistance and are therefore not adversaries but simply chattels to be used or ignored as policy, or need, dictates. In 520 at Badbury Hill, however, a good fight seems to have been made by a party of Britons led, according to legend, by the great Arthur in person. The victory was with the defenders and had the effect of holding up Cerdic's conquest for a short time. Again some sort of resistance would seem to have been made before those mysterious sanctuaries around Avebury and Stonehenge fell to the Saxon. It is possible that the old holy places of a half-forgotten faith were again resorted to during the distracting years which followed the withdrawal of the Roman peace that, during its later period, had been combined with Christianity. Whatever the cause, it is certain that something prevented an immediate Saxon advance across the remote country which eventually became Wiltshire and Dorset. But the end came with the fall of the great strongholds around Durnovaria (Dorchester) which took place soon after the Saxon victory at Deorham in 577, twenty-five years after Old Sarum had capitulated, thus cutting off from their brothers of the west and north those of the British who still remained in possession of the coast country between the inland waters and savage heathlands of East Dorset and the still wilder country of Exmoor, Dartmoor and Cornwall.
So, by the end of the sixth century, the Kingdom of Wessex was made more or less an entity, and the dark-haired, dark-eyed race who once held the country were in the position of a conquered and vassal people; for the times and the manners of those times well used by their conquerors, especially in the country of the Dorsaetas, where at the worst they were treated as useful slaves, and at the best the masters were but rustic imitators of their forerunners, the Romans. To the most careless observer a good proportion of the country people of Dorset are unusually swarthy and "Welsh" in appearance, though of the handsomer of the two or three distinct races that go to make up that mixed nation, which has among its divergent types some of the most primitive, both in a physical and mental sense, in Europe.
In the ninth century the Kingdom of Wessex had assumed a compact shape, its boundaries well defined and capable of being well defended. The valley of the Thames between Staines and Cricklade became the northern frontier; westwards Malmesbury, Chippenham and Bath fell within its sphere, and Bristol was a border city. To the east of Staines the overlordship of Wessex extended across the river and reached within twenty miles of the Ouse at Bedford. These districts were the remnants of the united state of the first King of the English—Egbert, whose realm embraced not only the midland and semi-pagan Mercia, but who claimed the fealty of East Anglia and Northumbria and for a few years made the Firth of Forth the north coast of England. To the south-west the country that Alfred was called upon to govern reached to the valley of the Plym, and so "West Wales" or Cornwall became the last retreat of those Britons who refused to bow to the Saxon.
It will be seen how difficult a matter it is to define the district this book has to describe, so the southern boundary of the true Wessex must be taken as the coast line from the Meon river on the east side of Southampton Water to the mouth of Otter in Devon. On the north, the great wall of chalk that cuts off the south country from the Vale of Isis and the Midlands and that has its bastions facing north from Inkpen Beacon to Hackpen Hill in the Marlborough Downs. East and west of these summits an arbitrary line drawn southwards to the coast encloses with more or less exactitude the older Wessex.
Outside the limits here set down but still within Alfred's Kingdom is a land wonderful in its wealth of history, gracious in its English comeliness, the fair valleys and gentle swelling hills of South-west Devon, wildly beautiful Dartmoor and the coloured splendour of Exmoor, the patrician walls of Bath, and the high romance of ancient Bristol. Under the Mendip is that gem of medieval art at Wells, one of the loveliest buildings in Europe, and the unmatched road into the heart of the hills that runs between the most stupendous cliffs in South Britain. Not far away is Avalon, or Glastonbury if you will, the mysteries of which are still being mysteriously unfathomed. From the chalk uplands of our northern boundary we may look to the distant vale in whose heart is the dream city of domes and spires—Oxford, and trace the trench of England's greatest river until it is lost in the many miles of woodland that surge up to the walls of Windsor. East and south is that beautiful and still lonely country that lies between the oldest Wessex and the sister, and ultimate vassal, kingdom of Sussex; the country of the Meonwaras, a region of heather hills and quiet pine combes that stretch down to the Solent Sea and the maritime heart of England—Portsmouth.
Across the narrow bar of silver sea is an epitome of Wessex in miniature, Vectis, where everything of nature described in these following chapters may be found, a Lilliputian realm that contains not only Wessex but morsels of East Anglia and fragments of Mercia and Northumbria, combined with the lovely villages and pleasant towns that only Wight can show.
All this storied beauty is without the scope of this book but within the greater Wessex that came to the King who is the really representative hero of his countrymen. The genius of the West Saxon became for a time, and to a certain extent through force of circumstance, a jealous and rather narrow insularity, without wide views and generous ideals, but to this people may be ascribed some of the higher traits that go to redeem our race. That their original rough virtues were polished and refined by their beautiful environment in the land that became their heritage few can doubt. That their gradual absorption and amalgamation with the other races who fought them for the possession of this "dear, dear land" has resulted in the evolution of a people with a great and wonderful destiny is manifest to the world, and is a factor in the future of mankind at which we can but dimly guess.
The scenery of Inner Wessex is as varied as the materials that go to make it up, from the bare rolling chalk downs of Salisbury Plain to the abrupt and imposing hills around the Vale of Blackmore. To most who travel in search of the picturesque and the beautiful, the Dorset coast and the country immediately in the rear, will make the greatest appeal. The line of undulating cliffs, often towering in bold, impressive shapes, that commences almost as soon as Dorset is entered and continues without a dull mile to the eastern extremity of Weymouth, is to some minds the finest stretch of England's shore outside Cornwall, a county that depends entirely on its coast line for its claim to beauty. To some eyes, indeed, the exquisite and varied colouring of the Dorset cliffs is more satisfying than that of the dour and dark rocks of Tintagel and the Land's End. And if Wessex cannot boast the sustained grandeur of the stern face that England turns to the Atlantic waves, the romantic arch of Durdle Door, the majestic hill-cliff that rises above the green cleft of Arish Mel, and the sombre precipices of St. Aldhelm's, with the smiling loveliness of the Wessex lanes and hamlets behind them, will be sufficient recompense.
Hampshire has been given the character of having the least interesting shore of all the southern counties. This is a matter of individual taste. The surf that beats on the sands from Bournemouth to Southampton Water washes the very edge of the "Great Wood." Again, the long pebble wall of the Chesil Bank and the barrier "fleets" of middle Wessex are a real sanctuary of the wild. This is almost the longest stretch in England without bathing machine or bungalow. Remote and little visited also is the exquisite sea country that begins at the strange little settlement of Bridport Quay and ends in Devonshire. To the writer's mind there is nothing more lovely in seaward England than the scenery around Golden Cap, that glorious hill that rises near little old "Chiddick," and no sea town to equal Lyme, standing at the gate of Devon and incomparably more interesting and unspoilt than any Devon coast town.
But the traveller in search of something besides the picturesque will not be contented until he has explored the wonderful region that enshrines the most unique of human works in Britain, belonging to remotely different ages and widely dissimilar in aspect and purpose—Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge. No one can claim to know Wessex until some hours of quiet have been spent within the walls of the ancient capital, and no one can know England until the spirit of the English countryside, the secluded and primary village of the byways with its mothering church, rich with the best of the past, has been studied, known and loved. This is the essential England for which the yeoman of England, whose memorials will be seen in almost every Wessex hamlet, have given their lives.
WINCHESTER AND CENTRAL HAMPSHIRE
The foundations of the ancient capital of England were probably laid when the waves of Celtic conquest that had submerged the Neolithic men stilled to tranquillity. The earliest records left to us are many generations later and they are obscure and doubtful, but according to Vigilantius, an early historian whose lost writings have been quoted by those who followed him, a great Christian church was re-erected here in A.D. 164 by Lucius, King of the Belgae, on the site of a building destroyed during a temporary revival of paganism. The Roman masters of Lucius called his capital, rebuilt under their tuition, "Venta Belgarum." The British name—Caer Gwent—belonged to the original settlement. The size and boundaries of both are uncertain. Remains of the Celtic age are practically non-existent beneath Winchester, though the surrounding hills are plentifully strewn with them, and if Roman antiquities occasionally turn up when the foundations of new buildings are being prepared, any plan of the Roman town is pure conjecture. The true historic interest of Winchester, and historically it is without doubt the most interesting city in England, dates from the time of those West Saxon chiefs who gave it the important standing which was eventually to make it the metropolis of the English.
The early history of Winteceaster is the history of Wessex, and when Cerdic decided to make it the capital of his new kingdom, about 520, it was probably the only commercial centre in the state, with Southampton as its natural port and allied town. As the peaceful development of Wessex went on, so the population and trade of the capital grew until in a little over a hundred years, when Birinus came from over seas bearing the cross of the faith that was soon to spread with great rapidity over the whole of southern England, he found here a flourishing though pagan town. After the conversion of King Cynegils the first Wessex bishopric was founded at Dorchester near the banks of the Thames, but by 674 this was removed to the capital where there had been built a small church dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul, probably on the site now occupied by the cathedral and originally by the church of Lucius and its predecessor.
The great structure we see to-day is remarkable in many ways. It is the longest Gothic building in the world, and is only exceeded by St. Peter's in Rome. In spite of the disappointment the stranger invariably experiences at his first sight of the squat tower and straight line of wall, its majestic interior, and the indefinable feeling that this is still a temple and not a mere museum, will soon give rise to a sense of reverent appreciation that makes one linger long after the usual round of "sights" has been accomplished. The war memorial, dignified and austere, that was placed outside the west front in the autumn of 1921, is a most effective foil to the singularly unimposing pile of stone and glass behind it. But, however it may lack the elegance of the usual west "screen," this end of Winchester Cathedral has the great merit of being architecturally true.
Of the first Saxon building nothing remains. In this Egbert was crowned King of the English in 827. It was strongly fortified by St. Swithun, who was bishop for ten years from 852. At his urgent request he was buried in the churchyard instead of within the cathedral walls. Another generation wishing to honour the saint commenced the removal of the relics. On the day set aside for this—St. Swithun's day—a violent storm of rain came on and continued for forty days, thus giving rise to the old and well known superstition of the forty days of rain following St. Swithun's should that day be wet.
Under Bishop Swithun's direction the clergy and servants of the cathedral successfully resisted an attack by the Danes when the remainder of the city was destroyed. Soon after this, in the midst of the Danish terror, Alfred became king and here he founded two additional religious houses, St. Mary's Abbey, the Benedictine "Nunnaminster;" and Newminster on the north side of the cathedral. Of this latter St. Grimald was abbot. Nearly a hundred years later, in Edgar's reign, the cathedral itself became a monastery, with Bishop Athelwold as first abbot. He rebuilt the cathedral, dedicating it to St. Swithun; it had been originally dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul. Within this fabric Canute and his wife were buried; that earlier Conqueror of the English having made Winchester his imperial capital. A few years later, on Easter Day, the coronation of St. Edward took place with great pomp. Soon after the advent of William I, who made Winchester a joint metropolis with London and was crowned in both, the building of the great Norman church by Bishop Walkelyn was begun; the consecration taking place on St. Swithun's day 1093. Of this structure the crypt and transepts remain practically untouched. The nave, though Norman at its heart, has been altered in a most interesting way to Perpendicular without scrapping the earlier work. Walkelyn's tower fell in and ruined the choir in 1107, legend says as a protest against the body of Rufus being placed beneath it. The present low tower immediately took its place. Bishop de Lucy was responsible for rebuilding the Early English choir about 1200. The famous Bishop Wykeham completed the work of his predecessor, Edyngton, in rebuilding the west front, and he it was who beautified the nave. The great east window dates from about 1510; the lady chapel being rather earlier in date.
The extreme length of the cathedral is 556 feet; the breadth of the transepts being 217 feet, and as the nave is entered the majestic proportions of the great church will be at once appreciated. Particular notice should be taken of the black font brought from Tournai; it has the story of St. Nicholas carved upon it. The situation of this and the tombs and other details will be quickly identified by reference to the plan. On the south side is the chantry of Bishop Wykeham, now fitted up as a chapel. Farther east is a modern effigy, much admired, of Bishop Harold Browne, who died in 1891. A very beautiful iron grille that once protected the shrine of St. Swithun now covers a door on the north side of the nave. Certain of the piers in the nave were repaired in 1826-7 and the "restorer," one Garbett, inserted iron engaged columns on the face of that one nearest to Bishop Edyngton's chantry, it is said for the sake of economy and strength! Some of the stained glass in the nave, according to Mr. Le Coutier, dates from the time of Bishop Edyngton, and that representing Richard II is a work contemporary with Bishop Wykeham. This part of the building has been the scene of many progresses—magnificent and sad—from the coronation processions of the early kings and the slow march of their funerals to that of the wedding of Mary I, when the queen blazed with jewels "to such an extent that the eye was blinded as it looked upon her." But the most unforgettable of all was on that dreadful day when the troops of Waller marched up the nave, some mounted and all in war array, to despoil the tombs of bishop and knight of their emblems of piety and honour and to destroy anything beautiful that could be reached with pike or sword.
On the right of the choir steps is Bishop Edyngton's chantry and on the left the grave of the last Prior, Kingsmill, who afterwards became first Dean. In the centre of the choir stands the reputed tomb of William Rufus. This part of the building forms a mortuary chapel for several of the early English Kings, including Canute. Their remains, with those of several bishops, rest in the oak chests that lie on the top of the choir screen. They were deposited here by Bishop Fox in 1534. This prelate was responsible for the beautiful east window; a perfect specimen of old stained glass. The fine pulpit dates from 1520. In the choir, the scene of Edward Confessor's coronation in 1043, Mary I and Philip of Spain were married. The fine carvings of the stalls date from 1296 and their canopies from 1390. They are among the earliest specimens of their kind in Europe.
The magnificent reredos was erected by Cardinal Beaufort; it is, of course, restored. "The wretches who worked their evil will with this beautiful relic of piety had actually chiselled the ornament down to a plane surface and filled the concavities with plaster." It bore at one time the golden diadem of Canute; behind it stood the splendid silver shrine of St. Swithun, decorated with "the cross of emeralds, the cross called Hierusalem" and who shall say what other gifts of piety and devotion, all to become the spoils of that arch-iconoclast—Thomas Cromwell.
Bishop Fox's chantry was built during his lifetime. It is on the south side of the reredos, Gardiner's being on the north. Behind the reredos are the chantries of Bishop Waynflete and of the great Cardinal Beaufort. The latter claims attention for its graceful beauty and the peculiarities of character shown in the face of the effigy within. He is termed by Dean Kitchin, who draws attention to the "money-loving" nose, the "Rothschild of his day." Beaufort was the representative of England among the judges that condemned St. Joan of Arc to the flames and, at the time of writing, a memorial to the Maid is in course of preparation, to be set up near the Cardinal's tomb; an appropriate act of contrition and reparation. Beyond the space at the back of the reredos is the Early English Lady Chapel with an interesting series of wall paintings depicting the story of our Lady. Here is the chair used by Mary I at her wedding. Although it is unusual to praise anything modern, the beautiful stained glass in this part of the cathedral, forming a complete design, must be admired by the most confirmed "antiquary."
It is in the transepts that the earlier architecture can be seen at its best. This is nearly all pure Norman work, as is that of the crypt. It has been suggested that the latter antedates the Conquest so far as the base of the walls is concerned. Here is an ancient well which may have served the defenders during the Danish siege.
On the wall of the north transept is a large painted figure of St Christopher. The chapel of the Holy Sepulchre (about 1350) stands between the transept and the choir. In the south transept Izaak Walton rests beneath a black marble slab in Prior Silkstede's chantry.
The epitaph, written by Bishop Ken, may be quoted:
ALAS! HEE'S GONE BEFORE GONE, TO RETURNE NOE MORE; OUR PANTING HEARTS ASPIRE AFTER THEIR AGED SIRE, WHOSE WELL-SPENT LIFE DID LAST FULL NINETY YEARS AND PAST. BUT NOW HE HATH BEGUN THAT WHICH WILL NERE BE DONE: CROWN'D WITH ETERNAL BLISSE, WE WISH OUR SOULS WITH HIS.
Near by is an old oak seat used by the monks between the services, and a modern effigy of Bishop Wilberforce which strikes a Victorian note in its general effect. The cathedral treasury was once the repository of Domesday Book, also known as The Book of Winton.
Just before the Great War commenced, the costly operation of underpinning the cathedral was brought to a successful conclusion. Much alarm had been felt after the architect's report was made public. There is little doubt that a more or less general collapse of the structure would have occurred had this very necessary operation been long deferred. Large sums were spent in the closing years of the nineteenth century in the repair of the roof and walls. A tablet recording the particulars is placed at the west end of the nave.
On leaving the cathedral some time may be spent in exploring the interesting precincts and in endeavouring to reconstruct the medieval aspect of this part of the city. The narrow "Slype," or public right of way between the south transept and the site of the ancient chapter-house, was probably made to replace a passage through the interior, an intolerable nuisance at all times, but especially during service hours. The old circuit wall of the monastery is still standing, and the entrance to the deanery should be seen; this dates from about 1220. The cloisters were destroyed for some unknown reason in 1570. The ruins of Wolvesley Castle erected by Bishop de Blois about 1150 are close to the cathedral on the south-east. It was the residence of the Bishops, and part of the buildings formed an angle of the city defences. The name Wolves ey or island is said to be a survival from early Saxon days when the tributary Welsh here made an offering of wolves' heads to their masters.
There are some very scanty and doubtful remains of the New Minster on the north of the cathedral. This was pulled down at the dissolution of the monasteries. Nunnaminster was also swept away during this woeful time.
The College of St. Elizabeth stood near St. Mary's. Founded by Bishop John de Pontissara in 1301 it was dedicated to St. Elizabeth of Hungary. After the Dissolution it was sold to the Warden of St. Mary's for three hundred and sixty pounds, subject to the condition that the church should become a grammar school for seventy-five students, or that it should be pulled down. This fate befell the building, which had three altars and a total length of 120 feet as was shown in the dry summer of 1842 when the outline of the walls was distinct in the grass of the meadows on the south-east of Winchester College.
Winton is now as famous for St. Mary's College as for the cathedral itself, and though not the earliest foundation of all the great schools, it can claim to having taught Eton the rules of good pedagogy. Henry VI came here to ask advice and obtain experience for his new college on the banks of the Thames. The school was founded by Wykeham in 1387 for "seventy poor scholars, clerks, to live college wise and study grammar," and its roll contains a goodly proportion of England's great men. Here students were taught rather more than is stated above, and "Manners Makyth Man" became the watchword of the foundation.
It was appropriate that the first of the great schools should be established in the city of the warrior-student Alfred, the first of that semi-barbarian race of monarchs to turn to the higher things of the mind, and without losing the leadership of the nation and the love of his people in so doing. On the contrary, he gained his niche in the world's history as much for this virtue as for the heroic side of his character. The King's palace stood not far from the river bank and probably the college buildings cover part of the site. Like most Saxon domestic structures, it was of wood, and no visible traces remain, though the recent interesting discoveries at Old Windsor lead one to wonder what may lie hidden beneath the turf here.
The Hero-King was buried, first in the cathedral, and then in the Newminster. After the destruction of this building by fire, his remains were removed to Hyde Abbey on the north of the city. This met the fate of most other monasteries at the Dissolution, and the site of the final interment and, according to some accounts, the actual sarcophagus itself, were desecrated by eighteenth-century vandals in order to build a lock-up!
The bronze figure of Alfred, standing with sword held aloft as a cross, on its colossal block of granite at the bottom of High Street, is an inspired work by Hamo Thornycroft. It was erected in 1901 to commemorate the millenary of the king's death and is the most successful statue in the kingdom, imposing in its noble simplicity.
High Street is still quaint and old fashioned, though it has few really ancient houses. "God-Begot House" is Tudor and the old "Pent House" over its stumpy Tuscan pillars is very picturesque. Taking the town as a whole it can hold its own in interest with the only other English medieval city worthy of comparison—Chester. The visitor must have a fund of intelligent imagination and a blind eye for incongruities and then his peregrinations will be a remembered pleasure. The beautiful gardens belonging to the houses around the close and the black and white front of Cheyney Court will be recollected when more imposing scenes have faded.
The "George Hotel," though it but modestly claims to be "old established," is said by some authorities to stand on the site of an hostelry called the "Moon" that was very ancient in the days of Richard II. The new title was given about the time of Agincourt when the battle cry—"St. George "—had made the saint popular.
The City Cross is graceful and elegant fifteenth-century work, much restored of course, and in a quaint angle of some old houses that rather detract from its effectiveness. The exact site of the inhuman execution of Mrs. Alicia Lisle in September, 1685, is unknown, but it was probably in the wider part of the High Street. This gentle old lady, nearly eighty years of age, had given shelter to two men in all innocence of their connexion with Sedgemoor, but the infamous Jeffreys ordered her to be burnt; a sentence commuted by James II to beheading.
The City walls were almost intact down to 1760. Now we have but the fine West Gate and the King's Gate, over which is St. Swithun's church. The churches of Winchester are little more than half their former number. St. Maurice has a Norman doorway and St. Michael a Saxon sundial. St. John Baptist and St. Peter, Cheesehill, are of the most general interest. The former has a screen and pulpit over four hundred years old; transitional arches; and an Easter sepulchre. The latter is a square church mostly in Perpendicular style but with some later additions more curious than beautiful. Visitors to St. Lawrence's should read the inscription to Martha Grace (1680). St. Bartholomew's, close to the site of Hyde Abbey, shows some Norman work. In 1652 the Corporation petitioned Parliament to reduce the several city parishes into two, deeming a couple of ministers, one for each church, sufficient for the spiritual requirements of the city. In connexion with this a tract was issued describing the ghastly condition of the churches, one, St. Mary Kalendar being a garbage den for butcher's offal, another, St. Swithun's, Kingsgate, was let by the corporation as a tenement and had a pigsty within it!
The ancient castle and residence of the Kings of England is now represented only by the Great Hall, dating from the early part of the thirteenth century. It is used for county business and is a good specimen of the domestic architecture of the time. The great interest of the hall is the reputed Round Table of King Arthur, placed at its west end. Experts have decided that it cannot be older than 1200. The painted names upon it are those of Arthur's Knights. These were executed in the reign of Henry VIII and replaced earlier inscriptions. The Hospital of St. John Baptist is in Basket Lane. Established by John Deverniche, one of the city fathers, in 1275 for the succour of aged wayfarers, it was suppressed at the Reformation, but reverted to its original purpose in 1829, and is thus one of the oldest living foundations of its kind in the kingdom.
Charles II desired to revive the royal glories of Winton and commissioned the erection of a palace which was unfinished when he died. After being used as a barracks, the fine building was practically destroyed in 1894 by a disastrous fire. This element was almost as great an enemy of old Winchester as the reformers themselves. On one occasion the town was fired by a defender, Savaric de Mauleon, on the approach of a French army under Louis the Dauphin. When the other, and junior, capital was receiving its cleansing by fire in 1666, Winchester was being more than decimated by the plague, which was as direful here as anywhere else.
The city is 1,025 years old as a corporate town. Its staple business in medieval times was the sale of wool or its manufacture into cloth. Standing midway between two great tracts of sheep country, it was the natural mart for this important trade and therefore prospered and became rich. St. Giles' Fair, once famous and of great importance to cattle and sheep farmers, finally expired about the middle of the last century. In its prime it was of such a nature that the jurisdiction of the Mayor and the City Courts was in abeyance for sixteen days from the twelfth of September. It was held on St. Giles' Hill just without the town. The fair was under the patronage of the Bishop, who appointed a "Justice of the Court of Pavilion" during the period of the fair.
The chief excursion that every one takes, and that every one should take, from Winchester is to St. Cross. The beautiful old Norman church and its equally beautiful surrounding buildings almost rival Winchester Close itself in their interest and charm. A short walk southwards through the suburb of Sharkford leads direct in a little over a mile to this goal of the archaeologist. A slightly longer but pleasanter route goes by the banks of the Itchen.
St. Cross is the oldest charity, still living its ancient life, that remains to us. Its charter is dated 1151, but it was founded nearly twenty years earlier by Bishop Henry de Blois. The document set forth that thirteen "poor men, so reduced in strength as to be unable to raise themselves without the assistance of another" should be lodged, clothed and entertained, and that one hundred other poor men of good conduct should dine here daily. The munificent charity of the founder was soon abused and the funds had the common habit of disappearing into the capacious pockets of absentee masters. William of Wykeham and his immediate successor, Beaufort, caused reforms in the administration and added to the foundation, the latter instituting an almshouse of "Noble Poverty," which was partly carried out by Bishop Waynflete in 1486. The brethren of this newer foundation wear a red gown; those of the old, a black gown bearing a silver cross. Even within living memory scandals connected with the administration were perpetuated; an Earl of Guildford taking over L1,000 annually during a period of fifty years for the nominal mastership. This peer was a nephew of Bishop Brownlow North. It was in 1855 that the Hospital was put on its present footing and the charity of the hundred diners finally became the maintenance of fifty poor people of good character in the vicinity.
To the average tourist the chief interest seems to be the dole of bread and beer which must be given to whoever claims it until the two loaves and two gallons of liquor are exhausted. The well-clothed stranger who has the temerity to ask for it must not be surprised at the homoeopathic quantity which is handed to him. I am informed that the genuine wayfarer receives a more substantial dole.
The beautiful church of the Holy Cross measures 125 feet in length, and 115 feet across at the transepts. The choir is a fine example of Transitional Norman with a square east end. The ancient high altar is of Purbeck marble. The Early English nave and the Decorated west front show the centuries through which the church grew. It is said that it was originally thatched, the lead roof being placed by Bishop Edyngton in 1340. A fine screen which now divides the chancel from the north aisle came from St. Faith's church, as did the old Norman font. The fine old woodwork and ancient tiles (some having upon them the words "Have Mynde.") are noteworthy. The chancel contains the magnificent brass of John de Campeden who was Wykeham's Master of the Hospital and who was responsible for raising the church and domestic buildings from a ruinous state to one of comeliness and good order. The mid-Victorian restorations, though fairly successful, included a detestable colour scheme which goes far to spoil the general effect of the interior and should be removed, as was done after much agitation, some years ago in St. Paul's Cathedral. It is a great pity that any attempt should be made to imitate this seemingly lost art. Far better to leave the walls of our churches to the colouring that time gives than to wash or paint them with the tints that seem to be inevitably either gaudy or dismal.
The buildings inhabited by the brothers form two quadrangles. The outer court has the "Hundred Men's Hall" on the east side, the gateway tower and the porter's lodge being on the south. From this runs an ambulatory and overhead gallery to the church. The hall porch bears the arms of Cardinal Beaufort over the centre and inside are various relics of his time, such as candlesticks, pewter dishes, black leather jacks, etc., and in the centre of the hall is the old hearth. The actual dwellings of the brethren are in the inner court on the west and part of the north side. The buildings erected by Beaufort have disappeared; they were on the south of the church.
No description can give any adequate idea of the beautiful grouping of these old grey walls, which must have been the inspiration of one who was artist as well as architect. In June and through the summer months the beautiful garden and its fish pond belonging to the master's house is a sight not easily forgotten.
Winchester does not make a particularly good picture from any of its surrounding hills. Its crown—the cathedral—lacks that inspiring vision of soaring, pointing spire that causes the wayfarer leaving Salisbury to turn so many times for a last glimpse of its splendour against the setting sun. Its square and sturdy tower lacks the grace of those western lanterns whose pinnacles are reflected in the waters of Severn and Wye. But the town, with the long leaden roof of the cathedral among its guardian elms, makes a pleasant and very English picture as we ascend the long road to St. Catherine's Hill, which rises directly east of St. Cross. This hill may be the true origin of Winchester as a settlement. It is an ideal spot for a stronghold, either for those whom the Romans displaced or for the Conquerors themselves. Its great entrenchments look down directly upon the river flowing in its several meandering channels beneath. On the other side of the hill from the river valley the Roman highway comes in a great curve from its straight run off Deacon Hill to distant Porchester, though by far the greater portion of that course has been lost. The bold clump of trees on the summit, so characteristic of the chalk hills, is visible for miles and takes the place of towers and spires to the returning Wykehamist, eager for his first glimpse of Winton. Paths may be taken to the southward across Twyford Down that eventually lead into the Southampton highways, by which a return can be made to the city.
Among the more interesting near-by villages, that will repay the traveller for the walk thither, are the "Worthy's":—Headbourne, King's, Abbot's and Martyr's. To reach the church at Headbourne Worthy from the road one crosses a running stream by a footbridge. The little building is Saxon in part and won the enthusiastic regard of Bishop Wilberforce. It is exceedingly quaint and, although restored, unspoilt in appearance. Over the porch was once a hermit's cell. The clipped and much maltreated stone Rood at the west door is Saxon work and the most interesting item in the church.
A little further away is King's Worthy, with an uninteresting and rebuilt Perpendicular church in a pretty spot on the banks of the Itchen. At the far end of the village the Roman road to Basingstoke leaves the way taken by the pilgrims from Winchester to Canterbury at Worthy Park, and the straggling houses on its sides soon become the hamlet of Abbot's Worthy, a name reminiscent of the time when the countryside was parcelled out among the great religious houses. This village was once in the possession of Hyde Abbey and afterwards became the property of that Lord Capel who defended Colchester for the King during the Civil War. Martyr's Worthy, a mile farther, has a Norman arch to the doorway of its church, but is otherwise unremarkable. "Martyr," by the way, is a misspelt abbreviation for "Mortimer." Itchen Abbas, the goal of this short journey, is not five miles from the centre of Winchester and is a great resort of fishermen. Here Charles Kingsley came to stay at the "Plough" and, I am told, wrote a good part of Water Babies between spells upon the trout stream near-by. Possibly these charming chapters were planned while the author watched the placid waters before him.
The main road winds on to pleasant Alresford, where Mary Russell Mitford was born. The principal attraction of the town is a large lake, made by Bishop de Lucy in the twelfth century as an aid to the navigation of the Itchen. Not so far as this, and in the same direction, is Titchborne, quiet and remote among its trees with an old church that boasts a Saxon chancel and with memories of the Titchbornes, whose separate aisle and secret altar for the celebration of mass indicate their devotion to the old faith. But our return route passes Abbas church and crosses the river to Easton, a rambling and pleasant river-village full of mellow half-timbered houses and with a church that boasts a Norman apse and fine chancel arch. There is a unique monument in this church to the widow of William Barton, Bishop in turn of St. Asaph, St. David's, Bath and Wells, and Chichester, whose five daughters married five bishops! The walk across the meadows to Winnal and the city is one of the best near Winchester, but is hardly pleasant after wet weather. The hilly road, about three miles long, direct from Martyr's Worthy, affords pretty glimpses of the Itchen valley and the low Worthy Downs beyond. Just before the last descent toward Winnal there is a fairly good view of Winchester itself.
The straight, dusty and rather wearisome Roman road to Southampton runs up to a spur of Compton Down, a once lonely hill but now unsightly with the red-brick and plate glass of suburban Winchester. Near the conspicuous roadside cross—a memorial to fallen heroes—there is a distant view of the city, veiled in blue smoke, to the rear. Compton church, in the combe beyond, has made good its place in history by recording its ancient past in the porch of the building erected in 1905. The old church is actually one of the aisles of the new, and here may be seen an ancient wall painting and two piscina. A little over a mile to the south-east is picturesque Twyford on the wooded banks of the Itchen. Here Pope went to school for a time, and in the chapel of Bambridge House close by Mrs. Fitzherbert was married to the future George IV.
Twyford Church was believed by Dean Kitchen to be built on the site of a Stone circle. Two large "Sarsens" or megaliths lie by the side of the building, and a magnificent yew stands in the churchyard. Shawford Downs, that rise above the river and village, are scored with "lynchets" or ancient cultivation terraces and there is no doubt that the neighbourhood has been the home of successive races from a most remote age.
The high-road continues over hill and down dale to Otterbourne, with its memories of a celebrated Victorian writer, Miss Charlotte M. Yonge. The Rood in the rebuilt church was erected to her memory nearly twenty years ago. The tall granite cross in the pretty churchyard commemorates the incumbency of Keble, the author of the Christian Year, who was also vicar of Hursley, three miles away to the north-west, where a beautiful church was erected through his efforts on the site of an eighteenth-century building, and, it is said, paid for by royalties on his famous book. At Hursley Park Richard Cromwell resided during the Protectorate of his father. He is buried with his wife and children in Hursley church.
A road runs westwards from near the summit of Otterbourne Hill through the beautiful woods of Hiltingbury and Knapp Hill to the valley of the Test at Romsey. There are a couple of inns and a few scattered houses, but no village on the lonely seven miles until the parallel valley is reached.
Romsey Abbey dates from the reign of Edward the Elder, and his daughter, St. Alfreda, was first Abbess. Another child of a king—Mary, daughter of Stephen—became Abbess in 1160, and her uncle, Henry de Blois of Winchester, built the greater part of the present church about 1125, the western portion of the nave following between 1175 and 1220. The building is 263 feet long and 131 feet broad across the transepts. The interior is an interesting study in Norman architecture and the change to Early English is nowhere seen to better advantage. Portions of the foundations of the Saxon church were laid bare during repairs to the floor in 1900. A section is shown beneath a trap door near the pulpit.
A peculiar arrangement of the eastern ends of the choir aisles is noteworthy. They are square as seen from the exterior, but prove to be apsidal on entering. At the end of the south choir aisle, forming a reredos to the side altar, an ancient Saxon Rood will be seen; the Figure is sculptured in an archaic Byzantine style. The Jacobean altar in the north choir aisle was once in the chancel and had above it those old-fashioned wooden panels of the Lord's Prayer and Ten Commandments that may still be met with occasionally. When these were removed an ancient painted reredos was found behind them. It is now placed in the north choir aisle. The subject is the Resurrection and the painting is dated at about 1380. In a glass case is the Romsey Psalter which, after many vicissitudes, has become once more the property of the Abbey.
In 1625, for some unknown reason, the two upper stages of the tower were pulled down and the present wooden belfry erected. Outside the "nuns door" is a very fine eleventh-century Rood that owes its preservation to the fact that for many years it was covered by a tradesman's shed!
Nothing remains of the conventual buildings but a few scanty patches of masonry. The history of the Abbey was not a very edifying one and, although every effort was made to save the house at the Dissolution, chiefly by the exhibition of the imposing royal charters of foundation and re-endowment, the many scandals recorded gave the despoilers an additional, and possibly welcome, excuse for their work.
A great amount of careful and reverent restoration was carried out some years ago by the late Mr. Berthon, a former vicar; but he will probably be remembered by posterity as the inventor of the portable boat that bears his name and which is still made, or was till recently, in the town. Romsey (usually called Rumsey) is not a good place in which to stay and, apart from the Abbey, is quite uninteresting. In the centre of the town is a statue of Lord Palmerston, who lived at Broadlands, a beautifully situated mansion a short distance away to the south.
A pleasant journey by road or rail can be taken up the valley of the Test between the low chalk hills of Western Hampshire to Stockbridge (or even farther north to Whitchurch or Andover, but these districts must be left until later). At Mottisfont, four miles from Romsey, was once a priory of Augustinians. Remnants of the buildings are incorporated with the present mansion. In the church perhaps the most interesting item, by reason of the alien touch in this remote corner of Hampshire, is an heraldic stone of the Meinertzhazen family brought here from St. Michael's, Bremen, at the end of the nineteenth century. The square font of Purbeck marble is of the same date as the Norman arch in the chancel. Just to the south of the village a branch line of railway follows a remote western valley to its head and then drops to the Avon valley and Salisbury. To the east is another lonely stretch of country through which the ridge of Pitt Down runs to the actual suburbs of Winchester. At the western end of this ridge, and about three miles up the Test from Mottisfont, are the villages of Horsebridge and King's Somborne on the southern confines of what was once John of Gaunt's deer park. The present bridge is higher up the stream, but the railway-station is on the actual site of the ancient road between Winchester and Old Sarum and the "horse bridge" was then lower down stream and almost immediately due west of the station. Somborne gets its prefix from the fact that an old mansion usually called "King John's Palace" formerly stood here, it may be that it belonged to John of Gaunt. Certain mounds and small sections of wall are pointed out as the remains of this house; they will be found to the south-west of the church; a much restored, but still interesting, thirteenth-century building. The font, of Purbeck marble, is very fine; of interest also are the late Jacobean chancel rails and certain crosses and monograms on the north doorway.
A road runs for six miles north-westwards up into the chalk hills by the side of the Wallop brook to the euphoniously named villages of Nether, Middle, and Over Wallop. The first and last have interesting churches, but the excursion, if taken, should be as an introduction to perhaps the most remote and unspoilt region of the chalk country. Although the Wallop valley is fairly well populated, the older people are as unsophisticated as any in southern England. The scenery is quietly pleasant, the hills away to the southwest exceeding, here and there, the 500 feet contour line. One of them, near the head of the valley, is named "Isle of Wight Hill." It is only upon the clearest of days that the distant Island is seen over the shoulder of the neighbouring Horseshoe Hill and across the long glittering expanse of Southampton Water.
Proceeding up the fertile valley of the Test, Stockbridge is reached in another three miles. This sleepy old country town and one-time parliamentary borough occasionally wakes up when sheep fairs and other rural gatherings take place in its spacious High Street, but on other days it is the very ideal of a somnolent agricultural centre; it is, therefore, a pleasant headquarters from which to explore the north-western part of the county. The long line of picturesque roofs and broken house-fronts, in all the mellow tints that age alone can give, makes as goodly a picture as any in Hampshire. On the right-hand side, going down the street, is the Grosvenor Inn with its projecting porch. Next door is the old Market House and across the way stands the turreted Town Hall.
Alone in a quiet graveyard at the upper end of the town is the chancel of old St. Peter's church, now used as the chapel of the burying ground. Most of the removable items were taken to the new church erected in High Street in 1863, including certain fine windows and the Norman font of Purbeck marble. In a neglected corner of the old churchyard is the tombstone of John Bucket, one-time landlord of the "King's Head" in Stockbridge. It bears the following oft-quoted epitaph:
And is, alas! poor Bucket gone? Farewell, convivial honest John. Oft at the well, by fatal stroke Buckets like pitchers must be broke. In this same motley shifting scene, How various have thy fortunes been. Now lifting high, now sinking low, To-day the brim would overflow. Thy bounty then would all supply To fill, and drink, and leave thee dry, To-morrow sunk as in a well, Content unseen with Truth to dwell. But high or low, or wet or dry, No rotten stave could malice spy. Then rise, immortal Bucket, rise And claim thy station in the skies; 'Twixt Amphora and Pisces shine: Still guarding Stockbridge with thy sign.
The main street crosses the Test by two old stone bridges and from these, glancing up and down the street, one has a charming view of the surrounding hills which fill the vista at each end. The road out of the town to the east runs over the shoulder of Stockbridge Down on which is a fine prehistoric entrenchment called Woolbury Ring. Thence to Winchester is a long undulating stretch of rough and flinty track with but few cottages and no villages on the way until tiny Wyke, close to the city, is reached. One welcome roadside inn, the "Rack and Manger," stands at the cross roads about half way, and occasional ancient milestones tell us we are on the way to "Winton."
Our itinerary through west-central Hampshire has not included that little known fragment of the county that lies to the west of Romsey and is a district of commons and woods, part of the great forest-land that we shall hurriedly explore in the next chapter. The chief interest here, apart from the natural attractions of the secluded countryside, is a simple grave in the churchyard of East Wellow, a small by-way hamlet about four miles from Romsey. Here is the last resting place of Florence Nightingale who lies beside her father and mother. The supreme honour of burial at Westminster, offered by the Dean and Chapter, was refused by her relatives in compliance with her own wish. So East Wellow should be a pilgrim's shrine to the rank and file of that weaponless army whose badge is the Red Cross.
SOUTHAMPTON WATER AND THE NEW FOREST
Bitterne is now a suburb of Southampton on the opposite side of the Itchen, but it may claim to be the original town from which the Saxon settlement arose. It is the site of the Roman Clausentium, an important station between Porchester and Winchester, and when the Saxons came up the water and landed upon the peninsula between the two rivers they probably found a populous town on the older site. This conjecture would account for the name given to the new colony—Southhame tune—ultimately borne by the county-town and the origin of the shire name. It is as the natural outlet for the trade of Winchester and Wessex, standing at the head of one of the finest waterways in Europe, that Southampton became the present thriving and important town.
To-day its commercial prestige, if not on a par with Liverpool, Hull or Cardiff, is sufficiently great for the town to rank as a county borough. The magnificent docks are capable of taking the largest liners, and as the port of embarkation for South Africa its consequence will increase still more as that great country develops. On the banks of the Itchen many important industries have been established during the last quarter of a century and, as a result of this and the inevitable disorder of a great port, Southampton's environs have suffered. But more than any other town in England of the same size, have the powers that give yea or nay to such questions conserved the relics of the past with which Southampton is so richly endowed. The most famous of these is the Bargate (originally "Barred" Gate), once the principal, or Winchester, entrance to the town. It dates from about 1350, though its base is probably far older. The upper portion, forming the Guildhall, bears on the south or town side a quaint statue of George III in a toga, that replaced one of Queen Anne in stiff corsets and voluminous gown. The various armorial bearings displayed are those of noble families who have been connected with the town in the past. Within the upper chamber are two ancient paintings said to represent the legendary Sir Bevis, whose sword is preserved at Arundel, and his squire Ascupart. Sections of the town wall may be found in several places, but the most considerable portion is on the north side of the Westgate, where, until the middle of the last century, when Westernshore Road was made, high tides washed the foot of the wall. The arcading of this portion is much admired, and deservedly so. So far as the writer is aware, no other town in England has medieval defences of quite this character remaining. The picturesque Bridewell Gate is at the end of Winkle Street and not far away is all that remains of "God's House" or the Hospital of St. Julian, "improved" out of its ancient beauty. The chapel was given to the Huguenot refugees by Queen Elizabeth; a portion of the original chancel still exists and within the Anglican service continues to be said in French. The house known as "King John's House," close to the walls near St. Michael's Square, dates from the twelfth century and is therefore one of the oldest in England. Another old building in Porter Lane called "Canute's House" is declared by archaeologists to be of the twelfth century, but Hamptonians, with some degree of probability, claim that the lower walls are certainly Saxon, so that the traditional name may be right after all. In that part of the town nearest to the docks are several stone cellars of great age upon which later dwellings have been erected, in some cases two buildings have appeared on the same sturdy base. A particularly fine crypt is in Simnel Street, with a window at its east end. At the corner of Bugle Street is the "Woolhouse," said to belong to the fourteenth century; very noticeable are the heavy buttresses that support this fine old house on its west side. Another old dwelling in St. Michael's Square may have been built in the fifteenth century. Tradition has it that this was for a time the residence of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
The reference to Canute's House brings to mind the tradition, stoutly upheld by Hamptonians, that it was at "Canute's Point" at the mouth of the Itchen, and not at Bosham or Lymington, that the king gave his servile courtiers the historic rebuke chronicled by Camden. By him, quoting Huntingdon, we are told that "causing his chair to be placed on the shore as the tide was coming in, the king said to the latter, 'Thou art my subject, and the ground I sit on is mine, nor can any resist me with impunity. I command, thee, therefore, not to come up on my ground nor wet the soles of the feet of thy master.' But the sea, immediately coming up, wetted his feet, and he, springing back, said, 'Let all the inhabitants of the earth know how weak and frivolous is the power of princes; none deserves the name of king, but He whose will heaven, earth, and sea obey by an eternal decree.' Nor would he ever afterwards wear his crown, but placed it on the head of the crucifix." There is little doubt that Southampton was one of the principal royal residences during the reign of the great Northman, and nearly a hundred years before, in Athelstan's days, it was of sufficient importance to warrant the setting up of two mints.
The only medieval church remaining to Southampton is St. Michael's, which has a lofty eighteenth-century spire on a low Norman tower. Here is another of those black sculptured Tournai fonts one of which has been noticed in Winchester. The interior must have presented a curious appearance in the early years of Queen Victoria. During her predecessor's reign the incumbent placed the pulpit and reading-desk at the west end and reversed all the seats so that the congregation sat with their backs to the altar. The purpose of this is beyond conjecture. St. Mary's, designed by Street, was erected on the site of the old town church in 1879 as a memorial to Bishop Wilberforce. All Saints' in High Street is a classic building standing on the ground occupied by a very ancient church. Isaac Watts was deacon of Above Bar Chapel, noteworthy for the fact that the immortal hymn "Oh God, our help in ages past" was first sung within its walls from manuscript copies supplied to the congregation by the young poet. Among other famous men who were natives of Southampton may be mentioned Dibdin and Millais.
As might be expected from its geographical position and the many centuries it has been a gate to central England, Southampton has had a chequered and eventful history. Before the days of those supposedly impregnable forts in Spithead which bar to all inimical visitors a passage up the Water, the town was not immune from attack from the sea and in 1338 an allied French, Genoese and Spanish fleet sailed up the estuary and attacked the town to such good purpose that the burgesses were forced to fly and from a safe distance saw their homes burned to the ground. Another assault was made by the French in 1432, but profiting by bitter experience, the citizens had by now constructed such defences and armed them so well that this attack was an ignominious failure.
The port was the scene of several great expeditions overseas before it gave its quota to that greatest of all crusades in 1914. It saw the start of Richard Lion-Heart's transports, filled with the chivalry of England, on their way to challenge the power of Islam. The town records show that 800 hogs were supplied by the citizens for feeding the army en route. Perhaps the most famous of the sailings was that of the twenty-one ships that carried the English army to the victory of Crecy. Again seventy years later there was another great sallying forth to the field of Agincourt, nearly frustrated by the machinations of Richard, Earl of Cambridge. This scion of the Plantagenets and his fellow conspirators were beheaded and afterwards buried, as recorded on a tablet there, in the chapel of God's House. From Southampton the Mayflower and Speedwell sailed in 1620: the latter being discarded at Plymouth.
The modern aspect of Southampton's streets is that of the bustle and activity of a midland town, and the narrow pavements of Below and Above Bar have that metropolitan air which a crowd of well-dressed people intent on business or pleasure gives to the better class provincial city. It would seem that the inevitable accompaniment of such prosperity is the meanness of poorly-built and squalidly-kept suburbs. When the superb situation of Southampton is considered one can but hope that some day, in the new England that we are told is on the way, a great transformation will take place on the shores of Itchen and Test.
The excursion that every visitor should take is down the Water to Cowes. Few steamer trips in the south are as pleasant and interesting. In consequence of the double tides with which Southampton is favoured, the chance of having a long stretch of ill looking and worse smelling mud flats in the foreground of the view is almost negligible. Unless a very thorough knowledge of the shore is desired, the view from the deck will give the stranger an adequate idea of the surrounding country. The passing show of shipping, of all sorts, sizes and nationalities, is not the least interesting item of the passage. The writer's most vivid recollection of Southampton Water in the early summer of 1918 is not of the beautiful shores shimmering in the June sun, but of an extraordinary line of "dazzle ships" in the centre of the waterway, moored bow to stern in a long perspective, or it would be more correct to say, want of perspective, the brain and the eye being so much at variance that the ends of the line could scarcely be believed to consist of ships at all.
The ruins of Netley Abbey can best be seen by taking the pleasant shore road from Woolston and Weston Grove. The distance is a little over two miles from the Itchen ferry. The so-called Netley Castle was once the gate-house of the Abbey, converted into a fort when Henry VIII devised the elaborate scheme of coast defence that has dotted the southern seaboard with a more scattered (and more picturesque) series of Martello towers.
The ruins of the Cistercian Church which once graced this shore and raised above the trees its lighthouse tower, a seamark by day and a beacon by night, are among the loveliest in Wessex. Though perhaps these relics of a former splendour, when they consist of more than a few bits of broken masonry, should rather be said to be heartrending in their reminder of what we have lost.
Not so beautiful is the great pile, a mile to the south, built during the Crimean war for the invalid warriors and named after their Queen. A short distance away is another great building, or series of structures, erected during the Great War, to further our claim to the empire of the air.
The Hamble river is the only considerable stream before the barrier spit of Calshot Castle is reached. This comes down from historic Bishop's Waltham with its considerable remains of the "palace" of the earlier Bishop of Winchester. After passing Botley, an ancient market town, the river widens into an estuary haven altogether out of proportion to the stream behind it, and at Bursledon, where it is crossed by the Portsmouth highway, it becomes really beautiful: the curving banks are in places embowered in trees that descend to the water's edge. When the tide is full the scene would hold its own with many more favoured by the guide books. The fields around are devoted to the culture of the strawberry for the London market, and the crops are said to be finer than those of the better-known Kentish districts.
Two finds from the stream bed are in Botley market hall, a portion of a Danish war vessel and an almost entire prehistoric canoe.
A name better known to the majority of our readers will be that of the Meon, a further reference to which district will be found in the concluding chapter. The waters of this longer stream rise on a western outlier of Butser Hill and, draining a remote and beautiful district served by the Meon Valley Railway, reach Titchfield Haven over three miles below the Hamble. Titchfield, two miles as the crow flies from the sea (for we are now on the open waters of the Solent), is a pleasant old town with an interesting church and the gatehouse remnant of a once famous abbey of Premonstratensians. Part of the tower and nave of the church are Saxon, and the remainder is in a whole range of styles. A chapel on the south was once the property of the abbey and is called the Abbot's Chapel, this has a fine tomb of the first and second Earls and first Countess of Southampton. Perhaps of more interest to some visitors will be the flag hung near the opening to the chancel. This was the first to fly over Pretoria after the British occupation.
The western shore of Southampton Water may be accepted as the eastern boundary of the New Forest, as the straight north and south valley of the Salisbury Avon is its western barrier. From the sea at Christ-church Bay to the Blackwater valley west of Romsey is about twenty miles and all this great district partakes more or less of the character of the country seen from the Bournemouth express after it leaves Lyndhurst Road. To attempt to describe in detail this unique corner of England would be beyond the possibilities of this book or its author, and only the barest outline will be attempted.
One authority claims 95,000 acres as the extent of the Forest. The present writer would increase this estimate considerably. About two-thirds of the more central portion are crown lands, and as will be seen by the most superficial view (from the afore-mentioned express train for instance) much of the central woodland is interspersed with farms and arable land and a large extent of open heath, as are those outlying fringes in the Avon valley and elsewhere. It is unaccountable that the word "forest" should have so altered in meaning during the course of centuries that its earlier significance has almost become lost. The word is associated in every one's mind with the density of tropical foliage or the dark grandeur of northern fir woods. Forest as a topographical suffix denotes a wild uncultivated tract of hilly or common land, more often than not quite bare of trees. The great expanse of Radnor Forest is well known to the writer and not even a thorn bush comes to the mind in picturing its miles of fern-clad billowy uplands.
The "New" Forest was first so called by the Conqueror. He brought within its bounds certain tracts that had been preserved by his predecessors, but that he "burnt and razed whole villages, and converted a smiling countryside into a wild place devoted to the king's pleasure" is extremely improbable, unless we may credit William with an altruistic care for the sport of his great-grandchildren at the expense of whatever little popularity he may have had in his own time. Undoubtedly the folk of this part of Hampshire felt aggrieved at losing their rights over a great stretch of wild common where the more democratic Saxon kings had taken their pleasure without interfering with the privileges of the churl. That certain small settlements were at some time abandoned is attested by names such as Bochampton, Tachbury, Church Walk, etc., and it is said that Rufus established certain dispossessed peasantry in far-off portions of his kingdom. The Conqueror's immediate successors made cruel and arbitrary laws, in connexion with the preservation of the deer, that were much mitigated by the Forest Charter of 1217 which provided that death should no longer be the penalty for killing the King's deer, but merely a fine, or imprisonment in default.
The wild life of the Forest is much the same as that of the remoter parts of rural England, apart from the ponies and the deer. Of the latter only a few still roam the glades. An Act was passed in 1851 for their removal, when the number was reduced from nearly 4,000 to about 250 of two kinds—fallow deer and red deer. Latterly roe deer have appeared, adventurers from Milton Abbey park. The New Forest pony was a distinct breed and the writer has been told that it was the descendant of a small native horse, but its characteristics have been lost through scientific crossing with alien breeds. A legend used to be current in the Forest that the ponies were descended from those landed from the wrecked ships of the Spanish Armada, but there is a limit to what we may believe of this wonderful fleet. Most villages along the south coast having rather more than the usual proportion of dark-haired folk have been claimed as asylums for the castaway sailors and soldiers of Spain by enthusiastic amateur anthropologists.
Before breaking-in, the Forest pony is a wild and often vicious little beast—more so, perhaps, than its cousins of Wales and Dartmoor—and a "drive," when the little horses are corralled, is an exciting and interesting affair, human wits being pitted against equine, not always to the advantage of the former.
Small companies of rough-coated donkeys may occasionally be seen, in an apparently wild state, roaming about the more open parts of the Forest. Some years ago the breeding of mules for export was a recognized local concern, but this seems to have fallen into desuetude.
Badgers and otters are common, as is the ubiquitous squirrel. The badger, however, is seldom seen by the chance visitor by reason of its nocturnal habits, but it is said to be more numerous than in any similar wild tract in the south. The smaller wild mammals, carnivorous and herbivorous, and a truly representative family of birds, including one or two rare visitors, have here a perfect sanctuary. The forest is obviously a happy hunting ground for the lepidopterist and botanist. The latter will find many of the rarer British orchids in the central "dingles" and on the more remote western borders. During the Great War a large number of trees were felled and the usually silent woods re-echoed with the noises of a Canadian lumber camp. About this time great flocks of migratory jays from central Europe were noticed in the eastern parts of the Forest. For the pedestrian who toils over the Forest roads in the height of summer there is one form of wild life in evidence that claims his whole attention, and that is the virulent and audacious forest fly. Only the strongest "shag" and gloved hands can keep this horrible creature at bay.
The observant stranger will notice a large proportion of small, dark folk among the inhabitants of the Forest. It is a fascinating matter for conjecture that these may be remnants of the Iberians that once held south Britain or even, perhaps, of a still older people left stranded by the successive races that have swept westwards by way of the uplands to the north.
The western shore of Southampton Water has little of interest to detain the visitor. The small town of Hythe, almost opposite Netley Abbey, has nothing ancient about it, though it is a picturesque and pleasant little place. Fawley, nearly opposite the opening of the Hamble, has a fine late Norman church with much Early English addition. Calshot Castle is another of those forts of Henry VIII already mentioned, and once round the corner of this spit we are in the Solent at Stanswood Bay. A few miles farther and the beautiful estuary of the Beaulieu river runs into the recesses of the Forest. Small steamers sometimes bring holiday-makers from Southampton to the port of Beaulieu, called Bucklershard, where, over a hundred years ago, there was an attempt to make a new seaport. It is difficult to believe that this quiet creek was, during the second half of the eighteenth century, the birthplace of many "wooden walls of old England." Here among other famous ships was launched the Agamemnon, commanded by Nelson at the siege of Celvi, where he lost his right eye. An unfortunate disagreement between the shipbuilders and the Admiralty, in which the former were so ill advised as to seek the help of the law, led to the abandonment of the yards. At St. Leonards, nearer the mouth of the estuary, is the ruin of a chapel belonging to the Cistercians of Beaulieu and also portions of their great barn, said to be the largest in England (209 feet by 70 feet). The great Abbey church, nearly four miles off, was entirely swept away during the Demolition. It was here that the wife of the King Maker took refuge after the death of her husband at the battle of Barnet. A few days before, on the actual day of the fight, arrived Margaret of Anjou with reinforcements for Henry VI. Some years later, after his repulse at Exeter, Perkin Warbeck sought sanctuary, the right of which had been granted to the monastery by Pope Innocent IV. The monks' refectory is now the parish church and a very fine and interesting one it makes. Considerable portions of the domestic buildings remain. Palace House, the residence of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, was once the gatehouse of the abbey.
A return must now be made to Southampton, and the Christchurch road taken through Totton to Lyndhurst. The station for the latter town is over two miles away on the Southampton road, where the railway makes a wide detour to Beaulieu Road and Brockenhurst. The absurd title given to Lyndhurst by local guide-books, "Capital of the New Forest," is uncalled for. Certainly it is nearly the centre of the district and is within convenient distance of some of the most beautiful woodlands, but nothing could be a greater contrast to the surroundings than this new-looking brick excrescence. It has one fine old Jacobean building—the "King's House," where the Forest Courts are held. The Verderers, of whom there are six, are elected by open ballot. They must be landowners residing in or near the Forest and may sit in judgment upon any offence against Forest laws. These Verderers Courts have been held since Norman days and the old French terms "pannage," "turbary" and so on, are still used. Further, the old name for the court, "Swain Mote," indicates a Saxon origin for this seat of greenwood justice.
The spire of Lyndhurst church can be seen for miles wherever high ground and a break in the woods render this possible. It surmounts a mid-Victorian erection of variegated bricks in about the worst possible taste for its situation. The one redeeming feature is a wall painting of the Ten Virgins by Lord Leighton.
A little over two miles away, and on the road to the Rufus Stone, is Minstead church, which will make a different appeal to the understanding stranger. This is (or was lately) a charming survival from the days of our grandfathers with a three-decker, old room-like pews, and double galleries. Malwood Lodge, close by, is a seat of the Harcourt family, and not far away, about a mile and a half from Minstead church, is the spot where William Rufus was killed by that mysterious arrow which by accident or design, relieved England of a tyrannical and wicked king. The "Rufus Stone," as the iron memorial is called, with its terse and non-committal inscription was placed here by a former Lord de la Warr. The body was conveyed to Winchester in the cart of a charcoal-burner named Purkiss, and descendants of this man, still following his occupation, were living within bow-shot of the memorial one hundred years ago. The family "enjoyed for centuries the right to the taking of all such wood as they could gather by hook or by crook, dead branches, and what could be broken, but not cut by the axe." It is said that the train of accidents that befell the Conqueror's family in the Forest was considered by Hampshire folk to be a just retribution for his iniquity in "making" it. His grandson Henry, his second son Richard, and lastly his third son Rufus, all met a violent death within its glades.
A short distance westwards we reach the "Compton Arms Hotel" and Stoney Cross, from which an alternate route through beautiful Boldrewood can be taken back to Lyndhurst or a long and lonely but good road followed all the way to Ringwood, nine miles away on the Avon. The traveller who would explore the recesses of the forest remote from the beaten track should make his way north and west from Stoney Cross through the sandy heaths of Eyeworth Walk and the mysterious depths of Sloden with its dark yews of great and unknown age. Not far from Stoney Cross on the way to Fritham, are a number of prehistoric graves clustered closely together, and an interesting relic of the Roman occupation exists at Sloden where there are mounds of burnt earth, charcoal, and broken pottery. The locality has long been known as "Crock Hill" and is evidently the site of an earthenware factory. The road going south and west by Broomy Walk leads to Fordingbridge on the Avon. Here is a beautiful and interesting old church, a typically pleasant Hampshire town, and a quiet but delightful stretch of the river.
The straight high road, that runs south from Lyndhurst through the thick woodlands of Irons Hill Walk and the giant oaks of Whitley Wood, reaches Brockenhurst in four miles. This small town, to the writer's mind, is pleasanter and less sophisticated than Lyndhurst, though boarding-houses are as much in evidence and the railway station is close to the main street. The church stands on a low hill among the trees of the actual forest. Here was recently to be seen, and possibly is still, a quaintly ugly survival in the squire's pew, placed as a sort of royal box at the entrance to the chancel. The building is of various dates and contains a Norman font of Purbeck marble. The enormous yew of great age will at once be noticed in the churchyard.
The main road continues over Whitley Ridge to Lymington nearly five miles from Brockenhurst, passing, about half-way on the left, Boldre, with an old Norman church among the thickly-set trees on the hill above Lymington River. The village and inn are at the bottom of the valley near a bridge that carries the Beaulieu road up to the great bare expanse of Beaulieu Heath.
After passing the branch railway, and about half a mile short of Lymington, is a fine circular prehistoric entrenchment called Buckland Rings. The road now drops to the one-time parliamentary borough and ancient port of Lymington, now only known to the majority as the point of departure by the "short sea route" to the Isle of Wight, and those who make the passage when the tide is out do not usually regret the shortness of their stay on this particular bit of coast. But their self-congratulation is wasted, Lymington itself is a very pleasant and clean town, even if its shore is a dreary stretch of salt marsh, grey and depressing on the sunniest day. There are some fine old houses in the picturesque High Street, though none of them remember the day in 1154 when Henry II landed on the way to his coronation. The much restored church will be best appreciated for the picture it makes from the other end of High Street.
Though a fashionable resort in those days when any seaside town was a possible future Brighton, Lymington is never likely to become crowded with visitors again, but artists find many good studies on the river and in the town and even on the "soppy" flats themselves, and there are salt baths at high tide for those unconventional holiday-makers who favour the place.
To resume the main route through the forest from Lyndhurst the western road must be taken. It presently turns sharply towards the south and penetrates the fastnesses of the woods lining the Highland Water. Here we find the celebrated Knightwood Oak and the grand beeches of Mark Ash, nearly two miles away in the depths to the right, but worth the trouble of finding. In less than six miles from Lyndhurst the traveller reaches the cross-roads at Wilverley Post on the top of Markway Hill, and in another long mile Holmsley station on the Brokenhurst-Ringwood railway. Then follows an undulating and lonely stretch of four and a half miles of mingled wood and common and occasional cultivated land to the scattered hamlet of Hinton Admiral, that boasts a station on the South Western main line to Bournemouth. There is now but an uninteresting three miles to the outskirts of Christchurch.
The one-time Saxon port of Twyneham and present borough of Christchurch (the change of name, like several others in the country, was due to the over-whelming power of the ecclesiastical as opposed to on the secular) has a similarity to Southampton in its situation on a peninsula between two rivers before they form a joint estuary to the sea. But, alas, although the waterways of the Avon and Stour are considerable, Christchurch Harbour long ago silted up and the long tongue of land that runs eastward across the mouth effectually bars ingress to anything in the nature of a trading vessel.
The town, though pleasant enough in itself, has but one real attraction for the visitor and, judging by the crowds of holiday-makers brought in every day by motor, tram and train from the huge pleasure town on the west, the study of ecclesiastical architecture must be gaining favour with the British public. Or is it that the uncompromising modernity of Bournemouth, without even the recollection of a Hanoverian princess to give it antiquity, drives its visitors in such swarms to the one-time Priory, and now longest parish church in England.
The old Saxon minster, after passing through many vicissitudes (including a particularly humiliating one at the hands of William Rufus, whose creature, Flambard, made slaves of its clergy and ran the church as a miracle show!), became in the middle of the twelfth century an Augustinian priory and the choir of the new building was finished just before 1300. At the crossing of nave and transepts the usual low and heavy Norman tower had been built with the usual result—it collapsed and brought some of the choir down with it. This was again rebuilt during the fifteenth century, which period also saw the rise of the western tower that graces every distant view of the town. The transepts have beneath them Norman crypts, though the structure immediately above is of varying date, with a good deal of original work remaining, including an apsidal chapel. The Lady Chapel was built in the fifteenth century; over it is a room known as "St. Michael's Loft." This served for years as Christchurch grammar school.
Every one will admire the beautiful rood screen, well and carefully restored in the middle of the last century, and the unusual reredos which represents the Tree of Jesse and the Adoration of the Wise Men. On the left of the altar is the Salisbury chantry and in front a stone slab to Baldwin de Redvers (1216). There are several fine tombs in other parts of the church including that of the last Prior, who has a chapel to himself at the end of the south choir aisle. The fine monument to Shelley at the west end of the church is as much admired for its beauty as it is criticized for its "unfitness for a position in a Christian church" (Murray). The female figure supporting Shelley's body represents his wife. Mr. Cox in his Little Guide to Hampshire draws attention to the fact that the conception is "an obvious parody of a Pieta, or the Virgin supporting the Dead Christ" and therefore in the worst possible taste. The poet had no personal connexion with Christchurch. His son lived for some years at Boscombe Manor.
The custodian shows, when requested, a visitors' book where, on one and the same page are the signatures of William II and Louis Raemaekers!
Comparatively few old buildings remain in the vicinity of the great church and the visitor will not need to make an exhaustive exploration of its environs, but before leaving Christchurch the fine collection of local birds brought together and mounted by a resident of the town should not be missed.
Embryo watering places, the conception of the "real estate" fraternity whom Bournemouth has set by the ears, line the low shore of Christchurch Bay between Hengistbury Head and Hurst Castle. First comes Highcliffe, this has perhaps the most developed "front," then Barton, nearly two miles from New Milton station, and lastly Milford-on-Sea, the most interesting of them all, but suffering in popularity by reason of the long road, over four miles, that connects it with the nearest stations, Lymington or New Milton; possibly its regular habitues look upon this as a blessing in disguise. Milford is well placed for charming views of the Island: it has good firm sands and a golf links. An interesting church stands back from the sea on the Everton road. The thirteenth-century tower will at once strike the observer as out of the ordinary; the Norman aisles of the church were carried westwards at the time the tower was built and made to open into it through low arches. The early tracery of the windows should be noticed. The addition of transepts and the enlargement of the chancel about 1250 made the church an exceptionally large structure for the originally small village.
Southbourne, one and a half miles south-west of Christchurch, will soon become a mere outer suburb of Bournemouth. It almost touches Boscombe, that eastern extension of the great town that has sprung into being within the last fifty years. Southbourne is said to be bracing; it is certainly a great contrast to the bustle and glitter of its great neighbour. There is a kind of snobbishness that strikes to decry any large or popular resort, seemingly because it is large and popular, but surely there must be some virtue in these huge watering places that attract so many year after year, and if Southbourne pleases only Tom, and Bournemouth Dick and Harry and their friends, well, good health to them! That their favourite town does not start off a new chapter may offend the latter, but they will perhaps admit that although it is on the west side of the Avon the town among the pines forms, with its sandy chines and the trees that gave it its first claim to popular favour, an extension and outlier of the great series of heath and woodland that has just been traversed and that it makes a fitting geographical termination to south-western Hants.
Though the pines themselves have not been planted much longer than a hundred years, they now appear as the only relics of a lonely and rather bare tract of uncultivable desert. Local historians claim that the beginnings of Bournemouth were made in 1810, but it would appear that only two or three houses existed by the lonely wastes of sand in the first few years of the Victorian era. One of these was an adjunct to a decoy pond for wild fowl. The parish itself was not formed until 1894, and although fashionable streets and fine churches and a super-excellent "Winter-garden" had been erected when the writer first saw the town, not much more than twenty years ago, the front was extremely "raw" and the only shelter during a shower was a large tent on the sands that, on one never-to-be-forgotten occasion, collapsed during a squall upon the crowd of lightly-clad holiday-makers beneath. But this is a very dim and distant past for Bournemouth, the "Sandbourne" of the Wessex novels. The town is now as well conducted as any on the English coast. It is large enough and has a sufficient permanent population to justify its inclusion in the ranks of the county boroughs. It is becoming almost as popular as Ventnor with those who suffer from weak lungs, though it can be very cold here in January.
Bournemouth will be found a convenient centre, or rather starting point, for the exploration of the beautiful Wessex coast. From the pier large and comfortable steamers make the passage to Swanage, Weymouth, Lyme and further afield. Another advantage which these large towns have for the ordinary tourist is that he may generally count upon getting some sort of roof to cover him when in the smaller coast resorts lodgings are not merely at a premium but simply unobtainable at any price.
POOLE, WIMBORNE AND THE ISLE OF PURBECK
The South of England generally is wanting in that particular scenic charm that consists of broad stretches of inland water backed by high country. The first sight of Poole harbour with the long range of the Purbeck Hills in the distance will come as a delightful revelation to those who are new to this district. The harbour is almost land-locked and the sea is not in visual evidence away from the extremely narrow entrance between Bournemouth and Studland. A fine excursion for good pedestrians can be made by following the sandy shore until the ferry across the opening is reached and then continuing to Studland and over Ballard Down to Swanage.
Poole town is a busy place of small extent but containing for its size a large population. The enormous development of industry in the surrounding districts during the Great War must have brought the number of folks in and around Poole to nearly 100,000, thus making it the most populous corner of Dorset. This figure may not be maintained, but a good proportion of the work concerned with the waste of armaments has been transformed into the commerce of peace. One cause for the modern prosperity of this old town is its position as regards the converging railways from the west and north as well as from London and Weymouth.
Poole, like a good many other places with as much or as little cause, has been claimed as a Roman station. There seems to be no direct evidence for this. The first actual records of the town are dated 1248, when William de Longespee gave it its first charter. This Norman held the manor of Canford, and Poole church was originally a chapel of ease for that parish. The present building only dates from 1820 and for the period is a presentable enough copy of the Perpendicular style. Poole was a republican town in the Civil War and sent its levies to help to reduce Corfe Castle. The revenge of the other side came when, at the Restoration, all the town defences were destroyed, though the king was not too unforgetful to refuse the hospitality of the citizens during the Great Plague.
The only remarkable relics in Poole are the Wool House or "Town Cellar" and an old postern dating from about 1460. The Town Hall, with its double flight of winding steps and quaint high porch was built in 1761. Within, as a commemoration of the visit recorded above, is a presentment of the monarch who must have had "a way with him," since his subjects' memories apparently became as short as his own.
But Poole's most stirring times were in the days when Harry Page, licensed buccaneer and pirate, made individual war on Spain to such good purpose that the natives of Poole were astounded one morning to see upwards of one hundred foreign vessels dotted about the waters of the harbour, prizes taken by the redoubtable "Arripay," as his captives termed him. Nothing flying the Spanish flag in the Channel seemed to escape him, until matters at last became so humiliating that the might of both countries was brought to bear on Poole, and the town underwent a severe chastisement, in which Page's brother was killed. This spirit of warlike enterprise descended to the great grandchildren of these Elizabethans, for in Poole church is a monument to one Joliffe, captain of the hoy Sea Adventurer, who, in the days of Dutch William, drove ashore and captured a French privateer. In the following year another bold seaman, William Thompson, with but one man and a cabin-boy to help him, took a Cherbourg privateer and its crew of sixteen. Both these heroes received a gold chain and medal from the King. Another generation, and the town was fighting its own masters over the question of "free imports." In spite of the usually accepted fact that smuggling can only prosper in secret, Poole became a sort of headquarters for all that considerable trade that found in the nooks and crannies of the Dorset coast safe warehouses and a natural cellarage. So bold did the fraternity become that in 1747, when a large cargo of tea had been seized by the crown authorities and placed for safe keeping in the Customs House, the free traders overpowered all resistance and triumphantly retrieved their booty, or shall we say, their property? and took it surrounded by a well-armed escort to various receivers in the remoter parts of the wild country north-west of Wimborne. The leaders of this attack were afterwards found to be members of a famous Sussex band and the incident led to tragedy. An informer named Chater, of Fordingbridge, and an excise officer—William Calley—were on their way to lay an information, when they were seized by a number of smugglers and cruelly done to death. For this six men suffered the full penalty and three others were hanged for the work done at Poole.